flewellyn: (Default)
*cough cough* Ahem. This thing on?

Uhh, hi. So, yeah, been away for awhile. I've been on Facebook, mostly, not blogging a lot.

I've been doing a lot of things, and much has happened! Let me explain...no, there is too much. Let me sum up.

My work has continued apace, with some nifty new developments. We did a major redesign of our code base last year, and this year we are working with some new satellite imagery providers. It's pretty challenging and interesting stuff, but the details would probably bore anyone who wasn't a GIS geek.

Let's see...oh yeah! I can has girlfriend! Yes, really! Her name is Amanda, although I call her by her online nickname (she calls me Flew, as well). She is from a town an hour away from me, but spends most of her year in Los Angeles, going to UCLA for grad school. She is a Classical scholar who can sight-read Greek and Latin and is well-versed in the works of the major Greco-Roman poets and writers, and has opinions about them (mostly about how they are "the WORST!").

Also, she is a very strong social-justice advocate and radical activist type, at least online; social anxiety makes doing in person stuff rather harder. However, she has made a lot of noise on Twitter, yelling at groups like Autism Speaks for being awful.

And, she is adorable and silly, and a lover of strangeness. I should post some quotes from her on here sometime.

Also also, she is an amateur nature photographer, especially of insects and spiders. She is the only person I know who can text me saying "WASP WASP THERE'S A WASP!" and I know she's happy and excited, not scared.

One final thing: she is, in all likelihood, Zalgo. We're almost certain she has some kind of dark and eldritch powers, at any rate.

Hmm...what else? Well, that's the main big thing. I've been doing stuff with friends around town, of course. My gaming group continues to meet, although often we end up watching television shows or YouTube videos more than actually gaming.

Oh, and I have decided that I am going to blog more about stuff here. Treat this like a real blog, you know? Expect some posts in the next few days about social issues, politics, or philosophy.

Also, recipes. Expect those.

So, muahahaha! I RETURN!

Well, shit.

Jan. 5th, 2012 08:54 pm
flewellyn: (Default)
Yitzak, Octoberish 1993 - January 5, 2012.

Well, it WAS a good birthday...until I found him.
flewellyn: (Default)
I just found out my good friend Lynn, who I've known for 14 years, and who mentored me in cooking, died this evening at 6:30 PM.

We both knew she would die soon, her liver was failing. But I didn't think it would be this fast.

I'm not sure what else to say right now.
flewellyn: (Default)
Okay, you all have noticed I haven't been posting as much lately. There are reasons for that, mostly having to do with a major crisis in the lives of several friends of mine. I'm putting it behind a cut, because it involves some MAJOR TRIGGERING SHIT for anyone who has dealt with sexual assault.

Seriously. I don't post trigger warnings at the drop of a hat, so be aware.

Make sure you want to read this... )

So it goes.

Dec. 8th, 2010 01:45 pm
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My grandfather called me just before lunch today, to tell me that my grandmother died last night from pneumonia. As is typical, he didn't say much else.

To be honest, I had anticipated this. She fell a few weeks ago, and broke seven ribs. This had landed her in the hospital, during which time she had fluid filling her lungs. They managed to remove it, but the damage was done; she came down with pneumonia a few days ago.

When I heard that, I figured it was probably coming soon. Pneumonia is deadly to older people, and my grandmother was 89 years old.

At this point, I'm worried about how my grandfather is going to take it. He's physically healthy, but his mental state has always been fragile. I don't know if he will survive long after losing his wife of 50+ years.

I'm not sure how I feel. Sad, obviously, but there's a curious sense of...I don't know...distance to it. It's not like when my mother died; I saw her every day. Plus, my grandmother was very old, and died at an age when people expect to. So, it's very sad, but I don't feel it's a tragedy. I don't know if that sounds callous, I don't mean it to, but that's how I feel.

At any rate...not much else I can think of to say, other than "So it goes."

Update: I got the numbers wrong. She was 90, and they had been married nearly 70 years. So, the worry is even more intense.

Also, my aunt told me that it was grandmother's decision to stop treatment for the pneumonia. She knew what that meant, and she opted to go when she was ready. That makes me feel better, in a way. I'm not glad she's gone, but I'm glad she went when and how she wanted to.


Sep. 3rd, 2010 04:19 pm
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So, I've gone and migrated to DreamWidth. I do not plan on closing down my LJ, but I wanted to have a backup plan.

So, who here is also there? Add me over there!

Also, I will allow comments on both places. Anything I post will be crossposted.
flewellyn: (Default)
So, Saturday night and Sunday morning, I was at the office, doing some work to migrate our database to a new server. I was alone in the office, so I had the doors locked.

I took a break to go use the restroom. When I was finished, I realized two things: first, the door was still locked, and second...I had left my keys on my desk.

Not only was the office door locked, but also the door to the outside. And it has keyholes on both sides, so you can't open it from the inside without a key. I was well and truly trapped.

I thought briefly about breaking down the door, but decided this was a last-resort option. Was I in a last-resort situation?

Well, I had my cell phone with me, so I decided that no, I was not. So, I tried calling my supervisor, Ron. No answer. Tried his house phone, also no answer.

Tried my boss, Lanny. No answer.

Tried Ron again. Tried boss again.

Tried the other programmers. No answers there.

I was about to try Mark, our GIS guy, when my phone died. Out of power. Kaput. The timing could not have been worse.

WELL. At this point, I took stock of my situation. No way out of the building, and even if I could get out, no way to get home because my car keys were in the office. Even if I could get home, no way to get in because my house key was in the office. No one else was awake to come open the door. I had no food, only water was from the bathroom sink, and no idea when someone else might come by. And, most important, I had no way to communicate my situation to anyone else.

At this point, I decided it WAS a last-resort situation. So, I grabbed the fire extinguisher off of the wall and approached the door.

Bashing the door itself was not going to work, it is solid oak. I looked it over, and realized that bashing open the main office door was a bad idea. There was, however, another door, the door to the server room, which opened onto this corridor. That door never got used, and was usually blocked by large heavy boxes. In this case, however, I knew that they had been moved a week before, and there was a good chance the door was unobstructed.

So, I looked again. Big door, also solid oak. Not going anywhere. Doorknob, however, was a different story. I realized that I didn't need to break the door, just the knob; then I could pull the bolt from the wall and push the door open.

It took about fifteen or so heavy bashings with the extinguisher, but the knob came off, and the bolt came out. I pushed open the door and collapsed on the floor with relief.

I was a bit too frazzled to work any more, so I collected my keys, wrote a note to my bosses about why the doorknob was broken on that door, and left. My last words to myself out the door were, "I hope there's no legal repercussions from this."

Fast forward to today: I'm back in the office, much refreshed after resting, and working again. My boss calls to check on my progress. I fill him in, and then tell him about the incident of the previous night. I worried that he would be upset, or angry, or...something. Instead, he just said "Yikes, I'm glad you're okay. Y'know, this isn't the first time someone has accidentally been locked out. Maybe I should invest in combination locks."


So, no trouble. I might have to pay for the doorknob, but those are cheap. And hey, now I get to tell people that I have actually broken down a door by bashing the knob with a fire extinguisher!
flewellyn: (Default)
I'm off to Minneapolis with my gaming group (Sarah, Allison, and Kielana) for Convergence!

Should be fun. I shall update with stories later!


Mar. 13th, 2010 04:42 pm
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No wonder I'm having an "off-brain" day. I just looked at the calendar.

March 13th. Mom's birthday.

It always sneaks up on me...
flewellyn: (Default)
My new living room is done, with couch finally here!

New couch!

It is super comfy, too.

Miette wasted no time in claiming a spot:

She even matches the color!
flewellyn: (Default)
Well, I'm 31 years old today. *waves flag in little circle and says "yaaay, yaaay"*

It feels about like being 30.
flewellyn: (Default)
This is not as high as we were expecting, and the reason seems to be the freak blizzard that hit us on Wednesday, and froze everything again. Water flows into the river slowed to a crawl, and the crest was much lower than anticipated.

Hopefully, the cold will hold long enough to let the excess water flush itself out. However, this is what the National Weather Service had to say in its latest bulletin:


So, we're still keeping an eye out. As long as levels remain below 43 feet, I'm fine. Despite being two blocks from the river, I'm on high ground. Still, I have my bug-out bag packed and ready, and can grab the cats and leave at any time if I have to.

Still...never thought I'd say it, but thank God for that blizzard!
flewellyn: (Default)
So, a quick update: the Red River's rise has slowed significantly. It has remained below 41 feet all day, inching upward at a glacial rate. It's still a record-breaker, mind you, but it's beginning to look like the crest may be lower than predicted. Or later. Maybe both.

The reason? We got slammed with a sudden cold snap and blizzard on Wednesday, which dumped 8 inches of snow on us, but! Also refroze the water that was flowing into the river. So, while there is snow and ice getting in the way of the volunteers building levees and dikes, the cold is helping us immensely. If nothing else, it's buying time; I can still hear trucks hauling dirt out to the road near my building, to build the levee higher.

I never thought I would say this, but...all praises to the Snow Demons!
flewellyn: (Default)
Many of you are probably worried, so here's the scoop: the cities of Fargo and Moorhead have, for the past week, been mobilizing a record number of volunteers and resources to build dikes, dams, levees, and other protections against the oncoming flood of the Red River. The latest work completed built dikes sufficient to protect against the expected crest of 41 feet.

The latest update from the National Weather Service, however, raised the projected crest to 42 or even 43 feet. To give you an idea, the previous record level for a flood in the Fargo-Moorhead area is 40.1 feet, in 1897.

So, they're still out there. Where I live, next to the Clay County Courthouse, is high ground, and the courthouse will not be allowed to flood. They've turned an entire street into an emergency dike, and they're adding to the existing ones to protect against the new expected crest. But the crest is expected within 36 hours. Oh, and did I mention that it's also snowed 8 inches and is below freezing?

I am not expecting to have to leave. But, just in case, I have a bug-out bag ready, and my cat carrier is at hand for kitty evacuation. If I have to go, I will take my lappie with me and try to update you from my new location. Again, not expecting to need to do this, just covering all bases.

The volunteer efforts in the cities have been amazing: I have seen sandbaggers, food carriers, machines, National Guard troops, and police EVERYWHERE. Sandbags and dirt dikes have been going up all over the place, and almost all bridges are closed. Traffic is, as you might expect, quite snarled. But, the people are out and doing what needs to be done, in record numbers. Latest word is that they continue to have too many volunteers.

Just one thing comes to mind: what with all the building of dikes, placing of dikes, reinforcing of dikes, and other dependence on dikes to save this city...when it's all over, Minnesota and North Dakota had damn well better allow gay marriage.
flewellyn: (Default)
So, one of my friends, [livejournal.com profile] apocalypticbob, was wondering how I was doing, noting that I rarely post about myself these days. As I told her, the reason I don't do this is because my life, while generally positive, is not all that eventful lately. But that I might do an update post anyway, to reassure folks.

Her response was as follows:

Might not be a bad idea. I know I'm interested, even if it's just, "I'm
doing okay. The voices are relatively quiet. I put peanut butter in my
underwear today, but thankfully it wasn't tainted with salmonella."

Well. After I stopped laughing hysterically, I decided I'd do an update here and let folks know the basics.

So, let's see... I have finally managed the feat of keeping in touch with friends I met at ValleyCon, as I have hung out with friends Sarah and Melissa a number of times. Also been seeing Lynn a bunch, and we have plans to do food stuffs. I was sick for a couple of weeks at the end of January, so our plans back then had to be postponed; I had the Martian Death Flu, which is NOT a good thing to risk giving to a friend who is on oxygen. During this Martian Death Flu, I got so miserable that I called Melissa and asked if she could bring me some medicine, which she was kind enough to do. We then hung out for awhile, because she'd already had the illness.

Anyway, that was kind of sucky, but it's over and done with.

My friend Ed and I have rescheduled our weekly hangoutage and DVD-watching from Friday night at midnight (technically Saturday Morning), to Tuesday night at 6 pm. This works a lot better for us, because he's no longer exhausted after a night of work, and I no longer have my sleep cycle disrupted every week. We've been watching Stargate SG-1 and, since season 8 started, Stargate Atlantis as well. We watch them concurrently, trading off discs, so that we catch any crossovers. They're fun shows, and I wish I'd known about them before. Ah, well, that is the great thing about DVDs.

As far as worky-worky goes, things are pretty good. We just got our new server and RAID unit, which are utterly awesome. Our current Apple Xserve G5, which has served us well, is starting to show its age, although we could probably keep using it for some time without real problems. But, it IS five years old, and we were able to get the financing for the upgrade quite easily, so we went ahead and got a new Intel Xserve.

This takes the number of processors we have from 2 single-core G5s at 2ghz each, to 2 quad-core Xeons at 3ghz each. That's right: EIGHT processors. Plus, it has twice the RAM (8 gigs), four times the disk space (1 terabyte, mirrored in a RAID 1 set with a hot spare), a hardware RAID card so the redundant mirroring of the system drive is done in hardware instead of software, and the new Leopard version of OS X Server. It's a sweet machine, and I'm having fun setting it up.

But the real thing we needed to upgrade, was our XRAID unit. It acts as the main mass storage system for our server and our office LAN, and the old one, with a capacity of 3 terabytes, was getting full. We losslessly compress our imagery to save space (and, as it turns out, improve the speed of rendering, because the task is mainly I/O bound: compressed images take fewer disk reads to load), but even so, we were approaching the limit of how much we could cram onto the thing.

Hence, our new XRAID, built by ActiveStorage, the company formed by the former Apple engineers who built Apple's XRAID. Instead of an array of 14 250 GB disks (which comes out to 3 terabytes when set up as a RAID 50), it's an array of 16 1 TB disks, which I've set up in a RAID 6 configuration that gives us 13 TB of space, and good redundancy. We can lose two disks at once without losing the array, and we have spares already. (I think it works out to 13 TB instead of 14 because of the "powers of 10" versus "powers of 2" thing that disk makers confuse people with.) We definitely need the space. And the new XRAID is very nicely put together, with redundant controllers, batteries, power supplies, and everything.

So I'm going to be spending the next few days happily setting things up. For various reasons, what we need from our software stack does not come in the default installations that Apple provides. In particular, Apple's built-in Apache and PHP do not have all of the modules we need, the system doesn't come with PostgreSQL (MySQL is NOT an option for us), it definitely doesn't come with the GIS-specific libraries and programs like Proj4, GEOS, GDAL/OGR, or Mapserver, and there's a number of support modules for Python that I need to install as well. I have to migrate the databases from our current server to the new one, test our own code in the new environment and fix any issues, and so on and so forth. It's a good chunk of work, but I enjoy this kind of thing.

On the programming, my work is currently focussed on taking our webpage code, separating it out into "interface code" which interacts with the users, versus "engine code" which does the server-side processing, and then reworking it into a generic server-side API. Then I will work with my minions, Arun and Gaurav, to make an external interface to this API, to be used by off-site clients. The end result? We can provide our image processing services to external programs for a fee. And we can write our own clients as well, including websites, through a standardized interface. Cool, huh?

Not a lot else going on for me. I've been reading stuff, of course, keeping up with LJ and with some blogs, comics, and the like. Oh, and petting my cats, of course. The cats continue to, well, rule the house, as any cat would. Right now they are clustered around me, purring noisily.

Anyway, that's the state of the Flewnion.
flewellyn: (Default)
That's right, folks: I am now 1Eh* years old!

I guess that means I have to start acting like a responsible adult or something.

* That's 30 in hexadecimal.
flewellyn: (Default)
I have not actually posted here in awhile. Should make a point to do so more often.

So, here's the latest, in [livejournal.com profile] limpingpigeon-friendly bulleted list format.

  • My sister, who was visiting me (and Ed) for about three months, has returned to Richmond. She came out here to try and figure out what she wanted to do with her life, to spend some time among family, to save up some money, and to do more art. She's accomplished all of these, plus doing some very fun things like hanging out with her brother and watching most of Babylon 5, as well as the first three seasons of the new Doctor Who. So, she goes home happy. I'm happy in general, too, although I'll miss having her around.

  • While she was here, she helped me revamp some things around my house. As a result, I now have a much nicer-smelling, easier to clean litter box, and have found my new favorite air-freshening smell: garam masala. Besides being great for making curries, this spicy blend of cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and coriander smells absolutely wonderful. I'm going to make a point to keep a bag of the stuff in my cupboards at all times; it makes coming home so much nicer.

  • My work status has changed. I am no longer programmer and sysadmin for Agri ImaGIS.

    I am now senior programmer and sysadmin. That's right, I have minions! They're two young, eager grad students from India who are very interested in learning by doing, which I find very encouraging. Now to see if they can adapt to my odd sleep schedule...

  • I'm thinking of maybe, possibly, considering relationships. Maybe.

  • Yitzak has expressed interest in writing another cat column. I'll have to see what he has in mind.
That would seem to be it for now.
flewellyn: (Default)
Well, yesterday (the 13th) was my mom's birthday. As usual for that date, I couldn't get out of bed until noon. Fortunately, my boss understands.

She would have been 54. I had to do the math in my head to figure it out.

It's not as bad this year as it has been in the past. I'm still reasonably emotionally balanced, if a bit melancholy.

We'll see how I feel in 13 days, on her yahrtzeit. Were I Christian and inclined to superstition, the "13 days after the 13th" anniversary of her death would have creeped me out. As it is, it's just helpful to remember.

At least it's warming up. The snow might be gone by the time I go up to the cemetary.

Y'know, she woulda had to go and die in March. Even prior to that, I never liked March. It's never been a good month for me. And this just made it worse. Not that I blame her, of course. It's just bad timing.

Of course, when is good timing for a loved one to die, anyway?

Well, we'll see how I feel on her yahrtzeit.
flewellyn: (Default)
My apartment building has been condemned by the city because of extreme, malicious negligence on the part of the landlord. Between the leaking roof, leaky plumbing, faulty wiring, cracked foundation walls, mold infestation the likes of which have never been seen outside of a horror movie or Rush Limbaugh's jockey shorts, holes in the walls, and general disrepair, the city has decided (after failing him on four inspections in as many months) to revoke the landlord's license. So, all of us tenants need to find other housing.

Stressed? Me?

Actually, no. Not so bad. In fact, once I got over the initial "oh shit"ness and got a plan going, I started feeling pretty darn good.

Those of you who have read me for awhile may find that surprising; as you know, I have had varying fortunes over the course of my life. The last couple of years have been very, very good, but some of you were reading me back in 2004 and 2003, which were...ehhh, not so much with the good.

In particular, in 2004 I was severely depressed, my health was shot, I was living on food stamps and what money my grandparents could send me, and things generally sucked all around. I did manage to turn things around, though, got a wonderful job, improved my health, dealt with longstanding issues of grief and loss regarding my mother, got onto a state assistance program for disabled people who need life skills coaching, and in general improved my life perhaps 1000%*.

Just how much, though, wasn't apparent until this news about the apartment came down. Two years ago, getting the news that I had to move would have caused me to freak out, shrink away from all human contact, and hide in bed for days on end. And for a moment, I did have the temptation to do just that. Fortunately, I resisted.

Instead, I started saying to myself, "Okay, what do I need to do here? First thing I need to know is what my legal rights are. Google, here I come!"

It turns out that, because of the circumstances, my legal rights are very strong. Minnesota has very good tenants' rights laws, as I discovered upon Googling up "Minnesota tenants rights". I got a handbook from the state HUD department, which was written as an explanatory guide. Then I downloaded the actual law chapter on the subject, Minnesota Statues Chapter 504b. Read up, and, once I knew my rights, started rattling some cages. I called Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, the county social services department, the state's Rental Advocacy hotline, HUD, Moorhead's Neighborhood Services division, even a member of the city council. I've gotten some good advice and references out of it, as well as lining up all my ducks to hit the landlord with whatever legal weaponry I can bring to bear, as much on behalf of my neighbors as myself. In this case, that's quite a lot.

See, when a landlord in Minnesota has his building condemned, he's required by law to furnish copies of the notice to every tenant within 72 hours. And to refund the damage deposits, in full, with interest, within 5 days. Plus, he was directed by the city to assist the tenants in finding alternative housing, and provide us with adequate notice. None of these things have happened; we tenants only got notice of the suspension when one of my neighbors, a young single mother named Amber, passed out copies that she'd obtained from her attorney at Legal Services, on the 24th. We still have not seen a dime of the deposit money. And the landlord himself only told us we needed to leave on the 31st. (NB: According to the city, their notice to him does not count, legally, as notice to us. Nor is he permitted to use his mandatory copies of their notice to him AS such notice.)

Thing is, this landlord has become a major alcoholic since his wife died last year. I can sympathise with losing a loved one, and I can certainly sympathise with depression, but climbing back into the bottle is no more helpful in such situations than climbing back into bed. Believe me, I know.

Still, it's hard for me to sympathise when the guy continues to try and scam us for money. The other night he came by with a bogus form he wanted me to sign, which stated that I agreed if I was not out by the 3rd of November (the city's deadline to him to get people alternative housing), I would pay him a fine of $450. He is attempting, of course, to cover his losses, since any tenants who are still in the building after the 3rd cause him to face $100/per day fines, per tenant. So he must have figured, somehow, that he could maybe intimidate said tenants into giving him money, so he could cover the fines and maybe even turn a profit.

Only problem is, Minnesota law is very specific about paying rent, or anything else, to a landlord after the building is condemned: don't do it, and he can't ask for it. If he insists, he would be liable for three times the amount asked for, plus moving expenses, plus other penalties, just for making the attempt! Never mind the criminal prosecution for harrassment and fraud.

Obviously, though, affixing my signature to a piece of paper he gave me without consulting an attorney would be Very Bad, so I told him that I would do no such thing, and that I would be reporting it to the DA. He wasn't happy about that.

So, all of the above means that he is in big trouble, and I intend to give it to him. In the meantime, of course, I needed to find a new apartment. Fortunately, Google is my friend once again. I've found a nice little one-bedroom-with-office place in very good condition, in a very good neighborhood: it's one block away from Clay County Social Services, and two blocks from the county courthouse and the police station, so obviously it's in a low-crime area. And there are TREES! I haven't lived in an area with real trees in years. Heat and water are paid, everything is clean and the appliances are all new, they explicitly allow pets (and will waive the pets damage deposit since my cats are considered therapeutic companion animals), and I get my own garage for free! The landlords are very pleasant and helpful, and are expediting my application because of the need to move quickly (the condemnation of my building has made local news, so everybody knows). And best of all, I can afford it.

Not only that, though, but my social worker has pulled off another miracle: the program I'm in, SILS (Semi-Independent Living Skills), provides a fund for one-time use for moving a client into a new home if necessary. She's tapped into that fund for me, so now I don't even have to pay the movers! And I can get a new couch for free too! And a boxspring and mattress for my new bed!

Not too shabby for a week's work, eh what?

*You can so have a percentage greater than 100, when you're talking about degree of change and statistical trends. Hush up, pedants.


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