Category Archives: Just life

Post 300! Link dump.

Running around a lot. Not in a bad way.

Things I’ve found, with some musings:

Some more links and a bit of opinion now. Watch out!

Some business-ey things. Is your organization designed for humans? can spur off an interesting thought experiment about how businesses should be structured. The traditional model chooses people and puts them in slots. Person A designs the widget, person B makes the widget, person C markets the widget, and person D sells the widget. I think that companies where all people from A to D can interact and share duties — Person A and B can talk to person C about how to market, and person D can relay customer information and suggestions back to persons A and B. Companies where people are too siloed have problems — designers design products and never really find out about how their customers really use their products, or what problems they have. There are a bunch of companies I’m familiar with that are blurring the lines between divisions, and letting engineers and designers *gasp* talk to customers. I think this is a good thing. (Link via

Five questions every mentor must ask. I think it applies (as the author states) equally well to anyone (especially internal folks!) who are looking at a business or a process within an organization, as well. At the very least it gives you a framework to start from when trying to “think outside the box”. (Egh. I need to work on my synonyms.) Via the New Shelton Wet/Dry.

This is something I’ve run into in the past. How does a technical person effectively convey to HR or a recruiter what they’re looking for when relying on them to screen resumes? Not sure if this comic will help.

In an interesting experiment, a UCLA psychologist showed that talking about bad feelings helps lessen their impact. So talking to one’s priest, therapist, psychologist, even your S.O. really does help one cope with overwhelming emotion. Possibly found via The New Shelton Wet/Dry.

And in other news, here are Ten things science says will make you happy. I try to follow at least a few of these. I don’t always do a good job.

And last, to make myself happy, I’ve been listening to The Birdsong Radio web site at work. Lovely recordings of just birds singing their tiny hearts out.

soundproofing a wall part 2

Okay, time for more post. Here’s part II of how to soundproof a wall.

By this point, I’ve already sealed the gaps in the other side of the wall with goop, and padded up the boxes and other protrusions. The blue-jeans cotton insulation has gone in, and it’s onto finishing the mass-loaded vinyl.

both layers of vinyl

Once you’ve got the first course up, you’ve got to put up the second course above it. This is harder than it looks, since it weighs about one pound per square foot, comes in four-foot wide rolls, and you have to hold it up eight feet off the ground. I suggest you get help from your resident fourteen-year-old.

vinyl is continuous around corners

You want to make sure it covers everything and is continuous, since it acts like a barrier to block the higher frequency sound as well as medium frequency. When it comes to openings like doorways, though, you can either have it stop or wrap around the wood. You’re making the wall assembly heavier (more massive) and less able to vibrate and transmit sound, so any bit should help.

mass loaded vinyl around door frame

Continue reading

gearing up some

This weekend, it was hot. Unhappily hot. We pretty much spent it lazing around in air conditioning or well-cooled spaces. Not a lot got done, but that’s OK.

I did manage to:

  • dump the pix off my camera cards (finally)
  • select and upload the pix for part II of the how to soundproof a room series
  • play with HDR photos and photomatix (still don’t really like the way they’re coming out for me, but I’m still playing with the software too).
  • shave like my grandpa (*much* better than the electric razor I’d been using for years)
  • reestablish almost all of the (NetApp) snapmirror relationships from our move of the catastrophe recovery filer’s disks across the country
  • find goth kleenex:

    black-dyed tissues

    from Japan Trend Shop via Oh Gizmo!

  • start traffic graphing some of our fibre channel switches

and a few other things too.

Going to try more of blogging the inane stuff as well as the meaty stuff. It should at least get me into the posting habit, even if it’s not all substantive.

so i’m 12 weeks late…

…to the first post. In the grand tradition, I’ve not done a good job at all of keeping my new year’s resolutions; though I’ve done OK at the whole not obsessing or getting cranky thing. Everything else, well, at some point soon I’ll make progress, really. I promise.

A couple of notes and bitchings. First, I can’t get enough of QI — the Quite Interesting quiz show out of the BBC. Basically, it’s sort of like Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me from NPR if you take out the news and the callers and just let the guests banter about whatever topic is put before them. Curse the person who thought of region coding DVDs; we’ve been importing the discs from Amazon UK —
Quite Interesting: The A series and Quite Interesting: The B series — and have been having great fun enjoying Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, and the rest pass BS and generally make up interesting facts about whatever they like. It’s sort of like Balderdash with comedians and intelligent people.

Second, I’d like to take this opportunity to decry the ineptitude of either certain flash programmers or of the flash plugin itself. Granted I’m writing this on an older system, but lately it seems everyone and their subsidiary needs to write a fancy new video player or fun animated flash ad; every one of these increases the page load time for web pages I surf, frustrating the heck out of my attention-span-challenged self as I sit there waiting for a page to finish so that I can start oh, say, scrolling down to read it. The worst are the web sites that write their own video player and don’t test it on anything but the fastest modern systems; YouTube’s viewer is just fine, thank you, while sites like Gizmodo and UCB Comedy feel the need to write a bloated pig of a player that can at best perform 1 frame every three seconds on my poor overworked system. The first rule of web design is that thy page should not take more than 5 seconds to load. (I realize this site is also an offender, but I’m working on optimizing it and keeping it as fast as I can with the old server it lives on.)

[update: as I just found out, apparently clearing out the cache of flash movie stored data at Adobe’s flash player privacy manager (it’s a special page that pops up the control panel for the flash player) with ‘Delete all’ makes the flash player pop up much speedier. However, it still doesn’t fix inefficient flash media players.]

Beyond that, I’ve discovered the magic of lemon butter and how they can make cooked greens like chard and the like taste yummy; I’ve been practicing the horrendous-for-you but oh-so-good recipe for Ruth’s Chris restaurant sweet potato casserole, and the first couple of tries have gone OK. (I can’t afford to go eat there, but I don’t mind so much if I can recreate their best dish at home.)

More to come soon, I hope. We’ll see if I can’t catch up to that third New Year’s resolution.

new year’s resolutions

People have these every year, of course. I haven’t been religious about them. But maybe this year will be different.

So this year, I resolve to:

  • Exercise daily, even if it’s only a 10 minute walk
  • Lose about 20 pounds by eating better (more leafies, fewer starchies) and watching my portion size
  • Post something here, even if inane, at least once a week
  • Not obsess so much over things I can’t directly affect
  • Not get so cranky over silly things
  • Stop procrastinating so much on little things

I’m trying to be realistic about what I can accomplish by reducing, not eliminating.

I’m sure there’re more. But those are the big ones.

awaiting the results

I’ve been up for 3 hours, and I’m already tired.

Let me back up. Four years ago, due to a poorly-constructed addition (before we moved into the place), our roof leaked; catastrophically so. It took us a bit to figure out what was happening, since the leak took place inside a wall. But by the time we did, the dreaded mold had set in.

This actually happened shortly after we started remodeling a different room, and discovered that asbestos had been used in the glue for the linoleum flooring, and in the acoustic popcorn from hell coating the ceilings. So we had already started talking to a company, Alliance Environmental, that specialized in asbestos (and now mold) remediation.

I tried fixing the leak myself, but that didn’t work; shortly after Alliance came in to pull out the asbestos and damaged drywall and remove the mold from the framing, the roof leaked again, so I put them on hold while we had the roof fixed.

We had the roof redone, completely, where they found more water damage. So that was taken care of. We worked on the initial bedroom, putting insulation (when the house was built, insulation wasn’t important!) in the walls, putting up new, non-paper-faced drywall, new windows, bookshelves, and floor tile due to not being able to seal the concrete floor and too much moisture coming up from the concrete slab.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we’re finally ready to finish the job started a few years ago. We just had Alliance back out to take care of the popcorn ceiling in the kitchen, where they also finished the final bit of mold cleanup, from the last of the leaks we knew about.

The guys who pulled out the damaged drywall and cleaned up were absolutely stellar; it took them about a day and a half to do (most of that was setting up the environmental containment stuff — I’ll post pictures soon, but our house looks kind of like what they set up in E.T. when the government moved in), and they finished yesterday. Now, an inspector from the company, as well as a tester from an independent lab have to come out to verify that all the asbestos and mold are gone from the air in the contained area. If that’s the case, they can take down the plastic and we can get at our kitchen again (today breakfast was root beer and pop tarts, yum), and start doing the actual fixes.

The other projects that are coming together with this are:

  • putting the stereo equipment in a built-in closet in the family room
  • retexturing the kitchen walls and ceiling with something not-sprayed-on, and fixing all of my unhappy drywall repairs after ripping out the old, too-big-for-the-kitchen island cabinets
  • insulating more outside walls where drywall’s been removed
  • and putting soundproofing (or rather, sound-reducing) items between the bedroom we’ve finished, the bedroom we’re remodeling, and the family room.

Since we’re actually doing work instead of just talking about it, I’ll try and post more about what’s actually going on. So there should (should }:> ) be more posts for a little bit.

The self-checkout line…

…in Home Depot or otherwise, is not to be used for:
* items like wire that have been cut to a custom length and labeled by an employee
* items like bolts that do not have barcodes
* items that do have barcodes but are too light to trigger the bagging scale to register that a new item was placed upon them
* giant items like ten foot pieces of conduit that do not in any way, shape or form fit on the bagging scale

These things I learned while noting that the one human-powered checkout line was miles long, whereas there was nobody at the self-checkout lane this weekend at Home Depot. It ended up taking twice as long as the human-powered checkout, since the person supervising had to take half my items over to the central station and scan them manually. (It didn’t help that they went through three people during this time and the last one had to verify that all the items in the bag were on the receipt at the end.)

So I do see, now, why a lot of people consider the self-checkout line to be more of a pain than it’s worth. From now on, I’ll (try) to use it only for middle-weight, medium-sized boxy items that fit on the bagging scale and have a real barcode. Sigh.

how much is inside?

The other day, our dogs decided to play “How much is inside?” with our Love Sac post-beanbag thing that had become their bed.

Three dogs, lots of stuffing

It’s quite the game with the dogs to rip their toys apart; unfortunately, when they run out of toys, they move on to bigger and better things. They do seem quite pleased with themselves when they manage to rip something apart; our tripod (the brown one) takes particular relish in pulling all the stuffing out of a stuffed toy she’s tired of licking to death, and she and the puppy (the black one) enjoy a good game of tug of war with anything that has seams that will tear.

In any case, THAT MUCH is inside a Love Sac, and there’s still plenty of foam left inside for cushioning the dogs. (The seams, unfortunately, were quite ripped; not being any good at sewing things back together, we ended up tossing the lot, and now they have $20 (but just as comfy, it seems) fleece stuffed pet beds from Costco.


So I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but Cricket Moods (that plugin that shows the lovely mood icons at the top of each post) pooped out and no pages could be viewed.

On the plus side, that also means no comment spam for however long this was going on.

Not much to report; plodding along like usual. Got mailman working on a new system, had to upgrade kernels on some boxes at work due to some process suddenly triggering a kernel bug, and not really too much else exciting. Trying to clear out the weeds from the yard so we can start putting in sprinkler piping and planter boxes, finally.

Also my new favorite youtube videos: the “Look Around You” series. A marvelous send-up of mid-70s “educational” films in a straight-laced, Python-esque sort of way.

A bird in the hand…

Thursday some co-workers found a baby crow at the park near the office. The poor thing couldn’t stand up; it had apparently tried to leave the nest too early.

We didn’t want to leave it on the ground; the area is too well-kept to leave any good hiding places, and while the mother was apparently there (she screamed at us every time we got near the baby), there were enough night animals that the baby would be a quick meal for someone. The nest was way too high in the tree for anyone to be able to put the baby back in. So we tried to figure out how to put a makeshift nest in the tree where we could reach, but out of reach of any predators. We tried putting a cardboard tray in the tree with zip ties; that worked well enough, but the baby backed out of that too and fell to the ground again.

A couple of co-workers were concerned about catching West Nile Virus from the bird; but everything we’ve read says that crows can just be carriers or infected by it — the virus requires a mosquito to actually spread. So that wasn’t an issue. Still, we kept him relatively isolated and washed our hands and clothes after handling him, just in case.

So we ended up taking him home for a night; we washed him off (there was some poop stuck to him where he’d scrabbled about in the box), and gave him some water (he was just at the point where he should be figuring out drinking; we had to point his beak at the water, but once it dipped in he got the idea and started trying to scoop water in his beak and drink it.)

He was reasonably awake and alert through all this; he didn’t make a sound unless there were other crows also making noise; even then it was a quiet cheeping. He kept his legs extended anytime he wasn’t on something; his feet could grip around fingers, but he wasn’t able to stand on his legs, or fold them underneath him comfortably on his own. We were able to slowly fold the legs underneath him, but he kept wanting to extend them — either under him or to his side.

We took a picture:
Picture of baby crow

We also tried to feed him a bit; we’ve fed baby parrots before, but not crows. Some sites recommended mixing up some dog food and water along with something grainy or mealy like cornmeal. We’d actually mixed in peanut butter with baby bird food for the fat and protein content; so we crushed up some dry dog food, mixed in a small bit of peanut butter and some warm water until it was a wet slurry. We tried giving the bird some with an espresso spoon, then letting him drink it like the water, but he wasn’t really all over it. The stuff didn’t smell quite as bad as dry dog food does to me, but I wouldn’t have wanted to eat it, either.

During cleanup we decided to try and sex him; for the most part, you can usually determine the sex of a bird by the width of the two points of the pelvic bones just under their tail. You’ll be able to feel the bones as two nubbins; if they’re really close together, it’s probably a male; if they’re far apart, it’s probably a female (‘egg laying bones’). It’s not 100% reliable, but it’s worked well enough.

Turns out baby Squibbs (my SO named him) is a she. We made up a box for her, so she could sleep. And she did:
Baby crow sleeping in towel

We put the box into a room where the dogs couldn’t get, and let her sleep through the night. The next morning, we tried another feeding, but she was more interested in just having water than the food mixture. We took the bird to Project Wildlife, a local organization that rescues and rehabilitates injured wildlife.

We were a bit apprehensive as to whether or not this would be a place that is a bit free with the euthanasia (a few years ago, San Diego’s Animal Control department was run by a person for whom euthanasia appeared to be the first and only option; fortunately she was ousted after an expose by the local paper). As it turns out, that appears not to be the case — the Project Wildlife office had lots and lots of cages, and from what we could see, there were lots of recovering birds, baby and otherwise. It was actually quite heartening to see. They even have a question and answer on their FAQ — “I found a hawk that was hit by a car, should I just let “nature take its course”?”. Their answer is absolutely not — that if you can get the bird to Project Wildlife it can be rehabilitated and rejoin the wild.

The person at Project Wildlife said that there might be something developmentally wrong with the crow; she said that at this size it should be able to stand and vocalize well. The bird did seem fine, other than being unable to stand. It still had lots of baby fuzz (not the real, interlocking feathers) covering its head and body, so with any luck she just decided to leave the nest early.

Here’s hoping baby Squibbs recovers and is rehabilitated well enough to rejoin the wild. I think Project Wildlife can do so. We enjoyed taking care of her for a night; I have to admit I had a couple of fantasies about a shoulder-perched crow making foreboding noises at opportune times, but gothic fantasy rarely matches reality. A bit sad to see her go, but she’s definitely in good hands now.