elf ninja?

From reading the elf-dwarf-pirate-ninja theory of person classification, I’ve been trying to (honestly) figure out where I fit.

Looking at the pirate-ninja scale, I can’t see that I fit in as pirate. While it’s amusing, and every now and then I can be a bit of a boor, it doesn’t work out for me well enough that I could live up to being a pirate. Ninja, on the other hand… I’m not necessarily what one might call disciplined, but I do have a habit of swooping in and fixing (or sometimes breaking) things every now and then. The “Oh, I see the problem” school of mechanical artistry.

For elf-dwarf, on the other hand; while I would love to be on the practical end of things — I love perusing Make magazine, building and doing things, and making things better — I have to admit that I’m much more high concept. I’ll come up with an idea, hold it up to the light and admire it, then promptly forget about it. Or I’ll come up with something, work on it for a bit, then let it fall by the wayside for a while until I regain interest. Viz my cron-rs485-controlled sprinkler system, the LED outdoor lights I’ve talked about building here, and any one of a half-dozen projects that sit half-finished.
I collect oiltight industrial controls (telemecanique and allen-bradley are my favorites), and have been known to add switches and buttons to a project just to have more switches and buttons, even if they’re totally unnecessary.

So yeah; the almost-finished-remodeled bedroom with just a few more grout lines to fill and baseboards and window trim to add testifies that I’m probably more of an elf.

Not that it’s necessarily bad to be an elf-ninja. And my family puts up with it. I suppose I need to find a t-shirt now.

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.

mysterious error messages, part 2

Here’s one that I just ran into; the results from a google search aren’t exactly helpful (no, you don’t need to reinstall the package because of this error).

After installing proftpd 1.3.0a, using a mostly-default /etc/proftpd.conf, on CentOS 4.4, you try to start it up and get the following error message:

- Fatal: ScoreboardFile: : unable to use '/var/run/proftpd.scoreboard': Operation not permitted on line 58 of '/etc/proftpd.conf'

The unhelpful error message doesn’t explain, like the comments in the source code do, that the scoreboard file should not be in a world-writeable directory. On CentOS 4.4, /var/run is world-writeable with the sticky bit (like /tmp) so that processes that don’t run as root can put their lock files in there.

Solution: create a new directory (I chose /var/lib/proftpd), chown it to the same user that proftpd runs as (the User directive in /etc/proftpd.conf), and make sure it’s mode 775 or similar. Then change the following line in /etc/proftpd.conf:

ScoreboardFile /var/run/proftpd.scoreboard


ScoreboardFile /var/lib/proftpd/proftpd.scoreboard

I should probably submit a patch to make a more helpful error message. But that won’t help the users with default installs who just run into this error.