Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I did it! I did it!

Finally, after months of on & off training, and with only a few days left until the 10K, I ran a full 6.2 miles last night. And then I had a beer. Or at least most of a beer. You see, running 6.2 miles tends to dehydrate you a little, and I couldn't quite get through the whole thing. Maybe it wasn't the very best idea, but it sure was tasty.

But anyway, back to the joy: I did it! A few weeks ago, I was on track to have passed this milestone with a week or more to spare. I had even thought at one point about being closer to 7 miles before the event, so that it wouldn't kill me to run 6.2 on race-day. But then life got in the way, along with ennui and complaisance. In the end, I was struggling late last week to get to 5.3 miles. On Saturday, I made it 5.7 miles.

I feel good, but I probably shouldn't have had that beer.

I also ran significantly faster than I usually do, completing the whole thing in just over an hour. Yeah, that's not stellar, but 6mph is 20% faster than 5mph, and it would, in theory, put a marathon at ~4 hours instead of 5. Not that I'm crazy enough to plan on running a marathon...

In other news, Alastair and I had almost 10 minutes of solid, pure cuddle time last night. Usually he's hyper in the evenings and just plays his little heart out. It's great to play with him, but he gets a little moody and really doesn't often come over for cuddles. But last night, after crawling over me to get his stuffed kitty, he just relaxed in the crook of my elbow, and we sang "Row Row Row Your Boat" and did "This Little Piggy" and just hung out for a good while.

Then he had a wonderfully relaxing bath and wanted lots of kisses during his story-time. He's such a sweety!

I love my little man.

Friday, March 23, 2007

...And I Feel Fine

Proof that the end is nigh: yesterday I saw a big-rig with spinnaz. No lie. And not the cheap Target / Walmart ones, either: these were the real deal.

O World, I hardly knew ye...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home Improvement, sort of...

Since Dad & Randy were so gracious as to buy us yard services, we figure we owe it to ourselves to get the house and property looking nice, too. To that end, we bought new outdoor lighting a couple of weeks ago. I had put off installing it while I finished Project Miata, but yesterday afternoon, with Amanda and Alastair at the mall, I took a crack at installing one of the lights.

It was pretty easy, except that nobody ever bothered to install an electrical box on the outside of the house. The old fixture was simply drilled into the mortar with the electric cable dangling out of the wall. Not one to go drilling 4" holes in the side of my house, I left well enough alone and drilled new holes, this time in the brick (using mortar as an anchor is bad). The wiring was honestly the most complicated part, as the internal wiring was interior wiring, and not color-coded for hot/ground. I just guessed: it's a light bulb, after all, and not a high-amp device.

The results were dramatic: I was able to fully obscure the old installation holes and the new fixture puts out almost twice as much light!

Then, last night, Amanda started having problems with her brand new LaserJet 3055 all-in-one. Then I started having problems with it, and then she lost connectivity to the server. Things were going bad quickly, and the DHCP table on my Linksys router was all kinds of screwed up. I did a reset, but then realized I had no idea what the default username/password were.

I searched for over an hour for a manual before giving up and going to Walmart for a new router. When I got that home, I realized why I couldn't find the manual: there is none. So, out came the old CD, and a quick search through the setup guide revealed the default values.

I got the router re-configured, and figured all was well, but not so: Amanda still couldn't print! WTF? I manually entered all the systems on my network into my DNS server, but still nothing.

At this point, we were both getting pretty steamed, since she had work to do and I needed to go to bed. On a quick glance through the router's DHCP setup, I noticed the error: the internal DNS server was not defined in my scope options. I set it, ran an "ipconfig /release" and "ipconfig /renew" on both PC's, and all was well.

I kissed her good night, laid down, and passed out almost immediately.

Long night.

Back to home improvement...

Last week the drain on the kitchen sink burst. It started as a drip, but within a few hours, everything poured down the drain came out into a bucket under the sink. This was a re-hash of problems we'd had a month or so ago, so I decided it was beyond my skill-level.

I called a plumber, and they came on Friday. It seems that our new sink is so deep that it puts the disposer below the level of our drain pipe. That means that water wants to flow in the wrong direction, and puts a lot of stress on the overly tall goose-neck.

Unfortunately, the only short-term solution was to remove the disposer. The long-term ($$) option was to crawl under the house, cut, weld, snip, trim, and lower the pipes themselves.

We took the short-term option. I figured that since the hot-water heater is somewhere between 14 and 17 years old, it's not going to last much longer. We've been looking into heaters that don't have a tank (in-line heaters), so if I'm going to have a plumber digging under my house, I might as well get my money's worth.

The down-side is that I now have no disposer, and my darling wife has turned me into a raging germophobe, so cleaning the trap fouls my junk right out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pi(e) Day, and the Decay of Social Skills in the Modern Office

Today is 3/14, and in honor of Pi, we had pie. French silk chocolate pie, from Ukrop's. Tasty! I got a few bewildered coworkers to contribute to our Pi(e) Day celebration, and we chowed down most heartily at 1:59pm (pi time: 3/14 1:59). I'm also proud to say that I added 3 digits to my knowledge of pi: 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288

Ok, enough geekdom...

I've often been bothered in the workplace by people who don't seem to notice when the conversation is over. You've met them: they're the ones who won't let you leave your own cube when you're already late to a doctor's appointment. They're the ones who keep re-hashing the same 5 sentences and finding new and unnecessary correlations to dead subjects. You probably think of them as bores who just don't take a hint. I know I did, until recently.

You see, I've been reading a lot about 19th century naval and social etiquette, and as wildly different as that time seems from today, there are also some shocking similarities, and the author touches on many of them. The social awkwardness that I'm talking about has been a problem for a long time, but it didn't seem to be so prevalent when I was younger.

The inability to recognize the end of a conversation is a demonstration of a lack of social grace. It's not just that the person is awkward, it's that they were never taught how to recognize the clues.

I spend a fair amount of my time at work trying to get out of conversations that are going nowhere, and yesterday was particularly trying. One coworker was asking for some work that would take me a few hours. I offered suggestions and consulted with him on the range of options, and knew that I was getting close to my time to leave (I was going to meet Amanda and Alastair at the doctor's office). In an effort to draw that conversation to a close, I asked a light and unobtrusive question about his recent education path.

The point of this type of question is to allow a natural conduit to a quick end. Figuring there wasn't much to be said on the subject (a calculated consideration, based on what I know about him), I asked if he was still pursuing certifications. Somehow, he misconstrued the question and began an oratory on the changing face of certification, potential upgrade paths, how one certification relates to another, and myriad potential tie-ins.

Seeing that my window of opportunity for escape was rapidly closing, I employed another tactic for escaping a bore: the loop-back. I reverted to the original subject, stated that I would begin work on it first thing in the morning, and that he'd be good to go.

No luck. This is supposed to elicit an "all right, cool; thanks. I'll see you then." But with this fellow it drew up a whole new series of questions that had nothing to do with my involvement.

See, the problem wasn't that the issue needed to be addressed any more, it was just that he didn't know how to leave. He prated for so long that I had almost no time to eat lunch before the appointment. Before he left, I had my coat on, my laptop packed and over my shoulder, and was beginning to move toward the door.

It's an infuriating and ingratiating habit that I've dealt with way too often in the IT world, and I think it shows a failure of the modern education system. We focus way too much on memorizing data and understanding the correlation of one fact-set to another, but there's no formal cultural education outside of art and history.

Social graces need to be taught. They do not occur naturally. I'm not advocating any particular overhaul of public education, but if we keep ignoring social grace, it will become very difficult to deal with people in a short while. Already, if you're good to people and make it easy to get things done, you get accused of being a "good ol' boy". But I've never met a good ol' boy that couldn't end a conversation.

Damn that pie was good.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Trouble with the train

I had been planning for several weeks to take Amanda out of town to an undisclosed city. The plan called for leaving Alastair at his grandparents' house, catching the train, and heading up to DC in the early afternoon, having a nice, relaxing meal, and then a bit of museum hopping the following morning.

I got started early, got all my reservations squared away, secured child-care, and took the day off to get the weekend started right.

Since the train was to leave at 2:46pm (right in the heart of nap-time), I had my dad come over and sit while Alastair napped. We got to the train station at 2:27pm, and when I got in line to get my tickets, I heard the ticket agent tell someone that the train we were taking was running 2 hours late. Great. F'ing Amtrak.

So we took it in stride: we went to an antiques mall for a while and came back at our appointed time (only one hour later). I called the District Chophouse and rescheduled our dinner from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. We then waited at the station for another hour, and at 4:45, when the train was finally supposed to arrive, they announced that the train was still an hour away and PARKED.

I'd had enough, and I didn't want our trip to be utterly ruined by slAmtrak, so we went back to the car, filled the tank with gas (and our bellies with coffee), and drove to Washington, DC, in the middle of rush-hour.

And we never stopped until we got to the Pentagon. Seriously. Traffic moved at 80mph from Mechanicsville to Alexandria, and we were in slow traffic for all of about 10 minutes in the city. We parked at 6:27pm, only one hour after the train was originally supposed to have arrived. Try though I might, I was unable to get our dinner re-scheduled to 8pm. Alas.

So we wandered, and we had a great time doing so. When it came time for dinner, we had a great one. The District Chophouse has lost a little over the years, but it was a late dinner, so maybe they were just tired, too. We were exhausted when we left the restaurant at 11:15, so we went straight to bed.

One of the greatest things about having a baby is what it does to your internal clock. We are now unable to sleep past 8am, which means we never miss breakfast when travelling (used to be a huge issue: we'd sleep 'til 10 or later and not be able to find food). We had a fabulous breakfast at the Corner Bakery, checked out of the hotel, and spent several hours touring the National Gallery.

I had a blast! I've really started to enjoy impressionist art, and there was a neat photography exhibit showing Paris during Hausmann's reconstruction.

We left DC at 1:50pm, apparently dead-center in the touristy hours, and never once hit a slow-down in traffic. It took us 80 minutes from our departure time to get to Mechanicsville (3:10pm), which I think is a record for us. We picked up Alastair from his grandparents' house, went home, and had a lovely evening.

On the whole it was one of the best weekends we've had together in a long time. It's important to recharge every once in a while.

On a side-note, I told some co-workers on Thursday that Alastair was walking but not yet standing up on his own, and that very evening he started doing it. Not standing with the help of objects--he's been doing that for months. He just picked himself up and started walking. Then he did it over and over again, like he'd been doing it for years. My little Hercules.