Last night it started to snow. I don’t know when it stopped, but when I rolled out of bed this morning we had six inches of it on the driveway. The forecast was for it to be a heavy, wet snow, but that’s where they missed it. It was light and powdery. I cranked up the new snowblower and had it cleared relatively quickly. Then I went to work.

Where it was dead.

I guess that between the holiday (for students, teachers, bankers, and government employees) and the snow, a lot of people opted to “work from home.” I’m no good at working from home. I just can’t find my working mojo from the couch. Or the dining room. Or the bedroom. So I always go in if at all possible.

Today was Beth’s first day of spring break. That meant I didn’t need to take her to school, which meant I didn’t hafta get up according to whatever the clock said. So I stayed in bed until 8:00, and got to work a little before 9:00.

I forgot that I still needed to go to the school, because I had to pick up the fruit ordered by my coworkers. Also, I needed to move the canoe out of the middle of the floor and get it back along the wall on the saw horses. I suggested that Dennis might want to eat at Taco Bell, take a look at the canoe and help me move it. He liked that plan, so we set out at lunch time and did just that. He also helped me carry fruit to the car. Then I took him to a car dealer where he was having some warranty work done.

Since I got to work a bit later than normal, I worked later to make up for it. It was chilly when I got home, so I didn’t go outside to tramp around. I pretty much just parked my carcass in front of my laptop and did stuff like this (i.e., write blog posts).

I got up around 7:00 this morning and cranked up the snowblower. Beth is out of school for the week (winter break), so there was no big hurry. We only got four inches of snow, which was a far cry from the 18″ they were forecasting. But that was OK with me. This was another wet, heavy snow, and it stuck to all the trees (bending one over in the yard). My repair job to the snowblower held up nicely, which was great.

I took my coat off outside and shook the snow out of it, and then went inside. As soon as I bent over to untie my boots, I dumped four gallons of snow on the floor from my hat (the wind was blowing the snow back at me). I swept it up and dumped even more off my hat into the sink. Then I went upstairs and changed clothes. When I came back down I picked up my coat and dumped yet another four gallons of snow in the floor. And that was after I had shaken it out before I came in! I have no idea where that snow could have come from.

Then I went to work where I had something of a rough day. A customer of ours has been having a bit of trouble with one of our cards, and it’s a very, very old card that we tried to not sell them in the first place. Anyhow, we’ve had their problem here for a while, and they finally got mad enough (I guess) that management decided it was time to have me take a look at it.

The customer’s code was an utter mess, and that gave me a glimmer of hope. As bad as it was, it seemed likely that they were shooting themselves in the feet. I cleaned up the worst of it and got it to compile with no warnings, but the problem did not go away. So I spent the whole day wrestling with some really messy code.

Their code is actually based on an example I wrote nearly ten years ago, and I guess that’s why I’m taking this a little too personally. They took my Mona Lisa and painted a velvet Elvis over it. Man… that shoulda been illegal! It also doesn’t help that this customer is French-speaking, so all the comments and variables they added to the code are in French. Which doesn’t lend to my ability to understand what they’re trying to do.

I spent the first hour this morning cleaning up their mess. The code was badly indented, so the first thing I did was fix that. It’s really hard to understand spaghetti code when it’s not even indented properly.

To add to the fun, management is pressuring me to put in some extra time on it. And that bugs me too. They waited a long time before involving me in this, and now they expect me to solve in a day a problem that has eluded three other engineers for months. And if I can’t, would I please work late. Grrr…

So I came home with a tremendous headache. I thought it was sinus related and took some decongestant, but that didn’t touch the headache (my sinuses are clear now though). I chased that with some pain reliever, and that seems to be getting to the root of it now. Also, I’m not looking at the velvet Elvis anymore.

I didn’t sleep well at all last night. In spite of going to bed exhausted, I had a million things churning through my mind – most related to preparations for Camp-in.

I still need to make a set of rollers to roll the scroll onto. Also, we still need to finish decorating the church. I was also thinking about making Ken’s prayer shawl (he’s playing the part of a rabbi). I did et to that when I got home tonight, and it did not go very smoothly. The sewing machine revolted on me again, and I was having an awful time with it wanting to tangle the bobbin thread. I finally figured out what was going wrong, and things got better after that. It didn’t help that Beth was in there with me whining the whole time. She has a school project she has been pretending to work on, and it was one complaint after another about why she thought she had done enough, and “I don’t know what else to write,” and “it’s too complicated for me to describe.” Grrr…

I was also worrying about an upcoming deadline for work. I really need to take some time off so we can get ready for Camp-in, but things are urgent again at the office, and that makes it pretty hard to take off. But then today at 3:30 I had a major breakthrough, pinpointing the bug I’ve been chasing for two days. It was beginning to look like I would not find it any time soon. It took me another 45 minutes to fix the bug, test it, and check all the changes into svn, and then I high-tailed it home. I think I will take off tomorrow.

The weathermen were saying yesterday that it should start snowing today at around 3:00 or 4:00am. Well, I wasn’t awake by then, so I don’t know if they were right or not. But it was snowing when I got up.

Mrs Brace made the decision last night to close the school today, and since the forecast was calling for 12-24″ of snow, I did not leap right out of bed when the alarm went off. Instead, I slept until 8:30. Then I took a nice, long, hot, leisurely shower, and then put on my grubbies. When I went downstairs, I saw that it was indeed snowing, but we only had half an inch or so. Doh! So I went to the office. I worked until about 1:00, when I judged that the snow was about as deep as I could let it get before it would prevent me from getting home. Va had called and asked me to pick up a gallon of milk, so I did that first, then hopped in the car and headed northward. Driving was… treacherous. There were still plenty of idiots on the Interstate willing to drive 65MPH, but most people were tooling along at about 40 (which was what the State Troopers recommended). I was passed by a logging truck with a full load of logs. He threw so much snow onto my windshield that I could literally not see out the windshield for about five seconds.

When I got to my exit, I had a decision to make. Left or right? Left is generally better plowed, but I could tell that neither route was going to rate very high in that category. Left also has one very steep hill for me to climb, and then another one that is very long. Right has one steep hill to descend, and then a much smaller one on an unpaved section to climb. I opted for right.

I did quite a bit of sliding down the steep hill, but I stayed over the pavement (with a thick layer snow between the tires and the asphalt) the whole time. But the hill on the unpaved section was almost my undoing. I got up as much speed as I dared and made my attack. About three quarters of the way up, I started spinning the wheels. The car slowed to a crawl, but I kept chugging along. Finally, I felt that I was gaining speed instead of losing it, and then I topped the hill. After that, there were no problems. I got home and parked in the garage.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to get some more work done, but our VPN connection no worky, so there was not a whole lot I could do. Other than troubleshoot the VPN connection. Oh well!

Most of my family in Kentucky are suffering through an ice storm. I assume they have all pretty much lost power now because the “we still have power” reports stopped a while ago. Or maybe they just lost their Internet connections.

When the snow stops I will crank up the snowblower. I went to get the mail about an hour ago, and slogged through about a foot of snow, so the weathermen hit the minimum now. Here’s a picture I took when I was getting the mail. If you look closely, you can see Penny waiting for me to cross over the invisible fence again.

Penny waits in the snow

Penny waits in the snow

Hmmm… it looks like it has stopped here in the last five minutes. But… dinner’s almost ready? So I don’t hafta snowblow just yet?

Beth had another bout of emesis last night at about 3:30. I got up and changed her sheets. First I went to the basement to get her previous sheets out of the dryer. I spread them out on the bed, but then noticed that it had gotten wadded up in the dryer, so there was still a damp spot on them. I fetched another set out of the linen closet (that’s where we keep… the linens!) She had gotten most of her blankets this time too, so I swapped them for fresh ones one at a time. In short order, she had a clean bed. I tucked her in, and went to bed myself.

Today, being MLK day, she had no school. So I slept in a little. We had gotten two or three more inches of snow since I had last cleared the driveay, but I figured I could drive through that, and decided to put of clearing it until I got home. I made it to work by 9:00.

Today was much less stressful than the past several days at work have been. As far as I know, we shipped the card we were stressing over. I received a big “Thank you” from the management team. Hooray for me!

At lunch time I decided to fetch the school’s new server from the trunk of my car. I hauled it up to the office, hooked up the DVD drive to it, and tried to see if I could get it to boot from that. I did! I did a “practice” install. If I had had the Linux disc I wanted to put on there, I would not have practiced any at all. It took about two hours of churning and chugging, but I finally had a full OS on there, and everything seemed to be working.

But man… those fans are LOUD. There are nine of them in there. One of them appears to not work, but it is one in a row of five, and I think I can live without it. Two more are in the power supply, and another two are used for cooling the second CPU. Those two were the screamers. I disconnected them and the noise level dropped by a significant margin. So tonight, I ordered two “ultra quiet” fans to replace them. Hopefully they really will be “ultra quiet”. I do know that the ones I’m taking out are “ultra loud” though, so it will be hard to lose on that swap.

This server does have one bizarre component in it that I can’t figure out. It’s a card mounted in a drive bay and connected to the motherboard via a serial port plus a 50-pin ribbon cable. It has a battery. The major chip on it is made by Qlogic, and they make Storage Area Networking stuff. It has a flash chip on it, and the sticker on the flash has a MAC address with the same OUI as the on-board Ethernets. Here a photo:

What IS this?

What IS this?

None of my co-workers were able to come up with convincing theories either. I unplugged it, and everything booted just fine. If I can’t figure out what it is, I will probably remove it. No need to waste electricity on something I’m not going to use.

Tomorrow I will dash into the church when I drop the girls off at school, and I will pick up the K12LTSP Linux disc. That’s the “real” OS I plan to put on there. I’ll kick off the install sometime during the day, and hopefully, everything will be ready when I’m ready to come home.

Since I got to work a bit late, I decided to leave early to make up for it. (heh heh). Actually, I went home at my regular time because I had put in some extra on my darling wife’s birthday. That should count for SOMETHING. When I got home, I cranked up the snowblower and clear the drive in record time. Two or three inches of powdery snow just doesn’t take that long to dispatch. Then I drove the Pizza Hut and picked up our supper.

After eating, I got to work on another robe costume for Camp In. When we selected the cloth for this one, we found that the store didn’t quite have enough for the full robe. So… I’m putting short sleeves on it, and I’m going to run the bias on the sleeves in the opposite direction. This is, after all, a costume, not some clothing anyone will be expected to wear for a full day.

It looks like Beth is asleep now, so I’m going to slip back downstairs and finish that robe now.

I have nothing exciting to report today. I went to work and was pretty busy, but even most of that was somewhat mundane. There was a great quantity of mundane things to do, and they all had to be done right now though, so mundane does not equate to stress-free.

In fact, I worked a bit later than I normally do trying to get something out of the way. And I did.

Tomorrow my boss will be off site and has asked me to sit in on a meeting in his stead. I am not looking forward to that, but I’ll do what I can.

When I got home, Va had some supper ready for me, which was very nice. I ate it, and then went outside to see if there were any new tracks in the snow. It was very cold (it’s 0 degrees right now), but I do have a pretty warm coat, so that was not a problem. Penny came out with me and I threw a couple of sticks for her. She doesn’t like to follow me into the woods though, because she isn’t sure where the invisible fence boundary is, and I think she associates all of the woods with the fence. There were some new squirrel tracks, some new cat tracks (domestic I’m sure), and some new mouse tracks.

The snow cast I made is drying out nicely. I have it in the kitchen on the floor next to a heater register. Some of the surface has crumbled off, but it was a cast of some pretty crumbly snow, so that didn’t come as a surprise.

In a few minutes I’ll head downstairs (I’m in Beth’s room at the moment, sitting with her as she settles in for sleep). Then maybe I’ll fire up the sewing machine again and put the hems in the soldier tunic I started (and nearly finished) yesterday. Maybe I’ll cut out some cloth for villager tunic too, who knows.

Yesterday’s post was kinda… negative? So today I will make an effort to avoid negativity.

This morning I again didn’t allow my rider to get out to fetch her cousin. She did protest about her likely non-existent journal again, but I still held my ground. I called, and her cousin came out post haste.

I went to work and made a pretty good dent in the project I’m working on. My boss talked his higher-ups out of the “best case” delivery schedule. We still have a delivery to make, and we will still have a lot of work to make it happen, but at least the expectations are now reasonable.

A big group of us went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. I had some vegetable chow mein, but I’m thinking to lo mein would have been a better choice. Still, the food was good. Wayne (our designated Friday lunch coordinator) had to leave early to get his daughter (her school closed early). He threw some cash on the table to cover his portion of the check when our VP of sales told him to take it back – lunch was on him today! Yay!

After Wayne left, the waiter brought out the fortune cookies and some mints. Mine was monumentally forgettable. But poor Wayne! No fortune cookie for him! So I took it upon myself to grab one for Wayne. There were also a couple of mints left on the tray too, so I grabbed them. I ate one. Then, instead of saving the other for Wayne, I ate it too. But I saved the wrapper for him! When we got back to the office, I left his fortune cookie and mint wrapper on his keyboard. I know how much he’ll appreciate it.

It started to snow around noon today, and it has been coming down steadily ever since. Forecasts vary, but some are saying up to a foot of snow will fall. It should taper off by noon tomorrow, but then another storm moves in Sunday with at least as much snow. Church will likely be postponed tomorrow (though there’s no word on that yet). If the storm forecast for Sunday comes off like they say it will, there’s a very good chance I’ll hafta cancel Pathfinders.

Updates as warranted!

This morning when my first rider got in the car I told her that she should remain seated when we got to her cousin’s house and that I’d call her on the phone instead. She protested, and perhaps even made up a story – I dunno. “I left my journal in her house! If I don’t bring it to school I’ll get in trouble and miss recess!”

Well… that’s too bad. I’m putting an end to the dawdling. I called just as we were pulling up to her driveway, and she came out within 30 seconds. That’s more like it! Then I dropped them off at school and went to work.

Work was busy. We have this deadline, so I’ve been working furiously trying to meet it, but at the same time, I know it’s more than likely going to be a futile effort. We are going to be late. We have told management that we are going to be late, but they keep hanging on to the “best case” delivery date. This assumes that all the hardware is working perfectly and that it will continue to work over a wide temperature range. The only thing missing are the tests to prove it. Except that it NEVER happens that way.

The tests will fail, and the first thing they will do is blame the test. “Look into that” and “Did you remember to do this?” and “Try this instead.” Eventually, we will turn up incontrovertible evidence that thie hardware is at fault, and they’ll bring in the hardware team. The hardware team will need us to make changes to the test software to help pinpoint the problem. And we’ll do that. Eventually, all the problems will be resolved, but this will take a minimum of two weeks. Longer is more likely. And of course, it’s due tomorrow.

Actually, we’re already well into the process I just described. We were able to pretty conclusively determine that the test I am developing was failing because there’s a real problem. We presented it to the guy in charge of the hardware and he told us “That’s impossible.” He basically refused to listen and insisted that he knew more about it than we did, and that what we were contending was absurd. Only it’s not. We pushed back and he agreed to look into it. So – blame the test! The hardware is just fine! Even though we’ve never tested it!

I find it pretty irritating when someone acts the way he did. When someone comes to me and says “I think I found a problem in your code” I put on my humility hat and say “We’d better take a look at that. It won’t be the first time something I wrote was incorrect.” Then I dig into it with an open mind, and we find the problem. The fault is not always mine, but it has been enough times that I’m not going to make blanket declarations about how my superior engineering abilities immunize me from error. In my 20+ year career, I have known only a few people who refuse to admit the possibility that something they created was less than perfect. “It can’t be in that code. I wrote that myself.” I can’t think of a more annoying characteristic to have in a co-worker. (But I’m not trying very hard.)

Man. This all sounds pretty bitter, but I guess it’s because I’m not looking forward to the coming storm. They will probably ask me to work between Christmas and New Years even though I was planning to take some vacation then. And my guess is that we will still be blaming the tests at the end of January.

I worked today until 5:45pm. We had a church board meeting at 6:00 so I went to that. After the meeting I returned to the office and worked until 10:00pm. We found a way to work around the hardware fault that we have asserted to be there, and I did get the test to run. And pass. A couple of times. The next step will be to put it all in a temperature chamber and run it for 12 hours as it cycles from -40° to +80°C. That’s not an easy test to pass.

On the way home I drove by the Holiday Inn and could not help but notice about 50 utility trucks. I stopped and took a picture:

Dozens of utility trucks at the Holiday Inn

Dozens of utility trucks at the Holiday Inn

What does this mean? Well, it means that the utility companies are still putting in some long hours trying to restore power in the aftermath of last week’s ice storm. I think NH had something like 340,000 customers without power at the peak of the outage. We’re now down to bout 70,000. Some people won’t have their power restored until after Christmas. So I guess I really shouldn’t gripe about unreasonable co-workers. I am a very lucky person!

I did a lot of driving for a work day today. First, and as usual, I drove Beth to school, and then went to work. I only stayed for about an hour though, because Va had an eye exam, and they were going to dilate her pupils. So I met her at the school at 9:15, and drove her to the eye place. Then we had some lunch, and I took her back to the school. Today is Beth’s birthday (she’s officially seven now), so I hung around and took pictures as she handed out cupcakes. I’d post one, but they all have other kids in them, and I did not secure parental permission to put them up.

After that, I hustled back to work. But at about 1:30 Va called me again. Beth was crying in pain from an earache. Va couldn’t drive yet, as her pupils were still wide open, so she asked me to get some Children’s Motrin. So I hopped back in the car, picked up some Motrin, and delivered it. Then went back to work for a third time today.

I worked until 5:00, and then came home, picking up the Wednesday pizza on the way. Beth was excited because she really liked her birthday gifts (I guess the Motrin did the trick). She got a set of rubber stamps featuring horses, a barn, and one of those things they make horses jump over. It also came with a set of colored pencils. The only one she has used so far has been the green one, and the lead in that is shattered – broken in half about every quarter inch or so. So it can’t really be sharpened. I guess we’ll hafta get her some replacement pencils, I dunno.

She also got 12 miniature horse figures and a stable to put them in, so she’s really liking that. If you haven’t guessed, she has been afflicted with horse-craziness, as many girls her age have been.

I got to use my camera for a second event tonight too. A fly landed on the fluorescent light in the kitchen. I have been wanting to get some close-up photos with my new camera, and this appeared to be the perfect opportunity. I held the camera lens about 1 cm away from the lethargic little vermin, and took several pictures. The detail is stunning:

Close-up of a housefly

Close-up of a housefly

I am so stoked about this new camera. I can hardly wait to take pictures of bees this summer. I’m sure I will get stung, but these close-ups are just too cool to not risk it! I am also eager to start photographing wildflowers again, and of course, the landscape is completely devoid of them now.

That’s about it for tonight! Thank you both for reading!