The Dysmey Blog
The personal weblog of Andy West.

March 2009
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The Car: It’s Almost Ready
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 5:05 pm

During my lunch break I drove to the repair shop to check on my Ford Aspire. Okay, the right part did come in, but the mechanic had to grapple with it to get it into the transmission. But the point is that the right part has come. The Aspire should be ready on Saturday morning. I will have to drive down to the shop tomorrow morning to get my car — to return the Geo Metro to the rental place — and to hurt my credit card real, real bad. But at least I will get my car back. That will be a good thing to me after two weeks of waiting.

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The Second Friday The 13Th Is Out Of The Way
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 10:20 pm


The entry is later than the date because my DSL service had been down for several days. The telephone company I subscribe to had to replace some electronics on their end. It did not help. I had an extended talk with the technician this evening, and in the end I did get my Internet connection back. Why? The problem was the router itself! I had to reset the router to get my Internet connection back.

weekend work

Let me get the weekend stuff out of the way first.

brick path

I have planned for a long time to lay landscaping fabric (the stuff that keeps plants from growing where they shouldn’t) under the brick path from the back door to the basketball court. This afternoon I have pulled the bricks, dug out the weeds, laid the fabric, repositioned the bricks, and poured filling material between the bricks.

I did not have enough fabric on hand, so I had to drive to Lowe’s to buy more. I had more than enough bricks on standby from the other brick path (which I pulled up last year); but there were not as many broken bricks to replace. And the filling stuff I used was that sand/cement mix I used on the patio and front walk last year. I used that stuff because I could not find any sand. In all it took several hours to do all forty-odd feet of the brick path. But it is done at last.

the ood

Also done at last was my plan to recycle the Serener GS-L08, my failed pico-server from last year. The reason it failed was the power supply that came with it: It could power the Pico-ITX motherboard, or the hard disk, but not both. Another pico-sized power supply could power both, but it was too big to fit inside the Serener. And I did not want the supply exposed while it is running.

So a couple of weeks ago I bought a couple of small metal cases at Fry’s. (It was that trip that stressed the transmission to the slipping point. More on where I took it.) I bought a ¼-inch drill bit and a file bit; borrowed my folks’ power drill; and bored two holes in the bigger case. One hole was for the power jack; the other was to let out the cable connecting the supply to the motherboard. That cable was sheathed in a yellow casing that is supposed to shrink with heat. But my small soldering iron did not have the heat to shrink the sheathing, so I bound the sheath with mouse belts on each end.

The final work has a yellow cable coming out the serial port hole of the Serener and into the round hole of the shiny metal case. It kind of reminds me of an Ood, an alien from the new series of Doctor Who, with its forebrain coming out of its mouth. So I chose to call my creation the Ood. It works with Fedora 10. I may try it with a Windows system.

next projects

My next projects will include:

I will also need to make a decision on what to do with the metal/plastic lawn mower. Its inner workings appear to be shot; and since there is nobody I know of who can repair it I may have to dispose of it and use the old lawn mower — old as in early 2000’s but still working.

my car

My car is at Precision Transmission on the far northeast side of Muncie. There it is getting its transmission rebuilt. This is a challenge for them, because the Ford Aspire was not a big seller to begin with, and nobody makes parts for them anymore. I dropped off the car Wednesday afternoon; it’s Monday, and they are still working on it. The parts for the gearbox did not come until late Friday, and they are not up to the job.

In the meantime, I got a rental car from a nearby shop. It is a blue Geo Metro that runs okay, but (as advised by the guy who rented the car) I had to put five dollars of gas at a time. I thought I would have the car for only two days, so I did not bother to get a temp permit from the campus parking service. I used the garage near the library instead, costing me five bucks per day.


I ordered a book on the mail transfer software Postfix from O’Reilly Media. Usually when I order a book from them I get the book within a week or so. But it has been several weeks and still no Postfix book. I sent a message to O’Reilly’s accounts folks.

I ordered the Book of Postfix back in late March. I am still waiting for the book to arrive. Normally O’Reilly is very good in fulfilling orders. But when I examined the order on the O’Reilly Web site I noticed that the order’s status is “BOOKED”. What does that mean, and what is a probable date I can expect the book to arrive?

Oops, I meant late February. But the point is that for an O’Reilly book it is later than usual.

I really do need that book because in my next Janovac iteration, I want to install Postfix along with the Apache and MySQL servers. I would like to install stuff like WordPress, MediaWiki and EPrints; but, although they do not explicitly state such a requirement, they do need a mail transfer agent.

In the meantime, I requested the book via the University Libraries interlibrary loan.

And now, I will let the summary of this Slashdot posting say it all:

According to a TV Week article, NBC Universal has decided to change the name of their Sci Fi Channel to Syfy. Why? To pull in a more ‘mainstream’ audience. If you’re unclear what ‘more mainstream’ means, TV Historian Tim Brooks spells it out for you: ‘The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular.’ Yes, we should probably all be offended. And telling us that a crack marketing team came up with the name because that’s how tech-savvy 18-to-34 year-olds would text it really doesn’t help.

I did not know that techies text the phrase science fiction as syfy. I did not know techies actually use text messaging (as opposed to Internet chat/messaging), given how much of a ripoff it is. I did not even know that the world needed another channel like Lifetime or Oxygen.

This has pretty much convinced me that it is time either to drop cable TV or at least to drop down to basic service. To tell the truth, I hardly watch television anymore, anyway.

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An Aspire Expiring
Filed under: General, Politics, Work
Posted by: Andy @ 9:35 pm

my car

The transmission on my car gave out as I was driving out of the staff parking lot at work. I could still drive, but no faster than ten miles per hour, as the transmission was stuck in first gear. I had to take an hour off to drive to Precision Transmission on the northeast side of Muncie. The car will be in the shop for two days. I got a rental car in the meantime; it is a Geo Metro, and I am lucky to get it, because all the other rental cars have gone to students for Spring Break. I was told not to fill up the gas tank (for obvious reasons), so I put five dollars worth in it. I will also pay five bucks a day to park it because I will have it for only two days, and it is more trouble to try to get a temporary permit for the car.

my cat

Isis had indeed reverted to under-the-stair status again. I had to call the vet hospital to report her condition, and to get some meds for her. This time the meds are in pill form, which I can grind up in a mortar and pestle to mix in her food. This is a lot better than having to force-feed her through a syringe, as she does not know she is being medicated. She is recovering nicely.

my library

I have learned that Senate Bill 386, which would have consolidated the public libraries, died the death from being overloaded with amendments. I am not sorry it died that way. In fact, I would rather have started library reform at the State Library level. But that will not stop the local libraries from coming together to consolidate services and planning on their own.


As I noted, it is Spring Break, so the Bracken is quiet. We finally got an enhancement for the color printer in the Architecture Library, and the driver to go with it. Big PDFs and PowerPork presentations should now print without clogging the mailboxes. And while I am still struggling with EPrints for Windows, I got a Cardinal Scholar service on Fedora running with the latest EPrints (3.1.2).

my house

I bought myself a tool called a fulcrum weeder from Garrett Wade. It is two double prongs with a foot lever. Press the prongs around the target weed, then lean the handle in the direction of the lever to pull out the weed. It is very effective if you center the prongs right. It also leaves holes in the ground where the weed is pulled out. Madre remarked on this, and I was surprised that she knew about the tool. Evidently it was common beyond the Northwest where it was made until the Second World War.

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The First Hint of Spring
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 10:06 pm

Yesterday was such beautiful weather: Warm, dry and windy. I wasted it doing yard work. But it had to be done sometime, and it is better to get it out of the way now than later, when other stuff will grab my attention.

I raked up the leaves left over from last fall, as well as leaves that blew in from other folks’ lawns and into the north and east sides of my house.

I pulled up the cable from the east and north sides of my house because it was long unused and a danger for my lawn mower. Having done that, I also removed the rest of the cable inside my bedroom and patched up the hole in the wall.

I pulled up nascent dandelions from around the emerging bulb plants on the west side of my house. Other such weeds are too small to be noticeable in the grass; but I ordered a weeder from Garrett Wade, which will let me pull out the weeds while standing.

I installed new week fabric in the square pit in my patio. It was gathering dirt among the stones, and plants were taking root in the dirt. I had to wash the stones off before shoveling them back into the pit.

I bought some more Grant’s ant poison for when the spring stays around, and new burners and drip pans for the stove.

Today came rain — a lot of it — turning my yard into a pond. When the rain stopped, I walked out to find a chunk of my siding lying on the patio. I had to nail it back on.

Isis is achy again, but she can move around more than the last time she experienced pain in her back. She can climb low steps and walk about: She just does it more slowly and carefully. And she was able to climb on the sill of the window above the lower stairs to enjoy the lovely day yesterday.

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The Dawn of a Pivotal Month
Filed under: General, Work
Posted by: Andy @ 12:19 am


I anticipate that this coming month will be very busy. And it is not just the library meetings and the doctor’s appointment and the pledge drive for Indiana Public Radio. Those I expect. It is a lot of indeterminate stuff that I have to plan for but which I do not know the outcome that makes for a month that one could call interesting.

my cat

My cat Isis does not like to take her anti-inflammatory medication. It tastes evil (to a cat). It makes her drool as she takes it, so that I have to bring a paper towel or two to wipe up the oratory. And it is hard to keep her from squirming while giving her the stuff. But Isis gets over drinking the stuff quickly, and is her normal self for the rest of the day.

But now the prescribed regiment of pinkish goo is finished. When the twenty-one days from her last hospital visit expires on the second of March, I must make an appointment to take Isis back down the hospital to see if more of the goo has brought relief to that third middle vertebra that has been causing her so much trouble. And I do not know what will happen.

my car

My Ford Aspire is twelve years old now. And the past year for it has not been very good. If the following sounds like an obit, it is because it may well be time to give up on the car.

Evidently all that shifting between drive and second gears has worn out something in the transmission. The transmission began to slip a couple of days ago: After a stop or a park, the transmission would delay for a second or two before engaging. That makes it dangerous to be on a hill when you have to stop. I took the car to the local transmission shop, where I got the rebuilt transmission just after I bought my car. I was took it would cost nine hundred dollars to fix; but more than that, I would be without the car for two days. I cannot afford the loss of my car for that long. And I do not want to rely on my folks for backup, like I had for the past decade or two.

I think the time is come to buy a new car. However, I have to fix the transmission on the Aspire before I can think of trading it in. I will do that during the second week in March, as the first one will be busy enough.

my house

The house and yard have also managed to survive the nasty winter. But the back deck is shot, with most of its boards in splinters from the freezing and rethawing. I will have to dismantle it. I want to build a new deck, or at most a enclosed porch. But before I do that I want to dig out a real crawlspace under the house to access the pipes, to install network and television cables, to install pillars to prop up the floor under the appliances, and to better install poisons for the ants. I also need to buy a new push reel mower, as the current plastic one is becoming unworkable.

my work


The annual work evaluations are coming this coming month. My focus this year will be on the Macs and obtaining at least an ACSP (Apple Certified Support Professional) certification. I will need to compile the appropriate documents and send them to my boss. Then comes the evaluation. Then I am okay for another year. I do not expect a raise this year because I expect all pay to be frozen due to the lack of money from the current mini-depression.


Speaking of the Macs, I hope this coming month to learn once and for all how to keep the Macs in the library talking to the campus network without unbinding to it every two weeks. From what I have learned from the visiting Apple Engineer from Indianapolis, I have been overzealous in using every network protocol to get the Macs to connect to the campus network. It turns out I only needed the Microsoft-related protocols to make connectivity work. Of course, whether that works I will not know until after a couple of weeks go by, when the next unbinding is due.


Then we have the institutional repository. I would like to update it to the latest version of EPrints, which is 3.1. But there is no latest version for us: We are using EPrints for Windows, which is stuck at 3.0 (r3380). The guy who ported EPrints to Windows has left the EPrints project. The guy who is supposed to replace him is a higher-up who has his own stuff to do without having to be burdened with Windows crap. (At least that is what I would think about it.) Indeed, there is nothing about Windows in the big EPrints Plan. That means all the cool new features of EPrints 3.1 and the proposed features of EPrints 3.2 are beyond our reach.

I have concluded that the EPrints for Windows thing was a proof-of-concept type of project that was never meant for production. If that is the case, that means that EPrints for Windows will soon become worthless, for its foundational software (Apache 2.2.4, Perl 5.8.8, ImageMagick 6.3.5) will lose support as newer versions long suppass them.

So, EPrints 3.1.2 is the way to go. I will now need to convince everyone else that it is the way to go, even though it will mean a long struggle to get our campus computer support services (a Windows-only shop) to accept this and to port existing repository items to the new EPrints.

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