Thursday, December 2, 2010

Corrupt Database Adventures

Ever notice how a “quick question” can turn into a major project? A coworker IM’d me earlier today with a “quick question” asking whether I knew how to get a database out of Emergency Mode.

Uh oh…

She then reassured me that it was a DEV box and not production. Whew! That meant that we didn’t have to worry about losing important customer data and at worst we could restore from back up without too much pain. I decided to investigate since it’s not often that one gets to fiddle with a genuinely corrupt database that’s not critical to the bottom line.

I did a quick web search and found an article by Paul Randal that talked about the last resorts that people try first with a corrupted database. It mentioned that one thing people try is rebuilding the transaction log  using  DBCC REBUILD_LOG. I tried it, but it’s not a valid DBCC command for SQL 2005 (in fact, if I’d read a few more paragraphs in Paul’s article BEFORE trying it, I would’ve seen him mention that very fact – that should teach me the folly of skimming articles).

The next item mentioned was to perform a DBCC CHECKDB using the REPAIR_ALLOW_DATA_LOSS setting. What better time to try this than when you have a broken dev box to play with? Take a deep breath and see what happens.

DBCC CHECKDB (testdb, repair_allow_data_loss) WITH NO_INFOMSGS;

The results said:

Msg 605, Level 12, State 3, Line 1

Attempt to fetch logical page (1:2576) in database 5 failed. It belongs to allocation unit 72057594060406784 not to 281474980642816.

Msg 8921, Level 16, State 1, Line 1

Check terminated. A failure was detected while collecting facts. Possibly tempdb out of space or a system table is inconsistent. Check previous errors.

That didn’t sound promising.I tweeted #sqlhelp quoting the text of the Msg 605 to see if anyone else had any suggestions. Meanwhile, I searched for other possible tricks to try.

One posting I found on a SQL newsgroup (forgot which one and can’t find it again) stated that Msg 605 indicates a physical drive failure. I didn’t verify that, but since the dev box had been troublesome for quite some time, it didn’t sound too inaccurate.

Meanwhile, I got some suggestions from #sqlhelp to try DBCC DBREINDEX and DBCC CHECKTABLE on all the indexes and tables. I snagged a script from SQLServerCentral that loops through every table and performs a DBCC DBREINDEX on all indexes. Lots of black text scrolled through in the results pane, interspersed with some shocks of red. The red means something was wrong – but at least the black text following the red text indicated that things were repaired.

I then ran the DBCC CHECKTABLE using the same script as above to loop through all tables. It crunched through the tables happily for about 75% of the database, then it stopped with an error:

Msg 211, Level 23, State 51, Line 13

Possible schema corruption. Run DBCC CHECKCATALOG

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet. An “Improvement”? No. I ran DBCC CHECKCATALOG as suggested. It completed successfully. THAT seemed promising. I tried rerunning

DBCC CHECKDB (testdb, repair_allow_data_loss) WITH NO_INFOMSGS;

Same results. One more time with gusto – this time I noticed that I’d lost the SQL connection. Reconnect, retry, and it disconnected before completing the command. The server had degraded sufficiently that there certainly was no hope of resuscitating it, so I logged off. A short while later, I received a message stating that they’d located the backup image of the dev box and were ready to rebuild it.

Although I spent several hours working on this, it was a great learning experience for me – most importantly, I learned that if DBCC CHECKDB can’t repair it, then likely you’re best off restoring the database from backup.

Before you find yourself in a situation with a corrupt database, take a look at Paul Randal’s “CHECKDB from Every Angle: Emergency Mode Repair”, which is an update to his article mentioned above. I wish I’d found that one first, but one uses the tools that the search engines return. Actually, the better choice would be to simply read through Paul Randal’s “Corruption” Category in his blog – this is the ever-growing set of articles that he’s written about database corruption. I’m going to spend a lot of time reading through those posts, and you should, too. It’ll certainly make you life easier when someone asks you a “quick question” on how do you fix a database in Emergency mode. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Un-SQL Friday 001: Branding - What's Your Brand?

In answer to MidnightDBA's  challenge for Un-SQL Friday 001, I humbly submit this simple post.

For some of us, Brand is all-important. In the case of corporations, Brand is vital becuase it implies a certain amount of trust and loyalty. Companies work very hard to protect their brands from genericization - how many of us call facial tissues "Kleenex" despite the fact that there are many other manufacturers of little folded rectangles that function as disposable hankies? We also see a vast amount of brand-loyalty - "I only wear <brand-x>* jeans because they are the only ones that fit right" (I happen to disagree - <brand-y>* fits MY figure better).

Certain individuals are also fighting to establish or maintain their "Brand". I'll point you to Brent Ozar, who frequently talks about how he is striving to make and maintain his "brand". I suppose part of that is why people like me keep coming back to his blog. Well, that and the various articles like "Plagarism Week: Finding the Slimy Slimeballs" where his discusses his latest experience with having his content plagarized (for additional fun, browse through his archive of plagarism articles. There will be a quiz later).

Other bloggers I frequently read - they're listed in the sidebar on the right - all have their own "brands" in that each is a blog I turn to for a specific reason be it entertainment, or excellent information on SQL server specifics.

So what is my "Brand"? I'm not sure. I know I'm working on building it. I feel a little like General Mills which has brands for various products. I have a brand for the me who is a costumer that attends various Science Fiction and Anime conventions; for the me who is a family memeber; and another for the me who works as a database professional. Each "me" has her own specialties and few are mixed together.

I first really noticed my "Brand" (for the Costumer) at a Anime & Gaming mini-convention just before Halloween. I'd neglected to bring a costume, having completely forgotten that there was going to be a costume competition. I did, however, bring a bag full of fabric because I was planning to spend the day cutting out some shirts and pants that I'd recently drafted the patterns for. While I was finishing up gluing together the patterns, I noticed they were having a costume competition, and about 10 contestants were left (they'd had about 40 and were moving through the line one at a time). I dumped out the rolls of fabric I brought, pondered a moment, then draped myself a quick Greek-style toga-ish costume. Arming myself with scissors, a spare piece of fabric and my tape measure, I hopped to the back of the line, which by that time had gotten down to 5 contestants (yup, 5 minute assembly there). When it came my turn, I presented myself as "Glitzlandia, Goddess of Costuming". I walked up to one of the judges and attempted to drape the fabric around her amidst laughter and giggling from the audience.

After all that silliness, I was awarded the "Best Use of Materials" prize.

As I picked up my prize, one of the judges commented that although the costume was very creative and looked very nice, it wasn't up to my "usual" standards. I laughed and informed him that not only did I spend merely 5 minutes assembling it, but I hadn't even looked at myself in the mirror and had no idea what it looked like.

So, my "Brand" at Science Fiction Conventions / Anime Conventions is "Costumer who makes really great costumes" (or something like that). Yey. I can live with that one.

I'm still working on building my "Brand" in the SQL server commmunity. I'm not really known yet as the one who knows <cool SQL thing that no one else is expert at>, but someday I will be know that way. Right now, I think the SQL Server Community thinks of me as that DBA who can sew. Maybe that's enough for now, but it certainly isn't helping my salary any.

In case you were wondering, my goats are not branded; yet everyone who lives near me know who they are and who they belong to. Of course, it helps that there aren't all that many goats in my neighborhood besides mine.
 
*brand names removed just becase this is an illustration and not an actual statement.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reflections on SQL PASS Summit 2010

Attending Orycon immediately following SQL PASS Summit was not exactly the best thing for me to do especially since I managed to lose my voice part way though SQL PASS and still haven’t managed to fully recover from the damage despite taking both Monday and today as vacation days from work.
SQL PASS Summit was very educational, and I wish I had the time to personally document all that I learned. However, thanks to my bout with illness, I do not have the time to write all that I should. Fortunately for the rest of us, many SQL PASS Summit attendees already blogged about the highlights and they write much more coherently than I do.
Here is a brief list of the live blogging of SQL PASS Summit events, classes, keynotes and suchlike (in the order I stumbled upon them, rather than in any order of priority or importance)
Various neat things were announced at SQL PASS Summit, including
  • New path to obtaining the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) certification for SQL Server 2008.
    • Brent Ozar wrote a summary of the changes for those who want a quick bulleted list of the changes rather than the full program description.
    •  Paul Randal and Glen Berry also blogged on the MCM announcement.
    • Many posted the all-important link to the MCM readiness videos, which is required viewing for all MCM candidates.
  • SQL Server Denali Community Technology Preview was released, and all attendees received a CD containing SQL Server Denali CTP1. Brent Ozar was one of the first to post a blog about Denali and its high availability features.
  • SQL Server Tools code named “Juneau” – SSMS BI functionality now available in BIDs.
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse
  • Microsoft “Atlanta” (online service providing proactive alerts for SQL server 2008+). Official site here. Brent Ozar expresses his concerns about Atlanta in a blog he posted within minutes of Atlanta being announced (fast blogger!).
  • Project Crescent – web-based reporting tool
Random photos from SQL PASS Summit 2010. Generally speaking, the photos were taken outside the hours of the classes at social events because we ALL were actually paying attention to the speakers rather than snapping photos. The following are photo albums posted by various attendees.
Wednesday was SQLKilt day. Many of the male attendees showed up wearing kilts in support of the PASS WIT (Women In Technology):
Stuff from other evening happenings
SQL Karaoke:
I got to sit next to Brent Ozar in a panel at SQL Pass. He snapped my picture as I was trying to peek into his birthday gift bag:
LadyRuna(hyperlink to original of photo)  He tagged it “Celebrity  Sighting at #sqlpass and tweeted my photo to everyone. I guess I’m a Celebrity now. Wowza.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Girls Need Good Mentors

Although frequently in elementary schools, girls are ahead of the boys in math, Why is it that by the time they go to junior high school or high school so many girls shy away from or even declare they hate math? I suspect that to some degree what pushes them away from mathematics is what I'd call "bad role models". That is, they meet various older women who are anxious about math and they copy the behavior of those women.

Who are these role models? Females in their family and teachers. Most elementary school teachers are female - in fact, in the elementary school I attended, the only male teacher there was the gym teacher (this may have changed over the years.). Just for fun, I googled something similar to "Gender profile of teachers" and got back a number of interesting articles. One from Florida was a 2003 report showing approx 90% female elementary and approx 60% female secondary teachers. Boston.com talked about Massachusetts schools becoming desperate to recruit male teachers to provide role models for boys since so few men teach these days.

I also found a report that backed up my theory about female teachers passing math anxieties on to their female students. The report also stated that for some reason the boys were not influenced by the math-phobic teachers)

How did my interest in math and science survive the bad influence of the math-phobic teachers / role models? I was fortunate that both my parents were math / science teachers and they continuously reinforced not only the value of knowing math and science but also the fun (can you say "home chemistry experiments"?) of it all.

What can we do for those who don't have good math/science female role models in their lives? What else can we do to help influence the young girls to encourage them to pursue technical professions? Where are the highly technical females hiding?

One good place to not only find strong female role models but also something that appeals to youngsters is in Japanese Anime. Unlike American cartoons - where the smart and competent characters are portrayed using negative stereotypes -- thick glasses, ugly, terrible in sports -- Anime heroines are beautiful and amazingly competent in everything from sports to music to academics. Best of all, they are astoundingly competent with computers.

Here's a brief list of anime with strong female leads (character name when I can think of it in parens) :
  • Serial Experimanets Lain (Lain)
  • Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuustu (Nagato Yuki)
  • Rideback
  • Mission E (*not* the 1st series, 'Code E,' but the second series called "Mission E")
  • Black Lagoon (Revy)
  • Ghost in the Shell (Kusanagi Motoko)
  • Pumpkin Scissors (Alice)
(I’ll add more as I think of them. )
I’d also recommend David Weber’s Honor Harrington series as something for young ladies to read in their spare time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Alice Costume (from “Alice: Madness Returns” Game)

I just completed sewing the Alice costume I need for various events:

  • I’m Alice in Orycon’s Opening Ceremonies skit “Alice in Oryconland”
  • I’m Alice at the Greater Portland Area Costumer’s Guild Orycon Party where the theme is “Alice in Slumberland”
  • Halloween

I chose to do the Alice from the “Alice: Madness Returns” game because I had sufficient leftover fabric in appropriate colors to make it. (we will NOT discuss the size of my stash. The fabric reproduces on its own – REALLY).

Front and Back Pictures. I digitized and embroidered the symbols on the apron. The skull was a $1.19 decoration I found at a grocery store.

018 019

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Win2K Book Purse

Given that I have advertised myself as both a SQL Server person and a seamstress, I think it’s about time that I show the project I most recently completed.
 SAM_0208This purse was made using scrap upholstery fabrics and the cover of “Inside Microsoft Windows 2000, Third Edition,” which has served its purpose and is now destined to live its second life as a purse.
The idea of making a purse from a book is not my original idea – I met a lady at an American Sewing Guild (ASG) meeting who had one. The instructions for making your own book purse can quickly be found using a simple web search, so I won’t bother looking up the link.
The main changes I made to the “standard” version of theSAM_0203 purse are:
  • I didn’t measure anything with a ruler – I simply wrapped the fabric around the book pages and pinned it to fit, then sewed it together
  • The clasp is one of those turn-buckle clasps that you attach by putting a hole through the book cover where you want it to be.
  • The strap leading to the clasp and the outer side gussets were made from leftover raincoat fabric.
  • I glued it together using Aleene’s Tacky Glue (craft glue), stuffed the soon to be discarded pages inside, placed it on the floor and covered it with a large tote bag full of books (I think the full tote bag weighs about 40 pounds) while waiting for the glue to dry.
SAM_0201
I plan to bring this to SQL PASS Summit. It may become a door prize for one of the WIT presentations if they decide that it’s “worthy”.
* Note: I will leave the CD from the book inside the purse as a “bonus gift”. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

SQL Pass Chalk Talk

In Mid-November, I’ll be debuting at my first professional presentation at the SQL PASS Summit in Seattle, WA. During the last SQL PASS  Women In Technology (WIT) Virtual Chapter meeting (we meet monthly via telephone), Meredith Ryan-Smith asked for volunteers to be panelists with her at the Chalk Talk she would be leading. I volunteered hoping that I would have some useful tidbits to contribute to the 40-minute session entitled "Energizing the Next Generation: Encouraging and Inspiring Young Women to Choose Tech Careers,”  which is scheduled for Noon on Tuesday 9 November.

If you look at the statistics from recent years, fewer women are choosing technical careers than ever before. We’re hoping that through this Chalk Talk, we can steer more women toward choosing technical careers.

As the date of the SQL PASS Summit approaches, I’ll be posting some of my thoughts on this topic, so stay tuned!

Lady Runa dressed as Ada Lovelace

Lady Runa dressed as Ada Lovelace, a lovely lady who was also one of the first computer programmers.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Working from Home Two Days a Week

A big huzzah to my company. In the interest of being green, saving the planet, or making employees happy, Management has decided that they will allow all employees to sign up to work from home up to two days a week. They even let us pick the days – since traffic is worst at the end of the week, I picked Thursdays and Fridays. Of course when picking those days I completely forgot that everything is craziest on those two days, so I wind up working during the time I would normally have spent commuting.
There are several advantages of working from home:
  • When work time starts you instantly beam from home to “work'”
  • When work time is over *poof* you’re home.
  • If you forget something on the kitchen table, it’s a quick dash across the house to get it.
  • Lunch can be something NOT cold and NOT microwaved
  • You can catch up on undone housework at lunchtime
  • Your second monitor can be a 43” television – perfect for those WebEx conferences
  • All calls can be on speakerphone so you don’t hurt your neck holding the phone to your ear
  • You can finish getting dressed while the computer boots up and logs onto the company network
  • The dress code is whatever you feel like putting on
  • If someone wants to talk to you, they have to call – which means you only have to listen to one conversation at a time.
  • You know exactly whose germs are on the things in the bathroom and in the kitchen.
  • No one hovers near your desk expecting you to pause what you’re doing to answer their “quick question” (which always turns into an hour long discussion and a major issue)
  • Lunchtime goat therapy sessions
  • Since your wireless is “in range” all over your property, you can work outside when the weather is nice
  • Nobody can accidentally take your lunch
  • The microwave doesn’t contain “mystery splatters”
  • The fridge is NOT scary
  • You can sleep minutes longer in the morning
  • You don't have to waste a vacation day sitting at home awaiting the repair man - you can work while your house is being fixed.
Unfortunately, working from home is not all fun and happiness. There are some disadvantages, too:
  • EVERYONE is constantly IM’ing you and they get mad when you don’t respond instantly (because you’re answering someone else’s questions at the moment or are on the phone or lost that window under the ten other IM conversations you currently have going)
  • They get mad that they can’t talk to you because you’re already on phone with someone else
  • Undone housework haunts you – you see and sometimes smell the mess that you should’ve cleaned earlier
  • If you want to talk to someone you can’t just hover near their cubicle door until they notice you – when telecommuting, you have to call them and hope they aren’t screening your calls
  • You always have to make the coffee
  • If you spill something on the floor, you actually have to clean it up yourself rather than “let the janitor do it”.
  • Bird droppings on the keyboard when working outside under a tree (note to self: ALWAYS check what is above you before sitting down outside)
  • People call you outside of work hours asking you to “do a few little things” since you can easily connect to the office
  • The VPN connection times out in the middle of meetings or the internet has a hiccup when you’re helping a customer
  • Your spouse expects that you’ll have time to run errands, shop for food, and prepare dinner in all your “spare” time because you aren’t driving a half hour each way
  • Collaboration among people is a bit more challenging since every group gathering requires a conference call
All in all, I think the advantages of telecommuting outweigh the disadvantages. I don’t think I’ll give it up just yet. Anyone have other commentary on telecommuting?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Annual Closet Clean Out Day

Every year in early autumn I purge my closet to remove the items I no longer wear. I started this system several years ago when I read about a method that helps you keep track of which items you actually wear, and which ones you don’t touch at all. I did refine the system slightly from its original version, and I believe I’ve been successful in reducing closet (and dresser) clutter.
The original system is quite simple. It works best to start at the beginning of a season – I picked Fall because that’s when I first learned about the system, but you can start at any time.
  • For each item hung on a coat hanger, reverse the hanger so that the hook points out instead of into the closet.
  • Switch the hanger back to normal (with hook pointing into closet) as you wear (and launder) each item. This way, in a very short time, you will clearly see which items are your favorites – they’re the first to have the hangers turned – and which are items you tend to avoid.
  • At the end of a year cycle, any items still hanging on a reversed hanger are candidates for purging.
Since I have a fair amount of clothing folded on shelves and in my dresser, I added a method for tracking the use of those folded items –  a safety pin stuck through the washing instructions tag – which is easily removed just before wearing the item.
At the end of each season, I evaluate the items marked for potential purging by checking which ones still have safety pins in their tags or hang on reversed hangers. I then evaluate the purge candidates using a few simple rules:
  • If the item is clearly one that is specific to a different season (I’m certainly NOT going to wear a turtleneck sweater in summer), it is not considered for purging – yet.
  • Specialty items such as interview jackets, formal gowns and the like are evaluated as to whether or not they are still considered stylish and worth hanging onto.
  • For the rest of the purge candidates, I ask myself why I didn’t wear it. Was the weather this past season ever appropriate for it? Does it actually fit? Do I like it? And finally,can it be restyled into something that I would wear?
This past weekend, I purged about a dozen tops and dresses that I refused to wear because I didn’t like the color, styling or fit. Four other items that were marked for purging escaped this season’s purge because I recognized that I could alter them to make them work for me – two dresses were shortened to knee length (they originally fell to an unflattering length in the middle of my calf), a too-short mini-dress was shortened to t-shirt length and taken in at the sides to provide some shaping, and a t-shirt was chopped down from oversized XXL to a nice baby-doll style.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vacation is NOT Work Time

I’m taking two days off work to sew (wait, why I am blogging instead of sewing?) and to “use up” vacation time because my boss reminded me that working without an occasional break for vacation is unhealthy. Thus, my two “mental health” days are for me to stay away from the office and do anything except work.

So far, I’ve succeeded in that. My work computer is sitting in its bag in the closet and I’ve only used my blackberry once – to call my husband because he couldn’t find HIS blackberry. I did peek at the emails that had popped in overnight, but I did my best to ignore them. Vacation is a time to PLAY, not to WORK. If you take your work along while vacationing, then you aren’t actually on vacation, you’re working remotely.

Technically, one could state that I am “working” right now even though I’m not currently doing the work that my company pays me to do. That is, my job requires me to use a computer all day, so technically speaking I’m “working” rather than “playing”. Of course, the only way I could officially stay away from any computer all day would be for me to break out my antique Singer sewing machine (Model 60 made in 1949) and use that to sew. My Bernina 830e, Pfaff Creative Vision, and Janome 10001 are all “sewing computers” that can be connected to our home network or to other computers.

Also, if I were to avoid my home laptop, I wouldn’t be able to use my pattern drafting software to create and print out new patterns to sew nor would I be able to search through my 50,000+ embroidery designs to pick just the right ones for my latest projects. These are, of course, simply excuses. I have several patterns already printed, cut and waiting to be sewn.

A very wise person once defined a “good” vacation as one that was fun enough that you forget your passwords when you return to work and a “great” vacation as one that was fantastic enough that you forget where you work and what you do. I don’t think a 4-day weekend of sewing will get me to “great” vacation mode, but I did write my password on a post-it note that I pinned to my work bag just in case this short break turned out to be great.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What a Difference 17 years makes

Our dryer finally gave up the ghost about 2 weeks ago. Since both the washer and dryer were over 17 years old, we decided that fixing the dryer wouldn’t be worthwhile in the long run and that having a new dryer with an old washer was a bit silly. So we bit the bullet and picked out a shiny new Maytag High Efficiency washer and dryer set in white – funky colored appliances look more like toys than real machines.
Since about 3 days following the death of our dryer, I have had the urge to dye a few items to colors that were more agreeable to me. Of course, without a dryer, dyeing fabric is out of the question – the dryer is what sets the dye, so if it’s not heat-set, the dye will escape from the item you wanted to be that color and stick to items that you didn’t want to be that color – skin included. Not fun when you use green or blue dye (wait – Avatar skin? more like Smurf skin… Never mind).
Saturday morning, just prior to the scheduled delivery of the new set and removal of the old set, I mentioned to hubby that I really wanted to dye this set of items and showed him the dye packet. He Spocked an eyebrow at me, apparently thinking that I was planning to break in the new appliances by staining them with dye. I pointed out that the old washer was perfectly functional, but I would need to use the new dryer to set the dyes – and they wouldn’t stain the dryer (I hope!!) He looked a bit unimpressed.
The old washer finished the dye job just as the delivery truck arrived, and I quickly stashed the wet, newly dyed items into the utility sink to (partially) hide them.
During installation, we discovered the source of the “smell” that we’d noticed in the basement a few months ago – a bird had gotten into the dryer vent hose and died near the entrance to the dryer. The installer told us that we were supposed to clean the dryer hose at least once a year. Really??? The moment he pulled the hose off the old dryer was the first time it had been detached since the day we first brought it home. Oops. At least the bird was simply “cooked” rather than burned.
Nearly two hours later, the new machines were in place. I heard a merry little tune sound twice and assumed that was the delivery man’s cell phone, and was impressed that he ignored it since so many people these days instantly answer their cell phones regardless of where they are or what they’re doing. I then noticed that he tapped the power button on the dryer and the little tune sounded again. How cute – the new machine has its own startup song. I’ll have to find out how to hack the washer to change the tune to something more interesting. Will the washer “blue screen” on me? It’s a Maytag…right? I don’t think Maytag’s OS is Windows…maybe we should have kept the old one.
So what’s changed in the 17 years since our old Maytag machines came out and these new ones? Aside from the obvious change from totally mechanical to computerized?
  • More temperature combinations – in addition to cold/cold, warm/cold, and hot/cold, we have cool/cold and warm/warm. What’s with “cool”? I guess that’s similar to warm, but more like water temp when the hot water heater is nearly out of hot water
  • Little reservoirs for detergent, bleach, “Oxi” (whatever THAT is) and Fabric softener. The old one just had a reservoir for bleach – and you dumped detergent in before filling and adding clothing
  • No agitator – well, actually there is a little hump in the middle, but not the tall thing that we’re used to.
  • 5.0 cubic ft space – big enough to actually wash two pillows or a king size comforter. SWEET. We never could wash the comforter or pillows before because they wouldn’t fit. Guess what items I washed FIRST? Pillows! (as an aside, I noted that hubby’s snoring decreased AND my allergies abated significantly. Co-incidence? Probably not)
  • A “cycle is finished” signal on both washer and dryer. The beep sounds very much like a typical pager – I’ve got to find the hack for the sound files, because we have too many devices that beep like that.
  • Clear glass doors for both appliances. We can watch the machine do its job. Yes, we watched the pillows being washed. They fluffed up like marshmallows in a microwave part way through the spin cycle then flattened out into blobs.
  • “Warp three” sound when the spin cycle engages. (Yes, the first time hubby heard the machine go into spin cycle he shouted, “warp factor three!”). Oh, and it fiddles with the spin rate to force the load to balance before it goes to “warp three”. No more kerthunk kerthunk noise from the washer because this one automatically balances the load. You can also tell it what the maximum spin speed (warp factor) allowed is.
  • A light in the dryer. Our old dryer had black internal drum and because the laundry room’s lighting has always been bad, I usually had to run my hand around inside the dryer to confirm that I’d found everything that had to be removed. With the bright light and white dryer drum, I can see every last sock that’s hiding in the dryer.
Oh, and a note to my friend W.S., wife of home inspection man: you can rest easy – the new dryer hose is a metal one and the dead bird from the old plastic hose has been buried.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Annual Bath Day for the Goats

The mercury crept up into the mid-90s today, making it the hottest day of the year so far. Following a tradition that I started when we adopted our first herd of goats, I declared it Caprine bath day – the day when the goats take their annual bath, whether or not (in their opinion)  they need it. Clad in a bathing suit and rubber boots, I armed myself with the hose and a bottle of shampoo and headed down to the barn.
The first “volunteer” was Planchet, a two-year old Alpine pack goat who has mastered the art of butting the other goats into the fence to test the strength of the electric shocks of the fence wire. He’s always looking for a way to escape, and I swear I caught him reading “Goat of Fortune” magazine one afternoon. As soon as the cold hose water hit him, he leaned toward me and started drinking from the stream. He wasn’t too thrilled about the soap, but later I realized that was probably only because I put the hose down to apply it. Planchet didn’t seem to be too excited about going back into the barn, but I did have 4 other goats to bathe, so too bad for him.
Athos, the last of our original herd and an ancient (for goats) 14 years old, was next in line for the treatment. He’s mellowed out over the years and has learned that the less fuss and complaining he does, the quicker the bath. He grabbed a leafy snack on the way to the shower area and chewed on it while I washed him.
Grimmaud, Planchet’s half-brother, was next. Unlike Planchet, Grimmaud clearly does not believe in baths and he did his best to run away by winding the leash around the pole until he was stuck. He complained and leaned away while I scrubbed him and he refused to even attempt to drink from the hose. When I returned him to the barn, and called for the next volunteer, Planchet trotted over and tried to slip through the gate, apparently thinking that it was his turn again.
I finally snagged Wladyclaw, a yearling Oberhasli, and brought him over to the shower area. Wladyclaw seemed to enjoy the cooling power of the cold water, but he wasn’t quite as excited about it as Planchet had been. He also kept twisting his head back to sniff at the shampoo. Apparently, he wasn’t too keen on the scent – I suppose he’s got some idea of what a goat ought to smell like and shampoo isn’t it.
Miklos, Wladyclaw’s brother, was scheduled for the final shower. He did have to nudge aside Planchet because Planchet was trying to sneak out for a second turn under the hose. Miklos is another goat who believes that he doesn’t need a shower and he clearly hates having the cold water spray on or near his tail. Every time I aimed the hose toward his back end, he’d hunker down as if he were going to sit like a dog (goats don’t “sit” – they either stand or lie down). He eagerly ran back to the barn as soon as I released him. I’m not sure if he was simply enthusiastic about the concept of getting dinner, or that he really was trying to escape from the hose. Regardless, it’s going to be almost a year before he has to have another bath and I’m sure he’s thankful for that.

Yelling at the computer

I should know by now that yelling at my computer doesn't help the situation, although it does make me feel better.

Last night I was fighting with Windows Live - apparently it wanted to validate my email address, but insisted that it validate the one associated to my Windows Live ID, which is a defunct email address. I'd created the ID years ago and never found a way to correct the email address, but since the ID provided the access I needed, I didn't worry about it.

Unfortunately Windows Live Blogging DOES care whether the email is valid, and if your cookies are cleared, it'll suddenly insist that you validate your email address - without providing the option of corrrecting said email address. On top of that, every time the page refreshed, it would ask me about 10 times if I want activeX or a script to run.

That's when I started yelling a the computer - if I'm returning to a page I was just on and I already said that it was OK to run ActiveX or a particular script then don't ask me again about it, just run it. After about two hours of fighting with Windows Live and IE's incessant popups, I gave up. It may have won the battle, but I was determined to win the war.

This morning, I logged onto Windows Live using a more obediant Windows XP computer (I suspect that this one behaves better because I have the Hosts file tuned to alias most advertising / annoyance URLs to 127.0.0.1), and magically stumbled upon the page I was seeking, namely the one that allowed me to change my Windows Live ID email address from defunct email address to a current email address and to kill that blog once and for all.  All that without the incessant "do you want me to run this script?" popups or the yelling. There was a small amount of evil laughter, followed by "Die! Die! Die!", but I digress. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday Evening Randomness

I am slowly discovering the new features and quirks of Windows 7. I’ve noticed that if I accidentally bump the mouse button while attempting to move a window near the top of the screen, it will decide that what I meant to do was ask it to maximize the window. No, I just want to move the window a bit to the right so I can see something else that’s partially obscured by the current window. Please restore the window to its previous size and let me get on with my fiddling. Thanks.


I’m still getting used to the Windows 7 concept of “libraries”. I’m not sure whether or not I actually like them. I always get a little twitchy when the system attempts to file things for me automatically. I will organize my stuff the way I want it and I don't want to feel like there are multiple copies of the same item strewn about my hard drive. Yes, I have room for duplicates, but I don't want them unless I make them myself.
Another Windows 7 idiosyncrasy that gets to me, though perhaps there’s some logical explanation for it, is the fact that there is now both a “C:\Program Files” and “C:\Program Files (x86)” directory. I can only surmise that it is because one of those directories holds the 64-bit items and the other holds the 32-bit items, and Windows 7 was designed to use a different set of DLLs to work with each type. Why this can’t be accomplished in a single directory is beyond me, but I suppose someone thought it would be sensible to divide the applications up like that. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing to the time when 32-bit programs are no longer going to be supported, and the legacy applications directory will simply be removed in an electronic sweep. For some reason this brings to mind my dusty collection of 5.25” disks.

Earlier Tuesday evening, I discovered the games menu and found myself playing Galapago, a puzzle game in which you switch a pair of tiles to make a row or column of 3 or more tiles of the same design to make them disappear. It’s strangely addictive. The pictures on the tile are cute renditions of various little bugs and lizards one can find on the Galapagos Islands. I seriously doubt that the blue glowing lizard that when matched as a set of three will blast away the complete row or column of tiles with a electric bolt is a real critter – but if it is, there’s one more “must miss vacation spot” on my list.

To top off my week, Tuesday's mission to complete the laundry hit an unpleasant and potentially expensive obstacle: the dryer is dead. I checked the circuit breaker – even flipped the switch back and forth a few times to be certain it’s set to “on” – and fiddled with the dryer’s plug. It is not resting. It is definitely deceased. It has gone to meet its maker. It is an ex-dryer. (with apologies to Monty Python)

Two crows on wires = new laptop

Funny how things turn out – thanks to two crows who decided to “complete the circuit” last Friday morning causing a power outage (and power surge) that managed to murder one of our old computers, my husband decided that we should purchase a new laptop for me and that he would take my old laptop and use that to replace the now deceased machine. So early Saturday morning, we headed over to Best Buy to purchase a new laptop for me, totally unaware of what would actually happen. I compared all of the machines available and settled on a Toshiba Satellite with four Intel Core i7 processors and NVIDIA display – a machine optimized for video processing and gaming.

He got that sparkly look in his eye and said, “THIS would be great for making AMVs.”

“Yes, “ I replied, “but we’re shopping for a laptop for ME.”

“But look at this, and this, and THIS – it’s PERFECT for making AMVs and it can handle playing those 60 frame/second videos and…” blah blah blah blah AMV blah blah blah Video performance blah blah blah blah blah blah….

“Ok, so I guess that means YOU are getting a new laptop and I’m stuck with the dying antique,” I said.

“No! I want to get a new laptop for you!” he replied.

“You’re not going to use my new machine, you know,” I warned.

“But….it’s….” he stammered.

A lightbulb in my head turned on. “Let’s get two of them – one for me and one for you.” I suggested.

He blinked several times. I could see the thought processes running as his face showed several expressions. He opened the checkbook and thumbed through it. Various numbers and calculations floated in the air above his head. “You sure?” he asked.

“You are NOT using MY laptop, so you have to get your own. We can put stickers on them to identify whose is whose,” I replied.

He nodded and grabbed the salesperson.

That afternoon, we came home with a matched pair of shiny new laptops that desperately needed names. I chose Chiyo-chan because the only stickers I was able to dig up were from a set of Azumanga Daiyo stickers that we had stuffed into the back cover of a notebook.

Unblocking blocked files

I recently stumbled across a somewhat frustrating feature of Windows 10. With the intent of protecting users from viruses and other malware,...