Alkahest my heroes have always died at the end

September 16, 2009

It’s official!

Filed under: Personal,Wildlife Rehab — cec @ 11:09 pm

I managed to get into the office a bit early this morning, which meant that I also got to leave a bit early (working as a federal contractor definitely has its perks).  The only reason I mention this is because I beat K to the mail and when I reached into the mailbox, there was a rather thick envelope with the non-profit’s name (C/O me).  It was from the IRS.  Well, the only thing that we have out-standing with the feds is our non-profit status.  So, I was a bit nervous in opening it.  It felt a bit like opening a college application letter.  I was really hoping that, like with the college letter, a thick envelop was a good sign.  After all, if you’ve been turned down, they send you a one page letter.  If you’ve been accepted, they send you a packet of information.

I opened the envelop, and sure enough, it was a two page letter saying that the Triangle Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic is now an official non-profit and it included a lovely pamphlet with information on our responsibilities as such.

Also nice – our status is retroactive to the end of *last* year.  So all of the donations that we’ve received are officially tax deductible.  As are any future donations if anyone wants to donate 🙂


September 9, 2009

Communication and learning styles

Filed under: Personal,Social — cec @ 10:58 pm

A while back I mentioned that K, some associates and I had started up a new non-profit.  Things are going reasonably well.  People have been more supportive than I had thought.  We’ve had about 70 patients so far and we’ve got the systems set up so that patients entered into the database post up to Twitter, along with any Facebook updates.

One thing that I have noticed in working with the others on the non-profit is that learning styles and communication styles seem to be closely related.  You can divide learning styles (among other ways) into verbal vs visual learners.  Verbal learners prefer to hear things explained to them.  whereas visual learners prefer things to be written down.  Based on some of our recent experiences, I think that this plays into communication styles.  And it’s communication styles which are (occasionally) biting us.

We’ve got two people (including me) who have a strong visual preference – we like email for communication.  We have one person who exhibits a strong verbal preference (prefers the phone or in-person communication) and one who has no strong preference either way.  On a couple of recent occasions, we’ve had some missed communication.  Our verbal communicator will say something or mention a project or deadline and expect that the rest of us have kept up.  Our email/visual communicators don’t catch these verbal references and do the same thing with respect to email.

I was talking to our verbal communicator (by phone, of course! – she called me after I emailed her) about this and mentioned that I don’t ever catch the details when she’s talking.  At the last board meeting, she had mentioned a project and I *assumed* that if there were deadlines, they would be sent out in email.  In fact, I don’t ever consider anything to be real until I see it written down.  It’s just how I think.  People might *talk* about a lot of things, but until I see them commit some details to something written (email, memo, etc.), I don’t think they mean it.  After I described this to our verbal communicator, she confessed that she often never reads the details of the email that our visual communicators send.  In other words, in the same way that I don’t give enough consideration to non-visual communication, she doesn’t give enough consideration to non-verbal communication.

All in all, this isn’t the worst problem that a group of people can have.  I think the most important thing is to recognize these differences and to know that if you want to be certain that your message is received, you have to consider the expected medium for your audience.  (shock!)

August 26, 2009

just saying. . .

Filed under: Personal — cec @ 9:35 pm

if i ever do get around to filking the Pilgrim’s Progress, there’s a good chance it’ll feature a “Slough of Sake” and a “Carnival of Sangria.”

August 17, 2009

Garden produce

Filed under: Cooking,Personal — cec @ 5:23 pm

I’ve mentioned before that this is the first year that we’ve had a garden, and it’s been going great.  In the early spring we had lots of spinach, arugula, turnips, lettuce, etc.  Now that we’re in the summer, it’s time for a whole new type of produce.  Last night, I went out to the garden and picked a bunch of tomatoes (yes, I prefer the cherry tomatoes), banana peppers and green beans.  Later this week, I’ll pick some of the eggplant and we’ll do eggplant croquettes.  Hopefully, we’ll also get some regular peppers, zucchini and maybe even a small watermelon or two.

The best part for me has been that we’ve gotten a good amount of produce with a fairly minimal amount of work.  I planted densely, but in raised beds.  I haven’t weeded and the whole thing looks like an overgrown mess, but it produces quite a bit:


August 10, 2009

The universe hates me, part 37

Filed under: Personal — cec @ 4:47 pm

or Adventures in Home Repair;

or How I Spent My Sunday.

For reasons best left unspecified, I found myself in need of a new exterior door – a replacement for the one that keeps my utility room from being a part of the outdoors.  Last weekend, I went out to the local home improvement store and after spending two hours, I realized that I couldn’t simply replace the door, but instead, had to replace the entire door, prehung in its frame.

So, I bought the door-in-frame, hauled it out to my car only to realize that I had forgotten a certain problem of logistics.  While a door slab will fit in my hatchback, a whole door in its frame, most certainly will not.  So, I haul the frame back into the Lowes and ask if they can hold it for me.  Nope.  Well, not currently.  If I *returned* the frame and then re-purchased it, *then* they could hold it.  Fine.  Done.

Fast-forward to yesterday.  I borrow a neighbor’s truck (noon) and make the 10+ mile drive back out to the Lowes.  Pick up the door, drive back, unload and return the truck (1pm).  I start removing the old door, pulling out the frame and leaving it as a rough cutout (2:30pm).  Took a break to avoid completely dehydrating and got back to work (3pm).  At this point, I realized that because of the thickness of the logs (or in the utility room, the log siding), the last door had actually been installed 2″ out of the rough and was actually sitting on the porch.  Unfortunately, that means that there was actually extra header between the frame and the rough since the porch sits an inch lower than the subfloor.  To fix that, I nailed down some extra board so the door would sit on the subfloor and be flush with the interior walls.  Next step – find my caulk.  Oops – none in the house.  Run up to the nearest hardware store, about 8 miles, and buy some caulk (4:00pm).

Caulked the rough and set the door up.  Unfortunately, the door installation instructions were a little opaque and I couldn’t figure out where to go next.  Everytime I opened the door or even stopped holding it, the door would start falling.  Google to the rescue!  Following the online instructions, I shimmed the door into place, leveled it and got everything nailed into place (5pm).  Grab the old deadbolt and doorknob and installed them (5:30pm) and, with K’s help, cleaned up – 5:50pm.

All in all, a perfectly terrible way to spend a Sunday.  And I still need to finish insulating the door, staining it and putting the moulding back together.  Whee!

July 20, 2009

the importance of verifying backups

Filed under: Personal,Technical — cec @ 10:58 pm

I was using my personal laptop at a meeting yesterday and grabbed about a gig of files from someone’s usb key.  While I was taking minutes, I noticed a lovely new icon that popped up… your hard disk drive is failing.  Eeek!  Not cool.  So, last night I got home and started backing up my files.  A few of the new files and a couple unimportant old files didn’t transfer properly.   Fine, I could live without them.

Today, I bought a replacement drive.  When I got home, I wanted to record the diffs from last night to today (quite a few since I uncompressed a lot of that gig’s worth of files).  As I started that up, I received a lot of notices about the *backup* disk failing.  I tried fixing it, but no luck.  Found a new backup disk.  Re-backed up 30 gigabytes worth of data.  Verified that and installed the new drive.  Things worked pretty well.  I installed Fedora 11 for the second time in two weeks, restored all my personal files and now I’m updating the system.

I’m just glad I verified the backup prior to doing this – it would have been annoying

July 9, 2009

Back from Galts Gulch

Filed under: Personal,Wildlife Rehab — cec @ 11:22 am

Yes, because I’m a mighty industrialist (aka Ubermensch) and the world will fall down if I stop writing. ;-)  Okay, enough picking on the Randians.  Sorry for the radio silence.  A quick update:

I got back from Des Moines last month and the next day had a board meeting for the non-profit I work with.  As treasurer, I went to review the financial situation based on the projections we finally received.  Sure enough, the detailed projections were in line with the back-of-a-napkin ones that I had presented earlier, i.e., dire.  The only real solution was to close a significant portion of our operations, which we did.  Unfortunately, that was also the part of operations that K cares most about.

So for the past three weeks, I’ve been working with some other folks, including another board member who resigned after closing operations, to form a new non-profit.  It’s been a little hush-hush, but we did go public today.  We’ve sent out a press release, have a web site, are doing the twitter thing, and even have a facebook page.  Yes, the last two make me feel dirty, but what the hell.

My part’s been largely working the administrative angles with K.  I’m the Board Secretary, so I’ve filed the incorporation paperwork and will be sending off the IRS Form 1023 this weekend in order to get our official tax-exempt status.  We got word yesterday that we were incorporated on July 7th!  (BTW, it’s very cool that information goes online at the NC Secretary of State faster than it goes out in snail mail.)

My colleagues are working with their friends on the branding, etc.  Hopefully we’ll be announcing a coming out party soon.

So, you see, I wasn’t really hangin’ with Galt – I’ve just been working on things I couldn’t be public about until now 🙂

June 16, 2009

Eulogy for a grandfather never well known

Filed under: Personal — cec @ 12:42 am

Drafting out a few words for grandpa’s funeral tomorrow…  feel free to ignore.

I never felt that I knew Dick very well.  Of course, growing up, we didn’t call him that.  We always called him Grandpa S.  We saw him once every few years, but with a thousand miles between Baton Rouge and Des Moines, I suppose that wasn’t too surprising.  While it came 20 years later than I would have liked, I have appreciated being here today and at the visitation yesterday, hearing everyone’s impressions of the man that my grandfather was.

As generous as you have all been, I would like to share a few stories of my own.  They define how I remember Richard S.

  • About ten years ago, shortly after I finished graduate school, grandpa drove down from Iowa for the graduation ceremony.  While he was there, he hung several paintings that we had left sitting around the house for a few months; fixed an armoire with stripped screws using toothpicks and wood glue (a trick I’ve used ever since); and started talking with K and me about coming back down to build in some book cases (an offer that we regret not taking him up on).  I’ve also seen work he’s done for others… a cross at his church, a display cabinet at his retirement home, a … well, I’m sure many of you have your own examples.  From this I see Richard as a skilled man generous with his time.
  • One of those examples of his sharing his talents is when he came down to Baton Rouge and helped my father convert the attic into a bedroom for my brother, Geoff, and me.  When it came time to build the nooks for the beds, my father did the practical thing and measured the mattresses to figure out the proper length of the bed nooks.  Grandpa came along and added an extra six inches.  Later, he told us proudly that he did that so that as we grew to be as talk as he was, we would appreciate the space for our feet to hang off the bed.  Now, I might be 5’10 on days when I feel like lying.  Over the past, nearly, 40 years, my feet have never hung off of a bed… unless, of course, my head is in the middle of it.  That I wasn’t going to reach 6’4″ was obvious at the time he was building the room; but yet, it struck me as beautifully optimistic.  An optimism worthy of my grandfather.
  • Another time, the family was visiting Des Moines.  I don’t remember where, exactly, we were, perhaps either Irma’s or Norma’s house and we were making “lefse…”  thin, Norweigan potato pancakes that you spread butter and sugar on, roll up and eat.  My mother had been teaching me and Geoff how to cook and so Dick was telling us how the lefse were made.  Now, if you didn’t know (and I can’t imagine that you didn’t), Richard had a *terrible* sense of humor.  There were puns and shaggy dog stories, all of which I’ll spare you.  So as grandpa had talked us through making the lefse dough he tells us that you cook the lefse in an iron pan and that the iron pan is *very* important.  Well, we were a couple of inquisitive, scientifically minded children.  Geoff and I were learning to cook and I could imagine of a few reasons why an iron pan might be needed.  So someone asked, ‘why an iron pan?’  His face lit up.  In hindsight, you could see it.  He gave us the setup and we took the bait.  Grinning broadly he said, “because Norwegians can’t say Aluminumunumum.”  If anyone has other examples of Dick’s humor, please don’t tell me.  Although in fairness, that might also be why grandpa’s lefse didn’t have cinamoniumum.
  • I’ve covered his skills in woodworking, his generosity in sharing those skills, his optimism and his terrible sense of humor.  In my mind, the last thing that defined my grandfather was his love of God.  You could see this in his relationship to his church and his trips to the holy land.  It was for that reason that K and I asked him to officiate at our wedding.  As the groom, I honestly don’t remember that much about homily, although some time in the 3rd hour, it did occur to me that it might have been a bit long 🙂 .

In all seriousness, I believe that having grandpa officiate at our wedding was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.  It made the ceremony that much more special to both K and me.

As I said earlier, I’ve never felt that I knew my grandfather as well as I would have liked; but I feel privileged to have known him as well as I did.

So, that’s roughly what I’m thinking.  I’ll have to re-read it tomorrow to see if I still want to say it.

June 12, 2009

Richard S., rest in peace

Filed under: Personal — cec @ 10:56 pm

I heard from my mom today that my grandfather died this afternoon.  It wasn’t a complete shock.  He never fully recovered from a stroke a few years ago, was recently suffering bouts of ventricular tachycardia, had just this week been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (which recently claimed Randy Pausch – go watch his “last lecture“), and had signed a DNR order.

I never did know my grandfather that well.  Of my five grandparents, he was the one whom we visited least while growing up.  There’s also the difficulty of understanding someone 50+ years older than you.  And his general Norwegian disposition, a silent doer, made it difficult to know what was in his head. I suspect you got to know my grandfather more by working with him than talking to him.

By the time I was in my twenties, my family started to have more contact with my grandfather.  He drove down to NC for the graduation ceremony.  We talked some about having him down again to help build some bookshelves.  (One of the things I know about him is that he was an excellent wood worker.  He’s built all sorts of furniture, and I think even the cross that hangs in his church.)  That was 11 years ago, and one of the last times I saw him before his stroke: a tall strong man in his early 70s.  The last time I saw him, was three years ago on his 80th birthday.  He was still mentally aware, and remained that way through this week.  We still don’t have any details on his funeral.  I’m hoping we get them soon enough to make plans to travel to Iowa.

Sorry for the rough stream of conciousness post.  My head’s not all here.

June 7, 2009

Vacation notes (3 of N)

Filed under: Gallery,Personal — cec @ 9:58 pm
  • May 24: Memorial day weekend is in full swing and there are idiots everywhere.  I swear that the older I get, the more I sympathize with my father’s dislike of crowds.  We braved a bit of the crowd (keeping in mind that we’re already in the least crowded part of the park) and went up to Floating Island Lake to see if the sandhill cranes were nesting.  When we got there, a coyote was crossing behind the lake and the cranes, who were on the shore at the time, were putting on quite a display: loud squawks (or whatever noise cranes make), spread wings, raised heads, etc.  Basically, everything a crane can do to tell a coyote to go away… which he did.  There weren’t any eggs in the nest yet, so we left and decided to get away from everybody by hiking the Lamar Trail.  That was a very nice hike, we only saw one other group of people, but we did see many hawks and bluebirds.  We got down to Cache Creek and stayed for a while.  The rain didn’t start until we were a mile and a half down the trail home.  That would be great, except that it left us another 2 miles back.  We did have rain gear, but it isn’t very good and doesn’t breathe well, so we didn’t put it on.  Between the lack of rain gear and my putting my hat on the camera, we arrived back to the car tired and soaked, but happy.  A wet day of hiking is still better than crowds.


  • May 25: Memorial Day itself.  There’s no way I’m going anywhere potentially crowded.  We did decide to do a few short hikes to get some pictures.  I went a short distance down the Lamar Trail to get some shots from the foot bridge.  We drove up to Tower Falls (saw a fox on the drive up there).  Unfortunately, the trail down to the base of the falls is still closed, as it has been for 5 years now.  You can hike down a half mile, but there’s not much to see.  That’s a bit of a shame, since Tower Falls is one of the nicer falls in the park.  Warning: don’t try this, it’s dangerous. So, getting fed up with the closure, I slipped over the barrier when no one was looking (for the record, this doesn’t appear to be illegal, just dumb) and hike the last tenth of a mile to the base.  FWIW, I can see why the trail is closed.  There are places where the trail is only 6 – 8″ wide (on one side of the mountain road there was a mountain, and on the other side there was nothin’ – there was a cliff in the air) and other places where there were trees down across what was left of the trail.  That said, it was definitely worth it to see the base of the falls again.  After that, we hiked up to Lost Creek Falls (behind Roosevelt Lodge).  On the way back to the cabin, we stopped by Baronette Peak and spotted a few mountain goats.  That evening, we went out into the park and saw two wolves in the valley.  We must have watched them for over an hour – there was a great deal of very dog-like behavior.  The subordinate licking the dominant one’s mouth.  The dominant one standing over the subordinate, etc.  We found it very interesting to watch – as did a coyote that was following the wolves in order to see when it would be safe to feed off of a nearby kill.


  • May 26: It’s the day after Memorial Day… should be safe to go to Mammoth, right?  Nope, trick question.  There are always crowds at Mammoth.  On the drive up, we ran across a fairly large bear-jam, so we found a place to pull off in order to see what the fuss was about.  Turned out to be a young grizzly, maybe 40 yards from the road.  He had been bathing (missed that) and was climbing on a rock to dry a bit.  We stayed for a while, until the rangers had everyone leave since this bear had charged someone the other day.  Mammoth seemed dry.  More accurately, the water continually moves and has been moving away from the standard board walk areas for years now.  While we were looking at one of the features, we saw some college student reach into his pocket and when he pulled his hand out, his keys went flying onto the thermal ground where he had to retrieve it.  Probably my biggest impression from Mammoth was that it reminds me of one of the central themes from Gulliver’s Travels, that humans are comical when viewed from afar and grotesque when viewed up close.  Both aspects were on display at Mammoth (and in fairness, pretty much anywhere that people gather in numbers).  On the drive back, we watched a wolf crossing the road behind us.  Nothing too exciting that evening, a bear and two (though I only saw one) cubs.


  • May 27: We went out and hiked Garnet Hill today.  There wasn’t too much wildlife.  We did see a day old wolf kill at the start of the trail, but there were only ravens on it.  We saw lots of marmots, as always.  Overall, the hike took longer than it should have.  We’ll need to allocate more time next year.  That evening, we saw a moose and her newborn (that day?) calf across from Trout Lake.  People believe that the moose was attacked by wolves (or bear) and then had the calf shortly thereafter.  The calf was fine, but the moose was a bit torn up, we hoped they would make it.  In the valley we watched a grizzly for a while.  It seemed that he was limping.  We ran into a griz researcher who confirmed that the bear was injured.  The researcher had a baited trap on the south side of the valley.  He hoped that the bear would follow that so that they could provide some help.


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