Monthly Archives: November 2008

Good-bye, Ron

Today, I bought a sander.

Actually, no, I shouldn’t start there. I should start last winter.

Last winter, I moved out of my master bedroom. Yeah, last winter. I’m not the fastest when it comes to home improvement projects. Last winter, I was a little alarmed that my window kept frosting up all the time. Sure, they’re old windows, but they hadn’t done that the previous year.

My room started smelling a bit funny too. I thought maybe I was being negligent with the laundry or something, but the smell was still there after I gave the whole room a thorough cleaning. Once the frosted window thawed a bit, I got a hint about what the problem might be. Well, it took me a bit to realize the black grungy stuff wasn’t just dirt. It was mold.

Ick. Mold. I panicked a bit. All those Dateline NBC exposés about Deadly Black Mold Lurking In Your Walls! had me a bit nervous. I don’t know how long it’s been a problem, either. I moved out of the bedroom and into the basement. And I started to look around.

I’d always thought it was a bit odd that there was wood paneling on the back wall of the bedroom. The same sort of wood paneling that’s in my basement. (The house is from the 70s. What do you expect?) With the mold, I was suddenly suspicious. In a rare fit of DIY energy, I got out the crow bar and ripped the wood paneling down.

From Ron

Fortunately, there wasn’t any mold underneath. Just a bare, plaster wall and nail holes from the wood paneling. And thick, black glue that had been holding the paneling on. I guy named Ron put up the paneling. I know because he wrote his name on my wall. In glue.

It’s stubborn stuff, too. I tried scraping and chiseling it off, but I was doing more damage to the plaster than to the glue. I tried sanding with a manual sander, and I made a little progress, but it would take years at that rate to get it all off. I tried a heat gun, thinking that maybe there was a coat of paint under the glue, but no, it’s just plaster. Which is odd, since it means that that wood paneling has been up since the house was sold. Meaning a professional thought, in his professional wisdom, that wood paneling was a good thing to have in a master bedroom. Only in the 70s. I blame Ron.

Today I picked up a power sander and I’m making good progress on the glue. Ron is gone, at least. I’m covered in plaster dust and it feels a bit gross. The window is going to be replaced on Tuesday. Once I get the glue off, I can start spackling the holes and chips and start sanding that. Then I can clean up the mess.

BarCamp Waterloo

Eric invited me to join him to go to BarCamp Waterloo. I’d always meant to go to one, but I kept missing them for one reason or another. I wouldn’t have known about this one if Eric hadn’t given me the heads-up.

Eric did a demo of installing Debian in 6 minutes over the network. There was also a Windows 7 demo, a potentially religious discussion about languages, a demo of FOSS Factory, a demo of an intranet video training thing in Rails, and something I’m forgetting. I also got a private(ish) demo and beta invitation to CastRoller.

I also got to find new, intriguing things out about local companies. I’ve been out of the loop for too long. I’m impressed that the crazy-sounding local startups actually have compelling business models behind them. It makes me feel better about the tech economy here in town.

Ottawa Weekend

I was planning on going back to Belleville this weekend, since it looked like it could be the last weekend I had free before Christmas. Just a quick trip home to get my parents up to date on recent happenings, reconnect and maybe relax a little. When I mentioned this to my mom earlier in the week, she came back and asked if I wanted to go to Ottawa.

My sister (the one that lives in Ottawa) was going to be on her own this weekend and wanted my mom to come visit. So since I was coming too, I might as well come along, since I hadn’t seen her since her wedding.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet up with Ottawa friends again. I don’t do that nearly enough. Ottawa’s pretty far away and all.

It was very nice seeing people. I went with Bill to see Body of Lies. Which I think is a really good movie, but definitely not the feel good movie of the year. I liked that it managed to turn American jingoism on its ear, but did it in a way that wasn’t just rabidly anti-American. The Americans are still the good guys (for some definition of “good”). They’re just powerful but ineffectual good guys. On that level, it worked for me. On the level of feeling a bit queasy at the time, I probably didn’t need the torture scenes.

[[WikiLinks]] update: I’m working on it, in bits and pieces here and there. I really only started working on it in earnest on the train to Ottawa, so I think I’m making good progress. I’ve had a few breakthroughs in figuring out how the whole WordPress plug-in architecture works. I have a plug-in that actually does something, which is good. I got my regular expression sorted out. I’m now changing how I was seeing if a page exists so that it doesn’t hit the database quite as much. I figured lots of database hits would probably be bad.

Book meme

Book meme thing:

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

Your customer says, “What will it cost to do the work?” You reasonably ask, “What do you want me to do?” Your customer says, “I can’t tell you, but how much will it cost?” You reasonably thank the customer for wasting your time and go home. – Code Complete 2nd Edition by Steve McConnell

Honestly, it was the closest book at hand. It’s a great book. I had to add the follow-on sentences because it’s not nearly as fun otherwise.

In other news, no, I haven’t been posting as much as I’d envisioned since the job search is taking more of my attention. It’s also a good chunk of what I’m thinking about, but I don’t feel like I should be posting about it. It’s one of those things.

Emilia Galotti and Romeo and Juliet

Ellen and I wrapped up the Stratford season this week with two plays back to back.

Emilia Galotti

Thursday we went to see Emilia Galotti. It’s a German play, and was presented in German with English surtitles. Apparently the acting troupe was brought in from Germany and the production was supposedly kind of a big deal in theatre circles.

I didn’t like it much. That might have had something to do with not being able to read the surtitles. Having some idea what they were talking about might have helped.

We were sitting in the back row (in case Ellen and I needed to take off for whatever reason). The balcony conveniently hid half the surtitle screen. I could read them only if I leaned forward in my seat, almost hovering over the shoulder of the person in front of me. This was awkward socially. It also wasn’t doing my back any good, so I just gave up and tried to get the most out of just watching the strange people talking in German and taking their shirts off. The men anyway.

They were doing an arty sort of existentialist presentation of the play, too. That probably didn’t help my appreciation much. The stage was an stark, forced perspective room, with a single open door in the back. The walls on either side opened up, allowing (or not, inexplicably) people to enter and exit that way. For whatever reason. Generally, with two actors on stage, one actor would deliver his or her lines and the other would stand stock still, looking at the audience. Then they switch. There was a lot of that.

I’m sure it had some deep meaning, but if you can’t pick up on the surface meaning, the deep meaning is hopelessly lost. I could tell the actors were good actors, but that doesn’t really matter in the end. From my perspective, it was just strange people talking in German and men taking their shirts off for no readily apparent reason. At least it was short.

We stumbled upon a reception for the play afterwards. We were somewhat under-dressed. Even so, I got to enjoy the free food and Ellen got to schmooze. There were speeches from the director, the German ambassador to Canada, the local MP, some provincial minister and a couple other dignitaries. Ellen wanted to go and talk to Antoni Cimolino and also ended up spending a bit of time chatting with Des McAnuff. I suggested afterwards that since we were hobnobbing, maybe we should’ve cornered the German ambassador for his opinion on the ACTA treaties. Maybe next time.

Mr McAnuff asked what we thought of Emilia Galotti, but we demurred and said something like “It was okay,” and changed the subject.

Romeo and Juliet

Last night, we rounded off the season with Romeo and Juliet. That was much more enjoyable. Juliet was played by the same actress who played Cleopatra in Caesar and Cleopatra. I think I liked her as Cleopatra better (she pulls off child-like but slightly insane very well in that one), but she was a very good Juliet, playing the role more like the thirteen-year-old she is. Romeo was also very good. As was the nurse and Lord and Lady Capulet.

How they handled Mercutio was a bit strange. I usually really like Mercutio, but I didn’t really like this one. I wonder how much of it was the actor and how much was a deliberate directoral choice. In the confrontation with Thibault, most productions I’ve seen make Romeo seem kind of swooning and fanciful, and Mercutio steps in, possibly because his friend is acting so unusual. In this one, Romeo is determined and almost desperate, but Mercutio is kind of a dick who can’t abide being slighted.

Subtle changes in interpretation can change the play a lot.

The other strange thing is the costume choices. They start off with roughly modern dress, but then everybody gets dressed up all Elizabethan-like for the masquerade ball. I thought this was a clever choice, but everybody stays in period costume until Romeo and Juliet are discovered dead. (Oops, spoiler. Sorry). Only then do they revert to the modern costumes. It makes a certain sort of sense, but it’s also kind of weird. And it makes it harder to keep track of characters who look very different between the two sets of costumes.

The acting was great, though, and the production over all was really good. I’d say go see it, but it closed today.