november 2008

Here are our pumpkins from this year:

I took the photos with my iPhone this year, and I don't think I'll be doing that again. Hard to get a picture without blur, and the color is washed out.

This year was a good year for trick or treaters. We bounced back from our all-time low of 75 last year to 81. It's still our second-lowest total, but it's trending back in the right direction, and hopefully next year that will continue.

Do me a favor: if you don't already know that today is election day, then forget that I just reminded you and stay home. Same goes if you are, for some unfathomable reason, still undecided; the level of coverage of these candidates is unprecedented, as is the amount of information about each candidate that is available online for perusal whenever you wish.

If you don't understand the differences between them at this point, or don't understand what you're looking for from the executive branch for the next four years, then seriously, just stay home and let the rest of us decide. Voting is a right in this country, but when I see interviews with people who are too lazy to do the research and figure out which candidate they should be supporting, there's a part of me that wishes it was a privilege.

Anyway. Anyone who reads this site regularly already knows I'm voting for Obama, but since I'm in Maryland, my vote hardly matters because it's nowhere close to being a battleground state. Why aren't we deciding this strictly by the popular vote again? That's really the only system where your vote counts for the same whether you're in Ohio or Texas or New York, and that seems a lot more fair to me.

Thank god. Not only will the Bush administration finally be over in a few months, but his party, with its partisan, one-sided agenda, has been roundly rebuked by the American people (why this didn't happen four years ago I'll never know, but I'll take what I can get).

I've had a hard time being inspired by Obama since he won the nomination, but I've got to say, his acceptance speech last night was one for the ages, especially if he actually follows through with his stated goals. Granted, a lot of that will depend on the willingness of folks in the other party, but it would be nice if, for once, they could read the writing on the wall after this decisive election and return to civility and concilation instead of personal attacks and divisiveness.

Weirdest things I saw while watching election coverage last night:
  1. Fox News calling a battleground state for Obama twenty minutes before CNN did.

  2. A very close second: Black Eyed Peas member appearing in the CNN studios "via hologram" to have a spaced out discussion with Anderson Cooper.

It's going to be by the skin of our teeth, but I'm slowly starting to believe that we might actually finish this document management implementation by Friday, despite numerous delays from our own IT group and a project manager from the vendor who alternated between brilliant and maddening.

Which is a good thing, because the counselors need to start reading files in the system next Monday. I'm sure there will still be lots of little fires to put out and bugs to squash, but up until yesterday, I wasn't sure we'd have anything resembling a completed system ready by next week. It has a been a long, grueling haul, and even though we'll still be ridiculously busy, it will be a relief to be spending our time maintaining the system and making it better instead of just trying to kick-start the thing into a functional application.

My home state of North Carolina is blue! I wasn't sure I'd ever see that again in my lifetime.

It's my brother's birthday today, and as part of his present, we helped his girlfriend concoct an elaborate plan to drive here for the weekend as a surprise (she lives several hours away in another state). It involved a story where our youngest sister wasn't going to come to Thanksgiving this year because of work, so she was going to come visit all of us on his birthday weekend instead, and that she would have to stay with him because we were painting our guest bedroom. This was partly so that he would make some attempt at cleaning his apartment before his girlfriend showed up basically unannounced, and partly so we could convince him to take today off, because otherwise I think he was planning to go into work and save his vacation for later.

And while he appreciated the effort, I don't think he was really surprised—there were probably too many people in the family in on it, and the constant repetition of the "are you cleaning up for your sister's visit" questions from every faction probably raised some red flags. Still, it was fun to plan it, and it was also good to finally meet his girlfriend in person.

I had a hell of a weekend, what with Julie's computer dying on Thursday night, Dodd's birthday activities, and me trying to finish up the last few stages of this document management project. Let me give you a brief rundown of my activities over the past few days:

Julie's iMac died Thursday night, and I spent around four hours trying to bring it back to life and researching prices on new computers. I had already planned to buy one for myself with my rainy day money because mine is just about four years old and I need an Intel-based Mac for some stuff I'm going to be doing for work soon, so the money isn't really an issue, but the purchase was a few days ahead of schedule. After calling around the local Apple stores for availability, we head to the Columbia location to buy a new iMac before heading out to dinner with my brother and his girlfriend.

When we get back home, I begin the process of moving my files from my Time Machine backup to the new machine. I have to tell you, it worked like a dream, and I'm starting to believe that Time Machine might be the best thing Apple has done this decade. If you have a Mac and haven't upgraded to Leopard and/or haven't attached an external backup drive to your machine for Time Machine storage, then you're not really getting the most use out of your machine. It's not just for disaster recovery (although it's pretty damn useful for that, too)—there was an option in the setup process to copy my files, settings, and applications from a Time Machine backup, and when it finished, everything was just as it had been on my old machine. It couldn't have been easier

I then began the process of moving Julie's files, etc., to my old machine, which she will use temporarily until we can save up some money to get her a new machine too. To do this, I needed to start up my machine from the Leopard DVD, erase my hard drive (a terrifying experience even though I knew I had copies of everything on the new machine and on my Time Machine external disk), reinstall a fresh copy of Leopard, and then choose to restore Julie's Time Machine backup during the setup process. The problem? The Leopard DVD had become stuck in the dead iMac's slot loading optical drive during my rescue attempts, and there was no convenient paperclip eject button on the front, even after I removed the drive from the enclosure. Really, really poor decision on Apple's part (and on the part of whoever they buy their optical drives from), as I had to basically destroy the drive to get to the disc, and then the disc itself was so damaged that it was no longer usable.

I had another copy of Leopard at work, so I went in on Saturday, worked for a couple of hours, retrieved my extra copy, went to dinner again with Dodd and his girlfriend, and then got back to work. It took a few hours to go through everything, but by midnight or so on Saturday night, her files were restored and I was going through the second round of software updates when I did something very, very stupid. I was trying to plug speakers into the machine as the final touch, and I tilted the machine forward to get access to the ports on the back while the machine was still running. I heard a high-pitched whirring sound, which stopped when it was level again, but instead of taking that warning and turning the machine off and attaching the cables, I tilted it again. This time, there was a whir followed by a tiny pop, and then silence with occasional beeps from inside the machine that I've never heard coming out of a computer before. Bear in mind that all of this happened after hours and hours of effort, and while I was probably five minutes from being finished with the task of getting my old machine configured for Julie to use.

I restarted the machine, and at first I was hopefully that I hadn't done any serious damage because it started up and was going through the loading process. But then the beeps returned, and after a while a icon appeared on the screen that indicated that the hardware couldn't find a valid startup drive. The hard drive was dead.

To confirm this, I put in the Leopard DVD and started from that, and by using the disk utilities on that disc, I was able to confirm that the hard drive was gone. So I started over: I pulled the hard drive from Julie's dead iMac and installed it in the G5 and went through the whole process over again: blanking the hard drive, installing a fresh copy of Leopard, restoring her files, settings, and applications from her Time Machine backup, and downloading all the software updates.

While all of this was going on, I was also finishing the error correction and reprocessing of a major import I was running for work, one that needed to finish by midnight in order for us to meet our Monday deadline. Since the install and restore processes required minimal attention from me, I was able to pay a lot of attention to this task, and I finished 10 minutes before the deadline.

So yeah, it was kind of a busy weekend, and my sleep schedule was totally screwed. I'm hoping things settle down after this week and I can get back to some kind of reasonably normal life before too long.

My timing on watching the Shield DVDs on Netflix ought to work out just about right. See, I've been recording the final season on my DVR while watching pasts seasons on DVD, and I ought to finish season 6 just in time to be able to finish watching the already-recorded episodes by the time the finale airs later this month. I'm hoping I can pull the same trick with the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica (which should be released on DVD before the holidays) and the final season, which will start airing in January.

The document management project I've been working on in one way or another for the past three years, and working on very intensely for the past year and a half, is finally done. Now I'm going to take a couple of days off.

The second World of Warcraft expansion came out yesterday, coinciding nicely with my plans to take some time off after finishing the implementation of our document management system. I left work on Wednesday night well after 8, stopped and got some food on the way home, and then headed over to my brother's place to install some RAM in his computer before we hit the midnight opening at the Best Buy closest to him.

The line was longer than I expected—at least a hundred people, maybe a few more—but once they opened the doors, it moved pretty quick. From the time the line started moving to the time we were back out in the parking lot with our copies, it was no longer than 15 minutes. It was a pretty cheery crowd, and I got the impression that many of them had also scheduled a couple of days off and were planning to pull marathon sessions in the game as soon as they got home and got it installed.

If I had had a normal day at work, I probably would have taken a nap in the evening and stayed up all night playing (since I was taking the next day off anyway), but I was so tired after my long day that I just installed the copies on Julie's and my machines and went to bed. I did play for a good number of hours yesterday, and I'll probably do the same today, but that won't last—it seems like a fun expansion so far, but I think I'm past the point of getting completely sucked in to the exclusion of everything else I have going on.

Back to work...honestly, I'd rather not come back into the office until after Thanksgiving, but even though the big project is mostly wrapped up, now we have to turn our attention to all the other stuff that we would have normally been doing over the last couple of months. I really think it might be January before we feel like we can take a breather for a couple of days and regroup.

When I've played the new World of Warcraft expansion, I've enjoyed it, but it definitely doesn't have the same grip on me that it once did. I took advantage of my days off last week and the weekend, but I didn't log in at all on Sunday or Monday. Sunday I just didn't feel like it and wanted to catch up on some chores, and Monday it was because I would have had limited time and I didn't want to get sucked in for more than a half hour or so, and it was just easier not to log in at all.

This is the way it is for most of my friends in the game, too—we all have more real life stuff we'd rather pay attention to, and while we're all still playing, our hours are much reduced from what they once were and we all take a much more casual approach. And that's a good thing, I think. It's still fun for Julie and I to play together, and I'm sure once the new leveling process is done we'll still do one or two short raids a week with our friends, but while we might continue to play for years, this is drifting into just another entertainment option rather than the primary consumer of our leisure time.

Now that I have an office where I can actually see sunlight during the day, I don't mind it get dark so early in the winter. In fact, it makes the drive home go a bit more smoothly, since there's this one place where traffic always backs up the rest of the year because the sun is directly in your eyes. It was also pretty cool to be able to see the snow flurries yesterday, although, man, it's a bit early for that.

I just now realized that I never finished recounting our Vegas trip. And also that it's hard to believe that that was two months ago...

This might be my last post until next month. I've got an appointment on Monday that will likely affect most of my day, and then the family starts coming in for Thanksgiving on Tuesday, so I'll be off after that. Enjoy your holiday.
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