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We've been cleaning some stuff out of the basement this afternoon. It took a long time to overcome the resistance, but we decided to get rid of the exercise bike, a floor lamp, an exercise bench, an inversion table and a computer monitor.

I suppose we could get a few dollars for these items, but we just wanted to get them out of the house. Around 2pm, I posted these items with photos on our civic association mailing list. Within 30 minutes, the exercise bike was hauled out of our garage. I've taken down the ad for that, but I'm still getting queries.

There are many inquiring about the inversion table, but it's still here. The monitor walked away within two hours. Not a single person has expressed any interest in the exercise bench or the floor lamp.

My take-away is that people love free things, and there is an enormous unfilled demand for exercise bikes. Or possibly laundry drying racks.
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Elodie is about 25 months old. She's a fun toddler, fully of energy, running everywhere, relatively short attention span, a growing vocabulary, and frequent bouts of frustration at not being able to express herself fully or simply being told no, what she wants at that moment isn't possible/practical/feasible.

In short, a perfectly normal toddler.

I've spent a large portion of my life around babies & toddlers so I'm mentally tracking her progress and development. My ears perk up when she suddenly uses full sentences, or fully articulates 2-3 syllable words. She has solid recognition of colours, visually & verbally. She gets shapes and can name the simple ones. She can recognize & recite numbers and letters although she doesn't yet get that the digits symbolize a count of objects.

There are things which come with this toddler which are new to my experience. This kid comes with her favourite shows, movies, music and games. And watches them obsessively & repeatedly.

I swear to god, I am going to burn down Mickey Mouse's fucking clubhouse before this month is over.

And what's the deal with this so-called Doc McStuffins? She's supposed to be a cute kid with a gig a toy doctor, but she's more like a capricious demon, bringing toys to life on her whims to perform for her entertainment, and she then silences them with a gesture, cruelly snatching away the life she once granted. With musical dance numbers. This is childrens' entertainment?!

Elodie has this particular game on her tablet. For each round, a series of cut-out coloured shapes appear on the left half of the screen, and holes which match the shapes & colours appear on the right. The child then uses her finger to drag each shape to the correct hole, matching shape & colour. There is a small caterpillar which obsessively crawls towards the place on the board where she last touched the screen, sometimes obscuring a shape or hole. For every correctly placed piece, the caterpillar acquires a balloon, and when all pieces are in place, the caterpillar floats up to the top of the screen and fades away as the board is removed and a new one is presented.

I've explained to Elodie that the caterpillar is actually a zombie which is pursuing her to consume her brain. When she completes the board, the caterpillar is released from his curse and his ghost floats up to heaven, aided by the balloons she earned for him. Otherwise, he's doomed to traverse the mortal plane, terrorizing toddlers like her forever. I didn't tell her about killing it with a head shot, but she has enough to think about now. She still plays but she seems more serious about it...

So that's my home life right now. Between diaper changes, anyway.
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Our home life has become a little weird lately. Well, weirder.

[profile] cuyahogarvr's youngest daughter & her husband are expecting a baby boy, due Oct 5. Elodie, currently two years old, will be promoted to big sister, but I'm sure she's not going to enjoy having to share the spotlight with a younger brother. That's all good news and not that weird.

Maurita is experiencing something of a high-risk pregnancy, as she did with Elodie in 2015. And we're taking the same steps as before: she & Elodie have moved in with us so that she stay rested, have some help with Elodie, and so that she has constant company in case of any emergency. The husband, Lucas, is visiting & staying with us as long as he can, but they still have four dogs at their house which need attention & care, as well as his fulltime job.

We expect as well that the baby may arrive somewhat earlier than Oct 5: Elodie was a month early. In any case, Maurita will need some post-partum recovery time, and there will be a newborn and a toddler to care for, so they will be with us for probably a month following delivery.

So yeah, weird. We're once again up to our eyeballs in diapers, kids toys and other such family fun. For another three months, give or take.

So let's throw another layer of weird on top of that.

We had initially be working on a plan for Maurita & Lucas to buy the house next door to us. Our neighbourhood is much closer to Lucas' work so it would reduce his commute by an hour each way; we're near the Metro; our county's schools are much better than the ones in their county, on average; they would have a built-in daycare & babysitting service next door (ie. us).

Unfortunately, we haven't been able to come to terms with our neighbour. He wants to move to Florida, he's looking to sell, and he had a golden opportunity to sell without real estate commissions, but while he agreed to a particular selling price, he kept moving the goal posts in terms of the closing costs, post-sale access to the garage to remove his stuff at leisure, the closing date, etc.. After fairly intense negotiations through June, we collectively gave up on that plan. Tim has since admitted he was going a little far, and has approached us twice since to see if we would be willing to re-open negotiations but the kids have already found another larger place ten minutes' drive from here for the same base price. It's not as convenient a location as next door, but it's pretty good.

We don't have a closing date for their new house yet as we're still going through the motions of inspections and remediations, but there are no show-stoppers on the horizon and since the owner only used the house as a summer home a couple of months per year, there's no occupying family needing time to coordiante their exit. I expect a settlement date in early August. No renovations are needed, just some paint here & there to relieve the monotony of the existing beige interior.

The sale of their current house is taking more effort. We helped move much of their furnishings & possessions into a storage pod over the past few weekends, and it has been staged for sale. A buyer appeared at the first open house at the asking price, but there was a long (and rather unreasonable) list of contingencies the buyer wants. Yes, we expected some requests as fixing a stair bannister and unsticking a window, but asking the house be entirely rewired and the kitchen renovated is beyond reason. I presume it's just a bargaining tactic: they can drop 50% of their laundry list for a small decrease in the price of the house and appear to be reasonable, even when the list itself was utterly unreasonable.

The kids are taking care of some of the sensible items currently. Even if this current deal falls apart, they would still be needed for some future buyer. Since we helped pay off their existing mortgage, we have disconnected the purchase of their new home from the sale of the old, so they could walk away from this current buyer if needed, and perhaps rent out the house for a couple of years before eventually selling it. There are many options.

So that's my home life at the moment. Never a dull moment, although one would be very nice right now.
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I'm not planning to die any time soon, or at all. While I'm assured that my death is inevitable in perhaps 40-50 years' time, I'm personally against it. I am by nature a cautious person so it seemed prudent to ensure I'm prepared for my theoretical demise.

We already have wills in place to dispose of my earthly assets. And while I'd prefer to be buried body intact and in a nicely appointed coffin (dark wood finish, brass fixtures, free wifi), getting my hydrocarbons across an international border would require significant effort by my executor, not to mention a great deal of money. It would be vastly easier to cremate me and carry my ashes in one's carry-on bags.

While we were in the Charlton area, I stopped by the township hall to talk with the clerk, Gisele Belanger, to enquire how one goes about being placed in the Brentha Cemetary near my childhood farm.

My parents (also still alive) have a plot there, I-16. Gisele informed us that a plot may contain a coffin & three cremains, or a total of five cremains. My parents are planning to be cremated so as long as my parents stop by the office to officially RSVP me into their plot, my position is guaranteed. There is an administrative fee of $265 if it were to happen today, but otherwise all expenses are covered.

The cemetary contains a lot of childhood memories for me. Rather, it contains a lot of people I knew. I went to school with several occupants. Some I knew through church. Some we shared a telephone party line with, while others were merely neighbours we sometimes saw. There were parents or grandparents of my childhood friends. There was my bus driver for my first & second grade, as well as the fellow who was the janitor of my elementary school, buried with his late wife. There was the couple who owned sold us our farm, and their extended family. There was the local telephone switchboard operator until the systems went digital in the early 1970s. And so on. I could give a mini-biography on nearly 2/3 of the people at rest there. And I'm intrigued by the ones I didn't recognize: there are no more families named Goldstein, Schultz or Kiehna in the area, and I'm curious what brought them, and why happened to their descendants.

Like any good story, I'm left with a lot of answers, but a few extra questions too.
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It's been a busy few days but I'm slowly catching up.

We've been slowly decommissioning one old storage array at the data center, requiring us to move the data to a newer array. We discovered some performance issues this week so we had to migrate two particular volumes to a different RAID pool but these activities required essentially two all-nighters this week.

That wouldn't be catastrophic but I also had my regular build work for the new data center cage, and since I'm the only employee on the east coast, it's not going to get done so long as I'm being sucked into these other spontaneous demands. That was unavoidable in this instance but I've made it clear to the dev teams that I'm only available to them for major issues, not trivial ones for the rest of this month.

And as life would have it, I had a few square dance calling gigs this week too: our Wednesday C2 group, a special C1 night for the DC Lambda Squares, a Friday evening holiday party called by John Marshall which I really wanted to attend, and co-calling a six hour C2 event Saturday morning & afternoon with Kent.

I'm happy to report that all of the tasks for the week were accomplished successfully, although at the expense of my gym workout schedule. Still, that's a small price to pay for the pleasure of knowing the other items are under control.

Today's migration isn't about data, but relocating my computer bunker from the basement to the first floor sewing room & middle bedroom. The basement bunker is convenient and optimized for my work, but it gets cold down there during the winter. A small electric heater helps but it has to run nearly constantly to keep the room comfortable. It's easier (and cheaper) just to work from the main floor bedroom until spring.

In all, life should be a bit more stable & normal for a couple of weeks. I hope.
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I'd like to say I had a really great long weekend. Really, I'd love nothing better than to say that. Truly, I would.

But lest one thinks otherwise, I should immediately say that it was a perfectly fine long weekend. It just wasn't the weekend I was looking forward to.

Our office was supposed to be shut down for the entirety of US Thanksgiving week to force all employees to burn up their vacation days as we transition to a would-be unlimited vacation policy. And while that worked for most of the company, I was hauled back from vacation mode on Monday and Tuesday to deal with various technical issues. One of the major problems was that while the US operation was on vacation, the Bangalore portion was working a normal schedule and demanded that any service they needed from the US side be made instantly available as they had their own deadlines to meet.

I'm fine with dealing with the occasional unforeseen hardware issue --random things happen. I'm a bit pissed that expectations between the US and India teams were so poorly communicated that my division, supposedly on vacation, were essentially just made to work from home. I'm having a few words with management tomorrow: I want my Monday and Tuesday back, either not being counted as vacation or given two lieu days to make up for this farce.

We saw the movie "Arrival" on Thursday. Quick review: I liked it. It was more cerebral than a lot of other films on offer, and my inner linguist was fascinated by the challenges of learning a language from an entity with whom one has literally nothing in common. There was a major item of scifi silliness which irks me a bit, but it was a construct essential to the storytelling so I'm willing myself to let it slide --watch the movie and you'll understand what I mean.

I wish I could say what I did on Friday but I can't for the life of me think what it was. Which probably means napping, reading and relaxing.

Maurita & Lucas and their daughter Elodie (now 17 months old) came for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. Elodie was a delight: she's so much fun. We had the traditional turkey and a stack of low-carb, gluten-free sides which the Pilgrims would never recognize. Tasted good though, so what else matters? In an unusual burst of restraint, I didn't stuff myself to the point of explosion. And there will be turkey leftovers for days.

I even got the gym regularly during this past week: every day except Tuesday morning and today. I typically take a rest day after chest day as the chest, shoulders and arms take quite a pounding a need a brief recovery space before the next workout. If I'm clever, I try to book my data center visits or outside appointments on those recovery days to help smooth out my calendar.

This day has been more relaxing and tinkering, and I'm glad of it as the following week is going to be heavy. I've cleaned up a lot of files on my laptop, freeing up another 16GB of disk space. I've finally sorted through a stack of digital photos, cleaning 4GB of them off my mobile phone and filing them away on an external archive. At this moment, I have some cleanups in progress on my Google Drive too.

After being inactive for the past 2-3 weeks, I'm back into square dance calling this week in a big way. We have our regular C2 group meeting on Wednesday, I'm calling a C1/C2 night for the DC Lambda Squares Thursday, and Kent & I are co-calling an all-day C2 session for our crowd & friends Saturday. John Marshall is calling a holiday party Friday evening so we'll likely attend that as well. In all, my reduced calling schedule has helped my professional schedule immensely, and I hope to keep this new balance as long as I can.

Sadly, tomorrow is Monday, with all the excitement that entails. More news as it develops.
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We're only three weeks into the new year but my non-resolutions for 2014 already have a mixed record.

Good: The gym stuff continues. I'm stepping up the program a bit: instead of my usual three sets of 12 reps per exercise, I'm finishing each set with an additional set to exhaustion at 75% weight, then another set to exhaustion at 50%. So far, so good.

Good: Body fat has dropped from 20.6% to 18.3%. Yay! I miss carbs & sugar but the cravings aren't as bad as they were for the first five days or so.

Good: New glasses have been ordered. Yes, they are progressive lenses. I should have them in the next few days.

Good: I'm now transferring $200/paycheck, up from $150/paycheck, into a savings account.

In Progress: We tried to purchase a new laundry sink for the basement but haven't found a model we liked. On the good side, we scored two tall used bookcases for $20 each so our book piles are much neater.

Very Bad: My credit card balance went from $0 January 1 to $4400 as of today. That's $1800 for a new dental crown, $800 for new glasses and $3000 for a new transmission for my car, less interim payments. At least I've received reimbursements from medical insurance for the dental work & glasses and will recoup the rest from my medical flex spending account, and that $3k for the transmission is after a 10% discount. I plan to have this nearly zeroed again by the end of February.

Good: The tax returns are looking good again for this year so the updates to wills and medical powers-of-attorney will be created in March per our original schedule.

All other items are still a work in progress. More news as it develops.
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I'm not a big believer in new year's resolutions: if something is a good idea, it should be implemented immediately, not at the arbitrary turn of the calendar. That said, the xmas & new year's break is a great opportunity for personal introspection so new goals & targets are to be expected.

  1. I'm going to continue my gym weight training with determination. My novice phase has ended so now I will focus on development & capacity. My gym membership expires in mid-July so I have a convenient built-in deadline --and a near-certain renewal.

  2. I'm going to cut down to 15% body fat (20% currently) by May 1. Depending in how it goes, I may push onwards to 12%. More veggies & meat, more exercise, less starch, less (*sob*) sugar.

  3. I'm going to pursue additional work skills training. At the moment, I'm unsure what form that will take but I believe all education had some value so I won't turn down opportunities which may fall into my lap.

  4. I plan to see a career advisor. I like my work but I need some objective outside advice on evaluating my strengths and making possible course adjustments.

  5. More massages, fewer all-nighters & working weekends.

  6. I'm going to learn the C3A square dance program.

  7. I want to cut back on square dance teaching. It's fun but it's exhausting and a vast time commitment. I missed a number of professional goals & opportunities in 2013 because of teaching commitments: I can't afford to keep doing that.

  8. I was planning to see a chiropractor in January but the immediate physical need seems to have passed. Was it just stress or some issue now dormant? I should probably make that appointment anyway to establish a baseline.

  9. I need new glasses, probably bifocals. An appointment will be made this week for as soon as convenient.

  10. I want to cut back on old committee work. I've made my contributions and it's time to move on in several instances. I've already terminated one, reduced another and will let a third expire on its own. That said, I'm looking forward to new experiences in other board roles.

  11. We will make some household improvements. The front door is a mess, the laundry room sink leaks and we need new towels. There's more, but this is a start.

  12. Starting immediately, I'm putting $200 per paycheck into my savings account, up from $150.

  13. The demon credit cards have been slain: they will stay that way.

  14. We will update our wills & medical directives with our tax returns this spring. (Memo to self: don't die until then, much later if feasible.)

  15. I will send xmas cards in 2014 even if it kills me.

  16. Find my bliss. I haven't felt any worthy dream or goal in many years so it's time to spend some time & effort getting reacquainted with myself.
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I don't really get the whole xmas tree decorating thing.

I know many people love to go stalk & kill their own tree in the wild. Some go to an urban lot and purchase their pre-killed vicitim from the local pusher. Others have fake/taxidermied trees in their attic. I just don't really get it.

I suspect a large part comes from my childhood in northern Ontario. I mean, I grew up surrounded by the damn things. LIke 10-million-of-them-for-every-one-of-us surrounded. And they're not all friendly either. Ever fallen from one? Ever had one of them fall on you? Ever had one leap in front of your car while you were soberly driving home from the no-there-wasn't-any-drinking party at night totally sober? Not friendly at all.

They're coniferous triffids. And that one you have in your living room is its advanced scout for their ultimate takeover.

Sure, you've cut off at the base, but it takes a lot more than that to disable these killers. And you dressed it up in drag: that really makes them angry. Let me say this again for those of you not keeping up: You have a wounded & pissed off tree IN YOUR HOUSE.

God help you when its friends arrive to rescue it. You've been warned.
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Three months back, my schedule went straight to hell.

I knew it was going to happen: my work team was losing two people and my boss was taking extended leave to handle his father's funeral arrangements, leaving us with only a 50% staffing level. Spring is also the season of square dance fly-ins, another round of square dance teaching evenings and a tonne of other events. The calendar was a swirling mess of color listing all of the commitments and appointments until May 5.

Today, mercifully, is May 6, and it feels like the weight of the entire freaking planet has been lifted from my shoulders.

Yes, my team is short-staffed still but I'm interviewing a potential hire tomorrow afternoon. Further, a number of major projects and our annual audit have all been completed succesfully. Even our annual performance evaluations have finished and I was informed today I'm getting a 4.8% raise. Go team!

This past weekend was the last of the square dance fly-ins on my calendar before the upcoming IAGSDC convention in July. It was great fun as always, but I'm happy to have a chunk of my life back again.

The trailer is de-winterized. While that's a luxury issue for us, we had the de-winterizing tools and equipment: our co-trailer owners in Columbus, OH, couldn't use the trailer until we did our part to prepare it for use. The pressure is now off: Jerry & David can enjoy it at their convenience.

Even the family stuff is largely done. [profile] kent4str's parents are back from wintering in Floriday, [profile] cuyahogarvr's kids birthdays & visits have come & gone, and my clan have finally locked down dates for the parents' upcoming 50th wedding anniversary in 2014. Alas, that date is opposite the 2014 IAGSDC convention but I've already sold our registrations so that's off our books as well.

And extended break from all social media helped immensely. It's amazing how much time one can get back when one ignores Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter and such. I missed keeping current with various friends' travails, but I needed to focus elsewhere until the storm had passed.

Yeah, there are still appointments on the books but it's all a tiny fraction of what I had up until last night. Life is good.

Still Alive

Apr. 5th, 2013 11:56 am
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I haven't had much time to read or post lately... life has been busy and will continue to be so for another couple of months. This lack of spare time has been keeping me away from LJ, FB and Twitter, among other things; on the flip side, it's amazing how much spare time one can recoup by staying away from LJ, FB and Twitter.

In the past couple of weeks, I've:
  • finished my employer's performance evaluation;
  • attended the CALLERLAB convention in Cary, NC, where I was a panelist & moderator and representative for the GCA;
  • worked several night shifts, racking up new servers, retiring old ones, and upgrading existing ones, as well as preparing equipment to be shipped out as we've sold one of our divisions to an outside firm;
  • attempted to de-winterize our trailer at Roseland Resort (the campground water hadn't been turned on yet so we couldn't flush the antifreeze from the water system & tanks, and we ran out of propane for the furnace at 3am Sunday morning);
  • worked more extended shifts (did I mention we're a bit short-handed and hiring two more staffers for my team?);
  • had my old netbook die on me;
  • helped a friend assemble some furniture;
  • collected a dresser from another friend;
  • and prepped to head to Wilmington, DE, for the Independence Squares' fly-in this weekend.


In short, I'm up to my ears in a lot of projects. The good news, at least, is that I've completed a lot of smaller projects in the past 48 hours so I'm at least experiencing a significant degree of satisfaction and progress.
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Yesterday was kinda a light day. I slept in --or rather, woke up at the regular time and read in bed for a few extra hours-- before having a quick bite and dragging the guys out to the local computer show & sale.

I was hoping to get my hands on a not-quite-current version of Quickbooks. The old 2005 version I've been using is fine for tracking my square dance billings & expenses but it doesn't work with Windows 8. The latest & greatest versions of Quickbooks are hideously expensive and/or require annual subscription fees for online services. If I could find a version from say, last year certified for Win7, it would probably be sufficient.

Alas, none were found. There were times about five years ago when the computer shows filled an auditorium. Now they're lucky to fill a single Best Western meeting room. *sigh*

The guys then dragged me to Lowes so they could purchase some household supplies. Rather, they selected and I paid. It always seems to work out that way.

We were mugged by a group of girls scouts who compelled us to purchase $20 worth of cookies. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm stuffing my face with Savannah Smile cookies as I type this.

[profile] cuyahogarvr and I drove north to Baltimore for the birthday bash of a square dancing friend of ours. Wow, what a great Victorian townhouse! And such food! Alas, [profile] cuyhogarvr was getting very expensive renovation ideas for our kitchen so I may have to break it to him that I'm not a dotcom millionaire after all.

As we returned home, I was hit with a colossal wave of exhaustion. By 9:30pm, I was in bed once again, reading for a half-hour and then collapsing completely. I woke up at 6am, stared at the ceiling for a few minutes and slept again until 10am when my mobile phone buzzed. I received a txt message from my manager asking me to be interim team manager once again as he's departing immediately to the family home in Hawaii. His father has been ailing for some time and passed away last night so he has funeral arrangements to tend to, among other things. I do like being management and am happy to fill in for him, but this is a very sad occasion nonetheless.

After about 12 hours of sleep, I'm feeling vastly more energized and have been gradually working on facing my task list for today. And speaking of my task list, I should end this posting now and get on with other things. Pray for all involved.

OMG.

Jan. 30th, 2013 05:44 pm
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The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind.

Tuesday was a fairly regular work day but I went to a geek user group in the evening, the DC chapter of LOPSA, for a talk on using wireshark to decipher TCP protocol failures. It was interesting, not in a huge amount of depth but I learned some new things nonetheless. The February meeting will be a combined meeting of five different geek groups in the greater DC area.

In the middle of last night's meeting, I received an email from my team's new manager. My prior boss resigned effective Feb 1 (this coming Friday) but the new guy has been given the reins of power early. Alas, said new guy also had a two week Hawaiian vacation planned already and departed today. In his last act before heading out of the door, he made me the manager pro tem for our team. Yay.

I was up late last night addressing a number of minor alerts from that evening's code release but finally made my way to bed around 2:30am.

This morning, I woke up with nasal congestion, temperature sensitivity and a mild headache. This is what I look forward to on my birthday while simultaneously being on-call for work and interim manager. Such fun.

I tackled a number of work tickets today, approving many, executing some and delegating others. A firmware upgrade on one of our new small storage arrays bricked the whole damn thing: I'll head to the data center tonight to power-cycle it and see if I can resurrect it.

I have a new laptop! Yay! Alas, it has Windows 8. If you haven't seen Win8 yet, here's a quick description: it's Windows 7 with Metro popping up at ill-advised times to prevent you from doing anything useful. Remember Clippy, that damned paperclip animation which would spontaneously appear in Word when you were trying to get work done? Imagine your entire screen vanishing and replaced with various animated tiles. I've heard there's a means of blocking Metro from popping up... I'll look for that later tonight. I like the new hardware but am not overly fond of the new OS.

Tonight, I'm off to dance C2 before dashing to the data center to reboot the wayward storage array. And I a dental appointment for 9am tomorrow morning. Whee.
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I had a number of things I wanted to do these past four days. Here's the score:
  1. Shop for new square dance music. Done.
  2. Shop for a new laptop. Done: it arrives Friday (hopefully).
  3. Read four books. Done I got through
    • What I Didn't Learn in Business School
    • About the Size of It
    • Stock Trader's Almanac 2011
    • The Most Important Thing
    • Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King

    I didn't get to:
    • The Little Book of Valuation
    • Technical Analysis for Dummies
    • Winning with Futures

  4. Work on a C1 square dance class. Not a single thing. *sigh*
  5. Update my calendar. Done.
  6. Square dance demo team research. Not a single thing.
  7. Square dance flyers to the IAGSDC. In progress.
  8. Web site for [profile] cuyahogarvr, www.getoutexcursions.com Mostly done. Need additional content but worst of the structure is in place.


I really wish I had an extra vacation day to catch up on some domestic stuff, as well as complete my list. With any luck the next couple of days will be light work-wise: outside of teaching a square dance class on Thursday, I have no commitments.
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Today is Friday. Despite being promoted by many as the date of the Mayan apocalypse, the worst thing to happen was a server reboot 8am this morning, an event I used as a convenient excuse to upgrade the machine from 24GB to 48GB of RAM. Take that, Mayans!

Tuesdays is xmas; the Monday prior is a company holiday. Taken with the weekend, I have four days of vacation time. Here's how I'm going to use it:
  1. Shop for some new music to add to my square dance selections. I've finally broken open an iTunes gift card for $25 which has been sitting on my desk for damn near three years. It's time to put it to use.
  2. Shop for a new laptop. I may not buy one, but there is a computer show & sale locally this weekend and I'm planning a visit on Sunday close to closing time when vendors are more willing to make a sale. My current netbook has been delightful for three years but it's showing its age and has already been expanded to its limit. I have a need for a faster machine with more RAM.
  3. I'm going to read at least four books, one per day. I have a large inventory to choose from, but I've decided this weekend's focus will be business/financial.
  4. I'm going to get off my ass and begin serious planning for a fast-track C1 square dance class. No dancer should have illusions about what they'll accomplish: I've been through enough boot camps to know that a single weekend can't do more than give a flavor of the program. Unless one has local follow-up workshops, it won't stick. I've also been around long enough to know that many dancers (esp. lapsed dancers who need a refresh) don't need a 50+ week long course for a program. I'm inclined to 3-4 six hour sessions on consecutive weekends. More planning & design is required, as well as a survey of the potential market.
  5. I need to update my calendar for 2013.
    • I need to insert all of the 2013 office holidays.
    • I need to plan my San Francisco IAGSDC convention schedule along with work-related visits to the mothership in late June & July.
    • Our trailer weekends to Roseland Resort are already in the calendar but I need to update my team's vacation schedule to ensure I can get those vacation days.
    • I'm also planning to attend the LISA conference in DC next November. My office won't pay for it so I'll need to have some money saved, but they should at least give me the time off work if I request it early enough.
    • Our square dance calendar is largely filled in, but I do need to alert the office to my pending absence for the CALLERLAB convention in Raleigh, NC, in the spring.

  6. I'm still working on a square dance demo team for DC Lambda Squares. This weekend, I should be able to do at least research calls & formations we're going to teach/incorporate, as well as check YouTube for ideas & research.
  7. I need to check with the DC Lambda Squares and Chesapeake Squares boards to see if we have flyers going to the IAGSDC for distribution in their restored bimonthly mailings. The deadline is Jan 6.
  8. I'm going to work on a web site for [profile] user. I've had some aborted attempts over the past number of months but since he's lining up business contacts in Europe as I write this, we need to get this component together and done asap.

That should do it for now. I may add more as time allows.
bjarvis: (Default)
Today is payday. Well, it's actually tomorrow but since that's a Saturday, my pay was deposited today. TGIF indeed!

This pay was larger than usual since I've maxed out on all my deductions and a tonne of office expense reimbursements have come through. In a flurry of bill-paying, I'm delighted to report that all of my credit cards have a zero balance.

I had my cards wiped out about two years ago but that was shot the moment our furnace died. And just when I was within a hair of wiping out that balance, my car needed a lot of expensive work. And just when that was nearly paid off, we went to the IAGSDC convention. And just when that was almost zeroed, it was time for our trailer lot lease at the campground. And so on. Many times the balance has been less than $100 --nearly paid off but not quite-- and something nasty happened. Today, nothing nasty has happened.

I plan to keep my cards as clean as humanly possible --I will be using my debit card & cash more regularly-- so we can focus the extra spare cash to the credit balances of [profile] cuyahogarvr and [profile] kent4str.

In other character-building resolutions, I've opened a personal savings account. While we have a joint savings account for household expenses into which windfall sums have occasionally been deposited for emergencies, I thought it wise to open my own account and make automatic transfers from each paycheck against rainy days, toys and all things chocolate. For example, new laptop is in my near future, and possibly more weight-lifting equipment.

I do need to transfer more money to my Canadian bank account: if I increase my balance there, I'll qualify for no-fee checking, saving another $5/month in expenses.
bjarvis: (Default)
For us, the recent hurricane became a non-issue this morning. The sun came up through overcast skies and we found we were still dry, still had electricity and there was no damage to our property.

The ban on non-essential driving was lifted by about 11am, the Metro system was running again by 2pm and nearly all businesses, schools and gov't offices will resume regular business Wednesday morning.

For me, the past 48 hours was even more normal that all of that. Since I regularly work from home, I do my thing so long as I have electricity and a working Internet connection. [profile] kent4str had Monday & Tuesday off as his office was closed so he was able to enjoy some quality television time while I kept the Internet in working order.

Tomorrow, I will attempt to drive to the data center. I know the major roads are just fine, but I have some questions about the back roads I use to avoid paying road tolls. I also have no idea how many vehicles to expect; some folks may need extra time from the office to work on their homes while others may not have a working office to go to yet. Then again, since all have been away for two days already, perhaps every worker out there is chomping at the bit to get back to the office to address their backlog. We'll see tomorrow.
bjarvis: (Default)
The rain started yesterday evening, around 9pm. It was relatively light but constant until the early morning when the wind picked up and the rain became heavier.

By the late afternoon, the wind was gusting very strongly and the rain was coming down in buckets. I expected the power to fail at any moment, but now, at 9:25pm, it's still on. We were prepared for an outage in any case: all our toys are charged, food is stocked, batteries & candles are on hand, etc.. Our electric utility is so incredibly unreliable, we've had this drill many times in the past few years.

Schools and gov't offices --federal, state & local-- were closed today and will be again tomorrow. Needless to say, there's no square dancing for us until Thursday now.

My data center is still up and running so I haven't needed to leave my basement computer cave. Indeed, if [profile] kent4str wasn't upstairs (his office tracks the US Patent office), today would be a work day like any other.

The heavy rains and winds will continue until about 6am tomorrow morning. At that point, the rains will continue but the wind should die back considerably.

It's going to take a while for everything to catch up again to normal. With all of the major airports in the north-east and mid-atlantic areas closed, the network of flights is an utter mess. Friends in Europe are trapped at various cities there for the next few days until they can get flights back to the US. I have no clue which intersections don't have working traffic lights or which roads may have been flooded out and/or closed because of debris.

Fortunately, we have Facebook, Twitter, the TV and various web sites to update our friends & family who aren't in the immediate splash zone: that's saved me making a tonne of extra telephone calls. With a little luck, all will be well again by Thursday for most of us in the greater DC area.
bjarvis: (Default)
This morning, the county's waste management crew hauled away the huge pile of garbage, recycling & building materials we had removed from the attic. Yay! Our little piece of paradise is now considerably tidier than it was only a few hours ago.

And the contractor work has been scheduled. Some time on Wednesday afternoon, a building inspector will be checking the exterior of our house for lead-based paints & products. Saturday, between 8am and noon, two separate teams will descend on our house to replace the exterior gutters and fill our attic with 12-14" of additional insulation. If all goes well, it will all be done by the early afternoon.
bjarvis: (Default)
We had big plans for the weekend. Lots of preparation was made for them. We eagerly looked forward to our scheduled events. And then we totally did something else.

The original plan was to go to the trailer at Roseland Resort for the weekend and spend three days relaxing, napping, reading, exercising a little (well, me), and writing some square dance choreography (well, me). Clothes & food were packed, preparations were made and everything was set to go.

We then collectively woke up Friday morning and decided to bag the whole thing and just spend the three days relaxing at home, perhaps catching up on some minor household projects. Not that we wasted our preparations: most of the food items became lunch & dinner at home instead of at the trailer. I dressed using the clothes from my travel bag instead the closet or dresser.

[profile] kent4str took his minivan for an oil change and its every-other-year emissions check Friday morning. I slept a lot, catching up with an enormous sleep deficit from the prior several days, and generally kept abreast of work developments. [profile] cuyahogarvr worked on a miniature Victoria dollhouse renovation project.

Saturday, we slept in very late and decided to pop out for a couple of trivial errands. Those "trivial errands" actually ballooned into visiting no fewer than eight stores and five hours. It was one of those, oh-I-just-remembered-X-can-we-make-a-slight-detour? kind of drives about the county. We did however stock up on some items for [profile] cuyahogarvr's dollhouse project, some food items, some clothing shopping, some hardware parts and such. Very productive.

Our happiest discovery however was entirely accidental. As we were departing Home Depot (one of the stores which we almost never visit), we passed two Home Depot employees who were promoting the store's contractor services. Since we need some roofing gutter repairs and we'd very much like to have more insulation installed in our attic before winter, this caught our eye and we paused to make inquiries. One of the guys immediately asked when we'd like a contractor to come by to make an estimate, proposing noon Sunday. Sure!

I spent most of Saturday evening catching up on some square dance projects, reading, writing some additional notes and thinking through some fragments of choreography. It was relatively late when I went to bed, but no worse than if we were at the trailer.

Sunday morning, we slept in slight but we were fully scrubbed by the time the Home Depot guy came by to talk to us about the projects we have. In a nutshell, we're having all of the gutters replaced on the exterior and having 30R of fibreglass fluff blown into the unfinished attic on top of the bats of fibreglass insulation already in place. Total price (less a 10% discount): $3600. Putting it on [profile] kent4str's Home Depot card even got us 0% interest for two years. Total score!

We'll be getting a telephone call in the next couple of business days to schedule the actual work, but in preparation, we spent the balance of the daylight hours removing all of the stuff stored in the attic. The height of the insulating fluff will prevent us from using it as a storage space except in an area immediately around the attic ladder which we're reserving for the xmas tree & decorations. All of the boxes of ceramics, keep-sakes, china, paper archives, camping gear, empty boxes from recent purchases (for shipping in case of warranty work) and some theater & lighting stuff all had to come down. It took hours with three of us working.

[profile] kent4str and I took a large number of items to Goodwill. The crude floor boards used as a storage platform in the unfinished attic had to be taken up as well. Some were nailed down, some were just laying there, all were filthy. They're now piled up curbside for garbage pick-up. Everything else is stacked in the basement or dining room.

After dinner, I finally returned to the only project I had actually planned on doing this weekend: writing more C2 square dance choreography for a gig coming up this Wednesday. I've knocked out an additional two dozen sequences, not bad for a few hours but about four dozen short of where I thought I'd be by this time Sunday. I'll have to squeeze in more writing time Monday, Tuesday and early Wednesday.

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