Life Outside My Cube

My life, a work in progress.

Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Yellow Light of Dawn

Fourteen minutes into the mission, and things were looking pretty good for Ranie Scott, considering. He was squatting with his back to a brick wall, just inside the compound, waiting for his breath to come back. Not moments before he’d had to silently – he hoped – climb the 12-foot chain link fence topped with new barbed wire, not before having to disable the electric current running through the fence from the control box just inside the one rear gate. The electric fence was a major oversight by Lance Beach, the spotter on this job, and one that would have stopped him, if not fatally, at the outset. He’d have words with Beach in the morning.

The small spark of a damp weed against the fence had alerted him to the fact that the fence was wired. He was fortunate that tonight’s lightning storm provided cover, both auditory and visual, for the disabling of the high-voltage charging system with his silenced HK45. The rain didn’t dissuade him from his task; in fact, the mission had been on hold, waiting for just such a night, as it considerably helped by increasing the night’s background noise to a more comfortable level for maneuvers. On a still night, the rattle of a chain link fence or the metallic ting of snipped barbed wire fence could echo dangerously. He’d seen no movement in any of the lighted windows of the main house, nor seen or heard the guard dog who was loose somewhere. At least Beach had alerted him to that.

The rain would keep the dog under cover. It would also keep common burglars at home, so the lone security guard inside would probably be less vigilant. Scott’s senses, however, were tightly tuned, not distracted by the rain, thunder or occasional lightning that had assisted him just prior to his fence climb. He stood, sheltered for the moment by the garage roof overhang under which he’d squatted, and made out the corner of the machine shed that blocked the doghouse from view. He padded quietly to the far corner across the cement drive, hugged the shed wall, and pulled a ziploc bag from his thin backpack. Opening it, he pulled the cord lashed around the thick ham bone, and winding back, swung it around the corner toward the doghouse.

Quickly sprinting back to the other side of the machine shed, he silently jumped up on the outside pallet rack that held myriad tires, scrap parts and used 55 gallon drums. He crouched for several minutes to give the dog time to settle in with the bone, then stretched himself down and quickly walked toward the east wing of the manor house. Only three windows were lit – a second floor pair covered by sheer curtains and a first floor frosted window that glowed somewhat blue. The former he knew belonged to the master bedroom, the latter the small security room. Beach had determined that the lone guard, a 56-year old retired security van driver, spent most of his time on duty browsing the internet. An alarm system, but no cameras, was his only monitor of outside conditions.

Undoubtedly the guard had by now noticed that the electric fence wasn’t functional, but Scott guessed he was too comfortable inside on a night like this to bother coming outside to check on it. He’d probably connected the charging system failure with the fortuitous lightning strike, an assumption he’d come to regret by morning. The owners of the house probably had complete faith in their security arrangements,   an assumption they’d come to regret by morning too. The dog had probably assumed that meaty bones just naturally dropped out of the sky, an assumption that would never be corrected. Scott, Beach, Woodsey and the new kid Spatz had diligently thought through all these assumptions, and would be counting their cash in another state by the morning.


Peace Amidst Tension

This morning I got up and immediately threw on some dirty clothes. I lumbered downstairs – walking is clearly an “awake” activity – and out to the garage and my bike for a bit of early-morning tweaking. I’d noticed a rapping sound when decelerating that I surmised was a loose chain hitting the chain guide; a quick visual inspection showed about a couple inches of play, about one inch too much.  A quick adjustment on the chain tensioners and I’d be done.

I reread the notes in the shop manual, just to to be sure, and got out the tools. Loosen the axle nuts, loosen the double-nuts on the threaded tensioner shaft, tighten left side a half-turn at a time until tension is right. Rotate chain, verify measurement. Dupe on right side, lock double-nuts, ensure wheel is straight, and torque back axle nuts. How hard could that be?

Until I got to the right tensioner (4) and tried to loosen the larger of the two nuts on the right side (14, not 21), still a bit sleepy. A quick twist of the wrench… and the shaft broke off right at the end cap (6). Drat. No way to cobble up this one. So it looks like I drive the car today.

I took a half-hour drive to the nearest cycle parts place – to find that the store location (of their two) that I was at only carried 4-wheeler parts. Another half hour to their other location, to find that the part would have to be ordered. 5 days. And it’s just over $20 for a little part. Ridiculous. I wish I had $40 so I could order two, for next time. On the wish list it goes. So now I’m stuck without a ride for few days.

This is actually a good thing, as I wanted to deal with the dirty chain anyhow. I bought some degreaser and lube the other day, so I’m going to take the chain off and soak it, clean it real well and lube it before I put the new tensioner on. Something good to do while I’m waiting.

Wouldn’t be a problem for most riders, who only go out on the weekends, I suppose. For us commuters, it’s a big interruption. All in stride, though, it’s an opportunity to get more “intimate” with the bike while I wait. I’m discovering that while a bike and car might require similar amounts of maintenance, the former is more likely to involve a wrench, the latter a checkbook.

More work, more fun

I had a conference call with a client this noon to clarify some issues with his software product (he was in London on a trip, I was at my workplace; loving Skype and Google Docs). Resolved quickly, I can move past this roadblock to complete implementing a new email template system for him. I’d already developed a prototype to thrash out the idea, but needed to understand better how to integrate it into his system.

His previous developer used a very wide, sparsely-populated non-normalized client table (around 60 columns), to which I needed to add another handful of columns. That is, if I continued in the same design vein. I won’t.

That table’s so integrated into the website code it’s not even funny; correcting the bad design would be a tremendous effort. I’m not going to even attempt it right now. I told the client about this, as I knew he was propositioning a large potential customer that would add tens of thousands of records to this table. TBD, I guess, but I’d sure like to see it changed sooner than later. I think I shook him up a bit when I talked about it with him. He has greater confidence in his prior developer than I do, ’cause I’ve seen the code.

Anyhow, I can easily split out the email template columns into another table, so it won’t be so bad, and that stuff is pretty much used in only two places. Will be kind of a fun addition, and limited in terms of touching the rest of the system, so testing should be fairly easy.

The website application also provides for handheld data-entry using a mobile device. He also mentioned today that he’s going to want more work done on that part of the site, so he’ll be sending me some kind of device, probably iPod touch related. Cool! I’m not really interested in a smart phone or iPod touch thing; I have a cell phone for talking to people, and a computer to store stuff and browse the internet. I don’t need another expensive piece of technology. But if someone gives it to me, I’m not going to turn it down. :-)

Plus, it turns out another of my clients also wants a mobile-optimized view for her website, so that’ll be handy to have. I had thought I’d need to purchase one on my own. I’m really looking forward to working on that optimization project, having never done anything for mobile before. That will really be fun, but probably not on the table for a while; she’s not sure it’s worth it right now, until her site gets more traffic.

The other client’s data entry stuff needs to be done by July 9 – I don’t even know what needs done yet. But if I have time, I can perhaps do the optimization project on my own, and just present it to her when it’s done, just for fun.

Big difference between the two clients – the one I talked with today is hourly, and the other is “free”. The former is a more stressful, the latter is more enjoyable. The former involves managing others’ code/design, and the latter is all mine. The former is a guy from Manhattan, the latter is a woman from New England.

We’ll see how they both pan out. In the meantime, I’ve got work to do!


The beginning of a new month, and almost summer. It certainly feels like summer, with temps in the mid-to-upper 80’s. I still feel lethargic, what with the heat and  the lack of urgent work. Volleyball last night was a good escape for a while.

As promised, I got everyone going on dynamic stretching before we started playing. It was fairly well received, but I only had everyone do a few; my mind went blank trying to remember all of the ones we did at the volleyball camp. So here’s a compiled list of all I can remember:

  1. Jog
  2. Sprint
  3. Lunge walk
  4. Lateral lunge walk
  5. Butt kicks
  6. Walking quad stretch (pull back to butt)
  7. Straight-leg deadlift walk
  8. Forward hand walk
  9. Groin stretch walk
  10. Alternate toe touches
  11. Left and right shuffle
  12. Left and right crossover
  13. Leg huggers
  14. High knees jog
  15. High kick toe-touch
  16. Heel-to-toe touch ground
  17. Jumping jacks
I also reinforced the perimeter defense in all the teams I played with, and introduced No Mercy at the end, which was more of  a fun thing than anything else; it wasn’t clear that everyone knew positions well enough for it to be a good drill.
Anyhow, we’ll see how it all works out in the coming weeks. Perhaps if I added one thing each week, it wouldn’t be too overwhelming.