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, 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.

Power BI: M Query Basics (Part 2)

This is the second part of my series on Power BI M Query Basics. In Part 1 , I defined M Query and talked about the structure of how an M Qu...