11/26/2002

I went to Sears today to buy the towels and rugs we need to outfit all our bathrooms. Several bathrooms have towels dating back to our pre-married days (six years ago!) and of course our new bathroom in the basement has been pretty much empty for the few months it’s been around.

After lugging two enormous piles of towels and rugs to the checkout counter (Sears doesn’t have carts, of course), I was subject to the fascinating spectacle of watching the saleswoman Maureen ring up my order.

She’d take a washcloth, carefully unfold it to find the tag with the UPC, and hold it up to the laser scanner. The little red light would dance across the UPC for a few seconds; she’d shift the tag around a bit to get a better angle; the light would continue to flicker; she’d move the scanner a bit and then move the washcloth a bit. Finally, with a satisfied BEEP, the system would read the UPC.

Then she’d fold up the washcloth very carefully and place it gently into the gigantic plastic bag on the counter. She’d pick up the next washcloth (which was identical to the one she’d just scanned, but I guess she didn’t know she could hit the “Again” key or whatever to ring up the same item) and repeat the entire process.

It must have taken fifteen minutes for her to ring up the thirty or so items I had. A line of people grew behind me, and I probably would’ve laughed if I wasn’t getting so impatient. It was comical, how slow and deliberate she was.

In the end I bought two hundred dollars’ worth of bathroom linen. Sheesh. Maybe I should revert to a grungy rug in each bathroom, and let people wipe their hands on their jeans after they use the sink.

11/22/2002

Qwest strikes again!

We’re having sprinklers installed in our backyard, and the guy doing it was being all proper by calling the phone company and asking them to come out and flag the underground phone lines. They did.

Then he cranks up the trenching machine and starts digging pipelines, and (surprise!) smacks right into a phone line. Who knows why it’s there; it seems to cut diagonally through the yard for reasons only a Qwest engineer could fathom.

So our neighbor Bill will be without phone service for a while, I guess…

11/21/2002

Today we cleared the rocks out of our backyard. This is part of the preparation for re-grading the soil, installing a sprinkler system, and dropping in sixty (yes, SIXTY) tons of topsoil and compost.

In addition to the fun fist-sized rocks peppering the yard, I came across two enormous chunks of concrete buried just beneath the surface. Each one easily weighed twenty pounds. What in the world are chunks of concrete that big doing in my backyard?!

11/20/2002

Who would’ve guessed it would be so hard to find matching bath sets? We went on an odyssey in search of bath mats and towels in certain colors: navy, maroon, forest green, and a dark purple (all jewel tones). Seemed simple enough.

After going to Wal-Mart, Target, JCPenney’s, Sears, and Dillard’s we learned that you simply can’t buy that. Some stores had a set of navy but no green. Others had most of the colors but no small rugs (for in front of the sink). All in all, two hours resulted in nothing.

Dang.

11/20/2002

Today at breakfast Alex was singing the ABC song.

Kyra turned to him and said deadpan, “Alex, stop it. You’re making me nervous.”

11/19/2002

For three days my client has been trying to get their brand new network laser printer working. When I was last there, I configured it for all the right network settings and left it for them to finish, because at that time there wasn’t a network cable for the printer to use.

So after a number of exasperated troubleshooting calls from the client, I finally agreed to go down there (45 minutes each way) to get the printer working. It turns out they’d connected it with a crossover cable instead of a straight-through cable. Simple mistake, sure, but it took all of a minute for me to recognize the problem.

It reminded me of the story where the consultant shows up to fix the problem and spends about a minute doing so. His invoice is for some outlandish amount of money (in my case, seventy-five bucks) and when he’s questioned, he simply itemizes the costs.

Fixing problem: $5
Knowing how to fix problem: $70

Ahh, clients.

11/19/2002

So Kyra’s sitting at the dinner table cracking jokes.

Alex turns to her and says, “Kyra, you don’t make any sense. But I do.”

11/16/2002

Today I installed a garage door opener.

You’d think that someone in good health, with a college degree and a full box of tools wouldn’t have much problem doing something like that. Of course it took me the bulk of the day. After about four hours following the instructions verbatim, I reached the triumphant moment when I could press the button on the wall and watch the results of my labor.

MMMMMMMM… BRAAP!

The door moved about a foot and then ground to a halt. Whee! The joy I felt can only be expressed in four-letter words. I spent the next half-hour trying to troubleshoot the thing…

“Okay, if I hold the button down it goes almost halfway.”

“Hmm, it isn’t quite hitting the ground.”

“The light sensors work because they blink when I stick my foot in the way…”

And so on.

In the end, it was the little thing that did it: adjust the teensy little knob that says “open force”. Crank that baby up and make the engine scream as it drags the garage door, kicking and screaming, upward.

So I triumphed in the end, and now Laralee doesn’t have to pull into the driveway, turn off the car, take the key and unlock the garage door, climb back into the car, start the car, and drive into the garage. Yessss!

11/16/2002

Whee! There’s nothing quite as joyful as having two vacuum cleaner salesmen show up on the doorstep just as you’re making dinner.

No, wait– the one thing more exciting, more thrilling, than that is to have your wife say “sure, c’mon in!”.

Argh.

11/15/2002

I just got a new video capture card. The idea, of course, is to take five years’ worth of 8mm tapes and convert them to digital format (mpeg?) so I can make VCD’s or even DVD’s. Sweet.

But reality sets in, and I’m learning that Linux isn’t the easiest place in the world to get video capture software running. I’m downloading and compiling (“grepping tarballs”, as a friend would say) but so far haven’t had any luck. I can SEE the dang picture; I just can’t SAVE it. Grrr.

11/15/2002

I got some new speakers for my office yesterday. The old ones I had weighed about half a ton, took up a huge amount of floor space (which is at a premium in my basement corner here), and had been punched in by my kids years ago. Oh, and they originally came from a trash pile across the street, when our neighbors decided to upgrade their speakers to something manufactured after 1978.

So these “bookshelf” speakers (13×15″ is pretty big for a bookshelf, IMHO) are awesome. They truly to justice to my basement locale, because I can crank them and not bother the rest of the house… well, not TOO much anyway… and the sound is great.

Crank the trance music, baby.

11/15/2002

What is it about clients?

It seems like every day I have a Client Moment, when something truly amazing happens with a client. And I’m not talking about “WOW, that’s cool” amazing; I’m talking about “HUNH?” amazing.

Take today. For weeks I’ve been waiting to finish the installation of a computer network for a client. I asked several times when the wires might be in place, so I could come in and hook everything together, and heard absolutely nothing in response.

Today I get a call around noon. “Jeff, all those network wires are in place. Can you come in this afternoon and hook them up?”

(Their office is about 45 minutes away.)

Uhh, no guys– I’ve got things to do today. Maybe if you’d given me more than a FEW HOURS of notice, I could’ve arranged something. Guess you’ll have to wait.

Ahh, clients.

11/15/2002

So Laralee sends me a picture that’s scanned from a 1950’s-era magazine. It includes “instructions” about how to be a Good Wife when your husband comes home from work. It includes such gems as:

“Remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”

“Prepare yourself. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair, and be fresh-looking.”

“Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity.”

It goes on; suffice to say it’s hilariously anti-feminist.

Of course my friend Steve learned (through who knows how much online research; he doesn’t appear to do much at work during the day) that it’s a hoax.

But the best part was my friend Stef’s response:

“I don’t know what you mean, Jeff… You know me…

I NEVER question Derek’s actions or judgement – I have no right to!

I know that his topics of conversation are MUCH more important than mine
are.

I always speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

I always put a ribbon in my hair so I can look fresh for him.

… I have to go now… Oprah is on and I haven’t taken my
medications…”

Okay, so maybe you have to know Stef.

10/16/2002

And so it begins.

After a lot of stop-and-go, a lot of good intentions but bad follow-through, and a lot of “no, really, someday I’ll do it”, I’m going to start keeping a journal. Oh, sure, it’ll be this online thing that’s not very impressive and probably contains only rambling thoughts… but you’ve gotta start somewhere.

Ready… set…

04/21/2002

It’s been a while.

Some exciting news on the house-hunting front, though. Last weekend we decided to visit a couple houses in our search list. One in particular didn’t excite me; the MLS listing said something like “unusual floor plan” and I immediately thought it would suck. But Laralee convinced me to take a look anyway, and I loved it.

It’s up in Longmont– about 15 miles due north of here– and not only is the house bigger than our current one, but the lot is a full quarter-acre. Huge for around here. I think this is the best we’ll do, considering our tough criteria. So we moved on it right away, and signed the papers Monday. We move at the end of next month.

Now comes the fun part: selling our house. It’s on the market, and we spent a frantic week preparing for that. Cleaning, dumping clutter, doing touch-up work, fixing things, and generally making it look better than it’s ever looked while we lived here. (Isn’t that always the nature of selling a house?)

I sure hope this works…

03/27/2002

(Insert brief hiatus here.)

Well, things are interesting as always. A few weeks ago La asked if we should try to find a new house with a bigger yard. That got me thinking, and before we knew it we were caught up in the whirlwind. We started the Great House Hunt, with the singular goal of finding an acceptable yard, a decent house, and all without spending any money.

So far our luck has been poor. We found an unbelievable yard, but the house was cramped. We found a great house, but the yard was all hill. We drove into the mountains, we drove out to the plains. We found horse properties and empty lots and backyards no more than five feet deep. No, no, no.

We still have a few months, but I wonder if it’s even possible to find what we seek. It seems the builders in the last couple of decades just decided that people don’t want yards, and there you have it. We don’t have enough money to get a grand layout, so we have to hope we get lucky.

We’ll see.

03/10/2002

Boy, it’s been a while since I wrote anything here. Time flies, I guess. First there was a trip to Idaho, then my birthday, then a week of being sick (and taking care of the rest of the clan when they caught it).

Then, interestingly, I had a really hard time getting motivated to do anything. I think having nearly two weeks off put a dent in my interest in work. I found that I wasn’t excited about my job, or the things I was doing for clients. It was a struggle, because I had a lot of things to do (which is a good thing) and I knew I had to do them. But I didn’t want to work long hours; I didn’t have the drive to work during the evenings like I had been.

So my laptop didn’t sit in bed with me late at night; instead, I read sci-fi books or simply went to sleep. No more 1:00 am nights. No more late-night “research” into network security or the latest web and database doo-dahs. No more journal.

Now it’s been a couple of weeks, and I feel that I’m starting to get some of that ambition and drive back. I hope I can get back in the “groove” and do good work, enjoy it, and continue my success. It’s important, because I see the point (only a few weeks away) when I’m going to be hard-pressed for work. I need to move, to find new things, to keep my inertia.

We’ll see.

02/14/2002

I think if work ever slows down, and I find myself wondering where my next contract will come from, I’ll plan a vacation.

See, what seems to happen (with frightening regularity) is that Laralee and I plan a trip somewhere. We plan it a month or two ahead– giving us plenty of time to make arrangements for everything. And just before we’re slated to leave, all sorts of stuff begins to happen with work.

This week is no exception. We’re leaving Friday for a trip to Idaho (a five-day weekend in all), and all of a sudden I’ve got clients calling from all over. New contracts… proposals… old work resurrected. Couple that with a few “fires” I’ve had to fight this week, and I find myself putting in long days trying just to keep up.

Don’t get me wrong– this is a good thing overall. Every client is an opportunity to make money and market myself, so I welcome the challenge. Plus, I always thrive on the chance to jump between projects and keep myself from getting bored doing the same thing day after day.

So in the end, I’m a happy guy. It’s just this week I happen to be a busy guy as well…

02/11/2002

What? Another new business?

For some reason– I’d like to think it’s my natural sense of ambition– it looks like I’m going to be involved in yet another new business venture. This time it’s in the arena of network security, something which I’ve been meaning to learn more about anyway. All the other technology (read “geek”) work I do can benefit from a greater understanding of security and its implications; why not start a company and do it on a paying basis?

So I had some initial discussions, and developed a sketchy plan to start figuring out how to make it work. Initially it will be a “side” job for me– a way to broaden my skills and find new clients– but hopefully over time it will become more mainstream.

So here I go…

02/10/2002

Why is it that my little projects wind up taking ten times as long as I think they will? Tonight I sat down to put together a little book of pictures and artwork for our friends up the street. It was a simple concept: twenty pages, each with a picture (from our album) or a drawing by Alex or Kyra. A little blurb about each page, and that was it.

Elapsed time: 4 hours.

So I had to pick out the pictures. Then I had to crop them, resize them, edit them. Then I had to come up with an order. Then write the blurbs. Then lay it out on the pages. Heck, even getting WordPerfect to print properly (the pages were 6.75 x 5 inches– hardly a standard size) took a half an hour.

In the end, the finished product was pretty cool. Most of my projects turn out that way; I just don’t understand why every single one has to take so darn long…