Archive for December, 2007

Chop wood, haul water

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, haul water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, haul water,” is one of my favorite zen aphorisms.  Okay, so no hauling water for me – at least not unless the drought gets worse, but there’s going to be a lot of wood chopping in my future.

On Saturday, margaretc’s husband, ‘A’, came by and took out two of the trees that have been worrying me.  They border our drivway and both had holes in their bases.  Since they’re not small trees (40-50+ feet tall), I was worried that they would either come down on the house, the 500 gallon propane tank, the cars, the well, the power lines – you get the idea.  It seemed better to take them out on our own terms.

The removal went well.  It’s a great comfort to have a certified master arborist doing the work 🙂 .  ‘A’ climbed the trees – rope climbing the one and spiking the other (impressive!) and sat up top cutting the major limbs.  After that was done, he rigged a multi-pulley system so that we could pull the trunks down to a location that wouldn’t  cause any harm.  It went perfectly.

Now I have to finish cutting up the two trees and chopping the rounds into firewood.  Looks like we won’t need to buy wood for a year or two.  Surprisingly, chopping wood isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I need to work on my technique, but it could wind up being fairly enjoyable.

Next tree project – order and plant some replacement trees.  I’m thinking a couple of walnuts might be nice.

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Information markets

One of my projects at work involves information markets: tools to extract aggregate knowledge from groups of people.  For example, at Intrade, you can buy and sell contracts on questions like, “who will be the democratic nominee for president?” or “how likely is it that the US economy will slip into recession?”  The market price reflects the cumulative belief that a given event has a certain probability.

IEEE Spectrum also recently did a piece on information markets which talked about Microsoft’s use of a market in 2004 to predict the likelihood of an internal product meeting its production schedule.  By opening the market to its employees, who presumably had knowledge of the issues with the product, Microsoft predicted that it would ship three months late – which it did.

All of that got me to thinking about how much fun (and subversive 😉 ) an employee operated information market would be.  The questions are great: “how likely is it that we’ll be re-organized my March?”  “will the next good job go to the boss’s friend, neighbor or gardener?”  “which product will be selected in the next RFP?”  “how likely is this project to fail (or succeed)?”

If anyone wants to set up something like that, I’ve got some code, or you can use Zocalo.

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Break-in Update

It’s been about a week and a half since the attempted break-in.

On Tuesday, I replaced the window they broke out.  I called around to a couple of different places and everyone said that they could send someone out to give an estimate, but it would take a few days and then the part would be on order for another 3-5 days.  Fortunately, on local glass shop said that if I brought them the sill in the morning, they would be able to replace the glass that afternoon.  So I spent the morning taking apart the window.  It turned out to be easier than I thought, but I did have to take off the lower sill to get to the upper.

I got the sill to the glass shop and they managed to replace the glass by the 5:15.  I brought it hope and replaced the window in just a half hour or so.  Yay!

Today I found out that the same morning someone was broken into down the street on the same day as our attempted break-in and in the same way.  For a variety of reasons, they suspect contractors at the two construction sites in the neighborhood.  They’re chasing down the details of who was on site, etc.  Hopefully they can track down enough information to identify the burglars.

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New faucet

I picked up a new kitchen faucet at Lowe’s today.  As usual with this sort of thing, removing the old faucet was the worst part.  The nuts holding the old faucet on to the sink were standard plastic nuts – attached to badly rusted screws.  After 30 minutes of trying: first by hand, then with a towel by hand, then with a wrench, then oiling the screw and trying the wrench, I gave up.  Thinking about it for a few minutes I realized that I have a 1″ drill bit for putting holes into a sink.  I got the drill and just drilled through the plastic nuts.  Victory!

Of course, in taking off the old faucet, I put a little pressure on the spigot and it completely broke off.  I’m just glad it held off until now 🙂

Once the old faucet was out, installing the new one was pretty easy.  I had remembered to buy new faucet connection lines which was good since I needed ’em.  I also remembered to pick up some more teflon tape which was helpful.  The only real mistake I made was testing the cold water tap after connecting it.  Unfortunately, the hot water tape was open so all of the water headed that way and down under the sink.  But at least I wasn’t under it. 🙂

Hopefully we’ll be set now.

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Attempted break-in

Some weeks it just doesn’t pay to leave the house. As K and I were getting ready for bed last night she noticed that the bathroom window was broken. Being a wildlife rehabilitator, her first thought was that some bird (maybe a hawk) had smashed into the window. I went out to check. Nope – someone had removed the screen and smashed the window with some junk they found on the deck.

It seems they broke the window in order to unlock it and sneak in to the house that way. Fortunately, they didn’t succeed. In breaking the window, they knocked the window lock latch off and couldn’t unlock the window. They tried prying it up (first?) but failed there too. I’m guessing between the frustration and the dogs barking like mad, they gave up.

We called the cops and filed a report.

What I don’t understand is why the window. Sure, the doors have alarm company stickers on them since the house has an alarm system, but why would they assume the window wasn’t alarmed? If they had managed to open the window, it would have set off the alarm.

This is the second break-in or attempt in my neighborhood recently. With the number of gun owners out here, if the person(s?) keep it up, they’re going to wind up shot.

While I’m happy they didn’t get in, I’m still pretty annoyed and upset by the whole thing.

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Time for a new kitchen faucet

It’s been 7 months since we’ve done plumbing renovations, so we’re apparently due.  This time I have to replace the kitchen faucet.  It’s started leaking badly.  “But wait,” you say, “a leaking faucet doesn’t require replacement, you can just replace the gaskets.”  Unfortunately no.

I’ve mentioned before that our water is acidic with a pH of about 5.5.   We’ve got the acid neutralizer in place, but many things have corroded over the years.  In the case of this faucet, the weld/join between the base of the faucet and the spigot itself has developed pinhole leaks.  You turn on the faucet and you get shot in the eye with water.  🙁

I’m just hoping it can wait until Saturday.

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What a week

Okay, it’s only Monday, but it’s been about a week since wrote anything here.  In that time:

  • The non-profit I work with and on whose board I serve has gone bat-shit crazy.  They say that academic politics are so petty because the stakes are so small.  Trust me, academic politics haven’t got anything on non-profit politics
  • A friend at the university has announced her resignation to move on to a different job.  This is probably good for her – she’ll be happier, but it means that half the people I know took it hard.
  • I got a call last week from a lawyer representing my old employer, letting me know that I am a witness in a case against them.  Go me!  *grumble*
  • The thing at my new job did go through and I now do people management for six staff members.  Oh, and their performance evaluations were due in November, can we finish those soon?  They’ll be done and signed tomorrow, but what a pain.
  • Finally, I went to (sort of crashed) a holiday party for the school of arts and sciences at my former employer.  That was a lot fun, but odd.  Particularly when I ran into my old boss and then the woman who inherited part of my responsibilities when I left.  Theoretically, she was doing the job until they hired my replacement.  It’s been four months – I don’t think the position’s been posted yet.  Regardless, I talked to a lot of people and confirmed my original statement – the thing I miss most is the people.

Now if I can only get through this week: finish up the last part of a project and put the presentation together, I’ll be in good shape for taking some time off.

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It lives

Right before Thanksgiving my iPod went to that great electronics superstore in the sky.  More specifically, the cute little 1.8″ hard drive died.  Having looked around, I figured the best (or at least most interesting) fix was to replace the drive with a compact flash card.  The connector part finally came in today and we had a lovely (and to spare you the suspense, successful) operation.

We started with a 30 GB 5th generation iPod video showing the unhappy ipod symbol:

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The first step was to open it up.  They make special tools for this, but I didn’t have any, so I used my old stand-by, a pocket knife to open it:

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I got the parts ready:

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and did the surgery.  The result was the same iPod, no hard drive but with a 16 GB cf card instead:

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At this point, I connected the power back up but did not completely reseal the iPod (in case I accidentally disconnected the audio out line.  Total time for the surgery, 15 minutes.  I turned the iPod on and saw:

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Okay, it knows that it’s got a new drive and wants me to connect it to iTunes.  Hrm, problem.  iTunes doesn’t seem to have a linux version.  Okay, let’s boot the computer upstairs into windows mode – an ancient win2k install.  Run an old version of iTunes.  No go.  I had removed QuickTime to make space for ArcGIS and now iTunes is unhappy.  I tried to explain that I don’t really want to listen to the iPod on windows.  It doesn’t care.

I download iTunes.  It claims to be a 47 MB download – it’s actually 57 MB.  Fine.  Run the installer.  Nope – this version requires XP or Vista.  Crap.  Go back to Apple, find the older Win2k version.  Claims to be a 47 MB download – seems to be 37MB.  I don’t think Apple engineers understand file size.

Install iTunes, reboot the computer, run iTunes It won’t fix the iPod because it can’t find the network.  Network is working, iTunes can’t find it.  Search the web, find the solution and re-run iTunes.  It downloads a new firmware and fixes the device.  Time screwing with iTunes: 40 minutes.  Result:

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Okay, now we’re in business.  I take a break for dinner and fire up GtkPod.  Too many mp3s to fit on the new system.  Fine, I get it down to the right size and start the sync.  Two and half hours later, we have music!

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not much space left, but that’s okay:

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First impressions?  It’s nice.  There’s no disk noise, no disk vibration and best of all, no disk spin-up delay.  You can jump between songs without waiting until the drive spins up and seeks.  Overall, it was definitely worth it.  Now when 32 GB flash drives are affordable I’ll have a good upgrade path 🙂

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Calendar update update

In response to the two comments on my last post about the calendar:

etselec: I’m not certain if you were kidding or not.  FWIW, I don’t usually think of the calendar as something people outside of my family would be interested in.  I think that’s a pretty usual INTP trait 🙂  If anyone is interested in the calendar, it’s available at Lulu at the baseline cost of $11.29 each.  I didn’t put a markup on it, because it’s a fun thing rather than a plan to take over the world make money.

Mom: we just ordered them.  It’ll be a few days to print and then another 3 or so to ship.  Expect them by Friday the 14th at the latest.

World:  wrt to my mom, you see the kind of nagging reminders I put up with here 😉

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Calendar update

As I mentioned earlier, I’m printing the Yellowstone calendar using Lulu instead of Kodak.  I got back my sample and all in all, I’m happy with it.  I like that the image is the full size of the page (no border).  The print quality is pretty good – it’s not as good as Kodak’s but that’s not a big surprise.  The paper is also a bit lighter weight than Kodak’s card stock.  But hey, it’s about 45% cheaper!  🙂

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