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The System is Down

You may have noticed that things are weird. I have too. I brought up this webpage a couple days ago, and saw that there are some missing entries. So I logged into the server and found that it's all running on the backup server. I sent an email asking what's up, and got a quick response. It explained that the server had a hardware failure. One of the hard drives died, and so they extracted a backup, and the most recent one they could find was from early April. They said they'll find a more recent backup sometime soon, which means that this entry you're now reading will get overwritten.

Sorry for all the trouble. I feel pretty stuck too. They're working as quickly as they can to get a new drive into the old server, and hopefully set it up with mirroring, or at least some kind of redundancy. Since this is all fleeting anyway, I've disabled the comments until everything's back the way it should be.

5:01 PM, May 1, 2007

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The System is Up

Everything's back up! That was an annoying, yet thankfully not too long outage. I have restored the comment functionality, and I will now resume my work on the features I wanted to add. Enjoy.

1:06 AM, May 5, 2007

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Cinco de Long Day

I had a lively weekend. On Friday morning, I handed off the oncall phone to Eddie and ran- nay skipped, out of the office for the afternoon. The really bad news came though as I was approaching my car at Sunfresh in Midtown. Someone had quite expertly removed the brand new registration stickers I had gotten for my car. I'm kind of uncertain as to how to proceed, but right now, I'm driving a car without a valid registration sticker, the penalty for which is a moving violation traffic ticket.

After that happy realization, I discovered a new burrito place. Cancun Fiesta over in Westport makes delicious, slightly overpriced, slightly undersized burritos that, unlike the burritos available at most places in KC, are easy to eat without a knife and fork. I got a chicken burrito with everything, minus onions, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

After that, I sat at home, drinking high-caffeine beverages, staving off the overwhelming desire to go straight to bed. But it was early afternoon, and I needed to make it until my actual bedtime, lest I screw up my sleep schedule because of the sleepless week I spent on call. Anyway, I didn't go out on Friday. I stayed in and played the translated version of Tales of Phantasia for the Super NES on my computer, and pieced this website back together from before the outage. I was in bed and asleep by 11pm.

Saturday was when things picked up. After sleeping for over eleven hours, I comfortably awoke, and found Jeff finisdhing up his morning routine in the living room. He suggested that we go to Coffee Girls, and try to secure a waffle. Jeff wanted to ride bikes down. Having a screwed up ankle from my circa-1999 leg-breaking, I am unable to comfortably ride a bicycle, so bike-riding was out. I was in the process of suggesting taking the bus down to 19th and walking the rest of the way, but got an idea mid-sentence and cut myself off. The urban homes tour was going on, and complimentary shuttles were being run around the river market/downtown/crossroads area, so we paid lip service to some condos for sale, walked around some apartments we could never afford, and hopped on the southbound shuttle. To make things fully believable, we toured the Piper Lofts, near Coffee Girls, and got an eyeful from their roof.

We walked down to Coffee Girls, and found that we were a full two hours late to get any waffles, so we settled for hippie-style sandwiches filled with sprouts and fancy mayonnaise. Neither of us knew what we really wanted to do, but I knew I didn't want to go home, and it was Cinco de Mayo. I think Jeff was humoring me, but we went down Southwest Boulevard to the nearby Mexican quarter, and got some watered-down touristy margaritas at Taqueria Mexico. Craig joined us there, and Jeff took off.

We next went farther down the Boulevard to Jesse's, across from Ponak's, and enjoyed the growing momentum of the holiday there. From there, we went over to KCK, to some church of which neither of us had ever heard, and attended the Polski Festival. We walked up to the beer tent and were headed off by the guy behind the table before we could say anything. "Will it be four, six, or eight, guys?" It was all for charity, so we each got two enthusiastically poured $2 draws of light beer. The festival was a great break for the day, in the midst of a part of KCK that I had never seen, but by which I was very intrigued. The layout was very dense, and apparently very tightly-knit. There were people outside everywhere.

After the festival, we headed down to Overland Park for a party thrown by a coworker of Craig's. The theme of the party was "Cinco de Mustache," and true to its name, many people assembled with facial hair. I had some too, but only because I had been too lazy to shave. The mingling was nice, and as the sun set, the karaoke began. By 10pm, the neighbors were perturbed enough to have called the police twice, so we headed inside and watched Oscar de la Hoya get robbed, via split-decision.

By about the time that people started singing to the stereo inside, Erp and I decided it was time to head back to civilization. So we went to Harry's in the River Market and ran into about twelve people we knew. After Harry's closed, we walked over to the Caddyshack to finish out the legal drinking hours. As we were about to leave, an inebriated, possibly high patron was being escorted out by the owner, and he threw a surprise elbow to the owner's face. In a snap there were at least five people pinning him to a booth, while some complete jackass named San came out of nowhere and started punching the pinned guy in the face. He must have punched him ten times. It was ridiculous.

We decided that the best way to end a ridiculous night would be with a late, late trip to Town Topic. I didn't get home until almost 5am. It's all here.

1:19 PM, May 7, 2007

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At Large

In what was supposed to be the sixth week of the kickball season, we played our third game last night, and lost by two runs. We celebrated with various runs around town. Before the game, I found that I would have to drive myself there, despite having secured a fantastic parking spot right in front of my place. It was 6:15pm, and the traffic over on Broadway was still horrendous. Are these people completely unaware that there are other streets in downtown that are perfectly free to use? Anyway, I took Wyandotte to 16th to Main, and never had any trouble or significant holdups, covering two miles in the same amount of time it took people on Broadway to cover fifty feet. Move out of the sticks, people! Life improves when you live where everything is.

This morning, I called in to work, not really feeling motivated enough to make the commute, and slept until 10. I woke up delightfully refreshed and ready to go and do something. I contacted Chris over IM, and we determined that we'd get lunch at the Thai Paradise over on the 1500 block of Grand. He said to meet him at 13th and Grand, and we'd walk down, through the Arena/P&L construction. This being over a mile away, on basically the opposite side of downtown, and what with the temperature being about 80 degrees, it made for a wonderful walk across the heart of Kansas City.

On the way I saw people taking pictures, walking dogs, jogging, going to lunch with coworkers, and just going about their daily lives. Some were casting looks of disdain in my direction, presumably because I was at large in shorts and shirtsleeves, with headphones in my ears, hands in pockets, and eyes pointing in no direction in particular. I reached 13th and Grand a couple minutes earlier than we'd agreed, but Chris was standing there waiting for me. We enjoyed some red curry after almost an hour wait. I think they were shorthanded and very busy.

On the way back, we passed a newly erected camp of people operating jackhammers only feet away from where we walked. It was so loud that I screamed, Cameron Frye style, at the ridiculous tumult, still not to be heard at all any more than five feet away. We shook hands good bye, and I walked down Grand, 12th, Walnut, 11th, and Main without any hurry. I stopped at some little corner market and picked up an orange soda. When I reached 10th and Main, I decided I'd pay Kelly a visit, and so we talked and caroused for perhaps a half an hour before I continued my leisurely walk home.

I got home and found that the maintenance people had fixed the door to Jeff's bedroom. I'm spending this afternoon relaxing, doing some laundry, and reloading the tracking status for my new mp3 player. Hopefully, I'll be getting my deposit refund from Quality Hill today, so I can go for another walk to deposit it. It's a lovely day.

2:49 PM, May 11, 2007

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Like a Dirty Hippie

In an effort to humor Jeff, save some money, avoid parking unpleasantness, and get some natural exercise, I'm taking the bus all this week. Driving takes 12-15 minutes, but fills me with hate. Riding the bus takes about an hour and 20 minutes each way, including walking, and significantly shortens my day, but it's much more relaxing. I reckon that I save myself about a gallon of gas used with each day I ride the bus. That does not count lunchtime trips to Lees Summit, Blue Springs, Brookside, Waldo, or Midtown, which routinely push the daily usage to more than 70 miles. With gas prices currently hanging around $3.25 a gallon, that nicely prolongs the time I get to wait before filling up again. Who knows? Maybe in a couple of years I won't have a choice but to do it this way.

I took the MAX down to Brookside yesterday. The closest MAX stop(8th and Grand) isn't in the nicest corner of downtown, and on a sunny day like yesterday, has a pretty torturous glare. Also, as the majority of the route there is through downtown's lamentable northside surface parking farm, there isn't a lot of shade to be had as I walk with the sun in my eyes. Even at 7:15am, it was warm out, and in the unrelenting sun, it was uncomfortably warm.

I was hoping, when the bus pulled up, that I'd get a nice air-conditioned respite from the heat, but no. There didn't appear to be any climate control on at all. The adjustable windows on the MAX are at the top of the windows, and simply lean into the bus at a 45-degree angle. They don't stick out, or offer any other means of coaxing a comforting breeze into the bus. As such, the bus was a rolling oven, though none of the other riders seemed particularly annoyed by it.

The MAX was only slightly late in arriving in Brookside, and even so, I still had to wait a good fifteen or twenty minutes for the 63rd street bus to make its scheduled stop. When it rolled up, I hopped on, ecstatic to feel moving air in the cabin. The 163 runs very old buses, but they have windows that horizontally slide open to as much as four inches in each spot. This lets a lot of moving air into the bus. On such a lovely morning as it was yesterday, it was a pleasure to ride.

Determined not to take the MAX home, considering the heavily-used 163 is usually five minutes late to catch it, I took the 53 home. It uses the oldest buses in KC, and spends almost all its route in the largely-impoverished East side. With one brief exception, I was the only white person on the bus. This doesn't bother me, but it's definitely noticeable. But as slow and dilapidated as the buses are on the 53, it's still the fastest way downtown from 63rd and Swope.

It rained today. Hard. I went out to my car and pulled my umbrella out of the trunk. Assuming that the MAX doesn't turn the air conditioning on unless it's 97 degrees outside, and because I found another bus that has a shorter yet still reasonable transfer with the 163, I took the 51 down to 63rd today. It's the same bus I used to take when I used to work down at 89th and State Line(the closest I've ever worked to home). Jeff and I joke to each other about it. When one person mentions the 51, the other always responds, "I love the 51!"

Well, I love the 51 all over again. The 163 leaves its starting point at 8:10am, and the 51 dropped me off in front of it at 8:04am. It could hardly have worked out better.

Anyway, as you were.

3:13 PM, May 15, 2007

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Paying the Principal

It was recently brought to my attention that in the case of controlled debt payments, like for a car or a mortgage, anything that is paid over the required periodic amount goes directly toward paying off the principal loan amount. Being largely oblivious of things that matter in modern society, I didn't know this until I was informed of it by my friend Matt a few days ago.

Now, since I got my car in 2004, I haven't made a single payment that was the minimum. I don't like opening mail to see what the actual amount due is. I was told at signing that the monthly payment would be a little over $409. Not one to strictly pay attention to the actual amount due, I just got accustomed to paying $410 every month. Some months, when unexpected expenses would pop up, I would put off the payment until the following month, when I would pay $825 or $850 instead.

I've been doing that a lot lately, what with having relatively major expenses to deal with, what with my recent status as a homeowner. But in so doing, I have apparently reduced the amount I have to pay overall. In the reminder mails that I periodically get from the lienholder, the monthly amount due has steadily decreased. Right now, the amount due is about $350 per month, but since I found out that any amount of overpayment just goes directly to paying off the principal balance, I've set up my ledger to say that any payments from now on will be at least $500, in an attempt to get the car paid off early.

It's with this in mind that I'm keen to make extra payments against the mortgage, as the amount for which I am in debt is many many times what I still owe on the car. Using an online amortization calendar, I found that with my current mortgage, I can pay it off six years early, simply by throwing an extra hundred dollars at it, per month. I am just about at the end of my tenure of paying off credit cards, a pursuit that currently occupies many hundreds of dollars in my budget. It has occurred to me that as these payments come out of existence, I could simply reallocate that money toward the payoff of the car, and then the mortgage.

Anyway, I figured now is as good a time as any to tell you about the ledger program I wrote, and have been using now for a couple of years. It didn't occur to me until relatively recently that some other people might actually find some use for it. I find it a much more accurate picture of how much money I have at any given time. A mild explanation of what it can do is on the Useless Crap page.

2:45 PM, May 17, 2007

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A Good Old-Fashioned Woopin

We had a make-up kickball game last night, to make up for time lost to rain. Coincidentally, we played the same team we played last week- the same team that beat us with a score of nine runs to our six. We even played them at the same time. We came out slow, not scoring a single run, and only getting one person on base in the first inning. From there though, it was amazing. We had rally after rally, and our defense was as good or better than it's ever been. We only allowed two runs(both of which happened while I was pitching), and scored eighteen!

Games like that are the reason that I play kickball. Everyone got on base, and almost everyone scored. Jeff scored four runs. Ben cleared the bases with a 3-run suicide homer. Erik circled the field in a solo shot when he kicked the ball past the outfielders. Julie got her first hit/RBI combo with no outs inflicted. Jeff pitched a couple perfect innings. Carly blew me away with athleticism that I hadn't previously seen from her. I'm pretty sure that everybody that made it had a great time.

A contingent of kickballers celebrated with a postgame victory dinner at Grinders, and a smaller contingent of that contingent went and got a couple drinks at the Phoenix, from which I happily walked the two blocks home. Here's a selection of the pictures I took.

012bencarly.jpg 015juliegetsthemout.jpg 020chris.jpg 022jeff.jpg 025erp.jpg 026team.jpg

10:41 AM, May 18, 2007

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Weekend in Iowa

I got out of the office on Friday at about 4, and headed downtown to pack and get going. I got out the door by about 4:45pm, gritted my teeth, and prepared for a hellish Friday rush hour drive out of downtown. I was pleasantly surprised however. The Broadway Extension, which is usually a parking lot by 4pm, was so wide-open that I was able to use cruise control. I went to Kohl's up on Barry Road to pick up a shirt, a tie, and a pair of pants, before hopping on 152 heading east toward I-35. 152 however, proved my undoing. By the time I was Liberty(near where 152 meets I-35), I was in ridiculous stopped traffic so long that it crated a wavy mirage effect on the no-so-distant objects in front of the car.

I got on the highway at 5:30 or so, and zipped up to Des Moines without further incident, except paying $3.39 per gallon for gas somewhere in Iowa. When I got gas, I stopped at the only apparent place to stop: McDonald's. I hadn't eaten at McDonald's in months. Let me make something absolutely clear. I used to love McDonald's. I would hold their quarter pound cheeseburgers up to my face and revel in the aroma- the soft pliable consistency- the way that the cheese bonds into the shape of the patty.

As a matter of health, I made a decision some time ago to avoid eating at McDonald's unless it isn't comfortably avoidable. On Friday, I found myself with the choice between eating at McDonald's and going hungry. I opted for a chicken sandwich at McDonald's. The translation from marketing picture and actual sandwich was pretty dramatic. It was disgusting. I don't mean that it was fatty, or greasy, or overtly unhealthy, though I'm sure it was. I mean that it tasted bad. I wasn't able to finish it. I deposited the uneaten half of it back into its container, tossed it, picked up my fries and soda, and left.

As I drove up the highway from there, I finished the fries. I used to love the fries too, but something had happened since the last time I had eaten them. These had presumably the same flavor and consistency that I've always remembered, but they were not appetizing. I made myself finish them, and in so doing, made myself feel ill. Is it possible that going for extended periods without McDonald's food can make your body dislike it when it's reintroduced? It was a sad thought that I might never enjoy McDonald's again.

Anyway, I rolled into Des Moines just after 8pm, and Alex and I almost immediately left for a beverage or two at A.K. O'Connor's in the rolling suburbs of West Des Moines, and on to Rock Bottom Brewing in Clive for a really delicious APA they temporarily had on tap.

We left the next morning for Fairfield. I chose not to shower, as I would prefer to freshly shower and shave once we got there. Unfortunately, the hotel was well within the borders of Iowa, and employed a staff that was apparently unaccustomed to people wanting to stay there. Unshaven and sweaty, I instead availed myself of the use of their bathroom to change, and we headed over. I shaved at the church, hacking off 75% of my face in the process.

The wedding was lovely though. Sarah and her sister sang a surprise song for Jacob, to whom Sarah had just become married. More country music was played than at any wedding I have ever attended, comprising roughly 60% of the music played. After the reception was over, a cadre of drunken goers(myself included, of course) knocked the dust off the bar, and kept things going into the wee hours.

Alex and I got moving the next morning, and said our tearful good-byes in Des Moines. I had since busied myself with debilitating allergies that have recently attacked my eyes and nose. Pictures from the wedding are on the way.

5:04 PM, May 21, 2007

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Attention Paintfumes

Check your email. The one that has your ZIP code in the address. I sent you a full explanation.

Everyone else: Sorry.

1:00 PM, May 22, 2007

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Royals, Finally!

On my suggestion, a group of us at work went to the Royals-Indians game last night. We got out the door by about 5:15pm, made a quick stop at the Price Chopper in Raytown, and before we knew it, were grilling in one of the many tens of thousands of parking spots at the Truman Sports Complex. We grilled up some cheddar wurst, some hamburgers, and some smoked sausage on Chris' grill before walking over to the front gate. We ate all the food except for one sausage, and finished the last of the beer as we reached the ticket line.

We got five seats exactly where we wanted to be, and proceeded to watch the Royals hold the best team in the American League to three runs, and win the game. We had a great time.

2:12 PM, May 23, 2007

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Tchaikovsky

Eric came over last night to help Jeff and me make a dent in the keg we still have not finished. We need to empty it by the upcoming party, for which we have reserved and paid for a new keg. A while into the proceedings, Becca sent a round of text messages, instructing us to come to meet her at Harry's. We obeyed, and ran into Matt there too. Jeff and Eric called it a night, as did Becca and Daniel, her escort. Matt and I sat with a woman named Amy and a man named Scott, and wound up closing the bar. When closing time came, I went home, but the rest of the group allegedly kept things going.

I woke up this morning neither hung over nor particularly tired, so I went through the full-brewing-process of the morning routine, instead of my normal regiment of giving myself another 20 or 30 minutes to sleep by skipping a normal practice(usually shaving). Oddly, I felt pretty refreshed this morning.

I put the 1812 Overture on my player on my way to work, this morning. Being about 18 minutes or so in length, it was timed almost perfectly for me to start playing it when I walked out my door, and listen to the bells and cannons of its tumultuous finish as I walked in the door at work.

There are worse things than having Tchaikovsky stuck in your head.

10:22 AM, May 24, 2007

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Got a Treo

My phone has been a continued source of annoyance for me. I love how small it is. I love the big color screen. I love the EVDO internet connection, but that's about it. The rest just makes me angry. The reception is horrible, text messaging is worse, and I have now proven to myself that I never want a flip-phone again. They're just uncomfortable to use.

It was with this in mind that I placed a successful auction bid on a brand-new shiny Treo 755p, and received it yesterday. Having been a happy user of java-powered internet products(Opera Mini, Gmail, and Google Maps especially) on my phone for some time, i was a little put out when I saw that PalmOS doesn't come with support for java applications. After lots of running around, I determined that I would have to download a zipped package, install some "hotsync" crap on my PC, and hook the phone to that to get java installed.

That hurdle overcome, I installed Opera Mini. The browser that comes with the phone, called "Blazer!!1," is predictably pretty terrible. I don't understand what is with cellphone manufacturers and crappy, terrible web browsers. Do they just put something out, and say, "eh, whatever!" and just assume that nobody will ever use it? Anyway, I installed Opera Mini, and found that it crashed every time I ran it. When I searched for opera mini crashes, I found this page talking about changing settings for the installed version of java. I made these changes, and Opera Mini worked fine after that. Well, sort of.

The next step for me, and the one that produced the most frustration, was getting gmail's mobile application installed and working. It's another java application, and even gmail's own notes say that it will run(unsupported) on a Treo phone. However, if I load the page with the blazer web browser, there's a browser sniff that directs you immediately to an error message about the Treo not being supported, and no link for you! Using Opera Mini was little better. The page loaded, and gave me a download link, but the phone would freeze up and crash when I clicked on it.

For those of you that have no idea what any of what I'm about to say means, I apologize. Feel free to skip ahead to "It worked!"

After heaving back and forth for an hour or two, I got an idea. I loaded my webpage with Opera Mini on the phone, and tailed the access_log for the webserver to see what the $HTTP_USER_AGENT string was. Having copied that down, I installed the User Agent Switcher extension for Firefox, and changed my browser to identify as Opera Mini. The link to the file appeared, so I copied it into a simple page that I have for posting simple links. I then loaded that page with blazer on my phone, downloaded the file, and installed it successfully.

When I tried to launch it, I was given a nasty java error. So I searched again for "exception in static initializer" gmail, and found this usenet thread, from which I managed to paste the proper url into the page I mentioned before. I uninstalled the first version, and installed the second version.

It worked! I now have an almost fully-functional PDA phone. One that is not gigantic, has a high-speed connection, a big screen, a QWERTY keyboard, and all the apps I like to use.

5:54 PM, May 25, 2007

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Some of This and That

First, a blogger/geek/programmer named Adam Lindsay, inspired by the runaway success and face-melting hilarity of Caturday sites like ichcb and roflcats comes the first inklings of a new programming language, called lolcode. Observe a typical "hello world" program:

HAI

CAN HAS STDIO?

VISIBLE "HAI WORLD!"

KTHXBYE

I am envisioning converting tons of scripts to this ridiculous language, simply for the pleasure of hearing about someone else trying to debug it.

In other news, Google released another unbelievably awesome feature to their incomparable maps site: Street View.

That's it!

4:12 PM, May 30, 2007

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