General Ramblings comments edit

I suppose this sort of falls into a similar vein as my previous smell memory post, regarding the way certain smells trigger memories (and wouldn’t it be nice if we could really capitalize on that?).

I have fond childhood memories of visiting my dad’s office. He’s a central office engineer at an independent phone company and has worked there for, I think, longer than I’ve been alive. While he’s been in actual offices and so on, most of the time he’s sat at a desk in the central office itself, surrounded by the equipment. When I was a kid, going to visit his work fascinated me. There were teletypes and huge racks of equipment with all sorts of wires sticking out; stacks of paper and books everywhere; sliding ladders attached to rails in the ceiling; blinking lights and buttons and VT100 terminals; spinning magnetic tape reels and cables running in tracks all over the place. The amount of cool stuff packed in there was astounding, especially when you’re in grade school. Overwhelming, almost, because you can’t touch anything, you just have to look.

Honestly, I think that sort of contributed to my fascination with technology and gadgets. Some could argue it’s a genetic thing - guys like gizmos with buttons - but I’d like to think Dad had some good influence there.

One thing I remember very vividly from visiting Dad’s office is the smell. I’ve never really been able to put a finger on what it is that smells, just that it’s very distinctive. It smells like paper and wire and electronics all combined in a sterile aroma that really can’t be described precisely. Regardless, that smell is Dad’s office. I tried to explain it to him one time but I think he’s been working there too long and doesn’t notice it anymore. He also doesn’t notice that his lunchbox smells like overripe bananas and mint chewing gum, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

A couple of weeks ago they painted the concrete stairwells at my work with some sort of industrial-strength paint that can stand up to foot traffic. After they finished, allowing a couple of days to let it air out, they let people back into the stairwells. You know what?

It smelled just like Dad’s office.

I had to stop and stand there for a few seconds to get myself back together. It was an odd feeling, standing on the stairs and smelling Dad’s work. Like a miniature transporter had temporarily beamed me to his office and back again really quickly. Like I had just reclaimed about five seconds of my childhood.

I called Dad and asked him if they have concrete floors at his work that get painted, but they have tile floor. The walls are concrete, so that might be it, or it might be the metal support beams - if I remember right, those have paint on them, too. Maybe it’s not even paint at all, but some similar chemical that the paint has that’s also in something at Dad’s work.

Crazy how something like that can make you remember things.

net, vs comments edit

I entered Roy Osherove’s Add-In Contest with my add-in, Solvent.

I just found out this morning that I won second place with it! Very cool, considering this is my first outing with add-in development. Pretty cool prize, too, if I do say so myself.

Nothing like winning a contest to brighten your day, you know? I should just go home now before work spoils my mood. Heh.

blog comments edit

My site’s moving to a new server (not a new host just a new server) so you may see oddness during the transition, like if you leave a comment or something it might disappear. We should be clear, like, by tomorrow or something.

This is actually the second time I’m trying to write this out, because I got about halfway done the first time and hit something - I don’t know what - and magically the browser refreshed and lost all of my text. This is pretty typical of how Saturday went for me, so it only stands to reason.

Saturday was an interesting day, if at a minimum for the amount of bad karma I think I worked off.

The morning found Jenn and I outside working in the yard, catching up on the gardening. Illig men only know one kind of gardening, which is the professional application of Roundup weed and grass killer. It’s almost as though we are genetically predisposed to only be able to kill plants, yet we are extraordinarily adept at it. I promise you - I can kill any plant out there. I learned from the best.

At the same time I moved into my house, my parents moved into their condo so I inherited all of the groundskeeping tools they had collected over the years. The prize possession, of course, is the Sears stainless steel sprayer, circa 1978. Still in mint condition, this sprayer served my father for many good years destroying weeds and plants of any and all natures, and it was my turn to take on the mantle of Chief Plant Killer and continue the legacy.

I pulled the sprayer, like a sword from its sheath, out of the original cardboard box with the receipt still inside. I got out the concentrated Roundup and mixed up a gallon of the stuff. While I was doing that, I realized that, in all the years my father used that sprayer, we kids were never allowed to touch it. When I say “never allowed to touch it,” I don’t mean “never allowed to use it.” I mean, never allowed to touch it. Dad put the Fear of God in us about that sprayer - assumedly due to the weed killer that was used so often in it, but I can’t recall exactly

  • as though VX gas would erupt from its bowels and melt us to the ground if we so much as looked at it sideways.

I finished mixing the Roundup, latched down the lid, and started pumping to build up the pressure.

The pressure never built up.

That’s when I remembered Dad throwing a small plastic bag in the box with the sprayer and saying some “leather” thing needed to be replaced, and the item he just threw in was the replacement.

The replacement item was hard plastic, so I didn’t get the “leather” reference. I took the pump out of the sprayer and took it apart.

You’ve probably never taken a sprayer pump apart before. I know I hadn’t. There’s a lot of grease in there. I reckon there was close to three gallons of unrefined petroleum in that pump, and right there in the middle was a ragged gasket, ripe for replacing. I’m not sure how to describe what it was that I was dealing with, so here’s a diagram:

Diagram of a sprayer

That gasket is supposed to push the air around in there when you pump on the handle, so it needs to be air-tight. Presumably the grease is in there to help with that, and with the actual sliding of the handle up and down. I removed the old gasket and fit the new one on… but putting that menagerie back in the pump cylinder was a little less than easy.

About 10 minutes later I had grease up both arms to the elbows, on my pants, and all over the sidewalk… my right thumbnail was bent backwards in half… but the pump was back together and ready to go.

I washed up and took the sprayer out back to start doing the duty. I got probably two-thirds of the way around the back yard when a bird shit in my face.

Not on my shirt, not down my back, not on my head… in my face.

I didn’t see any bird anywhere, so I started thinking: there are a lot of vectors that have to come together just so for something like that to happen. I had to be facing the right direction, the bird had to be flying towards me and release the turd at just the right time… while I wiped the crap from my nose and glasses, I started thinking about where the bird must have been.

Taking some general figures - the bird traveling at 72kph (the high end of average for a pigeon) and flying around 150m high (not uncommon for the height of a migratory songbird formation) - and ignoring stuff that makes the math a pain (wind resistance, my [negligible] height from the ground in relation to the bird, etc.) - I applied some basic physics and figured the bird was 1100m away from me when it actually released its filth and it took about 5.5 seconds to fall and hit me. While I’m in a diagramming mood, here’s one of that, too:

Bird Crap:

Absolutely unbelieveable.

I washed up [again] and finished killing off plants in the yard without too much event, though it was really hot out so it wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

Later that afternoon, Jenn and I went out and about doing errands. Merging from I-5 south to I-205 north, I got pulled over by a state trooper.

I’ve never been pulled over before. I was surprised it was me, too, because I checked and double-checked my speed to see if I was speeding and - surprise, surprise - I wasn’t.

Turns out my rear license plate cover was dirty and he wanted me to clean it when I got home.

Whew. Crisis averted.

After all that, I figured nothing else bad could go wrong, so I bought a lottery ticket. I mean, hey - if all that can come together in a ridiculous menagerie of impossibility, I could win the lottery, right?

Didn’t even get one number. So at least things are back to status quo.

Sunday I bought new license plate covers (they were all scratched up so I couldn’t clean them) and we watched 13 Going On 30 (or maybe we watched the movie on Saturday….) which was a cute, if predictable, Big-like movie. Enjoyable, if anything, for the Jennifer Garner factor. Plus a great soundtrack.

And now I’m at work, and I’ve marked off another weekend I’ll never reclaim. Maybe some of the bad karma points I used on Saturday will help me out this week. Of course, I’ve got daily team meetings every morning for the project I’m working on, which serve only to waste my time and everyone else’s on the project, so maybe I still have some bad luck to burn.

I had my annual performance review yesterday. It turned out well, but they changed the review form this year so you have like 50 different [redundant] essay questions to answer. When all was said and done, with both my answers and my manager’s answers to all the questions, the form was 26 pages long in single-spaced 12 point Times New Roman.

That’s like a novel.

When he put the finished form on the table in front of me, I thought it was a magazine. It’s huge. Crazy. I know the review process is in a constant state of flux, so hopefully they’ll flux a few of the questions, at least the redundant ones, out. Yow.

I’m still working on the stuff for the next version of Solvent. It’s going to interact more with the Windows shell, though, which is all low-level stuff, so I’m having to go back and re-learn C++ (and, subsequently, the managed extensions to it) so I can interface my C# add-in code with the shell. It’s turning out to be a lot more difficult than I first anticipated, though, and I’m learning way too much about how the shell does things (or doesn’t, as the case may be) and the C++ required to mix managed and unmanaged C++. I’ve had a couple of people at work look at it and they’ve offered some general help/direction, but no concrete examples or solutions. I’m even considering farming it out. I’ll be glad when it’s done.