Monday, December 04, 2006

Winter Biking

I haven't been able to do as much riding as I would like. Not all because it's winter, in spite of the title's implication.

Work's been very busy, so I haven't gotten to go every time I work at home. Saturday was football parking at Rachel's school; 5 hours of trying to get people to park closer together and where I want them. Yes, that jungle gym is taller than I am, and I am taller than your car. Greater than is transitive. Would you please park there?

Some of the days it actually has been raining, so a week ago Sunday I actually used my indoor trainer. I need to start using that more often. Of course, at the moment, I have to get my bike back. It's having the back wheel rebuilt. I hope Hank and Frank will be finished with it tomorrow. In the meantime, I was reading through my copy of Bicycling Magazine's Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills. Not sure why it's in the training section, exactly, but I suppose that makes some sense. Anyway, it has a much needed section on indoor training regimens which I plan to try. As soon as I get my bike back.

I've done over 800 miles in less than 6 months (since 6/10), and it's been great. Rick and I are plotting our next organized rides: The Tour of the Unknown Valley and The Chico Mildflower (Metric) Century. I told Dawn and Rachel about the Childflower, and we're going to see if Rachel can be ready to do that one (15 miles) with Dawn. In 2008. Meantime, I'd really like to do the Wildflower, but I don't think I'll be able to train appropriately, because I most likely will do absolutely no riding the two weekends before, when I'll be going to Dan's bachelor party and wedding, respectively.

Some Simple Automation

I've been at my new job for just over two months now. There's been much to learn, and lots to do, and still more coming, as we signed another customer and somehow I have to figure out how to continue doing work for the previous while starting up the new. Normally, this hasn't been a big problem for me in my career, but usually there are more other people to do pieces of it than there are now. I know that will change over time, and, no, it's not as if I'm flying solo.

One of the things that has brought me great pleasure, especially at this very moment, has been the benefits of some simple automation scripts. We have a very sophisticated caching system, but at present the cache seeding has to be done using scripts. When I came on the scene, my co-worker Manish had already created a simple batch file for kicking off a scripting run. It worked, basically, and was a good starting point.

I have had to do a lot more seeding than he has, though, so I have worked on this script from time to time over the last month or so. The problem is that our tomcats occasionally lose their connection to the database in the middle of a query in the middle of the seed list. This is bad when it's 11pm and Dylan's just gone off to bed. The first major modification was to have it check the log file for a certain type of exception and delete the log and start over if it found it. Unfortunately, that loses me any information about how long things are taking.

The next major modification was a way of saving the log file after each failure and appending the next one when it either failed or finished. It also records the time into the file at the beginning and end and after each failure, so I can see the total elapsed time as well as how often we're losing our DB connection. This was cool, except I had a couple of typos that meant that by the time the process finished I wound up with no log at all! It took more than a week to get around to figuring that one out.

A couple of days ago, I realized that there are now three different ways (well, eventually two - one for my local environment and one for production environments, but I'm converting production from one way to another, so there are three right now) of accessing the engine that runs the queries for me. So I changed the script to look for the engine.

Also a few days ago, the engine was enhanced to allow me to supply the target server on the command-line. This seemed really cool, until I discovered that it works for some operations and not others. I need to file a defect on the later, and when it is fixed, it will be very cool. In the meantime, I changed the script to allow me to supply the server directive on the command-line if I'm not including it in the seed list.

And today, as I have to do some major re-aggregating and re-caching because of some minor tactical oversights, I learned how to make a Windows batch file spawn another window, and have created an ancillary script. This script, given a wild-card (and an optional server directive, of course) will spawn the run_seed batch file on all the files matching the wildcard. For tonight, there are 14. That means as soon as I kick that off, I'm going to bed. Because I essentially know that it WILL finish, barring any major system problems at our colo facility.

Of course, there's some check-up I have to do on what's finishing now, and some other prep. But maybe I don't have to stay up all flippin' night.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


This morning Rachel came up to our room at the almost reasonable hour of 6:10. That's progress as we've just been trying to get her to stay in bed until 6. Dawn actually despairs of ever having a time when we have to wake Rachel up, though I maintain that in 7 or 8 years we'll be fighting with her to be up in time for school.

Since Dawn went off to the bathroom as soon as Rachel came in, Rachel actually came and cuddled with me for once and, when Dawn came back, told her to cuddle with us. For about 30 seconds. Then she asks me, "are you going to have a long day at work today, Daddy?". Probably (we have a major customer deployment, our first, next Wednesday and have to make sure we're ready). "Mommy, how about if we let Daddy sleep since he is going to have a long day?"

Friday, October 20, 2006

Catch of The Day

One of our cats, Nigel, the kitten (he's about 7 months old and almost as big as his mother) is out playing. He and Cynthia (his mother) like to catch mice. No more than Tom does, I suppose, but they've all been doing a lot of it lately. Fortunately, they don't often bring them in the house. Cynthia, so far, reserves that for brown leaves.

Anyway, I called Nigel (who has a tendency to roam too far) and when I went to look for him again found him in the neighbor's yard with something small. The way he was after it, I figured it was a mouse. As I got closer, I thought perhaps it was a very small mouse. That wouldn't be a surprise. Cats are no more merciful to smaller prey than larger.

Imagine my amusement to discover that it was not a mouse, not even a very small one. No, it was a mouse's severed head. No idea where the body is, but I do find myself thinking of the movie Highlander... lying on the floor, next to his own severed head.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Really Riding

Since I started riding a lot again on June 10, I've

- ridden over 620 miles
- tightened the strap on my helmet twice (7/22 and today)
- ridden the Healdsburg Harvest Century (metric century around Healdsburg, CA)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Long Time, Many Changes

Somehow I can hardly believe it's only been 4 months since the last time I posted. It feels like a lot longer than that. I don't have a lot of time to write right now, so here's the summary of things that have happened since my last post:

1- in late May, we went to Grand Junction and Denver for a week to spend time with some of Dawn's family; we only stopped in Denver on the way back to see a Rockies game, as long as we were in the 'neighborhood'; we also saw several Junior College World Series (baseball) games, which was a lot of fun

2- in mid-June, we got two new cats, Cynthia Gray (Rachel picked the name Cynthia out of the blue; I added Gray, because she is gray and my grandmother's maiden name was, you guessed it, Cynthia Gray), and her son, Nigel (from the Latin for black, except that he's started turning brown, so perhaps we should give him a last name that means Brown... Nigel Braun?)

3- on July 15th, a friend and I rode 62 miles in the Healdsburg Harvest (metric) Century

4- on August 24th, I worked my last day for my employer of nearly 6 years; this was very weird for me as I'd pretty much concluded I'd be turning out the lights, but I came across a position that was far too good an opportunity to pass up

5- on August 25th, Rachel spent her last day in pre-school

6- Dawn and I spent that weekend in Las Vegas, our first trip there (although Dawn was there once as a kid, which she doesn't remember well); we saw LOVE, the new Cirque Du Soleil show to Beatles music. It was very good, but somehow still a little disappointing that it didn't all live up to their potential (not to mention that they made Blackbird into a narrated comedy sketch and played only the last two notes!!)

7- then on August 28th and 30th, respectively, I started my new job and Rachel started Kindergarten!

Whew. A whirlwind...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ride, Rachel, Ride

I'm very excited! Rachel got on her bike! I think it was even her idea, though maybe one of us suggested it since we were out by the garage, which was open. Anyway, Sunday Rachel rode up to the corner & back three times, and last night she rode all the way around the block and then up to the corner and back again. It was great! She had a good time and practiced pedaling and braking. Tonight we're planning on riding to the school yard a couple of blocks away.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Best Hawaii Vacation Memory

Rachel & I were at the beach. She likes to run away from the incoming waves, running up the beach. One time, as I was sitting in the water behind her and she was running away from one wave, another came from the left and was forcing her feet to the right as she ran. Every step or so she gave her "I'm nervous because this isn't what I wanted, but I'm not sure anything's really wrong" squeak: "Daddy?! Daddy?! Daddy!? Daddy!?"

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It's All About the Weather

I was sitting at my desk yesterday morning when I got a call from Max from our solar contractor. He said they want to start on our project today... I looked out the window at the torrential rains as I said "as long as you think the weather's going to be OK..." So, here I am, working from home as they've been spending the day putting the panels up.

Unlike some of the companies I talked to, Marin Solar did not want to rip open the ceiling of our room to find the joists. I'm very glad about that, because it would have made the whole thing a lot harder.

At this point, they've just left and I have 18 panels on the ground waiting to go up to the roof, two sections of metal racking where they will sit, and an inverter in a box in The Bunker (our black hole of a guest room). When I told them to put it in there, I didn't promise they'd be able to get it back out again :-)

Tomorrow they should be hooking it all up. We're hoping to be able to drop the conduit from the roof down the old water heater flue and have everything inside the crawlspace, including the inverter. This will be good because it will minimize the number of new holes and paraphernalia in the outside of the house. There's also a certain elegance to it, which I like.

I'm trying to find out how the software works for monitoring the inverter; I'd really like to have it set up to capture the production data when the system is ready to turn on. In fact, I think I'm going to go raid the box now!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Making Frozen Cold Stuff

Once upon a time, we used to call ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, whatever "frozen cold stuff", because Rachel didn't know what it meant. I haven't tested the (ice) waters lately, but I'm pretty sure she does now, so we tend to spell or mouth whatever we're talking about now.

At any rate, Dawn's father gave us the Williams-Sonoma Ice Cream cookbook and a gift certificate for an ice cream maker for our anniversary. This to go with the Ice Cream King & Queen bowls he gave us a few years ago. He chose a gift certificate because he didn't want to try to bring the machine up on a plane, but he had one in mind, so I took him to the nearest Williams-Sonoma. There we discovered that KitchenAid makes an ice cream maker attachment that, among others, fits our mixer.

This is very cool. Although it really only takes up marginally less space, it's nice not to have wound up with a whole new independent device. It also makes slightly more at a time than the Cuisinart, if I remember correctly. The idea of not having a new device but expanding the utility of one we already have was very appealing, and is the real reason we settled on it.

I finally got around to trying it out with Rachel when Dawn stayed in So Cal after her sister-in-law's funeral. I came home to Rachel, who'd spent the night with my parents and part of the afternoon with a neighbor. Since Dawn was coming home on her birthday, I decided that Rachel and I should make ice cream. Well, actually, I was planning on some kind of sorbet (no fat), but Rachel picked the Double Chocolate Ice Cream from the Williams-Sonoma book and wouldn't be swayed. No, I didn't try that hard. Only got as far as "well, Rachel, I was thinking of (don't remember which one)".

This actually went pretty well. The ice cream was very tasty, though a little bit gritty. I started to say 'grainy'... I have photography on the brain because I've been culling the digital image collection. I'm down to about 6800 pictures dating to 11/01. Don't know where I started. But I digress. I'm not sure it really qualifies as double chocolate in my book, but I did use Ghirardelli powder and Scharffen Berger 72% (I think) El Carmen bars. Dawn was extremely thrilled and Rachel, I think, actually managed to keep it something of a secret. I think she gave away that we made it, it was brown, and it was cold. Not too bad for not quite 4 1/2!

The problem that did crop up was in the making. In retrospect, I think that I may not have locked the bowl properly. As a result, when the ice cream started to thicken a bit, the blade bound a little bit and made the bowl turn and jump out of its seat. This pulled the blade's little attachment piece off the drive shaft and scraped off some of the inside of the attachment, rendering it now improperly shaped to fit the drive... whooops. Williams-Sonoma were kind enough to exchange it; I hadn't realized then what happened, so all I could tell them was that it jumped unexpectedly.

Our next try, last week, was to make Meyer Lemon Sorbet (also from the W-S Ice Cream book), with lemons from one of the trees in our back yard. I didn't have as many lemons as I needed, so I attempted to cut the recipe to the right proportions. I might have miscalculated the amount of sugar, because it was a little too tart. I also finally figured out that the freezer was turned to its coldest setting, because the sorbet was rock solid and took more than twenty minutes to thaw significantly!

I wish I'd strained this a little too - there was too much of the lemon flesh that wasn't pulp... little bits of the various white of the lemon. I am not sure whether this is because those pieces fit through the strainer when I was juicing the lemons, or if I didn't keep the strainer clean enough and it was overflowing. I suspect the later. It also would probably have been good to slice up the zest somewhat so that I'd have lots of little pieces, rather than a couple of dozen long strips.

Today, we went for Blood Orange Sorbet (from Lindsey Shere's Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook, page 77). Rachel went shopping with my parents yesterday so that Dawn and I could have breakfast and a much needed chance to talk without interruption. Part of getting her to agree to go was to help her make a list of things that she should get. Cheese (cantal and istara, thank you very much! No swiss for this girl, thanks to my parents), strawberries (if there were any good ones available), and blood oranges.

This time, I decided that I was going to use the amounts from the recipe, come hell or high water, so when the really good blood oranges from Monterey Market didn't produce enough juice, I sent Dawn off to get more. The ones she got from Berkeley Bowl (Monterey Market was closed, since it's Sunday) were not as red, though I couldn't say whether that changed the taste significantly. We have more of those left now; I should see how they are.

Anyway, I had the same problem with this that I did with the lemon, as far as getting more than juice and pulp. I will have to get a strainer! I really did want to leave the pulp in, and should again have chopped up the zest, but it wound up not mattering. I didn't want the non-pulp pieces of flesh in there, so I wound up straining it through a flour sifter. Hey, it worked, so don't knock it! I did lose the majority of pulp as well as the zest, but since I hadn't remembered that I wanted to chop up the zest, that part might be OK.

Since the recipe only calls for heating a small portion of the juice (instead of water, which was nice somehow) to melt the sugar, the mixed juice wasn't all that warm, so I decided not to bother chilling it. Especially since the recipe didn't say how much or for how long. That might have been a mistake, because the sorbet stopped getting thicker at a point when it was really still just slushy. It was absolutely delicious, however. It definitely did not come out too tart; in fact, it might even have had a touch too much sugar. It seems as if it might be difficult to adjust the amount of sugar, since you're only melting it with a little bit of the juice initially, and have to mix it all together to find out how sweet it has become...

Will have to think about that. I suppose that when it turns out not sweet enough (because of starting with less sugar) I could take some of the juice, even though it's partially sweetened, and use it to melt some more sugar. Or maybe I'll try it with Stevia next time... that won't even require heating to melt.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How's That Work?

I don't quite understand how this works. Clarence Ray Allen was executed this morning by the State of California. For the last couple of weeks, though, there's been a bit of an outcry about how it's cruel and unusual punishment because he's sick and legally blind. Now, I think the death penalty is wrong and shouldn't be available as a sentence for any crime anywhere, but I don't understand how it is crueler or more unusual for someone like Allen who had become sick and legally blind during his time on Death Row, than it would be for someone who were essentially healthy with 20/20 vision. I'm sorry that the State government is able to put someone to death in my name, but as long as he had the capacity to receive a legal sentence, I don't see how declines in his health over his time in prison could rescue him from that sentence.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ballet Class!

Rachel had her first ballet class yesterday. She talked about it all morning and from 10 to noon asked whether it was time to go only about 18 times. She was so excited! It was very cute. When we finally went, she loved every minute and grinned ear-to-ear almost the whole time. Imagine seven or eight girls, four or five years old trying to follow the teacher's instructions... First position... fifth position... legs up on the barre... no, hook with your heel, not your knee. Don't forget to point your feet out!

I don't post pictures of her in public, so send me email or a comment if you want to see them...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Playing Catch-up

I keep putting off posting because I have a lot to tell and it will take a while, but then what I have to tell just grows, so here's a summary for the meantime.

We went to So Cal for New Years. Dan and I have been organizing group trips to Tahoe every other year, but it just wasn't in the cards for us this time, so we went to see him and Karyn instead. Flew down the 28th and back the 2nd. Had a fabulous time.

We stayed at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn, which was fairly nice. They have 'kidsuites', which means bunk-beds, so Rachel was quite happy. Thursday we went to the LA Zoo, which was pretty nice. I took around 400 pictures, although I deleted a lot along the way and stopped just as we were about to leave with a full 1Gig CF card and 284 pictures. I went out to get in line before Dawn's father got there and walked back in with him to find Rachel and Dawn.

Rachel saw us (maybe pointed out by Dawn, but I'm not sure) when we were probably a hundred feet away and came running over top speed, yelling "We're over here" the whole way, to give Grandpa a huge hug. Not exactly calculated to hurt his feelings, as my mother likes to say.

Friday night, while Rachel went to dinner with Grandpa, we went to a really nice dinner with Dan & Karyn. Then Saturday we had brunch with Dawn's family before Dan and I made dinner at their place for a little New Year's Eve party. Rachel loves Dan & Karyn and not only got to go to sleep in their bed but wound up spending the night there, because Dawn was so tired I just decided to let them sleep. Dan & Karyn were on the air bed & I slept on the floor.

Sunday, we went to visit Brett & Cecilia and their kids and his mother Carol. We had a wonderful time with them, as we did last year right before heading home after Christmas.

Since we got home... Rachel either has another cough or the one she's had for a while got worse. I'm not really sure which. I spend a few hours Thursday afternoon attaching flexible plastic piping to two of our downspouts and running it out to the street in hopes that it will prevent any more flooding of our back bedroom.

Dawn and I are both trying to return to some semblance of reasonable eating, as well as working on getting in a better exercise habit. The house is such a collosal mess that my plans for riding my bike on the spinner aren't happening yet, but I did go walk for a while the other day.

Happy New Year to all!