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Bill Roper's Journal
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17th-Jan-2019 11:21 pm - Counting Down
Trying to get ready to leave for Confusion in the morning. Gaining on it.

The van is not packed, but at least I have counted the basement inventory.

And discovered that we have not counted *any* of the songbooks.

Ah, well. That's a short count.
16th-Jan-2019 11:06 pm - Expiration Dates
I came downstairs for dinner tonight and Gretchen let me know that the bag of Donkey Chips, a local brand of tortilla chips that we are fond of, was off. I took a sniff and the chips were definitely rancid. I couldn't find the expiration date on the package, but I had just bought them yesterday at Mariano's and -- since we needed fill-in groceries for tomorrow morning -- I went over after dinner, offending bag of chips in hand.

The fellow at the service desk managed to find the expiration date, which was 1-9-19. Now, normally you would expect that this wouldn't be a problem -- it's really just a best by date, not a completely inedible by date. But something had gone badly wrong with these chips. He agreed to exchange them, so I went by the display rack.

All of the chips in front were from the same 1-9-19 lot. But there were some May-dated chips at the back of the rack. I grabbed those, brought them home, and they were pronounced good.

I let the fellow know that there were a *lot* of expired chips on the display. I am guessing that they will be gone soon...
15th-Jan-2019 09:19 pm - Overstressed
This was one of those days where you just start to wonder if anything that you do matters.

Tomorrow should be better.
14th-Jan-2019 01:15 pm - Postscript
And a brief postscript to yesterday's Adventure On Ice:

I eventually wandered upstairs to get ready for bed and, as I was removing items from my pockets, discovered that my wedding ring -- which is usually in my left shirt pocket -- wasn't there. Oops.

One of the details that I didn't mention about the fall was that after I landed on the ice, the first thing I did was to pat my left shirt pocket looking for my cellphone which -- by odd coincidence -- had not been there. In fact, it had slid down into the sleeve of my jacket and lodged there. I had Katie help me peel back the jacket until she could retrieve the phone. (And this was a good thing, because during softball practice, I had tucked the phone into my left front pants pocket where it would be safer. Of course, when I fell onto that pocket, it was no longer the safer place.)

But I hadn't thought to check for my ring.

So I grabbed my wallet and keys and headed out to look for the missing ring. (Gretchen told me that I didn't need to bother, because she would love me anyway, but I really would prefer not to lose the ring, given an option. I also figured that the chances of the ring being there in the relatively dark and empty parking lot last night were good; the chances of it being there after sunrise would start dropping quickly.)

I drove to the spot where I had fallen and easily spotted the ring in my headlights. I *carefully* got out of the car, stepped over the patch of black ice, retrieved the ring, and got safely back in the car and drove home.
13th-Jan-2019 09:58 pm - That Could Have Been *Much* Worse
So we got a couple of inches of snow across last night in our neighborhood. But it was clear and sunny today, so the girls and I pulled out the shovels and cleared the driveway and the sidewalks so that things could thaw in the sunshine. And it was good.

Much later in the afternoon, Katie and I went to the pitching clinic that her softball league is running. It was the second session and progress is being made. The session wrapped up as the rec center was closing, so the parking lot was pretty empty as we were walking across it.

As I approached the car, Katie was busily angling for ice cream and I was giving in.

When I hit the patch of black ice with my right foot.

And I felt the ligaments in my left knee start to complain.

It was almost exactly 12 years ago when I slipped on a patch of black ice in my driveway and destroyed two ligaments in my left knee. There was a momentary sense of deja vu.

And then I managed to do the *right* thing.

I let my left knee collapse and I fell down.

Fortunately, some of our friends were *also* just leaving the pitching clinic. They came by, bringing along an empty five gallon bucket from the clinic session which I was able to use to help me get up, once I moved away from the patch of ice.

And I am slightly bruised, but otherwise fine.

That could have been *much* worse.
12th-Jan-2019 06:35 pm - Publications Will Not Kill Me
I have now entered descriptions for all of the music-related items (and SpaceTime Theater!) in the Capricon programming database which is being used to generate the dynamic content for the program book.

Tomorrow.

Publications Will Not Kill Me.

(But they will make me stronger.)
11th-Jan-2019 11:10 pm - That Merge
Turns out that I picked the wrong choice at one of the steps of yesterday's merge and accidentally broke things.

I merged again and appear to have gotten it right this time.

Sheesh.
11th-Jan-2019 10:50 pm - Just What I Needed
Gretchen and I both seem to have a low-grade digestive bug. Nothing too bad, just nothing too good.

Ah, well. Not like I had anything to do this weekend. :)
10th-Jan-2019 09:52 pm - Slowly I Turn
So after spending the better part of the day (when not in meetings) sorting out yesterday's disastrous merge/rebasing of my branch, I discovered that it wouldn't work because of two mysterious known failures when running under the debugger in JDeveloper. One could be fixed by loading a non-standard version of a JAR file, but the other problem has no known fix.

The second mysterious failure is really annoying, since it's in the area that I was just asked to fix. I am told that it is not a problem, because I can always make a release build and install it on a temporary test machine to see how it is working -- and if it is not working, I suppose I can use 1970s debugging techniques to figure out why it isn't working.

Thus do we turn a debugging process that should have rapid turnaround into one that, well, does not.

I have complained about this. :)
9th-Jan-2019 10:26 pm - Up the Lazy River
The problem when you have long-lived branches in Git (or, I presume, pretty much any version control system) is that you need to keep them updated so that the source code there vaguely resembles what's on the main line. When there's any substantial velocity on the main line, it's worse.

It's worse.

I have two different branches that I've had to do major projects on that I haven't been allowed to merge back to the main line. One of them I hadn't done any work on since early November, which was the last time that I updated it from the main line.

Today's merge took well over an hour as I tried to reconcile the changes and it *still* won't compile correctly.

And now I have an email that says that the *other* branch needs to be updated.

Which is why I keep saying that we need to merge these things.

(We have one branch that is over a year old, because the work I did there hasn't been merged yet. Eek!)
8th-Jan-2019 11:13 pm - One Down
In and around assisting with other bugs that we're trying to fix, I have managed (with a pointer from the fellow who wrote the code originally) to figure out how to fix the particular problem that I was sent to fix in my test version. The code there now appears to work.

I will run some more tests tomorrow in order to determine whether the code *actually* works or only *appears* to work.

Sadly, there is a difference. :)
7th-Jan-2019 10:59 pm - Back to Work
And here I am, back at work after two weeks off.

The good news is that I have attained some fresh perspectives. For example, looking at a performance problem in our code and going "Why did we implement this in the way that we did?"

Fixing it will take slightly longer. :)
6th-Jan-2019 10:13 pm - Vacation's End
Today was the last day of winter break (and of my time off from work). I didn't get done all of the things I might have hoped to accomplish, but some of the piles shifted.

Today, we took down the Christmas tree, took it to the curb, and the ornaments to the basement.

Katie had her first softball pitching clinic for the upcoming season.

And in honor of the really nice weather and the end of vacation, I grilled some lovely T-Bone and Porterhouse steaks that I got on sale at Mariano's.

In unrelated news, the Bears season also ended tonight.

Back to school and work tomorrow!
5th-Jan-2019 11:15 pm - Avengers 3 (Finally!)
Avengers 3 has finally wended its way to Netflix and Gretchen and I watched it tonight. My capsule review is that it's a bit of a muddled mess with a whole lot of fighting going on.

I think we are *way* past the point of having to worry about spoilers. So I'm just going to say this.

I think that there's some possibility that Avengers 4 is going to provide a workaround to the expiring contracts problem for Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth, who play Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. See, the problem is that you *can* do an MCU without those three heroes. But do you really *want* to? I don't think so. And we've already gone around the "Let's promote their sidekicks to wear the uniform" route in the comics with very little long-term success.

Except the fans are going to beat you up if you try to recast the parts. What to do, what to do?

It's pretty obvious that Avengers 4 is going to have *some* kind of temporal reset. Well, what if the temporal reset is imperfect and the result is that Downey, Evans, and Hemsworth are left outside the time stream when it gets rebuilt with new actors playing Iron Man, Cap, and Thor? Dr. Strange is, of course, aware of this and helps them shuffle off to heroic Valhalla of one kind or another.

And the recasting becomes part of the overall lore of the MCU. It might not stop fans from complaining, but it would be a neat bit of sleight of hand.

It's a thought...
5th-Jan-2019 12:17 am - In Other News
In other news, we watched last night's episodes of "Young Sheldon" and "The Orville" with Katie. The latter was obviously the episode that was held over from last season and it required a bit of explanation.

OK, it required a *lot* of explanation.
4th-Jan-2019 11:55 pm - Around and Around We Go
The Midkiffs have returned safely home and I am now navigating through the entertainment of entering data for Capricon filk/music programming into the database. The new database is actually better than the old one in many ways, but it is occasionally less transparent than I might hope.

I have, however, obtained a bit of technical support and am busy fixing the various things that I messed up the first time through. :)
3rd-Jan-2019 11:55 pm - Day 2
Girls and dogs had a fine time playing together. Much brisket was eaten. :)
2nd-Jan-2019 11:27 pm - Company
Assorted Midkiffs have arrived. Much fun is being had by all.
1st-Jan-2019 10:46 pm - The Update
Nearly 24 hours after I started, I finally finished getting all of the Windows updates onto the recording laptop and was able to proceed back to the 15 GB download for Cubase Elements. That is now installed and initialized, so there is hope that it will actually work at Capricon.

In the meantime, I discovered that the woefully inadequate hard disk on the old machine is very full, so I uninstalled all the older versions of Cubase and Wavelab from the computer. At this point, there's about 20 GB free, which will be ok for a while. I could probably go back and delete some of the installers too, which would help.

I keep getting things accomplished over vacation. They just aren't the things that I had necessarily planned to accomplish...
I set out to install Windows 10 updates on the recording laptop earlier this evening. The first attempt failed and required me to revert to a previous install point. It's now proceeding again and is at "Preparing update, 59%", up only slightly in the last two hours from 51%

I think I will go to bed now, as I have a whole new year to try to finish this update in...
31st-Dec-2018 04:08 pm - Last Day
We have arrived at the last day of the year. Things are off-plan just a bit, as Gretchen and Katie continue to recover from a bout of bronchitis which means that we will be staying in this year instead of going to a party at a friend's house. But better to get healthy.

In the meantime, I have started the third load of laundry. There will probably be more before I am done for the day.

The recording laptop is slowly downloading the Cubase Elements 10 upgrade which I have purchased just before year-end. :) And also a whole boatload of Windows updates since the last time that it was used. And I've kicked the battery drivers again so that the beast is charging properly. The necessity to periodically fight with the computer and Windows so that the battery will charge is one of the more annoying bits about the traveling recording laptop. But on the other hand, it is around eight years old (maybe more!) and is still doing its job, which is more than I can say for many bits of electronics that I purchased around that time.

And now it is time to pay the bills and do various other bits of maintenance around the house.

Happy New Year everyone!
30th-Dec-2018 10:13 pm - Precession
The problem with lengthy vacations is that bedtime tends to precess, becoming later and later. As a result, I got markedly less done today than I might have hoped.

On the other hand, Gretchen and I *did* manage to cooperate to clear the clogged drain in the kitchen sink while I watched the Bears game. Since having a working kitchen sink is important, we'll count that as a victory.

Also, Katie wandered in while we were watching the premiere of The Orville over dinner. I think she is now sucked in... :)
29th-Dec-2018 11:10 pm - Experimental Ribs
I wandered over to TGI Friday for lunch last week, as they had a lunch special for a half-slab of BBQ ribs at an attractive price. I mentioned this subsequently to Gretchen who was commenting on how she'd really like to have ribs again some time.

It was shortly thereafter when I discovered that Mariano's had slabs of baby back ribs on sale. Two slabs of ribs later, I was ready to begin cooking them.

It being annoyingly cold outside, the grill was not an option. I checked the Internet and found an oven-based slow-cooking method that called for two hours at 250 degrees followed by about an hour at 350 to finish the ribs. This turned out to work really well, producing lovely, well-cooked ribs that were tender and juicy with most of the fat cooked out.

The rub recipe that I found was not quite so successful -- or, at least, it didn't meld well with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce which is what I was using for the rib glaze in the last hour. We're trying to put our finger on exactly what was wrong with the rub. Katie did not care for the small amount of cayenne in the blend; Gretchen thought the problem might have been the paprika which I bought for the occasion, as I was pretty sure that the Hungarian paprika that we had was going to be all wrong. My suspect is the Spice House chili con carne seasoning which I substituted for straight chili powder.

We have nearly a slab of ribs left over, partly because both Gretchen and Katie are under the weather. By this point in the Christmas season, we have figured out how to deal with leftovers. :)

So we'll try this again some time.

With a different rub.
28th-Dec-2018 06:11 pm - Step by Step
I managed to deposit the four ISFiC and Windycon-related checks that I was holding before the end of the year. I also sent a check off to pay for the transport of the ISFiC Press books to Boston.

After lunch, I ran by Home Depot and picked up some adhesive to try yet another repair on the Formica trim on our island that is separating from the underlying wood. It's clamped together now with the new clamp that arrived yesterday and I'll see how it worked when I go back downstairs in a minute.

This is not a *lot* of progress, but it is progress. I'll take it. :)
27th-Dec-2018 06:00 pm - Playing With the Tech
So vacation is when you get a chance to catch up on things. Some of them are things that you are supposed to have done, but some of them are things that you've been wanting to do and just haven't had the time to get around to.

A while back, I picked up a Spire Studio so that I could sit in my office and make simple recordings of some of my songs, because there are entirely too many of my songs for which I have no recordings whatsoever. Some of them, I may not even remember how to play. :) And the device has sat on my desk for months and months.

This afternoon, I got a couple of hours to play around with it and now have a much better idea of how it works. It's not an all-purpose recording solution -- punch-ins, for example, are absolutely impossible as far as I can tell. And although it supports some effects, it only supports them at the time of recording, so what you decide to use is what you get.

On the other hand, you can record raw tracks and export them. Or you can mix them down using a very visual little mixer that's built into the accompanying software that runs on your iOS or Android device. (Well, maybe the mixer runs on Android -- I understand the software there is not quite finished yet.)

All that said, here's a copy of "Starry Weather" that I recorded this afternoon, tracking the vocal and guitar separately using the built-in microphone. (You can hook up big microphones that use phantom power too, but that was more work than I was up for right now. :) )

Starry Weather.

For those of you who are interested in what else you can do with this beast, here's what Pete Townshend did with one. :)
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