melstav: (lego head)
If you're in Michigan, go to https://webapps.sos.state.mi.us/mivote/ and look up the sample ballot for Tuesday's primary election.
I don't care so much if you don't take the time to research who's running for what office, especially since you can only vote for candidates registered under one party or the other (not both), but you probably ought to.
Researching and voting on the ballot proposals is even more important than voting for candidates in the individual races. Proposals that get put on primary ballots are worthy of extra skepticism and scrutiny because their proponents are typically counting on low voter turnout to make them easy to pass.
This go-round, there's only one proposal on the ballot at the state level, but there is likely to be at least one for your city and/or county.
The ballot text for State Proposal 1 looks reasonable enough on its face, especially if you're familiar with the history behind Michigan's statewide 6% sales tax (no city/county sales tax) and the revenue sharing agreements that the State reneged on to patch their own budget deficits. To me, it reads like it's intended to ensure that the cities get the share of the sales tax revenue that they're entitled to.
Except the text that is on the ballot really only addresses a small part of the effect that a "YES" vote will have. This question is a referendum on Public Act 80 of 2014 (1) which repeals the property tax that businesses pay on inventory, machinery, computers, etc. This property tax money goes to the cities, not the state. In exchange for repealing the property tax, the state legislature promises to reimburse the cities for their lost revenue by increasing their profit-sharing out of the sales tax.
If you vote "YES" on this question, you are saying that you agree that the business property tax should be phased out, and that you accept the State's promise to replace those taxes out of the money collected by the sales tax.
Both the text of Public Act 80 and the informational booklet produced by the State Senate (2) contain the text of the ballot question as it will appear on Tuesday.
(1) http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2013-2014/publicact/pdf/2014-PA-0080.pdf
(2) http://senate.michigan.gov/sfa/Publications/BallotProps/Proposal14-1fold.pdf
melstav: (lego head)
A new company is working with publishers to give people free or discounted access to ebook versions of books they already have in print.

http://boingboing.net/2014/06/27/publishers-offer-freediscount.html

They have both ios and android versions of their app.
melstav: (Default)
Here's a pretty compelling article, complete with charts and graphs, showing the inequity in our current system, and much of what the Wall-Street Protesters are really upset about.

http://www.businessinsider.com/what-wall-street-protesters-are-so-angry-about-2011-10?op=1
melstav: (creepy)
Long time, no post, I know.

Blame a lack of free time, or computer burnout, or burnout in general.
Or hell, blame chickens. They all deserve some blame.

Anyway, back to the impetus for the post.

As I lay in the darkness, trying to get Alex to go to sleep tonight, I had a thought. At first, the thought amused me. Then I tested the thought in a spreadsheet and realized just how right I was.

On June 13, 2008, our first child was born. On October 2, 2008, I got hit by a car.

On May 25, 2011, our second child was born. On September 12, 2011, I had an accident and rear-ended someone.

The spreadsheet helped me realize that birth to first accident was 111 days and second birth to second accident was....

110 days.

If we take these two samples and extrapolate a trend, then my third child will be born early May, 2014... and 109 days later, I'll be involved in another vehicular accident.
melstav: (Default)
We found out the night before last that the doctors have begrudgingly decided that Alexander can start trying to breastfeed. No bottles yet, only boobies. Any feeding time that we can't be at the hospital, they're still feeding him through his tube.

Turns out, they had come to this decision on Tuesday, but nobody bothered to tell us. We had caught the doctors on their evening rounds and asked about the feeding situation, and they were like, "Didn't they tell you? I thought we decided to give it a try." Then they went looking in his records to get verification. The notes in his paper chart weren't even consistent, or even, in some cases, legible. Someone finally looked in the computer and found the order.

So, yesterday afternoon, [livejournal.com profile] kadiera got her first opportunity to breastfeed him. We had one of their breastfeeding specialists on hand, in case we had any issues, but both mother and baby took to it naturally.

Mom's original post here.
melstav: (hernia smile "make the best of it")
The announcement's been made in a few different places, but not here. So I'm fixing that.

At just shy of 7AM, on the morning of Thursday, October second, I was hit by a car while attempting to catch a bus on my way to work.

I was running late, so I ran the block from my house to 15-mile, and I saw that the bus was almost to the stop. I waved at the bus driver and he saw me, so he came to a stop to wait for me to be able to get across the street.

I looked to the left, and traffic was clear, so I jogged to the center lane (the left-turn lane) and stopped. I looked to the right. I saw a couple cars stopped behind the bus, waiting, and I saw moving headlights in the distance, but they were far enough away that I figured I should be able to cross the one remaining traffic lane safely. Nothing moving registered as being close enough to be a threat.

That being said, as soon as I took my first step into the traffic lane, I was hit. I distinctly remember the jarring impacts of various bits of my body hitting various bits of the car. I distinctly remember the sudden impact of being knocked to the ground, back in the turn lane, and watching the driver's side mirror (which I had sheared off his car) go bouncing down the turn lane.

I remember thinking "Okay, that kinda sucked. Man that hurt. Let's get up and take stock." And then, "Oh, hey, my leg isn't supposed to bend like that. I guess I'm not going anywhere, after all. I guess I better just lay here until the paramedics arrive." Followed by, "Well, if I'm going to be laying here for a few minutes, I may as well get comfortable and take my backpack off." And While I'm doing that, and setting it in the lane next to me and laying back, "I hope my laptop is okay." Then, "I should call Janet and let her know. Oh, hey. My phone isn't there. It must've gotten ripped away in the accident."

Needless to say, after making sure that someone was calling 911, I asked someone else to call my wife. After the ambulance got there, the EMTs did what they do,and they decided they were taking me to the same hospital our son's at. Which was good, because having to drive between hospitals to visit the two of us would have sucked ass.

Long story shorter, both my right tibia and fibula had multiple fractures, and during moving, one of the bits of bone had poked through the skin. The surgeon who put me back together said my leg was one of the worst he'd ever had to work on, but that he was very happy about how well it went back together now that it's done. I am now guaranteed to set off every metal detector I walk through, as there is now a metal rod in my tibia.

I was only in the hospital for a couple of days, then they kicked me out, and I've been recovering at home. I have also been working on my laptop (yes, it's fine) trying to get stuff done for work and for projects at home. That's been going kind of slowly, though.

I probably should have seen the car, and the driver should have seen me. That neither of us saw each other would suggest that he didn't have his headlights on, (as it was dark enough that the headlights were all I could see of cars in the distance) but I don't know that for sure. The police report says I ran out in front of the car but says that neither party was found to be at fault. No citations were issued to either party.

The accident, itself, was a very interesting and surreal experience, and one I hope to never repeat.
melstav: (computers)
This afternoon, just as I was about ready to give up and go to lunch, I received an instant message from [livejournal.com profile] stormgren, my friendly Colocation provider. He wanted to inform me that there was something horribly, horribly wrong with my server.

I ssh'ed into the box, and to say that it was sluggish to respond is like calling the Sun a ball of fire. No matter what I did, it took several minutes to respond. I hit top to check the load average -- 34+... and > 95% of the CPU's time was being spent in IOWAIT.

Run "netstat -a" and when it manages to get far enough along, I begin to realize just how screwed I am. There are WAAAAAAY more open connections than there should be -- screens and screens of 'em. And almost all of them were from machines (yes, plural) in the clusters (yes, plural) of computers that Yahoo has crawling webpages to index them. I didn't notice many duplicate machine names.

So, I send the command to kill apache and give [livejournal.com profile] stormgren an update. He did a little looking, and discovered > 10,000 open connections coming through the firewall, and >75% of those were coming from Yahoo... and going into my server. As a band-aid, he blocked all traffic from Yahoo's crawlers to my server, and it started feeling better immediately. (Yes, the "pkill -9 httpd" was still running when he updated the firewall.)

It shouldn't be too long before Yahoo's Slurp clusters regain some sanity... or at least before their insanity is being directed at some other poor schmuck. In a few days, I'll probably try letting them back in.
melstav: (Default)
We'd been talking about getting a trailer for the bicycles so we could take Alexander along for bike rides. We went to REI and looked at some trailers. They had a few, but they were really expensive. I mean, like $600 & $700.... But they're going to have a 20% off sale on them later this month. Right. Later lastnight, we found another brand of trailer which was reviewed as being at least as good, but at half the cost, so that's good.

While we were wandering around REI, Janet said we should probably get him a helmet too, so we went looking at the children's helmets. We *did* find infant-sized helmets, but they fit children with a 20" circumference head. Janet pointed out that we could probably pack his entire body in there.

In doing added research, we've found things like this which say it's probably not a good idea to bring him along on a ride until he's sitting on his own. So maybe we'll wait on that.
melstav: (Default)
I have a cold.

I went to bed thursday night all stuffy.
Friday morning, I woke up, and realized that I'd had a post-nasal drip most of the night.

Throughout Friday, I had a post-nasal drip and a runny nose for the majority of the day.

Today, I spent the majority of the day asleep.

Dilbert

Nov. 30th, 2007 10:58 am
melstav: (Fred Fredburger)
Part of my job involves providing call-in tech-support to our customers.

Some of our customers are.... less "with-it" than others, both in terms of computer-savviness and in terms of generalities.

One of my coworkers walked into my office a little while ago and handed me a printout of today's Dilbert comic ( from http://www.dilbert.com ) with the statement, "I saw this and immediately thought of you."

Here is a direct link to the comic.

Ergonomics

Nov. 3rd, 2007 11:07 pm
melstav: (Meditation)
I've spent the bulk of the last 13 hours working on my laptop.

And I have to say, that ergonomically speaking, laptops suck. Universally.

The problem with laptop computers is that the screen is right at the same level as the keyboard, which means that you're always looking down at the screen. At least, unless you've got the computer sitting on something at shoulder-level, which is generally impractical, not to mention uncomfortable.

I find that if I spend extended periods looking down, my neck gets sore. I find the most comfortable placement for the monitor puts the center of it right at nose-height. I'm most comfortable if I can look straight ahead at it.

I know that traditional ergonomic wisdom says that you should be looking down at a slight angle at your screen. Yeah, well, traditional ergonomic wisdom is wrong. At least, in my case, and I know of a few people who agree with me.

For keyboard placement, I prefer to work with my forearms level, just far enough away that my upper arms are slightly away from vertical, and my wrists are resting on the surface of the desktop. Or better yet, my laptop. Having the surface of the tops of the keys in the same plane as the wrist rest lets me keep my wrists straight, increasing comfort. 'Course, it means that you can look at my laptop and see where the heels of my hands are wearing at the plastic of my wrist-rest.
melstav: (That's just SOOOO wrong)
Imagine, if you will, a giant inflatable Pikachu, that kids can go inside and jump around in. Basically an enclosed "moonwalk" carnival ride.

Now imagine that the door-flaps for this attraction have been placed ... somewhat inappropriately.

Now take a look at this to see if your imagination matches reality.
melstav: (Don't give a damn.)
I was slower than expected getting dressed this morning, so I needed to purchase lunch today. It's good that there are a couple places within walking distance of the office where I can get food for ~$5 and have it last me for two lunches.

I just get back to the office with my lunch and stop on my way back to my desk to ask Josh about the status of a project I gave him. As I'm leaving him to eat, Melissa yells at me that there's someone from a customer of ours on the phone who wants to talk to me.

I've been expecting a call from someone at this particular customer for a week or so, because they want to talk to us about possibly getting some custom software development done. But I'll be damned if I'm going to service a customer on my lunch break, unless it's an emergency... and in our line of business, it takes a lot to constitute an emergency.

So I told her I'm on lunch, and to send him to my voicemail. She says "He's been calling for days and can't get a live person."

Frankly, he hasn't been trying for days, or if he has, he sure as hell hasn't been trying very hard. I mean, how hard is it to, when you realize you're being routed to voicemail, wait for the beep and say "This is soandso from suchandsuch. Please return my call at xxxxxxxxx."

I know for certain that I haven't gotten any voicemails from him.

On buses

Sep. 13th, 2007 09:28 pm
melstav: (Default)
Yesterday, on my way home from work, we got stuck with a short bus. By "short" I mean that it was an older bus, and not as long. Compared to the buses that they normally run, it's got seating for maybe 20 fewer people.

We get about 1/3 of the way home, and the driver broke the bus. He stopped to let someone off, went to start driving, and then there was a loud *THUNK*. After that, the bus refused to go any faster than ~5 miles/hour. I'm guessing that the transmission died. He drove a bit, tried a few things, then called the dispatcher. They made him do a few more things, none of which fixed the problem. Finally, they agreed to send a new bus out for us, and we had to wait for it to arrive. When it did, we all switched buses, and we were off. All told, it added >30 minutes to my trip home.




This morning, the bus pulls up to my stop. I reach for my wallet as I'm walking towards the bus to get on.... and my wallet isn't in my pocket. I realized that I never picked it up from beside the bed. I start to walk away, thinking I'm going to have to go home, get my wallet, and drive to work, and the driver stops me. I tellhim what's going on, and he says to get back on the bus -- that unless I needed my wallet for this afternoon, I didn't need it for the bus. He'd let me ride free.

I didn't need to buy lunch today. All I expected to need my wallet for was my ID (which I didn't expect to really need) and my bus pass. So, I figured "what the hell." Get to the office, and I'll borrow a dollar from someone to catch the bus back. Pay it back tomorrow. No big. I bide my time until we get to the stop I get off at, and as I walk past the driver, he says "here" and hands me a courtesy pass for one free ride. He says, "It's for the ride home."

That's what drove home the realization that the bus system really isn't paid for by the bus fares that people pay to ride -- it's the property taxes (and probably other taxes) that people pay to the cities and counties that the bus lines go through that *really* pay for the buses.

I had been of the impression that the fares paid for most of the expenses of running the bus lines, and that they were subsidized by the taxes. It's really the other way around. The bus lines are subsidized by the bus fares, but it's the taxes that cover the lions' share of the costs.

If I recall correctly, of the thousands of dollars we pay per year to the City for the property taxes on our house, approximately $62 per year goes to SMART -- the company that runs the bus lines. It's figured as an infinitesimally small percentage of the taxable value of the property.

Granted, I pay considerably more than $62/per year in terms of bus fares. Actually, I go through $62 in bus fares in about five weeks. (Figure $2.70/day if I buy prepaid bus passes) But look at it a different way. Every house in my subdivision has some tiny percent of its property taxes going towards the bus contract. I can count on my hands the number of times I've seen somone get on or off the bus at any of the stops even near my subdivision. So, as far as I can tell the entire subdivision is essentially paying so I can ride the bus.

I know there are a number of fallacies and over-simplifications in that above statement. Just because nobody gets on or off at the same time that *I* get on or off doesn't mean that other people on other schedules aren't getting on and off the bus near my subdivision, for example. But still....

I'm not complaining, by any means. I *like* the fact that the buses exist. I'd like to see them run more often, and I could see arguments for adding additional routes. I doubt that I, personally, would gain any benefit from either of those changes, (except for having less time to wait should I miss my bus) but if it were decided that additional capacity was justified, I'd be glad to chip in that little bit extra to help pay for it.
melstav: (black and white)
I got off the bus this evening, and some woman got on. I start walking towards home, and I notice something black on the ground just a few feet away. I take a step toward it, and I instantly recognize it as a cellphone. Whether the woman who got on the bus didn't notice it, or if she decided to leave it there either out of apathy, or hoping the owner would come back before someone else random walked off with it, I don't know.

I picked it up, headed home, and started scrolling through the contact list looking for likely numbers to call to track down the owner. While I was doing that, someone called the phone. Happened to be a friend of its owner, who was with the owner, and they were looking for the phone.... And they had backtracked to the bus stop where I found the phone. So, I went back and gave the guy his phone back. He was extremely relieved. It was an expensive phone. He shook my hand, thanked me profusely, and got out his wallet and asked if I wanted anything for returning his phone. I told him it wasn't necessary. Figured the karma boost would do me good.




The not-good is that the outer pane of glass in the tall window right next to our front door has shattered. Almost all of the glass is still in the window (just a single shard fell out) but there isn't a single piece of glass from that pane that is bigger than a quarter of a square inch. When standing inside, it looks like all of the cracks radiate out from a point that's about shoulder-height... puts it just under eye level standing outside. (for me) Could be something hit the window. Or it could just be built-up stresses from settling and from people slamming the door shut over time. So, that's yet another thing that we have to pay for.
melstav: (Default)
It's been a while since I've posted anything substantive here. Thinking back, I think the last time I was in the middle of putting in the marble chip bed around Janet's rosebushes. Well, I finished that, and it looks really nice. I should take a picture of it sometime.

I also went adn bought an 8'x11' plastic shed (mostly plastic. it's steel-reinforced) from Costco and built that in the back corner of our yard. 'Course, before I could build it, I had to build up the ground so it was nice and even and level.

By the time I was finished with both of those projects, I'd used our minivan to bring home one load of marble chips and two loads of dirt.... at about half a ton or more each. The suspension in that van was Definitely not built to take that kind of abuse.

But those projects are done, and they look nice. Putting up the shed gave us the ability to move a bunch of stuff out of the garage. Between that and reorganizing, we have enough space that we could conceivably put one and a half cars into our garage. Or a car and a motorcycle. But we're not going to. We're going to turn it into more of a working and work-out area.

Few weekends ago, I started on the next project. We want to put a deck in the back yard. We drew up plans using Lowes' Online Deck Builder (which is great, except for the fact that it doesn't put dimensions on the final design. It tells you how long each beam and joist is supposed to be, and how far apart the posts need to be on each beam. But useful information like "How far is Beam A supposed to be from the house?" And "How far is Beam A supposed to be from Beam B?" and "How far in, exactly, am I supposed to start the beams?" are consipicuously absent. Sure, I can use a ruler to build a rough scale and figure outt wehere everything is roughly supposed to go, which I did. But I shouldn't have to. Surprisingly enough, even with these failings, it was sufficient for us to get a permit issued. Well, between that and the map that shows where and how big the deck will be in relationship to the house and yard, which was also required documentation.

Over the last two weekends, I conned Kevin into giving me a hand using twine to mark off the footprint of the deck and the placement of the beams. It was only about 2.5 hours worth of work, total, and it wasn't strenuous. It was just something that required at least two people to do. I suppose, *maybe* if I were using full batterboards instead of single stakes to place the lines, I could have roughed in the lines and gone back to fine-tune them all by myself, but that would have been a much longer process.

The next steps are:
1) Mark the placement of the posts, so I can go rent an auger and get the holes dug.
2) Mark our siding where the ledger board(s) needs to be, cut the siding off, and mount the ledger.

The more I look at this project, the more I don't want to do it. I'm a bit intimidated by the idea of mounting the ledger. If I cut the siding wrong, it'll look like crap, and if I fail to properly seal around the ledger, I'll give water a way to get under the siding, paving the way for rotting out the side of the house. Definitely not what I want to do. I'm pretty sure I can make an argument for hiring someone to at least do that much.

Speaking of motorcycles, I did, finally, get the motorcycle into the shop this weekend. It's been sitting in our garage, untouched, like forever. The license plate still had the 2003 tab on it. We're going to have the shop get it road-worthy, and then we'll list it for sale. It's pretty apparent that I'm not going to ride it. I got a call from them on Monday saying that they had the estimate. They were surprised that they didn't have to take the carbuerators off. They were afraid they'd totally gummed up and would have to be taken apart to be cleaned. They replaced the spark plugs, flushed the old gas from the carbs and the fuel line, and pulled and cleaned the mix adjustment screws for the carbs, and when they jumpstarted the bike, it came right to life. Their quote for everything that needs to be done (including everything they already did as part of the "estimation" process) and everything they "recommend" comes out to more than we want to spend on the bike. So, the recommended maintenance can wait, and there are a couple parts that I'm just going to have them sell to me, and I'll install them myself.
melstav: (Default)
no more work-unsafe than your average trashy romance novel )

Nabbed from [livejournal.com profile] mactavish, who credits [livejournal.com profile] copperwise

Blame [livejournal.com profile] meecie for showing it to me.

[EDIT:] Fixded. Accidentally forgot a Quote from my cut-text. FIxed that, and it works now
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