Welcome

Welcome to Jenius, where you can get opinions from a certified genius who just doesn’t put the effort into it.

Here you will find a mixture of the heartfelt and mundane. Serious and silly. Topical and esoteric. Pretty much whatever comes to mind.

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Apologize Correctly

There’s really no right way or wrong to apologize, but there has been an excellent tutorial going around Facebook on A Better Way to Say Sorry. I like the method and the message it sends, and I’ve started to use it myself, even before teaching it to my children. I encourage to read the full story at the link, but I’m providing a quick crib sheet that should get you started.

There are four steps to an apology that forces the person doing it to think about what they actually did to cause offense and how they can correct that behavior in the future.

  1. “I’m sorry for…” – Specify exactly what you did that hurt someone.<\li>
  2. “This is wrong because…” – Tell the other person that you know how it affected them negatively, but with the same detail as the first step.
  3. “In the future I will…” – Share how you will correct your behavior in the future.
  4. “Will you forgive me?” – Gives the other person a chance to speak to your apology, even if they reject it.

All statements should be positive and specific, not generalities.

Posted in Philosophy | Leave a comment

Good Shows that I Don’t Like

I really like to watch television. I always have. Even as a kid, I would play outside all day and still insist on watching TV at night. In other words, I’m no different from most people of my generation.

There are plenty of popular shows that I’ve liked and watched over the years: the Cosby Show, M*A*S*H, the Big Bang Theory. But there are a few shows that have been super popular that I just don’t like to watch. And I’m not talking obvious duds like anything on MTV or starting Playboy bunnies, but shows that I recognize have qualities of good production, acting, etc.

Seinfeld

Seinfeld broke a lot of ground in television. The characters are highly memorable. The jokes are still funny today. There are still demands for reunion shows. Too bad it sucked.

It is famously a show about nothing, but it’s really a show about whiny narcissists that celebrates the idea that New York City is the greatest city in the world, a common misperception that only New Yorkers hold. I was forced to watch most of it due to dating, then marrying, a woman who liked it.

There are jokes and bits that I quite enjoyed, but overall I feel that I’ve wasted hours of my life watching people whine about problems that they created themselves. Basically Digrassi High: New York. (FYI, Friends was the exact same show, just with a cast ten years younger.)

ER

ER popularized the modern medical drama. Not since St. Elsewhere had a show so entranced the hypochondriacs of the country. It touched on various social and medical issues. I think. I never watched it much.

The problem with ER is that it was too serious. What little humor there was was awkward, not natural. And it barely mentioned medicine. It was all interpersonal issues, no fun. Like the worst parts of House, M.D., without the ability to learn about Huntington’s Disease.

No amount of famous people, former movie nerds, or actors with unnecessary Qs in their name can make that show watchable. Even its fans thought it lasted two seasons too long.

Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin’s Songs of Fire and Ice (I think), is a series of fantasy novels about murder, sex, and dragons. I’m not a fan of fantasy stories, but these have all the elements of great ones. And those elements also make great television. Blah.

I’ve only ever seen one episode, and I can see why people like it. Even the bits that aren’t about murder, sex, and dragons shows good writing, good acting, and good production. And yet, still impossible to watch.

On Facebook I described it as a cross between Tolkien and Sex in the City. To some people that sounds like a great combination. Those people are women. Seriously, though, those two mixed together would be something good to many people. But as I said, I’m not into fantasy, just science fiction. And I’m not into shows about whiny New Yorkers (see Seinfeld above).

The strangest thing is that I don’t believe that dragons would make that show better. The episode I watched didn’t have them in it, and the storyline couldn’t have crammed them into anyway, but I can’t imagine how dragons would be of benefit to the show. Unless dragons are the main focus of a show or movie, they don’t fit in well. That’s why Terry Pratchett doesn’t cram them into every Discworld novel, but he did write one that focused on them.

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Scrambled Eggs Done Wrong

I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for years, but listening to Gordon Ramsay’s Sublime Scrambled Eggs Recipe while a friend watched it finally pushed me over the edge. I absolutely detest the way “classically” trained chefs (i.e. chefs of the French school) cook scrambled eggs. And that’s the way to say it. They don’t scramble eggs, they cook a dish called scrambled eggs which is similar, but inferior, to America’s favorite egg preparation.

Some people like light and fluffy, restaurant style scrambled eggs. And that’s fine, but they’re missing out on the deliciousness of hard scrambled eggs. Not to mention that even those eggs don’t need to have water or dairy additives if you cook them right.

Let me start with those light and fluffy eggs. It’s easy enough to make them, although the method flies in the face of everything you’ve been told about making eggs. Luckily for you I’m totally reckless when I cook eggs, so I found a simple way to cook them. Grab a non-stick fry pan and put it on medium heat with a pat of butter, or less. Move the butter around with a rubber spatula so it melts faster. As soon as it’s melted, crack your eggs directly into the still rather cold pan. Season with salt and pepper. Use the spatula to break the yolks and stir the eggs to begin the scramble. Don’t stir constantly. It’s unnecessary and too much work. Once the whites start to actually whiten, give them a stir again. It won’t take long to cook them at this point. Keep stirring them and flipping them. They’ll firm up and you can plate them. Bada bing, bada boom. Fluffily scrambled eggs without any nonsense.

That’s how you do scrambled eggs better than any classically trained chef, but how do you them so they taste the best? Because while you may be used to light and fluffy, eggs are like steak in that they don’t truly reach their potential without browning. The Maillard Reaction is always your friend with protein. Well, maybe not with shellfish, but that’s another topic.

The key to making the best scrambled eggs you’ll ever have is high heat. That’s right, I scoff at the notion that you can overcook eggs. Eggs don’t get rubbery, like chefs claim, they get chewy, which is a pleasant mouth feel. And if you do it right, they get crispy, which humans have evolved to associate with freshness and therefore deliciousness. (Psychology plays a large part in cuisine, don’t ever kid yourself about that.)

Grab a fry pan, preferably cast iron, but stainless will do. Anything not non-stick. I use a sturdy metal spatula I got from a restaurant supply store, but any thin bladed spatula will do. Heat your pan over medium to medium-high heat. I use 6 out of 10 on my stove’s scale. If you’re inclined to eat bacon or sausage, put them in the cold pan and cook them as it heats. If not, then when the pan has been heated add butter and coat the pan as it melts. Break the eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and break up the yolks. Let them cook for a few minutes. The edges will become crisp and brittle. When the eggs are almost done, flip them over and turn off the heat. You can either use the spatula to cut them up at this point, or leave them whole. After a minute, you can plate them.

Not only are eggs scrambled hard tastier than soggy, I mean fluffy, ones, but this method is easier to use with unreliable heat sources, like campfires and grills. Now, about that old no cheese with fish thing…

Posted in Food, Rants | Leave a comment

Rotary vs. Scissors – The Blade’s the Thing

I purchased my first rotary cutter soon after I graduated college. Like the flash drive, I thought it was an amazing piece of technology that I never knew I needed until they existed. Flash forward several years and now I realize that while rotary cutters have their place, I still need scissors for some fabric cutting.

The great thing about rotary cutters is that they are fast, easy to maneuver, and produce continuous cuts that don’t cause those jagged cuts where scissors have to stop and start. But the speed comes at a price of less control, the maneuverability doesn’t include tight turns or, heaven forbid, notches that stay attached, and the continuity of the cut isn’t consistent with thick fabric, fur, more than one layer, etc.

No, a rotary cutter isn’t a replacement for scissors when it comes to cutting fabric. Especially not for using with pre-printed patterns. You can’t make inside corner cuts without over-cutting the fabric. Multiple fabric layers require multiple passes. Even shallow turns tend to make the layers of material and pattern shift, causing differences between the layers. And do not roll over a pin with a rotary blade.
When I did that it would miss a thread every five inches until I finally replaced the blade.

Scissors, on the other hand, are great for cutting out patterns. You have total control of the cuts’ size, location, speed. You can cut inside corners and notches without over-cutting. You can cut through multiple layers with shifting the fabric overly much. The main problem I have with scissors when cutting out pattern pieces is that I have to lift the layers in order to cut them, and that can cause its own shifting problems. Those are more readily corrected than what I experience with a rotary cutter, though.

But if you’re not cutting from a pre-printed pattern, then the positives and negatives of each tool are flipped on their head. Cutting even the most basic square quilting block is a chore with scissors but amazingly easy with a rotary cutter and straightedge. If I’m creating a pattern from scrap material, I draw on the fabric and quickly cut it out with the rotary cutter; no pattern paper to get in my way.

So, there’s a reason that rotary cutters are sold as quilting notions. That’s where they excel. Short, straight cuts. Scissors can’t give you the flat, even cuts that a cutting board and rotary cutter can. And a rotary cutter can’t give you the power and control of a good pair of scissors. Make sure you have both on hand for your various sewing needs.

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Don’t Believe SEO Spam

As a regular blogger with many regular readers (read Google search bot), I get my fair share of comment spam. Most of it is about knock off products for expensive shoes and sunglasses, but occasionally I get one about search engine optimization (SEO). The theory behind SEO is that there are certain things website maintainers and content providers can do to make their site show up higher on search results pages (SRPs).

In the past you could game the the search system by doing things like putting a bunch of terms at the bottom of your page or paying people to link to your page. There were more legitimate ways to get higher results on SRPs, too, but even those things, like using metatags, seem outdated by today’s standards.

Recently Google (the Kleenex of search engines) updated their algorithm for deciding on result order. With every iteration of the secret algorithm (which is really a collection of different algorithms working together) it gets harder and harder to game the system. For the last several years, in fact, the more you try to cheat, the more likely Google, and the others, will penalize you. Which is why SEO spam is dangerous to the point of ridiculousness.

Some of the things that this recent spam comment mentioned was using <h> tags on every page, putting keywords in the title, and judicious use of bold and italics with my keywords. While it is important to properly use keywords when optimizing for SRPs, none of that optimization has anything to do with format. It never has. And while no one outside of the major search engines knows for sure, I’m betting that those kinds of tricks would hurt your site rather than help it.

I don’t worry too much about SEO because I don’t have my livelihood riding on it. I wouldn’t mind having one of those popular blogs that gets free stuff just because they’re seen as experts, but as I’ve mentioned before, I like to run things a little looser than those blogs can. I rarely do any more than make sure my titles makes some sort of sense, and occasionally link to sites to show that I do read other people’s stuff. But I’m certainly not going to spend a bunch of time making it harder for people to find me by doing things that anger the search engine gods. But that’s what SEO spammers are telling people to do.

My personal rule is never to do business with anyone who spams me. Spammers are looking for a quick buck, so right away the trust is gone. And there are legitimate companies who’ve burned their bridges with me because they let some idiot tell them how to get new customers in an asinine manner. But even worse than the misguided, are those who are selling products and services that do more harm than good. In the case of the SEO spam comment I received, their “free” tips would have made my page rank lower on SRPs instead of higher. If I were credulous, I could end up sinking more and more money into the service to try to regain my status without realizing that the people I’m paying to help are making things worse.

Marketers by their very nature are in a kind of grey area of sleeze. We all know that advertisers manipulate us in varying ways. And we’ve accepted that as part of our society because we do benefit from it when we find products and services we actually like and can use. But SEO spam, like all other spam, is wholly selfish in nature. So don’t believe anything a spammer tells you, and especially don’t click any links in spam. That would just increase their page rank on the SRPs.

Posted in Misc. Tech. | Leave a comment

Mofongo!

I went to Puerto Rico for a week a few years ago and of course tried the local food. Unlike a lot of Latin food, Puerto Rican food isn’t especially spicy, so it’s easier for an American palate to adjust to. One of the most common foods was a mashed plantain dish called mofongo. Most Caribbean nations have a similar dish with different names. Puerto Ricans typically use garlic and chicharones (fried pork rinds) for flavor and texture.

Me being me, I had to try to make it for myself. When it came time to finally make mofongo at home, I found that I had eaten all of my pork rinds, so I made an acceptable substitution: bacon.

Tostones

Tostones in progress.

The first step to making mofongo is making tostones, which are deep fat fried plantain slices. I used a pot to fry mine because I didn’t feel like getting out the deep fat fryer. I heated my oil to about 295 degrees Fahrenheit, but anything between 275 and 350 would work. Slice your green plantains (more on that later) about an inch thick and fry in small batches until they float, about 2-3 minutes. Drain. At this point, you can refrigerate them to make your mofongo later, or you can continue to make it.

Mince two cloves of garlic and roughly chop two thick slices of bacon (or three regular slices). Crisp the bacon over medium high heat until it’s crunchy. Drain the fat to leave about a teaspoon of it in the pan with the bacon. Toss in the garlic and quickly fry it. If your tostones are cold, put them in the pot with the bacon and garlic and heat. If they’re fresh, put them in the pot and remove it from the heat.

Mofongo

Mofongo shaped in a bowl.

Traditionally a mortar and pestle is used to mash the mofongo, but a potato masher works well. Mash the plantains until they are smooth and thick and form a mass on the bottom of the pot. Serve as a side to roast pork or chicken, or eat alone. You can also form dumplings for soup.

Mofongo is a dense, starchy food, so don’t expect to each as much of it as you can eat mashed potatoes. The greener the plantain, the better. I let mine ripen too much so my mofongo ended up being quite sweet. So sweet it would have worked well as a dessert, even with the garlic. It’s better to eat it all right away, but it can be reheated slowly for leftovers.

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TV Babbles

Recently on Facebook a friend of mine posited a question on why “The Big Bang Theory” is such a popular show. “It’s no surprise to me that the Big Bang Theory is being renewed for another three years, but what is surprising is how widely popular the show is. I mean, the name drops, comic nods, and very niche material would only make sense to a small segment of the population. Some friends of mine who are from an older generation love the show and I don’t see how they could possibly understand half the show’s dialogue. What is it about the show?” I posted a rather lengthy reply (for Facebook) and then realized that I could stretch it out into a fully realized blog post about the nature of television, more specifically sitcoms.

I only started watching it when season three came out, but here I sit in my Bazinga sweatshirt two years later. And the funny thing is that my mom watched it from the beginning and still does. So, anecdotally, my friends assertion stands. The show appeals to people from multiple generations and different levels of education and interests.

I happen to be a geeky guy with a degree in physics, and while it would seem that the show’s demographic would be limited to people like me, the key to a good sitcom is not that you see yourself in it, but that it makes you laugh. You don’t have to be like any of the characters or even know people like them in order to understand the humor in the relationships amongst a disparate ensemble. People focus too much on how much the guys are alike each other and don’t realize that the it’s the differences that make the show watchable to such a large audience.

The only time that the pop culture and science references really matter is in merchandizing. It’s easy to sell a punchline or a catchphrase if it’s well known, even if it isn’t well understood. So the bazinga shirts, hats, and lunchboxes will continue selling even if many of the people who buy them can’t tell the difference between the white boards in the show and the white boards in a preschool class.

Posted in Nerdiness, Philosophy | Leave a comment

IRS Form 982 Explained

Unlike most years, I haven’t filed my taxes yet. And that’s because I finally have an issue that has stymied TurboTax online. My wife had her student loans discharged, more than doubling our yearly income in the eyes of the IRS. Rather than immediately filing and trying to come up with the tens of thousands of dollars in federal and state taxes, I stopped what I was doing until I found a way to mitigate the damage.

Through hearsay and rumor I heard about a form that I could fill out to help. My tax preparer friend was clueless because it’s a fairly uncommon form despite the millions of 1099C’s being sent out every year. But somehow I was able to use a web search to find IRS Publication 4681 (p4681), which talks about canceled debts and such. From that I found that if I filled out its worksheet and found myself to be insolvent, I could fill out Form 982 and reduce the pain.

My wife and I filled out the worksheet and found ourselves to have been insolvent before the loan was discharged. Not exactly the best news in the world, but it helps us out in this case. But then came Form 982…

After reading p4681 and the instructions for Form 982, I was stymied. I figured out that I needed to check line 1b because it was personal debt that wasn’t discharged because of bankruptcy. Line 2 was just the value we arrived at on the insolvency worksheet from p4681. Then came Part II. The beast. Part III is only for corporations, so I could ignore it.

Part II, in a nutshell, is where you find out that you have adjust the value of all your assets so that if you sell them in the future you can pay taxes on the adjusted values. It took me several blogs, articles, and Q and A websites to figure that out. I also figured out how to fill it out. I don’t have any complicated things like investments or a home business, so I could ignore most of Part II. And here’s the thing, most other people can ignore most of it, too. Unless the debt that was discharged was based on your house (e.g. student loans or credit card, the two most common reasons for receiving a 1099C), you just need to fill out line 10a.

Line 10a has its own complications, though. You fill it out with the smaller of three numbers:

  1. The value of your assets at the beginning of the year,
  2. Your insolvency amount from line 2, or
  3. Your assets from the p4681 minus the remaining debt you have after your loan was discharged.

It’s that third one that’s difficult to decipher from the instructions. Even the example they give is too complicated to make this easy. Nowadays, most of us have a lot of debt, so number 3 will be zero (negative numbers are rounded up to zero). If it’s not zero, then you need to worry about the rest of Part II and probably have to call a professional tax preparer.

I admit, I didn’t really explain the entirety of Form 982, but based on what I’ve read my situation is the most common. Once you fill out Form 982, transfer the numbers to the insolvency section of the cancellation of debt form of your taxes. If you are using the download version of TurboTax like I ended up doing, you’ll have to switch to form view and enter some fields manually. But it is possible to reduce or remove the tax burden you have based on getting rid of debt. And any little bit helps.

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Missed Week and Nothing New

So in the rush of real life I had absolutely nothing to say last week. I still don’t have anything to say, but I am trying to  post every week, so basically I’m acknowledging that there’s nothing going on. Well, there are things going on, but I haven’t finished any new projects or done any noteworthy coding.

It’s been a week or two since I worked on my patchwork quilt. It’s going to be a big sucker and I’m at a crucially monotonous part of the process. The last time I picked up a crochet hook was to make a loom band bracelet. I plan on making a different version of my zoot suit for parties, but I don’t even have the material for it yet. A friend and I are going to make a dress for her. The big news on that front is that I’ll be creating the pattern from scratch rather than using a purchased one. Hopefully that’s not a disaster.

On the coding front, I’ve moved back from VBA to DXL again at work. There’s nothing quite like using old code to create a new project and realizing that you’ve done something completely silly in the past that needs to be corrected. Without going into too much detail, I basically had a loop running in a Layout script rather than the script it was added from. So hundreds of loops instead of one. The bright side is that I’ll be making the script amazingly more efficient to run now.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s day, I guess. I don’t know. I’ve always been more of a William of Orange man, myself. But then again, I’m quite contrary.

Posted in Crafts, News, Programming | Leave a comment

Unembed Documents in Word

For about six months now, I’ve been struggling with a bit of Word automation for a project at work. And it’s one of those only too common instances where I can just record a macro and go from there.

I have several documents exported from a DOORS database that contain embedded Word documents. Every time I create these documents, I need to open the embedded documents, copy the contents, close the embedded documents, deleted the embedded documents, then paste the contents in their place. It’s completely quick and easy, but because I have to do it regularly, it would benefit from automation.

Usually Google is my friend when it comes to questions like this, but I ran into several issues this time. First of all, it’s hard to figure out what terms to use in my search. I looked for variations of copy embedded documents in Word. That gave me lots of things that were similar, but not quite right. And the more variations I used, the more I found all the same results popping up. I ended up with several bits of code that seemed like they would work, but didn’t.

Fast forward a few months and while in the middle of a different automation project, I noticed a piece of code that purported to do what I needed. I spent quite a long time trying to get it to work, but it was way too complicated and written for an older version of Word, which never helps.

Finally was able to find some code that didn’t work at all, but pointed me in the right direction. Using the debugging features of the VBE, I slowly narrowed down the problems and came up with a piece of code that works for me.

'-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
' Function: UnembedTablesFigures
' Description:
'   This function replaces embedded documents with their contents.
'-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Private Sub UnembedTablesFigures()
  Dim shape As InlineShape
  Dim dEmbed As Document, dMain As Document

  Set dMain = ActiveDocument

  For Each shape In dMain.InlineShapes

    If (shape.Type = wdInlineShapeEmbeddedOLEObject) Then
      shape.OLEFormat.Activate
      Set dEmbed = ActiveDocument
      Selection.WholeStory
      Selection.Copy
      dEmbed.Close SaveChanges:=wdDoNotSaveChanges
      Set dEmbed = Nothing
      dMain.Activate
      shape.Select
      shape.Delete
      Selection.Paste
    End If

  Next shape

End Sub 'End UnembedTablesFigures

There are a lot of limitations with this code. First of all, it assumes that your inline shapes (the embedded documents) will always be Word documents and nothing else. This assumption works for my needs, but should be generalized for other possibilities. There is also no error checking, which I’m terrible at because I just assume my code will always work (don’t be like me, kids!). But it does loop through all of the embedded documents and replace them with their contents, which is exactly what I needed. Finally.

Posted in VBA | Leave a comment

Bacon-Wrapped Ribs

The best food I found at the 1st Annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, Jr., was the bacon-wrapped ribs from Jethro’s BBQ. The best food I found at the 7th Annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival was the bacon-wrapped ribs from Jethro’s BBQ. I think you see where I’m going with this.

Not one to dismiss a challenge, even a challenge of my own invention, I decided to try my hand at bacon wrapping some baby back ribs. Luckily for me, I still had a couple of racks in the deep freeze from when they were ridiculously cheap a while back. And I got a coupon for bacon at the festival, which helped mitigate the cost of two pounds of it.

Rubbed and Rested

Rested overnight with rub.

I started by cutting the excess fat off the racks of ribs. Restaurants will also take the top muscle off that runs perpendicular to the ribs, but I like to leave it on. Then I put on a generous coating of the rub I always use for ribs. It’s based on the recipe from Alton Brown, I just mix up the spices based on what I have on hand. I covered my half sheet with aluminum foil and let them rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Wrapped and Ready

Wrapped in bacon and ready to rest overnight.

The next night, I sliced each rack into individual ribs. Then I wrapped each of the ribs with a slice of bacon. Wrapping a curved rib with wide bacon isn’t easy, but it would have been next to impossible with thick-sliced bacon. Keep it thin. I let the wrapped ribs sit, uncovered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Never put raw meat above other food, even if it’s covered. That’s just asking for cross-contamination.

Rested and Foiled

Done with second rest and ready to wrap in foil.

The next morning, I got my smoker out and heated it to 200 F. I split the ribs onto two pieces of aluminum foil and brought up the ends and lightly sealed the edges. I did this in two packets because my electric smoker has a square footprint so I had to use two racks. I let the ribs braise in their own juices for four hours.

After the braising was done, I emptied the juice into the liquid container of my smoker. In all honesty, I spilled about half of it into the bottom of the smoker, but no open flames means no flare ups. Once the fluid was drained, I moved the ribs to the racks of the smoker and continued to cook them at 200 F for another four hours. In the meantime, I started soaking my wood for the smoking process.

Finished

Finished ribs.

In the last hour of cooking, I added the wet wood, hickory, I think, to the smoker box and brought the temperature up to 250 F. The raised temperature will allow the wood to more easily smoke and finalize the cooking process. One day, I’ll have a cold smoker and do this completely different.

When they were done, I took them out of the smoker and let them rest for about fifteen minutes. Then I served them up with a little barbecue sauce and a bunch of napkins.

They turned out even better than Jethro’s. I really thought that I would have to try this recipe a few times to get it right, but I got it in one. A family friend even ate them off the bone, and she never eats meat off the bone. The only real problem is that I don’t want to spend three days cooking dinner when I want ribs. It’s all about trade-offs.

Posted in Food | Leave a comment

Han Was the Only One Who Shot

A few weeks ago, I pointed out that we’ve all been pronouncing Han Solo’s first name wrong. Of course I was wrong. It turns out that Carrie Fisher pronounced it wrong in the one scene I heard it when it occurred to me to write that post. I was listening to A New Hope in the car while my kids watched it and sure enough, when Han introduced himself, he rhymed in with yon.

It turns out that the different accents heard on the set caused Fisher to kind of affect one herself occasionally. Ah, well, she was young. I don’t have the excuse, I was just wrong.

Posted in Nerdiness | Leave a comment

My Obsessive Friend

Recently soccer player David Beckham started some sort of clothing line/marketing scheme with H&M, a fashion store for wannabe hipsters. As part of the ad campaign, they had a meet and greet at an H&M location in New York on Saturday, February 1st. There was a photographer there taking pictures of everyone who attended which were then posted on H&M’s Facebook page for the event. A friend of mine from high school was first in a line of teeny boppers. Below is her account of how she managed that.

Ok so you guys wanted the full story..here it is… So, I decided when I heard last Monday that maybe Beckham was going to do an appearance in NY I was going to go meet him because I am in love with Beckham and Enrique Iglesias. I try to call Hand M in New York but apparently they are like the White house because their number is not given out…lol..so I call the main number and they have no idea what I am talking about. So like the crazy person I am I call every day to get info until finally on Wed, I get a guy and start kind of flirting with him to get the real details on time and even and what exactly he will be signing…and he gives me the New York number…

So, I ask if anyone wants to go with me and no takers for camping out so I am determined to do this on my own. I find a Tripper bus that takes me to Times Square for 27 bucks. I book but of course on Friday morning, I am late for my bus because I have to go to the bank, get a portable phone charger, and get my hair straigtened to look cute for Beckham (which was dumb because after sleeping on street for a night, hair did not look straight or as cute).

Since I miss my morning bus, the driver for next bus was nice enough to let me on because I told him of my quest. I get there around 5 pm in Times Square and it took an hour for me to get to Hand M because stupid Super bowl fans do not move..staring at all the Super bowl crap. Also, everyone headed one way and I am fighting hordes of people track cause Iam going toward Beckham not Super bowl crap. I arrive with my camp chair, a book, water, protein bars, peanut butter sandwiches, blankets, hand warmers, body warmers, foot warmers whch don’t work by the way and some NASA heat wrap (yes they make them)

I get there at 6 pm and tell the security guard I am here to see Beckham. He laughs and says, the line forms at 1 am. I said no it doesn’t the line forms now…I am here and I am first in line so I will just go outside and create the line then. He laughs and says its cold, I will give you a wristband, why don’t you just wait in here where it’s warm and there is a restroom and you can eat. He gave me his name and said when the store is about to close near 1 am find me at the front entrance and I will make sure you will be in front. So, there is a God people. I got stares in my camping chair eating my turkey sandwich reading my book but oh well. I started shopping and looking around…I made friends with more security and the manager who told me that he only signs stuff from his Beckham line purchased that day so I wait till 12:01 and then buy a shirt..should have bought the underwear cause then I could frame the signed box but at least I have the shirt to sleep in and say I slept with Beckham

At about 7:30 while I am looking around, some girl about 15 taps me on my shoulder and says , are you here for Beckham, I said yeah how did you know? She said the guard told me “there Is another crazy one like you camped out here somewhere.” She came with her mom. Go mom for helping your kid out with her dreams.

Ten minutes to one, there are 5 crazy girls including me. Security calls us the Beckham 5. They take amazing care of us and watch us over us sleeping out in New York. We meet crazy people, Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, drunks, prostitutes, and even Santa Claus who was trying to hand out flyers to a gentleman’s club..tried to tell him he should try giving them out to guys not girls..One guy said he was Beckham, dropped his pants and started dancing..At about 3 am, the girl’s mother said I can’t do this, gave her kid subway fare brought the 5 of us hot chocolate and left. several homeless people made fun of us but I was not moving and Depends came in handy.

9 am arrives. line is crazy. There are barricades. Guard switches shifts. Guard next to me is baby faced and its his first big event. I told him look when Beckham comes, all these women behind me are going to push and so you have to brace yourself and this barricade. I will push back but I can only do so much so you have to bring in some reinforcements to help me. He says “are you serious, they will push”. I say count on it so get ready.

News people arrive. They want to interview the first person in line and instead of sounding articulate and intelligent and talk about Beckhams’ soccer skills, when they ask what time I got here and why I would sleep here, my genius response is “look up at that billboard above me..that’s why”. I look and sound like a crazy person. As I say this, the 15 year old takes out the underwear box starts screaming and pointing to it saying “this is why this is why”. Beckham arrives an hour late like a prima donna but his car gets stranded in street because people wont get off it..

So, it’s time to meet him, I look gross and smell like a sewer. In an attempt to look somewhat presentable, I get out my makeup kit, concealer, blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and some gloss. Security guys say are you serious, and I say umm I am getting a picture taken with Beckham. I put on cherry blossom hand lotion on my face and hands so I wont smell. I take off my coat because a coat picture would not look cute now would it? We are told we can not take our own pictures and everything will be handed to a handler when we get close but I put my camera in my bra and took two shots of him signing stuff in case the photographer guy didn’t take my pic

Now here comes the part where you laugh: I go up to see him. He is better looking in person and wearing my favorite color red He sits across from me and smiles. I have never been speechless. He says “hi” I say “hi” and stare like an idiot. He says hi again and I say hi again and stare then I say I came from MD since 6pm and slept on the street for you. He said “well then you deserve a kiss” and kisses me on the cheek. Girls go nuts start screaming and trying to claw my face. Eww..Apparently, they have a live feed up on that jumbo tron thing ( I wonder if they keep that video cause I would want it -its only proof of the kiss). The man smells great and I can still feel the bristles on my face. Because it was unexpected the photo man didn’t capture that but I did get my shot which I uploaded to facebook…

So, yes it was worth it. Follow your dreams no matter how crazy they may seem and what people say–that is the lesson learned and be nice if you can–I gave my extra blankets and food to the homeless when I left.

The adult in me thinks that she’s nuts, of course, but mostly I’m happy she got to do something she obviously relished. I just can’t imagine myself doing anything remotely similar. I’m not that big a fan of anyone or anything, I’m impatient, and I’ve stayed out of NYC for almost 40 years for a reason. (Paranoia, but that’s not the point.) Her final admonition is a good one. Follow your dreams. You may just get a kiss from your obsession. Or at least a great story.

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Punk Rock Quilt

There is almost nothing less punk rock than quilting. Quilting has rules, patterns, and pink fabric. Plus it takes a long time. Punk is meant to be fast, rebellious, and dangerous. Jeans, leather, spikes, and studs. And I had a pile of jeans, spikes, and studs already available. Not having the money to get a leather hide for the back, I used vinyl. Even punks have to compromise occasionally.

Quilting without the standard rules makes for some trouble. I pieced everything together on the fly which meant that nothing lined up right and every step of getting the top done was a pain. Sometimes I had to cut pieces that had already been sewn on. Sometimes I had to use my machine in ways it wasn’t designed for. For the first time ever, I bent the hell out of a machine’s needle. And it ended up denting my machine’s metal plate. Oops.

Finished Top

Finished Top

I made the top to fit the vinyl I had cut to the dimensions of my batting. I chose crib sized batting because of course I did. It was the right size for the amount of denim I knew I would be working with. The fact that it’s crib sized is just a humorous accident.

I knew I wanted to make a tie quilt and opposed to a stitch quilt and that allowed me to sew the layers together with the right sides inside, turn everything, and then finish off the edges. Denim and vinyl are very bulky materials so I couldn’t easily stitch to the corners. I chose to stitch to within an inch, or so, of them, instead.

Corner Detail

Detail of finished corner

After the edges were finished, I had to tie it. Using screw on spikes, of course. Any quilt that requires the use of a screwdriver to assemble is a good quilt to make. Here you can see a the screw of one of the spikes.

Screw Detail

Closeup of screw on back of quilt

And here you can see a row of them in the finished quilt.

Spike Detail

Row of spikes

Spikes are easy to add to leather or vinyl, but they can be a pain on denim. Especially when there are a couple of layers between you and the denim. The trick I learned was to use a metal dart. I’ve had one in my sewing kit for years. It was from an old set I had that had a broken shaft, so it worked well. Even the biggest upholstery needle won’t work for this. You really need the dart. The problem on the denim side was that the dart would slip between stitches, which the flat-tipped screw couldn’t do. So, on the denim, I just used my scissors to cut a little slit from the hold the dart made.

And here is the finished project. A lot less cursing went into this project than many punk projects. Then again, this may have denim, spikes, and a leather substitute, but it’s still just a quilt. One that starts cold then quickly makes you sweat.

Finished

Finished quilt

Posted in Crafts | Leave a comment

Disappearing Links in IBM Rational DOORS

Recently a user came to me with an interesting issue. They would add a link from one module to another, but when they reopened the target module, the incoming link indicator was missing. After extensive searching I found that this was an occasional complaint with earlier versions of DOORS and even though the problem was supposedly fixed in version 5.2, it still pops up from time to time. The solution is to loop through the objects in the module and follow the links. Below is the code to do so (this is a vastly stripped down version of the code that the incomparable Louie Landale wrote and shared on the forums).

// ReDisplayLinks.dxl - Fix incoming Link corrupted indicators.

/* ReDisplayLinks.dxl addresses an unknown corruption anomoly where sometimes
valid links that exist cannot be seen in the target module; this script simply
lets those links be seen again. Even though the symptom is noticed in the
target module, the solution involves opening the link's source module, loading
each link, then saving the module (even though no changes are made). */

pragma runLim, 0

// RUN FROM MODULE OPENED FOR EDIT
Module mCurr = current
Module mOther
Object obj
Object oOther
Link l
string NameOther

void saveAll(){
  Module mod
  for mod in database do{
    if (isEdit(mod)) save(mod)
  }
}

void closeAll(){
  Module mod
  for mod in database do{
    if (!isVisible(mod)) close(mod)
  }
}

for obj in entire mCurr do{
  for l in obj -> "*" do{
    NameOther = fullName(target l)
    mOther = edit(NameOther, false)
    oOther = target(l)
  }
} // end for all objects

saveAll
closeAll

refresh mCurr

infoBox("Process complete: " dateOf(intOf(today)) "")

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Neither did inlinks.dxl that Telelogic wrote in 2001 to do the same thing. Frustrated, I went about gathering information.

The source object had almost a dozen instances of the link added to it as people tried to re-add the link over and over again. I deleted them all and just added the one. It didn’t work. When I tried to follow the link from the source a message popped up in the target window saying that the object had been deleted even though I could navigate to the object.

In my searching I stumbled across a similar issue in the DOORS bug log. One of their solutions was to create a link from the target to the source module to reset the inlinks table. When I tried that, I wasn’t able to create a link from the problem object. I could link from a different object though. But creating the link didn’t help.

Since parts of DOORS seemed to think that the target object was deleted, I deleted it and undeleted it. No change. Then I deleted it, closed both modules, opened the target module and navigated to the target ID, which was a different object. I immediately realized that what was going on here was one of DOORS infamous duplicate objects problems. I left the bad version of the target object deleted, moved the good version to the correct location, and updated it with the missing information from the bad version. Issue resolved.

Posted in DXL | Leave a comment