Band-Aids For The Cutting Edge Of Life

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My Journal Is MovingAdd to memories (Link)May. 1st, 2010 @ 12:47
About a year ago I created a new journal on DreamWidth and have been cross-posting entries from there to LiveJournal. Soon my LiveJournal account will expire and I won't be renewing it.

If you are keen to continue following my lackadaisical updates, you can do so here: http://deane.dreamwidth.org/

Wrong, Wrong, WrongAdd to memories (Link)Apr. 10th, 2010 @ 17:58
I wanted to take a sharp corner off our mailbox as I'd scraped myself on it a couple of times.

"Sweetie, the tin snips are not on the pegboard. Do you know where they are?"

"Hmm. No, I don't, but there's a grinder just outside, use that."

"I don't think that grinder works any more."

"Why not?"

"It was sitting in the rain for several months. It's probably rusted inside."

A look of doubt crossed the paramour's features. Zie got up, went outside, picked up the grinder, plugged it in, flicked the switch. It screamed to life.

"Hmm. I guess we got lucky on that one. But look at the rust on the heat gun. It's likely shot."

Moments later the heat gun was spitting forth a burning jet of hot air.

"Okay, okay. But what about the tin snips?" I said, scrambling desperately back toward the moral high ground. "That grinder is going to take forever to grind a few millimeters off of thick sheet steel."

"It'll be be fine and I don't feel like looking for the snips right now."

Grudgingly, I plugged the grinder back in and applied it to the mailbox. In less than a second the sharp corner was gone. It took a couple more seconds to get it smoothly rounded.

*sigh*

It's not like I wanted the tools to be broken. It would just be nice to be right once in a while. And I still don't know where those damned tin snips are.

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OutagesAdd to memories (Link)Apr. 4th, 2010 @ 15:44
Two weeks ago BC Hydro decided that the pole feeding our shack needed to be replaced. They warned us in advance that our power would be out for about 3 hours. It ended up being twice that.

During the process they also managed to knock out our phone and DSL line, meaning that even after the power came back on we were still without an internet connection. Given that phone lines share poles with power lines pretty much everywhere, I would have thought that this would be a sufficiently common occurrence that the Hydro workers would have a streamlined procedure for dealing with it. Instead, they seemed completely unprepared. A worker came to the shack, borrowed a phone book and started thumbing through it for the telephone repair number. He ended up calling the same number I would have, getting put on hold just like I would have, and was unable to get repair booking until the next day, just like I would have.

The phone people asked if we wanted a morning or afternoon booking. "Morning!" the paramour and I both shouted, already suffering from net withdrawal. That got us a promise that a repair truck would show up between Noon and 1400. Made me wonder what we would have gotten had we asked for an afternoon repair.

So we were without power and internet service for two days. This was particularly annoying as this was an unusually busy week for me at work and I had six online meetings scheduled during that period.

This week we've have stormy weather with high winds. That almost always means power outages and, sure enough, just after crawling into bed Thursday night the power went out. I climbed back out of bed and shut down all of our systems before they drained their UPSes. When I got up Friday morning the power had come back on so I started to bring the systems back up. I was in the middle of bringing up the last one when the power went out again. So down they went once more.

A few hours later the power came up again and I was able to get all of the computers up and running without incident. Then on Saturday the power went out again for about an hour. We always get a couple of outages during the windy season (late fall through early spring), but this is the worst that I can remember since moving here over a decade ago.

The bright light throughout all of these service interruptions was my cell phone. Thanks to it I was able to attend all of my meetings, even when our land-line was out. I wasn't able to see any of the visuals, such as slides and demos, but that was really a problem in only one meeting. These days I get the bulk of my home entertainment through the internet and there, too, the cell phone was able to step in, providing me with games to play and web browsing. If the battery got too low, I could always plug the charger into the truck's cigarette lighter.

UPDATE: Shortly after making this post, the power went out again, came back on five minutes later, then went down again a few minutes after that and stayed down for several hours. Apparently a couple of local transformers had caught fire.


Towel-Folding RobotAdd to memories (Link)Apr. 2nd, 2010 @ 13:48
I don't mind doing laundry. The only part I really dislike is folding everything up after it's dry. Fortunately for me, scientists are hard at work on that problem with a robot which folds towels. Be sure to watch the video.


The World's Greatest Software CompanyAdd to memories (Link)Mar. 20th, 2010 @ 23:17
The last time that the company tried to use Microsoft Live Meeting for an online corporate event there were a number of us remote workers who were unable to get connected to the meeting.

Next week we have a bunch more events planned using Live Meeting so one of the managers thought it a good idea to set up a test meeting with me on Friday to see if we could figure out what was going wrong.

I dutifully shut down Firefox and started up Internet Exploder. We checked the Live Meeting link, meeting ID, etc, and found it all to be correct. We checked my version of Live Meeting and it was correct. I tried connecting to the test meeting with the VPN up and the VPN down but none of it worked.

The manager noted that he'd had similar problems once before when setting up a new Windows machine but that they had gone away after he'd set up Outlook. There's nothing in the Microsoft Live Meeting installer or online docs which say that setting up Outlook is necessary, but what the hell, this is Microsoft we're talking about, so anything is possible.

I blew the dust off my copy of Outlook and fired it up. The manager noticed that I did not have the conferencing plugin installed and suggested that I try installing that. I downloaded the installer and started it up. It told me that Outlook was already running and I had to shut it down first. Okay, I did that. Then it told me that to complete the installation I would have to start up Outlook again. Oookay, I did that. Then Outlook told me that to complete the installation I would have to shut it down again and restart it again.

WTF? Is all of Redmond on crack these days? Dudes, this installation stuff was solved back in the 90's, and you guys still haven't got your shit together? I suppose I should just be grateful that it didn't require that I reboot the system half a dozen times.

Anyway, after all the starting and stopping of Outlook was done the manager had me set up my Outlook Conferencing User Account. When it came up it had defaulted to my hotmail address, an address which I never use but which it had, no doubt, harvested from Messenger. (I made the mistake of running Messenger once a couple of years ago and now the damned thing just will not go away!) I changed that to my work email, exited Outlook and suddenly, voila!, I could connect to a Live Meeting from Internet Exploder.

Am I the only who finds this seriously fucked up?

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Need To Pick Up The PaceAdd to memories (Link)Mar. 6th, 2010 @ 22:51
I've just completed my first week of geocaching. It got me out of the house every day and I found an average of two caches per day.

There are just under 80,000 geocaches in Canada alone. At my current rate it would take 109 years to find them all.

BC has a little over 14,000 geocaches now. It would only take about 19 years to find all of those, at my current rate. That's doable.


Morning TrifectaAdd to memories (Link)Mar. 5th, 2010 @ 09:35
I just got up to find a dead mouse sitting atop my slippers. I decided to take a whiz before dealing with that. In the bathroom I discovered that one of the cats had gotten overly energetic in the litter box, spraying litter all over the bathroom floor, bathmat and scales. While I was cleaning that up, Persis came in to see what I was doing and decided to barf up a bit of grass and bile that she'd taken against.

Someone remind me again about the joys of having cats?

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GeocachingAdd to memories (Link)Mar. 1st, 2010 @ 01:08
A couple of years ago, when the paramour bought our first GPS unit, zie came across the pastime of "geocaching", which involves using a GPS unit to discover little caches that people have hidden all over the world. At the time there were only a handful of geocaches in our city, none of them near where we lived. We talked about going out and hunting a couple of them down at some point in time, but nothing ever came of it.

I was reminded about geocaching the other day by an article I read online. Since I now own a cellphone with GPS capability I decided to check out the geocaching web-site to see if there were any nearby. I was amazed to find that there are now over thirty caches listed just within a 2km radius of where we live, let alone the many others scattered about the city in general.

Four of the nearby caches were on a local trail which the paramour and I often walk, so this afternoon I downloaded a geocaching app (c:geo) for my Android phone and we went out to see if we could find a couple of them. We found the first one fairly quickly, but the next two eluded us despite being listed as "easy" finds. At that point my cellphone lost its 3G service and I was not able to download the coordinates of the fourth cache, so we decided to call it a day.

By this time I had the bug, though. Back home I started looking through the local listings again and noted that the one nearest to us was just six blocks away and fully accessible by road. It's a full moon tonight so I decided to go for a midnight stroll and easily found the cache.

Apparently geocaching has grown rapidly in popularity over the past few years. In 2002 there were only 300 caches in all of BC. Today there are almost 14,000.


Concur SuxAdd to memories (Link)Feb. 12th, 2010 @ 11:30
My employer has recently switched to using an online service called Concur to handle travel bookings and expense reporting.

Apparently Concur saves businesses money by making the expense reporting process so arduous that employees refuse to travel for fear of having to fill out a report.

Case in point. I recently booked a flight for an upcoming business trip. I made the booking through Concur's own web-site and had it import the charges into an expense sheet. For each expense there is a mandatory 'City' field. Should that be the city I live in? The city where the company office is located? The city where the vendor is located? The city that I am travelling to? The help page is silent on this, as are the FAQ and user guide.

From the hundreds of cities listed on the pull-down list I tried selecting Toronto for the ticketing agent's fee. Success! I then selected Toronto for the airline ticket itself, but Concur decided that now it was not a valid city. I tried Toronto again, just in case the planets had not bee properly aligned the first time. Still not valid. I tried Frankfurt which, oddly, appears to be Air Canada's payment center. No luck. I tried Toronto a third time. Success!

If you can work out the logic behind that, you're a better man than I.

At the same time that I booked the flight I also booked a hotel, also using Concur, yet for some reason it did not allow me to import the hotel costs automatically to my expense sheet and I had to enter them by hand. Concur then break the total down as a set of recurring daily costs which it then multiplies by the number of days for the stay to get a total. This particular hotel charges taxes on the total stay, not on a day-by-day basis. Thus it is possible for the per-day taxes to come out with a fractional number of cents. In my case the per-day taxes were $21.675 which, over the course of a four day stay, comes out to a rounder total of $86.70. Concur, however, will not accept fractional cents and automatically rounded the tax rate that I had entered to $21.68. It then complained that the four-day total did not add up to the amount charged. Well, duh! Of course they don't add up you moronic piece of software, because you changed them!

To fix that problem I had to let Concur create the daily items then go back into two of the daily taxes and adjust them downward by a cent to get everything to balance out.

All told it took me an hour to enter three travel-related expenses, time which cost the company roughly $150.

Yup, that's real savings there.

Slip-Free MiracleAdd to memories (Link)Feb. 8th, 2010 @ 22:32
My latest attempt to get no-slip strips to stick to the bottom of the tub failed. Despite carefully following instructions, after about two weeks one of the strips came loose and it was probably just a matter of time before the others followed suit. *sigh*

My next plan had been to try permanently gluing strips down using epoxy but my friend P gave me a Home Hardware product he'd come across which goes by the catchy name of "SLIP FREE Porcelain Tub Treatment".

The stuff is incredible.

From P's description I'd been expecting a paint-like substance but it was actually a thin pink liquid which I suspect is an etchant. Whatever it is, it works marvelously well. Even with soapy water sloshing around them my feet grip the tub and refuse to slide, even if I try to force them.

My only concern is that the rougher surface might prove harder to keep clean. I haven't had any trouble in that regard so far, but it's possible that crud is building up at microscopic level. Time will tell on that score, but for now I can shower without fear of slipping.
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