Thursday, September 29, 2005

And Speaking of "Banned..."

I've been getting a fair amount of comment spam lately, so I'm turning on the verification function. I do hope this won't discourage any of my legitimate commentators.

It was a hard decision. Entries like this latest one certainly provide some small entertainment value:

Feinstein versus file-sharing
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told a Judiciary Committee hearing this week that file-sharing networks may need to be shut down if they continue to traffic in illegal files.

Hey, your blog is very entertaining and informative. Thanks for keeping it fresh with good content. I have a site [link removed] about noise canceling headsets that you may like. Read our reviews on noise canceling headsets and see what you have been missing.

I'm not sure why this poster feels they have to precede their comment with a news brief. Not only does it counter their attempt to make the rest of the post look like a legitimate comment, but it's not even related.

Or is it?

By a show of hands, how many people would pay money for a headset that cancels the noise of Dianne Feinstein?

At any rate, I really do have to chuckle over this poor person's lousy attempt to look like a real comment. How many people really leave comments just to tell people they like their blog, and not mention more specific context? I mean really. I'd like to think my blog is "entertaining," but I hold no delusions of it being "informative."

But he's got to cover both angles, since he has no idea what type of blogs he is spamming. It could wind up in "Joe's Daily Joke Blog," but for all he knows, this could be dropped into "Dr. Harvey Nerdstein's Hudson Bay Mollusk Blog," where "entertaining" alone wouldn't cut it. So he drops in "informative," too. Which shows this person is really trying to look legit!

And "fresh?" Oh, please! Why not just say "Thanks for keepin' it real, homie. Peace out. Word." I post maybe once every few days on a good week, half the time I put myself to sleep. I'm far from "fresh."

And does anyone really promote their own sites in someone else's comments? Just what in my posting gives any indication that I'd be interested in noise canceling headsets? He's like the guy that you sometimes see at parties--you know the guy. You could all be having a meaningful discussion on British Literature in the Early Industrial Age, and this guy will break in with something like "I've got a ouija board at home. It told me I should ask out Brittany Spears. I think I'm gonna."

Finally, "come read our reviews...and see what you have been missing"? It's reviews of headsets! I'll take a wild guess and say I can't be missing much! It's almost like your TiVo sending you a message saying "Hey, you know all those commercials I've been filtering out? I've actually been saving them for you! Come see what you've been missing!" My time is somewhat limited, folks, and if I'm missing something chances are I WANT TO MISS IT!

Yes, I know, I'm taking this too seriously. But remember, this guy is trying to convince me he's a legitimate poster, not spam. Why? I don't know. If I were someone like The Manolo, who gets lots of comments and doesn't appear to read them closely, it MIGHT work. But I have a (very) small following. I NOTICE! The effect is the same if he takes this route or just drops in something like:

Bernie's Amazing Reviews of Noise Canceling Headsets! Free Pr0n and viruses to the first 1000 clickers!

I guess I won't miss these after all. Let the verification begin!

Garage Banned

I really need to get my garage shelving project finished up. Until I do I can't fit my car in the garage. So far it's not a really big problem, but soon I'll be scraping windows in the morning before I go to work. I know, tough life y'got there, pal.

I also have several more projects stacked up behind this one. I can't build my super-deluxe recycling sorter cart until I've got the shelves done. Neither can I get a desk in my den.

Home Depot has done their part to help me out. I went there the other night to get more wood for shelves. I mentioned to a clerk what I was doing, and he not only cut the sheets of particle board in half for me so I could fit them in the van easier, but he further cut the sheets into the size I need for my shelves. Instead of 4 2'x8' sheets I took home 20 shelves (plus scrap). What took him maybe five minutes (I LOVE their saw system!) would have taken me an entire evening, most likely. At no extra charge.

Maybe they'd do the same for me at the other big-box hardware store in the area, but they may never get the chance to prove it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My younger brother made the local paper:

Local man enjoys his 'British' restaurant

Flying darts, Harry Potter prints, and bad jokes...

Yup, sounds like my brother's place. Way to go, Ron! Keep it up!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Better Child-Rearing Through Gas

All three kids have colds to varying degrees, and the symptoms appear most at night. To help, we've put humidifiers in both rooms. As we were heading for bed ourselves last night Terhi noticed the hissing sound coming from the children's rooms and observed that it sounded like we were gassing them.

The imagery was further reinforced when we checked in on the two older kids. Walter was face down, sprawled sideways in his bed. Terhi joked that he'd been trying to get out of bed when the gas hit him.

You will be relieved to know that the gas we use has only a mild sedative effect, as it didn't seem to inhibit them from waking up the household this morning at 5:50 am.

I'd like to use the gas on our cats. The new house seems to have broken them out of their former, lay-about habits. As soon as the kids go to bed they start getting wild and chasing each other around the house like maniacs. It makes it rather hard to concentrate sometimes, especially when they play on the ground floor, which is entirely Pergo flooring. Two wild cats + Pergo flooring = More tap-dancing than a Gene Kelly movie. Really fun!

STANDARD DISCLAIMER FOR THOSE WHO FAILED THE SECOND-GRADE READING COMPREHENSION TESTS: No, we do not use gas on our kids or pets. We use gas for heating water and heating our air. The gas used in heating in no way comes into contact with the circulated air. We do not use canaries to check for gas. No children or animals were harmed in the writing of this blog entry.

Monday, September 26, 2005

It's Back

I need to get back into writing, so I've resumed work on "The Kevin C. McDaniels Project." A new segment is available.

A Rather Shelfish Weekend

We entertained our first guests in our new place this weekend. We had some friends over for dinner and conversation, and it went quite well. The kids were pretty cooperative, and the evening progressed without any uncomfortable lulls. All in all, I think everyone had a good time. Our new house will work well for entertaining--well enough that we may have to do it more often.

Saturday I built shelves. I didn't get as far as I would have liked, but I accomplished quite a bit, considering it turned out to be a "nested loop" type job. I would start the shelves only to find that I needed to do something else first. I'd then start on that only to realize that something else would need to be done before I could accomplish that job, and so on.

So after moving the cabinet on the wall over about eight inches, assembling the plastic shelves from our previous garage and finding places for them, and sorting through the boxes of bottles and cans to be stored, I finally got to work on the shelves. I got shelving cut and installed in two of the five sections, and bottles loaded onto one section.

That will hopefully hold me until I have time to cut more shelves. The saw is so noisy (and dusty! I had no idea that MDF produced so much dust!) that I can't do it while the kids are trying to sleep, which limits my hours of operation greatly. But I'm hoping that by the time I get the plastic shelves and the remaining section of completed shelves loaded there'll either be nothing left to store for now, or it will be a few days later and I'll have time to cut some more shelves before the kids go to bed. We'll see.

I'm eager to get this project over with, as I may then be able to start concentrating on my den. And a few "Honey-do's" that have also been accumulating.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Corporate Downsizing

I overheard in the lunchroom and confirmed on the local news' website that a HAZMAT team is on site at my building after a mysterious package containing an unknown white powder was found in our mailroom. There has been no attempt to evacuate anyone, to my knowledge.

Gosh, I love this company!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Scruffy-Looking NERF-Hurters

I finished Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" this morning. I think I've found my new hero; someone willing to stand up and say "You know, we just don't know enough to be so gol-darned sure of ourselves. The Save-the-Planet and the Rape-the-Planet crowds are equally stupid."

He calls into question the nature of scientific research these days; how far too many studies are paid for by special interests, so how can we be surprised when the studies reach conclusions favorable to the patron? (The study funded by M&M Mars that determined that chocolate is good for you comes to mind.) The studies paid for by environmental groups are just as likely to be biased as the studies paid for by industry.

Have we really, as a society, forgotten how to think, how to question? Could it be my four-year-old has more journalistic acumen than a network anchor? If more people asked "Why?" more often, perhaps we wouldn't get so much bad science--and bad reporting of bad science.

At any rate, I'm certainly tired of all the doom and gloom we get inundated with every day. Are we seeing the truth, or just what someone wants us to see? What would be the benefits of our believing them? Could someone out there have an agenda? I'm no journalist, but I played one in college enough to know that there is no such thing as an unbiased media. As long as there are more stories to report than there is time to report them there will be bias. There has to be.

Anyway, I'm rambling around on this soapbox, and most soapboxes aren't big enough to support much rambling, so I'll shut up. For now.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Drug-Dealin', Gun-Totin' Biker Chipmunks From Poughkeepsie

(Title apropos of nothing. Sometimes I just hate creating titles)

It was a good weekend. It could have been longer. It's fun spending money at Home Depot, but I'd better cut myself off soon. Our "moving in" budget is rapidly depleting. But by golly I saved a lot of money with that 10% Off coupon!

The storage shelves in the garage are slowly taking shape. Now I've got to cut the salvaged cupboard panels to shelf size so we can start putting in the shelves to maximize space when we unpack all our food storage. Once we get all of that put away I can re-organize the garage and all the other place-less items that have been accumulating. Once I find room for all of that then maybe--just maybe--I can park my car inside again. It's quickly getting into the time of year when that becomes important.

I love Autumn. I went for a walk during lunch today and it was entirely comfortable outside. I need a jacket in the morning, but not for very long. The leaves should be turning soon, and then I'll really enjoy walking. My company's campus backs up to the river greenbelt, lined with trees. It's a very pleasant setting, and there are convenient tenth of a mile markers along the route. I did about 1.25 miles today. And I'm still feeling the effects, so I'd better start doing more of this.

This entry is meandering all over the place. Like my life right now. I'm rather directionless, and I've never been very good with that. I've got to have something on the priority list, even if it's only to avoid it. At work I'm essentially waiting around for my manager to officially announce my degradation and find me a project to work on. If I learned anything in the last five months it's that I should never hold my breath when waiting on her to do something.

I wish she would get on with it, though. It's like getting dumped, but having your significant other swear you to secrecy until the timing is right. "I just can't date you anymore. But I don't want anyone to know yet, so what are you doing Friday night?" Sorry, relationship's over. Let me move on.

Or, to quote the Alan Parsons Project, "Let me go home. I've had a hard night. Leave me alone."

On the bright side, they've just implemented a policy requiring everyone to wear their security badges visibly on their person. I've been carrying mine in my wallet, but now I've it on a nifty, springloaded belt-line. Wheeee! Gadgets! Watch me forget mine at home now.

Okay, okay. I'll put you out of your misery now.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Juiceless Drill Bits

I'm not sure how it knows, but my cordless drill always seems to run down just before I finish a project. Invariably I'm left with only two or three more screws to drive, which is just few enough to tempt me to do it by hand. Remind me next time that it takes a long time and a lot of muscle power to drive a three-inch screw into pine, even when I've got pre-drilled pilot holes to work with.

On the other hand, I'm loving the new miter saw. My middle son is not. He hates the noise. My daughter is simultaneously fascinated and frightened of it. She'll stand there and watch from a safe distance, her hands over her ears, but she can't bring herself to leave. When I later tried to explain how a saw works (without actual demonstration) she was afraid of the sawdust I tried to get her to feel. I guess that's better than having them NOT afraid of my saw at this point. It's better if they keep a respectful distance.

Still, I could do without my son shrieking and running away crying if I even plug it in.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well, Okay...What's Next?

After a rather sleepless night I'm muddling through the day. I had a chat with my resource manager when I first got here, which helped. I'm still not very happy with the way this all came about, but I can't change that. About all I can do is make the best of the situation. And take some time to decide what I want "the best" to be.

This still stings. But I'm slowly applying the calamine lotion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bring On the Flipping Fish

Shows what I know. I'm being demoted back to the trenches. Looks like it's time to polish up the ol' resume, as I didn't like the trenches all that much.

Future Fish Flipper?

I've got my semi-annual review in a few minutes. Fortunately, my resource manager sent me a copy of the review document this morning, so I already know what I'm up against. It's actually not too bad, and to some degree better than I would have expected. There's some good feedback I can draw from, and at least six months in which to fix things. It looks like I may not have to further burden my brother with another family member to employ just yet.

I've also been discussing the training experience with some of my team, and they don't seem to remember the negative feedback either. Perhaps I was reading more into it than I should have. Or paying attention to the wrong people. Meanwhile, I'm getting some valuable input on how to improve things. I'm almost looking forward to the next round of training. Almost.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Slept On It

I feel a little better today. Interestingly enough, as I sat down to write this I got an email from one of the other team leads who took notes on the feedback we got. Either she was somewhat selective, or the feedback was better than I remember. In any case, I've decided that if I'm going to take the hit for the 25% that didn't go well, I should also take the credit for the 75% that did. Put the two together and I may average out around 80%. I'll happily take a B on this assignment.

Mostly I'm just tired. I'm an introvert, as I've iterated many times. Getting up in front of the team and presenting training, while not hard, was draining. Getting caught in the middle of a somewhat negative (I still hold she didn't entirely capture the mood in the room) feedback session really drained me. By the end of the day I felt totally hoss-whupped.

Coming back to a few other brushfires this morning hasn't helped, but I'll make it. I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet, but I still feel a little bruised. It doesn't help that I'm having my semi-annual review this week, too. I'm obviously not expecting that to go well.

C'est la guerre.

Monday, September 12, 2005

That's My Soul Up There

Well, my big training program is over, and the best I can say about it is that it's over. The good news, I guess, is that it was 75% successful. The bad news is that I developed the content for and delivered the 25% that failed. The general consensus of the group was "we want to hear more from that other guy." I guess my brother tried to warn me. When you're a manager your subordinates feel no need to pull their punches. They let you have it with both barrels, and diplomacy be hanged.

I really, really question whether I'm cut out for this. It's getting awefully tempting to ask my boss to demote me to replace some of the people we've lost recently. The totally pathetic thing is that there would be no pay cut involved. We team leads are taking on all this extra responsibility for no extra pay. At first I didn't mind. Today I do. To heck with this.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Fate of Stear"

My latest audio book is Michael Crichton's "State of Fear." Interesting, though as usual with Crichton I have no idea where the real science ends and the fiction begins. Not that I let it bother me much. I find his books entertaining, and cautiously informative.

I have to laugh at this one just a bit, though. The one constant theme of his in the books/movies I've seen is the idea of the "academic-as-hero." I think in this one Crichton is poking a little fun at himself in the character of Dr. John Kenner. The character is a scientist turned anti-eco-terrorist spy--a real action hero type.

And what are the most famous action figures of all time (other than perhaps GI Joe)? Star Wars. And who made at least the original Star Wars action figures? Kenner. Coincidence? I highly doubt it. Not from Crichton.

Anyway, it's a fun book, though I find his treatment of the main character, Peter Evans, just a little heavy-handed. There's no question of where Crichton stands on the issue. And I happen to agree with him that much of the environmental doom-n-gloom science we hear about these days is likely manipulation at best or bad science at worst. However, that does not excuse us from being more careful with the environment than we are. Just because we can't prove anything catastrophic is happening because of human impact doesn't mean that we aren't having a negative impact. There is plenty of things we can prove that we should be concerned about, even without Global Warming in the picture.

Anyway, Peter Evans is his foil, his 100% true blue, body-of-believers environmentalist who, though the proof he clings to is shaky, refuses to believe any of the counter-science he is bombarded with by Dr. Action-hero. I suspect by the end of the book he'll come around, of course, but right now his tenacious clinging to "my scientists are unbiased, pure, and trustworthy while yours are all disreputable pawns of big business" is really getting old. It would be easier to buy if this character weren't a lawyer. I thought lawyers were supposed to be good at seeing things in shades of gray.

At any rate, I'll hold my judgement until the end of the book, but I'm really hoping that Crichton adopts a middle-line at some point; no, we're not on the edge of disaster that we know of, but yes, we should be paying more attention to what we're doing and being better stewards of the planet, because we don't know that we're not destroying the place, either. And certainly, his message about not believing everything you hear in the media is valid, especially surrounding research and science. The media are notorious about misrepresenting data and the scientific significance of various studies. It doesn't mean they're wrong, just that we should always question, something we should have learned from our high school science teachers a long time ago.

Incidentally, has anyone verified his quoted sources? Being an audio book--one that I listen to while driving, no less--that's a little hard for me to do, currently.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


In keeping with the holiday, I worked. Not at work, but at home. We inherited a set of hand-made cabinets in the garage, which I was excited about initially, but on closer inspection decided they were not going to work. I had already ripped them out and had them in our driveway, and yesterday I disassembled them, salvaged the door hardware, and chucked most of the wood in a dumpster.

After that I ripped out the squash patch. We also inherited a garden, and the crook-neck squash have been taking over. No longer. We're down to a couple of zuccini plants on the other side of the garden. And thousands of squash bugs are dead or homeless. Icky icky icky! (pikang-zoop-boing-goodem-zoo-owli-zhiv)

The squash plants had to be disposed of, and fortunately we had a dumpster. My two year old son was "helping" me, so we worked out a deal. I'd load a wheelbarrow full of plants, haul them to the dumpster, then give him a ride in the wheelbarrow back to the garden. He thought that was a lot of fun.

Then my four year old daughter came outside and wanted a piece of the action. Fortunately they both agreed to sit together in the wheelbarrow. By then we were nearly done hauling plants, and I figured she'd be pretty disappointed to only get two rides. The last ride I decided to take a detour on the way back to the garden and ended up giving them a wheelbarrow ride around the neighborhood. So at the moment I'm on both their good sides.

It was a pretty good day, all in all, though there were the unfortunate incidents later at the flooring store. There are worse ways of spending the last holiday of Summer. Even if the day ended with a huge load of food storage, a shifted load, a slow-motion scramble to catch falling boxes, and a broken bottle of beans.

Those are the days that make life worthwhile, and make the ones in between a little more bearable.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm Not Still Standing

With great space comes great furniture needs, or something like that. Our previous house had a small living room and no family room. The couch was an old thrift-store purchase that Terhi had given new life with a new cover. We donated it back to the thrift store when we moved.

Now we have a living room and a family room, and up until yesterday no furniture in either one. Over the weekend we purchased a loveseat and chair for the living room, and a hide-a-bed sofa and loveseat for the family room (yes, that means we now have room for guests).

The place looks really good now, but it also makes it seem more alien. The new house has seemed like we own it so far because all of our stuff is there. Now we have a bunch of new stuff that we're not used to, so it looks less like we own the place now. I have a feeling the "alienation" is going to continue for awhile, as we're going to need to pick up additional furniture and art pieces to complete decorating.

When I was a missionary in Australia I transferred around frequently. There came a point, however, in every new area when I suddenly realized that it felt like I belonged there. I wonder how long it will take this time.