Vacation - Day Three, Four, Five, Six

by Mark Zaugg 18. May 2007 09:24

Same old, same old, don't you think? 

A couple things I'm learning quickly.  Shopping for crap is just about the worst thing I can do on a vacation.  I buy junk I don't need, then I worry about racking up too much on the credit card.  Plus the annoyance that I've had to deal with queuing up for bad service to not find what I was looking for in the first place. 

I'm tired of waiting around, wasting my time pointlessly to pick between one flavour of junk I don't like and the other flavour of crap I hate.  It hasn't been entirely horrid, but one bad experience puts me off the rest of the day. 

Something funny got mentioned to me.  It was actually in reference to my daughter where she was described as "really high energy.  Nothing wrong, she was just really geared to go non-stop."  Most of what got described applied equally well to me.  We get extremely fidgity when we have to sit around too long.  We want to get out and do something - anything - rather than slowly go brain dead and rot away life.  It's part of what eats me away so much while waiting for a Customer Service Representative to finally come around and giggle, "Geez, guess we musta run out of them.  Have you tried looking around the store?" 

Why no, miss, it appears that I've been wandering the isles aimlessly for the past hour hoping I may run across what I was looking for by random chance instead of querying that inventory control system I know you're using because you insist on scanning each and every item individually in order to strangle any possible gasp of efficiency out of the process at all.  In fact, I was really only hoping to waste a little of my life's breath until I could arrive at the till in order to pay for the half of my purchase that I could actually find without the assistance you promised me "in two minutes" 15 minutes ago because I really wouldn't want to dimish the significance of hearing you discuss the forecast, your boyfriend, and precisely why you shouldn't have dressed the way you actually chose to dress yourself this morning without taking plenty of time to let your witty small talk distill into full splendour. 

Lest Mr. Bug thinks I'm starting to work myself up into a rant...

So one of the things I picked up is a Garmin eTrex Vista Cx handheld GPS with mapping capability.  It's a long name for a small gizmo you carry around when you go hiking.  It'll map where you are, keep a trail of where you've been and give you a compass to let you know which way you're going.

Which simply means the kids and I are going to go out geocaching together lots in the near future.  We went out for our first time Wednesday evening.  Record?  Couldn't find the first micro, overshot the second one, called it a night on account of bugs.  Note to self:  Wear good shoes and bring insect repellent.  That's probably good advice for life.

So other than hours and hours spent pointlessly in stores (my Lady-Love knows there is a moratorium on me shopping the remainder of my vacation -- unless we run out of potato chips), the time gardening has been okay and the yard's looking in shape.  I've got a great excuse to get out there and find a few caches around the city.  Life is pretty okay.  I guess.

Although, between you and me, I'm about ready to go back to work so I can relax a little...

Vacation - Day Two...

by Mark Zaugg 15. May 2007 09:29

Remember all that crap about "I will manage my vacation so that it won't become Project Management?" 

Remind me that if I have to walk into any other store again, it damned well better be on my terms and I'm only getting something I really, really want.  Blech. 

Coffee's on, I'm waiting for an hour or so to start up the lawn mower, and I get to my plan of Suburban Domestic Bliss or else, damn it!

Vacation - Day One...

by Mark Zaugg 14. May 2007 03:27

So this is officially a vacation, eh? 

I'm a little underwhelmed.  It turned out to be a regular day of chasing about, trying to cram a full 28 hours into the standard Earthling-sized day.  Bah!  Mere mortals! 

I dropped the kids off for Mother's Day, the dog and I did a little cruise about the country side going hither and thither, and I still managed to get home in time to watch the Formula 1 race.  Truth be known, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot I tried to cram in over the day.  After the race I fired up the game cube for some exciting "Lights, Camera, Pants!" action until the frustration of me sucking at Goo-Ladiators overwhelmed me and I gave up and played Runescape for a few hours.  I did my regular round of the blogs, ran upstairs to catch Holmes on Homes and called it a night.

I've felt the grind happening over the past while and my Lady-Love has convinced me that we need to take some time off.  She's right, of course.  So I've been trying to think about the stuff I want to get done this week.  Nothing too fancy.  Just do a little yardwork.  And maybe work on a small reno project or two.  And I want to do a bit of shopping and pick up a few things I've been neglecting for months.  And I ought to take a bit of time and play Runescape and just work on a level or two.  And I'm really liking the idea of buying a GPS unit and going Geocaching - just an excuse to get out there and hike a bit.  And I'd love to catch up on my paperwork and get that out of my hair (and my Lady-Love's line of sight).  And I'd really like to just up and get out of town for a while.  And I want to cook all week and maybe have some friends over and we'll have a BBQ or something.  Well, maybe I should settle for getting in touch with everyone and at least send out emails or something.

Oh right, isn't this why I needed vacation time in the first place?

Planning my week off is every bit as hard as work where I have a routine laid out for me day to day.   It's the one part of the Time Management book I don't have a grasp on yet - setting short and long term goals and writing them down.  I've got my airy-fairy list of wants, but nothing concrete enough to be able to figure out just how to get from here to there, where ever "there" may actually be.  I'm feeling more like I'm trying so hard to tread water I've forgotten how to swim.

Oh right, isn't this why I needed vacation time in the first place?

I'm trying to not address this week as a fire waiting to be put out.  I'm good at that, but I'd love a week of not putting out any fires.  Tomorrow I'll plan on shopping for clothes, maybe a short run over to Costco, and get some yard work in.  I've got an unofficial plan to take my Lady-Love somewhere nice for lunch unless we plan on getting out of Dodge for a few days.  Just keeping things small, managable, and relaxed for a week.  There's a hard enough goal right there.

"I will manage my vacation so that it won't become Project Management."

Yeah, score one for the stressed out sub-uber-geek with the large cup of coffee.

Today's fortunes

by Mark Zaugg 7. May 2007 21:20

Dad:  Your respect for others will be your ticket to success. 
Rebekk:  You shall soon make a long, overdue personal decision. 
KA:  A movie you watch will make you reach for the stars. 
Lady-Love:  Your every day will be filled by love, adoration and a furry face looking to mooch popcorn.

Ce soir...

by Mark Zaugg 3. May 2007 23:23

Mesdames et messieurs, 

 For dinner tonight, Chef Zaugg has prepared a sirloin tip sauteed gently in a poivre Cajun sauce avec onion et mushrooms tossed in a crisp et dry oak-aged Chardonnay.  It shall be accentué together with riz brun et riz sauvage avec garlic roti and thinly sliced avocat

 After dining, you shall be graced with strawberries et pitaya (dragon fruit). 

 Please enjoy ce soir's gastronomic experience.  Chef is most pleased to present it to you because he really thinks his Lady-Love is particularly wonderful. 

 The mood shall be set through the melodious sound of The Vesitbules, the Grateful Dead, Screaming Jay Hawkins and, of course, the Rheostatics.

Appréciez, si vous plait.

Just how cool is THIS?

by Mark Zaugg 27. April 2007 11:24

Stephen Hawking, a paragon of geeky coolness, and I hear he's pretty smart to boot, just went for a ride on the Vomit Comet.

Add a parabolic flight to my wish list.  Go Zero G has Professor Hawking's flight covered on the front page.

Here's a link to The Age's coverage where I discovered it first thing this morning.

I really admire Professor Hawking.  He turned hard concepts simple and popularized common sense ideas for the long term existance of humanity at large.  I stand amoung the legions who would be honoured to comingle our barf in sub-orbit someday.

Enter our hero into the Reality Distortion Field...

by Mark Zaugg 24. April 2007 23:59

I'm sad to say, but I have begun that long, distressing entry into that state known as the Friendly Happy People.  Living in the Reality Distortion Field.  Where everything is fine and dandy, we do everything with a single button, and the pablum is force fed to us through a tube. 

In this case, I finally got around to getting an iPod. 

Do I want an iPod?  I'm still not entirely sure.  My first problem - I'm a control freak.  Occupational hazard, I guess.  I don't want computers to be made 'easy' for me, I want things to be predictable.  I want to be able to determine what the problems are, should one occur.  "Easy" masks the control I want.

I distrust the "so simple you plug it in and go right away" mentality.  Computers are complicated beasts filled with pitfalls and compromises.  I want to make sure that the compromises I make fit my particular requirements.  I'd rather be secure than easy.  I'd rather have control than have someone guess what I want.  Your choices will certainly be different from my own.

So I plug in the iPod, download and install iTunes, put in my iCD (err..  I can tell I'm already getting carried away) and it starts ripping it into my library right away.  Only problem - I'm a bit of an audiophile.  I'm not going to tolerate my music ripped at crappy rates and have to hear a hissy "S" for the lifetime of my iPod.  It never once asked me how I wanted to rip the disc.

So the first thing I do is try to figure out just how the damned interface is supposed to work.  Not intuitive for me, sorry Mr. Jobs.  Perhaps I'm just dumb, or perhaps I'm a control freak, but the layout just doesn't work the way I want to use it.

In the case of an mp3 player, I want to rip my mp3's (or preferably, oggs) and be able to drag and drop them across to the device.  I mean, really, isn't that the very scheme that Apple popularized in the first place?  Now it's no longer good enough?

Of course, I want a simple way to rip an mp3 (or preferably ogg) at a variable rate, and don't even look at anything less than 256 bits.  I can't really compare an AAC, so for now I'm going to stick with what I know and trust.

Three pages into a help file and I'm told go to iTunes --> Preferences, click Advanced, and then click Importing.

Colour me stupid, but I'm not seeing it.

Close iTunes.  Open iTunes.  Look for ANYTHING that says iTunes --> Preferences, with an Advanced option.  Nope, nope, nope.

The only thing that's really helping me out at all here is my background.  "Okay," methinks to meself, "This is Apple now.  Based on BSD, I better put myself into a UNIX frame of mind."  In Windows, you're looking for your options settings under a Tools menu or some such.  In UNIX, you've typically got a "Preference" selection under the "Edit" menu.  Well, sure enough, there it is, right at the bottom in Edit.

It's one of my big fears about going to a Mac.  I don't want to get sucked into someone else's choices about how I'm supposed to do what I want to do.  I'm not afraid to "Think different" - after all, there is a certain logic in having Preferences under Edit to me, remember?  I'm afraid of the Apple mentality (TM) that "Thou shalt have only one mouse button because that is all thou shalt require."

Well, for what it's worth, I've decided the iPod is the best of a bad lot of mp3 players that don't meet what I want, so I'll try to fill 80 Gigs with music and see where it takes me...

Two thought Johnny.

by Mark Zaugg 20. April 2007 00:34

Man, if there's anything I hate... 

I hate SPAM.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. 

One of the things I do at work is to go through the damned spam filter and look for false positives.  I detest the utter waste of resources, I cannot stand the constant push of filth I do not want to see, I hate to think of the shady products from shadier hawksters, and I absolutely loathe and detest the scum that prey on - well, let's be blunt, shall we - the utter morons who waste their money supporting unscrupulous on-line behaviour. 

Am I going to fix spam?  I only wish.  The only way to beat spam at the moment is to get the very same utter morons mentioned above to completely stop purchasing anything through spam.  Then we still have to deal with the stock spam, so I suppose it will probably always end up being an arms race back and forth.

Why am I mentioning this?  I'm suffering a large increase in spam at the moment right here.

You see, I have a friend who has his blog hosted on  Cool, I haven't been in touch with him for ages.  I sign up for an account and instead of posting directly, I send a private message to him on his blog since I did not have his email.  One of the things I mentioned in that message was a blog entry I wrote here that included him.

Please remember, this is a PRIVATE MESSAGE.  By the very name of "private message" I think I can make the assumption that only he and I are able to read the message, right?

Wrong, apparently.  Unless Hieraco sold that link directly to Russian spammers.  Which I doubt.  Hieraco, please do me a favour and take some time and make sure you're running a full scan for viruses, keyloggers, trojans, spyware and rootkits, okay?  Just in case I have to eat my words soon.

Right after I send that link, the blog entry that I included in that link gets innundated with spam.  Not just one or two.  Not ten or twenty.  Right now I'm averaging between 5 and 8 spammy links a day.

"Oooh," I hear you say.  "What a terrible thing to have to delete a few comments."  No, it's a problem.  It takes my bandwidth, it uses my time and resources and it's just rude and ignorant.  Not a single spammy link will get approved here, and even if it does, I'm pretty confident the two readers I've got are going to know it's spam instantly and ignore it.  By the way, dear reader, if you don't - I'm coming after you.

Now I'd say something if it was happening in every blog entry I've written, but it is only happening in one single entry, starting immediately after I sent a private message to Hieraco.  What am I to assume is the problem?

Well, barring my fine, cat-fancying friend getting back to me telling me he had a trojan on his system, I'm going to make the assumption that has a problem with their PM system.  I won't say it's been compromised, but I certainly don't trust it and you can officially expect me to not move my blog over there anytime soon.  Now I've got his direct email, I can safely say I'll browse his blog but never post a link or email there again, private or not.

Blown trust does not come back easily.  My trust with got blown out the window from my very first encounter.  I don't think that will ever be recovered.

Which brings me, quite nicely, to my second thought for this entry.  Nick Booth over at The Inquirer has written what I consider to be a very interesting and insightful article.

Businesses want to get closer to customers, but they end up stalking them instead. Companies want relationships with customers, but customers want restraining orders from companies they wish they'd never met.

"Instead of creating loyalty, the effect most CRM systems have is to make you rue the day you ever gave away your home number," says Tefler.

In this case, Tefler is trying to sell a better CRM (Customer Relation Management) system that is more about relationships than tracking your customers' every move and trying to second guess them before they make it.  I wish him every success with that - I'm not going to buy into it just now.  I believe the best CRM remains the handshake, and if you can't keep track of the handshakes you've made in the last year, you need to get yourself more staff to help you out with your customers.  Should Tefler and his company Pegasystems prove me wrong, I hope I'll be in position to shell out the cash for a copy of what would be truly fabulous software.

Look, I run databases.  I've had personal information under my fingertips that, in all seriousness, I feel uncomfortable knowing.  It's not my business knowing some celebrity's private, unlisted home phone number.  In my line of work, sometimes I run across information like that.  It's when the companies start trying to bend information to its will in order to squeeze every last penny they can out of a name that things go wrong.

My line of work generally attracts people with a very high sense of ethics, integrity, standards and a firm knowledge of what should be kept private.  I'm not going to fool anyone and deny that there are bad apples out there.  Overall, the DBA's know that you better keep your data private and secure because if you make a mistake and reveal information, not only intentionally but merely by accident, your career could be over and you're looking at a life of doing less scrupulous work such as telemarketer, lawyer or politician.

Don't look at me to sell your information at a profit - I will not do it.  Don't look at me to sign up for loyalty cards to enable your company to track my every purchase - I will not do it.  Don't expect me enable your schemes to peddle filth and questionable pills by posting your spammy messages on my blog.

I will not do it.  I may be a crotchety old pain in the ass, but I will keep my integrity.

"You took the weekend off!"

by Mark Zaugg 17. April 2007 08:22


I thought I already said this wasn't supposed to be a Sunday Night Entry Only sort of thing.  If I get up at 6:00 AM on a Tuesday to let the dog out and feel like writing a blog entry, well, so be it. 

That and my Sunday night was filled between bouncing between Formula 1, hockey playoffs, and Holmes on Homes

Saturday night I saw Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies.  Ah yes, one of those wonderful shows I didn't quite know what to expect and walk away from happy.  The highlight for me was hearing Andy May playing the Northumberland pipes.  After sound check the kids ran up to me holding his CD, "The Yellow Haired Laddie."  I love it when the kids and I agree ahead of time.

Ooh, I guess I should mention my darkest secret...  I love the bagpipes.  I saw the band Rare Air back in my high school days and I never quite recovered from the shock that they were really, really good and they were actually playing bagpipes that didn't sound like (ominous voice) the bagpipes.  Seriously, with albums like Space Piper, you know that they were breaking out of the traditional piping but still retaining their respect for the art.

Now, I'm nae Scot, nor Irish, nor Celt of any strain.  (Well, I'm 1/4 English, so I can be pretty sure my ancestory probably draws from there someplace), but I must say I have a streak of love for all things north of Hadrian's Wall and across the Irish Sea.  I'm the sort of fellow that prefers to have my haggis apart from my Guiness so I can really savour the flavours the way they were meant to be enjoyed.  And play a wee bit o' Jez Lowe in the background for me, eh, lass?  If I'm going to offend by mixing the cultures all up in a slurry, I may as well go all the way out..

Aye!  'Tis grand!

Grampa and me and TV makes three.

by Mark Zaugg 9. April 2007 00:05

There's a couple of things I really enjoy about writing a blog. 

It's not that I have a thousand people hanging on my every word.  Hopefully the world has more sense than that by now. 

It's not that I have great insight.  I'm fumbling through life just like most people out there.  I'm good at a few things, great at being a Dad and a smart ass come to mind (I think the two may be related) and I pretty much fake everything else as I go. 

Okay, I have some aptitude with electronic stuff.  Yeah, I can make Cat-5 cable, and I can change my own oil (note to self:  Call Nissan to book an appointment to get your oil changed) and given time, energy and a little bit of research I'm a pretty capable guy.  I prefer the term "Renaissance Man" although "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" tends to equally apply. 

What I like most about writing a blog is that I can put down my thoughts and my interests and set out a milestone of where I'm at.  I'm free to ramble to myself and build to the point I'm making.  Hopefully a couple people will gain some understanding of what goes through my mind.  I hope that both my Lady-love and eventually my children can read through this and think to themselves, "So that's why I'm slightly unnerved any time I go out in public with him."  Perhaps someday they might even say, "Oooh, that helps to explain his dementia."  Or maybe, "He's only half the moron I give him credit for."  And finally, "He sure has bad grammar, hanging those prepositions and beginning sentences with a conjunction."

I also have entire blind spots.  My Lady-love continues to foolishly as my request on things like how to rearrange the furniture and whether I prefer the cobolt blue shirt or the royal blue shirt, and just what was I thinking wearing them with the swamp green pants instead of the olive green pants?  I mean, really, I thought they were ecru!

I'm pragmatic to a fault.  So long as the walls stand, I don't care what colour they are.  If she has a preference, that's terrific!  I'll fully support her decisions.  Asking me for my opinion is like asking her if she prefers conventional 5W30 over a synthetic 5W40.  I'm sure she'll back me up by asking me just what I meant.

Design just isn't my strong suit.

I'm pretty clear on where I stand.

If there's anything that drives me up the wall it's the design shows on TV.  They don't hold my interest, I don't believe the before and after pictures and half the time I think I've come up with dumber ideas that are twice as good because they're practical.  Actually, I pretty much hate all TV shows that are on now.  I've got a thousand things better to spend my time on in the evenings.

Naturally, I've picked up a new show - the first new show I've started watching in almost 5 years.  I've become a huge fan of Holmes on Homes.  Yeah, I know the claw from the head from the handle on a hammer.  Most of the time I even use it properly.

I like it, not because I learn something new - usually I either know what he's up to or I'm completely off in left field without knowing what is going on.  It's Mike and his "Make it right!" attitude.  That's where my Grampa fits in.  He would always say, "Quality pays for itself."  I can hear it in his own voice.

There's a story where Grampa had plasterers come in to do the walls in his home.  He supposedly told them he never wanted to see a crack in the plaster for as long as he lived.  One of the last things I ever did in his home after he passed on was walk from room to room looking at the walls.  I never saw a crack in a single wall through the entire house.  That's good building right there.  From the original crotchety old fart himself.  I like to imagine him looking over the craftsmen with a wary eye making sure everything was up to his standard.

You see, I'm never going to become an exceptional renovator.  I'm never, ever going to make a living by tearing a house apart, fixing it and selling it on the marketplace for a profit.  I may do some small jobs, but that's simply to make things more comfortable, better built and more practical in my home and environment.  I know when a project is too big for me to tackle on my own.

I've done little projects with my buddy Cam.  Well, some of them were big projects to me, but manageable for him.  When he does a job, he showed me the details in the background that made it a professional job versus a slap-together job.  I think if Mike Holmes ever pulled apart the work, he'd only criticize the parts of the project I did.

Mike's attitude is a bit infectious - and that's a great thing for me and my mindset.  I want to produce quality work and only quality work.  Once again, Grampa's words resonate, "Quality pays for itself."  If I'm doing a stored procedure, I don't care if it's the most elegant solution ever created, I care that it's the best stored procedure I've done so far

I'm okay with SQL and I genuinely love the language, but I know I have much to learn.  I may never be an expert renovator, but I want to do things right - at least as right as I am capable of doing.  Next time I'll know more and do better.  I may not knock out the perfect bash script run by a cron job, but there once was a time I hardly knew what bash and cron were.

So I scan through what I've got here and it's a scattering of points and thoughts that make no sense and don't come to a point.  I better emphasize it in bold so people know what I'm trying to say.

1.  "Quality pays for itself."  Grampa's words hold true and I love to repeat them.
2.  Here's a plug for Holmes on Homes.  He makes stuff right when people didn't know enough or didn't care enough to create with quality.
3.  I love writing in a blog.  Somedays I feel like an idiot putting my thoughts down, but I do the best I can and I think I'm improving.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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