Saturday, July 29, 2006

Adventures In Home Improvement (7/29/2006)

Electrical Outlet Repair

Oh how I dislike doing home repair. Okay, strike that. Doing home repair is quite fun for me. When in the ridiculously off-chance that everything (okay, okay, ONE thing) actually works.

Today was a long-overdue adventure in replacing electrical outlets. The entire east wall is powerless. I did some testing with a nifty little electrical outlet testing...thing. It had a black wire and a red wire, attached to a readout that included "110", "210" and the like, and each wire terminated in a couple of cool looking spikes that apparently are supposed to be stuck into the individual slots of the outlet to be tested. (Of course this was something I preferred doing when my kids weren't watching, for obvious reasons.) Anyway, the testing revealed that I had an "Open Neutral"--the actual name of which I got from my brother-in-law who'd recently discovered the same situation in his electrical setup.

"Just go to the electrical panel and be sure all the white (neutral) wires are screwed down nice and tight."

Sounded reasonable.

"But be careful; there's still a
lot of electricity running around in that box."


So, I went to the box, opened it up, and sure enough, every wire I could see and (very carefully) touch--with the end of my screwdriver--was screwed down nice and tight.

What's left? Well, replacing all of the outlets, of course, because surely if nothing's loose in the panel, chances are quite good that there must be something wrong with one of the outlets, or the wires in each of the outlets' boxes.

Three and half hours later, all outlets on the east wall (and one on the south) are replaced. I call down to the wife to have her throw the breaker switch (believe it or not I was actually smart enough to shut off the breaker every time I opened up an outlet cover). No change. Open Neutrals all over the place.

Being rather happy that the kids are in bed so they couldn't hear the rather impressive list of expletives building up pressure behind my lips, I swallowed hard and didn't give in to the temptation to let loose a blue streak that would do many a sailor--or rapper--proud. The wife was still up and around, after all.

Looks like I get to contact one of my old students with whom I agreed to trade lessons for electrical work, considering he's an electrician. Lucky him.

I love home improvement. It's not unlike a rather swift kick in the boys.

Update (8/4/2006):
Success! An incredible, liberating, exulting...and a bit embarrassing...success!

A few months ago when I was looking into the above electrical problem I noticed an outlet that had a white wire unattached to anything. Not knowing anything about such things I assumed that that was the way it was supposed to be, so I taped it off to prevent any kind of shorting or the like, and closed it back up.

You see, I thought that it was entirely possible that the east wall's lack of power was probably a short due to that wire touching something it shouldn't. This was supported by the scorch marks I saw on the outlet plate and box. Surely the wire had been touching something it should not have been, shorted, and caused a near-fire. The near-fire then burned back whatever the wire was touching, so it wasn't touching anymore, clearly preventing further shorting and possibly a worse fire. Add that to the fact that the bared part of the loose wire was straight, and anything attached to the outlet had a nice loop in it so the wire could go around the fastening screw, it was obvious the wire never had been attached to the outlet. Logical safety precaution: prevent shorting and possible fire; tape up loose white wire.

Well, that clearly didn't solve the problem. A few months go by--okay, about a year goes by--and we have a bunch of shiny, all-but-new electrical outlets that are getting no power.

I talked over the problem with my brother-in-law some more, and that one loose wire came up in the discussion, rather as a side-note to something else. As you probably guessed, that was the problem. That was the neutral wire that was suppose to complete the circuit, and it was the wire that was the neutral for the rest of the east wall. And it wasn't connected, so all that juice had nowhere to go, except to ground.

I attached that white wire (after removing all my masterfully-applied electrical tape, of course), and bingo. Everything works.

Yay me. Okay, okay, yay my brother-in-law.

311 Concert...Didn't LMD

I went to the 311 concert a couple of night ago (7/27/2006). Wow. TOO much fun. Love those guys--and apparently the fans, too.

A couple things I found very interesting, though, revolving around the fact that I very much dislike going to concerts. Why do I dislike concerts? Usually the people at concerts are wound so tight that at any moment I expect a random knife to be put between my ribs, or to be the next fool who unknowingly attempted catching a stray bullet from someone going all weird. Why are people like that at concerts? Who knows. Why do people destroy their city when their favorite sports team wins? Or loses? People are stupid, that's why. People are inconsiderate morons who with absolutely no regard for others. This is why I have never liked going to concerts.

The obvious question, then, is this: why did I go to 311's concert if I hate going to concerts so much? Answer(s): I love 311, and just about every one of their songs are high energy, happy, positive (or very telling), etc., and I thought it very likely that people who like such music are going to be very mellow types of people. The other reason I wanted to go to the concert was that I love 311, and I was quite sure that their show was going to be just the kind of show I'd like. High energy, relaxed (non-militant), etc. Turns out I was right on both reasons for going. The concert was very high energy, very positive, and the crowd was surprisingly respectful and quite unassuming and even cordial (never before have I been at a concert where the traffic moved slowly because everyone waved everyone else in).

My recommendation if ever you get the change to see 311 in concert: DO IT!

Monday, July 17, 2006

A New Life--er, Job

That previous post in which I was rambling about having too many job opportunties. Well, all those opportunities were rather nicely shaved down to just one. This one job opportunity seems to be quite a good one, based on first appearances of my first day there.

Okay, I know how silly it seems my making a judgement like that based on one day's experience. But what else can I do when my first impression of the application I'll be working on is not dissimilar to the reaction one would feel looking at a small, rather unattractive--and still cute (because it is small)--child. At least it appears all young and tiny and defenseless (a couple more factors in the cuteness quotient) compared to the strapping young twenty-something that was the Mercury project. (What is Mercury? Well, read my journal and find out. But in short, it was the payroll project I was working on in my last position as Database Developer.)

I'm looking at working on my one personal workstation that has 6GB of RAM and 300GB of HD space. Wow. But then I hear why my workstation is beefier than the first SQL Servers I cut my teeth on. They want each of the developers to have their own multiple (up to 5) instances of the environment on Virtual Machines.

Okay, I think that's strange. But wait. There's more!

I found out in one of the design meetings for the next release that the intent is to "virtualize" the system, and put multiple instances of the same server and database on multiple Virtual Machines. Why? Because they think they'll operate faster.

Pardon me while I enjoy the slack-jawed dumfounded relaxation of my face muscles...again.

I guess it might be faster. Who knows. But between you and me...and you...oh, and you in the corner there...I really doubt it.

Moral of the story: don't judge a project--or its design team--on your first day on the job. But then again...there is something to be said about intuition.....

You never know. Maybe I'll be the Database Architect that saves a decent company from making some seriously fatal mistakes. Or I could be the dude that sits idly by and learns something more.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stop Murdering Our Language!

Enough with changing the language to suit the few who choose to take offense at innocuous things.

Because I use the word "niggardly" and get in trouble for it means only two things: you need to find a dictionary (I use Merriam-Webster's online dictionary), and find something that really matters to complain about.

Because I like to look at beautiful things (a strange thing, I know) does it mean I'm "objectifying" that which I'm admiring?

Because I have a friend from South Africa, does that mean my friend is African-American, despite the fact that he's white? And what about my Egyptian buddy?

Because a guy points at and laughs at a tiny, winged sprite, calling her a silly fairy, does that make him bigot?

Because I push someone aside because they're in the way or in my face, is it a hate crime because they wear a turban?

Because someone dresses like a group of people who are well-known to act in violent and aggressive ways, does it make me prejudiced if I choose to stay away from them or be on guard for something unpleasant from them?

Because I believe in the fundamentals of something, does that make me a fundamentalist? And as such, am I worthy of demonization or marginalization? And if so, is that not a hate crime? Or at least bigotry?

Take a deep breath and repeat to yourself, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, not everyone is out to get me!" Then take another deep breath and repeat to yourself, "...and if everyone was out to get me, I'd still stand for who I am...without being a complete ass about it--unless of course I'm required to in order to change the situation to something less threatening."

What I'm saying here is...relax, people! It's not all about you! It's not even all about the special causes you've decided to attach yourselves to so you can feel important and like you're making a difference.

It's about life, living, loving, and believing like you like, and allowing others to do the same--as strange as the concept of "others" might be.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day!

Only almost got a little bit misty tonight, watching the darkened night sky shattered by a million points of dazzling, multicolored lights. And then my mind was turned again to people all around, watching in amazement and wonder and deserved awe the explosive spectacle--awe and wonder at the exquisite beauty of the fireworks, and my eyes dried up under the heat of my irritation and sadness.

I was duly impressed with the beautiful, colorful explosions. Unfortunately, whenever my mind wanders to the reason we light fireworks, and whenever I remember what the fireworks represent, my emotions run a bit high, and my heart goes out in gratitude to our founding fathers, to our armed forces, to any and all who prize our independence and freedoms so greatly as to be willing to pay for it with their lives (which, of course, include those who live and who die for the noble ideals).

With all highs, there are generally lows; my appreciation for the symbolism of the fireworks and many other activities on the fourth day of July is nicely balanced with my...unease at how few of us realize what we're doing and why we do it on that day. These...less-than-positive thoughts are magnified when I hear teens and adults talking about everything but our independence. And it's so much worse, so much more potently driven into our collective unconscious that July Fourth is the holiday, not Independence Day, when people wish me "Happy Fourth of July!" While I appreciate the friendly nature and kind intent behind such wishes, I am left wondering, "Do you have any idea what this day is about?" But I often retort, "And Happy Independence Day to you!"

But let's leave on a positive note. Thank you to all of our armed forces. Thank you to all of our uniformed protectors. Much gratitude to those idealists in politics who truly are in it for the betterment of our nation (as few and far-between as they appear to be). Thank you to all who appreciate our country, the sacrifices our men and women have made and continue making to secure our freedom; our rights; our happiness; our Independence.