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User Journal

Journal Journal: new toys!

The drive has arrived. Yay!
I was able to save the stuff I wanted from the old drive. Double Yay!
Now I get to reinstall my OSes. Err.. yay?

I was just thinking how long it has been since I did an install from scratch. And already, I've messed up the order of installation. (Okay, I'll admit it- there are rare occasions when I must use a Win32 OS. For instance, it was required to register the DSL connection with the provider.) So I installed Debian first. Hopefully, I'll be able to get Win98 to install without it eating the MBR (not bloody likely). Not too much of a hassle, I already partitioned the drive properly, but an irritation if I have to dig up a boot disk to reinstall grub.

I was pleasantly surprised with the new features in the Debian install. I think it may have been a mistake to select the "Desktop Workstation" option, as I know from experience that my 300 Mhz system does not handle Gnome or KDE well at all. So, there will be some package-management in the very near future to install and setup Windowmaker (or maybe Blackbox. I always liked Blackbox.) so as not to kill the system every time I log in.

In any case, I no longer have to worry about selecting too many packages. I now have Enormous Cosmic Space.* Yay!

* Okay, I know that 40Gb is not really Enormous Cosmic Space. It still feels that way to me.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Hardware problems 2

I've been having some hard drive problems on my "primary" system at home. It started with a whining noise like a locust, which has been appearing and disappearing at random for about four months now. Then, two weeks ago it started making the click of death. (For those who don't know, there is a very distinctive noise made by the drive heads whacking the stops at either end, generally because either the board or the software that controls the position of the heads is failing.) I recognized it, but it wasn't happening very often, and only during periods of high system activity.
Last night, it started clicking, and then clicked, and then clicked some more. This started, oddly enough, while I was online shopping for a new hard drive. The kernel complained once, and set the filesystem to readonly as a precaution, but the drives clicked on. Within a minute the system was hard-locked.
I powered it down and I was able to bring it back up long enough to order a new 40 GB disk. Hopefully, I'll get enough life out of it to get my stuff off before it really goes under.
I also ordered a new CD-RW (I don't recall just how fast, but I distinctly remember thinking that my processor {300 MHz} and motherboard probably wouldn't even come close to being able to burn that fast), just because it was on sale for $15. It also started me down the treacherous path of considering a new computer entirely. I still want to get a Mini-ITX motherboard and make a 1 Ghz Nintendo.
There was a time in my life when I honestly felt that there was no limit to the number of computers I could want. Now, I am mostly convinced that I really only need one, or maybe two. I used to like tinkering with as many varieties as possible (i.e. Setting up NetBSD on a Sun 3/50, or trying to get that Mac SE/30 to run Linux) just for the fun of it. I think spending eight hours a day in front of a generic Windows box just crushes my desire to play with computers. When I'm at home, other things just seem so much more important than compiling the latest kernel.
When I got my first hard drive (in 1996, it was a slightly used 500 MB), it filled up in a hurry. The next drive (2GB) filled even faster. I have been using a two-drive setup for a while now, totalling just under 9GB, and I've maintained just enough free space for an ISO image for at least four years, carefully deleting old stuff every time I wanted new stuff. I have a feeling that the new drive won't fill up nearly as fast, if at all. Unless I undertake the great CD Ripping project (unwise on a 300 MHz box) for my entire collection (and even so, the ~250 CDs will conservatively only take up 20GB of it) I just do not see what I'll fill it with. Every other drive I have ever purchased had plans to fill it before it even arrived. Now even a Terabyte, once a concept invoking rooms full of whirring drives and requiring infrastructure, is available in under $500. Wow.
So now I'm just yammering. Good old days, etc, etc. Blah. I'm done now.

User Journal

Journal Journal: strange dreams

Last night I had a dream that I was running, but unlike normal running wherein my joints hurt and all the rolls of fat slosh around uncomfortably, this was good. I was practically weightless, bounding over the land with twelve-foot strides. At one point, I stopped to catch my breath only to realize that my breath did not need catching.

It is a beautiful thing. I can almost feel crisp spring morning air flowing past my body, which looks like mine would look if I were Michaelangelo's David. Golden beams of sun bounce off leaves of grass. Each step lasts only long enough to launch me into the next bound, clearing every earthly obstacle with ease. Each strong, deep breath fills me with untouched air. For a gilded moment, everything in the world is good, pure, beautiful, healthy. And I'll see it all, the whole world in jeweled splendor, from an altitude of 1.9 meters. Gloria in excelsis Deo.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Watches and other things

It's been a while. The journal needs an update for the sake of updates.

Firstly, I have changed jobs. I have moved from one massive faceless corporation to another, staying within the defense industry. This has led me to move to Indianapolis, the city of my (earliest rememberable, and later most recent) youth. The new job is much more tolerable. The new corporation provided skilled professional movers to transport our personal effects to the new home.

During the move, my Berenger watch (without the back) was carefully packed between a plank of red oak and a motorcycle helmet; this cracked the crystal and damaged the helmet. Through some miracle, the movement still functions but the crystal is cracked badly enough to impede the hands on their gentle cycles. I don't quite understand why the packers thought that the mechanical watch with its back off was a good candidate to be carelessly tossed into a wardrobe box full of dusty garage stuff, including a very dirty tarp, an empty gasoline can, and a mural-sized world map (previously rolled carefully; now crumpled into a ball). Fortunately most of our household goods were treated with significantly more respect. It was just a few boxes, really, which met with the incompetent treatment.

So thus ends the tale of the Berenger. Perhaps the insurance company will be good enough to reimburse me for the loss, and I'll be able to find something suitable to replace it. I have mostly fallen out of the habit of carrying a watch, though, due to the habit of carrying a mobile phone which clearly displays the time.
My parents and my wife's parents all live in this area. This means significantly fewer six hour drives to visit them, and also significantly fewer vacation days exhausted to extend weekends spent visiting. Bonus.

The new corporation has a somewhat unorthodox schedule, which works as follows. Nine hours a day, some time between 6:00am and 6:00pm as determined between the employee and the manager, for M-F one week and M-R the next. The net effect being every other Friday off. This is also a Bonus.

The HR/Benefits department, however, exemplifies the universal standard of such departments nationwide. Which is to say, no one I talk to can ever actually help me. The best I can hope for is to be transferred again and again, often with ten minute hold cycles between eacn person. The system is clearly designed to minimize the employee's ability to receive benefits. I understand that benefits cost the company less when the employees are not accessing said benefits. Is it necessary for the support department to so obviously impede the employees from accessing the benefits? Why must I pay for the privilege of being denied access to the health care benefits when I can be denied health care for free? This is most assuredly not a Bonus.

The mighty Vulcan lies silent again. It is persistently fouling one of the spark plugs (presumably due to an overrich mixture) which means more fiddling with the carbs (my favorite). This is not a serious issue for short rides; I can always pull out the plug and sand off the carbon coating, allowing the cylinder to fire normally. It also seems to have developed a clutch problem. Pulling on the clutch cable does not, in fact, operate the clutch. I suspect that whatever was rattling around the clutch housing has finally wedged itself between the clutch plates. So, the next Growth Experience for me will be clutch repair. Yay.

Well, dear readers, that just about covers it. I'm back to the salt mines for now, but stay tuned for more of the same random rambling.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Predictions

No matter what comments it brings, I want to go on record with a couple of predictions for the next four years in the US.
  1. The first constitutional ammendment that will be presented to Congress will be one protecting the "sanctity of marriage", restricting that privelege to couples consisting of one man and one woman. Riots and demonstrations will ensue.
  2. Closely following on the heels of the "Sanctity of Marriage" ammendment will be one protecting the rights of the unborn. The "Right To Life" ammendment will pass with very narrow margin. Capital punishment will be suggested for the worst offenders. Riots and demonstrations will ensue.
  3. Another ammendment will be proposed removing the presidential two term restriction. This ammendment will not pass. Riots and demonstrations will ensue.
  4. A large, privately funded effort will be put forth to recount all voting records in the swing states. Significant evidence of vote tampering will be discovered. The evidence will be widely ignored or discredited because the studies are done by the same sorts of people who would want to find that sort of evidence. Michael Moore will make a movie about it.
  5. Victory will soon be declared by the administration in Iraq. American troops will continue to fight, and die, for at least three more years.
  6. Closely following on the heels of the victory in Iraq, more pre-emptive wars will be started in "terrorist nations" North Korea and Iran. Riots and demonstrations will ensue.
  7. Shortly after the start of the attacks in North Korea and Iran, a draft will be initiated to provide enough troops for the effort. Riots and demonstrations will ensue.
  8. The War on Terror will turn out to be as effective, inexpensive, and short as the War on Drugs.
  9. More tax cuts for the rich will make the wealth gap widen. Incentives for offshore outsourcing will lead to a decline in skilled blue-collar jobs.
  10. Students seeking higher education will be unable to afford the rising tuition and falling grants and scholarships. They will either settle for barely subsistence wages in unskilled labor or acrue massive amounts of student loan debt to pay for education.
  11. Stagflation. Slow inflation accompanied by a lack of economic growth. Unemployment will hold steady.
  12. National public debt will gain a digit.
  13. Oil prices will go down for about six months. Gas prices at the pump won't decrease significantly. When oil prices start to rise again, gas prices will jump accordingly.
  14. NASA will seriously consider going to go back to the moon, at the president's directive. The program will start, run over budget for three years in a row, and be cut by the administration due to its expense. NASA will instead send another rover to Mars.
  15. Life will go on. People will continue living, loving, hating, eating, breeding, sleeping, and otherwise carrying about. Some will live. Some will die. The sky will not fall(although it may become slightly darker).
  16. After the revolution and the ensuing currency crash, several alternative currencies will be considered. Grapefruit juice will be the most widely accepted.
  17. Michael Moore will not win an Oscar for Fahrenheit 9/11. Riots and demonstrations will ensue.
  18. Science will succeed in grafting eagle's wings onto pigs. Eagle feather jackets will become first the new fashion statement, then the next faux pas. Thrift stores nation wide will be clogged with eagle down pillows. A breeding pair will be accidentally released into the wild. An FAA bulletin will warn domestic pilots to look out for these monstrosities.
  19. Simon and Garfunkel will have a reunion concert. Cher's Farewell tour will continue indefinitely.
  20. An ammendment will be proposed removing the requirement that the President must be a natural-born citizen. Among much protest, it will be passed. Schwarzenegger/Ashcfoft 2008 will be anounced with great fanfare.
  21. On New Year's day, Anno Domini Two Thousand and Eight, our Lord Jesus Christ will return to take His Faithful to the New Kingdom. The Antichrist will be revealed to be Mary Kate Olsen. A terrible earthquake will kill one third of the survivors. Etc, etc. Chaos will ensue.
  22. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea... And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Rev 21:1-4, KJV)
  23. In the new heaven and earth, workplace coffee will be improved dramatically.

Comment all you like; I am unlikely to respond much. These are my predictions. I wait anxiously to see which ones come true.

User Journal

Journal Journal: tick tick tick tick tick

Last weekend, I finally got that stubborn Berenger to open up. (it took quite an effort)After that, I spent some time sharpening my screwdriver so it would fit in the screw. It also took a long while to figure out that the screw was left-hand threaded to counter the winding torque. A brief search for the lost bearing (roughly the size of a six-point "o") and a dropped screw later, my fat fingers finally replaced the crown wheel and (holding my breath) gave the mainspring a good wind.

So, it's working again, and we come full circle. But, now there's a new problem- no feat of finger strength or cunning will replace the cover on the back of the watch. So while it ticks away marvellously, there's nought to keep stray dust, bugs, hairs, cats, etc from fouling the mechanism. It has crystals on both sides to reveal the skeleton mechanism. (similar to this one, but not as bulky.) This makes for a lovely style, but effectively prevents application of the force necessary to reassemble the snap-back.

I really don't want to smash the crystals, and I also really don't want to buy a case press ($30+) just to reassemble one watch ($40, and my Pocket Ben is loose enough to take apart and put together by hand). So, I get to take my watch to a repair shop and explain that while I was too cheap to pay them to fix it in the first place, I'd like them to help me reinstall the case back. My only other idea is to carve out two basswood blocks to support only the metal rings around the outside of the watch, then rubberband things together and very gently apply pressure in the bench vise. That idea seems like the best way to ensure that I shatter both crystals, then spew the tiny little splinters of glass and basswood the mechanism, permanently rendering the watch useless. I'll take any other suggestions from my devoted readership.

An interesting diversion for a Sunday afternoon, anyway. Coming soon: a discussion on picking locks on laundromat machines!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Welcome, Friends. 6

I think it was W.C. Fields who said, "Here's champagne for our real friends, and real pain for our sham friends." Everyone, meet Dave. Dave, meet ... um ... well, I guess there really isn't an everyone.

After all that early waffling about Schroedinger's Uncertainty Principle applied to my web rantings, I caved and told someone I actually know from the big blue room that I occasionally rant here. I guess now it's only a matter of time before the news spreads through that circle and before too long I won't be able to post here either from being too self-conscious. (see the entry, "meta-journalling", which I'm too darn lazy to link here. Incidentally, I'm also too darn lazy to post more than once or twice a month.)

Maybe I wanted to know someone was reading it. Maybe I liked the eerie silence of a possibly non-existent readership. Sometimes, stuff falls out of my head that needs to go somewhere, and for whatever reason here seemed the best place for it. Now, my audience has been observed, and I'm outed. I don't think I'll be putting up a self-destruct button this time. Don't expect volumes of worthwhile stuff, either.

And I'm really not going to talk about my Czech wheat weaving hobby here either.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Barcaloungers, Liberace, and Zenyatta Mondatta

So, about three months ago, my grandfather passed away. His health struggles were compounded by the loss of his wife and the persistent nagging lonliness finally caught up with him. I will not, at this point, go on for pages describing the man and the great things he did; nor will I blather about life, death, and otherwise. The time for that sort of thing is long past. Suffice to say he is at rest, and it was his time.

The details of his estate have not been made clear to me but it seems that he had little concern for the dispensation of the few personal effects that remained. After the dust settled, I found myself in possession of his record player and collection.

I approached this gift with cautious excitement-- unlike the uncle who was certain the collection was worth thousands of dollars, I know that the monetary value of most vinyl is measured in cents. After some hardware issues in the player were resolved, I started through some of the records. It was much as I expected, a few gems among piles of bad classical, promotional Christmas records, and saccharine big band. Listening through his records made me realize just how much one can learn about a person from his tastes in music. A new long-term goal developed for me-- to start a digital repository for this, a living legacy for Grandpa. Something that the RIAA would stomp almost immediately if it were public, but to be kept among friends. "" or some such.

It also lead me to wonder what a snapshot of my listening tastes would tell future generations about me, and what format will still live after I'm gone. And then I wonder what happens if no one wants to know what I was like after I'm gone (which is probably a very likely scenario). I know precious little about my great-grandparents, and even less about their parents. Names in a family tree- and in 100 years I'll be a name in a family tree. Blah, blah, everything is meaningless, sieze the day, rust and ruin, gaze upon my works and weep, etc. Didn't I just say I wasn't going to blather on about this?

Anyway, I've also started cruising the local thrift stores for more vinyl. Last weekend, I found a few gems.

  • Zenyatta Mondatta by the Police.
  • Love Tracks by Gloria Gaynor.
  • Music to Relax by in Your Barcalounger a promotional album given away with Barcaloungers-- it's lounge-a-rific.
  • The Girl from Ipanema featuring Buddy Collette. More uber-lounge.
  • The Sea, Rod McKuen and the San Sebastian Strings. Serious makeout music.

Someday, I'd like to have my own lounge band. And that band will cut vinyl.

Whoo, I'm rambling. Anyway, one more hobby for me. If my loyal readers express interest in recordings, I might just digitize some of the choice picks.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Oh, Drat. 1

Today, the bike's clutch cable broke, leaving me to limp home with the "start it in first gear and kill it at the stops" trick. That was not a smooth ride. So now the waiting starts. Probably 5-7 days before the replacement cable comes in, and until then I'm bound to four wheels. Or my own two feet.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Two wheels, no redline

It would be nice if there was some sort of grant or foundation based on the notion of researching and building unusual and unexpected things just because they are really cool. And I should work there.

For instance:

  • Turbo-diesel motorcycles. 200 mpg, anyone?
  • Living carpet. Grass specifically engineered to thrive in an office or home, complete with under-dirt watering systems, electric automated mowing robots, etc, etc. The technology could extend to an in-kitchen year-round vegetable garden.
  • Bachelor Chow.
  • Pocket-sized turbine powered battery chargers for cellphones, laptops, etc. Also, hand-cranked cellphones.
  • A refrigerator that knows when you're out of beer and orders more for you.
  • Electrovoltaic roofing shingles. Or electrovoltaic paint. (solar cells.)
  • Thermo-electric clothing (one jacket year round, keeps you cool or warm.)
  • Liquid crystal sunglasses. For extra credit, make them peril-sensitive.

Basically, a place to make novel uses for novel technology. That would be cool. All I need is some venture capitalists who don't care about the marketability of the products. Sounds like it shouldn't be too hard, right?

User Journal

Journal Journal: On the subject of Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the sufferer stops breathing while he or she sleeps, often thirty or more times per hour. There are two common forms; obstructive apnea and central apnea. Central apnea is much less common and results mostly when the brain just sort of stops to breathe. Obstructive apnea is more common and results when, for one reason or another, the airway collapses in the throat, preventing the sufferer from drawing breath. Most commonly, this collapse occurs concurrently with the muscle atonia resulting from entering REM sleep. As the sufferer stops breathing, the blood oxygen level and blood pressure drop rapidly. The brain, though unconscious, detects this as a life threatening event and rouses the sleeper. This arousal is often extremely brief and not even noticed by the poor sleeper. However, because it interrupts the most restful and restorative part of the sleep cycle, the REM sleep, the victim wakes up in the morning feeling completely unrefreshed. The sensation is not entirely unlike a hangover, and is often accompanied by disorientation, dizziness, and headaches. The health effects of this disease are numerous, and include fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, lowered energy levels, slow metabolism, difficulty losing weight or weight gain, depression, irritability, and sudden, unexplained death.

I complained earlier about the mechanisms of the health system with respects to treatment of apnea patients. Knowing full well the above litany of side effects, and having experienced several of them (excepting death), I was quite anxious to start treatment. Little did I know that it would be a full six months inbetween my doctor's first inkling that I might have apnea and my actual treatment for it.

The results of my two sleep studies were very clear. Firstly, I did in fact suffer obstructive sleep apnea, with episodes approximately 45 times an hour during REM sleep, and blood oxygen falling to 85% of normal. Secondly, it was determined that my condition was alleviated by CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) treatment, wherein a mask is used to provide air pressure into the airway in order to prop open the collapsed structures in the throat.

So now, I have a little machine that whirrs, and an odd-looking mask which I wear every night while I sleep. Honestly, it has made a tremendous difference. I'm not nearly so tired and irritable now, and I wake up in the morning actually feeling better than when I went to sleep. Quite a remarkable thing, in fact. So much so that I even look forward to sleep now, instead of dreading the awful feelings the next day. It makes those two-hour afternoon meetings ever so slightly less tedious and irritating.

So now you, my oh-so-frequent readers, know the outcome of that whole story arc. At least for now, anyway. If there are further developments on the apnea front, I'll let you know.

One of these days, I'm going to have some fairly long and deeply scathing rants on the subjects of a) the Employee Fitness Center, and b) how Micromanagement makes everyone more productive (except for everyone). For tonight, however, I am in much too good of a mood to get that good head of bile worked up just before bed. Tomorrow morning, I get the license plate for my motorcycle, and this weekend I may just leave the neighborhood on it. (I've been 'road testing' it inside the neighborhood, roaring up and down the streets endlessly, just itching for the chance to get on an open road and see if sixth gear still does what it used to.)

P.S. Tomorrow is Hawaiian shirt day. Monday, they are moving my desk (again). I have 5 managers. I write over thiry status reports a week. Does this sound familiar?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fire issues forth again from the mouth of mighty Vulcan!

It runs! I disassembled the carburetors, cleaned out the jets, replaced the float valves and bowl gaskets ($36 for the rebuild kit), polished every piece to a high gleam with immensely toxic solvents ($5 at the local auto parts store), replaced the petcock with a brand new one ($60), fished pipe cleaners through the whole mess until all the pipes were clean, charged the battery, then reassembled the whole mess.

And then, I took two steps back and gingerly pressed the "Start" button.

It fired! and then promptly roared up to about 4000rpm. Whoops. Apparently, someone had set the idle unusually high to compensate for the plugged pilot jets. A few hasty turns later, it was happily chugging away at an appropriately low speed. I took it for a ride around the block and was pleasantly surprised at how much go it still has. I am much happier now, at least as it relates to the motorcycle. I think I'll be riding it this weekend.

On the bad side, it sounds like something is rattling around in the clutch housing, like a loose screw or a rock or something. I really ought to take that apart and figure out what's causing the sporadic noises down there, before it really jams something up.

Be well, do good work, keep in touch.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Work on Saturday


This is why I spent years getting a degree, so that I could have a decent salaried job and not have to work on the weekends. Thanks to somewhat less than spectacular planning on the part of management, I am at work today, with a cold. My reward for the hard day's work will likely not even amount to a hearty handshake.

Maybe I should just work on incompetence. Incompetent people seem to get promoted to management pretty often around here.

User Journal

Journal Journal: boy, it's quiet in here

It's been a while since I posted. Maybe an update for the sake of updates is due?

Well, anyway, some things are different. I'm getting along much better with my wife. She's also working now, so she has those critical interactions with people who aren't me. I also found out (through a ridiculous process which assured me that the problems in customer service which I ranted about earlier are not entirely unfounded, especially in the medical services business) that I do, in fact, suffer from a sleep disorder. Apnea, in fact. My wife thought it was just really bad snoring.

The polysomnography was a night of completely restless sleep. The sleep technician attached the EEG wires to my head, some wires to my legs to detect kicking, and a pair of straps around my chest. Then, around 4AM I was discharged into a bitterly cold world, smelling of cyanoacrylate glues and acetone solvent. It was two months before I heard anything else about it. I never even spoke to the neurologist who happily charged me $350 for the pleasure; the results went to my family doctor, and then finally trickled down to me. Severe obstructive sleep apnea, causing me to stop breathing around 50 times an hour and depressing my blood oxygen level to 80 percent of normal. No wonder I feel so tired during the day.

So the next step is another sleep lab test, called "CPAP titration," where they try out the treatment. I already knew what to expect (foul-smelling glue and unrestful sleep) so it wasn't too bad. The bad part was waiting for it. The sleep lab is backed up with patients, so there's a waiting list for almost a month until a patient can actually be seen. Then the only neurologist in this half of the state has to process the results, which can take up to two months. To recap; my doctor suspected this in October. I had the first study in November; the results came back early in January; my second study was in February, and it will probably be March before I am treated for this disorder.

In the interim, I have a short list of the effects of my illness. Frequent headaches at all times during the day, constant fatigue and sleepiness every day, high blood pressure, depression, heartburn, weight gain, and increased risk of stroke and heart disease. The treatment is simple; a small machine provides positive airway pressure though a facial mask to maintain an open airway. The treatment is efffective in 70 to 90 percent of patients. I may have been suffering from this for years. It is very difficult to know how long I have had it. I do know that it will be six months between suspecting it and getting treatment for it. An illness which affects all aspects of my life and has been a tremendous detriment to me will take six months to even begin treatment. Something is seriously wrong with that.

My motorcycle is still not running. The winter here has been every bit as cold and bitter as the last one. I am somewhat more accustomed to it now, but the -10F temperatures keep me out of the unheated garage and therefore unable to work on the bike. I am moving to a different apartment soon. We have suffered too long under the oppressive tyranny of our current landlords.

I haven't talked to Neal in such a very long time. He deserves a call soon. He should at least know my new address.

My how the time goes. I suppose I should get back to the salt mines now. Take care, dear readers, and be well.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Surrealist joke

How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One to climb the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub.

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