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DMI News

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There Be Visitors Here

April 13, 2006 15:20

Celestina has already arrived. E and Dweasel will be here later tonight. Shiz, Cerulean, Dizzy and the cute little female version of shiz will be here Friday night. Party will commence Friday night. We will have as many cams functional as possible for that event, and will record it as well. Shiz will have functional internet (in theory) from his house to mine and we will record the road cam for a future timelapsed video. They will all be here through Easter, then Shiz and company will be leaving. The rest of them will continue to haunt us for another week or so.

And for those unclear on the concept, if you live locally and you were not invited over, and you decide to come over anyway, you WILL be turned away, unless you obtain permission from Restil beforehand. I don't appreciate people who come over uninvited, and those who have done so in the past will not be invited over in the future. Just FYI.

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The Long awaited Update

March 25, 2006 15:11

Well, don't get TOO excited, there's not a whole lot to report. But some people feel that news is required for daily fullfillment, so here you go.

I'm still working at the BigLots DC, 35 pounds lighter. My one foot is killing me, but it's tolerable enough to keep working for the time being. Once I lose a few more pounds I will likely search for a job more appropriate to my skillset. There are IT related jobs at BigLots, but they're not exactly plentiful. If I'm unable to land one of those in the next few months, I'll likely search elsewhere.

The marriage is going well. We all get along, nobody has killed or inflicted serious bodily harm to each other yet, so we'll probably make it. The hours we are working are kinda annoying, but we should be rectifying that in the near future.

I've gotten SOME work done on the house in the last several months, but the pace severely slowed down from before I got this job. Practically nothing happened between the wedding and Xmas since I was working over 50 hour weeks and I had no energy left to do anything else. The days I'm working are still just as long, but they've managed to cram it into 4 days a week instead of 5, so I have an extra day over the weekend which gives me at least one solid day per week to get something done. Mostly I've been doing work on the living room, which is mostly complete. Check out the progress on the house page.

I killed my truck during the hard freeze in december. Not enough antifreeze and the engine block cracked. Bought a 95 Ford Explorer so we have a second vehicle which everyone seems to like more than the van. Just as well, the van needs work and should be driven as little as possible. Tif got her license as well now, so we have 3 drivers in the house. I'm still waiting for the insurance bill. :)

So that's it for now. Hopefully more frequent updates will come soon.

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The Wedding

November 08, 2005 16:40

Sorry this post is over a week late. It's been busy around here. I shall now regale you with the story.

I knew getting a new job only a few weeks before getting married was going to be troublesome, but I figured I could still get a LITTLE time to work on things during my off hours. It didn't quite work out that way. I had planned to have the living and dining rooms done by the time of the wedding, and up til the middle of the last week, I was working toward that goal or something closely resembling it. However, fate decided to play another hand. Work decided that I really really REALLY wanted some overtime and made me work 10 hour shifts. The sewer felt that it had enough crap from us and decided to back up, requiring me to spend a day waiting for Roto Rooter to show up and clear it out. Needless to say, by the time thursday arrived, it felt like I'd accomplished nothing. And from all practical purposes I hadn't. I should have spent the week instead working on wedding stuff.

Friday arrived and people started arriving. We lost the Shiz caravan somewhere in Alabama. The rest of us started getting things assembled. We had the rehersal dinner but no rehearsal, since we weren't set up for it yet. As time rolled on, things were ready to go, but the network wasn't ready and the cams weren't functional yet, because I lacked one very necessary long network cable, and I couldn't find the crimps or crimper needed to make one. I eventually found the crimper after 2 hours of digging for it, when Gertie decided to retrieve them from her secret hiding place... some drawer somewhere. I apparently knew where they were. While searching for the crimpers I found what was apparently a pair of dress shoes. Since I had that on my list of must-have things to look for, I mentally crossed that off, knowing now I had a pair. If I couldn't find any, I would have kept looking or obtained some the next day if necessary.

The day of the wedding was a nightmare. I stayed up all night working on a theme for the site that I couldn't get working right. I then had to go to Rat Shack early in the morning to get some crimps for the network cable. Getting back, I couldn't seem to get the cable to work. No idea why. And since nobody else was around yet, I had no way of testing it. So I got all the cams and a computer for them set up out there just so it'd be ready once we got the network working. I only slept for an hour that day. There was a point 30 minutes before the wedding was to start that I finally gave up on the cams in the tent idea, since we were not going to get a working network connection, in spite of the guys' efforts to build a wireless bridge.

I go upstairs to get dressed, which is going fine until I discover that my pair of shoes is in fact two different shoes and both of the same foot. This is obviously going to be a problem. Searching for the original pair of shoes results in no positive results and nobody seems to know where they are. I finally recruit all the guys to go into the office closet and dig to the bottom of it to pull out the purple bin and find my shoes. They succeed. I'm finally able to go outside and start greeting people.

Finally someone yells for me to get into the tent. Gertie's here. We get in there, I hand Dweasel the ring. And from that point, everything goes off smoothly. Everyone involved did a wonderful job.

More to come.

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Wedding

November 03, 2005 16:10

A post about the wedding will be forthcoming. Patience.

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Work Observations

October 16, 2005 05:29

For those of you who don't know, I have recently become gainfully employeed with a real job at a Big Lots! distribution center. One of those 40+ hour week jobs that requires actual work and pays benefits (some say the only reason to even get a job). So although work on the house is still progressing at a snails pace, I at least now have a good excuse. My job involves the lifting, carrying, transporting and ocassionally dropping, throwing, fixing, or cleaning up after boxes.

As some of you also know, I used to work for UPS several years ago, doing much the same thing. While on the face of it, the actual JOB was similar, there are some fundamental differences in the companies. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the long run.

First off, UPS had a union, and Big Lots doesn't. While once labor unions served a valuable, and some may say necessary purpose in making sure that the labor workforce was not unfairly taken advantage of, we no longer live in the early 1900's and today the primary purpose of the union seems to make sure that mediocre employees keep their jobs, at all costs.

For a few examples, the last time UPS went on strike was in 1997. I remember this because I had a box of checks shipped just before the strike, and had to wait about 3 weeks to get them because they were perpetually in transit. Knowing what I know now, they were probably sitting in a warehouse in the area, but no chance in hell of actually GETTING them because it was the drivers who were striking. Anyway, the point is, when the strike ended, the contract that the union negotiated for the employees was WORSE than the previous one, in every measurable way. The starting salary was lowered, the yearly raise was lowered, the benefits package was delayed such that depending on when you joined, you had to work there for up to 4 months before you could start using your benefits. This all benefited the company greatly. So why would they do it? It helped a few employees, the current ones. Since they are on an old contract, they keep getting higher yearly raises and other perks that new employees won't. The union helped a few current employees to the detriment of all future ones.

When I was a supervisor, there was a whiny girl who had made a number of bad life choices, and from the looks of it was still making them, such that she needed to work as many hours as possible. The problem is, she wasn't much of a worker. She was also exceedingly annoying. But she had seniority over most of the other workers and seniority rules on pretty much everything when you're doubleshifting. So I can't just not let her work for me if I have ANYONE else working for me with less seniority than her. The union helped make sure of that. She once, while driving an irreg engine, which is basically a battery powered go-cart, but able to pull several tons of weight, was looking sideways talking to someone while driving and ran into one of these huge metal tables, causing the table to strike someone and this resulted in thankfully only a minor fleshwound. She lost her certification to drive, but the union got her that privelage back.

There is also evidence that the union, through the guise of protecting the jobs of the employees, causes the company to make decisions that keep it behind technically. The sorting operation at UPS is done by manual labor, which is both error and injury prone. At BigLots! it's all automated, and from what I can tell almost perfectly accurate and about 10x faster. And that's 10x faster than a team of about 60 employees could work. The company can therefore save money. This money is then invested in keeping the equipment in good working condition, rather than running it always on the verge of failure, which causes constant downtime. At UPS we needed quite a bit of training on how to handle the conveyor belts, how not to mess with the cages guarding the belt motors, etc. At BitLots, the belts are all out of reach, and if you did manage to get within arms reach of one, a sensor will shut it down.

BigLots will also not hesitate to shut down a store that isn't making money. They do this to about 40 stores a year, although they start up more new ones than that. This puts some employees out of a job, but offers new jobs to others. A union would frown on such activity and make it difficult. The company would therefore be forced to lose money to not risk a strike.

I started working a minimum 40 hour work week at a standard base pay. I get 75 cents worth of raises the first year and performance based raises every year after that. At UPS, it was 50 cents a year, no matter how good you were or how much you sucked. In addition to my base salary, I have the option to earn up to 50% more by having high performance numbers. If I do the bare minimum, I get paid the minimum. If I work my ass off and accomplish more, I get paid more for it. If my fellow employee isn't working as hard as me, I don't see that as a problem because I know he's not getting paid as much. In fact, it works the other way, as the slower employee will hear at the weekly meeting that his fellow employees are making more money than him because they work harder. This is a much better motivational tool than the operational standard at UPS which was "We have to be nicer to our people.". I couldn't reward excellence and I couldn't punish mediocrity. All I could do is hope people would show up to work everyday. At UPS, they could miss work 12 times a year, over and above all their vacation time and any days they ask for off in advance. 12 times they could just not show up, no call, nothing. 12 times before we could fire them. And each of those 12 times, we had to document it and have them sign off on it or it wouldn't pass muster with the union. At BigLots, the second time you don't show up for work without calling, you're gone. Strangely enough, everyone shows up for work everyday. I'm not saying there isn't the occasional illness, but now it's a once every other month thing instead of a several times a week thing.

Benefits I have to pay for, although it comes out to a few bucks a week. At UPS, they were free, BUT you had to be there several months before they were available. The retention rate at UPS was less than 50%, meaning over half the people hired in any one year quit before that year was up. There's a good chance that people would quit long before UPS ever needed to pay a dime toward benefits. Of course, at UPS you only had one package available. It was the same for everyone. I get to choose which package I want, and I can even choose to not have any coverage at all, and there is a monetary difference for me as a result of the option I choose.

Now, since there's no union, there are some things BigLots will do that make some people grumble. We are guaranteed 40 hours a week. There is also quite a bit of mandatory overtime, up to an extra 10 hours a week. It's also possible from time to time we'd have to come in on a Friday or Saturday. Of course, any hours over 40 a week get paid time and a half. If working lots of hours isn't going to work for you, then this isn't the place to get a job. And there is sometimes a bit of grumbling about it, but people do keep showing up. And it's not because of management breathing down their necks. I see my supervisor at the beginning of the shift and the end of the shift. Those are typically the only times I ever talk to him, and if I even see him any other times, it's not because he's hovering over me with a clipboard. The computer keeps track of my production. The employees train the new employees. We all motivate ourselves and each other. And it works. I get along with everyone there. There aren't any of those strange wackjobs that are only there because the union won't let us get rid of them. I had several of those at UPS. There were even offers of days off for any supervisor that was able to convince some of those people to retire.

Anyways. I like my job. I come home tired and dirty and that's the extent of my complaints. We'll see what time tells.

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The Great DMI Possum Hunt

October 09, 2005 01:55

So last night, I was casually trolling down the stairs, heading into the kitchen to quench my thirst with a tasty diet Dr. Pepper, when I heard some skitter noises in the pantry. Figuring it was another rat, I started stomping toward the pantry to stir it up so I'd see where it was at. At that point, something very large and rodent like runs through the kitchen. I didn't get too good a look at it that time, so I figured it was a very large rat. So I call Miss Anabelle-Bob into service, tell her that it's time for her to start earning her keep around here, and deployed her to dispatch the "rat" with extreme predjudice. Anabelle apparently thought that her services were not necessary to continue living here, all perks included, as she was ultimately no help at all.

For the moment, the critter has evaded me, so I figure he jumped into one of the many holes in the floor. I go ahead and cover up all the holes so he can't get back in. As it would happen, he never left, and so a few minutes later, I hear more skitter noises, this time in the living room. I go in there, turn on the light, and there on the floor is a critter that doesn't look anything like a rat. Turns out it's a possum.

Great. I decide to scratch my previous plan B which was to set the rat traps, since I figure this creature will be too large for the traps to make useful work of. Anabelle notices the new potential pet, sneaks up on it. Gives it a couple good sniffs, and turns around and walks off. Either cats know which critters are safe to attack and which ones aren't, or they simply choose to ignore anything too large to eat in one sitting. So now I have this critter in the house. I want this critter on the other side of the walls. So I open up all the doors. This wouldn't be a big problem except it's not exactly warm outside and putting a good cross ventilation through my house didn't help my mood any.

So I approach the critter, crowbar in one hand and a broom in the other, trying to encourage it to head toward what should be an obvious escape route: Any open door. This possum either had a death wish or figured that the risk of serious physical injury from me was sufficiently outweighed by the desire to stay in a warm house for the night. Since the house wasn't terribly warm at the moment, what with all the open doors, that basically means that the possum thinks I'm a wimp. Well.. We can't have THAT now can we. Where did I put that broom?

So I'm chasing the possum around the house, constantly stomping, banging, or broom-nudging to convince this most stubborn critter that I am a force to not be messed with. The possum apparently gets tired of running and decides instead to see if he can just climb up into one of the walls to see if he can starve me out. His first attempt was both unsuccessful and quite comical, as you can see:

He eventually managed to climb up the wall and I decided to give up for a bit and went back into the office, although I kept an eye on the living room to see when he ventured out. Apparently he is more sly than I give him credit for, as the next thing I know, I hear noises in the pantry, and sure enough, he's back in there, only now less scared than before. He's not as quick to run away from the crowbar weilding freak. I manage to lose him again, and after a brief check of the house I've prematurely determined that he finally took advantage of the open door, so I closed all the doors, turned the heater back on and sat down to relax from my adventure.

Then I hear more skitters in the kitchen, so I run back in there, the possum is now on top of the trashcan. When I approach, he jumps onto the shelves, then up onto the sink counter and turns around and looks at me. I move forward and he runs away, almost falls off the counter, but catches himself and climbs back up. I get on the other side of him and start encouraging him to move forward. I now have him moving straight in the direction of the open front door. He's running for it, full steam ahead and just when I think I'm gonna win, he takes a sharp left turn and runs into my office. Great. Just great.

So he's sitting under the window looking at me. I figure I'll try to herd him out of the room and back into the hallway where I can have another shot at brooming him out of the door. I manage to get him to climb up on the couch, run across the back of it and down into the pile of boxes I have sitting on the floor. Now he's found himself a nice hidey-hole which I proceed to dig him out of. Finally he's trapped under the yellow dresser, and he's NOT coming out, no matter how much I bang on the dresser and swat at him with the broom. Finally, exhausted from the experience, I just box him in and go to sleep.

In the morning I call animal control which happens to not work on weekends. I call the police to see if they can help and they send THREE officers over to take care of the pest. It must be a slow day for the Denison PD. After taking a look and confiming that it is in fact a possum, they start talking about what to do about it. One of them tells another to just reach under there, grab its tail and pull it out. The officer who was the recipient of that sugguestion declined and without any better options available got the noose, noosed the possum, and pulled him out. He was not happy about it.

Once they get the possum outside, the one officer is standing there dangling the possum, wondering what they should do with it, since they don't have any cages to transport him in. We end up having them lower it into the cat carrier, then Gertie and I drive about 5 miles away and set it loose in the woods where it will find a happy home, or go bother someone else. In any event, for the moment, we are possum free. And possum free is a good thing. Anabelle is happy about it too. She'll just have to earn her keep some other way.

See more exciting Possum pictures.

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The Coming Storm

September 22, 2005 17:16

As you might have heard in passing, there's a little storm brewing in the gulf which is heading toward Houston, TX. This just so happens to be the location of this site's server. I have no idea what will happen, but there's a chance that it will go down or the internet access will become disrupted. I'm making a full backup of the site in case I'm unable to get back in in a timely manner so I can move it elsewhere temporarily. This will likely take a few days, as I'm not going to go through the trouble to set it up elsewhere for only a couple days. DNS will take that long to propogate anyway. If it goes down, just...... chill. It will be back. And it might not go down at all. Patience.

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Spammer Updates

September 21, 2005 14:11

As I regaled all of you with the tale of the spammer, and then catching someone "testing" the spam detector abuse filters, he who was caught managed to visit the site to "explain" himself. Fine, many of the abusers will come back with whiny stories about how they didn't know they had to act civilized, or it wasn't them, their brother or their friend did it, or some equally lame excuse. This was no different. But since I'm trying to keep a lid on a spammer here, I decided to check the ip address of who posted the begging comments. Doing a google search on the ip addresses reveals some interesting results.

The ip addresses in question: 61.220.232.67 and 193.136.157.2

Some of the pages with the ip addresses highlighted (google cache):

comments with two lines of spam, then dozens of nearly identical comments saying how nice the site is

poker and pills spam

Same as the first page

and so on. Now, to be fair, it MIGHT just be someone using the same public proxies. Then again, I ban public proxies from this server for a reason, as soon as I can identify them that is. Although, when you're trying to claim you're not a spammer, using the ip address of someone who has spammed, by google's estimation, on 28 THOUSAND websites, is probably not the way to inspire confidence in people who have been diligently fighting to get rid of the spammers.

So, just let that be a lesson to you all. And to answer your question, to the one begging desparately to get back in. No. It's not going to happen. You of all people should have known better.

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Things to Avoid

September 20, 2005 08:44

As everyone who reads the news knows, I have lately implemented some new abuse filters to the comments to stop a certain spammer from using my site as his own personal billboard. As far as I can tell, my efforts have been a resounding success. I've even been so bold as to detail what the abuse was and how I was going to prevent it. I've tested it and I'm sufficiently happy that it works.

So here's the fun part. The caught comments get pasted into a file that I can go through later. I mean, it's possible that someone gets caught by it accidently, or maybe I have a bug and someone got caught without even posting a URL. So this morning I see another succession of caught postings that Jeeves has so diligently reported, and I rush off to check the file to see what it was. And low and behold, it's a bunch of comments with just a test url in it. Specifically: http://www.test.com. And nothing else in the comment. Furthermore, these comments were being left on random captures, and not under the test comments or somewhere more appropriate.

Now, noticing this, I can come up with only two conclusions. Either someone is screwing around trying to see if the abuse filter actually works, by performing the abuse it was intended to prevent, OR, my friendly neighbhorhood spammer has come in on his own host, instead of the proxies he uses all the time to spam, and is trying to figure out why his spam isn't getting posted anymore. Either way, there's no place for this person on my site. And there won't be any longer.

So, for future reference, if you're not an admin of the site, you're not authorized to "test" the abuse filters without prior permission. I don't care who you are, you WILL be banned if you try. Thank you.

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Selling the Yard and other stuff

September 17, 2005 22:38

Our first yardsale was a moderate success. A lot less traffic than we were hoping for, especially considering the fact that there's a school across the street, we should have picked up some residual attention. We still made a few bucks though. Enough to justify the effort anyway. Next time we'll post an ad in the local paper and see if that helps any. We hauled way too much stuff back upstairs.

I've at least temporarily fixed the spam problem. I've implemented some of the features I mentioned in the last news entry and the spammer tried ONCE, failed, and hasn't attempted it again. I've also cleaned all the spam out of the comments, so now we've got a clean slate.

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