Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Useful Documentation

I had a suspicion this would be the answer to the Selenium error message in my logs, but I felt I needed to validate it anyway.  I think under Common Solutions it should say, "Make sure the element is present.  Idiot."  That would help a lot.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Interviewing, The Bobs Style

Drew and I went interviewing on the 20th at the Maverick offices at the U of MN to talk to the students about internships at work. Yes, that is a Swingline stapler. A red one. And yes, we are being photobombed by Mr. Worf, Michael Dorn. Which means I could have done a meme to the effect of, "TO BE HONEST WITH YOU, I LOVE HIS ACTING. I DO. I AM A MICHAEL DORN FAN. FOR MY MONEY, I DON'T THINK IT GETS ANY BETTER THAN WHEN HE SINGS KLINGON OPERA." But I'm pleased with my choice of quotes.

How to Fix User Profile Service Failed the Login Error

If you ever get "User Profile Service Failed the Login Error", Total Ctrl and Computer Repair Service has a great post about how to fix it on YouTube.  I generally hate YouTube repair examples, but this one was concise, step-by-step, and accurate. It completely fixed my wife's issue with a safe boot and registry change.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Turn of Phrase

I've been reading H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds to Eryn lately.  The twists of the language make for some tricky reading. I find myself reading in a rather stilted manner unless I pay attention.  And there are words and phrases that aren't really in use now, like loafers, which seems to refer to someone who loads a barge.  But I suspect they're the layabouts who wait for work near the docks.  Hence, they're loafing, although I'd never think of someone waiting for work as a loafer.

But the most interesting phrase so far was a sentence I wouldn't expect to see in a modern book, "His landlady came to the door, loosely wrapped in dressing gown and shawl; her husband followed ejaculating."

I guess he was really startled by the Martians.


Movember is over.  I hate growing a mustache.  Hate it a lot.  Even though we raised the most money in our corporate network location (couple thousand dollars) and even though I once grew one for a play in high school.  I hate it.  I feel like a different person.  Gumpier.  Older.  It's depressing.  A beard helps a little, but not much.  At least the beard make me feel a little evil.  I did use the Movember app this year, so you can see my mustache progression.  Don't I look more tired in the end?  It has nothing whatsoever to do with being long overdue for a vacation at that point.

Here's the larger version so you can really appreciate the stache.

And here it is, growing in time lapse, stop motion-ness.  I've included slow, medium, and fast so you can get through it at a speed you're comfortable with. And a speed of 0 is an appropriate choice.




Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I have a real problem with Lefse not being in Words with Friends.  Someone on line noted tamale was ok.  But not lefse. As a Minnesotan who found the word incredibly obvious in his tile lineup and a real treat because it was a potential triple word score, I was shocked to get the Sorry message.  And then I read the Wikipedia entry which says it's only in some states' grocery stores, Starbuck (MN) is home to the largest lefse, and Rushford (MN) produces the most in the US.  Maybe it is primarily a Minnesota thing, although I don't know what the hell else I'd call it if someone gave me some.  Does everyone else in the US just pretend it's a defective flour tortilla?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Peformance, Trust, and Hiring

Recently I had my first team meeting with my new team.  Not so new now - I've been with them for a quarter, but in my experience even with a team where you know most of the developers it takes a quarter to understand the personalities and whether their goals and desires have changed since you last worked with them (and some of them I haven't worked with in almost three years).

I had a plan for the meeting, but I’m flexible and have lots of backup directions. Partially because my plans: talk about larger organizational theoretical topics, talk about Javascript visualization packages (although JS Sequence, cool...), talk about corporate/code security; can sometimes feel like lecturing rather than responding.  So after a few minutes of Q&A we went with flexible instead of planned and talked about team questions (culture, dev and test merging under a project aspect, am I moving closer to the team space [I currently sit two floors up and a tenth of a mile away - seriously], annual reviews/ratings and why you should give them some serious attention, etc) for 40 minutes.

I was sort of glad I didn't have to stick to my original plan.  A couple of team members asked “what’s that?” as regards culture changes, artifacts, and corporate statements.  I had a couple of videos that seemed somewhat culture change centric that had been in my planned queue.  I’d read a really good article by Derek Sivers on great customer service in my PragProg magazine (I know, I know, it's the Prose Garden now) – focused more on a culture of customer service, but interesting - and knew he had TED talks, so it included the following by him and these two others about corporate culture and safety.

Sivers was funny, but it's the Sinek one that strikes a little close to home in a culture discussion.  You don’t need to watch it – I’ll boil it down.  He says our tribal nature as humans encourages us to be safe within a particular group and see other, outside, things as a threat.  In any culture, that’s what you’re working against (the group identified as “safe” vs. everything outside “safe”).  As an example of a culture that tries to break down that safety circle and redefine it in terms of the company (widening the safety/trust circle is an alternative way to look at it), he refers to a company that hires for life, NextJump.  They have a incredibly in-depth onboarding process with the end result being you can’t get fired.  They can make you miserable (I assume) and put you through tons of training and re-training, and the company could go bankrupt, but the basic philosophy of the company is you’re hired for life or as long as you want to be (hired, not alive).  You can now ignore the threat of losing your job as an issue – you’re safe/r.  The whole company is your tribal safety space.

This leads to unpleasant questions…is there a basic disconnect between our pay for performance cultural practice and our desired cultural reality at my own employer?  If team members have to worry that not only is their performance potentially an issue, but that it’s subject to influences such as the opinion of specific managers and bell curves (basic math), are we sending two different messages about our culture?  Or creating a schizophrenic culture where we ask for trust that we potentially might not be giving?  You can intuit out some of my thoughts on it from my questions – but at the moment, I’m mulling it over and trying to decide if I think our cultural change isn’t thought out enough to tackle the shift on all levels and from all angles (and whether that dooms it to fail).  I need to think it through a bit more before I'm willing to dig into the topic with a group so that I'm not grinding my ideas against my team.

So much damn work...and Eryn plays soccer at age 9

I have a handycam that's as old as my daughter.  A little older because we bought it to film her, so it's easy to determine an age.  That makes it old tech with it's hi8 tapes and firewire and subpar USB that records video but not sound, which I could probably fix with multiple wires, but that seems fraught with all sorts of other issues.  There was a time, many many years ago - more than half a decade - when the firewire worked and I copied over some of the videos directly.  But now the firewire doesn't work and, as near as I can tell, it's that it simply refuses to work with the "newer" version of Windows XP on the similarly old desktop machine and the Win7 laptop doesn't support firewire at all (without a converter).  I thought perhaps it was just the firewire or me, but there's a lot of noise out there about SP2 for XP shutting down firewire for folks.  So how to get videos off the two dozen tapes of Eryn we have and onto the web or at least somewhere we can store them as we don't know how long the tapes will last.

My process.

1.) Hook up the handycam to the DVD-R recorder.  Fortunately the DVD recorder has an HDMI connection and I have piles of DVDs I intend never to use.

2.) Replace the battery in the remote because the DVD recorder is unusable without a remote.  2b.) determine that the appropriately-company-labeled remote you put a new CR 2025 battery into is NOT the correct remote.  It's the remote for a very old portable DVD player that no longer exists or that's squirreled away somewhere.  Find the right remote.  It never needed a new battery.

3.) Hook up the handycam to the DVD recorder and hook up the DVD recorder to the TV for visual detail.  Play and record at real time.  15 minutes for this video.  An hour for most of them.

4.) Finalize the DVD.  Have to look up how to do it because it involves pushing stop, then up or down, then finding finalize.  If it's not finalized, it doesn't seem to work in a PC drive.

5.) Haul the DVD with the .VOB files on it upstairs to the Win7 laptop.  I could haul the laptop down, but it too is showing it's age and the battery is all but gone.  Still, I might do that going forward to save the walking involved.  Who wants to walk up and down the stairs?

6.) Drag the .VOB file/s into Windows Live Movie Maker.

7.) If there's only a 15 minute file all about one topic, then it's not so bad.  The resulting WMV is huge - I did HD first and it was a gig and climbing at 50% - about 550 megs for 15 minutes, but it's all one process and you can walk away and do something else.  If it's a LOT of clips, then you have two options.  a.) start and stop the DVD recorder + camcorder as they're running to generate multiple VOB files.  Or b.) Once the file is in Moviemaker cut and paste and edit repeatedly to generate multiple clips.

8.) When it's edited and the WMV is generated, upload to somewhere.  Don't keep 24 tapes x 2 gigs on the laptop - that starts to get a little full.  The system is screaming for remote backup or backup to an array.  Or, and I feel this is the right way to go, a new desktop with 2 gigs off storage so I can centralize, decommission, and back up from one location.

9.) Review the details on Youtube after 2 hours of uploading for one file.  I did learn when I put times in the YouTube description, such as 14:00, it'll autolink to those times.  My wife made this video and at 15 minutes, there are only really three places Eryn has a big part, one of them right at the end (about minutes 14 when she's scored against).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chris Hadfield

I had no idea when I costumed up as Commander Chris Hadfield for Halloween that he was coming to the Twin Cities.  And so soon.  On Thursday we shot over to Edina for a burrito and then to the Barnes and Noble to hear him speak.  The description of the event said 15 to 20 minutes of Q&A, but he talked for at least 45 minutes, not including a later break in signings where he talked about whether he'd ever fly again and related a story about how John Glenn was considered a national treasure and when the shuttle program kicked off, he was allowed to fly again and the astronaut consensus was they didn't want to get bumped for John Glenn, but if it happened to someone, they hoped they'd be the person who got to fly with him.  He wants to be like John Glenn.

The place was packed - this is just a small number of the people that were there.  I even bumped into Ryan off my team and we didn't know we were both going to the same event.  He avoided the microphone and waded into the audience to talk.  He even talked about how singing Space Oddity came about with the help of his son, and that a call from the International Space Station to the woman negotiating rights issues made a significant impact.

It was so crowded that I had to watch him over the top of the Romance section.  The various books showing millionaires and billionaires with babies and cats and dressed as various Village People were distracting, but manageable.  I was very glad to be as tall as I am.  My wife sat on the floor and listened.  And Eryn, well, it's good to be a kid.  Folks let her get closer and park herself on the aisle so she had an almost front row seat.

You can hear him talk and appreciate the green hat.

He signed books for a LONG time.  We missed getting a calendar page on the way in, so we were almost last.  Within a few people.  But he stuck around and shook everyone's hand and took pictures until everyone was done, within minutes of the store closing.

It will be a nice memory to think that the day humans landed a probe on a comet, we were listening to an astronaut.  "I try to go to bed every night of my life with a full bucket...I have to dump stuff out of my bucket it's so full." - Chris Hadfield on doing stuff rather than having a bucket list and celebrating landing on a comet.

Proof we actually met him and didn't steal pictures.  Can you tell I'm pretty excited?  I started college with a desire to be in the space program.  The reality changed, but the excitement never went away.  His stories about riding both the shuttle and Soyuz were particularly cool  He talked about bouncing around in the Soyuz and said it was akin to a dump truck, compared to the car ride that is the shuttle.

Eryn with Commander Hadfield.  He commented on how he liked her Doctor Who shirt.  During the Q&A he had 8 year old Natalie come up so he could address her directly about her question, "What happens if you get hit with a rock in space?"  He explained the 16 layers of a space suit including heat resistance and kevlar after he told her how her tongue would swell, her tears would freeze, and her eyes would boil and she'd be a "Dead Natalie" without her suit which was her personal space ship.  The tears were because she was so excited and she was ecstatic that he was talking to her like someone who could deal with the truth.  Her parents were all pictures and some of the biggest smiles I've ever seen on humans.

"Go around the world a hundred times. Your perspective becomes...correct. " - Chris Hadfield

I should append, this is the second astronaut we've met.  Here we are with Robert Springer at Kennedy in 2011, including me in my t-shirt that they cut off me when I was in a coma.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Comet Sound

A friend from work posted a link to the noise 67P is making.  Pretty cool - but not really something you'd want to fall asleep to.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Veterans Day 2014.  My friend Justinian posted a link to Passchendaele,  Up to 800,000 dead and 11 nations on the battlefield.  It's not glorious, despite the ending scene.  It's horrible.  It's a hand to hand fight in mud and blood with rocks and knives and hands that makes you understand why Armistice Day is so important in Europe.

And here's Shell Shock 1914-1918, a fitting documentary to ponder on Veterans Day and a testament to the fact that war isn't always hardest on the body.

Monday, November 10, 2014

52 Myths

I thought this was a neat infographic from Information Is Beautiful via io9 about 52 common myths.

Net Neutrality, Per the Oatmeal

In my opinion, much better than cartoons about cats.

Gaming and Things

We spent the weekend in St. Peter hanging out with the Klunds, playing a lot of games, drinking Klund's coffee, and generally having a good time with them and Mean Mr. Mustard.  There was a lot of board gaming.  Several rounds of King of Tokyo, Castle Dice, Settlers of Cataan, and a spirited round of Cards Against Humanity after the kids went to bed. Or at least put on their headphones and pretended we didn't exist. Klund coined the term "Blueberry" to refer to throwing out a card that just didn't matter to get it out of your hand.  Ms. Klund learned a lot of new words.

Speaking of which, you can take part in their 10 Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa.  I don't know what you get, but $15.00 is less than two weeks of coffee, so I figure I can't go wrong.

I finished out the long weekend, which really involved two days of remote work, which was sort of not-to-the-point, by getting the trim up on the garage door.  I found some non-expanding foam and a trim nail gun and sealed off all the big gusts of wind blowing into the house.  There's still a small breeze near the top left because a.) it's cold outside, and b.) the outside (garage facing) sheetrock isn't level and the door came with edging, so it wouldn't insert completely straight.  I pondered ripping the wood edging off and didn't.  Then I pondered beating the hell out of the sheetrock with a hammer and didn't.  I reused the weird under the trim edging they inserted previously to make up for their unlevel wall and it's 95% correct.  If I add some additional weatherstripping at the top, it'll be good.  But I suspect I'll have to rip it out of there and reinsert it before I sell the house (or hire someone to do it for me...)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Tabletop, Season 3

Finally.  Finally!  Even though there's not an episode yet, there's an episode list.  Eryn is annoyed they cover Cards Against Humanity, because she knows we won't let her play it, watch us play it, and even though we've let her watch all the episodes of Table Top despite Felicia Day's reference to tentacle porn, that one will require pre-screening on my part and a possible, "no".

The list includes the guests.  I think they need photos of the guests on their post, but I'm too lazy to rectify it.

So I'll be a slacker and just give you photos for a single guest from the first episode because it has a Minnesota tie-in.  Here's Kluwe, the shirted version, not the unshirted version, and the local City Pages version.

  • Tokaido – Jason Wishnov, J. August Richards, Chris Kluwe
  • Concept – Joseph Scrimshaw, Rett and Link
  • Roll For It and Sushi Go! – Jason Ritter, Jennifer Hale, John Ross Bowie
  • Forbidden Desert – Felicia Day, Alan Tudyk, Jon Heder
  • Love Letter and Coup – The Fine Brothers and Felicia Day
  • Hare & Tortoise and Council of Verona – Jessica Merizan, David Kwong, Alison Haislip
  • Sheriff of Nottingham – Meredith Salenger, Ashley Clements, Derek Mio
  • Stone Age – Nika Harper, Jesse Cox, Jordan Maron
  • Geek Out – Anne Wheaton, Bonnie Burton, Clare Kramer
  • Five Tribes: Jenna Busch, Richard Garriot, Satine Phoenix
  • Epic Spell Wars: Jonah Ray, Emily Gordon, Veronica Belmont
  • Mice & Mystics, Chapter One – Anne Wheaton, Ryan Wheaton, Nolan Kopp
  • Dread – Molly Lewis, Ivan Van Norman, Laura Bailey
  • Catan Junior – Emily Anderson, Brett, Baligrad, Adam Chernick
  • Libertalia – Karen Gillan, Seth Green, Clare Grant
  • Kingdom Builder – Yuri Lowenthal, Tara Platt, Paul Scheer
  • Dead of Winter – Dodger Leigh, Grant Imahara, Ashley Johnson
  • Legendary – Allie Brosh, Mark Fischbach, Brea Grant
  • Tabletop After Dark: Cards Against Humanity – Aisha Tyler, Ali Spagnola, Laina Morris

"The moral progression of his choices without using dialogue"

From Kottke via Every Frame a Painting. Spoilers in the video, with warning.  A a very interesting 3 minute analysis of Snowpiercer - on Netflix streaming at the moment and a movie I saw at St. Anthony Main Theatre with Kyle that was good enough to overcome my horrible dinner experience at the Aster - and how to do character choice right.  Much better than the AV Club's (Almost) Every Horror Reference in Cabin in the Woods which Eryn agreed, without prompting, was speculative.  And yes, Eryn has watched the original movie.  Blame Mean Mr. Mustard who I use as a cultural litmus for young women.

Friday, November 07, 2014

In 2014, countries are still paying off debt from World War One

This is an article from Quartz.

I love the poppy pictures for the 100th anniversary of the war (there's one in this article).  I have some Facebook friends over there right now and they've been posting pictures.  I remember the poppies when I was there back in, um, November 2008?  Nope, 2007.  I guess that's why I have a blog, so I don't have to remember years.  I knew the specific month and date, but not the year.  That strikes me as serious old guy behavior.

I find this absolutely amazing. 300 year old debt!  It's closer to the early modern fiscal prudence of Henry VII (around 1500) - you can read about his extraordinary revenue and ordinary revenue practices at those links - than it is to the present.
"Incredibly, because the 4% Consuls were used to refinance even older debt, some of the debt being repaid in early 2015 goes as far back as the 18th century. “In 1853, then-chancellor Gladstone consolidated, among other things, the capital stock of the South Sea Company originating in 1711, which had collapsed in the infamous South Sea Bubble financial crisis of 1720,” the UK Treasury said. And Chancellor George Goschen converted bonds first issued in 1752 and subsequently used them to finance the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars, as well as the Slavery Abolition Act of 1835."

And the article puts the context of Germany's debt in terms of 96,000 tons of gold.  That's a big pile. I'm having trouble imagining it, just like I had trouble imagining XKCD telling me a supernova was magnitudes larger than setting off an atomic bomb on my eyeball.  I poked around on the internet, and I can't find anything quickly that weights 96,000 tons, but...The George W. Bush Nimitz Class Carrier weight 102,000 tons, and the Enterprise 100,000.  Ignoring any long/short/metric/English conversions and just deciding close enough counts in horseshoes, atom bombs/supernovas, and aircraft carriers, that means a Nimitz-class ACC made out of solid gold.  It would be smaller, because steel is about atomic mass 50 (that's a pure guess based on the atomic mass of iron and then just deciding all those trace strengthening elements take it down 10%) and gold is 196, so it would be roughly a 1/4 scale sold gold air craft carrier.  Probably on the bottom of the ocean.  My guess is that it wouldn't float.  And now I've realized I have my very own question for What If!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Cycling Party

I've backed a LOT of games on Kickstarter, and this is intriguing.  Cycling Party!  But I can't bring myself to back another game.  It could have to do with the fact I have at least three I haven't played yet, two of them sitting on the table, one still in the wrapping.  I believe there's an expansion currently in the mail as well.  And if I start to mentally walk through the four places I keep games, I'd guess there's more like five, not including a few I've only played once and a bunch I wish I was playing more often but haven't because there are too many new ones to try.

I so want a bicycling game.  It would go well with my dystopia game and I could figure out how to do a mash up.  But I'm on hiatus until I get through at least a few of the boxes starting to fill up the house.  Maybe my Secret Santa will get it for me.

Scary Clowns

Scary clowns are terrorizing France!

"The threat of neighborhood clown gangs has provoked a grassroots response of teenaged self-styled clown hunters (chasseurs de clown), who have organized vigilante resistance groups, both online and in the streets. Some of these groupes d’auto-defense have themselves run afoul of police.

When five teens in Mulhouse attempted to organize an anti-clown resistance group⎯armed with a tear-gas canister, a baseball bat, a telescopic baton, and brass knuckles ⎯they were promptly arrested."

That's right, it's almost exactly like Gotham City Imposters (video at YouTube), "Countdown to Clown Beatdown!" or "Let's Kick Some Bats in the Balls!"  If you've never played the game, you can customize the catchphrases to your language, French or otherwise.