Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Touching base

Life has become somewhat full of not much. You know how it is: you spend all your time in frantic business and can't possibly account for it in accomplished tasks.

We upgraded our car stereo this weekend, which was considered a justifiable expense in the light of this summer's drive from North Carolina to Vancouver Island. Let me explain: we've developed a family tradition where we listen to audio books on long drives. We generally buy an audio book from for every major car trip. An audio book generally plays for 8 or 15 hours, and costs between $12 and $25. We load them all on the iPod and play them on our drives. Audio books keep everyone in the car quiet as they listen; and unlike the ubiquitous car DVD player, an audio book teaches the kids to listen. We've got a half-dozen or so Redwall books on the iPod, as well as one or two others. Our drives are characterized by listening to books or podcasts, rather than music.

We've been using one of those FM transmitters to pipe the iPod through the stereo, but after a couple years, I've become convinced those transmitters are a waste of money. For close to $100 I have to look for free channels every 30 minutes or so, I get to hear the iPod through radio interference, I can hear people's radar detectors, and I have to turn the stereo way up to hear it at all.

So after some research, we upgraded the whole stereo head unit to an Alpine stereo with native iPod input. It's nothing fancy, but we have an older Suburban---we're not trying to pimp our ride. But the improvement is worth every cent we spent. And half-way across North Dakota, we'll be thankful for it.

In other news, we've made some friends in our daughter's soccer team. We had dinner with a very nice family on Saturday, then cooked out at their house on Memorial Day. It's always a pleasure to meet another Christian family with small kids.

Finally, there are complete episodes of The Splendid Table available as podcasts from Apple's iTunes Music Store. How cool is that? It's a great program, but it comes on Saturday afternoons, right when I have better things to do than listen to the radio. Podcasts are the greatest thing since Batter Blaster.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New York Times is reporting an interesting trend where some hospitals and physicians are taking a "disclose and apologize" approach to medical gaffes. So rather than trying to hide their mistakes, they're actually going to patients right away, telling them what they did wrong, and apologizing. Initial evidence suggests this is drastically reducing the number of lawsuits: possibly because under the "old" system of denial, patients really only had one recourse.

Mr. Boothman emphasized that he could not know whether the decline was due to disclosure or safer medicine, or both. But the hospital’s legal defense costs and the money it must set aside to pay claims have each been cut by two-thirds, he said. The time taken to dispose of cases has been halved.

It ain't much, but it's nice to have some good news on my morning RSS feeds.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Silver Screen

So I took the kids to Prince Caspian today on a whim. All in all a very good movie... unless you wanted to see the plot of C. S. Lewis' novel Prince Caspian in movie form. I mean, they didn't change the entire story: the characters generally have the same names, for example.

I was generally impressed with the movie adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which led me to actually see Prince Caspian in the theatre, rather than waiting for the DVD release. Even The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was not completely true to the novel, but it was as close as Disney can reasonably be expected to get, so I tolerated the minor plot deviations, and very much enjoyed the movie.

But Prince Caspian took so many liberties, it went beyond "liberty" into "anarchy". They inserted at least one major battle, gutted Trumpkin's role, didn't even name most of the major Narnian characters, ignored Dr. Cornelius' long relationship with Caspian (briefly alluded to it, but also indicated it was substantially different than in the novel), totally changed Aslan's return (neither Bacchus nor Gwendolyn are even mentioned), and developed an entirely weird romantic interest.

All was not lost: the movie is really very well made, and the story is not bad, just... er... novel. The actors were very good, the battle scenes epic, the score very good, and the filming well done. All in all, it was a good movie, and I shall certainly buy the DVD on release. I did enjoy it, if not so much as Spiderwick earlier this year. Of course, I haven't read Spiderwick, which could have a lot to do with that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pottymouth (Reprise)

I've been making a lot of trips to the dentist lately. I had to get a cracked tooth repaired, which has turned into a slightly more complicated situation: it turns out it needed a root canal, and I've had some maintenance issues on the temporary crown. In finally got the root canal completed and the permanent crown cemented in place today. I'm a little stiff and sore, but all in all very happy to be done.

Still... it's not a good thing when the dentist comments on your high pain tolerance every time she looks in your mouth, is it?

Monday, May 12, 2008


I'm venting... don't take any of this too seriously.

I've been doing the inestimably exciting job of helping my client find a replacement for me when I leave this summer. They apparently want to hire someone in-house, so I've been doing the technical interviews.

Right at the moment, I program Java, administer Oracle, and handle Unix administration. I'm a decent Java programmer, a competent Oracle DBA, and an expert Unix administrator. The main role they want to fill is Unix administration. This job, more than any other I've ever worked, hits the edge cases. We've seen a lot of "gotcha" situations. I frequently see, for example, df and du report different free space on a filesystem. So when I interview these guys who are wanting to replace me, I ask them about the real-life problems we face daily.

Now word is going around that I'm not a very good interviewer, that I'm more interested in showing off what I know than I am in finding out what the candidate knows.


It's probably true I'm not a good interviewer: I might well be the worst interviewer anyone's ever had to work with. But let's consider some anecdotal evidence:

  • One candidate couldn't figure out how to start a service on RedHat EL from the command line ("I've always used the gui.")

  • Another insisted that if df reports a full disk, but ls disagrees, df is wrong.

  • One guy insisted you can only have two plexes on a RAID 1 set.

  • So far, no one interviewing to administer Oracle servers can tell me what a tablespace is.

So while I may be the worst interviewer in history (and I probably am), it's no stretch to suggest the candidates they've been throwing at me aren't qualified to administer Linux Oracle servers for uptime-sensitive applications where down-time is measured in tens of thousands of dollars per hour.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


My parents will be in town for a couple weeks: they arrive this weekend. I always get excited when family comes to town: both my parents and one of my sisters have visited over the last 14 years, and their arrivals are always events for me.

I'm particularly looking forward to my dad coming down this time: we don't talk a whole lot on the phone, and I'm very excited about taking the canoe out with him.

And now it's May: my last day on this gig is June 30; only two months left! Then we pack up and head home.

Lots going on.