Saturday, October 18, 2003

Trek stuff

Stardate 57101.8 (10-18-2003)

I've been wandering the net again. I went over to Wil Wheaton's site. The captain visits here regularly. I do on occasion, but I don't usually find too much that interests me. I did today. The entry was a letter to the Cubs fan that caught the foul ball in game 6. He goes on to tell 'that guy' he knows how he feels. Wil was on a 'cult TV show', where he got some rough treatment from the fans. Of course, I and some of the readers of this blog will know he is talking about his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I didn't realize until now how bitter he still is about it. On the other hand, he taking steps to deal with it. It could be worse. Rush Limbaugh for years gave a hard-line stance against drug users. Does the same apply to him now that he admitted to drug addiction?

One thought that struck me while reading this. Many of the blogs have a link to place comments. I am not thinking of putting something like that here, but on the Enterprise reviews. It seems to be an obvious idea, and I wonder why it did not occur to me before.

On the Code Project, I found this article on the good and evil of moving development off-shore. There were some good points. I found the one about the lack of programmers in India driving up the salaries interesting. I don't hate these people, but I would like to compete on a better footing. I always look for ways to be more efficient One point I did miss from this is that the region is more unstable than the U.S., and development project can disappear in a blink of an eye.

Wednesday I had a meeting at my kids school to go over the computer situation. It's pretty sad. It's an old building, so the electrical system is not up to the job. The power pulled by the labs overwhelms the circuits and blows fuses. The have a hodge-podge of systems and OSs. There are at least five separate networks, and the two campuses have no connection. The first task of the new group is to inventory what is there, and make recommendations to the principal. She's not very computer literate, so I gather she is not as supportive of computers in the school as some would like. The leader of the volunteer group is gung-ho, and he wants everything networked together (preferably wireless),  instant messages, with e-mail and Internet access. It will be interesting to see what he can get away with.  One of the things you expect out of a private school is a better education. Computer skills are now necessary, and every school has a program. This one is not where I think it should be. I would like to eventually see a web server that the older kids could play with putting pages on.

I had a short conversation with Brady Jugler at the Senior Officers Meeting Friday night. I asked if he had some time to show me Flash. He readily agreed, and then asked how I had done the rotating image on the ship web site. I told him it was done with JavaScript. He told me that it would work better in Flash, and why. All good points, but to me the con of that is you need Flash to change it. With Javascript, you only need Notepad, vi, or your favorite text editor. To add a new image, you add one line to add an element to a list:
    image_list[image_index++] = new imageItem("float.jpg");
 image_list[image_index++] = new imageItem("enterprise.jpg");
image_list[image_index++] = new imageItem();

The script can be changed to slide show the images in order, or randomly by changing a single variable in the script.

Wil talks about Cubs fans having a passion for the team and how this passion is the same as the one Star Trek fans have for the TV show. I agree. The same passion exists for programming languages, editors, operating systems, book genres, music, and just about everything important to us in life. The previous paragraph is another example. I don't have an overriding need to use Javascript, but it was the best solution given the limitations I have for the site. I could have done it a number of other ways, and my request to Brady was aimed at finding more skills. Brady definitely has a passion for Flash, but I have found that same passion to blind people to different ideas and ways of doing things.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Stardate 57101.4 (10-14-2003)

The Frightmares activity went well, except for Lagoon insisting that we remove all uniforms, insignia, and costumes. I was nervous about taking three kids of widely different interests by myself. But they did well. It was kind of sad to see that Rachel is too big to ride on the kiddy rides by a few inches now. 

The new benefits enrollment  information came in at work on Friday. The number of plans offered went from 4 to 1. The amount they will reimburse for such things as surgery went from 90% down to 85%. The copay goes up from $15 to $20. There is no word on the premiums, but my guess is that they will go up. I wonder what the point of doing the enrollment is. What choices are there?

I was reading in the Sunday paper this morning that techies are having to learn job hunting and interviewing skills. Because of the dot com crash, the recession, and overseas competition, jobs are scarce. I find this frightening. I have not interviewed for a job since 1987. My resume' is up to date, but I don't have any ready answers to job interview questions and those skills are very bad.

Rachel is still struggling with math, but she is doing better. She objects to studying it, because she says there is no use for it. So it was ironic that Thomas came downstairs that day saying that he only had four stuffed animals, and Patrick had seven. Rachel turns around on the stool and informs him he needs to find three more. I asked her how she knew that, and she grumbled that ok, she used math. 

Monday one of the analysts comes around looking for documentation on the server program I work on. She needed it to write up requirements for a new program they have been working on to replace it. That made me feel rotten. It's like someone planning your hanging and having you hand over the design for the gallows. 

So in thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that losing the job is not a big deal. After all, I have been unsatisfied with the level of challenge and the lack of opportunity to learn new things. What bugs me the most is that I have no clear idea of where I want to go. The goal was to be a senior level developer, and I have been so for years now. There is always new things to learn, but I need a new goal. It makes it hard to answer the question of where I want to be in five years. 

I have been doing a lot with the ship website. This is an ongoing project, and I am having fun with it. There is lots to do with it, and with the operations site and this one. April has become pretty good at keeping the brownie troop site up to date.  These sites are the few places I get to do visual work with. Everything I do at Ingenix is behind the screen, so to speak. Usually I don't hear anything until something goes wrong.

I hope that no one gets offended by the zombie story I included in the review of Impluse. It came to mind very quickly on watching this episode. Zan has a strange sense of humor. It's still going because when he found out I was part of the Ticonderoga group, he took to calling me ol' Ticonderoga Tim. I've held on to the zombie letter for more than a decade just because it's a different perspective on this genre.

End of Entry

Monday, October 06, 2003

Two log entries in as many days.

Stardate 57100.6 (10-06-2003) 

Two log entries in as many days. I was just now idly wandering the net, browsing one of geekdom's holy shrines, SlashDot.org. I found an interesting article on software fashion. It got me thinking about the technologies. I've played with each of the three they single out. The first is Enterprise Java Beans a.k.a. EJB. I never did too much with this, because it was meant for distributed networks and that meant I needed a network. I was never sure what issues this technology was designed to address. 

The second is Struts. The issue this was meant to address was the variety of display devices. I agree with the author, it was good in concept, but way to complex. One of the design issues I consider each time I write a program is the fact that I will need to come back to it and make modifications. In this case, complex is not good. Actually, I can't think of when complex is good. Past entries have stated what I have been playing with, C/C++, Perl, Java, and C#. Each time I have come up with a task, each of these has been able to fulfill the job. Each has weaknesses, but if you know what those are, then you can make them dance to the tune. 

The last is my favorite: Extreme Programming or XP. I like this one because when it was a big fad, I bought the concepts. Basically, it took the best practices of other methodologies and took them to extremes. If unit testing was good, build automated unit testing that runs each time you make a change. If code reviews were good, put two programmers at the same computer, with one reviewing the code the other is writing (pair programming). I put a lot of this to practice, and found some flaws. Automated unit testing was good, but it fast became a monster that smashed its' head into the immoveable and immutable object called THE DEADLINE. Pair programming fell to a personality flaw of mine that my carpool buddy points out each time he ponders an answer I give to his questions. "Don't get bored and wander away!". I found the answer, and I want to move on. 

Yes, April, blah, blah, blah. Thomas has decided that he no longer wants to wear diapers. This was brought on by pressure from Dad, his brother and sister, but mostly from friends. He's been successful a few times, but it's an uphill battle. 

End of Entry

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Jason Fox Comic, Soccer

Stardate 57100.5 (10-05-2003)

I read in Discover magazine about Technorati, a web site that tracks links and commentary in the expanding world of Web logs. It has a breaking news page that ranks news items by how many times they are references in blogs, and not by the number of major news source references that Google and others used. If a large number of professional organizations run a particular story, it shows up in Google. If the majority of bloggers tracked by Technorati ignore it, it won't show up there. I thought it was an interesting concept. I checked it out, but only one item caught my attention today. It was a story about how millions of technical and service jobs, including call center jobs, are going to India.

Thursday is supposed to be swimming lessons for Rachel and Patrick. The power blackout canceled the one that day, and the week before I got bad directions off the net and could not find it. It's getting frustrating for April and I, as well as the kids.

April and I went to a murder mystery fund raiser for the school on Friday. It was ok, just crowded and noisy. The actors where hard to hear. The other complaint was the single cash bar, and the long line in front of it. The joke was that the place was not used to Catholic functions.

We sent Patrick and Rachel to a friends house in Eden. We were worried about Patrick, who does not like sleeping away from home. It stormed pretty bad that night. The friends mother and Rachel said he did fine.

The soccer games on Saturday went well. Both Patrick's and Rachel's games were at the same time. So I arranged for a parent to coach Patrick's game. One of the kids was out of town, another was sick, and a third refused to play. So Patrick ended up playing the whole game. Rachel's game was against a team with some large girls. They still did well. The one part I would have liked to change was the fourth quarter. I would have put Rachel and one other girl named Fiona in against these girls. Oh, well, everyone had fun, which is the point. Rachel's friend, Audra, who she stayed with, did get hit in the face by accident.

At home after the games, I picked up my email and found out Captain Rex Rouviere found a job in Alabama, and will be moving away. The farewell was a 2 PM. I did manage to swing by and say goodbye. It would have been nice to stay, but I needed to get Patrick to the toy store to find a gift for a birthday party on Sunday. Rachel was also cooking dinner on her own for the first time. The captain did say some good things about me to the admiral. I appreciated that.

The birthday party on Sunday was at Dinosaur Park. It was good, and the kids got to run around freely. Thomas clung to me almost the whole time. But he does this a lot, so I wasn't surprised. Patrick got to play with friends, so it was a good thing.

April's mother is not doing well, so April is trying to fly out the last week in October. She has frequent flyer miles, but they require a Saturday stay over. She might fly out the 25th, which is the same day the fleet is going to the simulators. It looks like I won't be able to go. There are several other conflicts that day as well. It happens a lot that things all pile up on the same day.
I sent this around work Friday. I titled it "Bart Simpson could learn from Jason Fox". I was told it was a bright spot in a bad week for a lot of people. It does make me wonder what Bill Amends background is.

End of Entry

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Harlan Ellison quote, Borg Tax

Stardate 57100.1 (10-01-2003)

Some of the network services quit working (ftp, ping) after a crash. I used the System Restore feature to get them working again. To my surprise, it worked. I will have to remember that the next time I grumble about how much disk space it takes up.

The captain set me a Yahoo news article about the Amazing Race being renewed for another season after winning an Emmy over Survivor and American Idol. I have to admit being disappointed when season 3 of this show did not air last spring. It did finally air over the summer, which turned out to be much better anyway. Season 2 aired on Wednesday, the same time as Enterprise. Season 3 aired on Thursday. So knowing the fact that there will be another season is a relief.
Tuesday I found out that a couple of people had been let go that day. There was no reason given. The rumor is that corporate in Minneapolis mandated a percentage reduction for all offices. The manager doesn’t foresee any more layoffs, but then you never can tell. Four others are being moved to other projects. The bizarre thing is they have to apply to those positions through an outside recruiter. How does this save any money?

I found this quote:
"When they say, 'Gee it's an information explosion!', no, it's not an explosion, it's a disgorgement of the bowels is what it is. Every idiotic thing that anybody could possibly write or say or think can get into the body politic now, where before things would have to have some merit to go through the publishing routine, now, ANYTHING." - Harlan Ellison
ST and Sci-f  fans will recognize the author. I guess its true, but is this a bad thing? I entered into doing reviews of Enterprise on a whim, and some of them are very negative. But they are my opinion, and others have their own. Some people loved the same episode I didn’t care for. If they present arguments as to why, I might change my opinion. There is a lot of subjects out there. For instance, this blog on the Civil War . And this: Talk like a pirate

April read my last entry just as I had most of it done. She skips over the Star Trek comments with ‘Blah, blah’, and reads the stuff that interests her. This will probably become an innate ability for my kids. RSS is technology that attempts to do something similar, according to some in the media.

One of the parents at St. Joseph's is looking for volunteers to do some IT work. I just emailed him and volunteered. It would be good experience, and a chance to network in case my current job runs out.

I added a borg tax questions to the humor section. I found the questions on the net in 1993.  I forwarded it around the office, and my boss forwarded it to a friend he knew that worked for H&R Block. The answers are his. 

Q. Do we file as individuals or as a corporation?
A. As a corporation only if each borg is in "good-standing" with the local planet's franchise tax commission. And properly capitalized!
Q. Can we deduct the cost of building/operating the Borg ships as a business expense? <<
A. Only if the operations can show a "business intent" -- otherwise, it's just a fun loving hobby.
Q. Does assimilating a world count as a Capital Gain? Can we use our one-time deferment after we've assimilated the known Universe?
A. The one-time deferment is available only if you have not assimilated any other Known Universe's within a time period which extends exactly 24 months prior to and after the current assimilation.
Q. Can we claim mileage credit?
A. Only if you have a valid "log book" and deviations from the standard rate per galaxy/mile equivalent are frowned on.
Q. If the IRS audits the Borg, is it against the tax codes to assimilate them? Rather, could we simply destroy them?
A. Destruction of the tax codes or documental evidence is plainly discussed in Section 7453 -- "Rules of Practice, Procedure and Evidence" -- believe an adequate paraphrasing would be that "if you can't find the body, you don't have a crime....."
 End of Entry

Friday, September 26, 2003

Star Trek: Enterprise

Stardate 57092.6 (9-26-2003) 

I sent the captain a link to a story about resurrecting Dr. Who, but he had seen a similar one and already included it in his latest log entry. He also had a link to an MSNBC story that echoed a TV Guide article back in March. I read it, and it did have some good suggestions. One was to add a catch phrase or two, like "Beam me up, Scotty", "Make it so", and "Resistance is futile". I wondered a couple of months back about that same thing. But DS9 and Voyager really didn't have anything like that, so I didn't think it would make much difference. On the other hand, it might help. Another good point is the lack of a character trying to find themselves, such as Spock, Data, Worf, Odo, the EMH, and Seven of Nine. These characters don't have a mold to fit into, so they have to try and make one. This gives a good mirror on humanity. 

Other points, though, made me wonder if the author watches the series, or just glanced at some scenes. The point about adding humor is one. My favorite episode of Enterprise so far is "Cogenitor". The plot is about a race with three genders. Trip hesitantly questions Dr. Phlox about how that works, and Phlox dances over to a monitor and gleefully announces, "I've got PICTURES!" Does the writer need a laugh track? The point on a crossover for an actor in one of the other series is good for one episode, but I don't see this 'fixing' anything. 

The idea of Trek being worn out or dying is dumb. I have reviews of what are now considered some of the best episodes of TNG collected off the net after the episode aired for the first time (and sometimes before I got to see it). They had themes common to reviews I have seen of Enterprise and Voyager, such as it's not as good as the series before, the writers don't know what they are doing, etc. The ratings for Enterprise are not as good as TNG, but then what other sci-fi show was on then? Having read Captain Stark's comments, I'll agree with them. There are good episodes, and bad ones (suggest watching "Justice" from TNG and I may get violent). And if they take it off , the fans and critics will be sorry. What will replace it is a cookie cutter medical or cop drama, "reality" show, or some stupid sitcom. 

Anyway, on to other things. April watches award shows, but I don't care for them. She had the Emmys on last Sunday, and I was pleasantly surprised. I may watch next year if they have the same format. In addition, if you every look at my links section, I am a fan of the Amazing Race. This show won an Emmy over Survivor and American Idol. Once every few years, a show I actually watch wins an award. 

Rachel, who has struggled with math quizzes every week, got 100% this Thursday. She has also lost her second tooth in two weeks. 

Thomas gives the impression he hates the preschool we have him in two days a week. But the the other night I put him and his brother to bed and I read "Ten Apples On Top". He got very excited and told me over and over again how they have that same book at his school. I think he has fun while he's there, but he hates going. 

There have been some changes at work. It has not been officially announced, but some people are being moved to other projects. One of them works with me. He's slow to understand things, and I have to spend a lot of time going over the same things every once and a while. My supervisor was worried about how his moving would impact my work. I had to bit my lip pretty hard. I can do the job by myself, but it's nice to have a backup for sick and vacation days. I haven't heard of any more layoffs yet. 

I started spending some time every day in the fitness room at work. For about 20 minutes, I lift weights and use the workout equipment. I did a mile and a half on the treadmill Monday. That leaves me sweating a lot, so I have to have a change of clothes. This week was not my turn to drive, so that was the only day. Next week I want to get back to it. 

The install problem with the Windows server program actually turned out to be interesting. It took me about six hours to find out what was going on (rough estimate, I get interrupted to look at other things and answer questions a lot). The install asks the machine for detail on the same server application already installed. The question was apparently translated into a remote procedure call (RPC) to the machine registry. There was a memory area allocated for the answer. The call failed because it didn't like the way the memory was allocated. I guess the fact the MS Blaster worm took advantage of the a bug in the same allocation made Microsoft get fussy about how it is done. Their documentation could have been clearer on the issue, though. 

Well, April has already read most of the stuff in this she is interested in. It's time for bed (or as my daughter put it at age 2, I go hide). 

End of Entry

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Stardate 57092.3 (9-23-2003) 

Rumors are flying that more layoffs are on the way. The latest is that 15 people will be let go on October 14th, after the turnover of the next version. Sales are way off, so if a critical one does not go through by then, they will go. I'm pretty sure I am not one of those, but you never know until it happens. The have a hard time when I am sick or on vacation, and I don't think anyone else has a clear idea of everything I do. The last quarterly meeting they told us we were making a profit. However, we are not meeting the expected growth, so the revenue is down. I'm not sure why that has to translate into layoffs.

Another bit of information. One of the people who worked there longer than me (and I've been there 14 years) was either let go or left voluntarily. Another will be retiring at the end of the year. So I am higher on the list of those who have been there the longest. Seniority doesn't count for much, though.

Rachel is doing better on the math quizzes. I think by next week she will be able to do the 30 problems in two minutes and get them all correct as well. 

Here's the funny or not end to the entry. A Father-Son Legacy

End of Entry

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Soccer, DataGrid Girl, and Microsucks

Stardate 57092.1 (9-21-2003) 

Rachel's soccer team put in an excellent showing this weekend and the weekend before. The weekend before was a hard game for both teams, and proof of this was the game ended in a 2-2 tie. Rachel came close to scoring another goal. She was right in front of the goal when time ran out. I was very proud of the girls, every one of them played as hard as they could. The game this weekend was a breeze. It started with one of the forwards getting the ball, running it down to the goal and scoring. The whole first quarter was an endless repeat of that. I think the other team scored one goal. AYSO doesn't keep score or standings, but I think we have one of the best teams in the age group. Another St. Joe's coach wants to do some scrimmage between his team and mine. I think mine would dominate. 

 Patrick's game the week before came with it's own surprise. One of the kids we carpool to school with signed up, and I put him in the last open slot on the team. He played for the first time with no practice. He went in the second quarter and scored twice on fast breaks. His older brother plays, so I think he learned quite a bit there. He did the same this week. Patrick had some trouble early on with fast breaks by the other team. I explained that he needed to get in front of the other player. He did this, and the result was the other team scored less. I did notice that the new kid is thin and wiry, so he is fast. Patrick is not quite so fast, but he is strong. He plants his foot in front of the ball to stop it, and the other kid goes tumbling. 

Patrick has been having trouble at practice with fits of anger. I now think doing both the girls and the boys on the same day is just too hard on both Rachel and Patrick. By 7 o'clock both are whining badly. I am going to have to move Patrick's practice to Thursdays. 

Work has been busy. They decided to update from Oracle 8i to 9i. The server program wouldn't run because of what appears to be an incompatibility. I recompiled the Windows version under 9i, and it works. I tried the UNIX version, but 9i is 64-bit only. So this will take a little more work. IT also put service pack 4 on all the machines. A day later on of the DBA's came over and reported the install program quits without doing anything. Another incompatibility. Combine this with numerous client issues and I have not had time to do the programming I wanted to get done. Part of this is my fault. I changed permissions on my login to check the install, and could not change them back. This prevented me from doing the normal setup for the new cycle for a few days. 

The URL I sent around last week that stated Microsoft replaced their Windows DNS servers with Lindex got some return fire this week. One of my coworkers sent another article that said Linux has three times the number of attacks Windows does. This make me wonder how may firewalls and DNS servers are running Linux versus Windows. The article didn't say. Maybe the number is 3 to 1.

Someone needs to tell DataGrid Girl that Microsuck.com has been around a long time. She complained that what's bad about Microsoft had incorrect and outdated information. When some the info was put together, it was correct. The attitude at Microsoft is slowly changing, at least according to some the the developer blogs. They used to dump new features into products without thinking to much about them. One manager now thinks some of these should never have been implemented.

Rachel is having problems with math in school. She really doesn't like math now, but I think a lot of that comes from the problems. The school is making the students do 30 problems (2 + 4, 5 + 3, etc) in two minutes. I'm not sure I agree with pressuring the kids like that, but I could be wrong. 

 The captain made a quick mention of my reviews at the last activity. I haven't checked yet to see if anyone else has read them, but if not, oh well. I enjoy going to watch them with the regulars at his house every Wednesday. I miss Ray Meyer being there, since he has moved to Boston (or Leominister, pronounced LEM-inster). I did appreciate the captain's comments at the senior officers meeting about my keeping the ship website up to date. 

 No humorous end to the entry again this week. I just have not had the time to find anything. 

End of Entry

Thursday, September 11, 2003


Stardate 57091.1 (9-11-2003)

The RIAA has sued 126 people this week for downloading and sharing copyrighted music. Downloading the music is stealing, and wrong, but I tend to think this is the wrong approach. The problem is that the industry failed to take new technology into account, and the failed to deliver on promises. I believe that the philosophy of an eye for an eye leaves a bunch of blind people, but I will admit to some satisfaction the music giants are having so much trouble over this. I am old enough to remember when CD’s were new. I saw a number of sales people purposely scratch the top of a CD, and then demonstrate that it still played perfectly. Now I have older CD’s that have bad skips in them, even though I cannot see any damage. The recording industry made promises of cheap $1 to $4 discs. I have not seen anything less that $8. I can’t count how many times I have wished to get a single song, and was stuck with buying the whole CD. The industry failed to keep up and take advantage,  and now everyone pays. The software industry has struggled with this for more than a decade, and the solution is still elusive.

On Wednesday, I looked out the window to see white on the tops of the mountains. It’s been a long time since I have seen snow at this time of the year. It occurred to me during the big influx of people into Utah during the early nineties that the biggest problem areas were going to be power and water. If I were a Ferengi, I would have found some way to profit off of this.

I decided to try reviewing the season three episodes of Enterprise. I removed the Soapbox item, since it has been there for months, and I have yet to do what I intended to do with it. I might move the reviews to the Ops site, but first I need to tear it down and rebuild the site. There is just too much maintenance involved it the LCARS interface, at least the  way I did it. I might come up with a new way to do it, but for now I think I will go with a simpler format. There are a number of things I’d like to do with the site, including a discussion forum, possibly a Wiki, and some games.

I received an email today from one of the web development people. He wanted to reboot the server, and noticed that I was on it. I told him no, I had some intense testing going on. He wrote back to complain that we were always blocking his efforts, and he had deadlines. He also pointed out that he had cc'ed the department manager. He wanted to know if these things were going to continue. I replied that in the past seven years I had happily shared one Windows server after another, only to get kicked off a few months later. I told him I had filled out the request to purchase this machine, waited nearly two years to get the machine he complained about. I also wrote that the people he was including had told me I had priority on the machine. I also included a few more managers. I really don't like it when someone tries to intimidate me. 

Usually I like to end these entries with some humor. But today is 9/11. Two years ago this morning things in the world changed. I am not happy with this change, and I doubt few Americans are. But the nation can deal with this, as it has with past crisis such as Dec 7, 1941. Things will not return to the way they were. I like to think that in time, I can write how this time strengthened our character, and made humanity better. In the meantime, pause a moment to think about the people who were in the WTC towers, in the Pentagon, on the planes that hit them, and on flight 93. Think for a moment of those in the Bali nightclub, and of all the other places where death has occurred at the hands of a single fanatic. Think a moment about the soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and overseas bases who are separated from loved ones. Think for a moment of the children of Israel and Palestine, who live with fear of a suicide bomber daily. Now wish for the time when I write about all of that as a bad memory, never to occur again. Who knows, it may come true.

End of Entry

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Brownies, games, and such

Stardate 57090.7 (9-7-2003)

It's been a longer delay in log entries than it has been the last few months. The primary reason is the new format. You're reading this, so you know I have removed the log entries from the sliding menu, and put them under a calendar. The calendar has links on the days where there is a log entry. There are still a few things to work out, like formatting the text around the calendar, and the fact that if you click on an entry in previous months, it goes back to the current month. But it basically works the way I want it to. The other thing this saves me is renumbering the array entries for the sliding menu each time I added a new one. The script looks for a particular format in the file names, and appends the appropriate one to the page.

Another project I have up and going is the Troop 25 Brownie site. It's pretty basic, but the CONTENT is what is important. The feedback has all been positive. I also notice my hit stats went up sharply after putting the site up. 

Rachel does not like the fact that her teacher, Mrs, Jefferies, yells at the class. She is not yelling at Rachel, but at other kids in the class for talking. Rachel is just sensitive about adults yelling. Both Rachel and Patrick are still adjusting to the long days at school. Patrick caught a cold. More and more this causes asthma-like symptoms. He is also complaining that the other boys at school do a lot of running at recess, and he can't keep up because he has trouble breathing. He is on a steroids and some anti-cough medicine so he can sleep at night. I am seeing a marked improvement today. 

I occasionally play with plastic lightsabres with my boys. Patrick has recently developed the technique of hitting high, then switching low suddenly. About one of three times he can get a touch on me this way. He pretty proud of that. I keep thinking I should enroll him in fencing classes, but you need to be eight to start at the local classes. April would object as well.

The first soccer games were yesterday. Everything went well. The biggest complaint I got as a coordinator was that the grass was too long on the U6 boys field. Rachels' game was strange in that we only played three quarters instead of four. All of the parents were a little surprised when the game was over. It makes it a little hard to play each player half the game when they do that.

The bad part of coordinator is that I have put two girls on the U6 boys teams, and I missed one boy altogether. So there are some lessons to learn. The first is to start earlier building teams. The second is to enter all the kids in the spreadsheet, so any boys too young can be found early. Third, check the gender of each entry. Fourth, backup the spreadsheet each time I make changes. Fifth, have only ONE copy on the machine. 

Work is pretty busy. The testing last month was never completed, so I have not had a chance to try the updated procedures that will speed it up. This months testing turned up a problem in the Windows version. Dave North has been trying to install Oracle 9i on the server, so the environment keeps changing. At the division quarterly meeting, they told us we were a half a million behind projected revenue, mainly due to acquisitions not  performing as well as expected, and a slow sales pipeline. So they are falling back to cutting costs, which means layoffs. There have been a few more middle managers laid off already, and there are probably more on the way.

The captain went up to Island Park, Idaho, last weekend. This is just outside of Yellowstone Park. He and his family visited Yellowstone. The new season of Enterprise starts this week, and he is having viewing parties at his house. I'll have to ask them how they enjoyed it and if the fires were still going in the east end of the park. This also means the stardate at the top goes from 56 to 57.

End of Entry

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Issues at work

Stardate 56083.0 (8-30-2003)

Most of this week was spent either at work or on soccer. Work was frustrating. The monthly comparative testing needed to be redone. The powers that be wanted it done by someone else, because despite the fact I have documented the process step by step, no one else can figure out how to do it. So I walked a coworker through it. It crashed, and panic ensued because no one could find out why. I get blasted for not helping. I had sent CrashFinder to the guy, and another coworker sent the Dr. Watson logs to him. The guy is still stuck. Finally, I had him sit behind me and watch as I walked back through the call stack addresses  In about a minute, I found a piece of code that was allocating pointers for 5 array slots, and freeing 6. Next, the code had been there for three months, so I was quizzed on why this never showed up before. There has been a flurry of patches and software installs on the server over the last two weeks. Any one of those could have uncovered the issue.

I've had a lot of calls and messages about someone's daughter signed up for soccer, and has not heard from the coach yet. I took down the numbers, and informed the appropriate age coordinator. April and I are puzzled why these calls are coming to us. April thinks that people at the kids school now refer to her as Mrs. AYSO soccer. I have not heard any complaints from my U6 boys parents, so I am hoping I did ok. I did notice that the rosters that were handed out the the coaches were not the most up to date ones.

Practice for both Rachel's and Patrick's team went pretty well. I was surprised that some of the girls on Rachel's team have not played before. 

Blogging is of course all the rage on the net now. I guess these personal logs fit the category. Some of the Microsoft people are blogging in Got.Net. One thing I did notice was that I blog more frequently than most. There are a couple of MS guys that make two or three entries a day, but most of the ones I read are updated every few days to once a month. Some give interesting insights on the culture and changes at MS. The technical support needed lots of help. The BLASTER worm caused MS to pull quite a few from other teams to help combat it.

One person went the the Linux Expo. He said his badge had MICROSOFT printed in nice, big letters. The most frequent comment he got on this was, "Well, at least you are not SCO". SCO is suing IBM. They say that Linux includes code they have copyrights on. They have replaced MS as the big evil in the open source world. Their web server was down last weekend due to a denial of service attack. They are offering anyone with Linux a $699 license. Considering anyone who has the OS got it for considerably less than that, if not free, I don't think they will get much response.

Microsoft now relies on Linux now to protect them from viruses and worms, as well as DOS attacks. A friend verified that the servers in Salt Lake are not running Windows anymore.

I found a some funny stuff this week.

The Mac Killed My Inner Child (language warning).
Google knows the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

I personally liked the C program that demonstrated the flaw in Deep Thought.

With all the other viruses coming up in the news, this one was good for a chuckle:

You have just received the Amish virus. Because we don't have any computers, or programming experience, this virus works on the honor system. Please delete all the files from your hard drive and manually forward this virus to everyone on your mailing list. We Thank Thee.The Amish Computer Engineering Department

The buzz for the past couple of weeks is the Star Wars Kid. Some of the discussion around the net is about what a fat, pathetic loser the kid is. The site gets millions of hits each day, so I would guess the pathetic losers are not a minority. Then there are the people that take the time to make all the variations. It's amazing how one video that was probably done on the spur of the moment generates so much interest.

End of Entry

Monday, August 25, 2003

New school building - St. Benedict

Stardate 56082.5 (8-25-2003)

The SoBig F virus variant has been causing lots of trouble; at least that’s why I assume the network has been slow. I notice it more at work then at home.

Cognizant, the Indian consulting company has had some strange issues. On one application that dumps information to a fixed format file, they reported that null values in the database were written as blanks on the output. I’m not sure what they expect to see. Should the application make up stuff to put in there? They have been good at finding documentation errors.

The C# project is now coming along nicely. I’m ready to test, but other testing needs to be done first. One thing I did learn from this is that Oracle hates multiple threads on one connection. I remember someone telling me that before. Oh, well, now it is firmly in my mind. I also found a neat way of parsing command line arguments. Ray Hayes put together an object to parse the args to properties in an object. This does away with clumsy if/else and switch constructs. Another feature of his class is that it uses C# object attributes to alias arguments to the same property. Therefore, things like ‘-u’, ‘—u’, ‘user’, and ‘name’ can all do the same thing. The next step is to build the reports into it as XML documents.

School started up again. Rachel and Patrick got up and ready in no time. They were both anxious to get back to school and see friends. They are also going to a new building purchased last spring. Grades K-2 will go there, and 3-8 goes to the old building. The school needed more room. The family went to see the new St. Benedict’s ‘campus’ last Friday. It’s nice, but I was surprised at how small it was. I thought it used to be a public school at one time, although not recently.

I did manage to take the kids fishing on Sunday. It was great fun, although a little hot in the morning and we didn’t catch anything. People around us were catching fish. I never was a good fisherman, but I still like to do it. It did keep the kids outdoors, and we all got some exercise. I would like to try doing this at different place each Sunday if the weather is good.

The bad/good news is that Gail Meyer, Ray’s wife, got a promotion, so the Meyer family is transferring to Boston. I’m happy for them, but I will miss Ray. Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet, so communication over long distances is easy. I was asked to take over the job of Chief of Operations, and I accepted. Ray handed a hat he had made in Orlando to me. that says “USS Ticonderoga – OPS Chief”.  I will admit to being touched.

End of Entry

Tuesday, August 19, 2003


Stardate 56081.9 (8-19-2003)

The wife, kids, and I went to Yellowstone Park the end of last week.

We had a good time. We drove all over, except the east entrance, which was closed by fire. The kids were most impressed by the animals. There certainly were a lot of bison. It seemed that each time we drove over to the east, we were delayed by bison standing in the road. The cabin we stayed in was pretty much like a hotel room, with lights, bathroom, beds, coffee maker, and more. The major difference was the kids could go out back and play in the trees, chasing squirrels, gathering rocks and sticks, and just have fun.

The geysers and mud pots did not impress the kids too much. I am always in a state of wonder that about one hundred thousand years ago, the area was a volcano. It still is, in a way. The old volcano powers the geysers and mud pots. My kids talk about volcanoes quite a bit, and I tried to explain that they were now in an old one. One hundred thousand years is not all that long ago, geologically speaking. The dinosaurs had been long gone before that.

We took a walk up to the grand canyon of Yellowstone. The kids all had to have walking sticks. 

 Of course, lots of wildlife. I had to do a lot of talking to convince April the buffalo were not tame even though they seemed like it.

Patrick and Rachel participated in the Junior Ranger program. They filled out a few puzzles, answered questions on what their favorite animals and features were. The part I liked is that in order to get a patch, they needed to attend one ranger lead talk. The ranger was 73 years old, and he gave a good talk. He lead a group of kids partway up a trail. One of the stops looked down the grand canyon of the Yellowstone. He told everyone that the view was the same for your parents when they were kids, and the same for the native Americans before the white man came. He then lead them to a tree where a bear had marked his territory with claws. The last part showed trees taller than he was. He told the group that when he started working in the park seven years ago, the trees were only up to his ankle. 

All in all, a very good experience.

There was even a little ceremony and an announcement to everyone in the ranger station as Patrick and Rachel received the badges. I wish I would have known, because I left the camera in the car.

The typical issues waited for me returning to work on Monday. It seems I never need to worry about losing my job, because there are always things that no one else knows how to do. There was not as much e-mail as I usually get, so that was a relief. IT had to search all the laptops because the welchia worm got loose inside the company. The fix for the RPC hole was posted on July 16th. I am puzzled as to why they waited until the worm was loose before updating systems.

End Of Entry

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

C# Error

Stardate 56081.3 (8/13/2003)

I was looking into some strange things on my C# project, because ThreadPools do not work the way I expected. I found an article by Marc Clifton  that somewhat explains why. He recommended a ManagedThreadPool  class developed by Stephen Toub  at Microsoft that might work better. I went to get it, and discovered that I had it already. I’ll have to see if it works the way I want. 

Another article by Marc Clifton, “A Look At What’s Wrong With Objects” had a good paragraph in it about formal education.

“What happened to formal education? People get degrees nowadays to get jobs and better pay rather than actually learning something. Learning seems to have taken second seat in the orchestra of life. But there's some justification to this also. My experiences with institutes of higher learning here in the United States (and in particular, California), has been terrible. Antiquated machinery, obsolete programming courses using out of date operating systems and tools, and professors that grade on "following directions" rather than solutions that try to be efficient and high performance. And the biggest complaint of all--colleges and universities haven't a clue what real-life programming is like. Sadly, formal education seems to be a necessary evil at this point, at least in the computer science field. It used to be that universities were the leaders in innovation and research. Now they seem more a haven for the socially inept and "education" leaves one technically incompetent.”

I think this applies to a lot of areas, but I do find that new hires just out of college want step by step instructions on how to do something. Given that Utah is last in the nation for spending per student, I should not be surprised.

I also found a blog entry on GOTDOTNET.COM from Eric Gunnerson  praising generic programming., and some discussion by Don Box about it. I am guessing from this that the new specification to ECMA on .NET includes generic programming. The specification for Java 1.5 is also supposed to include this. Personally, that’s one of the things I love about C++. I can’t wait until some of these other languages implement it. I like the calendar on the right they use to go to different blog entries. I want to replace the scroll down menu on the left with something like this for the personal logs.

There was a message from Desktop services at work about the RPC buffer overrun bug and the Internet worm that takes advantage of it. I wonder why they took so long to distribute the message given how fearful they are of viruses. Microsoft calls the patch for this a HotFix. I would not have a problem with the term if it installed without having me reboot to activate it. The term hotfix means that you install it on a running system, and it starts up. If you need to reboot, then it’s a patch. Microsoft wants everyone to see it as an enhancement, instead of a bug fix. 

My sister, Susan, told me I don't use names in the logs. Most of the time this is on purpose. I like to 
respect people's privacy. She also told me it wasn't necessary to call me anymore, all she had to do is read these to find out what is going on with my family.  That was not the purpose and she said it as a joke, but I guess it is true.

I read in the paper that Senator Orrin Hatch wants to repeal Article II, Section I of the Constitution that says the President must be a natural born citizen. He says it's not just for Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I think that's the main reason. Another columnist in Sunday's Standard Examiner listed a list of events he said that proved the Republican party was trying to make the US a one party state. It was tongue in cheek, but I would be interested to see how much of it was true.

Last, as I review the entry, I was using the word interesting all over the place. I redid a lot of it, but I could replace some of those with fascinatingintriguing, or remarkable. A thesaurus can be so much fun. :)

End of Entry

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Van collision

Stardate 56080.9 (8-9-2003)

The van was in a collision last Thursday. I wasn't there, so I am not sure of the exact details. April was at a stop light, and a pickup truck hit the van behind her, which was pushed into ours. It's in the shop now. There was not much visible damage, but when I drove it home that night, the rear wheels vibrated badly. April said the electrical system winked off and on as well. I hope to get it back by next Wednesday for our trip to Yellowstone.

The AYSO under 6 boys soccer teams are finished, and I sent the list off to the coordinator, Doug Lawton. When I started this, I was told Doug was hard to get along with. He's an ex-F16 pilot, so he does come across as strict and bossy. On the other hand, if you have a problem with something, he is quick to help. So I can deal with the other. Lord knows I have plenty of personality flaws.

Patrick has been questioning me about when soccer is starting. It's good to see that he is still interested, even anxious to begin. I am coaching my daughter Rachel this year, too. So it's going to be very busy for the next few months. I read on theCaptain's log that his son is interested in sports. I might suggest soccer in the spring.

We dropped the second line and got DSL. It was finally hooked up last night. I have not really had much of a chance to do anything yet, but at least the web pages are much faster. The only problem is if I have to work from home, I need to use the primary phone for dial up. I might ask my manager for broadband access, but I don't think she will go for the expense.  

Rachel went to a Girl Scout camp at Weber Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week. She had lots of fun, but I can't see that she learned anything really useful. I went to pick her up on Wednesday, and arrived a little early. The flyer from the organizer said we needed to be there at 7:30 exactly, or our child would go to the Odgen police station. I sat in on the last of it that day, and they had a flag retirement ceremony. I'd never seen one before. They cut the 13 stripes from the flag one at a time, and each time the name of one of the original 13 colonies was mentioned. I wondered if it was in order of ratification of the Constitution, and this was confirmed when Rhode Island was the last one mentioned. I know they were the last one to ratify. 

The C# project is almost complete. It's been a fun little jaunt. Some things I tried did not work out as I would have thought. The problem this project is supposed to solve is the monthly testing. I need to sequence a growing number of items through a server program to check the results. But if the items are not done in a particular order, it shows up different on different OS platforms. I tried to create a thread pool queue in C#, but I found that the same item was being picked up by more than one thread. I then went to entering all the items in an array list, and having the threads pick up items out of the list. It seems to work pretty good, except the threads gradually die with database exceptions. If I can work that out, the project will be complete.

My carpool buddy had annoying problem. He is enhancing an old C application, one that I recommended redesigning 6 years ago. The testing went well for him, but another tester found a crash. The program was running off the end of an array, which in C is possible and always causes a crash. A coworker tried to run it in debug mode under Visual Studio.NET. It ran fine. After a whole day, he finally figured out that VS.NET was running the program on top of their Common Language Runtime (CLR), which is one of the centerpieces of the .NET framework. The CLR was detecting  the array overrun, and expanding the array. The program was not running on the CLR in release mode, so it crashed. We found a way to do the same thing he was trying to do without overrunning the array, and it ran faster to boot. I was not pleased that Microsoft decided to add things to a programming language that should not be there. 

This whole thing led into a heated discussion of language features, particularly automatic memory management. The point some made was that if C/C++ had memory management, this would have worked. I pointed out that the original approach was slow, and it would have been redone anyway. This just revealed it sooner. Automatic memory management is not a feature of a language I look for. It's ok to have, but there have been a few times when it got in the way. Last week I was reading similar topics on Bjarne Stroustup's web site. His opinion is that there is no one computer language that is best. I would agree with that. My C# project above was chosen because I wanted a language with multithreading support, and that produced an .EXE, and I wanted to play with something new.
April found a Time magazine article about how software development is moving offshore to India. It mentioned the same outfit that my company is using. A lot of developers have lost jobs over this. The whole thing has been the hot topic at work. It has people worried, and I think for good reason. A developer in India is paid $10,000, whereas one in the U.S. is paid $60,000. There is a movement to have the government put restrictions on it, but that will take years. I need to start taking steps to deal with the possibility.

I did find a couple of amusing Flash animations, Jedi Switch and Linux Supervillian.
Long entry this time, but it has been a busy week.
End of Entry

Friday, August 01, 2003

--> Stardate 57080.1 (08-01-2004)

Aha, the actress who plays T'Pol on Enterprise was not happy with the direction of the character either. I don't like a constant wimpy, weepy portrayal of a character such as this. Especially when she is Vulcan, who it has been emphasized over and over keep emotions under tight control. Star Trek has had quite a few strong female characters. One scene that sticks out in my mind is from the episode 'Conspiracy'. An admiral is under alien control, and beating up Worf. He does manage to summon security, and Riker comes, and gets beat up. Dr. Crusher walks in, the admiral charges, and she calmly shoots him with a phaser. I remember commenting after seeing it for the first time, 'Why didn't anyone else think of that?' 

The study of alternate propulsion is not dead. Warp drive may be possible according to a BBC article. NASA does have an advanced propulsion lab, but I don't think they are thinking this far ahead. 

Friday evening I took the dog to the animal ER in Sunset. His ears are a mess again. We found out after the first time this is a common thing in Labs. After a cleaning, and prescriptions for pills and a cream, he is doing better. He is wise to hiding the pills in peanut butter, or else he is tired of eating it three times a day.

Most of that day was spent hanging around the computer and phone, waiting for Home Depot to call back on the status of my deck railing. I placed the order a month ago. I know it's small from their perspective, but I'd still like to get the deck completed before the next snow.

So I spent some time wandering the `net and doing some programming. I read between 300-400 words per minute, according to this site. That's probably pretty accurate, but I wonder if I am faster with printed pages. I know studies have shown screen printing is not as clear as paper, and Microsoft and other companies are trying to make it better. A few at work wonder why I prefer black text on a gray background. One reason is that it reduces the red fringing I see because of the thick glasses. I see much better with contact lenses. I should pick up a new pair, but I have just been lazy. My insurance should pay for a new pair, which would be nice, since with my prescription the contacts are expensive, and have to be specially ordered. 

I did a first pass at a C++ program to count words. There are a few things to work out with it, although I thought I got the punctuation removed. If you are bored, this is the output. 'I' is the winner at 1,689 occurrences, followed by 'and' for 87 log entries. There are quite few that only show up once, which I hope means I am not repeating myself. I will tell when I get to one hundred.

I also watched some of the host of 'The Amazing Race' diaries that appear on the site. He seem a little miffed that one team took the hockey shots instead of the single shot of vodka from the blade of a sabre. The team didn't do that on religious principles. He went on about how it was not the cheap stuff, but the 'top of the shelf' kind. I thought that the challenge was easy. I would guess the game gets harder as you drink more, but they only had to do one shot. 

I added a few new blogs from Utah found here. Miss Cranky was there as well. I could register my site there. Of course, there are millions of bloggers out there. Ted Koppel of Nightline noted at the recent Democratic Convention that thirty years ago, there were only three networks covering it. Now there are hundreds of channels, and hundreds of individuals making their opinions public through blogging. Thomas Jefferson would be pleased. 

Saturday Rachel came home from a week at Camp Cloud Rim. This year she was ready to go, whereas last year she cried that she did not want to leave. She hasn't talked much about what she did there. She is still singing the songs, and says "Hullo, poppet" from 'Pirates of the Caribbean' all the time. We also went out and purchased a bunk bed set for the boys. The idea was to put them side by side, but Patrick is pressing to do the bunk arrangement. I am not sure if he fully realizes that he will miss out on some of the bedtime ritual he likes (reading, having myself or April sit on the end of the bed). 

Sunday, this morning in fact, I tried making the banana cream pie again. It is not done setting up in the fridge, but it already looks better than the first attempt. 

End of Entry

Slanted Fedora Convention

Stardate 56080.1 (8-01-2003)
I wrote up last weeks log entry, but never got around to posting it. So I will be posting two (this one and 56072.5) in one day. 

The convention was fun. It's the first time I've gone to one where I knew more than just one person. And it's the first one I've been to since StarFest 2000. The costumes were great. I loved the play Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips put on. Ethan went off the script a number of times, and Robert playfully slapped him for it. It may have been part of the act, but it was good all the same. My only disappointment was that I could not get a personalized photo with the two of them. Their plane was delayed in Las Vegas, so they had to skip doing that. I did chat with Robert in the bathroom.
The pictures from the convention seem to be popular. At least the number of hits was up this last week
The Borg is Eric Allan Hall
The Starfleet officier is Brady

Ray Meyer

About half the week I was sick, so there is not much else to write. I didn't get any further with anything. The need to get a calendar system for the logs is growing with the number of entries. When I started doing this, I was not sure if I would keep it up. But I find that I enjoy it.

Well, I guess two entries is good, considering how short this one is.

End of Entry