A Day of Hiking

Picture courtesy of Mike Kershaw

Yesterday, Susan, Porkchop, Mike and I spent a really great afternoon off in the Gunks. After talking with people at my table during leadership class, I'd realized that in my 8 years in the Mid-Hudson Valley, I'd never actually been there yet. I found that even more amusing when I realized that I already had bought the maps for the Gunks probably 7 years ago, and they'd been sitting in my topo map pile ever since.

We hit the trail about 2:15, after stopping in New Paltz to grab lunch for the trail. After doing a leisurely stroll around the lake in Minnewaska State Park, we started at a more brisk pace to get out to Castle Point. Given the names of some of the features near there, we thought there might actually be structures there, so it seemed like a good goal. In reality, it was actually a cliff face that gave you a 200+ degree view of everything East, South, and West. It even had a small scrambling trail down over the edge, which I explored a bit. Mike's ankle stopped being happy just about as we got to Castle Point, so he was a sad panda during the way back.

I did the hike in walking shoes instead of my normal trail running shoes, which was the right call for the 4.5 hours that we were moving. I think that I've realized my feet are just weird enough that 2 hours on them in almost any shoe isn't fun. Nike / New Balance Sneakers seem to be the exception, which means the era of trail running shoes for me appears to be over, and back to sneakers it is. It had first noticed this on a whim last weekend when at the Natural History Museum with the family. Normally I end up needing to sit down quite often towards the end of the trip, both my feet and back hurting. With my white soled New Balance walking shoes on (white soled because they were gotten as Boat Shoes) it didn't bother me at all.

So much for checks and balances...

From a wired blog post:

The federal government intends to invoke the rarely used "State Secrets Privilege" -- the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb -- in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action lawsuit against AT&T that alleges the telecom collaborated with the government's secret spying on American citizens.

The State Secrets Privilege is a vestige from English common law that lets the executive branch step into a civil lawsuit and have it dismissed if the case might reveal information that puts national security at risk.

Don't step in the Leadership....

The last two days of work weren't actually work per say, they were the Leadership Excellence class here at IBM. I'd heard really good things about the class from people that I very much respect that have gone through it, so was rather intrigued in what it was going to be like. This ends up being 3 - 4 weeks cumulative of classes over the course of the year, so there will surely be more on it here later.

Our first module was the 2 day Collaboration Class. What this class really was, was about Communication. We started with a behavior test, to determine our own behavior types, and that was used as the basis of a series of team exercises over the course of the 2 days. We were using the DiSC method, and I came out a strong DC, for those who know what that means.

After 2 days of group activities, including a group activity to resolve behavior conflicts over the building of the first rail road, my brain is quite full, but I am looking at the world slightly differently. If all the classes are as good as this one, I really can't wait to see what is next. 🙂

Going through the DiSC test did make me start wondering about Myers-Briggs again however, so I was amused to find the Harry Potter MB test this morning on science blogs. I am:

Not all that scientific, but amusing none the less. 🙂

Learning to not hate Java

I had an interesting experience this weekend, in which I was finishing up my CS project for the semester (an Assembler written in Java), and found that I didn't really hate Java that much. The API is still a bit odd at times, but since they added basic regex support in 1.4, it isn't nearly as painful to use for jobs that would be trivial in Perl or Python. I think that after 3 classes in a row with Java projects at the end of them, I've finally learned how to keep the language from getting in my way. And of late it is also the only reasonable sized programming project that I've actually had time to sink my teeth into, and actually getting things accomplished always colors things in a more positive light.

Great news, Nick and Heather are engaged!

The news is on Heather's Blog, so I think it's fair game to be on mine now. 🙂

Nick and Heather are engaged! I got a call on Friday from Nick giving me the short version, and I need to get the long and juicy version out of him this week. I always had a feeling that Nick would probably move reasonably quickly once he found the right girl. After meeting Heather last summer, and spending the weekend with the two of them, she definitely seemed to be the one. It's always great when a close friend finds someone that really perfectly complements them as a human being.

Now here is to crossing my fingers that Nick gets a job out east, thus bringing them a bit closer to Susan and I. 😉

Meetings

About 3.5 years ago, I finally got all the piece parts together for the LUG. Beyond the standard reasons of getting together like minded technical people, which is always a good thing, I also had no idea if I could get a group off the ground from scratch, of complete volunteers, into a vaguely functional group. In every other instance in which I'd taken a leadership role, it was for an entity that already had a course and speed. Building from scratch is "a whole other country".

There have been plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, and lots of learning how people function. One of the most important lessons is people have short memories. If a meeting isn't announced a few days in advance, as well as the same day of the meeting, the attendance drops. This happened by accident a few times, with noticeable effect. Just this single piece of info is massively valuable, as it plays out in all kinds of other arenas.

For instance, if you want people to do something at/for a meeting, you need to ask them. Not as a herd, as a mass broad cast, but to the individual themselves. And remind them a few days before the meeting happens, just in case it slipped their mind. We're all busy people, and we all let certain things drop, so there is no malice here, it's just the way we are.

The thing I'm surprised about, is the number of people that should have learned that lesson, that haven't. I guess everyone should start a LUG. It would make the world a better place in more ways than one. 🙂

Weekend Projects

It was a good weekend. A lot of time spent outside, a lot of things accomplished.

Apparently this was the weekend to get rid of the carpet on the porch, which I didn't realize until Susan said "come help me rip up the carpet on the porch" at 11 am on Saturday. While originally skeptical, I could deny that the overwhelming smell of various animal urine on it meant it was a good idea. The surprise of "new big project right now" just took me a couple hours to shake.

With all the carpet ripped up in about 30 minutes, we were staring at a twice painted (at least) concrete floor, that was flaking up everywhere, plus a rather large flow of black mould coming from the biggest source of smells. Given that the mould would probably have killed me on the spot (asthma and all), I went off to other activities while Susan scrubbed heartily with Bleach.

So, my missions were:

Re-erect the garden fence, so our lettuce in the cold frame could be thinned, and 1/2 go into the garden proper. We've got a few too many Bambis (aka Wood Rats) in these parts to trust anything tasty in the vegetable garden without some sort of deterrent up. We learned the lesson the first year badly.

Paint the Garden Bench that has been in desperate need since we got it for free 2 years ago. A quick inventory in the workroom found a can a black spray paint. Black is good, and isn't going to stick out to much... so a winner!

Repaint the Gargoyle. We got this gargoyle as a house warming present from our friends Mike & Shaun. It's an outside size gargoyle, made of plaster, which means it will dissolve far too quickly if not treated. After 2 years it needed another couple of coasts of stone textured paint, and more clear coat (this time something stronger).

Back to the porch:

Fully scrubbed down, it no longer smelled out there (a winner!), but looked awful. In the new carpet vs. new paint debate, new carpet lost heavily to the idea of future cat pee cleanup. At the hardware store later, "Mountain Rose" seemed to be our floor color of choice. I was still somewhat partial to the textured floor paint, but those experiments will have to wait for the garage floor for later this summer. We also acquired some "hammered texture" black spray paint for the iron bench, which comes out a bit grayer, but quite nice.

Come Sunday afternoon, coat 1 of Mountain Rose is down, everything that was on our 25'x11' porch is either in the yard, or family room, or garage. Coat 2 is scheduled for tonight, so it will have the requisite 72 hours hardening time before the family all gets here on Thursday night.

On the grad school front:

I spent a lot of time staring at what our Wednesday homework was supposed to be (create fake asm files for our assembler project), I decided this would all make much more sense if I actually wrote the assembler first, then had something to run asm files through. Although we were told we could write it in any language, the moment it became clear that this was getting handed in as hard copy, I figured python might be a bad choice, as it would make for a hard time grading. They teach Java a lot at Marist, so at least I can guarantee the prof can read it. And in Java 1.4 they finally gave us regex support, so it isn't *too* bad. By the end of Sunday night I had pass_one correct (I'm pretty sure), with about 50% of the asm error checking it should have. pass_two is complete except for symbolic data declarations, though no asm error checking yet.

I definitely have a few questions/clarifications that I need made on this front. Email off to my prof today to get that sorted out.

I also realized that I might have a plan of attack to deal with the fact that I'm going to be missing at least the 2nd and 3rd week of class in the fall (maybe even the 1st) because of the wedding. I need to both find a subject I can catch up that much on, as well as one that has an understanding professor to let 1/2 have of the semester slide a little. Once I figure this one out for sure, that is one less thing I need to worry about.

Bullshit Detectors Set to Maximum

Just read this article at Ars Technical:

Consumer advocates cheered as New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer took music labels to task last year for allegedly bribing radio stations to play certain artists. The resulting payola scandal managed to dig up incriminating evidence against a host of radio stations and labels, but it hasn't yet opened the airwaves to more diverse music. In fact, the opposite has happened; radio today is more homogenous than it was a year ago.

The article goes on to say that people are afraid to play non top 40 songs because they may get investigated for going and doing anything unusual.

Grrrr if you had more than a 15 song play list to begin with, sticking in Cake's Mahna Mahna wouldn't be suspicious, it would be part of being a useful DJ, instead of a cog in some machine.

For all these reasons I gave up on comercial radio about 6 years ago. In the last year I was introduced to Radio Paradise, a listener supported, online radio station, that has a really good and broad mix of music. Because they are listener supported, there are no comercials, so in a 1 hour block you get 59.5 minutes of music, and .5 minutes of station identification, and "buy our stuff" so the station can stay online.

Before a trip to Vermont, I did about a day of stream capture of Radio Paradise, so that I'd have good music to listen to on the road. Given this representative data set, I decided I'd try to get some ideas about the play list of RP. In this block of time they played 324 songs. There were no repeated songs. The maximum number of songs played by a single artist was 5, the artist being Jonny Cash. It happened to be the week the Jonny Cash movie was coming out, so I'm assuming they had a few requests for that as well. That's what I call diverse radio, with a useful DJ running it.

I love you Radio Paradise! Especially when you play Cake's Mahna Mahna. 😉

Brisco County Jr on DVD

Brisco County Jr has finally made it to preorder status on Amazon. We've been watching digital transfers of really old VHS recordings of this recently, and I can't wait to buy the series with a real video transfer. 🙂

For those unfamiliar, Brisco County Jr was a year long series on network TV with Bruce Campell years ago. It is a Western, that takes a lot of liberty with historical elements at the turn of the 20th century, and has a sci-fi story arc going on at the same time. Basically all the cheese you'd expect from Campell, but probably some of the best bits of TV he's ever done. If you like Army of Darkness, you'll like this.

Wild Web Weekend

While Sunday I was off curling all day, Saturday managed to be a pretty reasonable day for getting things done for the wedding, shower, and other obligations.

I put together the automatic gallery script for Mike Fogg's Website, so he can upload more pictures though an easy form that I gave him. Mike still needs to give me some proper text for his site, so I'm still awaiting that. Susan threatened to do that without him if he doesn't respond soon, as the lack of that on Mike's website is probably hurting him more than the lack of pictures was.

The wedding website moved to here. Yes, it's a wiki (which I know Dan will get on my case about). But it looks a lot better than the old site, and makes it easier for Susan to add content to it. I also suspect that my mom, and a couple others will want to add bits, so that provides an easy way to do that as well. I need to add that to my backups soon.

Wedding planning got a lot more specific, and organized. We've got the master list of everything that needs to be done now, and Susan and I are taking various items and just doing them. We're 5 months out, so time is getting a little short, though the end of the semester is going to help some.

Evites went out for the Memorial Day party last friday, hopefully we'll end up with the same 40 or so folks from last year, plus maybe a few more. Need to invite more of the neighbors this time around.

And we're actually getting our butts in gear on the bathroom remodeling. While I'm not thrilled on the price, I am thrilled about the idea of having a shower panel, and marble floors (purchased). I think we found the furniture we want this weekend at home depot, so the remaining elements needed are:

  • Toilet (can do that at the last minute)
  • Shower Light
  • Shower Wall Tile
  • Shower floor mosaic

The Wall tile is the biggest issue right now. Amusingly enough, the walls in the bathroom at Panera actually are really close to what we want, now we just need to find out where they source their tile from. 🙂