Sunday, July 28, 2002

I now have 104 zinc-coated steel rods to use for railing spindles.
So here I am, working really, really late, trying to get a new device to work on our company server. I can't get this stupid thing to work or even show up on the server. I am on the new device's company website, digging through the twenty-or-so boring, gobbledy-gook-filled technical specifications when I hit something of note on a document entitled, "Explaining Low Voltage Differential (LVD) and High Voltage Differential (HVD) SCSI - A note of CAUTION for users of SCSI devices". My curiousity is piqued. Reading on, I find the following:

If a LVD CD-ROM or tape drive <type of item I have>
is connected to a differential host adapter <thing that
I am trying to install>, irreparable damage
can be done to either or both devices.

When you're working on a computer system that your company relies on, there's nothing better to get the blood pumping.

To any of my coworkers that might find this alarming - everything ended up OK. Your data is right where you left it on Friday. That's why I do backups.
In case you're wondering, I'm right here.

So are you.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

My deck (well,OK, the family deck ... but I doing most of it!) is progressing nicely. After waiting all week for a good chance to work on it, I left the office at the end of my work week right on time, Fred Flinstone-style, jumped into my car and raced home, only to be greeted ten blocks from my house by a RAINSTORM! Crap! Power tools in the rain is just a bad idea, so I've had to sit inside and stare out the window at my soaking joists, puppy-dog style, for all of Friday.

I did get up early today and get the posts and bench supports in place. Perhaps tomorrow, some seats and decking!


One of the nice things about working outside is that I have time for my mind to wander and chew on all that has transpired over the past week.

Our little company is doing well - those efficient business minds are doing what they need to do and coming up with new ways to make good use of our investment, and hopefully turn our positions there into hobbies. Efforts are made to include me (which I appreciate), but most of teh time I feel that I just want to make things run for everyone. My job is more about providing things that work and fulfilling needs that others have. By seeing what goes on in these meetings I can be proactive and anticipate the company's needs. I don't always have information to contribute. I certainly do try to chime in, though.


My friendly neighbor, Mr. G., does a lot of entertaining for a 78 year old. He quite often has company over for a visit and I'm envious of all the traffic in and out of his house. He says that it keeps his mind busy and he needs that as a widower.

As a child, I remember relatives and friends dropping by our house for casual visits. This could be an afternoon or evening thing, and usually they were on little or short notice. I've noticed that the only people that ever just "drop by" are those of my parent's generation. I'm not sure if it is a generational thing, a socio-economic thing (I think I've changed economic groups since establishing my own family), a geographical thing (I'm living in Calgary instead of Edmonton, where I grew up) or just that society has changed. Perhaps all of our lifestyles have changed to the point that most people doubt that they would find a friend at home when they drop by for a chance visit.

When's the last time *you* dropped in on someone with little or no notice?

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

I've decided to bite at a variation of a 419 scam e-mail, using an old hotmail account. I'll let you know how it goes.
bor•bo•ryg•mus \'bor-be-"rig-mes\ noun pl bor•bo•ryg•mi \-'mi\
[NL, fr. Gk borborygmos, fr. borboryzein to rumble] (ca. 1796)
: intestinal rumbling caused by moving gas

Today, your mission is to use this word once in casual conversation.

Good luck, Jim.

Monday, July 22, 2002

I learned how to make ligatures. Check out Geek and Co.'s Tip of the Day if you want to find out how.
Another lesson learned.

I was just reminded of the difference between news and gossip. Gossip is someone else's news.

No deck construction went on this weekend, due to some confusion on the part of Home Depot's order desk. Their delay (they ended up delivering it on Sunday at 7 pm) meant that I could go get more gravel to shovel under the deck and rake level. While under the deck, I looked out and saw Devon, the family dog, laying in the grass a few metres away.

Devon's getting on in age. She's thirteen (or so) and they've been an active thirteen years. Being part of raising two kids has meant that she's been carried, dressed, wrapped up, forgotten, lead around, petted, pulled, poked, fed unhealthy things, chased and generally bothered in ways that only toddlers can do to a dog. The whole time, she has shown the utmost in patience. A vivid memory I have is of a 5-month-old McMonkey grabbing a chubby handful of dog ear and pu-u-u-u-l-l-lling, and hearing Devon let out just the slightest of low, drawn out whines, as if to say "If this is what it takes to be part of the family, I'll sit here but I won't sit quietly."

Now, as the kids are old enough to respect and treat the dog properly, Devon has become very comfortable in her token role of guardian of the house and movable throw rug. As I observed her laying there in the shade of our big backyard tree, the wind was gently carrying the sound of kids playing in the park behind our house, the grass was cool against her black fur, no one was bothering her and a dish full of food and water was just a short trot away. I thought to myself, if she were to die and go to heaven at that very moment, she may not notice much difference.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

There is a finite amount of weight that you can load on a shelf supported by those little clips. This axiom quickly became important to me last night as I tried to load a few pounds too many on a shelf in the server cabinet. The bottom shelf, with two rather-heavy battery backups and my new tape backup autoloader came crashing down, nearly crushing my arm. Thank goodness for a few sturdy boxes that held up rather well, considering the load.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Is anyone else becoming concerned about the goofy paranoia and ramping up of the war machine in the United States? What would happen if the US attacked Iraq? Would the United Nations step in?

Friday, July 19, 2002

Tonight's Soundtrack: Fredrik Chopin's Noctures

Sitting alone on the sofa at midnight, the quiet time of my day, I listen to Autur Rubinstein play Nocturne No. 1 in G minor, enjoying my solitude. Solitude and stillness are good for the soul. Solitude is the clear glass of filtered water that cleanses the pallette before one tastes a good wine. In our lives, we are not always granted the opportunity to have a quiet moment of reflection. I treasure mine.

As part of my quiet time, I enjoy listening to classical music. There is classical music, but I doubt that there are classical movies. I just spent the last two hours watching a movie that was entertaining and unoffensive while extoling the virtues of true love ('cause the kids were watching, too). A bit of mental popcorn - filling, but no nutrition. A movie can entertain and can perhaps be enjoyed a second or third time, but no drama or acted-out moral lesson can compete (in holding my interest) with the gentle, interweaving melodies of a master composer. Although I may not always be in the mood for classical music, I never tire of any particular piece.

For me, all music has its place and time. Aretha Franklin's soulful vocal bends can push me to new speeds and efforts as I cycle along; Bare Naked Ladies have great sing-along music that reminds me of six-hour-long, chat-about nothing sessions with my high school buddies; ZZ Top, Golden Earring and Foreigner puts me back in my first car, the Purple Passion Pit, zipping around on a skipped afternoon of high school classes; the Dixie Chicks and John Denver makes me want to two-step (or at least tap my foot and say yeehaw at the appropriate time). It's like putting on familiar but seldom-worn outfits and being in a totally different place.

Today while driving my brother-in-law's rusted out Nissan pickup, I was listening to the Firebird Suite on CBC One. I've listened to that piece at least a hundred times, thanks to an early introduction to Tomita's rendition. Even through the one tinny speaker, cranked right up to compete with the growl of the unmuffled engine exhaust and other street noises, I heard new, unappreciated subtleties in Stravinsky's gentle and moving score. The more I listened, the more depth I found in the music. It was magic.

When I get the chance, I have my kids listen to classical pieces that I find especially rich with emotion or character. I have them be still, close their eyes and try to imagine what kind of feelings the composer is suggesting; what the temperature in the room was when they wrote a particular piece; what had happened to them that day to make them put that piece together; what kind of movements would be appropriate to act out if they were moving to this; what sort of story they could create using this music and who the characters would be and what they would say to each other as the music changes.

Yet for some reason, I don't consider myself a classical music nut. I'm just an occasional user.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Type an entry, click "Post and Publish", click details, curse, logout, click Blogger Pro, type your name, type your password, click remember, click sign in, click No Comment, find the edit link at the bottom of the last post, click it, click "Post and Publish", click details, curse, ...

Guess what I'm doing?

Getting frustrated with a once-great system, and being amazed that I paid for this service.

Temporary Difficulty - please do not adjust your sets.

By the time you read this, Grant (the cordial web host of No Comment, and a bevy of other websites) will have wrestled his new Internet connection into the correct position. He had some difficulties (and even more difficulties) as of late, but they should be all cleared up by now.

Thanks for your patience and welcome back.
I met up with a friend yesterday that, in spite of the most tumultuous child- and young-adulthood I've ever heard of, ended up as one of the coolest and most together people I know. They have a good sense of who they are, positive outlook and dumpsters-full of worldly experience.

To quote a comic strip (as if you need more triteness) "A mistake is where advice comes from." I'm certainly willing to benefit and learn from someone else's lumps.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

My kids are driving my nuts.

I'm not sure what is causing this, but Banana and McMonkey's evenings seem to be spent blamestorming each other and whining about what they have to do (taking responsibility for their situations) and aren't allowed to do (live outside of cleanliness and behavioral standards that we've had in place since before we had them). Being around them is getting to be a drag. I'm not sure whether it is really them acting up or me being hyper-sensitive. I have to figure out what it is that is causing me to feel this way or I'll start dreading going home.

Even good dads have slumps.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

I've realized why I don't like watching network television - there's no end to it. It takes willpower and drive to get up from the sofa and say "I've had enough TV." I've seen my daughters regularly get caught in the mind-emptying beam of our Sony big screen. I get caught there just as easily as they do - I just usually make a point of not sitting down in front of the TV unless it's for a recorded movie. Lately, though, I've found myself up late, surfing the channels watching absolutely nothing I can remember the next morning.

What a terrible waste of time. As they say, being aware of your condition is the first step.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

click me for bigger versionThere's something very satisfying about creating structures with wood. I spent the last day and a half working with Jeff, my brother, on my deck. When it's finished, it will be a fifteen-by-twenty foot creature, spanning two levels. Yesterday was the day where the two of us walked around the future deck sight, looking earnest and rubbing our chins.

Today was an action day, where we accomplished the following:
  • prepared the ground (working the goon spoon to remove the sod dig up roots from the neighbor's tree and level the remaining soil)
  • put down landscape fabric and gravel to keep the botanical activities under the deck to a minimum
  • built our beams that will support the deck on the steel posts emerging from the ground
  • leveled the posts, keeping a slight slope away from the house (for water drainage) in mind
  • mounted and secured the beams to the posts
  • hung a nailing board on the wall to which we will attach our joists
  • screwed on joist hangers and rubbed our chins some more about how the landing would attach, where it would attach, where the benches would go, and other permanent-results decisions.

So, tomorrow we'll be putting joists on the beams and maybe starting on the decking.

Working with Jeff has been a total blast. He's lucky enough to have found his purpose in life as a log home builder. Just recently, he's decided to work with a finishing carpenter and earn his carpentry ticket. He works outdoors, usually in a rural setting, where he can bring his dogs to work, be very physical (he's a very fit guy) and create a home that will last several generations. Besides the fact that he has every single construction tool under the sun (in both the corded and cordless models), having him help me meant I would have a chance to find out (over the noise of the power tools) what's up with him. We collaborated, shared ideas, reminisced and teased each other in the sweltering heat (37 Celsius today). It was wonderful.

Working together to accomplish or create builds more than just the finished product - it establishes emotional bonds between those who are involved.

ten years from now, will I remember that July of 2002 was so freakin' hot?
Don't people have anything better to worry about? I just saw an ad for a medicine that treats yellowing toenails. Disgusted by the banality of late evening TV (again, I know - I keep going back), I've left Jenn caught in its infernal beam while I make a blog entry.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

My lumber is here! My lumber is here!

Let the deck building begin this weekend.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Mr. G, my seventy-eight year old neighbor, is one of the friendliest and nicest people I've had the pleasure to meet. Even though he lost his wife to cancer two years ago and is now quickly losing his eyesight and hearing, I have never seen a trace of bitterness come across his continence. When he asked me to come over and have a look at his computer, I was more than willing to show some neighborly kindness.

"The screen doesn't come on," he explained. "Can you come over and see if it needs to be replaced? It's pretty old."

I sort of expected what I found from my retired accountant of a neighbor. He had a 15-or-more-year-old IBM XT computer, complete with amber-on-black display that wasn't lighting up at all. It sat on a simple pressboard desk, with a dot matrix printer and a plastic filing box of 5 1/4 inch floppies beside it. After a quick inspection, I found a loose connection where the monitor's cable plugged into the display adapter. Once I tightened it up, the screen came back to life to the full 12 diagonal inches of glory that it had been before.

When the monitor had come back on, I noticed that the computer's clock wasn't displaying the correct date. It was asking for confirmation that it was really January 1st, 1980, indicating to me that the internal clock battery was dead. I decided against suggesting to replace it. Why, you might ask? Mr. G told me that he had initially been unsure of how to operate the computer. After being shown the series of keystrokes that would let him do some word processing, he finally became comfortable. It had taken him a some time, but now he could do some typing for the Boy Scouts and his church group. Hearing this made me think of scores of people who didn't deal well with change, or maybe just didn't need any more change in their lives. I had stood before them in a classroom, telling them about copying and pasting text when all they wanted to do was to press the right keys to make a nice, neat letter to their friend come out of the printer.

Did I really want to throw a wrench into Mr. G's routine? He had become accustomed to entering the date and time on startup. My decision - "Why mess with his system?"

In the end, Mr. G was happy. Once again, his computer worked the same way it had for the past ten years. It probably will work the same way for the next ten years, too.

To hell with the advancement of technology.

Monday, July 08, 2002

This February will be the 30th year anniversay of The Straight Dope - just couldn't wait until then to tell you about it. It has a search engine to let you go through the archives and an FAQ. What a truly useful resource.
Instant messenging has got to be one of the more useful communication tools on the Internet. I was just contacted by my 11 year-old neice who has traveled to Newfoundland from Cochrane (her home town) for a science fair. She can't phone her parents from her dorm but she has 'net access. Go figure.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

An Evening's Entertainment:
  1. stumble across a website containing a spanish or german blog or comment book
  2. type URL of said website into search field on and click on "Google Search"
  3. when google finds said website, click on the link that says "Translate This Page".
  4. laugh at funny-sounding, stilted english.
  5. repeat.
What do you mean, "It's late, Sean's getting punchy and should be sleeping?"

Much fun wishes you Mr. Pipe, indeed.

Saturday, July 06, 2002

how do they make it taste SO MUCH like meat?After seeing an ad for this on a sheet of vinyl stretched across the roof of a local Rotten Ronnie's, I couldn't help but wonder what the world is coming to. Can't a guy even rely on McDonalds for a good ol' artery-clogging ground-up-cow sandwich? Announced during the week of Stampede, no less.

Oh well, maybe now the planteaters at the office won't frown at me when I pull out my McLunchbag. I guess I should try one of these things.
hello this is brianna.

i would like to tell you a little bit about the stuff that he says about us [me and mcmonkey]. i stink with computers. mc monk's the good one at that. i'm good at everything else. just kidding. my little sister can install a computer game in 5 seconds. just next-next-next-yes-next-next-next. i am good at all sports except dance and swimming. mac 's good at both. I love my father dearly but he needs to put more kid related stuff. and that is why i am here helping. so long and take a little time to ask my dad questions [he has to much time on his hands] oh and don't believe the writing on the bottom of the page it's realy me brianna. see ya.

Friday, July 05, 2002

I got to use a pneumatic jackhammer all day today instead of working. I wish I had more of a beer gut to rest on top of it while I was setting posts - things woud have gone quicker.

It was a beautiful day to be working outside and the posts (steel pipes, actually) are in for the deck. Tommorow, I'm off to Revy and Home Depot for lumber quotes!
Thanks Grant for fixing our server. I missed all my friends.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Well, shiver me timbers. I never thought my daughter would propel me to the top of the charts at

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Opening a larger can of worms than I can imagine, I've begun to plan to build my deck. My big mouth is forcing me to get on with this project, as I've been telling people that we'll have a get-together on this figment of my imagination sometime in September. Post holes, stringers, doubled-up fifteen-foot 2 x 8 s and pneumatic tools are in my future. A few weekends ago, the missus and I sat down to formally plan out the deck and came up with a three-tiered monstrosity. My brother and father-in-law have both offered their help and advice (thank goodness), and I don't plan on letting them get out of it. I've even waved the plans under the nose of my retired-general-contractor-uncle, who politely didn't discourage me from doing this myself. Maybe he thinks there's a lesson for me to learn in attempting it. A quick trip to Home Depot this afternoon to get a price for materials turned into a two-hour lesson into deck structural engineering and a list as long as one arm of what I needed to complete this onerous task. I must admit, the guy who assisted me did a great job of itemizing every single board and bracket I'd need. I felt quite confident that I'd have the right materials. This kindly, older gentleman with an orange workman's bib, a baseball cap and a weather-worn face also did a good job of scaring me with regards to how much effort and time it was going to take.
    "So, you got the summer off, eh?" he kindly asks. "No, I plan to do this during my evenings and weekends," was my reply. "Hmmmph. <a pause to look down at my plans> Good thing you're starting early in the season."
As Jane later reminded me, he didn't know that he was dealing with a man who made a lifesize bust of himself out of Rice Krispies.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Having Caller ID on a phone brings about an interesting etiquette question. No, not the "should I or shouldn't I answer" question - that's obvious - you shouldn't. I'm referring to the conundrum of the initial greeting. When you answer the phone, full aware of who it is, are you supposed to let on you know who it is? Should the identity of the caller affect your tone or even what you say? Are you supposed to answer with a personalized greeting to the caller? For some reason, I find this spooky when people let on that they know it's me from the get-go.

I still answer with a generic "Hello" or "Sean here" greeting, no matter who it is. If you *do* get me on the line, take it as a compliment that I saw your name and still picked it up.

The phone companies are playing a tricky game with Caller ID. They now offer a service called Privacy Services, or Caller ID Block. This feature allows you to mask your identity when you call. You can also buy a service from the phone companies (above and beyond the price of the caller ID feature) that allows you to unmask these hidden caller's true identities. Didn't Sylvester McMonkey McBean do this, too?