greatbear: (unibrow)
I was looking over my Amazon order from earlier in the week and I was a bit amused. Some are humorously telling me the item could've been delivered sometime last week but are still on the slow boat from China. But one particular order had me giggling a bit. "Guaranteed delivery by Sunday, November 30." The amusing part of that entry was the delivery method being by US Postal Service. Well, I did hear about Amazon partnering up with the USPS for Sunday deliver in some major cities. But I knew this wouldn't be the case for me because I don't have mail delivered to the house, for ever since I built La Casa Mayhem back in 1988, I opted to have a post office box due to, at the time, the box needing to reside on the main drag rather than in front of the house (private gravel drive 800 feet from the road). When I finally ended up with a real road, I installed a mailbox mostly as a place to display the house numbers and not to look odd without one. The mail was still being delivered to the PO box, where it's safe against theft and weather, and I can let it accumulate when I am away on vacation, etc. I like our little post office, though it's a much busier place these days. Any order I have sent by mail usually takes an additional day to wend its way from the truck to my little box at the PO. So here I was, chortling about a guarantee that Amazon could never keep because things have been going a certain way for 25 years and mail has never been directly delivered to the house and...

*doorbell ringing today at about 3pm, and I see the familiar little white postal truck leaving my driveway as I slowly limp my way to the door*

There is my order, sitting in the front entryway. Damn, Amazon, you're gooood. I knew for certain that I would at least have to head to the post office on Monday to pick up the order, but this, well, I never expected. Amazon will be building at large distribution center in Baltimore next year, and promising same-day delivery for certain items to boot. The downside, of course, is now Amazon had started charging sales tax on orders fulfilled by them since October, a tactic I can assume was worked out to grease political palms, since they haven't even begun construction on the warehouse yet. The upside, there are sill lots of third party outfits that offer the same Prime shipping which are still out of state. I can work the system as much as they can.

This little order had nothing I was in a hurry for, in this case it was an assortment of USB cables plus a webcam for the lab workstation PC. So, while Jeff was still stuck at work doing his occasional manager-on-duty duties, I fired the aforementioned PC and did some needed updates along with attaching the camera. I wanted something I can take pictures of circuits and projects, and this one offered 15 megapixel stills and 1080p HD video. Webcams have come a long way from the grainy, low res output. was I was testing it with closeups of random stuff in the Mayhem Lab, I noticed my eyebrows were again in need of trimming...



When I was a young'un, I had a very pronounced unibrow. Almost as bad as the one Baby Gerald from the Simpsons has. As you can probably imagine, this provided yet more ammunition to those who were already relentlessly bullying me about at the appropriately named Savage Elementary School. Yet one more thing I would hate about myself, I'd nervously pull and yank at my eyebrows as a result, trying to get rid of this apparent scourge under my forehead. Cruel kids would look at my eyebrow (no "s") to see what sort of winter weather would be coming, accuse me of wearing a pipe cleaner over my eyes, you name it. This got added to any number of idiosyncrasies they could muster to make sure their bullying would be incessant. The pulling on my eyebrows would continue until at least middle school, where my early puberty gave them even more things to latch onto. My facial and body hair showing up before everyone else was not only something to pick on me with, it became a chance for me to turn the tables a bit and accuse the hairless children of being left behind in the maturing process. This obviously pricked up a fair amount of envy in many of the late bloomers, and it was where I was first made aware by a sympathetic gym teacher of a condition known as "penis envy" because, in addition to the (at the time, embarrassing) copious amount of pubic hair showing up as I first tripped into my teens, I was also becoming fairly well endowed compared to the bully crew that hounded my everyday life at Hammond Middle School. This teacher had seen the same thing happening with many students over the years, and it was common during those awkward days of early manhood that the underdeveloped among the student body would often feel inadequate. While I had to endure near constant accusations of being gay (hell, I barely knew I was at the time), I was able to flip the tables once again a bit and accuse the little children of being angry at themselves and their hidden desire to keep eyeballing my junk. Life eventually went along, and these days, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I can find some of those original haters and see that the majority didn't turn out to be too much in later years. My vengeance was simply the passage of time. I still have to remind myself to let go of so much of the hurt in the past, because, like so many others that share my traits, I ended up stronger, smarter and street-savvy than those that worked against my very existence back in the early years.

These days, my monobrow isn't as pronounced, most likely from my constant pulling of the hair. Enough of it remains as a reminder of dark times, but also as something that makes me a bit more unique. As age and my Russian heritage has set in, the eyebrow hair has become wild, seeming in defiance of those younger years. Every now and then one of them gets so long it scratches at my eye in a breeze. I will sometimes yank out the offending brow hair, but more often than not I will carefully trim them instead. I don't want to revisit those days of unnecessary mutilation anymore.
greatbear: (building face)
What would happen if a Danish chamber orchestra were to encounter red hot chili peppers? Not the funky rock band, but the actual peppers?

Behold:



And, yes, the bearded fella conducting is really named Chili Claus. I have to say, the musicians kept it pretty much together despite eating some of the hottest peppers in the world. After finishing the piece, though, their reaction is pretty much the same as mine after watching the recent election results.
greatbear: (forearms)
I know, I'm being a bad blogger, no real content for some time. I've been mostly busy, but not a whole lot of that busy-ness I figured would be post worthy. Let me try and fish up some highlights.

Jeff's college-bound nephew has been staying with us a couple days. In true Awesome Gay Uncle™ fashion, we've been taking him back-to-school shopping. Between the Columbia Mall and Costco, the trunk of the Strat is packed tight with everything from a printer to clothing with a bit of everything else in between. He's excited about his future, I'm happy to play a part in that as, of course, is Jeff.

When I take our proud freshman back to Pennsylvania, I have to pack the car with several big coolers, because dad bought an entire pig (well, the parts of said pig, actually) and is giving us half. Last year around this time while we were on vacation, we lost two freezers full of meat and other foodstuffs when the power was out for about a week. Part of that was meat we had shared similarly in the past. This offering was a gift from dad simply because he has now reached a point in time where he has settled down in his new place since the fire and feels this was maybe some sort of repayment for our efforts during his rough time. Well, no repayment was ever necessary, but this will be appreciated. Mmmm... porkchops...

Since our trailer sustained some minor damage from the radiant heat from the fire, we had coverage from the insurance company to have it repaired. We had hoped to do this before our trip to PTown, but it seemed the outfit doing the work had problems getting all the necessary parts. Wisely, I put off the repairs until we returned from the trip just in case the time in the shop took longer than the week we were initially quoted. I shlepped the trailer up to the shop the day after returning from vacation in mid-July. It is still not finished. Various excuses from wrong parts to health issues. While I was disappointed to cancel our other planned camping trips involving the trailer for the year, I'm now glad I did. This ordeal would've been far more frustrating otherwise. I'm hoping the thing will be done in another week. I'm tired of crashing my knees and shins on the hitch/ball mount still sticking from the back of the truck. I know once I removed it a call would come to pick up the trailer. #firstworldproblems

Years ago (omg 70s!) I used to have a Univox Super Fuzz distortion pedal, back in the days when I was pretty serious about playing guitar. This was a basic stompbox from the mid-late 60s with a limited repertoire of sounds (two filter settings, an overdrive and gain control) and, frankly, sounded like crap by comparison to newer tech in the early 80s. So, I gave it away to a friend who was getting into guitar. He had it for a while and got rid of it too, I think he sold it or gave it away. It's long gone. The other day I came across a database of various effects along with links to ones currently for sale. I looked up some of my past gear, some of which is going for more than I paid for them new. The Univox? People want 700-800 dollars for ones in worst shape than mine was! I think I paid a princely sum of about five dollars for it back in '76. Sadly, I am considering selling off some or all of my axes, amps, effects and other music gear, I haven't played in years. I get frustrated when I try, injuries, age and total lack of practice have a tendency to do that. I was never really that good to begin with, but I had fun while it lasted. Then there is that unbelievable convergence of circumstances that ended up with a brush with some of progressive rock's greatest artists and an inclusion of my random guitar noodling on an actual released album. If nothing else, I can play Six Degrees of Separation between me and most of my rock/fusion/jazz heroes using only a finger or two at most to keep track. I still love music over my other pursuits, but I'm content being a listener these days.

Speaking of luck, I've been working on the fleet of vehicles here at Mayhem HQ, it seems all of them have, in one way or another, needed or are needing rather expensive maintenance and/or upgrades. The truck needed tires before our big trip, plus some PM and upgrades. The Stratus, being a 2000 model, needs some attention too, I have a small pile of wear items that I've been putting off installing, plus it too needs new tires. Even the Mini Cooper is needing attention; though it still seems to me like I recently bought the car, it's over ten years old already and starting to show its age. It hadn't been driven in some time, so I decided to finally give it some TLC and needed repairs. I had it idling in the driveway with the hood open as I fixed the rear wiper and window washer. I turned off the engine and began heading to the house, and I hear hissing sounds. I turn around to see smoke billowing out from behind the engine and then flames. I run and get the fire extinguisher and put out the fire. Seems an oil line from an aftermarket oil catch can had broken, once I shut off the engine the oil leaked into the hot exhaust header and ignited. There was very little damage, luckily, and it took all of five dollars to repair the damage and cause of the problem as well as some time to remove some heat shields and other parts to clean up the remaining mess. This could have been a lot worse. Later that day I was going to take the car to run errands, if the hood were shut and I walked away from the car, the flames would most likely have reached a nearby fuel line and the car would've been toast. So, despite the relatively minor setback, it actually did more to get me thinking about things.

I look at life from both sides now (what, more music? =D). My health isn't the greatest, but I'm still getting on with life as I can. Jeff's parents lost their house, but I am glad his dad was with us and his mom safely in a nursing home at the time of the fire. Dad has a new place he can be proud of, and even though he lost a lot, we are finding some goodies in the salvaged stuff still to this day that might not be much, but mean a lot. I lost my job last year, but I'm in a position where I can go on hiatus and take care of things here while I decide what steps to take. I don't know if I want to get back into the same type of mind- and skill-heavy work I am accustomed to, or something less challenging for my older years. I stay pretty busy here at All That Is Mayhem, Jeff has a good job now that does keep him on his toes, but we manage to get out now and then for fun, friends and culture when we can. We have some cool things coming up to look forward to. I remain very independent and have abilities, skills and the means to give us a good life and not worry too much when something unexpected comes up. As long as I have my health, my home and my Jeff, I think I'll be alright for a long time to come.
greatbear: (cirque du so gay)
Yesterday was not a good day for lil' Snickles. For his six month birthday he got taken to the local vet to be fixed and chipped. I felt bad for the poor guy. He seemed very proud of his dangly bits, and, truth be told, he's pretty well hung for a little dog. The energetic, alert pup I dropped off had become a sleepy wet rag when it was time to pick him up. I felt awful. Snickles was disoriented, confused and lethargic for the rest of the day. We had him close and kept an eye or two out for him, and he seemed to be okay, picking up a bit right before bedtime. Today he is just about back to his old self, complete with a couple attempts to hump my arm. He adjusted to having the big plastic lampshade over his head quite well, with only one moment of panic when he tried to hook his lower jaw under the collar and succeeded. I freed him, and he's been pretty clingy all day. Jeff has to work both today and tomorrow, so it is just me and the pooches, with Pinky the cat giggling at Snickles' Cone of Shame. I cut the grass at Mayhem Acres and did some yard cleaning between the rainfalls, otherwise being domestic and mucking around with the servers and automating more backups. With Jeff gone all day, I was also spinning lots of old records, taking advantage of a new phono cartridge I installed the other day. The pups don't mind as long as I don't terribly crank the decibels, and the air guitar only draws quizzical, cocked-head stares. Maybe it should be me with that cone.

Snickles needs to rock his Elizabethan collar for a few days while his tackle box heals up, in two weeks the two stitches come out. Now comes some much more intense interaction in order to train him. He hasn't quite gotten the knack of being housebroken, a point of frustration for me at times. He still makes mistakes and doesn't know how or why to make a signal that he needs to go out, despite being very observant of Kodi. He's only a pup still, and he is plainly a very smart dog, as we've both seen on many occasions. Kodi had "official" obedience training at PetSmart, a task that we actually enjoyed very much. Kodi didn't always seem to "get it" during the training either. In both his beginning and intermediate level trainings, there was a "final exam" that needed to be passed in order to actually pass the courses. Both me and Jeff had our doubts, but as out turns came up to demonstrate Kodi's newly acquired prowess, he totally floored us both and did everything perfectly. I hope Snickles does as good.
greatbear: (forearms)
Mother Nature's "heavy flow days" continue to be a thorn in our side. While we remain high and somewhat dry, the garden languishes in a sea of weeds and tomatoes rotting on the vines. We will mount an attack to dig around and harvest the surviving veggies, then once it (eventually) dries up, till the spent stuff under and possibly throw a little bit of fall crops in.

Nature in its infinite wisdom in the form of a black snake has once again run afoul of the Basement of Serpent Doom. For the third time now, I notice a nasty smell hinting about. True to form, yet another snake managed to wriggle its way under the front porch and into the floor joists under the entryway. That area of the basement is unfinished (thankfully) and the joists have fiberglass insulation between them. This insulation is held in place with a plastic mesh netting. Said hapless snake tired to slide through one of the holes in the mesh and became ensnared. You can figure out the rest. I now once again have the displeasure of cutting out sections of fiberglass, insulation and rotten snake. I've found the spot in which the snake gets in under the concrete (I missed the chance of hauling it back out by the tail), so I will seal that up. What I can't locate, because of how the front porch is built, is the entry point into the basement. I now have an inspection camera, which is a tiny camera on the end of a flexible, well, snake that can get into dark tiny areas and return video of the trip. I will use this to suss out the breach of security and seal the area.

I think this also explains Kodi's outbursts of barking a while back. Out of the blue, Kodi would run into the living room barking like a fool. Perhaps the snake was bumping around under the floor and neither Jeff nor I heard, but Kodi might have. No outbursts for a while since.

This is not the only time that snakes have met their demise around here at the hand of the same plastic netting. The aforementioned mesh is the same stuff sold in garden shops that Mom and I used to keep birds and critters out of the berries we had been growing. I've had to cut away the netting to free snakes that became messily ensnared and tangled in the stuff. The snake's scaly skin glides wonderfully in a forward direction, but like a barbed fish hook, gets stuck trying to back out. The poor creatures were lucky when one of us were there checking out things in the garden and could free them. Not so when we had been away for a couple days. I found that the thrashing snakes became quite docile when they discovered they were being freed. The dead ones were deposited in the trash along with the mesh. Jeff and I are currently using the same stuff in the garden to keep wabbits out of the raised bed boxes. Luckily there have been no serpent encounters.

Jeff had been eagerly awaiting the day that Penn State would be playing Alabama (along with over a hundred thousand other fans) and managed to snag tix for the game. Mother Nature also is making this tough on us at the last minute, as flooding along the Susquehanna River and other waterways have caused the closing of numerous roads and bridges along our usual route. So, rather than heading up to his parent's place the night before, we will take a more westerly route tomorrow and try hopefully to avoid the closures and such. Maybe the waters will have receded a bit by then as well. We missed too many shows/games/concerts/events in the past few years due to many reasons (mostly medical, it seems), and it has to stop somewhere. I told Jeff I'll get him to this game if it kills me. :) Wish us luck (and maybe a solid route to travel).

I'm tearing up the studio as I revamp the studio PC and install a gorgeous new 30" Dell display. It's more a nest than a studio, with so much accumulated cruft crammed into nooks and crannies everywhere. Time to clean house. The PC I used as a backup can finally be put back in the garage. What was supposed to be temporary ended up being more than four years! The backup PC with its integrated graphics does not like the new monster display. The new one can handle six of them at once. Ah, to have that much desk space (and money!). lol

Jeff just got home and informed me that the closures and such have been lifted, so we are going to try our usual routes up. Good news for a change!

Just stuff

Dec. 6th, 2010 09:16 pm
greatbear: (Default)
It might be a blustery, cold evening here, with temps in the mid-upper 20s and some insane winds, but the house is nice and toasty with the woodstove cranking out the heat, and with a nice bonus of a loaf of whole wheat bread baking, making the nice warm house smell like absolute heaven. A few minutes and the bread is done. Jeff has been on a bit of cooking and especially baking binge the last couple days, and tonight is no different.

I'm currently taking new meds to deal with the nerve damage left over from the spine surgery. It's toned down the electrical storm that has wracked my body since the day my vertebra were sawed up, and I am able to plop myself in bed and sleep like a baby for a most part. I'm still plagued with the numbness, but that might not be quite as bad. The tasering feeling is much diminished, but still there too as well as weakness and occasional loss of control. The only side effects are a slightly loopy feeling and a bipolar appetite.

Still taking it easy and holding off on building the roof window light shafts into the living room. I'm spending the time doing little tasks for the most part, and have been cleaning/lubing hand and power tools while not using them. I have almost a quarter mil invested in tools and machinery (really, it even surprised me) and I try to keep things in good working order. It's tough to find decent tools these days, and good ones are seriously expensive. Most of what I have will easily outlast me. Tools are something special to me. They are a way one practices their craft, earns a living, helps others out, creates and fixes. Tools are an extension of a person, and deserve the same respect. During the recent times I have not been able to use my tools I saw them filled with history and work. Taking some time now and then to exercise some TLC on a lot of my tools was a relaxing and fulfilling task. Since the surgery I've sorta jumped the gun to get back into some work, and it was it's own sort of therapy. I guess I'm one of those who has hands-on work burned completely into my very being.

During this post the bread had finished baking and we sampled it warm and fresh. Yeah, a little slice of heaven.

Have a great week, everyone.
greatbear: (buy n large)
Jeff and I headed up to Pennslovakia this weekend to drag the trailer back here for its winter stay as well as take care of other business. We went out shopping for a new dishwasher for Jeff's 'rents since their old one finally gave up the ghost after slowly falling apart. We found a display model at a substantial discount. I installed it with little difficulty despite the damn stenosis. We also got them a new microwave by surprise by claiming we needed a new one. Their old one was at least 20 years old by my estimation, and in addition to having lost cooking power over the years (all microwave ovens do this as they age, the magnetron, which is a form of electron tube, wears out with use) the turntable no longer spun, so what you end up with is food that required a long time to cook and has hot and not-so-hot areas. Of course, Jeff's dad thinks there is nothing wrong with the old one. The new one has a sensor that allows for lots of automatic cooking options. I've had one for years now, and grown to love it. I hope they enjoy theirs.

We did a lot of running around, from Amish auctions, Wally World, a little Amish thrift grocery store called Hoover's, my favorite local-ish restaurant (Schiano's), Lowes, and Sears on Saturday despite not being able to get any sleep Friday night from pain and other issues. I managed to do some good work around their place despite it all, and had a bit easier time getting sleep. Sunday we headed off to a little restaurant in Jeff's home town that has been there for eons called Hanna's, for lunch. I had never been there before, but we've had ice cream from the adjoining stand many times. It's a tiny place, with around a dozen items on the menu and a few sides. Jeff and I started snickering soon after arriving because we noticed the average age of the customers (including us!) to be in the low 100s, and once noontime rolled around the place became flooded with people almost instantly. I guess church let out and Jeebus made 'em hungry.

After we left the Geritol rave, we headed into downtown Shamokin and all of its cosmopolitan glory tp pick up several tubs of ice cream from Maurer's Dairy & Ice Cream Shoppe. They are known for their delicious homemade ice creams, most notably one they call "Bittersweet" that is made with milk and dark chocolate pieces that somehow shatter into tiny bits when added to the cold churn. It's actually patented, and several corporate interests have tried to buy the recipe/process from them, but they stand firm. They have conventional flavors as well as some unusual ones. One of the most interesting is "Teaberry" which looks like (and at first tastes somewhat like) frozen Pepto-Bismol. After your brain (and taste buds) process what's going on, the flavors mix and mingle, with a primary minty fruit flavor that hints somewhat of chocolate. Nowhere near as bad as it sounds from my description, it's a definite treat, and a taste adventure to boot. We had gotten several tubs of these because Jeff had told coworkers and friends about the stuff. He had given the stuff out before, and not only have people wanted more, word got around. Since we were bringing the trailer home, we fired up the fridge/freezer to keep everything nicely frozen on the trip home.

The last couple days have not been a lot of fun for me, since I am stumbling and falling at a greater frequency. I hope that relief from this hell comes next week. I'm still trying to get things mostly in order around here prior to being out of commission so I can (hopefully) relax. My legs have become bony sticks now, and I've lost quite a bit of weight. I can't wait for my life to return to its normal state of mayhem.

Stuffs

Aug. 19th, 2010 10:31 pm
greatbear: (glasses)
I managed to roust myself out of the house and did a few things in the garage, that made me happy. I also cooked the approximately 2 gallons of tomato juice down to just under a gallon, it's nicely thickened, rich and pulpy, ready for the second stage. I'll get some fresh herbs, onions, mushrooms and other goodies tomorrow and finish the stuff off. The house had that wonderful smell of sauce cooking, it brought a lot of fond memories back for the both of us.

Poor Jeff is laboring under his own constant pain at home and at work, all the while doing the work of three people. He brought some work home with him as well, got that done, then we had dinner, it was not soon afterward that he started conking out while trying to watch TV. Poor guy deserves better.

I was reminded of this video I saw earlier this year (but not embeddable at the time) by [livejournal.com profile] furr_a_bruin. It's a wonderfully gentle, yet very effective public service announcement from the U.K. reminding people to wear their seat belts. Unlike something you'd find produced in the US using scare tactics, crash footage, or even some corporate interests, this one is all heart.



This is art, but you'd never know it at first.
greatbear: (wwf)
I've noticed an increase in my friends list. Welcome, dear new readers, to my (fill in the blank) Of Mayhem!

Why is it, whenever I see a Panera Bread sign, I think to myself, "Pantera Bread! RAAAAWK!!!!11"? Probably because years ago I did the same thing with Au Bon PAAAAIIIN. Must be something about heavy metal, endorphins and baked goods.

I've discovered a lot of cool stuff at the local Goodwill store. I replaced the old, cheap Pioneer receiver I used to drive the studio nearfield monitors with a 2003-vintage Sony surround receiver. While the surround channels will not be used, as a stereo amp it works wonderfully, driving the speakers at a higher volume level undistorted. The Pioneer was resisting my efforts to clean the switches and pots and will likely be given away to a friend for a shop stereo. The Sony had fully electronic switching and attenuation. Plus the 90w/ch rawks. I also managed to find a Sony 50+1 CD changer to go along with my old faithful Sony DVD player in the home theater rack. The beauty of this is, the DVD player does all the controlling of the changer, with the on-screen display and remote control integrates perfectly. It's hidden away in the rack, and sounds totally boss. Not a bad haul for 55 bucks for the pair. Once cleaned up, they both looked brand new.

Tomorrow I go back to the doc for a far more serious round of shots in my back. I'm not holding much faith in this doing much (if any) good, the last round was completely ineffective. The last several days have been spent in worsening pain and less mobility. Writhing on the living room floor in pain and unable to get up (cue MedicAlert jokes) last night really sucked. Before that a prior 30 minute bout of extreme pain leaving a store with Jeff after work and unable to stop the spasms at the restaurant we went to afterward practically ruined the evening. Our overenthusiastic waiter kept coming to the table, "Are we ready to order yet?" Me: *uuuurrgghh* "No, give us a few more minutes." Repeat this at least 4 times. Eventually things settled down and we enjoyed our meal.

Mimi's Cafe food totally pwns (see above).

Despite the pain, setbacks and slow progress, I try and keep at various things here, mostly time-consuming tasks that I've put off for too long. I've been cleaning and reorganizing the tools in the garage and doing little repairs. As long as I can do the bulk of the work sitting crosslegged on the floor or rolling about on my mechanic's creeper stool, I can keep busy. I can stumble back into the air-conditioned house periodically to take needed breaks, and just drop the garage doors leaving everything there for the next day. The last few days, however, have not seen a lot of activity at all.

Except for one person, none of my local friends here have asked about me or offered to help out in any way. Not a single note or call from anyone at work. I've gone from disappointed to angry about it, now I'm just resigned to going at whatever completely alone, aside from Jeff. He has enough on his plate anyway, bringing lots of work home. I'm used to being a loner, but I thought all the effort I put forth in helping others would give me some sort of karmic payback. No dice. When things get back to normal, however, the same people who begged for help before will find the garage closed, the IT department outsourced, the advice column gone, etc, with nothing but the bird flipped in their place.

Cold play

Nov. 20th, 2008 09:39 pm
greatbear: (old graybeard)
Well, as is always the case around this time of year, I have a nasty cold. I blame people at work for handing it off to me. Though it seems it's something making the rounds everywhere, s evidenced by the woman at the post office today. "I see you got it too". Yep. Misery and company I guess. I truly hate being sick.

The trip to the post office brought a nice surprise of delivery of my Korg DS-10 synth. This gave me something to fiddle with while in bed. This thing is fun! Just using the demo patches and sequences made for a half hour improvisation. How 'musical' it was is another story. It's all about fun though.

The other day I started adding a couple drive racks to the 'small' server. Fail. The case is too small and wont accommodate the length of the rack without hitting the motherboard. So now I have the fun of rebuilding the server into a slightly bigger case. This stuff never seems to end. Now I have a slightly used case to 'repurpose'.

I can't get over how cold and nasty the weather has gotten lately. I think this might also be a partial blame for my cranky (er than usual) mood these last couple weeks. I still have to winterize the trailer this weekend and clean the chimney as well. This is under the hope that I am mostly over this cold crap.

Observation: Chicken fried steak is good stuff. Chicken fried chicken is redundant.

I cant believe that November is more than halfway gone already. Where does the time go? I am really not looking forward to winter. At all.
greatbear: (Default)
Just a quick post to say that I still exist in one for or another. Work has me busy, as does any number of things at home. Still in the midst of major PC upgrades as well. My workhorse PC is still broken and ignored, in the meantime I am fine tuning a tidy little minimalist PC and using it in place of the busted one. New server is working well aside from occasional DNS service hiccups. Parts have been accumulating for a second server dedicated to file and media storage and backup, and if things work as I hope them to, it will become a mainframe of sorts where I can play around with virtualization and offloading tedious tasks such as video transcoding and other stuffs. It will hide in the basement where it's cool and be remotely accessed from anywhere in and around Casa Greatbear and the Garage of Mayhem. I figure a pair of quad Xeons will go well with the 8.8TB of drives and RAID controllers I've gathered so far.

And I told myself 'no more god boxes'.

Hello, I'm Phil, and I am an incurable geek.

Updatery

Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:52 pm
greatbear: (fuzzy)
It seems that both of us are still a bit exhausted after our relaxing weekend. Go figure. Still, it's all good.

I am picking my way backwards through friend's entries, but I am unable to catch up completely. I know I am missing something, or many things of note. I will have to leave it to you to keep me informed if I missed anything.

My entries might become more sparse than they already are, as I deal with chores, projects and eventual computer upgrades. I've been putting off backups and reorganizing my media library and digital photo storage. Much like the ocean, I should not turn my back to it. I did, and I am faced with a virtual tidal wave of files. Music and albums alone are over 600GB. My method of storage has changed over the years, and I have three distinct libraries with different naming conventions and tagging. I will be spending a few moments each night I am on to herd these files into shape and into solid backups. Lots of duplicates need to be removed, etc. Then comes the video library, photos, accumulated stuff, etc. It my be virtual in nature, but it's very real when it comes to dealing with this crap. If it were to get lost, though, there is so much irreplaceable stuff that would be gone forever. Sometimes I wish my memories were not of the virtual kind.

Things around here are due for major changes. The blog hiatus will keep a lid on the overly emo entries that I am sure has me on more than a few filters. I will be posting things of note though. Wish me luck.
greatbear: (fuzzy)
Jeff goes to work, running the entire food service department, filling in as cooks and diet aides when short staffed and has to put in 12-14 hour days. He comes home, makes supper for us, after which we go grocery shopping. Once the goodies are all put away, Jeff relaxes before bedtime watching Hell's Kitchen. That's focus, people.

Today I ordered some goodies to begin the revamping of the IT infrastructure here at Haus des Großenbären. It's beyond time to retire the server that has been the heart of the intarweb goings-on. It will actually be replaced by two PCs, a fairly simple dual core machine with a pair of drives running RAID 1 and ECC RAM for reliability, dual gigabit ethernet, USB2 and Firewire connectivity, basic video and sound, and a robust power supply. This will be my router/gateway, web server and firewall wrapped up in a quiet, efficient package. The mobo, RAM, power supply and the video card should arrive in a few days, I have a case, processor, drives, opticals and the rest of the goodies needed to make it a living, breathing box. Once functional, it will take up residence in the basement where the old setup has been churning away nonstop for ten years. I am hoping this one works as well for as long.

Once all the data from the old server's eight drives(!) is backed up, it will be quietly shut down. I wont dismantle it, instead it will sit around for a while at least as a reminder of how much has changed for me in it's lifetime. The countless terabytes that have passed through it speak of some of the best times I have had, as well as the worst. Since early 95, when I hopped aboard the internet at home (at work it was all business) I quickly found a home, reaching out and making many new, wonderful friends from all over the world, as well as a few enemies. I built quite a few relationships, and, to be quite honest, racked up more tricks than I can recall. As online commerce began to take shape, I started buying more and more online. My entertainment, news, music and video has also passed through the old beast's network cards as well, leaving me to abandon most television and radio. So, it will be kinda tough to toss the server aside. for if it could talk, it would have some incredible stories to tell. Some of them, in some fashion, might still be on some of it's drives.

The yard is a lush, dense green, and with the warmer weather coming back, will be in severe need of mowing, trimming, weeding and planting. This Saturday Jeff and I will have a yard sale in an attempt to rid ourselves of some of the accumulated cruft, flotsam and jetsam we share. I might bring myself to put some of Mom's things out as well, if it does not hurt too much. For some of the better things, though, I want some of her friends to have whatever they can use. The rest will be given to various good causes she supported. That, I'm afraid, will rip me to pieces. It's like goodbye all over again.

Okay, enough rambling for now.
greatbear: (fuzzy)
I know I will jinx this by posting, but I have noticed a big reduction in spam email on most of my various accounts. Except for my GMail account, junk has dropped drastically. I figure the filters are getting better more than spammers giving up. I aint complaining.

Been on a mini-urge to do small tasks and repairs around the house that have been stacking up. I need more momentum like this.

A while ago I bought a pair of Dish Network receivers along with the antenna and other goodies to upgrade and expand the television stuff here at La Casa del Mecánico Manic from a friend at work. I had asked him prior if he was sure the stuff did not have to be turned back in to the installer. He assured me he met the terms of the contract, so I bought the goodies and waited. Sure enough, he calls me last night telling me he got some big bill and needs to return the stuff. Another plan smashed to hell. Time to do some other thinking.

I've been exploring Flickr for a while now, and discovered quite a few of you from LJ there. So, if you have found a new name on your contact list, it's probably me. All of you guys have some great photos! Gotta try not to waste too much time there. I do have some more of my shots to get posted. When I finish the studio rebuilding, I'll start scanning some of the slides and photos from waaaay back. I have some stories to tell. If anyone listens, that's a plus. :)

Randomness

Jan. 8th, 2008 10:37 pm
greatbear: (fuzzy)
You guys have such perty desktops. Mine looks like Satan belched lots of random icons all over the place. No wallpaper either. I'll clean things up when I upgrade the PC. It's been in 'beta mode' for well over a year now, and the screaming heatsink/fan will finally be replaced with the waterblock and the Athlon 6000. Though I discovered this mobo is one of few that's been around for a while that will work with the new Phenom quad core CPU. Hmmmm... decisions, decisions...

While watching the news at dinnertime today, a lot of talk was of course about the unseasonably warm temps of the last few days (hell, it's still 58 degrees outside). A scene showing the crowd waiting outside the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore (where we had just been for the TSO concert Sunday) came up. The conversation went kinda like this:

Jeff: That's right, tonight is the Molly Hatchet concert.


Me: MOLLY HATCHET?


Jeff: Or whatever her name is.


Me: Miley Cyrus!


Us: (Uncontrollable laughter)


Me: I'm so blogging this.


I wonder how many people had to take out second mortgages for tickets to that show. I dont understand the appeal. Then again, I am not a pre-teen girl. Shut. UP.

Got a recall notice on the truck for a potentially blocked front axle vent tube. Seems that, during manufacture, the axles and suspension bits are installed while the frame is placed upside-down. Since the axles are preassembled and filled with oil, they have their vent tubes folded over and taped down to keep the oil from running out before the frames are reoriented. Someone must have been asleep on the line when it came time to free the kinked tube. Unlike some recall notices, this one came with pictures and descriptions on where to find everything and what to do. This is done for people like me who dont want to be bothered by taking the truck to the dealer when it's sch a simple procedure. Heck, anyone even remotely familiar under a hood could do it. My truck did not have the issue. When I first brought it home, I went over it and scrutinized every possible area. I would have spotted it then.

I have lots of info regarding music and the death of DRM. Finally. Hopefully I have a chance to put together one of my opinion pieces on it. Now, if we can only do the same for movies.

So, the CEO of McDonalds in the UK is blaming video games for childhood obesity. Pot to Kettle! Pot to Kettle! Condition BLACK! I repeat, Condition BLACK! Sheesh.

I've gotten tons of new music lately, from various sources. For some reason, I am just not getting into music like I used to. Hopefully it's just a phase. These days, I have music almost exclusively as a background thing (TSO show notwithstanding). No desire to sit and listen intently. Not that there is a lack of good stuff out there. Hell, my friends list keeps me well supplied with incredible mixes, cool new stuff and original material. I just wish I had more time I guess. It's like losing a bit of myself without it.
greatbear: (big beard)
So, so, so busy lately. Most of it good. Patiently waiting for the new truck deal to gel, it should be home by the end of the week if nothing goes awry. Had a great time in Hershey Park this past Saturday, eight fuzzy friends frolicking in the heat. 'Twas a nice change of pace, and will be something that happens every year at this time if everyone is up for it.

The yard is a parched study in brown and crispiness like it has never been before. Rain seems like a novelty, and watering seems almost futile. It's beyond depressing.

We have a good friend coming into town who will stay with us for a couple days during his summer whirlwind tour of the country once again. Should be another nice diversion and a chance to open up the house for guests again, which is something we really need to do more of.

Apologies for my blog being mostly in a holding pattern, my heart aint in it during the summer months. Hopefully things will change.

Cheers!
greatbear: (forearms)
Well, my birthday weekend turned out to be not so bad. It was mostly quiet. Thursday my concern with a barely-working heat pump got the best of me and I went outside after work in the dark and hooked up my refrigeration gauges. The charge was low, which is to be expected given it's 18 years of age and the fact that it's never needed a charge during that time. A minor bit of drama occurred when the supposed 'dry-break' service fitting that's meant to prevent a chilling blast of refrigerant from escaping when disconnecting the gauge set came apart and sprayed my hand with the -63 F refrigerant unexpectedly causing some minor frostbite. My left hand still has some numb areas, and the add-on drybreak connector got hurled into the back yard in a fit of rage.

Friday evening it was just Jeff and I for dinner. A good family friend stopped over and brought homemade brownies and a banana nut bread. Yum! While I was more than a bit downtrodden and mopey, I eventually got over it. Kinda.

Saturday morning offered a trip to the Lucky Dog Garage nearby for some socializing with MINI enthusiasts and fiddling with stuff. With the salty roads, I did not have to worry that my car was a mess. It was a level playing field for a change.

The afternoon was spent taking Kodi to Petsmart for some shopping and to sign up for 'obedience training'. Time will tell how that turns out. Kodi was a bit more apprehensive about going into an unfamiliar store, and upon seeing a huge black dog leer at him on his way out the door, Kodi let out an uncharacteristically large pile of dawg schitt in record time. It seemed about three milliseconds. We were prepared, and I didnt know whether to be upset or contain my giggling. I had trouble with both. Cleaning it up and continuing with tasks at hand, Kodi got signed up for puppy skool for the next few weeks (a night per week) as well as getting lots of attention from other shoppers and their pets.

After that was done, I scooted over to Best Buy and picked up a cheap HP portable photo printer (385). An impulse buy, since I have been looking for something small and portable for making on-site snapshots, this one was a closeout for $65 (half price) and too cheap to pass up. I did not expect much from the little printer, but was pleasantly suprised. It's tiny, pretty fast, uses pigment-based Vivera ink, can read from every common flash memory card or PictBridge camera and has lots of added extras like frame printing, still prints from videos, basic editing, red-eye reduction and a lot more. Sixty-five dollars from Bust Buy. It's been a while since I thought I got anything at a real deal from that place. I'd like to eventually get a nice, large-format photo printer some day, perhaps a HP B9180 or similar. Also, my 13 year old Laserjet 3D is really starting to show it's age, and I need a new laser printer for workhorse printing. Inkjets dont cut it when all I want to do is rattle off a few sheets of text, Google Map directions or service notes. It always seems that the ink is out when I really need it, or it's clogged up from weeks of non-use.

That evening we took Kodi to Jeff's friend and coworker's house to see how Kodi would react to the strange environment, their chocolate Lab and their little two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Emily. All went pretty well despite Kodi's little accident after being chased around the house by Emily and Monaco, their Lab. But Emily was a scene stealer. Smart beyond her years, she could spell not only her name, but other words as well, work the computer, dance some complicated moves and all sorts of things that five- and six-year-olds can sometimes have a tough time with. She was a true delight. There's hope for the world in little ones like this.

Sunday, Jeff was stuck going to work stoopid early in the morning, then found out he'd be there till after 7:30. Bummer. I futzed around with cars, did some grocery shopping, kept Kodi entertained and worked around the house. Took in the Stupor Bowl, expecting decent football (check), outrageous commercials (check, but only kinda) and a knockout halftime show (check and then some). Prince tore the place down singing in the rain (which would have been purple had the Ravens made it). Jeff made it home in time to see the HT show, get a bit of dinner then call it a night early. In all, a good day. And a good weekend.

Thanks to everyone who sent their birthday wishes to me. It's deeply appreciated. No one remembered at work, which is typical. Just as well.
greatbear: (Default)
The Virgin Birth. Also known mistakenly as the Immaculate Conception. It's real, people. And just perfectly timed for birth at Christmas. Some say Jim Morrison was God. I present to you the Real Lizard King. Er, make that Queen.

Speaking of Jesuses (Jesi?), here is a town having a barrel of fun with 'em, much to the scornful regret of people too serious for their own skin.

Speaking of automatons, the U.K. is already considering the future, specifically of robot rights. You'd see that happen here in the U.S., o' course. But only for the white, xtian robots.

Speaking of robots...
greatbear: (big beard)
Who knew that "Kramer" is spelled with three "K"s?

Robert Altman, most famously known as the director of M*A*S*H and many other great (and some not-so-great) films, has died. M*A*S*H, and especially the resulting television series was a ever present influence as I was growing up. He'll be missed.

So, there's talk bubbling up of reinstating the draft. Not that I have anything to worry about, after all I am too old and too gay. Even though the chances of it passing are basically preposterous, it should create some thoughtful dialog on the possibility sending the sons and daughters of the general populace into harm's way and not relying on volunteers. More importantly, it should keep people from thinking that starting a war is a given.

Tomorrow evening I will head up to PA for Thanksgiving, aka Happy T. Not sure how happy it will be for me, I know it will be rough at least sometime, it's that which I am not looking forward to. One thing is definite, I am thankful for Jeff and his family for putting up with me through the years.
greatbear: (forearms)
Oh, the schadenfreude. Blogs everywhere are exploding with tasty news of "Reverend" (and I use that term with a heaping helping of derision) Ted Haggard, the leader of the influential National Association of Evangelicals, being caught up in a gay sex scandal. I'll pause for a bit to relish the moment just a bit more...

Aaaaahhh...

Yeah, must be something to it, after all he stepped down from his post almost immediately upon the breaking news. Here is a guy who is very vocal in his opposition to Teh Gays as evidenced in this YouTube clip below. You know what they say about those who are the loudest in their opposition to homosexuality...:



Methinks the man doth protest too much. I'm going to be loving this moment for a while.

The little red iPod nanos that I got for Jeff and myself a while back have seen their fair share of usage. I find the tiny size much more conducive to toting the thing around. The earbuds that come with it are much improved from the original style, and fit my big ears a lot more comfortably than most. The gapless playback, clear display, and surprising fidelity (I notice quite a difference between it and my 3G 40gig) make the diminuitive size that much more amazing. Perhaps one of the biggest pluses is the switch to an anodized aluminum wrap-around shell a la iPod mini that does not show scratches and fingerprints like the classic polished back/plastic front designs. Now if there was only a way to cram at least ten gigs of storage in the thing. Maybe by this time next year.

The replacement wheels for the Mini are due earlier than originally expected, and that's a good thing. Next week I will swap them out and tend to any suspension damage I find. Poor car has been sitting for weeks, totally unloved. That needs to change.

I downloaded Microsoft iTunes Windows Media Player 11 and gave it a spin. For those who (for some reason) prefer to use WiMP as their main player, this is a nice upgrade. The ripping and burning put it in the same class as iTunes, and the option for ripping to mp3 format is standard. The interface is much cleaner, and a tabbed UI including a prominent link to the Urge music store is among them. I'd almost use it.

Work oddities: In the hallway was a rather slender Asian dude with uncharacteristically huge arms busting out of what amounted to a circuit party tee was talking to a colleague. As I passed them I heard him saying "...I tend to concentrate way too much on arm workouts". My thoughts exactly. Monday in the bathroom a handwritten sign on a paper towel on one of the stalls read "DO NOT USE - BLOOD ON WALLS". Sure enough, it was a mess in there. File that in the "WTF" files. It may be a multibillion dollar corporation (with a 100 rating from the HRC!), but the bathrooms are almost always a disgrace. Even in the Mahogany Rows. Trash on the floor, snot on the walls, piss on the seats. Gotta wonder what their home bathrooms look like.

The change to Standard Time is still messing with my internal clock. I hate the early darkness, coming home to a dark house, unable to do anything to speak of outside. This winter will be particularly hard on me for obvious reasons, but I will somehow manage. Thanksgiving and Xmas will probably tear me apart. Mom's birthday in February, well, that will be killer.

I have plenty of firewood for the winter, especially after taking down a big, dead white oak in a friend's yard. Glad to know I can still fell a tree within inches of where I want it. I have a habit of holding the saw outstretched in my hand the same way Babe Ruth used to point his bat into the outfield right before he hit the ball out of the park along the line he demonstrated. I guess I would make a good lumberjack, and that's okay.

The new PCs are behaving. Between house repairs this winter will be an upgrade to the LAN to gigabit ethernet, a new Opteron server, and a lappy. Maybe even a Mac.

I need to shave my beard back. It's never been this long, I see it in my peripheral vision, it gets pushed up in my face when I sleep and it's honestly looking quite ragged. I wish I knew someone adept at trimming long beards, when I try, it looks hacked up.

While not an idiot about it, I would make my fair share of noise when working out. I am glad I did not work out at this gym. The dude in the story/video is rather cute.

It's off to bed a bit earlier than usual for me tonight. I'm physically beat and mentally exhausted.

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Phil

December 2016

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