January 2003 Blog Posts

Re-evaluation

With the changes we're making around the apartment (moving things around and putting things in storage) in combination with the upcoming tax preparation, I'm starting to re-evaluate lots of things.

The housing situation I'm in bugs the living shit out of me. I'm tired of having me, Jenn, the two cats, and enough stuff to fill a two-bit flea market all crammed into 1000 square feet. It's just not enough space. We've pared down a lot of the stuff we don't use, making several donation trips to Goodwill, having a garage sale, and getting this storage closet to offload some of the lesser used items. Even with all of that, I'm irritated. I need space to stretch out and walk around in, and I just don't have it here. I was hoping we could afford a house this year, but with Jenn in school and without a regular job, and me with the economy the way it is (thanks, stock market!), it's just not going to happen.

The household budget is not nearly what it could be. I'm a cheap bastard, I'll admit it. I really just don't value food, so when friends ask me to go out for dinner, I usually say no - I just can't spend that kind of money on something that goes in one hole and comes out the other. What I do buy are DVDs and CDs. I'm a media junkie. I've got this rockin' CD database program that I use to keep track of my CDs, and looking at it now, it says I have 577 CDs. That's counting multi-CD sets as individuals (so a two-CD set counts as "2" and not "1"). I can't tell you how many DVDs I have, but they pretty much fill up a six foot tall bookcase. I love my media. But now that Christmas has passed and I have those bills coming in... and I bought my TV (which was admittedly expensive but I haven't regretted it for a single second)... man, I'm fucking broke. I mean, seriously. I used to be able to pay all my bills and then put a little money into savings for a down payment on a house or something. Not anymore. I'm spending every penny I bring in, trying to pay down the credit cards and stuff. I haven't bought nearly as many CDs or DVDs as I usually do, which hurts morale but helps on the budget. I'm hoping to have some of the larger bills paid off by the end of the quarter, at which point I will be in a better situation.

Physical fitness has me irritated, too. As in, "I'm a hunk of lard and my ass is melting over the sides of my chair right now because I'm so disgustingly atrophied." Jenn and I are both a little concerned over our personal fitness, since we both have desk jobs providing exercise roughly the equivalent of grazing. We've picked up a couple of those yoga exercise balls and have done a little work there, but somehow I think I'm going to need something a little higher impact to counteract the effect of the berry pie in the refrigerator. (Change my diet? Are you nuts?) Of course, I've talked about this before, so I won't go on with it. But it does bug me.

So, anyway, I'm re-evaluating all this stuff, realizing that something's got to give. I'm not sure what it'll be first, but something tells me I'll fix up my budget and correct inadequacies in my housing situation prior to ever getting anything resembling muscle tone.

HD Theater Ripoff

After some quick research, I found two things:

First, we don't get Discovery HD Theater in our area by default. That's something you have to special request.

Second, it costs like $5 - $20 a month. It's a subscription service, not just another cable channel!

Now, I enjoy my Trading Spaces as much as the next guy, but if I'm going to be paying $20 a month for a channel, it'd best have some boobs on it. And I don't mean the scary native ones you see in National Geographic.

Slim Pickins

I took my work keys home with me last night to see if I had the key for my display case on the ring.

I didn't.

I searched around my house again in a fruitless effort to recover the damn thing, but I couldn't find that key if my life depended on it. It is officially gone. Enter the locksmith.

I called one of those 24-hour places just to price stuff out. Turned out I had two options - either I could have them come to my place and make a key for the display case at a cost of $85 - $125, or I could take the display case to them and they could make a key for $25 - $35.

No way was I paying $85+ for a new damn key. But it was also equally unlikely that I could get the display case down to the locksmith shop.

Some ginger work with a screwdriver and some pliers, and one of the locks was liberated from the case. A little more work and it was back in its original shape.

I took the lock into the locksmith's shop this morning. Ten minutes and $17 later, I had two keys that worked better than the originals. (Of course, I could have bought new locks for cheaper than it cost me to get a new keys made, but that would mean I'd have to pry the display case apart... nah.)

Watching the locksmith guy work was amazing. I mean, the guy was a machine - a little picking and some prodding on the lock, next thing you know there's a key that fits it. I respect anyone who knows what they're doing - if you can do a job and make it seem like you're performing magic, that's when you're a real professional. It's like when you see these shows on TLC where you have this team of like three guys and they build a new house in an hour and a half or something. It's crazy and wonderful and downright amazing. That was this locksmith guy. It was cool and it made me want to learn how to be a locksmith. But then, there's another part of me that really doesn't want to know how he did it so I can retain that sense of mystery. Once you learn the magician's secret, it's not magic anymore.

Sometimes I wonder if that's what people think when they see the programs I write up. Do they think, "Wow, like magic, that totally solved the problem in an elegant fashion!" or is it more, "Good - problem solved... moving on now..."? I'd like to think that I maintain that same level of magical professionalism that I saw at the locksmith's shop today, but most of the time I think the stuff I do is taken for granted because of its intangible nature. Not much I can do about that.

Speaking of TLC, it looks like Trading Spaces is going to be on this new Discovery HD Theater thing that's coming out. I'm hoping that we'll get that with our digital cable; I've got an HDTV and I'd love to see how it performs.

Bits and Pieces From Deep Down

Lots of stuff to get through today, but due to the latest exciting virus that's going around, I don't have a lot of time to put it all in and integrate fancy segues and so forth. So it'll be a little random, but that's how it's gotta be.

I have this thing for orange marmalade. I'm really not a peanut-butter-and-jelly kind of guy, but when you slap a little of that orange zestiness on some bread, I'm sucked in. It's got a sort of bite to it, like it's giving you attitude just for eating it. It makes me want more, regardless of whether I'm full or not.

Hung out with my friend Aaron this weekend. He's moving down to San Diego, CA, this week, never to be heard from again by the likes of me. Apparently he's roped himself a job of wondrous proportions, passing up a reasonable opportunity up here in Portland, OR, to move away from friends and family and live in the heat. (Actually, he has some family sort of close to there, I guess, but there's a lot of prep work picking up and moving down there that I don't know I'd be ready to undertake.) We wish him well in his endeavors, and will probably be visiting him come time for the next San Diego Comic Con.

In the meantime, he referred me to the place here in Portland at which he passed up an offer. It looked to me like it might be for a little more money than I'm getting now, but the [rather short] description I saw of the position looked like I might have a great deal less freedom and opportunity than I have in my current position. That scares me; I've always maintained "I'm not in it for the money," and though more money than what I'm getting now would be very nice, I more than highly value the learning and implementation opportunities availed me by my current job.

Went to see Darkness Falls this weekend. After downloading the first ten minutes of it from Yahoo!, Jenn and I were totally sucked in. It ended up being rather enjoyable, if a bit predictable, and it maintained a good sense of humor throughout. I don't know that I'll be picking it up on DVD, but I don't feel that my money was wasted at all.

Rented a couple movies this weekend (Barbershop, Soul Assassin), borrowed one from my parents (About A Boy) and bought one at Costco (Undercover Brother), but only ended up watching one (Barbershop).

Barbershop was okay. It wasn't as funny as I had hoped it would be... or maybe I just missed something. I will admit that while I watched it I felt a little... uh... conspicuous being a caucasian... but I had a good time with it and loved the performance from Cedric the Entertainer.

On Saturday we went down to one of those storage places and got a 5'x5' closet for $40/month. So far we've been able to move the bed out of the spare bedroom and several boxes of unused items into the closet. I'm really excited to be able to reclaim a little space around our apartment. I'm really feeling cramped and exceptionally frustrated with the current setup, necessitating change. The last thing we have to move into the closet is this stand-up display case I have a bunch of action figures stored in. The problem is, I can't find the key to it. It used to be taped up on the top of the display case, but it's not there now... so where is it? I've got a key on the ring of keys I have at work that I don't know what goes to; I think I may have accidentally put it on there. I'll take it home and check it out. If that doesn't work, I guess I'll either hire a locksmith or get a lock pick kit. (There's this Kwick Pick thing that I'm sort of interested in... maybe it's time?)

My parents are thinking of going to Hawaii at the end of this summer. We were invited to go along, but it's looking like it'll cost around $2000 to go for a week (for both Jenn and I). That's a little rich for my blood, so it's not looking like it's going to happen. Maybe I should look at the higher paying job after all...?

Mocha Chocolatta Ya-Ya

I was just at the local Haggen and bought a Nestle Crunch "Mocha" bar. I'd never had one before, so thought I would give it a shot.

Buying a bar with the word Mocha appended to the name sort of implies to me a coffee-esque flavor.

Not so.

After tasting it, I realized I had been duped - the only thing the bar resembled to mocha was the color. It was a nice creamy light-brown hue, the result of mixing white chocolate and milk chocolate. Sweet like nobody's business, but not at all what I was expecting. Bastards.

New Science: The Sock Colander

So Jenn and I were folding our clean laundry last night before bed. We had probably three big loads of stuff to put away and, lazy people that we are, we decided that it probably would be okay if we just did it later.

During the folding effort, though, I realized I didn't have any clean socks. I proceeded to dump out the load of whites (one of the loads we had decided to do later) and fold it. Jenn was all, "What are you doing? We're going to fold those later!" I told her I had no socks left. Her response: "Well, then, just dump the socks out of that load and fold those."

How am I supposed to dump just the socks out of a load of laundry? That would mean I need to get some sort of sock colander that allows me to dump a whole load of laundry into it and have just the socks trickle through.

But since that wasn't in the cards, we ended up just folding the whole load and calling it a day.

Junk Store Update

After my dealings with the user yesterday and my general attitude towards things anyway, I drummed up some more shirts and goodies for folks to buy at my Junk Store. Now I offer shirts to help frustrated people like me show how they feel towards the user community. New offerings include the phrases "I Hate People" and "I'd like to help you, but not as much as I'd like not to." Go! Buy! Wear!

I went to lunch at an all-you-can-eat Indian joint with my friend Aaron today. Now I'm burping this sort of off-flavor lamb curry substance. This stuff always comes back to get me. Tasty going down, harsh later on.

Microsoft finally got back to me regarding the memory leak support case I filed like seven months ago. I've now followed their suggestions to fix the issue and I'm running tests to see if it worked. So far? It still looks broken to me.

I've watched the new American Idol the past couple of nights and so far I'm pleased with how it's turning out. I scream and cringe when the worst of the worst show up to audition, and I'm happy when they finally find someone halfway decent. I guess I'll continue following it, at least until they eliminate all the people I like.

On the American Idol home page they have a contest where you can win a walk-on role in the upcoming Kelly Clarkson/Justin Guarini movie. I entered, you should too.

Meeting Gibson

Meeting Gibson... that sounds sort of like the title for a play or an art film. But it's not.

My friend Colin sent me an email a couple of days ago mentioning that William Gibson, author of the famed and revolutionary cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, will be visiting the local Powell's City of Books on Sunday, February 9 at 7:30p to pimp his new book, Pattern Recognition.

I'm considering going, but last time I went to see someone at Powell's (Bruce Campbell, for his autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor), I got there two hours early and the line filled the entire top floor, went down two flights of stairs, and filled half of the second floor. It was ridiculous. I can only imagine the sort of crowd that William Gibson will garner. That alone has me thinking that I probably won't. I'm not much for standing in line for hours on end.

William Gibson has apparently started a blog this month, which I hope he keeps up because it could prove out very interesting. I shall have to keep tabs on that.

Annoying user story of the day: There's this guy at work who seems to have an inordinate number of problems lately. He's filed probably 10 help desk calls with us, and as it turns out several of those were redundant in nature. I mean, if you can't access any network, chances are you won't be able to access any web sites or other machines, right? Does that mean you should file a help desk ticket for each web site you can't access? Probably not. This guy did, though. Love that.

So he files this help desk ticket because he doesn't have a certain piece of software installed on his machine so certain things aren't working properly. I'd handled a similar case earlier, so I sent him a step-by-step list of how to fix the problem and install the software to make things work. Later he calls me up and says he keeps getting these error messages when he tries to follow my instructions. He's all, "I keep getting this error when I do the last part of step one." So I ask him what exactly he's done so far.

"Well, first I did step three. Then I went back and did part of step one, then step two, and now I'm finishing up step one."

You know, I never realized that I would have to specify that you need to do the steps in the order specified by the numbers, but apparently that's something I'll have to communicate. Numbered steps just aren't clear enough.

All Dressed Up and No Place To Go

Jenn and I went out this weekend on an apartment/house hunt. Basically, we discovered (or re-discovered, should I say) several key things.

Apartment complexes are the same all over. You've got neighbors on all sides so you can't win for losing. Some are nicer than others, but an apartment's an apartment, regardless. They all start to look the same after you look at enough of them.

Even if an apartment has like 1200 square feet to it, the floor plan on it will make it look like a 900 square foot place. I don't know where the extra 300 square feet go, but they disappear into the nethersphere, never to be seen again.

There are trade-offs to every apartment (or rental living situation). We found a place that was awesome inside - 1600 square feet! - but came with a one-car garage and all other parking was on an already crowded street. Great if you only own one car and never plan on having guests over. Not so good otherwise. Or there's the ones that look pretty decent but the office staff is annoying as hell and the rest of the neighbors look like they might steal your car. Hmmmm.

Houses are another story. We'd love to get out of the apartment and into a house so we can stop having to smell the neighbor's cooking and we can act on these home improvement whims that strike us after watching Trading Spaces. The problem is that we'd like something in the 1500 - 2000 square foot range so we've got plenty of space, but right now we could maybe afford something in the $150,000 range. (Trust me - I've sliced and diced the budget a thousand ways, talked to people about it, calculated it across different loan lengths, interest rates, and down payments, but that's about as good as it gets right now.) If I want something that size (that isn't a "fixer-upper"), I'm looking at moving out in the sticks. (An interesting item to note is that new houses seem to cost less than old houses. That is, if you move into a housing development that is still under construction, you seem to get more for your money than if you found someone's house that they're selling.)

What that all nets out to is that we can't get into a house, and other apartments panned out mediocre at best. We decided "better the devil you know" and we're staying where we're at. To free up some space, we're going to get a storage closet at one of those storage places and move some of the stuff we don't need into that. That'll only cost us like $35/month and will be worth it to have the extra space in the house.

Went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets again this weekend (I had a coupon for a free ticket) and enjoyed it just as much the second time. I'll definitely be getting that one on DVD.

Oh! Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is now available for pre-order! I pre-ordered my UK copy a week ago, but the US version seems available now.

I borrowed Lilo and Stitch from my parents and watched it yesterday. It was okay; I didn't go in expecting much, and I wasn't disappointed. I liked it enough not to feel like my time was wasted (there were some legitimately funny parts), but I won't be running out to buy it or anything.

The Winter Hawks have been on a losing streak lately and I just got the invoice for playoff tickets in the mail. $248 a piece! I don't think I'll be ordering.

Relocation

Last night was the second night in a row of cat-cry-free sleep. Love it.

A couple folks asked in comments yesterday why I don't just let the kitties in the bedroom at night. There are actually several reasons. First and foremost, I am allergic to animal dander. I love my kitties, but I am definitely allergic to them. I tried sleeping out on the couch one night with them (I decided to take a turn shutting them up) and woke up barely able to breathe or open my eyes. Not good. Second, neither cat would actually sleep at night - they'd much rather play on your head or chase each other in circles on the bed. Not too conducive to sleep. Finally, both cats shed pretty well (the tubby Semper cat especially), and I really would like a cat-hair-free zone. The bedroom is said zone.

Our apartment lease is up on February 28 so Jenn and I are investigating our housing options. She'll be finished with pharmacy school in May (if I remember right) but I don't remember whether that counted her potentially non-paying externship or not. (Sorry, baby, I can't keep my own schedule straight; I'm not going to remember yours.) That means that after May our options for housing change from what we've currently got because she'll have actual income. At that point, our Accounts Receivable will hopefully exceed our Accounts Payable and enable us to expand our living quarters.

We have the option right now to renew our lease for six months, nine months, or a year. If we go with nine months or a year, the rent stays the same. If we go six months (or the dreaded month-to-month), rent skyrockets. Since I work on the west side of town and most of the externships and jobs for Jenn seem to be available on the west side, we're thinking of maybe moving after a short stay at our current place. Ideally we'd be able to get a house with 2000 square feet of livable space and a two-car garage. A decent second choice would be a three-bedroom apartment with more than 1100 square feet and a rent comparable to what we pay now.

Some readers out there know how I despise the west side. I hate it. It reminds me of suburban Los Angeles - you can drive and drive and drive and never get anywhere. It's a hundred square miles of apartment complex surrounded by a strip mall - a recipe for slum. (Actually, it's clean and "nice," but it's not very fun.) The west side is for people trying to raise a family in the suburbs. If you don't drive a minivan or an SUV, don't move there. The problem is, the east side (where I grew up and would love to continue living) has two problems: First, the commute is horrible from the east to the west; second, the cost of living (rent, utilities, etc.) is way higher on the more established east side.

So, west side it is. Now I'm looking at the different apartment for rent sites to find out which complexes offer apartments with our qualifications. I'm also looking at the various "house for sale" sites that list new developments under construction (because a brand new house is way cheaper, it seems, than any existing home we can find) to see what's out there and for how much. Hopefully we'll come up with something soon. Either way, we need to figure out what to do about our lease renewal so we can get that squared away.

I probably shouldn't stress about it. There's no pressure to move, really; we could stay here for another year and nobody'd be the worse for it. I'm just sick of apartment living - neighbors with stinky cooking and having to watch the volume on my movies and not really being able to redecorate or anything... and above all that, the distinct lack of space we've got. I don't think a day goes by when I don't wish for a bigger place. Even a bigger apartment would be better than what we've got now.

So I'm stressing, trying to figure out just the right amount of time to renew the lease for and still be able to move and afford it. Jenn tells me not to worry about it, but honestly, if I don't worry about it, who's going to? These things don't just solve themselves.

I should get back to work. My queue is so long right now I don't know what to do.

The Right Reasons

After performing some serious research into the matter, I've come to the firm conclusion that, yes, SharePoint Portal Server 2001 SP2 does break SharePoint Portal Server.

Thinking about that has me stewing. You see, there are a lot of product fixes in that service pack that I need right now - several problems I have will be solved by it. Unfortunately, it introduces some fairly large problems that are significantly worse than my existing problems, so I can't use it. For that reason, I am developing a love/hate relationship with Microsoft.

A lot of people really hate Microsoft. I understand that, but I think that many of those folks hate Microsoft for the wrong reasons. "They charge too much for their products" is the wrong reason. You don't have to buy them. "They make everything proprietary" is the wrong reason. I think we can all agree that Windows is pretty ubiquitous and we should learn to live with it. "When you buy some of their products they don't work and then they charge you money to fix their products" is the right reason. I hate them for all the right reasons.

Buffy wasn't on last night, which was disappointing. Instead of watching that, I fired up the latest demo disc from Official Playstation Magazine. I was very pleasantly surprised with a game called The Getaway.

The Getaway is like an interactive British gangster movie. They recreated London entirely in virtual data - every street, every building, all exactly where it's supposed to be. They put actual cars on the streets (not like made-up cars, but actual cars like Mercedes and Lexus). Then they put a great story in it and mixed it together. I played the demo on this thing for probably half an hour (it took me a bit to get used to the controls and such) and was constantly amazed at how cool it is. It's not like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City the way you might think it is - they really did go for the "interactive movie" experience and I think they acheived it. I'll probably be picking this up when it comes out.

We've had a problem with my little Xev cat (aka "Tiny Tiny") sitting outside our bedroom door and crying at all hours of the night. She doesn't give up, either - if you ignore her, she'll just keep crying. This can go on for half an hour, if not longer. To combat it, Jenn will usually get up (she can't ignore it or sleep through it) and go out to sleep on the couch with the cats. Not so great, right? I thought of the answer last night.

A while ago we bought this thing called a "Scat Mat" to stop Xev from jumping up on top of the entertainment center and knocking everything down. Basically it's a pad about five feet long and one foot wide that is pressure sensitive. When the pad feels pressure, it emits this really loud chirping noise. That's worked like a charm for the entertainment center.

I put the "Scat Mat" outside our bedroom door so the cat couldn't just sleep right outside the door and cry whenever she felt like it - she'd have to sit back a few feet and cry from the other room. If anything, I figured it would lower the volume of the crying; a few feet away from the door is better than right next to (or under) the door.

Last night was the first night I set the thing out there. She stepped on it exactly twice - once right after we went to bed, then once at about 3:00a at her normal "wake up the humans" time. Never once did the cat cry all night long. I am the smartest man alive.

Now, as long as she doesn't figure out that she can still cry from the other room, we're totally in business. She's a shrewd little beast, though, so we'll have to see.

Memory Leak

I came in to my blog a couple of minutes ago hoping that there was a new post to read when I realized that it was my blog and there wouldn't be anything new unless I wrote it.

I think I'm losing it. Maybe I have a memory leak.

I went to get my allergy shot this morning and was the first person there. I'm always the first person there. I get there at like 7:40a and they don't open until 8:00a, but the door's open so I just go in and read whatever book I'm reading until I can get my shot. I went in today and it was colder in the doctor's office than it was outside. How is that even possible? If the heat is off inside and there's no air conditioning, wouldn't the inside heat up and cool down at roughly the same temperature as the outside? Not this time.

Went to Amazon today to fill up my pre-order schedule. I like getting prizes in the mail. I ended up buying: I even still had a $5 promotional gift certificate in my account. How sweet is that? Free shipping, and I'm good to go. I should be getting something fun and new in the mail every, like, week or two between now and April.

Due to my fear of atrophy (and the fact that Jenn and I both have these distinct non-abs where we should see abs), we've started another get-in-shape routine. The flavor this month is BalanceBall. We got one of those big yoga exercise ball things and a beginner's workout DVD because we're big pussies.

After doing it a couple of times, I've had a chance to form an opinion. First, this is definitely my kind of workout. It's mostly stretching and relaxation, so after I'm done I'm totally chilled out. Second, I'd much rather sit on the ball and bounce like it's a hippity-hop than actually do any sort of workout. The thing is, bouncing on the ball is also good for you if you do it for like 5 minutes or more. Finally, the chick on the yoga video is one of those fruitcake hippies who tells you to breathe and "create space inside yourself" and "feel the stress flow out of you" and crap like that. The chick bugs me, but the workout's pretty decent.

The only problem is that because it dedicates itself to showing you relaxation and stretching techniques, there's no workout to it. That is, I'm not toning up by lounging around. Now that we've done this one a few times, I think Jenn's looking at getting a new one that has a little more work to it.

Hey, man, anything's better than sit-ups.

Lost and Found

I finally got in contact with Dave, the facilities guy, regarding my lost Tron figure. He made it sound like he had some sort of grabbing or reaching device I could borrow, and that got my hopes up.

He had a broom.

Had I known I was waiting for the opportunity to borrow a broom, I probably would have continued my pen-taping efforts. But I didn't, so I didn't.

The broom worked pretty well. I taped a couple of paper clips to the end to form a reasonably stable hook and after a couple minutes of fishing, I was set to go. I fished the figure out of the depths and it emerged wearing a small coat made out of dust bunny fur. Apparently it had been down there longer than I realized.

The Tron populace reunited, I moved them to a more secure location where they won't fall back behind there. Should that happen, I will probably make the suggested trip to Home Depot to fashion a more stable fishing mechanism.

In other news, the weekend came and went uneventfully. I bought Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby at the local Wherehouse and am reasonably pleased with the purchase. I am trying to conserve funds now that I've gotten my Visa bills from the holiday season, so I admit to having my fair share of buyer's remorse over the $8 purchase. I'm enjoying the music, though, so I can't be too hard on myself.

Speaking of buyer's remorse, Jenn and I went to the new Whole Foods store in downtown Portland and both of us were quite impressed. They offer a wide array of very interesting and uncommon foods there that were fun to look at, though the pricing on them made it unreasonable to shop there on a regular basis. In order to get our parking validated we had to buy something, so I bought a jar of mango salsa and a macadamia nut candy bar. The candy bar, we knew, was $2, but it was something new to try so we ignored the ridiculous cost for an item probably 2"x1"x1" in size. The mango salsa was another story.

We tried a sample of the stuff and fell in love with it so we had to pick up a jar... but there was no price on it. I'm normally smart enough to know the "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" rule, but I was blinded by flavor. (Figure that one out!) At checkout, I found the jar of salsa cost me $6! Holy shit!

So we left the store with our candy bar and our salsa, $8 lighter but with validated parking. All in all, a rather successful trip. I still can't believe it was $6 for that salsa, though.

Land of the Lost

I have a lot of toys in my cubicle. I won't lie to you. They're everywhere. The thing is, I know where every single one of them is, and I know what I have. If you take something, I may not notice the very instant that it's gone, but I will notice that it's gone.

I was sitting today and noticed that one of my Tron figures is missing.

My first thought was, "Those scheming rat-bastard cleaning motherfuckers stole my figure!" Then I remembered that I have been monitoring them with my surveillance camera nightly and have not seen them take anything. They'd either have to be really slick or totally innocent.

Then I thought maybe it had fallen under my desk. My file cabinets are all on wheels (they slide under the desk; the desk is attached to the cube walls), so I slid the closest one out. It wasn't there. It was then that I figured out where the figure went.

I sit next to a large, unopenable window. Now, keeping in mind that my desk attaches to the cube walls, obviously you realize it can't attach to the window, right? Which means that there is a cube wall that runs at waist height along the window, just underneath it, that the desk can attach to. This further means that there is probably a one or two inch gap between the window/wall and the cube wall.

Guess where the figure went.

The problem now was how to get it out. I tried fishing it out with the retractable string attached to my work badge and a paperclip, but that wasn't long enough to reach down there. I opened the Venetian blinds on the window and tried using the blind cord (the window's probably six feet tall if it's an inch), and that was long enough but made me realize that "fishing" wasn't too accurate or easy.

The next train of thought led me to believe that if I could stick a pole or something down there with a hook on it, that would be good. Or the pole could have something sticky on the end that I could stick to the figure. Either way, right? Well, nothing around here is long enough, so I started taping pens together to make a stick with. After about ten pens, I found that it was going to take me a good 30 pens to reach where I needed to get to. So that plan went out the door.

The last thought I had was that I could remove the panel from the bottom of the cube wall that the power and phone cords run through and then I could reach under and get it... but I can't figure out how to get the panel off without destroying it, so that didn't work.

I've given up. On my limited resources, I can't get it out of there without spending some serious time on it. I ended up contacting Dave the facilities guy (nice guy, too) to help me get it out. He's coming up tomorrow morning.

What an ordeal.

Coming of Age

I had lunch with my good friend Liz today at Jack in the Box. The last time I saw her was prior to the holidays, so it was nice to see her again and catch up on what happened over break. Shame on her for not visiting this site first.

She brought up the fact that she'll be 30 in ten days (or, more accurately, "the first anniversary of her 29th birthday is in ten days") and her life is turning into Bridget Jones's Diary.

This got me thinking: I don't know of any guys who are concerned over aging. I mean, if you ask a guy how old he is, he'll probably answer you straight without referencing how many years ago he left his 20's. Women, on the other hand, seem generally preoccupied with how quickly life is slipping away and the effects this could potentially have on them.

Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily, it was just the difference in thought process that struck me.

Honestly, I don't think Liz has anything to worry about. She's a hottie and really smart to boot, and if she'd get the hell out of her house, I'm sure she could find some really great guy who'd snap her up. (Are you hearing me, Liz?!?!) And if not, well, I don't think that's so big of a deal. I mean, it's not like there's some rule that says you have to be married by a certain age or anything.

Besides which, if all else fails, she can move in with Jenn and I and join my harem. :)

But I digress.

Anyway, lunch was good (love the "Ultimate Cheeseburger") and she gave me my Christmas gift, The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree. Everything you've ever wanted to know about the Twilight Zone but were afraid to ask. Gotta love that. Now to begin my collection of TZ DVDs.

Finally, a throwback to yesterday's post - I found out that one of the problems I ran into with the SharePoint Portal Server 2001 SP2 is actually a known issue that they're going to publish a knowledge base article about. I think it should be in the readme file instead, since I'd never have gone to look in the KB; I'd have assumed the problem was due to the install of the service pack and called it a day. Oh, those crazy Microsoft guys!

Night Shift

I never really realized how much of a night person I am until I came back to work this week.

During my vacation, I pretty much started inverting my schedule, staying up really late (well, 1:00a or thereabouts, which is late for me nowadays) and sleeping in. It was a very easy thing to do, staying up until then and getting up around 8 or 9 the next morning. But going back to the "wake up at 6:15a, in bed by 10:30p" routine is another matter entirely. I'm so beat on that schedule. I feel like it's way too early when I wake up, and then I'm not tired when it's time to sleep at night. I need to reset my body clock or something.

I'm reading this book Inside Delta Force by Eric L. Haney. It's actually a really cool document of how they formed the counterterrorist unit of the US Army. The interesting thing about books like this is that I know I don't have the physical or mental abilities it would take to do this stuff (but I like to sometimes imagine that I do) and reading about these guys in these dangerous situations, risking their lives for the civilian population and whatnot really makes me admire them for their efforts. Reading it, you almost feel like you're there, right alongside the guy as he goes through the selection and training process and finally goes through various missions. Very interesting stuff.

I've spent all day at work today rebuilding servers. It's tedious, time consuming crapwork and I'm really quite sick of it. The only redeeming factor is that it does give me a little reading time during the install process. Why am I rebuilding these machines? Glad you asked...

I am in charge of implementing this product called SharePoint Portal Server at work. I've talked about it before here. It's sort of like a document management server that allows folks to collaborate on things and disseminate information in a convenient format. It's a pretty nifty thing the way they tie a web front-end to the document management back-end to make it all one convenient package.

In my workings with it, though, it seems that everything we want to do with it is something "out of the ordinary" or not outside the normal scope of what they intended it to do. At least, that's what I'm guessing because I seem to find all sorts of problems and holes in it all the time - almost on a weekly basis. I have more product and developer support calls open right now than I can shake a stick at.

One of the calls I've talked about is the IE6 SP1 issue - if you install IE6 SP1 on a SharePoint Portal Server, it breaks the server. I finally got an answer from Microsoft - the latest service pack for SharePoint Portal Server, not yet released, mind you, is supposed to fix it. To demonstrate, they sent me the production version of the service pack so that I could try it. It's not even available yet, but I've got it so I can fix my stuff. Good deal, right?

SharePoint Portal Server SP2 breaks SharePoint Portal Server, even worse than IE6 SP1 does.

I mean, if you put IE6 SP1 on your Portal Server box, you could work around the problem while MS worked out a fix. If you put SPS SP2 on there, it breaks so much stuff, you're really screwed. You can't connect to it with development tools anymore, stuff stops showing up in the web view of things... it's just really messed up. I've sent my findings to the "Critical Problem Resolution Team" and we'll see what they say.

Portal Server Geeks: Before you ask, NO, I can't send you the service pack, and NO, I don't know where you can find it. Our agreement with MS specifically prohibits me from providing you the software, and it's not available on their web site yet. Trust me, that's a good thing.

Anyway, my day is going slower than slow and I think I'll probably be doing this for a long time tomorrow, too. They should really allow drinking on the job or something here. :)

Seize the Season

Yesterday was pretty busy so I wasn't able to get around to posting anything about the holidays here. I've had several folks very anxious to hear the goings-on, so figured I'd best bust ass and get something up here before a lynch mob shows up at my door. Thankfully, I don't think this will be quite as eventful as you might hope.

But maybe it will.

I left work at 4:00p Friday, December 20 for vacation. It was time off, but since I'm the only one around work who knows how to deal with web related issues, I was still on call the whole time for emergency situations. I run a pretty tight ship on that stuff, though, which means that I very rarely get calls. (That's a good thing.)

By 5:00p that night I got a call. Wouldn't you know it? It's an "emergency" where someone needed access to a particular web site. It doesn't matter that any one of the techs at work (still there, mind you) could have done it; I got the call. I had another one of these "emergency access request" calls earlier in the week, and when I finally got dialed in from home and did the operation, I called the guy back and he was like, "Oh, well, I'm out with my wife now, so I guess it wasn't that important. Never mind." So I don't really think this was that much of an emergency, but since I'm getting paid to deal with it, I did.

I did not get any further calls during my vacation, and that rocked.

My sister, Tai, and her husband, Dan, packed up their things in Provo, Utah, and moved themselves back in with my parents here in Oregon the weekend of Dec. 21/22. They swore up and down when they left that they would never live in Oregon because he doesn't want to be near his family and... well, actually, I don't know that Tai was against living in Oregon. Either way, they were definitely not living in Oregon.

Guess who's got egg on their face now, eh?

My other sister, Tori, flew in that weekend as well (I think?) and also stayed with my parents. They went from no kids to three kids in their house in a matter of days. I felt sort of sorry for them and their "houseguests," but they asked for it.

I think that weekend, the 21/22, my dad, Tori, Jenn, and I all went to see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I may write up a review on it, I may not. My opinion of it was, well, not so high. I thought there were lots of problems with the first movie, most notable of which is that it was three hours long and not actually worth three hours of my time. It took too long getting anywhere, and the fights seemed more pomp and circumstance than anything I should actually be concerned over the characters for. I also can't stand Tolkien's writing - too much detail, too long, too epic, not enough story to keep me interested. The Two Towers followed suit. It's sort of like Peter Jackson filmed one nine-hour movie, then arbitrarily cut it up into three pieces and moved on. There was no intro to The Two Towers - you start out and just flail around and hope you can remember what happened in the last movie. Then you finally figure it out and see that it really doesn't matter anyway, because this movie is going to take off on some sidetrack for most of the time and not even really deal too much with how the ring progresses towards Mordor. Anyway, I felt a little cheated, as did Jenn.

Christmas Eve and Christmas were shaping up to be sort of controversy-laden, but I skated through them without too much issue. Last year it was very confusing - Christmas Eve night we went to Jenn's grandma's house, then we went to my parents' house; Christmas morning we were at Jenn's parents' house, then we went back to my parents' house. I think at some point Jenn ended up going to her other set of grandparents' house, too, but I don't really remember. This year it was beginning to look like that, then some family issues on Jenn's side caused some serious confusion as to whether anyone was doing anything at all, and, if so, what time things were happening. It ended up where their entire family was planning everything around the fact that Jenn's sister didn't have custody of her daughter for Christmas day until like 8:00p or something, and Jenn's mom asked for Christmas day off and not Christmas Eve, so no one could get anything together because no one's schedules meshed. I'll admit I don't understand why you would plan an entire extended family's holiday schedule around one four-year-old, but that's just me. I did my best to avoid getting involved with the planning of that side of things, instead choosing to just do what I needed to do and hope for the best.

It ended up going like this: Christmas Eve Jenn and I went to my parents' house. There we opened stockings and a couple of gifts. Christmas morning Jenn and I opened our gifts to each other, then went on an unplanned foray to Jenn's parents' house because Jenn and her sister "weren't feeling like it was Christmas" without getting together over there. After that, we went to my parents' house where we finished opening gifts. Later on, Jenn's parents and sister came over, my dad's parents came over, and we all ate. It got a little chaotic there at the end and Mom started tearing out her hair (she needs to not stress over that stuff, but then, I'm not one to say anything; I stress over stuff that might happen), but once people started leaving, things calmed down and everything was cool again. That night, Jenn and I went back to Jenn's parents' house so we could watch Aurora (Jenn's sister's four-year-old) open her presents. Let me tell you how stimulating that was. After that, we finally went home, exhausted from the holiday.

So what did I get? Well, I'll list a few of the things, but honestly, I don't remember every single thing off the top of my head, or exactly who gave me what. I gave my thank-yous in person and have since wiped it from my brain. Just let it be known that I appreciate each and every item donated to the cause (me).

Stuff I Got:

I'm pretty sure I got some other stuff, too, but I don't recall off hand. If/when I do, I'll tack it on to the list above.

One thing I didn't put on the list: My new prize possessions. I got two shirts from Jenn's grandma (step-grandma?) that require some mention here. Imagine a polo shirt made out of very, very thin cotton. Sort of like a cheap t-shirt. Three buttons at the collar, which is also made of this thin cotton (not the stuff a real polo shirt collar is made from). Elastic surrounds the waist and both arms. Each shirt is divided into thirds from left to right, like three giant vertical stripes. The third on the right contains smaller vertical stripes of teal, dark blue, and white. The middle third is entirely white. The left third on one shirt is teal, the other shirt is dark blue. The collar of each shirt matches the left third of its respective shirt.

I don't know when I'm going to wear these. I don't own any white loafers or polyester pants, and I'm not going on a senior citizens cruise any time soon, so I'm at a loss. I think I'll bring them into work and put them on the "shirt wall" we have in the back for odd and annoying shirts we receive.

The rest of Christmas week played out very light. I played a bit of PS2, renting a game called Burnout 2. That game was a lot of fun, but it wasn't worth $50. I like winning and all, but there was so little challenge that I was near to unstoppable at the game. I won way too easily. Then again, if I wasn't winning and the challenge was there, I would have thought the game pretty repetetive. Either way, if it was a $20 game I'd have snapped it up, but at $50, it's only worth the rent.

At some point between Christmas and New Year's, Jenn and I went to see Two Weeks Notice. It was a pleasant romantic comedy and I must say I was much more pleased with it than I was with Maid In Manhattan. It was fun, and I felt good coming out of it.

New Year's was sort of lame. On New Year's Eve, Jenn and I went to the Winter Hawks game against Seattle and watched the Hawks lose 5-3. We were supposed to go with Jenn's friend Apryl and her husband Tony, but we found out that after about a year of marriage, Apryl and Tony are splitting up. It's unfortunate, especially because I really liked Tony and hanging out with him, but it sounds like it's for the best. I forgot to ask Apryl if she wanted to move in with Jenn and I and be part of my harem, but I think maybe it's too soon. :) Anyway, Apryl ended up coming to the game with her brother, and rather than coming back to our place with him to play games, they went to one of Apryl's friend's houses.

That night, Jenn and I went home after the game and played Trivial Pursuit 20th Anniversary Edition. I have never felt dumber. All the questions in the game were stuff that happened in the last 20 years and on a good majority of them, I had no clue. I cleaned up at all of the music and movie questions, but outside of that category it was hit or miss... mostly miss. That was the longest game of Trivial Pursuit ever. (Jenn ended up winning, but I wasn't far behind.)

I don't really remember what we did New Year's Day. I think we went to the mall or something, but who's to say?

Friday night, Jan. 3, Jenn and I went to see Catch Me If You Can. It was pretty good. I had a good time seeing how this kid kept duping everyone and making fake checks, knowing it was all based on actual happenings. Plus, Christopher Walken was in that as the kid's dad, and I love Christopher Walken.

At the same time we saw that movie, we found that the theaters in our area jacked up the ticket prices. It used to be $5.50 to see a matinee and $7.50 to see a prime time show; now it's $6 to see a matinee and $8 to see a prime time show. Sure, that's not a lot in the scheme of things (especially considering that's low compared to the national average, from what I can tell), but it's a lot from my frame of reference. Not to sound like an old miser, but I can remember when you could get into the prime time picture for $6. I'm not so sure that upping the price of movies in a down economy is the smartest way to go, especially when, in times of depression, the first portion of a person's budget to get cut is the entertainment part. I guess I will invest more heavily in Blockbuster or something. Maybe Netflix is the way to go. We'll see.

Also Friday night, Jenn and I totally spaced that we had a Winter Hawks game to go to. For some reason, we thought the next game was on Sunday but there was also one that Friday. To avoid getting hassled, we told the folks there that we had to have dinner with my family because of Tori's imminent return to school, but that was just to avoid the grief. So there you go - if you were one of the victims of the lie, I trust you to keep the truth under wraps. You know who you are.

I finished off my vacation Sunday night (Jan. 5th) by going to a Winter Hawks game (where we lost 3-2 to Kelowna) and then coming home for a well-needed new episode of Alias. I was not so pleased with the hockey game, but the Alias episode rocked. I love the Marshal character and I hope he continues to be a prominent figure.

Thus I returned to work on Monday, January 6. Upon returning, I began to wonder if things actually run when I'm not in the office, as I parsed through quite a bit of email, most of it requiring action on my part. I'm almost caught up now, though I'm still trying to remember what I was up to with certain projects two weeks ago and doing my best to come back up to speed.

Last night Jenn brought home one of those Pilates inflatable ball workout DVDs and the ball and started in with that. I tried it out, too (hey, I gotta get off my fat ass and do something before I atrophy away into nothing), but I think the ball is about six inches in diameter too small. I'll try it again, and if it's something I could do on a regular basis, maybe I'll get a larger ball.

Other happenings...

My cat, Xev (who is eight months old and still only about six pounds, and who I have taken to calling "Tiny Tiny" because of that), has started standing up and looking around like a prairie dog. If anything gets her attention, she'll sit up very tall, sometimes even on just the toes of her back feet, and look around for it. I'm going to see if I can train her to walk around upright like a little person. I think that'd be funny.

I've started working out of the tassel-making books I got for Christmas and have discovered that making a tassel is harder than you might think. I've only made a couple, but I'm already coming to understand that the thicker the string you work with for the skirt of the tassel, the easier it is. I've tried a few with a thin rayon thread, but they usually are pretty hard to get to work and I think they turn out sort of poorly. I've done one with some hand-weaving wool (sort of like thin yarn) and it turned out really nice, so maybe I'll go that route for a while.

I'm also starting to really get into watching the director's commentaries on the various DVDs I've got. I just watched the one for The Goonies the other night and it was really interesting to hear some of the stories the actors and the director have from the making of that movie. They also did something different with that commentary than they normally do - they actually showed the actors and the director while the commentary was going on. I kind of liked that; the movie played in the bottom corner of the screen, and you could watch the reactions of the commentators as the show was going on. (Also, I still think Kerri Green is totally hot, and you got some good footage of her in there.)

Time for Catch-Up

Well, folks, I'm back in the office and playing catch-up on all the exciting things I missed over the holiday break I just took. Looks like I've got 173 new messages in my personal inbox and 122 in my work inbox. After I check those out and take the appropriate action on each, I'll see about posting the happenings from the vacation.