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Playing Catch Up

I arrived back from Louisville to an urgent client project with a deadline of Friday, so I’ve been unable to post. We will be returning to our regularly scheduled blogging shortly. I’ll probably have a few things later this afternoon. Do you ever feel like taking vacation isn’t worth it? One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that two weeks is the minimum to really unwind and forget about work. Anything under that and you tend to just shift work around, rather than really accommodate for vacation time.

Busy Times, Hence Why I’m Posting Not So Much

I’m in the middle of a client demo this week, so if blog content has seemed light the past several weeks, that is why. It all builds up to this. We’ve been developing an RFID solution for one of our clients, and I volunteered to be developer, project manager…. basically a one man band. In truth, I like to fly that way. I am in my element when there’s a project within my capabilities and I am confident I don’t need to bring on a team to help out. Things are going well, but you do want to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts when your client’s CFO is reviewing your work. There’s always things that will go wrong testing in a real environment as opposed to the ideal conditions in a “lab.” You want to keep the client interested by meeting and exceeding their original vision. You have to show potential and value when that’s what you’re brought in to do. That’s what we do.

If my client had gone to one of the big technology consulting firms with an idea like this, Very Big Consulting would have come back with a seven figure quote, and team of a dozen people for two years. Most of that staff from Very Big Consulting would be kids right out of college with no real world experience. You’d have a senior guy “running” the show who billed at a rate some talented lawyers would envy, but whose real job would be keeping the victim’s client’s decision makers happy (think awesome golf and dining opportunities) while not doing much to actually accomplish anything. Whether the project actually has any chance of succeeding would be left in the hands of the more capable workers among the team from both the victim client and Very Big Consulting. If you’re lucky, you may have something that is a fragment of your original vision when you’re done. If you’re very lucky, it might even be at least somewhat functionally useful.

We’ve cleaned up more than a few messes from Very Big Consulting for some of our clients our 16 years of operation. In fact, probably one of our biggest obstacles is convincing new clients, “No, really, we’re different than those other consulting firms. We’ll bring in capable people across the Board. We don’t look at you as a resource to be milked. We won’t bring in a team unless we need a team.” So I’m hoping for this client we deliver a proof of concept that we can develop into a real product to benefit their customers. When all is said and done, it’s very doubtful the client will spend more than low-six-figures, let alone seven. But we are not Very Big Consulting. And it’s for that reason I have to be a bit scarce these few weeks.

Move Completed

I wired up the last few phone drops in our new building yesterday, so for now our office move is complete. I still have several tasks to do, but they can proceed with a normal priority, rather than having to get things working by the time everyone gets back from the holiday.

The good news is the new office is 10 minutes closer for me. Door-to-door time yesterday was 43 minutes traveling there and 46 minutes returning home. That’s almost enough to make me think I could do three days in the office and two at home, instead of the other way around.

The bad news is that our movers destroyed more than half of our furniture. We use Bush Furniture, which looks good, but it’s all cheap particleboard. To move it safely, it really needs to be disassembled. If you’re not going to do that, picking it up and carrying it is a must. The movers were dragging it over the floor instead of picking it up and carrying it. I lost my bookshelf to the move. It was really more a question of what didn’t they break.

Either way, I’m glad that’s over with.

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers out there. I hope you all have a great holiday.

Regularly scheduled blogging will continue on Monday, hopefully. I’ve been scarce posting this week because I’ve spent the last three days moving our company to our new building, knowing absolutely nothing about the wiring in it beforehand.

The good news is that it’s in decent shape, and mostly labeled correctly. The bad news is that the building formerly housed two tenants and one of the former tenants cut all their network drops and removed the panels. Fortunately, they left one small three gang box with six ports in it uncut, and I was lucky enough that those drops went into the remaining offices that were cut.

Yesterday, I did the phone system, and decided to bite the bullet and get a tone generator to trace wires. I wish I had done that Monday, because it makes finding out where shit goes a hell of a lot easier.

I still have a few phone drops to figure out Monday, as well as several network drops, but with the tone generator it should go smoothly. Just a matter of finding the right wire that goes where or near where I need it.

The Cleaning of the Glock

Did what I should have done last night, and broke down the Glock to clean and lube it, and went beyond my usual field-strip, toothbrush the slide assembly and snake the bore, drop a little lube and call it done. (Given that the usual advice seems to be to break down the slide assembly for cleaning every 3K rounds or so, I don’t think I was being that neglectful).

Took apart the slide assembly. The firing pin was pretty clean (I mean, it left some dirt behind when I wiped it down, but nothing bigger than some dust), and most of the rest of the slide assembly was the same. The extractor, though, had collected a bunch of gritty-looking nastiness, and the firing pin safety had a small collection of its own. Didn’t appear to prevent function (I never had any failures to extract), but I cleaned it all up anyway. Found an empty rattling around the safe in the process, (from a previous range session, I didn’t have any open containers with me at the firing line this time, and there was no brass in my pocket either), and compared the striker impact to the photos of the duds, and the empty was definitely a center hit and showed a faint rectangular outline around the main impact point, so whoever it was that had “light off-center strikes” in the pool wins a no-prize. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks before I can make it out to the range again to test-fire (and make sure I got the extractor in right).

I’d say “why only those three rounds,” but the answer is probably somewhere around “tolerance stacking.”

Bang, Bang, Click?

I finally made it out to the range for the first time in (mumblemumble). Had fun, but of the 100 rounds of 9mm Remington UMC expended, I had 3 failure to fire. The weird thing is, they all happened out of the same string in one magazine (of the 10 rounds loaded, 7 went bang, 3 went click), were not adjacent, and the next 10 rounds out of the same magazine were fine. I recovered the rounds and took a picture.IMG_20150923_152859017

Since I’m actually somewhat inexperienced at actually shooting, I figured I’d ask here: did I just get unlucky, or is there something I did or failed to do here?

Pistol is a G17L, with probably somewhat less than a thousand rounds down the pipe since I’ve owned it, and it was allegedly new when I purchased it. I’ll run a boresnake after a range session and usually take the slide assembly apart and scrub the places the book says I should – range sessions are 100-150 rounds. It’s sat unfired for a couple years since last session. Magazine is OEM 10-round.

Weekend Festivities: Gettysburg Brew Festival

Pardon the late posting today, but I’ve been polishing up a proposal for more business (i.e. paying the mortgage). I didn’t have much time over the weekend, because we were busy attending the Gettysburg Brew Festival. I have never attended a brew festival before, so I was unaware of some of the brew fest cultural items, like wearing pretzels around your neck, beer t-shirts, neckbeards, and in this case at least, field artillery.

They counted off time for the festival with what looks to be a parrot rifle, but I don’t claim to be an expert. It definitely had a rifled barrel. You could see who amongst the crowd wasn’t used to loud noises. Personally, after having fired Civil War era field artillery with live ammunition once, blanks just don’t have the same thrill.


One thing I noticed at the brew festival is that it was largely composed of what most people would generally regard as the stereotype of NRA members; basically a lot of fat white guys. While I’m pleased to report that NRA conventions are more diverse these days than brew festivals, after running the experience through my trusty Perpetual Outrage Comptabulator, I’m sorry to report the social justice algorithms have concluded that craft beer is racist.

Speaking of NRA, we ran into one of our NRA friends at the brew festival. Sarah Gervase is Assistant General Counsel at the NRA, and puts on the Annual Firearms Law Seminar every year.


The Gettysburg Brew Festival is located on the grounds of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, and is in fact a fundraiser for it. Behind Bitter & Sarah, you’ll notice Schmucker Hall and its cupola in the background. This is the same cupola from which General John Buford viewed the advancing confederate troops from at the very beginning of the battle.

You can see General Buford (played by Sam Elliott in the movie “Gettysburg“) riding across the same field the brew festival was hosted on.

Sorry for the Dead Air

In addition to the approaching holiday, which always means more work, I had one of my data centers lose power the other day and the generator barfed. When I tried to manually start it, sparks were flying. It’s a very old generator that came with the building, so it had to be replaced by a new one that periodically tests itself and all that happy stuff. But I’m having to troubleshoot a whole other host of issues that went along with the outage, like how it didn’t get detected until the machines went down when the UPS battery ran out. Turns out I am missing some redundancy I didn’t think about. We actually lost one of the UPSes, and that killed Internet, which isn’t supposed to happen. Either way, I have to fix all this quickly, hence very little time for the blog.

Bleg: Digital Pianos

I am hoping someone out there might know something about digital music. I am a person of many hobbies. Sadly, most of them are holes in which money is poured. If I did them all at once, I’d quickly go broke. I tend to get into a hobby very intensely, then put it away for a while and pick up another one until I get bored with it, then continue the cycle. Shooting is a hobby I was very intensely into 2007-2011 or thereabouts. Since then I haven’t really been shooting or collecting much. About a month ago, I decided to revive a hobby I’ve literally been keeping in the closet for the past 20 years.

I was trained in classical piano from the time I was 5 years old until I was a junior in college. Then my mother died, and my grades started taking a nosedive. I stopped lessons with my teacher of, well by that time pretty much all the life I remembered, and just stopped. I had to focus on getting my GPA back up, and I did. A few years later, my piano ended up with my sister, and the synth I had bought with the proceeds

Ensoniq SQ2 Innards

Ensoniq SQ^2 innards. They don’t make ’em like this anymore! Look at that 68000! Same CPU in the first Macintosh. Vintage!

of a summer job when I was in high school got put away, not to be thought about until, well, about a month ago when I pulled it out and set it up to play for the first time since I was in college. Other than having to solder in a new battery to the mainboard, the thing still works fine. Pretty good for a 1991 manufacture date!

I set out with the goal of learning something new. Learning an instrument is not like riding a bicycle. Your fingers forget how to do all that! I could remember nothing of pieces I played for years, so I started new with something new (to me) and simple:

It took about two weeks to memorize it, and then another two to work out all the MIDI stuff so I could use the Mac to act as the synthesizer for a harpsichord SoundFont I wanted to try. The default harpsichord that comes with Garageband sucks (Garageband itself, I’m convinced, is meant only to convince you to fork over $200 to Apple for Logic Pro), and the synth has no native harpsichord sample (though you can construct a pretty convincing facsimile from other instrument samples). I managed to find the open source FluidSynth and a decent Virtual MIDI router for the Mac, in order to fix the key velocity, so it wouldn’t be louder or softer depending on how hard you hit the key (real harpsichords don’t do that).

So after learning this first piece, an amazing thing started to happen. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, neurons started to bring some old files out of storage, and some of my old pieces started to come back without me having to refer back to the music much. I might plod through once or twice, but then something clicked, and suddenly I remembered it. I got through the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata that way, since I learned that when I was quite young. The second and third I learned later, so they are not coming back very much. The third is difficult, and even referring back to the music, my fingers still aren’t up to the task. My non-dominant hand is still partially “disabled” when it comes to articulating piano keys, over what it used to be.

I’ve gotten to the point that the unweighted keys on my synthesizer are driving me batty, and I don’t really want to deal moving and finding room for a large acoustic instrument, so I’m thinking of going digital. I have my eye on a Kawai ES100, but there are no dealers in this area who seem to sell it, and I’m a bit nervous about ordering an 800 dollar piece of gear without first trying their “AHAIV-F Graded-hammer action.” I’ve read good things about it, but everyone is different in what feel they prefer. I’m hoping I have some musician readers who can offer advice. Any at all would be welcome!

Memorial Day 2015

Bitter is in Oklahoma for a family emergency, so I’m on my own this memorial day. I saw this meme from someone on Facebook, and boy does Facebook need it:


I never really used to care about the distinction until I got into genealogy. As is the case for most families, I have several soldiers in my tree who died in combat. For most of them, that was the end of their family tree. We remember the surviving veterans because we’re all descended from them, but those killed in action tend to be cousins, uncles, and sometimes even aunts. Most of the time I try to do thorough research on these folks when I find them, as if they were my ancestors. They deserve it, and they never had the opportunity to have descendants of their own that will care decades or centuries later because their lives were cut short in service of their country.

I found I have a first cousin, twice removed, who was part of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment who dropped into Normandy June 6, 1944 and was KIA June 8, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. I found a Christmas card to my grandparents that he sent from Camp Blanding, Florida in 1942, before he was shipped to Europe, and before my grandfather entered service. The card said he was having a great time in training.

My cousin’s name name was Pfc. William McKnight. Even my father did not know of him. My grandfather talked about his war experience only very reluctantly, and even then not much. He certainly did not volunteer anything, including that he had a first cousin killed in the early days of the invasion of Europe.

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