Friday, May 29, 2009

Anyone Want to Hear More About my Pipes?

Yesterday the plumber and I discovered that the too-horizontal drain pipe connected to another completely horizontal pipe behind the wall.
He decided to drill straight down into the floor of the cabinet and run a new drain line. This took several hours more than anyone anticipated.
However, the dishwasher empties itself of water after running and the icemaker no longer drips waste water onto the kitchen floor.
Also, he told me that when he opened the door to the crawlspace he needed to immediately smash and kill two brown recluse spiders just inside the door, then another about halfway to the sink (ten feet away) and another two nesting among the drain hardware under the house.
He told me he turned down a job on Wednesday due to these spiders which actually had fewer of them than we do.
While I'm happy the sink again works and the appliances no longer randomly flood our kitchen, I'm a little concerned about this poisonous spider issue. And by "a little" I mean "almost unable to go into the house because the door is fifteen feet from the crawlspace opening".
We have two possible courses of action:

1. Put on elbow-length rubber gloves, use a smoke-blower to put the spiders near the opening to sleep, then activate bug bomb foggers and hurl them like grenades under the house.

2. The same thing, but replace bug foggers with partially depleted uranium, thus counteracting the effect of a rotting spider bite with the side-effect of superpowers.

Or, I guess, we could move. But that seems like such a waste, what with our sink now working and everything.
I'm going to check for radioactive materials on Ebay. And, um, you know, work.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It Seems To Have Not Been My Fault

Yesterday afternoon I met with a plumber. One look under my kitchen sink and he was almost offended.
Now, I'd made quite a mess under there. It was ugly. I'd patched and filled and poked holes and puttied over them in search of the leak in the water filter for about a week with no success.
But he said that was all fine, if totally unattractive. In fact, since it was inside a cabinet it was almost acceptable.
The problem was our lack of adherence to "The Code", which as near as I can tell is a religion practiced by people who know how to use tools.
Our kitchen drain violated several tenets of "The Code" and bringing it back in line with doctrine seems to be important towards getting used water to exit the premises.
Whoever installed the garbage disposal put in a giant one. The output for it is actually lower than the output in the wall for the drain itself.
This left water sitting in the pipes which I liberated with a drill by messy accident over the weekend.
According to "The Code", water must exit the pipes via gravity when possible. It makes sense in a Newtonian kind of way, but I decided to not try to blend my science with his zealotry.
As for the actual filter (a nice three-stage reverse-osmosis unit) he found no fault in my connections. All the fittings I was certain were correctly . . . fitted . . . were.
The leaks were coming from dozens of tiny holes up and down the length of two of the factory-provided hoses.
As I expressed my confusion, one of our cats jumped into the cabinet and bit down on one of these hoses, hard.
I'm not 100% sure she is the source of the holes, but she is smugly certain that she has defeated the brand-new water filter which, of course, needed to be replaced.
The plumber will be back on Thursday with (I assume) a large hammer and several smaller hammers to redeem our pipes and obtain from them assurances of their adherence to "The Code".
One of the things I'm noticing about "The Code" is that there seems to be very little emphasis placed on charitable works.
Or kind feelings towards tiny domesticated felines.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wisdom is in the Running Water

After a little over a week of no cold water in the sink and constantly replacing the absorbent towels in the cabinet, I broke down this morning and called a professional.
The last thing that leaks seems to be the faucet on the new water filter.
And the dishwasher.
And the icemaker on the other side of the kitchen which I swear I was nowhere near at any time.
The thing is (and it isn't as important to establish blame right now as it is to just resolve the current issues and move on with our lives) when I pulled out the instructions for the water filter and it wasn't exactly like the pipework under our sink, I should have stopped.
My father once told me that a person can fake being a doctor, they can fake being a lawyer, they can fake being a competent and concerned I.T. security professional, but one cannot fake plumbing.
I wish he'd told me this before I took tools to my pipes, but now I know. And you can't fake timing, either, apparently.
In discussing this with my father we briefly toyed with the idea of blaming the plumbing disaster on burglars. It certainly looks like the work was done by someone with no marketable skills who would turn to a life of crime.
To be fair, it looked a lot like that before I ever started working.
Here is something I learned:
You can drill into PVC pipe. The contents of that pipe, which have been washing out of the dishwasher for a number of years, are unpleasant. You can make a passable seal on that hole, too.
Be careful when applying the sealant, though, since when it drips down onto lower joints which were shaken loose during the drilling process there really seems to be no fixing that.
I'm going to meet an actual plumbing professional over my lunch break and I'm going to bear his entirely justified laughter at my expense.
I'm just glad he didn't come out on Memorial Day, since that would have made my expense an additional 250%, easy.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Family Movie Day

- A Short Play In One Act

Ticket Counter Lady: How can I help you?

Me: I'd like tickets, three, to . . . the 1:30 showing of . . . Night at the Museum.

Ticket Counter Lady: That show is sold out. We have seats available at the 2:00.

Me: How is availability to the 1:45 Terminator?

Gwynyth: No!

Shana: I hate opening weekend.

Me: Come on, Gwynyth! It's like killer robots with The Transformers and Batman!

Gwynyth: No! Night at the Museum is EDUCATIONAL!

Me: Sure, until killer robots take over and you need to know what to do and all you've got is what Robin Williams told you to do as Teddy Roosevelt. Robin Williams! Not Chuck Norris!

Shana: I told you opening weekend is always a bad idea.

Me: Three tickets to the 2:00 museum thing.

Ticket Counter Lady: That'll be waaaaaay too much money for this experience. Or, really, any experience.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Working From Home

"Hello. I mean, 'Tactical Services, how may I be of service?'"
I'm working from home today.
Actually working.
From home.
I've been working with remote computing technologies for more years than I care to count and this is the first time I've been allowed to partake in the wonder of spending a workday outside of the office.
By "wonder" I mean "increased productivity", of course.
And by "increased productivity" I mean "my giant umbrella-festooned drink could use some more crushed ice".
It's a casual jeans Friday at the office.
That would be overdressed for the current standard at Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng World HQ, at the moment.
To much information, perhaps?
I'll ramp down the productivity to compensate.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Even More Pictures

Since the last couple of days have been all so terribly confrontational, I thought I'd share some crappy camera phone pictures.
Please keep in mind that the process for taking these is always the same. I see something. I wrestle my phone out of my pocket and navigate the complicated menu to the camera section, I attempt to zoom (though my camera has no such feature) and I snap the picture while saying "the internets must be made aware of this".
Here is the latest batch. I brightened the important bit of this first one using Acorn.

The owner of this Mitsubishi is either a fan of irony or is trying really poorly to compensate for something. As a bonus, this picture includes a bit of the back of one of the buildings where I'm working. For most of the past year, I spent most of every day in the dungeon under this particular building while the normals drove their not-quite Italian sports cars out in the sun. Suckers.

What the crap is this? My best guess is that it is some kind of skink. The head was actually that weird reddish color, too. This guy (about as long as a standard brick) was hanging out by the front door of the building where my cubicle is. After I took the picture, he charged at me and I . . . Went for reinforcements. And to find a scientist specializing in radioactive monsterism.

As part of the "Heath and Wellness" initiative at work, I (and everyone else, I hope) have been invited to a number of lunchtime nutritional meetings (which I have made a point to skip).
This is a two-pronged plan to get everyone to make better dietary choices which also includes tagging the cafeteria vending machines with "Fit Pick" labels.
When Cool Ranch Doritos make the "Fit Pick" cut, one has to assume that every other choice in that vending machine is laced with cyanide-packed bacon.
In my experience (and I've skipped out on so many nutritional lectures I ought to know), delicious does not always equal healthy.
A couple of weeks ago if you put a dollar in the machine and selected 127, the machine would rock forward and slam itself into your forehead. I guess removing that choice is a step in the right direction at least.

Oh, hey. There is a picture of a Warcraft Orc on the right. If you click it, Mountain Dew has promised me awesome things.

I'd click dumb stuff for you, internet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Dear Internet,

I should have known that any reference to Star Trek in the same post as Star Wars would result in a recurrence of the hostilities.
While the argument (Trek vs. Wars) is the oldest online argument, the wounds which remain are still bloody. They ache like a phaser blast set to stun and irritate like the sand of Tattooine which gets everywhere.
For some reason, I was still surprised by the reaction in the comments yesterday. I was more surprised last night to discover that I, too, had participated in the harsh words and harsher sentiment.
What I was trying to convey yesterday is that the new Star Trek movie is an homage, not just to Speculative Fiction in general, but to the greatest Speculative Fiction franchise which will ever exist. No offense intended. Far from it, in fact.
The tribute was appreciated. Not to mention long overdue.
I was just trying to say that for the first time in recent memory, someone had made an effort to make Trek watchable. This is good, really!
Trek is finally starting to overcome the bitter history of having a Frenchman Captain of the Enterprise. Of course they'd need to borrow from Star Wars to do so. It was the logical choice, and Spock would be proud.
Side note: Did the Romulans use laser swords, or were laser swords just implied? I can't remember at the moment.
Anyway, like I said, no offense was intended. The effort required to overcome the damage done to the franchise by John De Lancie was monumental and I appreciate it.
To clarify, yesterday's post was an official Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng endorsement of Star Trek. Take a loved one.
If they are ten, like the loved one I brought, they will bring up the references to Star Wars about the time Kirk rides a motorcycle up to the spaceport and it looks like a wretched hive of scum and villainy. And construction robots.
It is a brilliant re-imagining.
Pointy ears! Who doesn't love pointy ears?

Live long and whatever,


Monday, May 18, 2009

Rebooting Trek

Okay. I saw the new Star Trek movie. Everyone please just calm down.
Not only did I see it, I took the opportunity to take my daughter to see it. Gwynyth had never seen Star Trek in any form. I picked a team years ago and have been firmly in the Star Wars camp ever since.
A total reboot of the series? Erasing 40 years of history, television series and movies and comic book tie-ins in a single swipe? No need to explain references to obscure episodes to the uninitiated? I couldn't pass that up.
Neither should any of my fellow Star Wars fans.
Sure, Star Trek is a solid movie, appreciable science fiction. And fun.
But Star Wars fans can also take comfort in the knowledge that Star Trek rebooted is Star Wars. So we were right all along.

Spoiler warning:

Wash dies.

The opening scene is a large ship shooting at a smaller ship.
Then there are scenes of a rebellious farm boy who never knew his father.
Then an older, wiser man tells the farm boy about how cool his father was.
There is a bar fight with aliens.
The wise old man then tells the farm boy he has to go on a fancy space rescue mission.
Then the bad guys destroy a planet.
The farm boy meets an adventure partner and they don't get along at first but you just know eventually they will be the best of friends.
The wise old guy gets taken out and the farm boy has to figure out the rest of the mission on his own.
So they form a team and take out the giant space super weapon.

I'm not saying . . . I'm just saying.

Star Trek, as re-imagined, is a comforting trip back to the late seventies for Star Wars fans.
It kind of made me want to watch Eragon again. That was another pretty good movie which was better when it was just Star Wars.
But I decided to just watch season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead.
May the Force be with you, Trekkies.

Also, I'll buy it on DVD, foshizzle.

Friday, May 15, 2009

On Our Own

Shana has gone for the weekend. While we have hopes that she will return, Gwynyth and I are doing our best to maintain some semblance of normalcy and dignity.
Of course, neither of those traits is dominant in our genetic makeup.
Last night Gwynyth stayed up past her bedtime watching a vampire movie with me, if Twilight can be considered a vampire movie.
I picked up Underworld: Rise of the Lycans for later this weekend just to make sure we have vampires totally covered.
I asked Gwynyth what she'd like me to cook for dinner last night and she replied that I should "cook" something from somewhere that has decent ice cream. She is well aware that my cooking is different than Shana's cooking in that my cooking involves yelling into a metal-shrouded microphone from within my car.
Before this evening's activities begin, Gwynyth will clean her room. We discussed this while I made her lunch this morning. Last night she "made her lunch" but I discovered only a single bag of Cheetos in her lunch bag this morning.
Whenever Shana leaves town, we get a little crazy.
Without her calming influence we tend to take on projects which are well past our abilities to complete and make messes which are outside our abilities to clean without separate, complicated projects which are again well past our abilities to complete.
In less than 24 hours, everything has been removed from under the sink and the water no longer works in the kitchen.
Or the bathroom on that side of the house.
Or (I suspect) the sprinkler system.
But I have everything under control.
If one defines "under control" as "holy crap what do I do what do I do?". Which is a perfectly reasonable definition as far as I'm concerned.
Side note: My particular disorder, which involves a compulsive need to hand-wash whenever I've touched something like plumbing under the sink, when combined with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder and a non-functional kitchen sink, can result in some delightfully slapstick moments of flailing and running which Gwynyth is desperately trying to capture using the Apple iPhoto camera.
It is safe to assume that by Sunday afternoon we will likely be entirely feral creatures, hissing and snapping at each other, living in fear of the light and unable to communicate with each other or non-modified humans in any method which does not primarily consist of grunting and pointing.
We have been through this, but never without a support structure of friends willing to leave food on the front porch and call to work our communication skills.
Shana, if you are reading this, um, everything's under control. Situation normal.
Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh... everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you.
How are you?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spreading Illness

My co-worker has a head cold. Possibly it is just allergies. Either way, he's pretty miserable.
Yesterday I suggested that it is probably Swine Flu, a comment that yielded more laughter than I thought it merited.
Anyway, after that had died down, I told my sick co-worker that Encyclopedia Dramatica had an entry up for Swine Flu pretty immediately which listed symptoms including "causes people to get perma-banned IRL".

"IRL?" he asked.

"In Real Life," I offered.

"Encyclopedia Dramatica?"

"That's 4chan's Wikipedia."


"They make most if not all of the memes on the interwebs."


"Um, like a goofy internet joke. Like Rickrolling. And lolcats."


"Sending someone to the YouTube video for Never Gonna Give You Up instead of basically anything else."


"Are you serious? 'I can has cheeseburger?' 'I has a flavor?' 'Ceiling cat is watching you masturbate?'"

"This is awesome. It's like you are speaking a different language."

"All your base are belong to us?"


"I can't believe I just explained rickrolling to the last person on the planet who might actually fall for it."

I sent him a list of half a dozen links or so in the hopes of being able to better communicate in the future.
Fostering better internal team communication is a vital part of the security process, after all.
This morning he looked a little more ragged than he had yesterday. It was not related to his ongoing Swine Flu issues.

"I looked up from one of the pages you sent me to and noticed it was 1am. That didn't stop me from reading, but I did notice."

"Then my work here is done."

Monday, May 11, 2009


After closely reading reviews for the new science fiction epic, I have decided to not go and see it.
There is no mention of lightsabers anywhere. There are no references to pithy Jedi wisdom. No reviewer has awkwardly flopped sentence structure around like Yoda.
I can only conclude that this latest Star Wars movie is about as far from the original as possible without using Jar Jar Binks.
Not. Interested.
After last week, I'm pretty sure I'd fall asleep as soon as the lights in the theatre dim anyway.
I just submitted a time sheet to my agency with seventy-one hours on it.
As I'm sure I've complained about, not all of it was related to our audit.
The audit stuff kicked off on Thursday with some meetings.
On Friday we were scheduled to begin submitting scan data at 1pm, but the pre-scan meeting ran until after 5pm and the post-meeting scan ran until 8pm. I got home at about 1am Saturday.
I was probably supposed to work last night, but I couldn't bring myself to check.
Especially not with a fresh copy of The Ruins demanding to be watched.
I like Belize. I've always wanted to go. When a horror movie set against the backdrop of ancient Mayan ruins fails to dim a person's desire to visit, it may have failed.
While I know the "official" sequel to Donnie Darko is S. Darko, I prefer to think that The Ruins picks up right after to tell the story of what happened to Donnie's girlfriend. Of course, there is also 30 years in between the stories and the girlfriend hasn't aged that much, but I can write that off to creative storytelling in Hollywood.
I also correctly identified that character as the one who survives when she asked to remain in the resort reading and then put on her glasses. These are the hallmarks of "the one who lives" in horror movies.
What I did not foresee was nature of the monster involved. If I had, I would not have picked up the movie at all. I promise.
It was enough to make me begin to haunt spoiler sites in order to know what I'm getting into before starting the process of watching a movie.
Thus, I can tell you that Star Trek is not reported to have scenes revolving around the political machinations of powerful Sith lords or fumbling Jedi flirtation. Therefore: No sale.
This week my plans include . . . Um . . . More audit stuff. This process is a pretty massive pain so far. I plan to console myself by having solid gold toilets installed at the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng World Headquarters.
According to my hours, those are overdue.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


"This is the second notice that the factory warranty on your vehicle is about to expire . . . "
I get two calls a day from these guys. A lot of people get these calls.
I've requested to be removed from the list multiple times and it hasn't worked.
I've been told that the database for that is having issues and to bear with them while their system glitch burns up my cell minutes every day.
If you punch the codes to talk to a person, they refuse to give you a call back number.
Here, internet, is their number:
(949) 475-9500
(800) 499-5711
If you've been bothered by them, I recommend calling them and offering to sell them a warranty on their computer system. I've done it half a dozen times today and will continue to until I get bored with it or they give me the access to fix their database issue (which I suspect is related to the fact that they don't actually have a do-not-call database).
If you have a modem, I recommend configuring the 800 number as your dial-in number and setting it to "unlimited retries".

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Things Come Up

Another dead-on perfect image for the blog!
Excuse me for a moment while I pat myself vigorously on the back.

As you can see by the diagram provided, we had some slight system malfunction/uprising at the beginning of the week which resulted in my having spent about 27 hours on the clock this week when I arrived at my desk this morning.
In all that time, I did no audit prep work at all and the auditors are here today.
I've got more overtime scheduled over the next few days to manage that effort but I'm also hoping to wedge a nap in there somewhere.
My co-worker was out yesterday with a possible kidney stone. He returned to work today with percocet which he refuses to share. I thought we were trying to have a team in here, but I guess that was just my misconception.
I even tried reminding him that management specifically told us that they wanted a pain-free audit this year. There is no more efficient way to ensure that, in my opinion, than through the distribution of prescription strength medications specifically designed to alleviate discomfort.
Anyway, stuff was broken and I needed to spend an insane amount of time at the office fixing it or at home ignoring my family while I'm logged in at work barking into my cellphone about how long it has been since I slept.
The official answer to our technical issue from the vendor was a resounding "I don't know, what do you think it is?" which was possibly even less helpful than it sounds.
Audit stuff.
I've got three days of work to cram into the time before lunch.
Can it be done? Sure.
Can it be done without the users experiencing quite a bit of pain? No, since I swiped the bottle of percocet when my co-worker hobbled to the restroom and I'm not sharing.
Time to unplug my desk phone and start making some progress.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Security is a Button Press Away

Sometimes I completely fail at picking an image for a post. This is not one of those times.
Seeing as how our big damn government audit (BDGA) is underway, I thought I'd take a moment to share a little bit about the methodology involved in looking at a computer and declaring it "horrible" or "adequate".
There is a giant building somewhere. I imagine it is gray with long vertical windows which are perpetually dark. Deep within this vault-like structure is a room with a couple of Windows XP workstations and possibly a Windows 2000 server with a database on it.
Tending to these machines is a small group of nerds. I use that term with affection. On some level, these are my people. On another level, they are only there day after day in the interest of getting a check. Come to think of it, they are my people on that level as well.
Their job is never-ending. Their responsibility is to develop a check for every existing security vulnerability and add that check to an executable program. This is stored on a "Gold Disk" which is distributed to companies with an interest in also getting checks from the government.
When this CD is inserted into a computer and run, it produces a complete listing of every security issue up until about a month ago. This disk is constantly updated.
When we are advised of new requirements in security, we analyze the systems and determine applicability, then schedule testing for the changes we think are necessary to bring us back into compliance.
This is a time-consuming process which involves interaction with our users. Thankfully, all user interaction is handled by a separate entity, the Testing Coordinator.
Anyway, one day a copy of this disk was given to Management.
He noticed that there was an additional button at the top of the main screen. "Remediate" the button read.
"Why aren't the security guys just hitting that button? Why do they even waste time with the "scan" button at all? One button remediation is the key to our compliance issues forever."
There is indeed a "remediate" button. And pressing that button will put in place on the effected machine every setting on the disk.
And so it was proclaimed that a script would be written to deliver the payload of the "remediate" button to a group of computers. It was not proclaimed to me, or I'd have giggled a lot while carrying out the directive.
The reason we don't use the "remediate" button . . . The reason no one uses it . . . Is that it works too well. Every setting. Every security option. No exceptions. No exclusions.
The immediate effect is that user logons are disabled, since allowing people to log in to a computer is certainly a compromise of security.
Remote administration is disabled, since that, too is an issue.
Permissions are set on the file system disallowing remote connections and locking out everyone but the local administrator. That account is automatically renamed to something else and the password is changed - Also in the name of security.
A number of other settings take effect before the system is too locked down for the script to continue to run.
The end result, in this case, is that every computer touched by the "remediate" button script was instantly only part of the infrastructure as decoration.
They all needed to be formatted and re-installed before they could be used again.
There is a button for "scan" and there is a button for "remediate". There is no button for "holy crap undo undo!"
Manually reviewing the security findings with the use of this disk is part of the job.
Using the "remediate" button on the computers of people who annoy me is just a bonus.

Monday, May 04, 2009

May the Fourth

. . . Be with you.
It's Star Wars Day, officially.
Hot on the heels of Free Comic Book Day.
Thanks to everyone who thought to send a card. You guys are the best. With the holiday itself being wedged between the release of Wolverine and Star Trek, this whole time of year has taken on a feel of its very own.
Ancient people believed that the border between the realm of the living and that of the dead grew thin at the end of October and the beginning of May. This allowed ready commune with the spirit world at Halloween and May Day. It also created a secondary market for marshmallow peeps in spookier shapes, but that must be considered a side-effect.
This time of year, for geeks, is a lot like that.
Strange arcane energies are welling up from some dark basement of dorkiness to infuse the realm with Vulcan hand gesturing and long, drawn out debates about the fall of Anakin Skywalker.
As you can probably imagine, my very bones ache with the delicious not-pain of it.
Of course, it is starting to look like I'll be spending all of this coming week wedged up at work, hacking away at system settings and making registry information all line up like the government expects.
I'm cool with that.
I've got a ready supply of soda and almost unlimited access to action figures and companions who share my interests in speculative fiction.
This job requires an obsessive compulsive drive to make spreadsheets from different sources identical and an ability to multi-task into discussions of Klingon philosophy and Jedi platitudes. I, um, have that.
I'll Tweet as I'm able and post when time permits (which has a pretty good shot at being a lot, since I'll likely spend most of my time waiting, anyway).
Keep it geeky, internets.