Thanks for the helpful billing notice, CenturyLink!

I guess it’s a good thing I’m on auto-pay, because I’m not sure how much $myAmtDue would be.

Come on, CenturyLink, get it together…

Laralee just sent me this:

I found the house key down the crack by the dryer and I found a King Soopers gift card in the shoebox on the dryer that has $58.52 on it. Woo hoo!

Not only did she find the house key we lost months ago, but now we’re rich, too!

I’m sitting down to start working on my seminary lesson, and decided to have a bowl of Cheetos. You know, to get the creative juices flowing. So I tore open the new bag and poured myself a bunch.

Of course it’s a scientific fact that the best Cheetos are the fresh Cheetos, right out of a new bag. I’m sure these will help me prepare a great lesson.

Zaque had a full-time job working as a camp assistant at the YMCA over the summer. He made good money, and as a result he was flush with cash for those few months. After tucking half of his income into a savings account (Mom and Dad are such killjoys, right?), he was free to spend the remainder on whatever he wanted. It turns out what he wanted was video games, video game add-ons, computer hardware for video games, and the occasional bag of Hot Cheetos or Takis.

As the summer came to an end and the camp wound down, we told Zaque he was welcome to get another job– perhaps at the YMCA– if he wanted to continue spending money at that rate. He chose not to, and the school year started. Not surprisingly, the financial well quickly ran dry. He was still going out to lunch with friends, and after a bit of questioning we learned that his friends had been supporting him. I told him it’s not cool to be a mooch, and he needed to either figure out how to pay his own way, or stop going out to lunch with friends.

Clearly there’s only one choice there, so he shopped around for another job and landed one at Get Air. It’s a trampoline park in town, and they needed some responsible teens with gymnastics or trampoline experience. Zaque had the experience, and apparently in the interview he managed to convey some semblance of responsibility, so they hired him.

He’s been there for a little over a month now, and he seems to enjoy it. Before his first day, he had to watch nearly forty training videos on YouTube, and answer some questions about them. They were the usual things about how to administer first aid, how to be a good example, and presumably how to set bones that break after crazy accidents on the trampolines. My favorite safety video, though, was the one about Foam Pit Extraction.

A Foam Pit Extraction is apparently what happens when a kid launches off a trampoline and lands in the foam pit, but can’t get back out for whatever reason (most likely broken bones). So now, every day after he comes home from work, I ask him if he did any Foam Pit Extractions. To date, he hasn’t.

Also, I think Foam Pit Extraction would be a great name for a band.

Last night, Zaque was heading out to a friend’s house. He ran into the garage, hit the door opener button with his elbow, climbed into the car, and slammed it into reverse.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t noticed that when he hit the garage door opener button, the door didn’t actually open. Needless to say, the car didn’t get very far.

This is what it looks like in daylight:

I admit I’m a little puzzled about this:

Although the track isn’t damaged, and the wheel and axle aren’t damaged, somehow the wheel ended up outside the track. I’m not sure how that’s going to get fixed. So, for the time being, our car is trapped in the garage until I can get someone out to the house to fix this.

I did tell Zaque the bad news: incidents like this have consequences. We’re going to make fun of him backing into the garage door for many, many years.

It was seven years ago that we bought a gigantic block of chocolate and made some Christmas candies. The remainder has been sitting in the basement all these years, even after using some of it two years ago. Today I decided to use the rest.

I peeled a hundred or so caramels, warmed the chocolate over the stove, and went to work.

The end result wasn’t pretty…

… but hey, who cares how they look? They’re chocolate and caramel!

About 18 years ago, I built a full Linux system from scratch. I downloaded source code, compiled everything, created a set of custom scripts and management tools, and called it Jinux (for “Jeff’s Linux”).

At its height, Jinux powered over a hundred servers at BitRelay and a few client offices. It worked fabulously, and had far fewer packages (and thus potential vulnerabilities) than the commercial Linux distributions. I used it for my main desktop and laptop systems, running KDE3 for years and years.

Everything has been going swimmingly, but to be honest, it’s become tiresome to keep track of package updates and security patches and whatnot, and continue to apply them to my Jinux distribution by recompiling and reinstalling things. It’s just one of those things that takes time and, while interesting, probably isn’t a good use of that time. I know Linux inside and out, and have well over two decades of experience with it, so I don’t feel like it’s necessary to continue digging into its guts.

And thus I finally decided to walk away from it. I wiped my Jinux systems and installed Ubuntu. But KDE has evolved quite a bit since version 3 (which dates back to the late 90’s), and I found that several of the key software tools I used no longer worked well. Most importantly, email was a hot mess because the latest versions of KDE are based on a search platform called Akonadi. After considerable experimentation, I was reminded why I hate Akonadi with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, and I decided to migrate all of my email out of KMail (which I love) into Thunderbird (which is decent, but not nearly as good as KMail). The migration was a little painful, but it worked. For about a week I used a sort of Frankenstein mix of KDE, Thunderbird, and other applications, but I grew increasingly frustrated because things didn’t work quite the way they did in good ol’ Jinux.

I messed around with Mint Linux for a day, and looked at some other desktop environments, but realized that KDE3 continues to be my favorite by far, and it’s just rock-solid. So I wiped my Ubuntu systems and rebuilt them with Trinity, which is a repackaged version of KDE3 for the many people in the world who, like me, prefer that old version over the shiny new one.

Again, some configuration magic had to happen, and I migrated some things, but I finally reached a point where my systems were happily running Ubuntu and KDE3. Now I don’t need to worry about software updates, or compiling code, or tracking down dependencies. Life will be marginally simpler… although I’m a little sad to bid farewell to my home-grown Linux systems that have served me so well for nearly two decades.

Hey, at least it’s not Windows…

The Dominion Gang continues to grow. This morning I connected with Dirk, Derek, and Morgan for a few online games of Dominion. We all jumped on Hangouts and had a great time playing, and of course heckling each other.

With Hangouts, I was able to see Derek laughing diabolically…

Morgan enjoying himself as he took the lead…

And Dirk standing up to show off his dance skills by “flossing”…

All in all, it was a fun morning with old friends.

Well, it’s official: the roofing truck stopped by today and stacked a bunch of shingles on the top of our house.

Now we look like all the other houses in the neighborhood, ready to have a new roof installed. After the Great Hailstorm of mid-September, pretty much everyone is having their houses upgraded. Of course, our roof is 16 years old and was doubtless getting pretty worn anyway, so the hailstorm was a convenient way to get the insurance company to cover the bulk of the replacement. They even included allowances to repaint part of the house and fence due to hail damage, so by next spring everything will be all fresh. Thanks, hail!

Last night I came home from work around 6:00, picked up the mail from the mailbox, and went up to the front porch. Imagine my surprise when I saw my Amazon package:

I’d purchased a pair of Levi’s, which you can see covered in snow on the lower step. The box is torn open.

My first thought was “Gee, thanks Mr. Mail Delivery Person!” I suspected the mail carrier had just thrown the box at the front porch, and upon impact it had burst open and flung the jeans out. But that doesn’t really make sense with the positions of both. (Physics!)

The mystery deepened when I brought it inside and noticed there was blood dripped all over it. It’s not clear in the photo, but the box had a bunch of blood on the open side, and there was more blood on the plastic bag encasing the jeans. You might say, “Come on, Jeff, it was probably just… raspberry jam or something”. But Laralee dripped some hydrogen peroxide on it, and it fizzed and bubbled… just like blood would do. (As a test, we put some H2O2 on jam, ketchup, etc. and none of them reacted in the same way. So we’re pretty sure it was blood.)

Then I checked the USPS web site and discovered (according to the tracking number) that the package had been delivered the night before. It was sitting on our front porch for around 24 hours before I found it. If the blood had been on the box when the mail carrier left it, surely it would’ve been dried and black. But no, it was definitely fresh, wet, red blood. Maybe an animal? We have a lot of rabbits and squirrels around the neighborhood. But there weren’t any animal tracks in the surrounding snow.

I find the whole thing completely mysterious. Laralee says she was “pretty freaked out” by the whole thing, and intends to call the Postal Service to get to the bottom of it. But honestly, I can’t think of what they might possibly tell her that would explain all this. In fact, I can’t even come up with a plausible story. (For example, a squirrel was digging at the box for some reason, then a hawk swooped down and grabbed him, spraying blood? Because yeah, that’s realistic.)

La says we should get one of those porch cameras. Normally I’d shrug that off, but heck, in this case I’m definitely interested to see what happened.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft continues to whirl around Jupiter, snapping photos that are absolutely amazing. Here’s the latest they published:

Juno was orbiting around 7,000km above the clouds when it took this particular photo. You can even see some detail in the clouds. The large white oval in the top left corner is an enormous cyclone.

Here’s one from May, showing more of the beautiful clouds on the giant planet.

Although we can’t see anything below the clouds (which are likely hundreds or thousands of kilometers deep), they’re fascinating and mysterious. Another reason to love science.

For lunch today, I reheated a piece of homemade pizza from last night. Of course I used the toaster oven, since the microwave leaves it soggy.

Imagine my surprise when the smoke alarm went off, and I looked into the toaster oven to see flames!

This photo doesn’t really do it justice– most of the oven was on fire, and only when I got most of it out did I snap a photo with my phone.

The result: wood-fired pizza! Not the plan, but hey.

Yesterday I saw a little rubber brush sitting on the kitchen countertop:

It’s about 1×2″. I asked Laralee what the heck it was. It’s a mushroom brush. Yeah, really. When we make pizza on the weekends, she likes mushrooms on hers, so she slices whole mushrooms and apparently felt like she was missing a way to lightly remove some of the dust from them before slicing. Enter the mushroom brush.

Who knew there was such a thing? And isn’t it marvelous that we live in a world where such things exist to bring joy to my wife?

(My follow-up question to her was whether we’re going to pack that away when we shut down the house and move next year…)

“You sell one kidney and you’re a hero.

You sell three kidneys and you’re put on a watch list.”

Dominion is my favorite board game (well, card game), and with Kyra off on a mission, I don’t have a worthy opponent to play against. Luckily at Gen Con, Dirk caught the bug and decided he loves Dominion as much as I do. Unfortunately we live 800 miles apart, so we can’t get together often.

Enter Dominion Online, which is a web-based version of Dominion that does a great job with the game mechanics. Of course it’s not quite like playing face-to-face over a table, but it’s about as close as you can get. So Dirk and I have been spending a few Saturday mornings here and there playing against one another.

Today we connected via Google Hangouts (after trying Discord, which had horrible echo problems), so I was able to see his thoughtful expression as he considered what to play.

(He admits his webcam is terrible, which is why he looks all blurry.) It’s fun to taunt one another during the games, or scream occasionally at a really good– or really bad– turn. Both of us have sons who spend time in video game chats where they do exactly that.

Unfortunately I can no longer crush Dirk in every game. The padawan has learned much from the master, and now we’re more evenly matched. That’s more fun anyway. I should point out, however, that in the worldwide Dominion rankings, I’m in 6,364th (level 43 player, whatever that means) place while Dirk languishes back in 13,170th place and level 39…

This year for Halloween, I was stumped. I couldn’t think of a great costume, and since I love dressing up, it was kind of unnerving. I toyed with the idea of being Han Solo, but I’m blond. I thought about being Death, but don’t have a scythe (and they don’t sell them on Amazon). And I re-considered being Kevin Flynn of Tron fame, but the costume simply becomes too expensive when you put together all the glowing LED strips.

In the end, I decided to do a reprise of the Dread Pirate Roberts costume from four years ago. I still have all the goods, so it was easy to bring it together.

In a stunning coincidence, one of the teenagers in seminary also dressed up as the Dread Pirate!

I say “stunning” because I’ve found that most teens not only don’t recognize my costume (which I think is a pretty good likeness), but don’t even know who the character is. They’ve never seen The Princess Bride, or they’ve forgotten it. Even adults tend to mistake me for Zorro, which is inexcusable since Zorro always wears a hat.

Zaque grabbed a bedsheet and a couple of pillowcases, and masqueraded as a disciple. Here he is with Jesus:

Continuing tradition, my fellow seminary teachers and I all came to class in costume. Lyle was a pioneer farmer, and Jodi was an identity thief (get it? she’s clever with those puns).