Friday, January 23, 2015

The 5,000 Fingers of Doctor T

The family (Eryn, Pooteewheet, my Dad and I) went to The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T at the Trylon tonight. I made reference to the movie in my master's thesis on dystopias as it shares a few features, at least in the mind of a kid and, as a piano-based dystopia, is rather unique.  Lot of laughter in the theater as much of the humor has held up well over time, such as the joke about being paid time and a half, Bart's interactions with the adults in his life and dislike of constant piano practice, and the atomic sound absorber,  While most people I've talked to haven't seen the movie, they don't realize they've seen or heard Dr. T in one of his other guises.  Hans Conried, among many, many other roles was the voice of Snidely Whiplash in the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.


Ming and Kyle gave me Asian cookbooks for the holidays, including a lot of how to cook Ramen information. I have yet to read them because I have to finish up half a dozen other books first.  So I'm going to just have to pick a recipe and do some United Noodles shopping and hope that it doesn't suffer significantly just because I didn't read the commentary.

I thought both the Thai Curry Soup and Thai Peanut Chicken soup at this site sounded pretty tasty.  A shopping list is in order.  I should find an online one so I can roll up ingredients across a few recipes.

For vegetarian day at our house, I thought the stewed carrots as pulled pork recipe, though not out of an Asian cookbook, seems pretty cool.  Might make a good alternative to potato/cauliflower days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Old Dixieland in France

From the chapter "Old Dixieland in France" in The Last of the Doughboys by Richard Rubin, bottom of page 263.

"African American soldiers were undertrained and underequipped; the first batch of black stevedores sent to France was actually issued blue uniforms left over from the Civil War.  They were assigned worked deemed 'unfit' for white soldiers, and ordered into factories as strikebreakers. They were warned, in the most menacing of terms, to stay far away from French women, not to enter French homes or eat in French cafes. (French citizens, for their part, were asked by American authorities to honor American 'cultural sensitivities' by adopting a policy of racial discrimination for the duration of the war.) They were, as a class, labeled -- in official reports -- as lazy, or simpleminded, or devious, or all three.  Contemporary accounts report that they were subjected to an extraordinary amount of verbal and even physical abuse in camp, just in the course of an ordinary day."

This is all before he gets to the section about "coon songs", which are pretty vile, and period assumptions about mental inferiority.

"Yes, a man with a rifle has power, authority, dignity; but a man who uses that rifle to fight - for you - also has pride.  You owe him your gratitude.  And he knows it.  And when this man comes back home again after putting his life at risk to defend your freedom, perhaps he'll be satisfied to just return to the way things were before.  But perhaps not."

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Setup for the Training Room

I'm not sure you can tell from this video, but that monitor on the right is very large.  I realized while I was at Dan'l's house today that he basically had a television hooked to his computer.  Why this didn't occur to me before, I don't know, because we certainly hooked Eryn's Raspberry Pi up to the television.  And upstairs, I had a television that was out of warranty where the sound would crank up to maximum no matter what we did.  You can't really watch it that way without upsetting the neighbors. A scouring of the web indicated this was a common problem with the television and not fixable without removing the board and messing with it.  Something I had no desire to do.  However, if you hook the same television up to the computer via HDMI, then absolutely no sound is needed whatsoever.  You can just leave it on mute.  End result, The Pacific (which Ming and Kyle wouldn't loan me) absolutely huge while I ride my trainer and my wife gets my old wide screen as an extender for her work.  Win all the way around.


It's not like I really want to bike there and that I don't understand there are oceans in the way.  I'm just sort of saying, what if I could bike there, how far would it be?  They need to add a pedaled-sleigh option.  Maybe I should recommend it as part of Google's Christmas Santa Tracking.  I realize Santa's not in Antarctica; he prefers the north pole.  But the result is the same no matter which way I point my bicycle.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie...Really

Friday we went to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at Theatre in the Round.  I didn't know anything about it and, at first, it was strange.  Miss Brodie is a peculiar character talking about how her female students are the crème de la crème and she's putting old heads on their young bodies.  Over the course of the play it becomes evident that what she's really saying is that she has these ideas about how exciting the world should be, how much grander it should be than her own life.  And those ideas spill over into how she interacts with everyone, positioning them to be Lady of Shallot-like, resistance fighters, and other characters in an internal view of the world that, while it isn't obviously crazy, is warping and dangerous to her students, particularly given her status as their teacher.  One student, the one she positions as the practical and dependable character, rebels and fills positions that don't fit Miss Brodie's plans for individuals, on purpose to push at Miss Brodie and to show her that the way she's casting her students in roles that fill her grandiose, literary, visions of the world are limiting and, eventually deadly.

It was a very uncomfortable play - and one of the few at TiTR over the last several years to make me really think - in how the teacher's belief in her the greatness of her students was, in the end, limiting and problematic, despite being a draw for those students and the men who loved her and who couldn't fulfill her internal narrative (made external).

An amusing TITR-specific story is that Sue, who I used to work with, was there and noted that the nudity in the show was undertaken by someone her son had been in high school with, which made her feel particularly old.

Saturday, my wife and I went to the Trylon (yeah, new projector, paid for in part with corporate matching dollars from our donations.  TITR listed donations from us which were matched as well.  It's good to know my art-related donations are going to places I frequent).  They were showing Picnic at Hanging Rock.  It wasn't nearly as fast at the Zatiochi series Kyle, Ming, Eryn, and I have been attending, but it was surprisingly similar to Miss Jean Brodie in a few respects (Zatiochi is not).  At one point one of the teachers says of Miranda, who disappears, that she's like a Botticelli angel and it comes with all the baggage that being that angel would entail.  Something to look at rather than a character of action.  Shortly afterwards, all the gazing at Miranda (and her friends) that has happened, turns to active searching as they disappear at Hanging Rock, nearly naked by the terms set forth in the movie (stockings, corset, gloves).  Sexuality in part has caused them to disappear as visions of courtly/painted love.  It is a SLOW movie.  But that gave you plenty of time to think through what they were doing, and why the search was so important, and what their disappearance was doing to all the other characters in the movie.  Pooteewheet (my wife) and I thought at first it might be based on a real event.  But it's not.  And that makes the unresolved ending all the more intriguing in a movie.  When I popped over to Wikipedia to look up what else Peter Weir has directed, it wasn't a surprise to see The Truman Show, The Mosquito Coast, and Gallipoli (which was the one I knew).

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie...Not Really

Before I get around to talking about Theatre in the Round's production of The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie and Picnic at Hanging Rock at the Trylon, I'm going to muse once again about the gap in writing here.  Some introspection.  I've discovered there a few things that I have a problem keeping going consistently that used to be easy.  I could blame age.  I could blame work.  I could  blame the sheer influx of media delivery systems, which might actually have something to do with it if I had to pick one likely culprit.  But it's more accurate to say there are peripheral impacts from two and a half years ago that are still working themselves out in my head.  Losing my last chunk of weight.  Reading at a consistent rate.  Writing at a consistent rate.  I make what look like seriously motivated pushes, but I know it's different than it was.  Doesn't seem like physical brain problems.  More like things that I did before 2.8 years ago are now more difficult to prioritize because some little bird in the back of my head says if I do anything similar to the past, I'm daring Fate to step in.  A little bit of magical thinking that, if you know me and know my habits, seems entirely at odds with what it looks like externally.  E.g. I actually read more last year than any year in my life.  I moved between numerous teams and still was fairly productive and learned some new domain work that I think is somewhat unique.  I did a lot of writing, even if it wasn't my traditional avenues.  I did more charity work than in previous years even if you don't include Litterati.  You'll just have to trust me when I say I'm off.  So I'm taking steps to remediate.  Not to get back to what I was, but to get back to some of the things that are important to me: writing, reading, bicycling (being healthy and getting to a goal weight).  We've instituted quiet time at my house for about an hour a day to get rid of the electronics so they're not distracting.  Doesn't require everyone participate every day, but if you're there, you can't be using the television, xbox, iPad, or phone.  It's amazing what an impact it has on allowing everyone to sit and read or study, including helping Eryn do her homework.  Writing: that's mine to own.  But writing here is a valid outlet, so I just have to recommit.  And as for bicycling, well, once again, it looks like I was all over it with 3500 miles one year and over a thousand the next. But I haven't been as excited about plans to bike.  So I picked a destination this year in lieu of RAGBRAI (I'm bicycling to Chicago) and planned a few long bicycling weekends in advance.  That'll double up resolving the issue of not taking enough vacations with the family either.  Maybe, in the end, it all comes down to active, decision-driven behavior, as opposed to passive, roll with the biggest issue, least work behavior.  Which, once again, speaks to a change in how I'm approaching things.

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.