Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive...

I got an invite today in the mail from the HR department at work. It is an RSVP to attend the annual "Service Awards" banquet. For us office workers, it means that we have been employed by the RTA for a number of years evenly divisible by five.

This is my fifth year of working at the RTA. I have to say that it is the best job I have ever had. The strangest thing is that I kinda asked for it.

I used to work downtown for a law firm as their IT manager. I handled all the day to day maintenance of the servers, computers, phone system and the like. I even did more mundane things like court running, serving papers, refilling the copier, processing the mail and all that jazz.

While I worked there, I noticed a lot of activity at a building across the street from the building I worked in. Someone had bought the old, decrepit building and was doing a complete refurb on it. I didn't know who was doing it, but they were doing a great job of it.

I went to lunch one day with an attorney friend and on the way back to the office, we passed by the building on Third Street. We had to stop at a traffic light and I was able to get a pretty good look into the second floor window. A second floor room with lots of server cabinets.

I immediately thought to myself, "Boy, I'd like to work in a place like that. Lots of infrastructure to take care of."

Within a matter of weeks, I was contacted by a guy from a company who was desperate to get someone that knew Windows networking to maintain a couple of companies. His current guy left to pursue other interests. I was desperate to get out from under 'Frank'*. So, we hooked up, I got hired and went to work with the clients that he was desperate to service.

One of the clients was a company south of town that was owned by a Japanese conglomerate. They made glue for the auto industry and there were a lot of Japanese personnel there. This is where I picked up a few choice naughty Japanese words and first came into contact with the Japanese version of Windows.

The second company was the RTA.

Strangely enough, the RTA is the company that bought the downtown building that was being refurbished and the company that had the server cabinets on the second floor!

I have actually worked for the RTA for six years: one year as a part-time contractor working for the now defunct company I left the law firm for and five as a real, live employee.

After the company went under, my current boss immediately hired me in to be a permanent employee in the position I was working in anyhow.

So, I guess I asked for it.

My boss says that he only expects five years of work out of a person. Well, I'm not ready to leave. Sure, I have looked around to see what is out there and what the prevailing wages are and compare that to the pittance I make now. But, I have it pretty good where I am. We have great insurance, a great retirement plan, the salary isn't bad and me and Chris get away with absolute murder. Plus, my boss is pretty great, too. Ah, who am I kidding...I'm too lazy to look for another job!

I will never forget the first time I met my current boss those six years ago. He had planned a little verbal quiz to test my skills. He is a skeptic, which is great really, and doesn't necessarily trust everything any salesman says to him. In the case of my former boss from the now defunct company, this was wise.

He asked me if I knew what a RAID was.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. A way of protecting data on a set of hard drives by using more than one, either striping the data across them or mirroring.

After I gave him the five-minute explanation, he had no more questions for me. :) I guess he must have been satisfied with my answer.

I'm just glad to be out from under 'Frank'*.

* When you think of 'Frank', envision Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. Then you will understand.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


A person on a board I'm on asked what my home network was like. So, here it is...

Fig. 1: Network Rack

This is my network rack where all the network connection in my house land.

On the left side is the electrical box that my dad and I installed when we rewired the house.

On the right side is the coaxial connections for (top to bottom) DVB Satellite for free-to-air weird international programming, a splitter for over-the-air TV reception and a splitter for DirecTV satellite. Just slightly to the left of that is a "66-block" for telephone connections.

In the rack, from top to bottom are a Cisco 2924XL fast ethernet switch with a fiber-optic interface. Below that is the patch panel where all the network connections go. They are then patched in with "shorties" to the switch.

Below that is my router. It is a Cisco 3640 multi-slot router. In it I have a network module that has an ADSL adapter to interface to my DSL service, a fiber optic network module and a VPN concentrator module for encryption acceleration (for when I enable VPN connections back into my network, one of these days). Below that is a computer running linux and Asterisk which serves as my phone switch, receiving incoming and processing outgoing calls and is the signaling server for my Cisco IP phones.

The router connects to the switch by a fiber optic cable.

The router runs Cisco IOS 12.3 for IP networking, with active firewall, software. I have the firewall heavily restricted so pretty much nothing gets through except that which I want. It also features active packet scanning to check for and reject garbage and malformed packets.

Up and to the right, the gray box is a Cisco 1231g wireless access point. I have an antenna on the roof pointing to my parents' house, so they can get on the net, and an antenna in the ceiling in my hallway for my needs.

I have business-class DSL service with a block of 8 fixed IP addresses, and connect at 6 megabits down, 608 kilobits up. This is, unfortunately, the fastest DSL available right now.

So much for progress.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Loony Eclipse 2008

For those that didn't know, or didn't care, the ancient dragons were out and about devouring natural satellites of small, blue, backward planets. This is to punish us for evils such as "The View", reality TV, gas-guzzling SUVs, North Korea, the fur industry, artificial sweeteners that cause cancer in rats, cigarettes, government "by the people" and hard water.

There was a great, total, lunar eclipse on February 20th visible to us in the US starting after 9 pm that evening. At the behest of my father, I took some pictures with my decent digital older Sony DSC-W1, five megapixel outfit. It is a nice camera but only a 3x optical zoom. I'm coming from an SLR background and have lots of lenses and bodies from Minolta, so if I were smart I would have gotten some film out of the fridge and my tripod and did some long-time exposures...but I am apparently not that bright. Point-and-shoot cameras don't really do it for me, but I got it cheap and tax free on a trip to New Hampshire.

If I was even smarter than that, I would have bought a new Sony digital SLR body to go with all my Minolta lenses (Sony bought Minolta's DSLR business back in, like, 2006...Yay!). But I bought a fancy-schmancy tankless water heater instead. I guess we have to have priorities. I like taking hot showers.

So I apologize in advance for the crappy pictures...

Fig. 1: An attempted long-time exposure. 15s at f2.8, 22mm. 9:52 pm ET.

In the image above, the moon was about half-covered. The right was bright as normal, the left a very dark gray. The green-black mass on the left is a pine tree in my front yard, the streak on the right is an amateur radio antenna, a vertical for the 6-meter band, at my parent's house. It isn't too bad of an image...way underexposed...but you can only do so much with a point-and-shoot, and I was holding it at the time.

Fig. 2: About 1/3 covered, 9:20 pm ET

I took the pictures at the maximum optical zoom (3x). Digital zoom would have just made the image crappier. They really aren't too awful bad. I ramped up the quality to fine and 5 megapixels. The resulting images were pretty big, 2592px x 1944px and 1.7Mb in size. The camera takes JPEGs.

Fig. 3: About 1/2 covered, 9:43 pm ET.

I took a number of shots each time I went out hoping that at least one of the group would be decent. I didn't linger outside since it was about 18°! Brrr!

Fig. 4: About 3/4 covered, 9:53 pm ET.

As the moon continued to enter the shadow, it began to take on a definite reddish hue. It is too bad you can't see it in the images. I'm going to have to get a decent telescope and a real digital SLR so I can get good images of things like this.

Fig. 5: Nearing totality, 9:59 pm ET.

The closer to totality it got, the redder it became. It was an unusual and beautiful sight.

Fig. 6: Totality, at least as close as it went for me. 10:16 pm ET.

I whittled the images down to 640px x 480px to get them down to a reasonable size, and centered the moon. The rest of the image was black anyway.

It must have not agreed with the dragons, because it is back out there tonight.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

White Trees

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the pictures...

It was really, really cold this morning. On our internal webpage at work, I have an applet that I wrote to display the current weather. Here is what it had to say...

Fig. 1: 3 degrees of Dayton's weather

My house this morning was nice and warm. I can't wait to get my next gas bill. I am still working on the designs for a device so I can use my father as my gas supply. Getting rid of Vectren would be a dream come true!

Anyhow, as I was driving to work, I saw a most beautiful sight. All the trees were covered in frost and had turned white. With the sun shining on them, they were stunning. I had to stop and take a couple of pictures with my crappy camera phone to share with you...

Fig. 2: White trees at Wright-Patt AFB, Area B

Fig. 3: Kauffman Avenue at Ohio 444

Again, I apologize for the crappy pictures. Camera phones are shit. My friend Dot is loves to take pictures and always carries a good digital camera with her everywhere. Perhaps this is not a bad idea.

Spring, however, cannot come too soon for my taste.

Afternoon Update:
It is now 19 degrees in Dayton proper at 4:25 pm. I wore my heavy gloves this morning at my desk. My fingers felt as if they would break off they were so cold. This is, really, the only part of me that gets chilled. It is aggravating as all get out! What is even worse is the TIPS of my fingers, last joint to the end, will be extremely cold. The doctors view this as being due to my weight loss and now normal blood pressure.

It is really amusing to try to write with thick gloves on. I attempted and failed miserably to write up a purchase order today in this manner. It is, also, quite impossible to type! Thankfully, this afternoon my fingers are warm.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cancer, Part VI: Major Update

First off, let me say that I am now down to 200 lbs. That makes 96 lbs lost so far. I feel great! Other than still having few clothes that fit.

In other news, I had a doctor's appointment today with my E, N & T doctor to go over the results of the Contrast CT that I had last Thursday. He examined me, looked over everything from my ears to my throat. Then gave me copies of the reports from the radiologist.


The pictures indicated there were no abnormalities visible that were of concern. Therefore, as Dr. S put it, "no weird surgeries for you!" LOLz!

Mother is taking me out to dinner tonight to celebrate. I go back in three months to see the doctors for the next round of checkups. It is kind of annoying, though, since my insurance changed and now my co-pays are higher. Thankfully, I won't have to go as often now that everything is under control. I expect the phone to start ringing off the hook any second now, since mother is probably spreading the news far and wide.

So, this may be the last of the cancer postings. That is unless someone has a question or wants more details about something that I would be willing to provide.

This, though, won't be my last posting in the blog. I just have to think of more things to write about...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snowy Weather

The weather people stated that we were doomed today. We were supposed to have gotten 5 or so inches of snow.

I woke up today at 3:30 am with some mild heartburn from the Diclofenac, an anti-inflamatory, I am taking for my jaw pain. I took some stomach pills, and upon doing this, I walked out to the living room and looked out the window and saw the weather.

There was a 1/4" of snow.

When the radio came on at 6:30 am, they were listing the 227 school closures for the day.

At 6:30 am, there was about 1/2" of snow.

I got ready for work and went out to the car and brushed it off, and left for work uneventfully. This was until I got to the end of my street. Just before the end of my street, there is another street that intersects it. On this street was an idiot in a 4x4 SUV intentionally gunning the engine and slip-sliding side-to-side down the small hill. This dingleberry hardly stopped at the end of the street, and then proceeded to do the same thing after I passed going to the traffic light. Thankfully, I turn right because this duckfart was turning left. I dared him to hit me because I would like to see how quickly his insurance company would come strong with a new BMW.

For the most part, the vast majority of people were driving with some care and common sense. I saw no accidents or wipe outs on the way to work, which is customary for any snowy days of 1/4" or more.

I can forgive people that don't know how to drive in bad weather. They will learn in short order at the first couple of snowfalls. I can also somewhat forgive people that feel invincible in their huge SUVs and drive like they normally would on a clean, clear day. But some idiot hooning his SUV with oversize tires all over a narrow city side street is inexcusable. This person should be executed for the good of mankind.

We've been getting freezing rain for the whole of today, and more snow tonight. I've been in the dungeon at work for most of the day and have yet to check out the road status. It has been said that it is getting more slick as time goes on...perhaps I will take surface streets home today...

This just in, right now, this second:
It must be getting really bad out because they are shutting down Lexis-Nexis* in Miamisburg and Springfield for the day. They rarely do this...oh, woe is us!

* Chris' wifey works at LexNex, so we get lots of juicy inside details. Though their grapevine is not nearly as good as the one here at RTA...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cancer, Part V: Minor Update

I had a doctor's appointment today with Dr. M2. You might remember him as the "medical oncologist", the one responsible for my chemotherapy treatments.

This was just a short follow-up to go over the PET scan results again, and go over the information that he received from my E, N & T doctor, Dr. S. Dr. S has me scheduled for a contrast CT coming up next week, which I am not looking forward to. The contrast injection burns from the inside out. I cannot stress this enough...burns from the inside out!

Let me restate this for clarity's sake...BURNS FROM THE INSIDE OUT!

For you Star Trek fans, you might remember the Next Generation episode "The Most Toys". This is one of my very favorite episodes. In it, a shady black-market-smuggler-used-car-dealer type person just happens to have enough of a certain chemical to counteract the poisoning of the water supply on a planet. In retrieving said chemical, Data's shuttle blows up. The intrepid crew thinks he is dead, but the "proprietor" of the chemical Kivas Fajo...invented this elaborate ruse in order to add Mr. Data to his collection of unique, one-of-a-kind items.

Another one of the unique items Kivas has is called a Varon-T disruptor, a weapon banned by most of the civilized universe. Kivas has four of the five made, of course. This weapon is painfully and relatively slowly dissolves the body from the inside out. In the end, he uses it on his consort, Varria, for her disobedience in helping Data try to escape.

This is what the contrast media feels like as it courses through your veins. You can feel the heat...or at least the perception of heat...building up inside your body as if a fire has started inside you. The expect you to lay still on the CT's tray while they put you through the doughnut and the imager whizzes around, all while you are on fire. It is not painful in a sense, but totally and freakishly unusual, unpleasant and uncomfortable.

In other news, I am still losing weight, though slowly. I am now down to 205. That means a loss of 93 pounds so far. So, there have been some benefits to all of this. My blood pressure is down, too, since the time before cancer...or "B.C.". My BP was in the 140/90 range...borderline worrisome. My BP today...even after the aggravation at work...was 127/72. Pretty good, that! Another benefit!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Nothing to Say

I don't have anything to say in this blog entry. I've been really busy with a number of really annoying things at work and have been really aggravated by my boss because of a number of nit-picky little stupid problems and the micromanagement of a number of my projects.

Last week Chris played the movie "Hostel" on his laptop for some background noise while working. He, unfortunately, called me over to watch some of the more "choice" parts.

What an incredibly disturbing and disgusting movie.

If you have not seen this movie, good. Don't. It is about a number of young adults that travel to the former eastern bloc and stay at inexpensive hostels. These people are seduced, drugged and taken to a strange post-apocalypse-looking industrial building. Here they are brutally mutilated and killed. They are killed by people who have paid to kill. Generic Europeans are $10,000, Russians are $15,000 and Americans are $25,000. I won't go into too much detail, but one of the group manages to escape, gets revenge by killing his "owner" and, eventually, the evil seductresses, and leaves by train.

Movies such as this don't really bother me. At least they didn't used to bother me. Perhaps it was just this movie. It disturbed me to the core. I had nightmares about it for a few nights afterward. Very creepy and nasty, that.

Chris really used to love movies from the horror genre, especially horribly unpleasant movies such as "Hostel". He has, however, (in his own words) "become a puss" since having kids. He also favored apocalypse-types movies like "Dawn of the Dead" but they now no longer hold any appeal to him. This, as near as we can figure, is due to the "no hope" factor. Now that he has kids, he cannot fathom them not being able to grow up happy and healthy with hope for a good future. It's funny how having kids can change a person.

Generally when I am working (or trying to) I will put on my iPod and listen to some music. Depending on what I am doing, I can get into a pretty good groove and manage to get something done. That is, unless the phone starts ringing. And it does. A lot. With the usual stupid problems.

Anyhow, I cannot wait for the weekend. I have made sure that I won't be available for anyone but myself. I have some nagging projects to work on here at home, rearranging furniture, some much needed cleaning and the like. I also have a bunch of stuff to list on eBay to try to reclaim some space in my house!