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DylanW's picture

It's a load bearing bottle

For those of you who don't know, I rent a house with four other roommates. So I end up sharing one bathroom with Jen and John.

I needed to fill up the soap dispenser today, so I went looking for the big hand-soap refill bottle. I found it wedged inside the old cabinet over the toilet. The cabinet with the shaky, bending shelves packed with bottles and tubes and boxes of toiletries. (As a non-metrosexual male, I should point out that only a very tiny bit of it was actually mine.)

That the bottle was wedged between the bottom of the cabinet and an unstable shelf should have been a warning. I ignored it, caring only that the soap would be refilled, thus allowing me to cleanse and sanitize my hands for weeks to come. So I filled up the soap dispenser and went to return the bottle to the cabinet.

My mistake was evident as soon as I opened the door. With its support removed, the shelf was tilted at a forty-five degree angle. Its contents began raining down upon the floor and, worse, into the toilet.

Upon further consideration, perhaps the floor, rather than the toilet, was the worst part. There were several glass items on the shelf, and they instantly shattered as they hit the floor. This slow and inevitable rain continued for quite some time. The noise was quite loud but it was some time afterwards that I heard someone ask, "Dylan, is everything OK in there?"

"Jen," I answered, "open the door and come in here."

Jen opened the door to find me propping up the shelf with the top of the soap bottle. The angle and weight of the shelf prevented me from wedging it in there as before, yet if I let off of it, there would be more falling and breaking. She stood for a moment, staring at the situation.

I should point out the words "stood" and "staring," for they do not indicate action. Meanwhile, I was stuck, unable to fix the situation but unwilling to let the rest of the shelf's contents fall by releasing the bottle. After some time, I nodded to the shelf and added, "Can you lift this up for me?"

She finally did. I was finally relieved, and the cleanup began. We removed the shelf so that it would never again be a problem, and Jen proceeded to clean out all of the things she did not need. As with anything that hasn't been cleaned out for a while, most of it was tossed out. I eventually got the glass cleaned and vacuumed up.

The moral of this story is don't support unstable shelves with load-bearing bottles.


DylanW's picture

The Phishers Aren't Trying Anymore

I just got an email stating that Paypal's Account Review Department suspected an unauthorized transaction on my account. So, I did what any panicky user would do: I clicked on the big PayPal logo at the top of the page.

I immediately realized PayPal probably wouldn't send any emails with a reply-to address of

Ironically, the big PayPay logo at the top of the page was really and truly a link to So had I logged in, I think I would have been safe. The tiny, normal, inline link to the "Resolution Center," however--that was the trap.

So--the most prominent link on the page takes you to the real site, and the link on the bottom of the page takes you to the phisher's site. Is it just me, or does that seem like the most ineffective scam ever?


perry's picture

Cast in a new role

In what felt a bit like an unexpected call in the middle of the night, back in October, the 21st to be specific, I received an email from a former client of mine with whom I have consulted off and on since around 1988 asking whether I'd be willing to consider «an assignment for a year or so in New Mexico.» Having already retired and, I'll admit, having begun to resign myself to the inevitable decline that leads to the end of life, I was surprised and invigorated by his suggestion so I followed up with him just to learn what the possibilities were. That conversation and subsequent events have now led to a new opportunity for me, a new role. And just this last week, I received a formal offer to become the Call Center Manager for the Vertex Outsourcing call center in Las Vegas, NM -- not Nevada mind you, but New Mexico.

Las Vegas, NM, is a relatively small but historic town nestled in the northeastern quadrant of the state at an elevation of 6,424 feet, higher even than the Mile High City of Denver. This site was chosen as the location for the call center because of its lack of disruptions due to weather (316 days of sunshine a year) and because of the work ethic and skills of its bilingual local population. However, this small, historic (which also implies old) town became something of an obstacle in locating a qualified individual to move there and manage the operation. And that, it turns out, was what caused my friend to think of me. Because I am 66, unattached and don't have small children who would have to attend the Las Vegas school system, my maturity and prior experiences made him think of me as a desirable candidate who might be open to moving there.

«A year or so,» as originally suggested by my friend, has actually turned out to be two years when we got down to specifying the details of the agreement. I will move to New Mexico, maintain my house here in Knoxville, and return here after the two year contract is up. My objectives are to develop and sustain a culture in the center that causes the employees to feel valued and respected and that results in their conveying those same things to the customers in the calls they take from them. Although there are of course performance metrics that must be met as well, the primary objective for me is to nurture the kind of environment that is rarely sustained in a call center, so that customers are treated as valued assets rather than interruptions in the representatives' busy, stressful and sometimes monotonous day. That's an interesting challenge that I have often tried in my consulting assignments to help other managers achieve with, I will acknowledge, varying degrees of success. Now for the first time in my career I'll have the authority and accountability to do just that myself. I welcome the challenge, and I believe I'll find it both educational and interesting.

The other major goal I'll have while there is to identify and train my replacement. Through modeling the behaviors needed to run a call center in this way and by coaching this potential replacement in his or her use of those same behaviors, I'll seek to create an environment that can keep going without interruption when my time on site is up.

I haven't yet decided what this move will mean to my blogging. Since beginning to discuss the possible move, I've chosen not to update my blog because I didn't want to discuss these events online until they were firm enough to be revealed. And once I do assume the new role, I'm not sure how much I want to blog about what will surely occupy most of my thinking throughout the day, nor do I know how much time I might have for an activity like blogging. I suppose I could keep writing about technology as I've done through much of the last couple of years, but there are other blogs that already do a better job of that than I do. So my blogging may be a casualty of my new role, but that hasn't yet been decided and remains to be seen.

At least now you know what has been going on with me for the last several months and why I've not been posting here as frequently as I used to. I'm about to embark on «Perry's Excellent Adventure» in New Mexico, so if you happen to be traveling through the southwest feel free to look me up. I'm sure I'd welcome seeing a face «from home.»

DylanW's picture

Your skill in Confidence has increased by 1.

If you've followed my blog any, I've mentioned the whole losing weight thing. I started out last April above 260 lbs. Then came The Plan, which I sadly quit before the 8 weeks were up, but in its aftermath I managed to carry on some of the eating and exercise goals with good results. Of course, the start of IT Biggest Loser at work renewed some of my commitment.

So, I started IT Biggest Loser at the beginning of December at 226 lbs. I'm now probably close to the 220 lbs. mark, if not past it. I'm not really sure--I think we missed the last 2-week weigh in. Or at least I did. Also, some oddities with the scales (one of the participants lost and gained 20 lbs. over the course of two 2-week weigh-ins) doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence. I'd love to win the $300 prize, but I don't see it happening if anything wonky happens with the final weigh-in.

But, 220 is pretty good considering I started out at 260 less than a year ago. However, it's not really the weighing that's motivating. It's a nice benchmark, but if you do it too often, it's just not inspiring. The change from day to day is too small, and your daily fluctuations in weight will alternate between getting your hopes up and dashing your hopes entirely. (For example, when I started seriously trying to lose weight last April, I didn't weigh myself for at least 2-3 weeks.)

It's really the little things that are motivating. Like being able to wear XL shirts again, and starting to realize that wearing one of my old XXL shirts feels like wearing a tent. (In fact, I dug through my closet and found I can now wear my old 1999 Mu Alpha Theta state convention t-shirt from high school.) Similarly, I've gone from a 46-48" waist to a 40-42" waist, and even dropped from an XXL belt to being able to wear a Large sized belt.

It's a nice motivation because it's objective accomplishment. With other things, I will occasionally do something I find neat, realize no one's really paying much attention nor do they care, and then get really de-motivated. In this case, it's all numbers. And oddly enough, people do notice.

It's also one of those things that I'm doing by myself, so I'm driven by motivation rather than pressure. It's not the kind of thing where I overestimate what other people are doing and constantly feel like I'm falling behind. It's also less about what I do (i.e., items on a checklist), and more about what I control through discipline.

Since a lot of my exercise has come from DDR, it's also nice to notice that I've gotten better. Having finished most of the initial songs on DDR Universe 2 and DDR Supernova 2 (and not willing to endure the pain of quest mode to unlock more), I went back and started trying to clear out DDR Max on Heavy. And I actually did pretty good until I got to the 9-foot difficulty songs. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you realize, "hey, I'm pretty close to being one of those guys that you see at the arcade." OK, maybe that's exaggerating, but at least I'm getting there.

DDR's good exercise but has left me with comparatively little upper body strength, so I started lifting dumbells. I'm up to 15 lbs. from starting at 10, and it's a nice contrast to DDR--if I leave them in my room, I can pick them up and do a few sets if I have 10 minutes to kill. After a few weeks I'm actually seeing some results which, again, is a motivation.

The downside to this is that I only have two mental states: "I fail at life" and "I am awesome." (Well, technically, there's a brief intermediate state that I would label "cautious pessimism" but we won't get into that unless someone wants me to draw a state machine of my thought process in Visio.) So now I worry that I'm more prone to acting like a complete arsehat. :P


DylanW's picture

The rewrite bug may be catching

Nathan's already posted about his urge to rewrite his blog, so this is sort of in the same vein. However, my motivation is coming mainly from my recent signup on LinkedIn and the recent launch of the East Tennessee .NET User's Group site.

Basically, I have a lot of professional, programming-career-oriented traffic pointed at my site. This is important now, because I am unfortunately spinning my wheels in my current job (which may change now that we have a third programmer, but who knows). While I'm really liking my current setup, it's just not professional grade. Nor do I want it to be--I like posting the occasional bit of stupid crap, or random musings, or even whiny rants to get stuff off my chest. (Although, admittedly, Chainsaw Buffet has been a nice outlet for the wacky stuff and the random philosophical musings, but at the same time, it's just made me more likely to write them.)

It might be, if I posted more programming articles, but I have to confess I don't do a lot of coding off work time these days. I do the occasional bit of contract work. And most of what I do for myself isn't nifty new stuff, it's focused effort to create a particular thing. (I could rant about how the obsession with creating a finished, perfect product kills my productivity, but that's another story. Actually, I probably already have posted something like this, and if not, it's in my responses to Nathan's "To Build A Blog" series.)

So my thinking is, I should probably change into a more professional site. We're talking resumé, links to projects, that stuff. Nothing major, and we're not talking about a very complex site in terms of programming. But a simple "brochure" about me.

What I could then do is move what is now off to, a domain name I randomly bought a couple of months ago. (I think it pretty much describes the way I think, post, etc.) I had a brief flash of motivation for doing something with this site, which I think was going to be a place to post random thoughts. (Which, really, wouldn't have been too much more than a personal Twitter.)

Unfortunately, as "right" as this feels, there's also something that doesn't feel right about it. As much as I like the domain name, has been my personal site for about a year and I'd hate to give that up (nevermind all the redirects I'd have to set up--SEO would never be the same).

Plus, I can build the Programming section to be a more fitting representation of my professional side, while leaving everything else in place. I can be extremely professional (or at least extremely serious, which isn't the same thing, but is a close enough approximation) but at the same time I can be odd. I don't think I'm so odd that it'll scare off potential employers, and might show me as a more balanced person.

Besides, from my experience reading my web stats, no one freaking follows links. You get all paranoid about how someone might see that one tiny thing you posted on that one particular page, and then you find out that most people don't spend that much time digging around on other people's sites. It's depressing, really, considering that I often do, but it's also a healthy alternative to "people can find out everything you've ever said online!" paranoia.

So I guess the point of my post is, what do you think? Move the blog to and build as a separate professional site? Or leave as is and beef up the Programming content?


perry's picture

More on the Gutsy Gibbon saga

This morning Justin left a comment on the previous post in which he requested that I post the results of issuing the lspci command on my current computer on the theory that perhaps something about the IDE controller might be causing my system not to see the Windows XP installation.  So now that I know to add the all_generic_ide switch to the boot command on the Live CD (thanks to Tomcat--TC) and I can get into Gutsy without my previous problems, I booted up under that this afternoon and took a screen shot of the results of issuing that command.  Though I don't know if this will give Justin what he thought it would, I'm going to post that screen shot below for his and anyone else's scrutiny.

lspci info only


As you can see the IDE interface is the SiS 5513 from VIA Technologies, Inc., so it does not appear to be the ICH7 or ICH5 IDE controller that Justin was anticipating.  I don't know where that leaves us, Justin, but there you have it.

While I was in the Live CD, I went again to the install program and to the manual install section of the partitioner since I didn't want to use the guided installation to use the full HD.  Here is the screen shot of the point I got to when I decided to bail out because the installation wasn't seeing my Windows XP installation, though it does recognize that the partition on which it is installed is formatted as NTFS.  Here's what the partitioner shows:


The two HDs are shown and the type of file system is accurate for both of them.  The 137 GB partition (/dev/sda1) is my C:/ drive and has Windows XP on it, and the 26.5 GB partition (/dev/sda5) is partitioned as my F:/ drive.  I've gotten to this same point before but haven't had the courage to monkey around with /dev/sda1 because I don't want to risk losing my Windows XP partition.  Any advice, encouragement, reassurance or other mojo-enhancing words anyone would like to share in the comments will be welcome.

perry's picture

Gutsy Gibbon Live CD mystery solved

On October 21st I posted here about the fact that I couldn't boot from the recently released Live CD version 7.10 of Ubuntu, the so-called Gutsy Gibbon.  That post attracted more comment than any other ever has on this blog as others reported that they too had encountered the same problem.  One of those who responded was Tomcat--TC since he too was having the problem. 

Gutsy Gibbon desktop
Earlier today, Tomcat--TC reported back that he had found a solution that worked for him, and as the screen shot at the right demonstrates, I have just proven to myself that it works for me too.  For the first time, I was able to boot from the Gutsy Gibbon Live CD on this, my Sony machine.

Previously I had encountered the error message with the Live CD after I selected the default option to load or install Ubuntu.  However, on that initial screen one of the options, evoked by pressing F6, is to modify the command line before executing the boot up command.  Tomcat--TC suggested that I simply add the following parameter all_generic_ide to the boot command line after the words quiet splash and just before the two final dashes.  When you press F6 the cursor is at the end of that line and you can use the arrow keys to move it so that it is positioned after the words quiet splash and make the additional entry.  After doing that, I simply pressed enter and eventually the CD booted up into the Ubuntu environment. 

As you can see if you click on the screen shot above and view a larger version of it, there is an icon on the desktop to install the operating system if you choose.  I decided to do that, but there I encountered another problem.  There are seven steps in that installation before you actually commit to begin the installation.  The first few are designed to identify the language, the time zone and the type of keyboard you are using.  Thereafter, the partitioner is initiated to find the hard drives on the system and provide you the option of specifying where to install the operating system.  All of that went well, except that during the process of examining the installed hard drives it found no existing file system.  Since I didn't want to kill my Windows XP installation by installing over it, I canceled the installation and will go back to the drawing board. 

I have no idea why this CD doesn't see the existing file system.  Maybe someone who reads and responds to this post will be able to suggest how I might get it to see my Windows installation.  However, even if they don't, encountering that problem doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for having learned the solution to the mystery of how to get the newly released Gutsy Gibbon Live CD to boot on my system nor does it lessen my appreciation to Tomcat--TC for his reporting back the results of his investigation and the resolution to the problem.  


perry's picture

A new theme

If you are viewing this entry in an RSS reader, come on over to my blog and take a look at the new theme I installed today.  It is called 1BlogTheme and it was created by Javier Garcia.  It has a rich feature set that can be configured from the admin panel in the WordPress installation without having to delve into the mysteries of PHP.  Explore any of those new features that may interest you by clicking on some of the links that surround the post.  You won't hurt anything by doing so.  If you find you have displayed something (for instance, the list of Bookmark Services) and you can't get rid of it, just click on the link to Home above and everything will be restored to normal.  If anything seems to be broken for you as you surf around the site, let me know in the comments. 

One feature that attracted me to this theme was the dual sidebar which, as it turns out, can be displayed either at the right or the left, just by changing a setting on the setup page.  I've set it to display at the right because a number of my previous blog entries refer to something in the sidebar at the right.  The dual sidebar is, in fact, a triple pane because the main pane of the sidebar extends across the top of the other two columns (panes) of information.  At the moment that main pane displays the information contained in the About section, but any of the panes in the sidebar can be populated with any of the widgets that I might want to display there.

This theme looks more professional to me than my previous theme did.  And anyway I think it was time for me to make a change, if for no other reason than to make it more interesting for me to look at.  I have viewed this theme in IE7, in Firefox, and in Flock 1.0, and all of them seem to display everything about the same way.  Again, I would appreciate a comment from any of you who may use a different browser and see any idiosyncrasies in the new theme.   I can't guarantee that I can eliminate every unique quirk introduced by different browsers, but I will try to make it as inoffensive as possible.

perry's picture

The Lion at 66

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Happy Birthday Dad

Originally uploaded by Dr Reelgood & Co..

On November 7th, Mike and Cheryl and their kids helped me celebrate my 66th birthday with a dinner at their home. Mike captured this official portrait of me posed before an assortment of cheeses and fruit that he had purchased for the occasion. It was a delicious and enjoyable way to celebrate my birthday. He suggested that the caption for the picture should be Dad cuts the cheese on his birthday, but in the end, he labeled it a bit more soberly.

perry's picture

Gutsy Gibbon Live CD boot problem

On October 18, 2007, the newest distribution of Ubuntu (Version 7.10, code named «Gutsy Gibbon») was released, and I downloaded the ubuntu-7.10-desktop-i386.iso image and, after checking the MD5 checksum, burned it to CD. 

I was able to use this Live CD to boot into the new version and install it on the Dell 4100 system I have here at home.  Because the checksum of the downloaded image verified and the Live CD works on my Dell system, I know there is nothing wrong with the CD itself.  I took the screen shot at the right showing the desktop with the included program, Tomboy, on the screen.  (If you click on the image above, a larger version will open and you can read the two open windows to learn what a neat little utility Tomboy is.) 

So having succeeded in installing this new version on the Dell, I decided that I'd boot the Live CD on my Sony system where I have my Windows XP installation to consider adding a Linux partition alongside my XP partition on the Sony machine, but that's where I ran into a brick wall.

On my Sony machine when I try to boot from the Live CD, I get a screen where I can choose to boot into the Live CD and then briefly there is an Ubuntu splash screen, after which the screen goes black and I get some text from BusyBox that says:

initramfs) [ 53.053436]  ata1.00: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x0 action 0x2 frozen
ata1.00: cmd c8/00:08:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/e0 tag 0 cdb 0x0 daa 4096 in

This same exception keeps repeating and then the same command is reissued and I supposed it would go on indefinitely.  I have tried this multiple times, always with the same result.  I must power off the machine to stop it, remove the CD and then reboot into Windows.  The Live CD just won't seem to load on my Sony machine.

There are, of course, many differences between the two machines, and I suppose any one of them could account for what is causing the problem.  If you happen to have an idea about what my problem may be, I would appreciate your leaving a comment and pointing me to a resource on the Ubuntu forums or elsewhere that might direct me to a solution. 

Thanks for your help and advice.

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