NaBloPoMo: Day 5

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S’getting cold out there already.  Really starting to feel like Winter, which is weird, ’cause Vancouver doesn’t really do Winter.  We get maybe two or three days of snow a year, and it usually melts into slush the same day.  Smells like it, though.

Arwen was working today in Point Roberts, and I gotta say “I don’t get it.”

Point Roberts is at the Southern-most tip of this little spit of land that leans into the ocean near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, and bits of it dip below the 49th parallel, which means that yeah, it’s in the States.  We drove up to the gate (yeah, a gate, literally a seven-foot chain-link gate) and stood there looking through it.  Yep, that’s America right there.  All three square miles of it.

Sidebar: How many times a year does Coldplay need to play SNL?  Seems like they’re averaging three or four, at least.  Shouldn’t the musical booking folks be looking for the next Sugarcubes or something?

So yeah, there’s this itty bitty chunk of land that’s in the US, and there’s an airstrip on it and probably a bunch of boat docks, but here’s the problem, I don’t know about the horses any more.

See, about 20 years ago, someone told me that SCA folks do some sort of weird trick with taking horses down to Point Roberts, and then “going for a run on the beach,” across the border and then people picking them up on the other side and taking them away.

Only now that I’ve been there, I gotta ask “and then what?”  Where do the horses go?  Get on planes?  Walk onto little boats?  I don’t get it.  So that happened.

While Arwen was doing her thing, I took the kids to Richmond to kill some time, and we ended up going to the Richmond Public Market, which was a nice little culture shock for the kids (and me, frankly).  Bubble tea was had (mine was supposed to be green apple, but was plain chocolate, I think) while we sat on the upstairs seating and looked down at the people shopping below.  Always fun to see vegetables you can’t name.

Oh, but before that, I had to go to the Telus store and get A’s Blackberry figured out, ’cause it’s constantly scrolling up, which is a bit of a problem.  I had time navigating the first five minutes of the store because there were no less than four staffers in a place smaller than your average shoebox, and the one that stopped chatting to help me had fake eyelashes that I think still had the backing card attached to them.  It was intense.  Like, “Hi, {flap} can I {flap} help y{flap}ou?”  Obviously from the Ghost Whisperer school of makeup flapplication.

I explained what was happening, and she said “I can try updating the software on it, and see if that fixes it, can you come back in about a half-hour, forty-five minutes?” I asked her how a software update was going to fix a hardware issue, but okay, fine, maybe it’s got to do with the sensitivity drivers or something.  I remember seeing that with trackpads “drifting” when nothing’s moving, so okay, sure.  I’ll go wander around the mall for a bit.

Orange Julius is a lot of sugar.  Wooftie.

Eddie Bauer is trying to outfit me for the zombie apocalypse, but wants me to be stylish about it.  Seriously: how many kinds of pocket knives do we actually need that are also bottle openers (but the old churchkey type) AND have flashlights AND whistles in them with a loop for attaching to carabiners?

I came back 45 minutes later, and was told the update was “still downloading” (um, shouldn’t you have a little stockpile of the latest updates for each of the devices you sell, to avoid this sort of thing?) and (oh hold up – this is a Telus STORE and you’re having “problems with our Internet.”)  I refrained from asking if they were hitting the Telus speedcap at 160K?

We repeated this little “How ’bout now/come back later” dance for a total of 90 minutes before they did what I’d assumed we were going to do in the first place, replace the device with a loaner while the old one got swapped/repaired.  Seems like maybe everyone in the store had enough coffee and had caught up on their Friday nights, ’cause they were suddenly all in full-on sales mode.

So, yeah.

Posted on November 5th 2011 in General, Grumpy Old Man, Hardware

NaBloPoMovember: Day 11

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Posting this from RockMelt (which is an interesting spin on Chrome, embedding Facebook and Twitter into either side of the browser window).  Okay, no, it WAS being written in RockMelt, but then I bailed on it ’cause the screen framing didn’t wrap properly on my tiny 1024×768 screen, which meant the word “embedding” scrolled off into nowheresville while typing that first sentence.

I have terrible handwriting, but maybe I’d do it more often if I had one of LifeHacker’s freakishly nice pens.  Especially the Namiki ones, from the Chinkin line.

Tomorrow’s Friday, and since I’ve been riding every other day this week, I should ride to/from work, but not if it’s gonna be cold, and it has been *cold* lately.  Not exploding coffee cup weather, but cold enough to make you not want to go work out in it.  The two rides I’ve done this week on the new bike have been good (considering I’ve been off my bike for a month or more).  Wanna see?  Of course you do!  I’ve been using a free Blackberry app called Endomondo which tracks traveling workouts via GPS.  It even tells you over the headphones every kilometer: “Six keelahmeeterrs in ayiteen minutes. Last laptime 3 minutes 22 seconds.”

It also shows GoogleMashed maps with elevation, which is pretty damned cool (if a little creepy, considering I didn’t log into the site as myself to see the information under that link).

In the process of the work I do, I occasionally go looking for people online, and one of the odd things I’ve noticed is that any public running event (SunRun, marathon, triathlon) will publish your name and placing online after the event (it’s in the newspaper, too.)  Doesn’t give you much information, but it does give you a year and a city if you’re tracking someone who’s ghosted on your for a bit.  (Do I even want to tell the story of the con artist in Montreal who I managed to get an alarming amount of data about, up to and including freakin’ ultrasounds of his unborn third child?)

That was a particularly freaky amount of tracking I did.  My accounting manager at the time said “That’s hilarious – don’t do that with me.”

Some Google-Fu and some nice lateral thinking can get you an alarming amount of information on a group of people who don’t lock down their privacy settings on things like Flickr.

It’s Midnight, so I’m a hit Publish, take a picture of the straggly-looking stache, put that in the Mo’10 page, and then head to bed.  (Oh crap, Conan’s on already, I’m toast).

Stood at the cenotaph in downtown Vancouver today while the planes did their flyby and the 21-gun salute was performed with artillery, and it rained and a bajillion kids in uniforms were quiet and strong and trained.  Lots of fresh-faced Asian (and SouthEast Asian) kids there.  Sorta made me proud that Canada has enough of a mixed culture that our population on the street is reflected in the cadets.  Or maybe that’s a bad sign.  Not sure.

But thanks to all those who were once (or currently) somewhere really really far from home, in a place where maybe there’s not a lot of hope (or security), and that the people that sent you there bring you home safe and sane.

Posted on November 12th 2010 in General, Hardware, Sad, Software

Two(ish) things.

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Most people can make their eyes pop out, but can you make your GLASSES do it?

Most people can make their eyes pop out, but can you make your GLASSES do it?

HelLO, and welcome to another episode of “I’ve Reflanged the Barkolounger” with your host, Rupture Q. Throngboggle PhD, PTSD, NPC.

Tonight to change thing up not at all, I’m going to tell you about some surfing I did.  One of those things I do all the time is try to figure out how to get things to connect to stuff they’re not already connected to, and this often leads me to wondering how I get popular communications device A into protractive retrogrunion B.

This evening, when I was in transit home, it occurred to me that my Blackberry has Bluetooth, and my Netbook has Bluetooth, and I’ve heard about people using their Blackberry to connect to the Internet when they’re in the middle of a field or something, so I thought to myself “Are we home yet?  Did I miss my stop?  Have my ears popped from coming out of the underground tube of Canada Line yet?  Florence and the Machine is better than you think it’s going to be in the first four bars of any song.  I wonder if I can get my Blackberry to use my Netbook’s wireless connection to get onto the ‘Net instead of the other way ’round?”

“Wait.  Dude.  What?”

“Yeah, no, really.  Remember the Nokia N-Gage, with the totally ludicrous phone functionality?  It had software that gave it a Bluetooth Internet Gateway thing, so it stands to reason that TCP/IP over the Bluetooth stack should be possible.  For free.  Also, I want pizza pops.  Red Eyed Treefrogs are the perfect fridge magnet shape when they’re all tucked in.”

“You’re right, I should try that when I get home tonight.  Or maybe Briggs would know.”

“Shh. Can’t talk.  Pizza pops.”

About 45 minutes of Googling, installing, reconfiguring, de-un-re-anti-con-platifguring, and just plain looking it up in field repair guides and stuff came up snake eyes.  Not even snake eyes.  No dice, no table, no casino, you’re voted off the island, and Pluto sends its regards.

Probably because any of the Blackberry devices that are worth having have built-in wifi, so trying to bridge via Bluetooth across another device would be extra steps, and would mean the BB would be dependent on another device in the immediate vicinity.  Goes against the grain.  Causes seizures in succulents.  May lead to thoughts of super-suede.

So, what else?

Stumbled across Percussion Lab tonight while looking for some information about JDilla and the mind-blowing Wonk Funk mix by KPER.  They have it, but they also have not only a whole schwack of other stuff that I’ve never heard of, but lots of other world-class DJs and set that might have been around for the last ten years, but I wouldn’t know it.

Sad that radio in Vancouver just doesn’t play anything like this.  Of course, if my ability to make anything I like at Body Shop be instantly removed from the shelves (they had a liquid soap that smelled EXACTLY like fresh-cut grass, and after I bought my second bottle, it was gone) applies to music, it’s probably good that I don’t hear much that I can stomach on radio.

I think this is the first shot I've had that actually show's the 'stache.

I think this is the first shot I've had that actually show's the 'stache.

So yeah, ignore the double chin (I come by it honestly, I assure you) but take note of the little Lemmy going on down there.  That’s not a goatee, that’s my mo.  It’s getting hi-…

What the hell’s going on with my hair?  I know I’m shooting through my wide-angle lens at a 90°, so that’ll make weird “tall angle” shots, but still.  Th’hell?

When I had long hair, it was always kinda sticky-outy on the sides, and that’d make me insane, but this little “wisp of hair at the tip of my egg-shaped noggin” is a bit much.

Everybody but me got the H1N1 shot today.  Tate was asking where the “bugs” were in his arm.  I’m not sure whether or not he was asking where the shot was administered, or where the pre-defeated virus was in his body now.
Posted on November 24th 2009 in Brainfarts, Hardware, Music, randomness

You Down With LHC? (Yeah, You Know Me.)

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View of the CMS Detector before closure, on August 17th, 2008. (Maximilien Brice; Michael Hoch; Joseph Gobin, © CERN) #

Retro Encabulate THAT...

The Large Hadron Collider is this most amazingly technical thing, and yet I have absolutely no idea what it does.  I mean, I get that it’s a thing that catches particles and whips them around in a gigantic circle (27 kms or something, right?) and then they… uh… measure the… trails… um… with the uh… doohickey…

But hegoly sheggit is it pretty.  Reminds me of the tunnels the Canada Line, only with about a billion times the technology.  I’ve been taking transit more often than I’d like lately, but the weather’s been rainy and cold, and I promised myself and my wife that I wouldn’t ride my bicycle if there’s a chance of ice, and as I found of today, it doesn’t have to be icy for people to lose control of their vehicle…

Another five feet, and it would've landed in our boardroom.

Another five feet, and it would've landed in our boardroom.

What you’re looking at there is a parked car turned almost 90 degrees onto the sidewalk, the front passenger tire is torn almost completely off the rim.  Behind that is the car that hit it as it came out of the underground parking lot across the street.  That tree is crowded by our building, so it’s quite lucky nobody was hurt.

What strikes me is that over the course of my lunch with a friend, they cleaned up everything, and as the grey car was being towed away, someone was putting the mailbox back where it belonged.  It was badly beaten.  Dented.  Paint scraped off.  Looking like it lost a fight with car, which it did.  Two cars, in fact.

I want to see the look on the postie’s face at the crack of dawn on Monday morning.

Friday came and went, and for the most part, has felt pretty good.  I think we’re going to play some Rock Band Beatles, or watch a PPV movie (there’s no video store anywhere near here, I don’t think, but at least we don’t have to worry about paying late fees on rented DVDs that end up costing more than just buying the damned thing).

Annnnnnnd the digital cable box just asplode so… Rock Band it is then.

Speaking of DJ Hero (we were? when?) I wonder if the folks at EA who make Skate are laughing about this comic, cringing, or just glad they still have a job at all…

Hadnt thought of that really, you have to have a table for the... turner.

Hadn't thought of that really, you have to have a table for the... turner.

Posted on November 20th 2009 in General, Hardware, Hey Cool

Self-Applied Roadside Assistance


That’s not as sexy as it sounds, let me assure you.

So, I rode to work yesterday without incident, but I need to invest in some of those slightly hilarous booties for cycling, ’cause here in Raincouver on Canada’s Wet Coast, we surely do love ourselves some rain, I tell you what.  So this means my 40-minute ride to work equals a pair of very wet shoes, but that’s fine, I have new clean dry socks to wear, right?  This would work if I was at home, and flumping around the house without wearing those same wet shoes, but NOOOOOO, I put the same shoes right back on again, and within 15 minutes, I’ve got wet feet again.  Doi.

Today was a good ride in, and a good start to the ride home, but about six blocks away from work, I got a quick flat, and had to do a tube change under the awning of a banking building.  The good news is that it only took me about five minutes to swap the tube, the bad news was that the little cool lookin’ pump I have in my sidebag is missing a piece, and while it made pumping noises, it wasn’t actually creating a seal to add air to the tube.

So I had to walk my bike six blocks in rush-hour traffic to fill the tube.  I got to play that fun game cyclists play at gas stations when you fill the tire in short bursts, trying to get some decent pressure, without turning the tire into a rock or blowing it out completely.  I did that once when I was a kid, and it scared the hell outta me.  Seriously, it was like a balloon-animal, and then F-PAKH!  Low became flat.

Also, people were way psychotic on the roads tonight, maybe due to the rain (which is odd, considering how often it rains here).  I wasn’t directly involved in any of it, but there was honking, there was yelling, there were jaywalking popped-collar d-bag pedestrians picking fights with drivers.  I was full-moon gonzo out there, and I think if I wasn’t cycling at the time, I would’ve been feeling sorta freaked out there.  For the most part, I was just trying to keep myself from getting punched, or run over, or cursed out.

The flat, swap, walk, and reinflate only added about 20 minutes to my trip home, so that’s actually pretty good, considering I was doing it in the rain, and using my headlights (on my helmet) for lighting.

Watching the Craig Fergusson show, which is charming as hell, but the ads are part of the show due to the whole “Here’s what this drug does, sorta, that we’re not going to actually promise, but just allude to”  and then there’s 24 seconds (or maybe 48) side effects.  They just go on and on.  I keep expecting them to go into a Mark and Brian (of KLOS in LA) side effect list that includes “line-dancing, swollen vowels, and particulate marsupials.”

After Craig Fergusson is Deal or No Deal, and just once, I’d like someone to try to make the counter-deal that they’ll walk away for free if they get to blow up a surgical glove on their head like host Howie Mandel used to do (by pulling it down to your lip, and then blowing it up with your nose), but then make him (a self-confessed germaphobe) WEAR IT afterwards.  Watching the over-excited contestants trying to hug him or shake his hand, and watching him do this weird “oh hey, whoa, nope, back up” thing is funny, and a little bit creepy.

With seven cases left to pick, the soon-to-be sister in-law just blew the chance at $500,000.  You cannot tell me she’s not gonna hear about that for the rest of her life.

Posted on November 10th 2009 in Hardware, randomness

Pedaling My Butt Around Town (Reloaded)


Warning: This (freakishly long) post is about me, my bike, an omelet, and my mom.  If you’re looking for geekery and music stuff, skip this post.

Middle of last week, I had a terrible ride home.  I had driven a CAN car back to Rupert station, which is outta my way by quite a bit, but I was sorta looking forward to getting to see a different part of Vancouver, and riding North/South across Burnaby instead of East/West that I’d done for a year while at EA.  Somewhere at the 1/2 way point of my ride, my back sprocket sorta freaked out, my rear derailer wouldn’t hop the chain into any higher gears, and my back tire started rubbing against the fender.  Were I a richer person, I would have thrown my bike into the nearest dumpster, and cabbed home.  I didn’t.  I managed to limp myself home while stuck in 3:1 (3rd on the front gear, 1st in the back), and locked up the bike.  Took way too long.  I’d gotten cold.  I’d gotten hungry.  I felt wobbly and somewhat pukey after having my legs pumping around so fast for so little mechanical return.  Worst time ever.  55mins or something.  Longer than my very FIRST trip to our new home, some two months ago.

I’d also accidentally learned that Mary-Anne Hobbes Dubstep show on BBC Radio is a terrible thing to listen to when you’re just trying to get your late-30s beleaguered self home on a broken bike.  It’s the inherent bleak sadness in so much of the genre, which is attention-grabbing when you’re feeling good, but bad when you’re ACTUALLY having a crappy time.

After a frustrating evening of having my hybrid (which sounds cooler than it is) bike upside-down in the middle of the living room floor (my understanding and long-suffering wife is truly a Saint), and trying to convince my rear tire that it didn’t really *need* to have a little “play” at the axle, and reaching some sort of position that would mean my:

  1. brakes don’t rub against the rim of the wheel,
  2. …or the wheel itself, for that matter,
  3. new treads don’t rub against the fenders,

Much like the holy triangle of IT (cheap, good, fast: pick any two), I could get EITHER the brake to grab, but not to let go, or to grab AND let go BUT rub against the fenders, OR I could end up with the gears go psycho again.

I thought I was done. Everything seemed to be spinning smoothly, and I had some halfway decent grip on the back brake that would be capable of stopping me suddenly if I needed to. Excellent. Only 1am. My hands are all greasy (I’m not sure why, but we have a verbal tic in our house of having to follow the word “greasy” with an overly enunciated “grrreezee” instead of what everybody actually says, which should be spelled “greecey,” but I digress), and I’m only slightly worried about not having enough sleep before my ride tomorrow, so I crash out after reading a few pages of The Wee Free Men.

Next morning, I wake up at not-much-past the break of dawn and get dressed, mumble morning things at Arwen and the kids, mutter to myself, pack my stuff, get some water together, grab a granola bar, find my various nefarious keys and security fobs and thumbdrives (I’m carrying two these days, and I have no idea why), and scoot out the door.  Okay, feelin’ good.  Here we go.

I can see my breath – s’gonna be a chilly one this morning.  No ice yet, so I can still go for it on the way down the big hills.

Wrestle my bike out of the garage, check that I still have my brakes and everything in the right places, hop on, kick my pedal back and…


The tread is rubbing against the fender, and the brakes aren’t squarely hitting the rim any more.  What the hell?  I don’t have rear shocks or anything, so there’s no way there should be that much change in placement on the wheel between me working on it last night, and me sitting down on the bike this morning.  I know I’m a solid “240lbs of grunt” on top of this thing, but c’mon, the bike’s been fine since I bought it.  Some, uh… let’s see.  Three years ago?  Four?  I think we bought it right after I found out I was going to be working at EAC (the “MotherShip”) as opposed to EAX (“Blackbox”).

ANYHOO, the bike’s not gonna get me to work this morning, and I don’t have the time to fix it now.

So a bunch of mental leg-hold traps snap shut at once.  I go from “Whoo, chilly this morning,” to the following crappy ways to start your day:

  • I’m fat, and broke my bike because of it.
  • I’m an idiot for not testing the bike out last night before going to bed.
  • I’m an idiot for not knowing how to tune a bicycle’s brakes without screwing it up.
  • I’m going to be late for work (cycling takes about 35mins, transit takes 45-50).
  • There goes $5 we don’t really have (transit is $2.50 each way).
  • What am I going to do tomorrow?

So I (literally) dropped my bike into the garage, burst back into the house, did a quickchange, found some change, and flurried myself back out the door.  I pouted for a bit.  I read Twitter feeds on the way into work, and once I got there, tried to do something useful with my brain.  That part went well.

The next morning I was going into work a little later than usual (10am) so I hauled my bike onto the CanadaLine, which (brilliantly) has bike spots on every train, so I don’t have to try to muscle people out of the way.  This is Canada, so a little plastic sign is all the authority people need to acknoledge that they should maybe move outta the way.  Made it downtown, and limped the bike over to the folks at Bicycle Sports Pacific, where I’d bought the bike in the first place.  The woman who checked it out said that it just needed a tuneup, and that my tires were good, brakes seemed fine (I should hope so: they were both less than three months old), and that everything would cost “about 80 bucks or so.”  Okay.  Fine.  I removed my under-seat toolkit and lock, and I traded my bike for a little slip of paper, and wandered out into the brisk Fall morning.  Now what?

I was feeling like this was $80 I didn’t have, on TOP of the $5 in transit per day I’d be spending, but still, this is okay, we’ll figure it out.  I walked up to some weird mom & pop greasy (everybody now: “greeeezzeeee”) spoon cafe with six wobbly tables and a drinks cooler that made an egregious amount of noise, and bought myself what passes for comfort food at breakfast time.  Too-hot coffee and a ham and cheese omelet.  What better way to celebrate health and fiscal responsibility than buying myself breakfast?

Then I emailed my mom, who’d asked last weekend if I needed a new bike.  “Naaaaah,” I’d told her, “there’s nothing wrong with the one I have.”  Famous last words, I know.  Pretty much asking for trouble from that point on.

I emailed her, asking if maybe I could partially take her up on the offer, and instead of buying me a whole NEW bike, she could maybe pay for a tuneup of the one I have, since I’d managed to make mine worse by trying to do it myself (I used to be pretty good at this, when I was 18).  She immediately responded that she’d be happy to.  We figured out how to push money through the series of tubes and the next day I picked up my bike at the shop.

It was $155.  Thankfully, my mom, the psychic that she is, had sent me $150 instead of the “eighty or so” I’d quoted her.  She knew better, probably due to her many many years as a car owner.  The lady at the bike shop and I had an ever-so-slightly toasty conversation about “estimates” and “parts and labour” and “quotes” but after my initial panic, I finally got down to “so what the hell was wrong with it?”

  • Bike chain and gears bathed and lubricated. $15
  • Broken.  Rear.  Axle. Replaced.  $15 (Oh, well that would explain it)
  • New brake and shifter cables needed (okay…) $15
  • 5 minutes of making fun of (or possibly, being in awe of) my “humongous rack – is that from MEC?” $FREE
  • Reconstruction and Tune Up $75
  • Not stealing my chrome skull air nozzle caps?  Priceless.

They did a really good job.  Totally worth it.  Just wish I’d been asked/told BEFORE I got there that the total was about 95% above the original agreed-upon amount.

Rode home from the shop.  It was like new.  Smooth.  Silent.  Strong.  My thighs actually seemed to enjoy the hills now that I wasn’t fighting against my own brakes any more.  Rode most of the trip in 2:5 (2nd on front, 5th on the rear), which sets my cruising speed at about 22km/h while on flats.  Felt good.  Forgot to get water*, so didn’t really go for it, or I’d end up coughing all night due to sucking wind.

No more Dubstep though.  Maybe back to some nice happy Public Enemy.

Not that I ever listen to music while cycling.  No-no.  Of course not.  That’s almost as stupid as riding on a broken axle for a few weeks.

I packed up my stuff tonight, and even laid out my cycling gear for tomorrow.  Like first day of school or something.

I’ll try not to yell “WHEEEE!” on the way down Heather bike path tomorrow, but if I do, I’ve got my mom to thank for it.

* That’s not true, I was going to buy myself a new bottle with the extra money mom’d given me, but after the little “adjustment” in pricing, not so much with the $5.00 water bottle.  Besides, I prefer the wide-mouth “Sport Drink” bottle types, and most of them fit into my clip.

Posted on October 4th 2009 in General, Hardware, People

Ny Fangers Are Spre.


Warning, geekery ahead, and not the fun “hey, press this button and blow up your computer” kinda way that I often think about, but just some nuts & bolts thoughts about New Jobs, and Units of Work, and Things.  Rambliness.

So, we’re into week four of the New Job (or is it week five?) and after a few weeks of moving heavy cardboard boxes around, and shoving network racks around, we’re now into the cabling portion of our broadcast, in preparation for a whole schwack of people moving from Broadway and Maple to Pender and Bute.

I’ve been seeing a lot of ghosts over the last two weeks, ’cause a lot of the gear we’ve got for the new office came from Nexon, where I worked for six months with some of the greatest crazies in the games business.

I wrote about the closing of Nexon Vancouver before, so I won’t go into that, but I’m not sure I can fully capture how mind-boggling weird it is to see things like the Nexon server racks show up, with their tags still on them that Briggs applied, or the spring-loaded racking bolts that I know either myself, Joe or Briggs put in only a few months ago.

That was pretty weird, but I didn’t know the chairs were coming.  The weird custom-green stackable meeting room chairs, or the adjustable chairs with the squishy armwrests, or the rolling whiteboards, or the cool pull-this-and-flip-the-table-up tables.  I know all that stuff was going to auction, but I didn’t think it would end up where *I* am.  I think some of the stuff went to Joe at his Uther job, so that’s gotta be surreal for him, too.

Okay, all that aside, I’ve spent the last month with the construction crews (the mom of the crew boss makes a butter chicken that is to die for, although we do refer to it as being “cursed” because the day we were brought some just for the three IT guys, the giant purple network switch decided to freak out), the painting crews (seems like they all bring iPods and various speaker systems to hook up to them) and the electricians (who are obviously brilliant beyond the basic “don’t get your arm blown off by crossing these two wires” needs of the job).

The electricians always have 99.3 TheFOX radio blaring, but I don’t think they actually listen to it.  It reminds me of working for the glass/window place in North Van ‘lo these many years ago, where 99.3 was always on, but everyone I talked to about music had tastes that ranged far beyond CFOX’ top 40 classic rock of the 60-through-90s.

The crew boss for the electricians?  Big bear of a guy who listens to epic techno on his laptop whenever nobody else is hanging near where he’s working.

All really nice people.  Funny.  Bright.  Building things. Creating, even in these “difficult economic times.”  I don’t know why I thought they would be more surly.  Maybe the crew(s) at Blackbox all these years ago were seemingly grumpier ’cause EA was giving them a hard time about money and speed?  I guess Blackbox is shutting down pretty soon.  Wish I could be there to watch it go dark.  Wonder who’s going to take it over?  Microsoft?  The execs could all have their old offices back again, and I bet the feng-shui wouldn’t even have to be redone.

So yeah, everything’s coming together.  Carpets are in.  Rooms are painted.  It’s starting to look more like an office, and less like a paintball arena.  The Very Large Number of rendering slaves are in the racks, imaged, and (mostly) renamed and ready to go.  Every one of those pizza-box-style systems has a custom-cut cable to avoid having a networking cabling nightmare (go Google “cabling nightmare” if you don’t instantly know what I’m talking about).

Today though?  Today kicked my butt.  I didn’t get a case of the Mondays, I got a truckload of the Mondays.  With coupons.  Got my butt kicked by making custom cables using Category 6e spool, which have a little pastic “spine” in them to help keep the four pairs of wires from getting tangled (and thereby reducing cross-talk on the cables) and they’re a little more stiff than normal “household” cables, and that’s all fine and good but oh my GOD do they hurt your hands to crimp into the plastic clips.  I think I’m fighting a little bit of a cold, too, or something, ’cause I got to the site at 8:45am and by Noon I’d put 12 cable ends on. 

ENDS.  That’s SIX FREAKIN’ CABLES @ 30mins each.

I was a mess. Wasn’t measuring properly, kept having to re-crimp stuff because ONE of of the eight possible wires inside the clip wouldn’t pass a simple continuity test, and it takes a bit to figure out which end of the cable is at fault (there’s no way for us to test one clip until the other one’s been crimped on, and there’s no way to re-crimp or un-crimp, so it means cutting the clip off and starting over again, AFTER figuring out which end is the likely culprit).

When my manager appeared next to my elbow and said “You look haggard.  Go for a break for a bit” I damn near hugged him.  It was 3pm, and I’d just realized that the “smart shortcut” I’d tried to take had just cost me about 20 feet of cable, and meant I’d be able to make ONE patch cable instead of two, and that I’d be having to crimp the cable at a height of six feet, in low light in the server room.  There’s no technological shortcut for doing this, and I’m a big fan of techie shortcuts.

I gotta tell you, I really miss the BIX punchdown walls at EA and Nexon.  No crimping involved at all (well, no crimping by IT folks).  Costs more, yes, probably quite a bit more, BUT if you have the room in your network closets/rooms (we don’t), and can possibly pull it off from your budget, DO IT.  Save your technicians from muscle fatigue and having them wonder if that sudden sharp pain in their right bicep is a cramp of some sort, or if they’re going to die of a heart attack because the tester shows that pins 3 & 4 are mashed (both light up at the same time instead of individually) and pin 6 doesn’t light up at all.

Why, yes, I am whining, thank you for noticing.

Thought about calling Arwen for some words of encouragement (that was literally what I was going to call her and ask for), but knew she would be picking up Ripley at school, and would be juggling stuff at home shortly.  Decided I needed some food.  Badly.  Had some lunch, drank one of those gigantic 99cent cans of iced tea, and felt my soul slide back behind my eyes a little again.  Another ten minutes of watching people shop and eavesdropping on someone’s iPhone-conducted business at the new Urban Fare and I was ready to go again.

Finished the next 90 minutes of work without incident.  Bit of a blur, really.  Don’t think I broke anything, but it wasn’t exactly a case of “any well-executed technology tends to look like magic” either.

I rode home (the blocks are short, but uphill, and there’s some sorta “red wave” with the lights going on), had some yummy dinner, and then slept for about an hour.  Arwen put the kids to bed.  Don’t think I really said more than five words to either one of them before I crashed out.  Woke up, wandered around the house for a bit.  Asked the manager if he needed me to come back in tonight to get some more stuff done (the list of what was needed to be done today was long, and I got exactly NONE of it done), but since he said no, here I am.

Left my stuff at the office, so I can’t fill out the evaluation thing for the Mole Hill board I’m supposed to have done for tomorrow at 6:30, so that’s my lunch hour gone, and I don’t even wanna get into the drama around housing here at the Hill again.

But that’s tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another day.

Posted on May 4th 2009 in Brainfarts, General, Hardware, People, Places

Hey Vancouver School Board: Need A Hand With That Virus?

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Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy chasing viruses through the darkest recesses of a workstation, and learning what weird and wonderful new way things are hiding themselves (or reinstalling themselves), and I know it can go sideways and get scary really really fast.

And then you move up and up in the ladder of technicians, across the line into guru or mad scientist land. You start pulling craziness from the magician’s hat, only it’s not always a cute little bunny you pulled out of that hat, like people might have expected you to. It’s this horrifying multi-legged gibbering *thing* that came from the deep blackness of the net, and it might eat every machine in a 50-foot radius if you don’t handle it properly. And nobody knows how to handle it properly, and everyone who knows enough about such things knows enough to be a little scared.  -  JBurton

Was reading a post over at Pelalusa that the virus/malware that ripped through VSB’s offices and classrooms faster than pinkeye is still a problem, even though it’s been four weeks since initial infection.  This is a known piece of malware, and I’m assuming it’s viral (spreads by itself, using a known vulnerability in Windows).

So why can’t they get rid of it?

Click here to read more.. »

Posted on February 4th 2009 in General, Hardware, Places, Software

What happened? Did that just happen? Hello?


“Boom, headshot!”

{Something the gang at EAC IT used to yell out whenever someone was terminated that we didn’t particularly care for.  Something I was tempted to yell out when I was laid off last year.  Given what’s been going on in the gaming industry of late, you’ll forgive me a little gallows humour.}

Click here to read more.. »

Posted on February 3rd 2009 in Friends, General, Hardware, People, Places, Sad

If this keeps up, I’m going to end up vegan and running a Mac

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So, after much kvetching and grumping about how it was all going to work, and how was any of this possible, Arwen happily let herself be convinced by a telemarketer to move our phone service to the same company that handles our television.  Unlike my recent excursion into the deep waters of RRSP transfer and 19.75% Visa cards that *I* went though, Arwen simply was nudged that last 1% into making the move.  We were sorta happy, and a little nervous about how VoiceOverIP was going to work, but we were jumping in.

As an added bonus, we also got highspeed for the same price we were already paying at Telus.  Here’s the kicker though.  It really WAS three times faster than we’d had before.  Being the “just stick a cable in it and see what happens” type, I hopped off our Telus network and onto the new ugly Shaw modem to see what would happen, and here’s my result.

Hauling Packets Through the Kestle Run

See those numbers there?  Yes, that’s about 5 megabit.  That means around 500 kilobytes per second.  That means AROUND 10 minutes to download a CD image (and I do a fair amount of that, in my travels as a Linux-boot-CD loony).  The only thing that’d been keeping me with Telus was the whole “They guarantee the speed you pay for” argument, which is all fine and good, unless the speed I PAY for keeps being lowered, with more and more restrictions about what I can and can’t do.

For comparison, here’s our Telus numbers.

Two or so years ago, without warning, and allegedly for my own protection, Telus flipped a bit in their firewall that meant I could no longer run a mail or web server on their services without “going pro,” which meant suddenly paying double ($108/mo) for highspeed at 2.5mbit per second.  So that meant Telus was now literally TWICE as expensive for HALF the speed.  That, and the whole Telus blocking the union that serves them.  Seriously people, th’hell?  Won’t block kiddie porn or hate speech, but when a site shows photos and videos of people breaking the picket lines?  Oh, suddenly Telus is The Deciderer about what I can and can’t get to on the internet.

After I moved the server up to the fabulous and freakishly service-oriented Fused Network folks, we backed off the Pro package and went back to “standard,” which was only $45/mo again.  Fair enough, we’re back where we started.  Whatever, I’m not running a server any more.  Fine.  Except that now, instead of the 200K/sec I was used to, we seemed to be getting somewhere around 150K/sec.  Actually, it was consistently 159K/s.  Works out to about 1600 in the numbers show in the graphic up there.

Yeah, 1.6MBit.  It was consistent, but consistently crappy.

After a few visits at homes in the area, and doing some testing of THEIR speeds, I found that people on Shaw were getting somewhere between 4500kbit and 7000kbit without paying any more than I was.  And those numbers are all after the “honeymoon” phase with things like free first months, and free super-uber-duper speeds before they put you back to normal.

They lost me as a cel customer after six years because I got a “bare minimum” deal for Arwen and I to have two cel phones, and ended up having a $20/mo deal that actually cost $45, once I added the “extra features” that I suspect most users would consider standard.  (Caller ID, Voicemail, and forwarding TO VOICEMAIL).  I’m sorry, do you know ANYONE who has a cel phone, but only plans on calling OUT?  If I had missed a call during that time (I was unemployed, and needed a cel so I could get out of the house instead of sit at home trying to come up with new ways to NOT just sleep all day), I probably wouldn’t be working where I am now.

And DAMN do I love working where I am now.

and now, for our friends with highspeed and speakers, some music that makes me smile when I’m fighting the proverbial man.

Posted on December 2nd 2008 in Hardware, Hey Cool, Music
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