Ce soir...

by Mark Zaugg 3. May 2007 21:23

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 09:24

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 21:59

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 19. April 2007 22:34

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 vox.com.  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 vox.com 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 vox.com 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 06:22

Uh-oh. 

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 8. April 2007 22:05

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.

Technolust

by Mark Zaugg 4. April 2007 20:50

I'm not quite sure how to set this up. 

I'm a system administrator / network administrator / database administrator.  I fix problems with computers - usually on Microsoft's Windows. 

Yeah, I've been around a lot of years.  I started on the Commodore PET back in - oh my - 1978.  ACK!  That's almost 30 years on computers.  Mr. Reil took me to the high school where he taught and showed me these really cool things he set up, taught me pretty much all the programming I know today (grin) and started me off on this wild adventure of fun and frivolity I call a life of hell. 

Along the way, I've had my fingers on the CoCo, the Trash can, the Vic-20 ("Wait," says Mr. Reil, "The C-64 is coming real soon now and it's a lot better!"), the Commodore-64, the Apple II+, IIc and the IIgs (I was late to the AppleII), enough of those horrid little PC's and clones to want to stay away from them, eventually the '286, '386, '486 (still have and loved my AMD 5x86-133), and on up the line.

Today I've got my Toshiba laptop (broken and tethered permanently to a monitor), my Ubuntu box - a much beloved overclocked Athlon 1.2) and my way long-in-the-tooth-but-still-occasionally-used PIII-450 I spent $3000 on back in 1998.

Long and the short, I've got a lot of experience.

I remember the days when we used to ooh and ahh over the latest and greatest.  Yes, the days of eagerly anticipating the Voodoo 3, the most perfect video card that could ever be created.  How we longed for the days we could afford that kind of amazement!  (Yup, I'm looking at you, Ralph.)  We poured over the notion for hours, debating the merits of the latest and greatest and what really wasn't so hot.

Then we got into this professionally or semi-professionally and it all went off the rails.  (Yup, I'm looking at you, Ralph.  ;-)  Hardware just wasn't cool to tinker with anymore, it was the pain in the butt to fix.  We didn't care that the new printer was 3.8 times faster than the old one, we cared that it took 3.8 fewer minutes to configure.  "New" has become crap, stability is what matters.

Yeah, okay.  The code monkey over there thinks that he cares that his Core Duo outperforms his Pentium IV by 16 percent.    Oh, yeah, I'm so sure it cuts your compile time down by all that much.  Put a sock in it, Little Coder Boy.  If you didn't write such bloated code we'd all get by just fine with our 10 year old machines.  CPU cycles are cheap - MY ASS.  Someone has to manage all the crap you foist on us.  That's where the overhead lies now.

All you guys stuck in "latest and greatest" mode are chasing your tails.  Spending a premium for a thin slice of performance so you can brag like you're driving an Italian sports car and your toupee doesn't show.  Get a life, loser.

---

There.  You have the setup.

I want a Mac.  I want a MacBook.  Actually, I want a MacBook Pro.  I thought I wanted a MacBook Pro 15" - I wasn't sure if I wanted a 2.16 or a 2.33 GHz processor.  I was wrong.  I want the MacBook Pro 17".  I want the power, I want that beautiful 17" screen, I want Parallels, I want 2 Gigs of RAM, and I want the fastest bloody hard drive I can get in that - supposedly a 120 GB 7200 RPM drive.  I'll happily give up size for speed.  I want it fast, I want it gorgeous, and I want it as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Mr. Bug has been a turncoat^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hswitcher for a while.  He's convinced me that I really ought to be looking at a Mac for my next system.  Yeah, sure, I've seen the Macs.  I know about it.  Based on BSD.  Yeah yeah.  No viruses.  Sure sure.   Integrated and 'just works'.  Blah blah.

I stopped by Westworld Computers today to take a serious look again.  The last time I looked at a Mac it didn't go all that well.  What I saw today simply amazed me.

I have a couple really good reasons for looking at a Mac.  Reason 1, I fix computers for a living.  I make house calls, I like to take my laptop with all my tools and have it when I work on a client's system.  I take a Mac, I plug it into their network and just do what I have to do.  I don't worry about viruses or trojans, I just get my job done.

Reason 2, I work on Windows all day long.  Frankly, I'm getting sick of it.  I'll still stay up to date on the Windows world, but although it's a nice enough place to visit, I don't want to live there.

Reason 3, Gnucash.  I like simplicity and double-entry in my accounting software.  Gnucash is my single killer app that I need to live my life.  My consideration changed considerably when I discovered that Gnucash ran on a Mac.  It might not be the flashiest or the easiest thing to use, but I love it and need it and that makes my decision so much easier.

Reason 4, I primarily work full screen on the task I'm focusing on.  That doesn't mean I don't want to change quickly should my train of thought change.  The Mac put the window I wanted in front of me and left it there.  Nothing popping up in front of me.  No nag screens grabbing my attention.  THE app I wanted to look at on my screen.  Simple.  Easy.  Should I want to find another window, Exposé to the rescue.  It was amazingly easy to use for me, and powerful enough I want it now.  It matches the way I do my work.

Reason 5, and this has more to do with the guys at Westworld rather than the Mac, I ran into a couple fellows that understood whom they were talking to.  Ryan grokked that I was a tinkerer and knew my way around a system or two.  He threw up examples that I could relate to.  When I asked about file system, he opened a terminal and ran me through the BSD internals.  He talked about the bash shell and all that was available to me.  Nathan listened when I had a newbie question and kicked me in the right direction when I needed prompting.  They both left me alone in front of this amazing machine to let me enjoy touching the raw eroticism of an aluminum shell.  Okay, maybe that's too personal.

Unlike the Reality Distortion Field, criticisms did fly.  I hate the one-button touch pad.  Give me two as an option, damn you!  Don't give me this, "You can plug in any mouse you want."  I can't always plug in any mouse I want, what I want is a right-mouse button on the damned touch pad.  They brought up some of the quirkiness of the GUI that I'll have to get used to.  Like just what the hell those red, yellow and green buttons actually do, anyways..  (Answer, not always what you'd think they do.)

All in all, I find myself wrapped in technolust for a Macintosh computer.  Precisely what has come over me?

Bottom line, it means I go into debt a bit, but I get what I want.

So with that in mind, I throw it out to you, dear reader.  Some questions:
1)  Wait for Leopard or get what I want now?
2)  We haven't had a hardware upgrade for a while, it seems.  Drop the hammer or wait for a few months - presumably when Leopard arrives.
3)  I'm sold on a MacBook 17" with Parallels and Super-Duper! for backups.  I have ZERO interest in Microsoft Office - OEM or otherwise.  What else need I consider for software?
4)  What else do I need to consider for accessories?
5)  What about a PDA to sync with a Mac?  I have a Palm m125 I sync with my Linux box right now.  I'll upgrade if I find something that works nicely with a Mac.  I'll happily stick with my Palm if I have to hold out for a Blackberry or something.  (I'll consider a Blackberry, but not for a year or two when I'm ready to jump to a new phone.)
6)  What am I failing to consider here?  What's the gotcha behind the decision that I haven't spotted yet?

Have at it...  The line begins to call me an idjit...  HERE:

I read me a book! I read me a.. Oh, nevermind...

by Mark Zaugg 20. March 2007 05:11

So I worked my way through Time Management for System Administrators from Tom Limoncelli.  It was a really good read and gave me some great ideas to get things up to snuff. 

Like anything I tend to come across, I'm finding that I do things half right to half ends and it's that last little bit that needs some nudging.  I'm exceptionally good at setting up routines and not clogging my brain debating which mundane task needs done first.  I swap out the backup tapes and follow my backup routine each and every morning - without thought and without fail.  (Why DID my backup skip Friday anyways?  Add that to my ToDo list...) 

I'm not so good at setting priorities or shuffling tasks to tomorrow instead of doing them just before I go home. 

I've found a new love for my Palm Pilot.  Well, it's an old love, really, but my m125 and I have once more found an intimacy that was lacking in our relationship..  I record the crap that needs done and it endlessly nags me to actually do it.  Plus I've found I can back it up perfectly on my Ubuntu box using JPilot.  It's helped me become more effective in that I'm (trying) to set up the Cycle as described by Tom, avoiding some of the time sinks, and I'm actually making headway for a change.

The down side, I've got three or five more books that were suggested reading.  Find the books, order the books, read the books.  Time Management for System Administrators was on my Palm Pilot for about eight months before I actually ordered it and read through it.  Sure, it was really worth it, but it takes me time to get around to these things..  ;-)

--

Speaking of System Administration, I noticed that Mr. Bug has been banging the drum with the poor migration plan that Zooomr tried to work through.  Zooomr is a site designed to make your photos available online.  Rather than just throwing a photo up and letting it loose, you have control of who gets to see it, you can add geographical information ("show me other photos taken near here"), links sound, it supports different languages, all in all it looks to be a nice promising site full of good ideas for photographers to present their shots.  (Don't look at me, I barely get around to updating photos around here.  ;-)

The fact that Bug introduced me to Zooomr should be my first clue:  This is something that he's following with interest.  When an upgrade gets pre-announced, takes longer than expected, and gets rolled back, us old fogeys shake our heads and start asking, "Where's your upgrade plan?"

I'm a little bit invested in the idea myself.  Babcia just did a trip down to Costa Rica.  Photos, of course, went up on some commercial webpage that insisted I create an account just to LOOK at the photos they posted.

*coff*

Okay, I can understand if you're running some sort of control over who gets to see the photos, but this was just pointless email address collection.  No thank you.

I'm also in the "I'd love to see Zooomr work" category.  Simply that I'm wasting breath on it puts me in the Rah-Rah camp.  I'd much prefer to set Mom up with a Zooomr account that I feel I can trust.

Of course, I'll be much more interested later this year once I pick up my digital SLR from Robinson's.  (I'm leaning to the FZ50, but I'm worried about some of the issues over higher ISO's which is my primary reason for getting into a Prosumer grade camera in the first place..  My friends at Robinson's won't steer me wrong.)

None of which negates the fact that their upgrade wasn't planned out and hasn't gone as expected and a number of us are a bit disappointed.

--

And speaking of disappointed, I'm back on the warpath with the Royal Bank again.  Bastards.

Deposit a cheque in the ABM.  Fine, they don't know if it's really a cheque or a poetic offering on how badly they collectively suck as a corporation.  I don't expect perfection.  But apparently, if it's deposited after 6:00 pm on a Sunday, it's still going to take up to 48 hours to process.

Let alone, this is a government cheque and I did a "Deposit it all into chequing, transfer all but $200 to my Student Line of Credit."  After all, it's not like I can really do that in one transaction.  And ghod forbid actually having to go to a teller and doing this during banking hours.  I'm not pulling cash here.  If I actually deposited an ode to how great is the evil that they propagate as a Canada's Most Respected Corporation (tm), they will track it back and they shall charge me NSF fees, ABM fees, fraud fees, doggerel fees, and presumably a fee for not paying them enough service charges.  It's not like they don't have my credit card number, nor can I stop them from doing whatever the hell they want with my accounts to ensure they get their slice of the pie first.  Honestly, I really don't think they care I've been banking there 35 years!

Right...  They have to charge a service fee for slicing the pie.  I forgot about that one.  And don't they have a fee for banking there for an extended period of time without contributing enough to shareholder profits and an inflated CEO salary?

Two days of this and just MAYBE I'll actually pay some money on the debt.

Lately it seems that any day that contains bitching about the Royal Bank is a good one.

Colin Hay!

by Mark Zaugg 4. March 2007 08:21

Well, yesterday was indeed a most-cool day. 

Colin Hay
returned back to the Bow Valley Music Club to play another show. 

Colin is the one reason I own a Palm m125 - tying in the last post of getting Time Management for System Administrators by Tom Limoncelli quite nicely, I hope.  The last time Colin played at BVMC I forgot the show was that night and it has remained the only show I missed due to me being an idiot.  I went out and got a Palm the next week and haven't looked back. 

The kids were with me and got to run and play at the club while we set up and a great time was had by all.  We had to run off and do a few chores - get lunch, go get washer fluid for the car, odds and sods stuff - and we got back in time to catch sound check. 

I happily abuse my position of volunteer bartender and roadie and attend sound check ostensibly to be there to assist the artist but in reality especially so my kids can get a taste of what the show will be without staying up to midnight.  Sometimes they get to meet artists who are or were influential in my life.

Men At Work are one of those bands from the 80's that has the story of a flash-in-the-pan.  They had two albums released one after the other and you can just feel the world jumping on the bandwagon at once.  The release of the third showed the band was washed up and nothing but hype was in the great Men At Work tour-bus and it collapses and we forget all about it and file it into the "Why ever did we listen to that crap?" category.

The spin is a little different from the actuality, of course.  Men At Work fell into the great marketing machine that is the part of the labeled music industry that makes it truly such an evil creation.  Ignoring the better sense that North America was just catching up with Australia, Men at Work's 'Cargo' got dropped on us 3 months after we got introduced to them.  The resultant flare was intense, but all that heat can't be sustained and the collective population burnt out.

By now I should have well and truly painted the picture for you.  A die-hard fan of Men At Work at a sound check with two kids in tow who haven't the faintest idea who he is, but they do know their Dad knows the lyrics to the songs.  I mention to Rebekk, "He plays guitar really well, doesn't he?  A lot better than your Dad."  "He's way better than you, Dad."  Thanks, kid.

During soundcheck, Colin complimented Rebekk's hair and asked if she picked out the colour for the streak herself.  He struck me as a guy I'd like to meet in a pub for a pint or two.  He signed two CD's - one for each kid - and we were out the door on our way to grab dinner and drop the kids off at my friend's place who was going to take them for the night.  Once we got to the car, there's a guy out in the parking lot with a stack of vinyl records asking Colin to sign them.

On stage, Colin bore the battle stories of being ground in the hamburger machine of music marketing.  People get stuck in time, and from their perspective Colin has been basking in the glow of their adoration for the past 15 years.  He's got some great war stories of people talking to him over the years, but it strikes me that if people are stuck in the past, they're missing out on the present.

Colin's been getting a bit more of an audience lately and getting some notice for his songwriting again.  His songs now are much more rich - I supposed that goes with the territory of continuing to hone his craft for 15 years.  "My my my, it's a beautiful world / I like swimming in the sea" has been going through my head since I heard it in sound check.  He didn't bring all his CD's with him this time round - I wanted his disc "Company of Strangers" if only for the song "Dear J" (you can hear a snippet there).  I suspect I'll order a copy when his latest CD gets released in April.

Thanks Colin, that was truly a wonderful day for me.  I'd love to know how the kids feel about it 15 years from now..

I got me a book! I got me a book!

by Mark Zaugg 1. March 2007 20:18

"Note to self: 

Dear Self, (because what else are you going to say?) 

Remember to upgrade the LDAP server.  Remember to patch the security hole in zlib and every other package that links to it.  (On second thought, are there packages that don't link to it?)  Remember to plan for another 10x upgrade in storage capacity.  Remember to debug the boss's Outlook problems or, at the very least, have the necessary goat entrails on hand to begin the process.  Remember to redo the Oracle installation.  See if there are any Wikis that would work better than the one we are using.  Rewrite the user account system, and this time make sure it deals with the cases they swore would never occur in the physical world.  Be sure that it is Sarbanes-Oxley compliant, ISO9000 certified, and Kosher l'Pesach.  Check that your staff's projects are all humming along nicely.  Read the LISA conference proceedings from the last two years to make sure you aren't missing anything useful for your infrastructure.  Then, if you have time left over, start planning what you are going to do next week. 

No, the fact that "plan a vacation" didn't hit the list again for the 73rd consecutive week shouldn't bother you.  Nor should the incident where your spouse literally tipped over laughing after hearing you were going to write a foreword for a time management book.  Or should it?

Perhaps you should just take heart in the henry Kissinger quote, "There cannot be a crisis next week.  My schedule is already full."

Well, anyway.  Got to get back to work.

 Yours in Service,
   me"

                           -- David N. Blank-Edelman


That's the first page of the forward to the book that has reached into my blackened soul and dragged out the very being I am at my core.

David goes on to explain some character traits of sysadmins.
    Tenacious problem solvers.  Check.
    Genuine desire to help people.  Check.
    Attraction to crisis response and saving the day.  Check.
    Find what they do to be fun.  So fun that they go home and do some more.

Check and mate!

 I'm not five pages into this book when I know that David and Tom have a really good grasp on what drives me and what flaws I have in my system.

Hell, I'm not five pages into the book and I run downstairs to blog about it.

Time Management for System Administrators from Tom Limoncelli is the book.  It's already taught me some critically important lessons.  First, I'm at a very high risk for being a system administrator / database administrator and fitting in quite nicely in that role.  Make that an extremely high risk.  Second, this is explaining a lot about how I really need some better time management skills in my life.

There are a lot of jobs I can think of that pull a person in many directions at one time.  Nursing, kindergarten teacher..

Okay, I can come up with two.  Nursing and a kindergarten teacher.

They can't be much worse than nursing Windows systems along while teaching users how to use their computers, can they?  Cheap shot, I know.

On the other hand, I'm sitting in the basement tonight looking up SQL script examples using table variables so I can do a better job scripting out a stored procedure I'm working on, whilst I'm planning in my head how I'm going to restore one computer's image, set up three systems including proper desk areas and work stations, order new hardware tomorrow, figure out why I can't punch a hole in the firewall to expose our FTP server (even though it has been set up 100% correctly according to the manual - did I look at the packet rules closely enough? Hmm..) and get the aforementioned script coded and tested against a test database from a backup taken a few days ago.

I should be able to get most of it done.  The script has been more difficult than it should be, but I didn't get a good sample of the output format to work with.  Now I understand what I'm working with, I should be able to slap together a couple of cursor-like table variables to loop through my data and pull out what's required.  The FTP site would really be handy, but if worst comes to worst I can throw up IIS in behind an exposed router and have something going in half an hour.  I really should have had that done weeks ago.  A bit more time and I can easily slap it together.

TIME!  Oh yeah.  I don't have enough time to get everything done it seems.

Maybe I should get around to ordering that really cool sounding book on time management.  Thank ghod my Lady-love is so wonderful and slid it in with a book order she put in the other day.

Want it from Chapters?
Here it is on Amazon.

I feel a little goofy recommending a book when I've hardly opened the cover.  One of the top hits I found was this entry in Ben Rockwood's blog.  Oh, do I empathize with him.  And if he found something useful in the first three chapters, I'm certain that the wreck that is my life will be right along with it.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I've got reading to do.

Welcome

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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