On today’s episode of How Stuff Works, I let the kids tear apart a couple of old broken hard drives I’ve been keeping in my Computer Junk Closet for way too long. They thought it was a great adventure, and they took to the task with relish. For a solid half-hour, they worked with the screwdrivers to unscrew everything they could find, and then I helped them open up the drives (one required some pretty serious leverage to pry open the case).

It’s fun to let them experiment on stuff like this. Originally I was just going to do it with Alex, sort of as a Guy Thing, but then Kyra wanted to be a part of it and when Zack saw what was going on he grabbed a screwdriver and dove into the action.

Ahh, the joys of How Stuff Works! Now I need to find some other broken-down electronics somewhere in the clutter…


I’m reading Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”, which is a first-hand account of a disastrous trip to Mount Everest. The book is very well-written, and certainly educational as it explains everything from the layout of the mountain to the religious habits of the indigent Sherpas.

But one message it conveys unmistakably– at least to me– is this: never, ever, under any circumstances go and climb Everest.

Krakauer’s descriptions of what high altitude does to the human body are sobering. Everything from persistent headaches to lungs filling with bloody fluid, from cracked skin that won’t heal to the inability to sleep for lack of oxygen, sends a clear message that people just aren’t meant to function at the same altitude that commercial airplanes fly.

Nonetheless, it’s good reading. I assured Laralee that I wouldn’t be aspiring to trek to Nepal any time soon.


In answer to a “contest” (okay, actually it was a dare) from my friend Bech, I did a little image processing work tonight– like I had nothing better to do or something– and came up with some classy shots involving my friend Derek.

Here’s a particularly good one, showing him as a boy-band cutie (he’s second from left, if you can’t discern my masterful image handiwork).


Whoa, here’s someone who must be a lot of fun on dates.


You know Zack’s tired when he falls asleep in the dining room chair…

… during dinner.


I just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s book “Crytonomicon”, which is widely considered a classic piece of fiction. I bought it for precisely that reason, and although I don’t think it was an absolutely fantastic book, it was– in a word– interesting.

It’s probably one of the longest single books I’ve ever read. It masses almost 1,200 pages of rather small type, and when I first picked it up I was daunted by that. (A book that long had better be worth the time to read it!)

Something sort of unusual happened while I was reading it: when I started, I was fairly unimpressed with it. I often told Laralee, “This is supposed to be a classic, but so far it’s pretty confusing / boring / slow”. As I continued to read, the various story lines started to come together, and by page 800 or so I was finally beginning to see the Big Picture of the plot.

Around page 1,000 things were a little more riveting, and by the last page I was satisfied that although it wasn’t spectacular, it had been worthwhile. I suppose in a way it was like the movie “The Sixth Sense”, which Laralee and I repeatedly thought we should stop watching… but we gritted our teeth and got to the end, which made us really glad we’d stuck with it. I suppose sometimes the ending can be worth the arduous journey.


And there was much rejoicing.

After a couple abortive attempts to set up spam blocking and virus checking on my mail server, I finally succeeded last night. No more irritating “Is this your document?” attachments, whee!

Although I’ve been filtering spam locally, it’s somewhat annoying because I have to download the message and then drop it into my ‘Spam’ mailbox if it looks like a live one. Now, the server takes care of that for me– it just trashes the message, and I never see it here.

Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t get any more spam at all, because I had to keep the filters somewhat lenient so I don’t inadvertently delete false positives for my clients. But it’s sure nice not to have a hundred “known” spam messages a day flowing into my mailbox…


Looks like it might be one of those days… I logged in this morning and had a couple of e-mail messages waiting:


I had a lot of fun skiing last weekend with my old college friends Sarah “Sweet Thang” Hummel and Brad “Bo Brad” Shores… the only problem was I neglected to put on some sunscreen, and there was nary a cloud in the sky and I was up around 10,000 feet most of the day.

Thus, afterward I was pretty toasted. And a day later I looked like a raccoon with leprosy– the area around my eyes was white (sunglasses) and the rest of my face was peeling nicely.

Note to self…


For the last three days I’ve been troubleshooting some internet connection problems between users in Europe (England and the Netherlands, specifically) and my servers. These guys were having real troubles because they couldn’t get to web sites, e-mail, or other things they needed… and I had no idea why.

While each user had consistent problems, between their two countries the issues were slightly different. I logged into servers in Amsterdam to try to figure things out; the guy in England asked buddies in the area to see if they had the same issues. We spun our wheels for hours (and the time zone difference made it even more interesting) and simply couldn’t figure out what was happening. The worst part was there wasn’t any pattern to it, so we didn’t know where to begin fixing it.

In the end, a few helpful people on the local Linux user’s group suggested some things to try, and I figured out that the problem was in a network router somewhere near Chicago. Apparently the trans-Atlantic connection hopped from London through New York and into Chicago, where it stopped dead. But connections to other addresses on my server did go through– after being routed around Chicago.

It’s all part of the vast globe-spanning network we call the internet, and let me tell you it’s a frustrating and hair-pulling experience to troubleshoot something that turns out to not even be your fault while users across the ocean are getting equally frustrated because they can’t do what they need to do.

So about an hour ago, the company that controls that router either figured out they were horking traffic, and either just switched it off and re-routed traffic around it, or finally fixed the problem. Everything magically started to work, and my European friends are happy again.

These computer thingies are sure complicated sometimes…


Today is one of those days where it’s really hard to get motivated to work. It’s sunny, clear, and almost seventy degrees outside. I went to play ultimate for an hour or so, and despite the fact that the field had just been aerated (in other words, there were about ten billion plugs of dirt that were vicious to my bare feet) it was a great day to play. We had a seven-on-seven game– which is almost unprecendented except on nice fall days. After getting home and showering, it was time to settle in and get down to the old grind.

But then I went outside and sat in the backyard with Zack for a bit, got a snack together, and somehow managed to blow a good half-hour putzing around before coming back down to the office.

Ah, the joy (and suffering) of working at home…


Will the madness never end?

Over the past year we dumped what seemed like half a billion dollars into house projects. We began with the basement refinish and extended into the installation of a lawn, garden, and various other improvements peppered throughout the inside and outside of the house. After all was said and done, we brushed off our hands, nodded in a satisfactory way, and said, “Okay, we’re finished.”

But the reality– as any veteran homeowner will tell you– is that house projects are never truly finished.

This year we planned to put in a couple of trees and perhaps a few lilac bushes or whatever. No big deal, and something we had anticipated anyway. But then Laralee pointed out that we’ve got a weird little storage area behind our basement steps. It’s unusable space right now, and quite an interesting little construction quirk, but the addition of a simple door on the basement landing would transform it into a little 5×5′ closet.

We could always use more storage space, since the builders were so kind to give us a lame half-dug-out crawlspace. This little closet area would be ideal for some biggish items that won’t fit in the crawlspace, garage, or our tiny storage area behind the furnace. So it makes a lot of sense to put in that pesky door.

Of course we’ll drop five hundred clams on it (it’s only a door, for crying out loud!) and then we’ll realize we need something else. And on, and on…

Oh, the horror.