The Mutter Masquerade passed. It did as it has every year since it started but this was the first year where I learned that I had “just missed it”. I open my calendar and write a note for September 15, 2017 to look into getting tickets. May this is the last year where I will have missed it. Oh tenses. I note an entry to the left four squares “Ashley D’s Birthday”. Again, tenses. September 11, 2017 would have been her birthday. She’s no longer with us.

Death or at least its pronouncements can form a kind of morbid metronome that hastens as you age but the last half decade has been a respite. In the 2000s I attended about one Boy Scout funeral a year for around a decade. The spread of ages results in no only a steady march of new sons but also the unwinding of fathers. After moving to the city I lost touch with those families and by extension their joys and tragedies. Then earlier this year a friend departed our company. She will be sorely missed.
I don’t want to see that little notifier, a barbed reminder of the arrow of time but there’s no simple way to remove it. I can turn off all birthdays but not just one. I could remove her from my contacts and after a few minutes of staring blankly and bits of information that tie to someone who isn’t there anymore I hit the delete key. I spam F5 and still her name persists. Staring at my screen, I issued a sad little laugh as I went through the indecorous process of posthumously unfollowing her on Google+. So this is where we are now. To Google, she still exists and I’ve simply chosen to not pay attention. She’s probably not sent or received any emails, IMs, Google+ posts, map queries, or made any Play Store transactions. Google doesn’t know if we just had a break up, a large argument, or she’s dropped off the grid. So wise yet so blind. This is a problem that will only build over time. At some point, more users of a given service will have departed than those who use it without appropriate vital hygiene. I guess it’s good for me to get used to this now.

Goodbye, Ashley.

A friend’s laptop had started to behave badly with periodic power offs and freezes and I attacked it.  After running some tests it seemed that the hard drive was having issues.  A backup was impossible due to current sectors so I ran Spinrite on it for six hours, copied all the data to another drive, swapped that other drive in, and the computer seemed good as new.
All and all, it was straight forward but just a little time consuming.  Once I figured out that the hard drive was at fault the steps and tools were apparent and off-the-shelf solutions in each phase did the job as opposed to having to come up with scripts or some other recipe at each step.  The hardest step was running Spinrite.  The laptop had a CD drive that sounded like it was powered by a pull string and contained bits of gravel so I had to make a second copy of my Spinrite disk after finding the drive damaged CDs after a bit of play.  I smiled proudly when I returned the laptop to its owner.
Aside: Computer hardware has an emotional connection for me.  My second job at the age of 11 was working for an IT staffing agency run by a family friend.  We spent three whole days getting a 10BaseT network to communicate between three computers and when we saw that network drive first populate in “My Computer” in Windows 95’s File Explorer we were elated.  Tommy had an absurd belief in the power of technology and it was infectious.  Be provided my first 386 computer and bought me a copy of SimTower.  Tommy died when I was in middle school while he was in his 40s having never married and never having had children.  I’d like to think I carry that baton in their absence.
A few years ago, Sam Lodise and I installed a RAID array for a Windows Home Server.  We had blocked out the whole day but the process literally took minutes.  It worked flawlessly.  Tommy would have smiled.  When I restarted Suzie’s laptop after swapping out hard drives using a SATA to USB adapter and it booted into Windows without a hiccup, I think he was smiling then too.

Mom: I’m having a problem with my laptop.
Me: What’s wrong?
Mom: Something with the keyboard.
Me: Can you be more specific?
Mom: The B and I keys don’t work.
Me: They don’t work?
Mom: No, nothing happens when I hit the keys.
Me: Have you just not used it?
Mom: I do.  I just, work around it.

How do you work around missing two very useful keys?  I checked emails from my mother over the past few days and they contained the letters B and I.  When she brought the laptop over later that day, she indeed did not have a functional B or I key.  Go, mom.

Messages from a Team Interrobang admin:

7 AM – Site appears to be functioning slowly.  Unsure of problem, investigating, can anyone help?
10 AM – Site now appears to be down.  Looking into causes, tech support for hosting contacted.  Could use some guidance.
1 PM – Fixed.

I woke up at 1:30 PM to a perfectly functioning site.

This is why I sleep in on Sundays.


My boss’s boss approached me today with a computer issue.  His laptop had been reimaged with Windows XP SP3 and his sound card stopped working.  The in-house tech folks had worked on it for about six hours without success.  He asked me to fix it.  After a few hours I did.

Boss: What can I do to thank you for your help?
Me: Well, this isn’t the first time.
Boss: No, it isn’t.  You’re pretty reliable compared to our in-house people and seem to do it for the whole department.
Me: Yeah, more and more of my week is dedicated to helping other people with computer issues.  But it seems to work out in the department’s favor.
Boss: Very much so.
Me: So hire me to do it full-time.
Boss: No can do.
Me: How about we invent a new temp class where I get paid slightly more?
Boss: Can’t do that either.  How about we meet midway between “you get a new job” and “I give you nothing” with “I buy you lunch tomorrow”.
Me: Deal.

Tomorrow’s meal?  We eat the director of budgeting.

I take building a new desktop computer as something to be done with care.  My builds are usually targeted at a performance sweet spot a standard deviation between “budget” and “performance” with one or two considerations for something I really want which then becomes incorporated into future builds as my new standard e.g. once I started using SSDs all my future computers used them.  I looked over my options this time and found no cases where spending an extra $50 would get me a performance bump so I finally dealt with an air-flow hobgoblin, annoyingly long SATA cables.  The cable goes from the motherboard to the hard drive located a few inches away, and unless you’re building a computer inside a grandfather clock or antique armoire on has no need for the standard 18″ or even 24″ cables.  So I purchased 2 6″ and 2 10″ cables in the vague hope that I could have the following conversation:

Person: Wow, those cables are appropriately lengthed.  Did you make them yourself?
Me: No, I got them a little custom SATA cable boutique I like.
Person: You’re clearly a better person than me.

I could also refer to them artisan cables or small batch cables. That alone is worth the 400% price premium for less cable.

Coworker: I need to get data out of this system built on top of an Access database, what’s the best way to do it?
Me: Open the Access database and do a dump.
Coworker: We can’t do that.  It’s a regulated system and is locked down beyond what anyone but the creators would be able to undo.

I was skeptical, so I asked her to ask Joe, a seasoned Access warrior and see what he could do if it.

Me:  Were you able to get it?
Joe:  Yes.
Me:  Was it hard?
Joe: Two mouse clicks.

I sometimes don’t know how we’d get our jobs done if our predecessors had known what they were doing.

Despite my best efforts, I’m still on the short list of those who are contacted when someone has a problem with a technical resource regarding Ockanickon Scout Reservation.  A leader contacted me about having trouble with a form.  Here’s the email back and forth.

Leader:  i’m trying to download the weekly schedul ebut i keep getting a this came from the internet and is currupt error. I could download the daily schedule from home just fine please fix.
Me: I appear to be able to open both just fine.  Can you be more detailed about the error message and whether it’s from Excel or in the web browser?
Leader:  The error comes up when i open it at wokr now the other one does not work either please fix like it was the other one.
Me:  Is the error you’re getting “The file is corrupted and cannot be opened.” ?  If so, I think it may be because of your work’s local policy.
Leader: No the file worked fine at home please fix.
Me: Ok, I’ll email it to you, tell me if it opens.  I’m pretty sure it’s your work computer’s problem.
Leader: Does not open from Outlook at work, will catch up with you tomrrow may see you from home
Me: I’ve modified the file, try opening it now.  *I made no changes*
Leader: File opened fine, thank you for fix!

The reply came from a account rather than his firm’s domain.

With my new ungodly expensive 70-200 I’ve set about selling my old one via Amazon and Craigslist.  I’ve sold lenses before and have never had issues except for on setting a price so I found some of the emails I got over this lens odd:

Email #1:

I a m  i n t e r e s t e d  i n  t h i s l e n s .    P l e a s e  s t a t e  i t s  c u r r e n t  c o n d i t i o n .

The guy literally had an extra space between every character, not just weird kerning.

Email #2:


Email #3:

Please send pictures taken with this lens.

(I reply with them)
I can not open pictures, please resend.

My reply: I sent links to the pictures.

His reply: I do not want links, I want pictures.

My reply: I’ll be glad to send you a few as an attachment
(Sent him some attached to an email

His reply: I only see files on the email, no pictures.  Please resend.

I was going to cry a little but happily someone purchased the lens later in the day.

Me: I like Firefox over IE, it’s faster and includes neat features like private browsing.
Older Scouter: Private browsing?
Me: Yes, since you and your wife share a computer, you can use it to create a session where none of what you looked at will be stored.
Older Scouter:  I get it.*nods head and almost winks* I think I know why that was made.
Me: Oh? (please don’t say porn, please don’t say porn)
Older Scouter: Yeah, that way patch hounds like me can buy stuff on eBay without our wives knowing.  Whoever made this must have had us in mind.

Yes, elderly patch collectors are the EXACT reason that private browsing was invented.  An answer I’m sticking to so that I can avoid visualizing the alternatives.