April 29

For want of a new chariot

I’m agonizing over the purchase of a new vehicle.  My fifteen year old Impreza still runs very well but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and the transmission has been exhibiting signs of synchro-wear (gear clash) when shifting down to first or up into fifth.  I always have the option of pulling the transmission and having it rebuilt but, experience has taught me that once the case has to be cracked open the long term reliability of the unit will always be in question.  (Failure probability shifts from ‘distant and uncertain’ to ‘near and uncertain’ or ‘near and likely’.)

Faced with an unreliable horse or buggy, what would the traveler of yesteryear do?  For that matter, how did the Gladiators go about selecting their next chariot?  You think maybe they drew up a list of pros & cons, or needs, wants, and nice-to-haves before going off to interrogate the local chariot builders?  Perhaps I should read up on that.

My list of needs are pretty simple I think.  I need comfortable, reliable transportation with high-output air conditioning and a decent amount of power and torque for those rural passing lanes.  On this vehicle I prefer four doors, manual transmission, and either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.  I would also really like the price to be under $35,000 out the door.  Much to my dismay I’ve come to realize that manual transmission and rear-wheel-drive are pretty much impossible to get in this class and price range so I’m going to have to find a compromise.

The top contenders for my money are:

1. Subaru Legacy Premium
2. Mazda Six Touring
3. Honda Accord EX
4. Kia Optima SX

The bottom three are all front-wheel-drive and only Mazda gives me a manual transmission option.  It annoys me greatly that Honda won’t sell me an Accord EX with a manual transmission in blue paint.  It makes me far less likely to purchase a Honda.  I can forgive Subaru and Kia for this because a manual transmission is not even an option anywhere in the model lineup, and only Honda restricts my color choice based up on my transmission choice.  How about just letting me have whatever color I want?

My biggest concerns for both the Legacy and Six is lack of power.  Both of these cars have a ~2.5l engine and they’re both fairly heavy vehicles.  Summertime in Phoenix where the AC is running at full blast any time the engine is on can really sap the power from a small engine, particularly when climbing mountain roads.  In Arizona everywhere outside of the Phoenix metro area is mountain country, so I worry that any time I need to leave the valley I’m going to want for power.

When it comes to the Kia the issue is primarily around package selection.  The price starts out very reasonably in the $26K range but adding the Premium tech package (just to get heated seats), rockets the price to over $31K before adding any other options at all.  The Subaru costs thousands less even with the addition of Moonroof, Navigation, EyeSight, Blind Spot, Cross-traffic alert, floor mats, etc, and it comes with AWD as standard equipment.

I guess I’m really leaning toward the Legacy, but when I bought my Impreza 15 years ago I was able to get everything I wanted that I could afford to buy.  I’m not exactly sold on CVT technology in general and I’m unhappy that the Legacy sport model and GT/2.5l turbo options are discontinued for model year 2015.  The last thing I want now is three or four years of car payments for a vehicle I’m not 100% happy about.

Looks as if I’ll be sitting on this fence a while longer.

Category: Cars & Transportation, Drips of consciousness | Comments Off on For want of a new chariot
April 28

Ramping up

I submitted an application to the city of Mesa for permission to cut out a 16ft section of public sidewalk and replace it with a driveway approach ramp on the west side of the property. It should take about 10 days for approval or rejection but I would be very surprised if it were rejected. I think the worst that could happen is I would have to have it redesigned to provide a flat rolling surface for wheelchair passage but, I don’t think handicapped provisions are a requirement for this type of change. At any rate, photos will be added to the gallery as work progresses.

The 97 MX5 seems to have some fuel delivery issues so I ordered a new fuel pump, fuel pickup filter, and fuel line filter from Rock Auto late last week.  The parts arrived today.  If we had the rear driveway completed and the paving done we could get started on this work straight away, but as it stands we’re going to have to retrieve the 97 from storage on Del Rio and make room in the forward garage to do the work.

It’s going to be a glorious day when the work is complete.  We’ll be able to bring all motors to one location and have room to get greasy.  :)

Category: Happy Things, Home, Vehicles | Comments Off on Ramping up
April 25

Pigeon Massacre

When you share a house with four felines, you occasionally wake up to scenes like this.  No need to call CSI on this one, I think we can piece together the chain of events.  The MO is similar to other such “murder scenes” and I have a very short list of suspects.

Looks like someone brought me a present!
Looks like someone brought me a present!










I followed the trail all the way to the scene of the crime and unceremoniously removed the source of the feathers from the premises.  Even after extensive crime-scene cleanup I’m still finding feathers behind furniture.

Ah, the joys of animal companionship.

Category: Home | Comments Off on Pigeon Massacre
April 23

Really, Mister Coffee?

I’ve had my old Mr. Coffee bean grinder for a couple years now and every day I used it at least twice, once in the morning, once in the afternoon.  The grinder doesn’t get moved around the counter a lot so I never noticed before now that whenever it gets moved, it leaves a little footprint of grounds behind.

Not long ago while cleaning the counter, I moved the grinder to another part of the counter top and realized that coffee grounds were actually coming out of two little holes in the bottom of the grinder.  I shook the little machine and more grounds came out.  After just a couple of shakes, I had a small pile of ground coffee about the size of a coffee scoop and there was no sign of it stopping.

I decided to investigate further and went to fetch a screwdriver.  This is what I found:

WTF Mr. Coffee?  WTF?
WTF Mr. Coffee? WTF?


     Apparently this little bastard has been stealing a little bit of my coffee every single time I used it.  It wouldn’t irk me so much if I drank cheap coffee regularly, but some of these grounds cost upward of $40/lb.  Such a waste.

     Hal and I tried to figure out what the problem with it was or if perhaps I may have been using it improperly, but a one-button coffee grinder is not exactly rocket science.  At first I thought I hadn’t been pushing the grind receptacle all the way into the dock, but that would have spewed coffee on the counter and not internally.  Clearly there is some sort of manufacturer defect going on here.


At any rate, this thing is obviously in the trash now and I promise I will never use such low-brow consumer goods again.  The new coffee grinder is a very well made Capresso which is much quieter and more accurate, even if it isn’t quite as simple as pressing a single button.

Category: Coffee Grinder, Frustration, Home | Comments Off on Really, Mister Coffee?
April 22

Good shutdown & Camera delivery

Shutdown and upgrade activities went much better than I had expected.  The number of complications was low, and the migration scripts written by the UK team were very well done.  It did take a good portion of two days to get it done and there are a lot of users with old $PATH settings hard coded which need to be changed, but at least we’re on the back side of the upgrade and the mechanics of Grid Engine appear to be functioning within established parameters.

Yesterday I decided to do something about the lack of video cam on the PC so I went to Amazon to see what I could get.  I found a nice 1080p Logitech and when I placed my order, they said I could have it shipped/delivered same day for free.  Insert image of Skeptical African Child here.  I’ll be goddamned if that thing didn’t arrive at the front door by 6pm same day.  I didn’t see the delivery person and I was hoping that it came by drone.  ;)

There will be more work done on the north-west lot today.  A ton or two of Earth needs to be moved out before the concrete molds can be set so I left the sliding gate unlocked for quick & easy access with a bobcat.

Category: Drips of consciousness | Comments Off on Good shutdown & Camera delivery
April 14

Where were you on Tuesday?

Not entirely sure I’m liking the Piwigo gallery software because I can’t easily figure out how to order the photos in the way I want them.  (I know there are a couple “inventive” ways to get it done, but note that I said *easily*.)  Piwigo has the benefit of being a lighter-weight application than Coppermine, but it’s not quite as smooth as Picasa.  I’ll have to keep experimenting to see which one suits my needs best in the end.

Ok, I’m a tard.  I did figure out how to sort the pictures the way I want them and it wasn’t difficult at all.  The most difficult part was RTFM’ing.  There’s actually an entire tab dedicated to this in the edit menu, I just didn’t realize I could drag & drop.  derp.

But anyway.

In case you’d forgotten, I’ll be working all weekend coming up and I’m none too thrilled about it.  There doesn’t appear to be any proper planning being done so that our various activities don’t walk all over one another, and that seems to be “how we roll” at my new employer.  I try to bring structure, but they thrive on chaos.  Here it is Tuesday and we’re still ironing out bugs with our upgrade/install processes, and to date very little testing has actually been done.  As bad as I think Saturday & Sunday are going to be, my Spidey sense is telling me that Monday will be worse.  We’ll get through it of course, in the most British way possible.  Stiff upper lip and all that.

I just hope my “I Dig Dinosaur Neil” t-shirt gets here before the festivities.  Maybe wearing it on Saturday will bring me good geek-luck.  :)


Category: Drips of consciousness, GeekStuff | Comments Off on Where were you on Tuesday?
April 13

Substitutions Not Permitted

The good new is in, and it’s not cancer.  Now just heal up already and stop making me grimace in pain.

And while we’re on the topic of grimacing,

I’m starting to think I should implement some sort of bookmark sync mechanism to augment my memory.  Having to remember some of the URLs that I use frequently, sometimes makes my brain hurt.  The main problem with centralized bookmarking is that I’ll end up with a mix of work-related and non-work-related bookmarks in the same place and I’m not entirely sure if there’s an easy way to switch forth & back with multiple accounts.

Another grimace inducing situation is that it seems as if Microsoft One Note (which I can’t say enough good things about), won’t sync with a home-grown file-sharing solution so I’m stuck with uploading everything to OneDrive.  This is probably because the NSA wants to be able to paw through everyone’s notebooks & they aren’t supposed to break into my personal systems without a court order.  It would be terribly inconvenient for them, you see.  So of course, that functionality is not available.

This reminds me of course that I never rebuilt the network after Hal went through all the trouble of RMA’ing the Asus.  I’m not entirely sure why, but it has something to do with the fact that I’m too lazy to set up DHCP/DNS again.

Salad & trout for dinner.  Mmm.  healthy.

Category: Drips of consciousness, GeekStuff | Comments Off on Substitutions Not Permitted
April 11

I Dig Dinosaur Neil

I’ve been updating the site & installing some useful applications to make my life a bit easier.  I wish it were easier to get dropbox installed on my hosted site, but apparently the VM I’m on is pretty stripped.  I set up a new image gallery at http://loux.org/gallery where I can post pictures of various people and things.

Surfing through iTunes Music store I found season 1 of “The Tick” live action series and bought it.  I laughed so hard I cried while Hal thought I’d lost my mind.  Then I found all three seasons of the animated series on Youtube and watched them all one-after-another.  I really hope they end up for sale on Amazon or iTunes so I can watch them any time I want.  Right after I watched S1E2, “The Tick vs. Dinosaur Neil”, I went out to CafePress and bought a “I Dig Dinosaur Neil” t-shirt.  :)

The roof on the house got redone last week and the yard work is going to start Monday, where we finally get the excavation done, the ElDorado driveway, and the northwest lot paved in.  Maybe by autumn we’ll be able to get the rear driveway done.  Today we cut out the two little desert shrubs that were growing in front of the windows on the north side of the house.  I realized a bit ago that they weren’t intentionally planted in those places and were actually in a spot that was potentially detrimental to the property plumbing.  They needed to go so they’re gone now.

My friends Shay & Kellie’s little dog Gracey is going to come stay with us for a week later this month.  She’s such a fun little friend to have around, she makes me want my own little doggie.  Unfortunately, four cats are more than enough for this household.

Also, got a new Capresso coffee bean grinder last week.  (I’ll explain why in a later post)  The Capresso has an interesting sound when it runs and, is actually much quieter than my last grinder.  I’ve kept myself true to the “No more than two-pots-a-day” rule for the last few years so I try to make sure I get to enjoy every drop.

Category: Drips of consciousness, Happy Things, Home | Comments Off on I Dig Dinosaur Neil
March 2

Something perl

You know what I’m really sick of?  Books which purport to teach the reader something quickly about Perl which is useful, but doesn’t actually teach you how to do something useful at any sort of rapid pace.

This post attempts to break that cycle.

This example has no practical purpose, but does show how to run a system command and capture the output, then use that output as input to another command.  Because one of the handiest things I’ve used Perl for and one of the most common functions of any sysadmin, is to run a system command and store the output into an array so I can do something useful with that output.

Let’s set aside the fact that it’s probably not a good idea to bundle shell awk commands inside of Perl, let’s just go ahead and show you how to do something useful.

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

# Run a system command and build an array out the result.
# Do something with every item in that array and store the
# result in another arry.

# Get all my process ID numbers and put them into an array called @pids.
my @pids = `ps -ef|grep kate|awk ‘{print \$2}’`;  # I had to escape the $ in the awk command or Perl will
# try to interpret it. (\$2)
# For every item in that array
for $pid (@pids) {
# Take off the trailing newline character (\n)
chomp ($pid);
# Use each item as a component of another command
# and store the output from that command into another array.
@pidlist = `ps -ef|grep $pid|egrep -v grep|wc -l`;
# For every item in that array, run another command
# and store the output into yet another array.
for $linecount (@pidlist) {
chomp ($linecount);
# Then show us some information
print “My process $pid has $linecount line(s).\n”;

What the above code does, is:

run: ps -ef|grep kate

Which produces output similar to:

[kate@concord scripts]$ ps -ef|grep kate
kate      2691     1  0 Feb22 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/gnome-keyring-daemon –daemonize –login
kate      2701  2684  0 Feb22 ?        00:00:00 gnome-session

(output truncated)

The process ID associated with my gnome-session is 2701.  So I want to filter the ps command so I get just that number.  I do that by piping the output of my grep command into awk so I can get just the PID associated with my tasks.  The PID is the 2nd column in the output so I’ve asked awk to display only the 2nd field. ($2)

When this command executes, it will take every PID associated with my ID and stack them up into an array called @pids.

The next step takes each PID back out of the array and runs another command with it as a component.  This part of the command runs another process search but now instead of searching for ‘kate’, it’s searching for each of the process ID’s stored in the array @pids.

ps -ef|grep $pid

(The rest of the command, |egrep -v grep eliminates the grep command itself from the search, and wc -l counts the number of lines of output returned.)

The output from this command is stored in another array called @pidlist.

Finally, we take the items back out of @pidlist and use them to display some information to the screen.

You’re welcome.

Category: GeekStuff | Comments Off on Something perl
October 25

Please adjust as necessary

One of my leading goals in life is to own my home free and clear, so I need to pay my mortgage off as soon as possible.  I focus on this perhaps obsessively and to that end, I recently changed employers in large part for the earnings increase and substantial bonus potential.  This has resulted in a need to readjust my perspective on some personal things.


Not being a fan of T.S.A.’s “x-ray or sexual assault” security theatre, I haven’t flown on a commercial airline since 2010.  My new employer requires my presence in Cambridge UK, so I’ve had to apply for “pre-check” clearance in order to avoid having some government goon groping my girly bits without my consent.  I figured since I always like avoiding lines and long waits, I also applied for Global Entry so I can speed my way through re-entry.  I’ll try not to be too smug as I stroll past the suckers waiting in line while twirling my cane.  ;)

Category: Home, Travels, Work | Comments Off on Please adjust as necessary