This is a bit of a belated entry, but hey… better belated than never, eh? Well, I suppose that depends on the content of the entry…
Anyway, last weekend I decided to ignore the fact that it’s so late in the season and planted a garden anyway! After which we had near-monsoon weather, but… so it goes… hopefully my seeds don’t drown. The end result is depicted below:
As you can see, I’ve planted a few crops:
- Romaine Lettuce
The idea was that, hopefully, these crops all can be started late (with the exception of the corn… that’s mostly an experiment). So, in three months, hopefully we’ll have some fresh veggies for the bunnies! Oh, and a few carrots and peas for us.
Well, it’s been almost two weeks now, and the vimming continues unabated. So far, I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the change. The simple fact that I can run it in a screen session without feeling crippled has been wonderful, particularly since I’ve been frequently moving my editing sessions between work and home lately (all I need to do is ssh in, and do a ‘screen -DR’, and voila, my work environment is migrated over).
As for the RSI, other than the usual stiffness from long periods of typing, the other symptoms (things like shooting pains in the hands) have been reduced or eliminated, proving once more that emacs finger is real and dangerous! And yes, I realize that I could’ve just swapped my capslock and control keys, but I use my capslock as a third modifier, so that doesn’t work as nicely for me. :)
Meanwhile, my vocabulary of vi commands continues to expand. My biggest problem is simply remembering to use vi/vim shortcut keys and commands instead of doing things manually. This is especially a problem for me since I’m a fast enough typist that I’ll often resort to brute forcing things, rather than trying to be speedy and clever. Thing likes Ctrl+n for completion while coding is incredibly convenient, and a significant timesaver, assuming I’m smart enough to remember to use it. And being able to type things like ‘ct;
' is really darn handy, when I don't accidentally find myself typing 'xxxxxxxxxxi ' by mistake. But, given time, I suspect I'll internalize more of the commands and my editing speed will continue to increase.
So, the moral of the story is that it looks like Vim has a new convert! I have officially switched sides in the infamous Editor_war.
As Lenore can attest, I often find myself curious about the various idioms from the English language that we all take for granted. It’s really quite remarkable how many phrases we use day to day without truly understanding their meaning or origin. In this particular case, while I was watching the second intermission of the Buffalo-Carolina hockey game, Darcy Regier, the Buffalo GM, knocked on wood before speaking about the success of his team. We’ve all done this: you knock on wood to ward off bad luck. But have you ever wondered where the heck this expression came from?
The most fascinating thing about this and many other idioms in our culture is that it can become nearly impossible to track down their roots. Over time, they become lone cultural artifacts with no identifiable origin. In the case of the phrase “knock on wood”, the most likely origin is actually in ancient druidic beliefs. In particular, it was once believed that trees, specifically the Red Oak, were inhabited by spirits which could be invoked for protection by performing a ritual involving tapping upon the tree.
Incidentally, it turns out NPR has an episode of On Words covering this exact topic, as well as exploring the phrase “gesundheit” and briefly touching on the roots of the idiom “spitting image” (believe it or not, it’s actually rooted in old traditions of black magic).
As anyone who’s seen our house knows, our master bedroom was… well… a bit of a slum. Okay, not living-in-a-box slum, but still, not all that impressive given how nice our house is. Well all that has finally changed! Our new bedroom set has finally arrived!
It was a pretty damn close call, though… the armoire barely made it up our stairs, and the moving guys needed Devin’s and my help to do it. Heck, if we didn’t have the 9’ ceilings or the stub wall beside the staircase, we would have been totally hosed. But, lucky us, it all worked out! So we now have a brand new bed, armoire, mule chest, and two nightstands, all made of solid Alder.
Well, we’ve finally started moving on the deck front! I went to Cedar Village this morning, the shop owned by our unbelievably generous family friend Roy Crosty, and did a little bit of deck planning. I’m incredibly excited, as the end product looks absolutely fantastic:
As you can see, we’re planning a two-tier deck. This allows us to build a full-width deck while still preserving the basement window for an additional bedroom. And for those we haven’t told, it’s going to be built from cedar! So. Sweet. Not to mention fragrant! Anyway, the materials have been ordered, so now we’re awaiting delivery, which will likely occur some time in the middle of next week. Once that’s done, it’s deck-buildin’ time!
Of course, one can’t build a deck without some tools, so we headed to Rona and picked up a couple items, specifically:
- 12A 7 1/4” circular saw
- 18V cordless drill
- Level and other random bits
And all for just over $100! Yay for clearance items, and me being not terribly picky about my tools! I figure, in the long run, should they prove insufficient, I can always upgrade later.
Unsurprisingly, though, I’m now itching to play with my new tools! So, tomorrow I’ll probably scavange some wood from various scrap piles nearby and build me a couple saw horses. Once that’s done, I might even attempt to move up to a set of shelves (for the new tools ;)!
So the weather is looking pretty darn fine, right now, and tomorrow, in theory, it’s supposed to be 24 and a mix of sun and cloud. It seems like a great day to take off. And yet… I’m torn.
You see, on a day like today (or perhaps tomorrow), my idea of a perfect afternoon is as follows:
- Load up bike with book and blanket.
- Cycle to grocery store and acquire supplies for sandwiches (ham and swiss preferred), along with fruit and beverage.
- Go to local park, say Hermitage, find a nice tree, and bask.
- Eat lunch.
- Eventually go home.
That’s basically it. Quiet. Peaceful. A good book and some food. This is a perfect day for me.
The trouble is the weather. You see, a couple weeks ago I tried to execute this plan. I took a Friday off in anticipation of good weather, and was quite excited to get out and enjoy it. You can guess what actually happened. Cloudy. Dreary. Warm, but not fantastic. It was really quite a disappointment.
So the question is, do I tempt fate and try it again tomorrow? I really don’t know… I think I should, but I’m afraid of being disappointed again. Stupid Mother Nature… so fickle…
Well, believe it or not, I achieved all of my necessary goals from yesterday. The garden got staked out, the rhubarb made it into the ground (though slightly the worse for wear, I think…), and the composter is now assembled with a bed of twigs in the bottom, ready to accept it’s first household waste! Which doesn’t sound nearly as awesome when I write it out like that…
Anyway, the rhubarb was probably the biggest challenge. It was previously housed in an old tub that, I believe, was intended to be sunk into the ground and turned into a small pond (thanks, Mom… :). As a result, I had to dig around the outside edge and, eventually, man-handle the thing out of the container, damaging the root ball in the process (which had completely filled the tub, much to my surprise). Fortunately, this plant has already proved itself quite hardy (surviving an artificially induced drought last fall) so I hold out some hope that it will survive unscathed.
The only other tricky bit was deciding where to put the garden. The tree was, thanks to me, unfortunately placed last fall, due to a lack of complete understanding regarding the dimensions of our yard. As a result, I had to take Lenore’s suggestion and extend the garden in behind the tree, in order to use up that dead space… obviously shade-loving plants will need to grow there. You can see the layout in this photo:
In total, the back section is 4’x5’, and the front is 6’x19’, for a total of 134 square feet (I think… :). My goal was to make it possible to divide it up into 2 or 4 square foot sections, rather than doing long rows. We’ll see how that works out.
As if having the in-laws over on the weekend didn’t make things hectic enough, it was also Mother’s Day on Sunday (which is, in part, why the in-laws were here), and to top it off, I was actually feeling motivated and decided to get a bunch of TODO items off my list.
So, in between hanging out with the mother- and brother-in-law and joining my sister and mom for a nice brunch at The Manor Café (which is, BTW, an excellent restaurant… the brunch was really fantastic), I also:
- Got the push mower assembled and the front yard lawn cut.
- Rented a lawn roller and compressed the soil in the backyard and parging, after which I started staking out the garden area (though Lenore and I still need to discuss general positioning, etc ;).
And, as if that wasn’t enough, I also did a little bunny-cage-refactoring. You see, we have this giant, home-made bunny cage, depicted below (note, this is an old picture… the cage went through some other minor refactoring since this photo was taken):
Now, the first thing you might ask yourself is, why so big? Well, the plan was to have our two bunnies co-habitate eventually, but alas, that is not to be. So, until yesterday, Herbie, our smaller rabbit, was in the giant cage, and Chloe was in a rather small floor cage (since her Abscesses made it necessary to keep her cage really clean, a task more easily achieved in a smaller cage). This was doubly silly since Herbie never really used the upper floors, anyway.
But all that has changed! I decided this situation was downright silly (not to mention space inefficient) and modded the mansion, dividing it in half, thus creating two cages, one in the top half and one in the bottom, with Herbie remaining in the bottom, and Chloe now inhabiting the top. Photos to come once I get around to taking some.
Meanwhile, tonight the plan is to get the final garden position staked out, the compost started, and perhaps the unkillable Rhubarb in the ground. And if I still have time, maybe I’ll start planting the annuals that we bought on the weekend…
Here’s the image of the new cage layout. Images of the yardwork, still pending.
So, the text editor adventure continues. It’s funny, for a long time now coding has lost some of it’s fascination. This is probably at least in part because I’ve been doing it for… 12 years now. Jebus. Thus, I’ve found myself in a bit of a rut. But now I actually find myself looking for reasons to code, if anything to give me an excuse to further explore the power of Vim. Go figure.
‘course, the real question is, what do I work on with my shiny new editor? I could work on, like, work, but that seems wrong somehow. Work on my off-time? How is that a good idea? I could try to come up with a project of my own, but I’m largely tapped out for ideas right now. Or I could continue to try and hack away with POV-Ray… though I’m hardly artistically talented. It’s a bit of a quandry.
What I should really do is see if there’s a script for Vim to publish to a wiki. And should I be unable to find one, maybe I should try to hack one up myself! Hmm… I see a project brewing…
So, with the announcement of Vim 7.0, the ridiculously confusing ying to Emacs’ fat, bloated yang, I’ve decided to take a break from my traditional editor, Emacs, and give Vi another go (with the help of a VIM Reference Card).
Now, you might be asking yourself, “why oh why, dear god, would he do this to himself?!?” And, frankly, I have no good answer to that question. Toying with it, I have to admit that there seems to be a lot of power behind the incredibly esoteric Vi interface. To call it a programmers editor is an understatement… the various commands in Vi, together, compose a bewilderingly complex, difficult to understand programming language tailored specifically to interactive text editing. Moreover, the focus on the keyboard means less mouse use, resulting in less shoulder strain. And the fact that most of the commands are simple characters means no more Emacs-finger, due to reaching for the control key.
And all this power comes in a deceptively slim package. The editor starts up blindingly fast, which means it’s great for small edits or larger tasks, unlike Emacs, which I tend to start up and just leave running. And the fact that it’s terminal based (it doesn’t open up a separate window) means I can run it inside of GNU Screen comfortably, thus allowing me to migrate work to and from the office easily by detaching and reattaching screen sessions.
So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ve been spending my time hacking C code and writing POV-Ray scenes with it, and so far the experience has been positive. And I think there’s a certain zen to Vi commands that I’m slowly starting to grasp… an order in the chaos so to speak. And, hey, in reality, is ‘C-x C-s’ really that much easier than ‘
:w' (especially after mapping 'jj' to and ';' to ':')?
The company I work for hired a new sysadmin a while back by the name of Arkadi. He’s a Russian ex-pat (Siberian, to be precise) and made his way here ultimately through work. He’s a quiet fellow, but he has a fantastic sense of humour, and is a great guy to talk to once you get him going. Really, he’s the new Carl of the company… still waters, and all that. But there’s more to him than meets the eye.
You see, Arkadi has this dream. He wants to build himself a boat. A 40’ foot boat, made from steel, to be precise. And then he wants to sail around the world in it. But the incredible part is, he’s going for it. In his backyard. By himself. Now, that alone is incredibly admirable, I think. Honestly, how many of us have really considered pursuing our dreams with such dedication? But in order to achieve that goal, he needed to get an inexpensive house (building a boat ain’t cheap) with a large yard and neighbours that didn’t mind the sound of MIG welding, a combination of attributes that proved highly difficult to find in a home.
So, what was his solution? He and his wife bought a piece of land outside the city, and he proceeded to build his house. No, that wasn’t a mis-print, he built it. By himself (with a little help to get the walls raised). He and his wife even designed it from scratch. And all this without any prior experience in construction, just some background in creating plans thanks to his engineering degree.
Now I bet you’re curious what his house and boat look like, eh? Well, you can check out the websites for his completed house and in-progress boat by following the links below:
Frankly, his story is inspiring to me. He’s proof that anyone with the desire can achieve their goals if they’re willing to put in enough hard work. His achievements also make me realize how often I place artificial limits on my own capabilities. I just hope I can take a cue from Arkadi and push some of my own boundaries. Fortunately, I have some stepping stones in the form of a deck to build, a basement to finish and a garage to raise…
Hmm, apparently I’m in the mood for clichés… anyway, for those few (very few) readers I have, you might notice the name change for this site. Well, when I first created this site, it’s main purpose was to act as a place for me to host information about my various projects. As a result, I just picked the first lame-ass name that came to mind. But, as my site has grown, I quickly realized that a name change was inevitable. And that day has finally come.
But why “The ‘B’ Ark”? Well, my fellow Douglas Adams fans will recognize the name of that fateful ship launched from Golgafrincham, packed with its telephone sanitizers, marketing personelle, and other “undesirables”, which ultimately crashed on Earth and populated the planet with our forebearers. Thus, the name is a little nod to one of my very favourite authors (who died far too soon). It also seems appropriate that, had bloggers existed at the time Hitchhiker’s was written, they probably would have been included on the “B” Ark. And of course it seems hardly a coincidence that “B” is for blogger and “B” is for Brett! So multilayered…
Ostap Bender is an unemployed con artist living by his wits in postrevolutionary Soviet Russia. He joins forces with Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman who has returned to his hometown to find a cache of missing jewels which were hidden in some chairs that have been appropriated by the Soviet authorities. The search for the bejeweled chairs takes these unlikely heroes from the provinces to Moscow to the wilds of Soviet Georgia and the Trans-caucasus mountains; on their quest they encounter a wide variety of characters: from opportunistic Soviet bureaucrats to aging survivors of the prerevolutionary propertied classes, each one more selfish, venal, and ineffective than the one before.
Well, I finally finished reading The Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov… in a word, surprising. The translation from Russian to English is, to say the least, rough at times; I’m sure there are many Russian cultural jokes and references that I simply have no hope of understanding. But overall it was fairly entertaining, as long as you’re happy reading the odd passage with the knowledge that you’ll never really understand it’s meaning.
The story revolves around the two main characters, Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman, and Ostap Bender, who is essentially a crook. The setup is simple: just before Vorobyaninov’s mother-in-law dies she reveals that she has hidden a cache of jewels in one of her twelve dining room chairs, which has been taken by Soviet authorities. Vorobyaninov is then joined by Bender, and the two of them go on a cross-country search to find the chairs and recover the jewels. Along the way, in order to fund their journey, Bender comes up with some rather ridiculous schemes in order to con people out of their money.Continue reading...
So, I was browsing around on Men Who Knit, a community site for male knitters (yes, apparently there are enough of us that a dedicated website is warranted), when I came across a few posts that I absolutely had to share. Someone came across a publication called “Brunswick Mostly Male” and posted some pics from patterns therein. And trust me… the name fits:
I think the jumpsuit is my favourite. I gotta gets me one of those!
I’m writing this entry prematurely, mainly because I’d already written the one for today, and this story needs to be told. At least, IMHO.
Okay, so, first some background. Yesterday our DVD remote mysteriously stopped working (well, not mysteriously… it had been slowly failing for a while). I tried the obvious and replaced the batteries, but it made no difference. Conclusion: remote is fux0red. Then, today, for some reason, the cable box remote seems to no longer be working properly. WTF?? Lenore then points out that this seems to coincide with my network noodling (as earlier blogged), and so I start to get a little paranoid. Did I wire something wrong? Is there IR interference being generated?? Because, if so, that means heat source, and heat source equals bad.
So, I begin the investigation. First, I test the remote at various angles. Slowly, I discover that it will only work when I’m standing in a certain position. So I move my body, but maintain the remote position. Doesn’t work. Yup, definitely interference. To verify, I shift the position of the cable box, and then fire the remote straight at it. Works perfectly.
At this point, rather than doing the smart thing and further investigating, I decide to begin testing solutions. I disconnect my networking job. No help. I disconnect the telephone line. Still no help. I disconnect the laptop cable. I unplug my Palm recharger. Nothing. Now I start to get more paranoid. Is it the wiring in the walls?? In the hopes that it’s not, I start closing blinds on the main floor. Maybe external interference?? It seems unlikely, but you never know… but, still nothing.
Now things get desperate. I need to narrow down the interference (this after 20 or 30 minutes of frantic confusion)! So, I position my body further from the TV, and find the position where the remote starts working. Then I step further back, repeat. Then I duck down while pressing buttons on the remote. Stops working. Stand up. Starts working. Duck. Works. Stand doesn’t work. What the heck?!? I’m definitely blocking something! So I look behind me… what could it be?!? I check through the kitchen, but there’s nothing obvious there, either. I start pondering cutting holes in the walls.
And then, I glance at the dining room table, and I notice something seemingly innocuous: the busted DVD remote control is on the table. Facing the TV. With brand new batteries in it. So I decide to turn the remote around. And sure enough, the cable box remote works perfectly. At this point, I yanked the batteries out of the DVD remote in a rage and slammed them down on the table… and what’s Lenore doing? Giggling. Giggling! While I’m trying to save our house from burning down. Well, damnit, the next time you’re suffering from mysterious IR interference, you can just stuff it!
So, aside from the computer building debacle as reported earlier, I finally got around to one other major TODO I’ve had on my list some time, that being to get some household networking going and move the damn cable modem and firewall downstairs. Previously, the cable modem was in our bedroom, and we had a hacked up piece of cat5 running into the den, which was a substandard solution, to say the least, so I felt it was about damn time to do something about this.
The beauty of this situation is that in basically all new houses, they’re wiring up the telephones using cat5, which means 8 pairs of wires, rather than just the old two. This means that, at every telephone jack in a new house, there are two pairs in use, and six extra pairs just sitting there, begging to be wired up. Well, regular ol’ 10baseT, which is capable of doing 10 Mb/s (sufficient for my needs) only needs four pairs. So, using the telephone line already wired into the den, I was able to hook up 10baseT from the den straight to the basement without having to drop a single line. Sweet!
For those wondering how to do this, it’s simple. You need just a few pieces of equipment:
- A modular faceplate and two connectors, an RJ11 and an RJ45 (or two RJ45s, if you like).
- A blade screwdriver.
- A pair of wire cutters/strippers.
With these items, the process of wiring is a simple matter:
- Remove the old plate and disconnect the wires. The blue and blue/white wires should be the ones in use. Warning: the ring voltage on telephone lines is enough to give a nasty shock, so do your best to avoid touching both wires at the same time.
- Connect the original wires to the middle pins of the to-be-telephone connector. For an RJ45, that would be as follows:
- blue -> pin 4
- white/blue -> pin 5.
- Plug in the telephone and verify it works.
- Wire up the ethernet connector as follows:
- white/orange -> pin 1
- orange -> pin 2
- white/green -> pin 3
- green -> pin 6
That’s it! Well, not quite. Now you get to wire up the other end. If you head to the electrical panel in your basement, you should see the various telephone lines from the house congregate. It’s up to you to figure out which one corresponds to the jack you’re wiring. I just disconnected them until I disabled the phone line I was working on. :) Once you’ve found the line, take the unconnected wires (there should be six) and splice a piece of ethernet to the white/orange, orange, white/green, and green lines such that the wire colours match. This will create a straight-through connection that you can wire into a hub. If you want to create a cross-over (so that you can connect the panel end directly into a computer) wire the white/green to white/orange and green to orange.
There, that’s it! After this, I installed a cable splitter, moved my cable modem and firewall into the basement, and then ran a patch cable from the jack upstairs into my hub, and voila! Done! Good times…
For my next trick, I think I’ll pick up another hub at some point, put it in the basement, and then put in another modular jack where my cable is currently wired in and run ethernet to the hub, in preparation for some sort of video PC or hacked Xbox-type solution. Plus, hey, it’s good ol’ techy fun!