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I go a whole week without riding the bike, and now my knees hurt. Why is that?

Is anybody else tired of hearing about Kerry and Vietnam? and about how he voted for the war because he wasn't smart enough to see that Bush was lying to him? Where is the fiscally conservative social liberal we need to run this country?

By the way, if you move home and get a new phone number, don't forget to tell the Do Not Call List people. Since we've moved and changed phone numbers, our volume of useless calls has increased exponentially. I guess that means the Do Not Call List works...

PowerBuilder, ClearCase, Done

PowerBuilder and ClearCase: Part IV

Well, the integration set-up is simple enough. There's a wee dialog right inside PowerBuilder. It looks like it might have been harder in the older versions. I am stuck now, though, because the VOB doesn't have proper permissions and the administrator is off today. Oi.

Oh, and you can't version PBLs directly with PB9. You have to version all the objects, but when you set up source control, PB does the export of all these files for you. How very exciting.

Powerbuilder ClearCase Integration

PowerBuilder and ClearCase: Part III

IBM/Rational has a document regarding PowerBuilder-ClearCase integration. But it seems to be discussing older versions of PowerBuilder.

Oh, and none of the image links seem to be set up.

Powerbuilder Hello World

PowerBuilder and ClearCase: Part II

Well, that took longer than necessary. I now have a frame and a menu action that will cause a popup to say Hello, World. Now, I can look to integrate.

PowerBuilder Initialization File is Not Writable

PowerBuilder and ClearCase: Part I

Well, one can't figure out how to integrate ClearCase and PowerBuilder if one can't get PowerBuilder to start, can one?

PowerBuilder is Sybase's development environment. My task today is to integrate it with ClearCase, a source code control tool. The administrators pushed PowerBuilder out to my desktop, and today I opened it for the first time. Or at least, I tried to open it. I got "Initialization File is not Writable. Cannot Continue." The program will not start up.

I eventually found bits and pieces of the problem on-line, but I thought I'd write it down here as a start in tracking this integration process.

The installation did not put a particular key value into the registry at: HKCU\Software\Sybase\PowerBuilder\9.0. The string value for "InitPath" should point to the directory of the pb.ini file lives. So I set this to C:\program files\blah blah blah.

But PowerBuilder still would not start. It turns out that I don't have permission to write to the pb.ini file, so I copied it over to my local settings folder and re-set the InitPath registry value. My next step is to create a Hello, World program.

Quick Link

Defective Yeti has a blog entry that touches on two topics close to my heart: mass transit and literacy. Oh, and it has a crazy bum. That's a definite recipe for fun.



  • 6:55 - 7:10 Drive to Greenbelt station (includes walk from parking lot to station -- at least 5 minutes)
  • 7:10 - 7:58 Metro to Medical Center (via Chinatown)
  • 7:58 - 8:08 Walk to site
I guess the f lood waters have receded. I had no trouble with the Red Line this morning.

A police officer warns a citizen that a particular behaviour is against the rules. That person goes on to do that thing right in front of the officer. When the officer tries to give her a ticket, she tries to avoid the ticket by refusing to give identification and by walking away from the officer. So the officer handcuffs the perp. Should the citizen be complaining about this treatment?

Does your answer change if you know she was being ticketed for e ating a candy bar on the Metro ?

Oops, I Did It Again

A Notebook

What Did Taleswapper Forget Today?

Really, I guess it should be "What Did Taleswapper Forget Yesterday?" We went to the home of friends in College Park to watch the Democratic National Convention. I left my notebook there last night. Ah, well.

The only comment I'll make about the convention is: Bob Dole told Howard Dean he thought the world was too hard on him for his screech. He knew that Dean was just speaking to a crowd...

Maybe I'm naive and it was a dig...

Driving Me Crazy


6:50 - 7:35 Drive Greenbelt to Dunn Loring/Merrifield

It's hard to remain committed to public transportation on a morning like this. After a weekend of painting, I let myself lie in bed longer than normal this morning. Because I was late, I jumped in the car and got here 25 minutes early. Weird, huh?

The thing to keep in mind (I repeat over and over in my head) is that tonight's drive home will likely be two hours; it'll be a frustrating ride where I'll actually yell out loud at least once at a weenie driving by on the shoulder somewhere between the 270 spurs; and it's very much cheaper to own only one car and let the company pay for my Metro commute.

I look forward to the day when we have a Metro line that rings the city. Or teleportation. Whichever comes first.


An Open Letter to Metro

Dear Metro,

I think it would be nice if you contracted with some bank to allow them to put ATMs in your system. If the ATMs were actually inside the gates, then bank robbers would have a hard time getting away (heck, it seems like the SmartTrip card fails every ten tries or so, any way...) and we could stop and get cash before getting on the bus way out in Vienna. Of course, the ATMs should dispense very small bills and change, to make it convenient to ride the bus, take a taxi, or buy a newspaper.

I know that the grocery store chains (Giant and Safeway) do this, and I don't think they'd do it unless they were making some dough off of the deal. Perhaps that might help with your wee budget problems. (I'd hate to see that money just go back to the local governments, but you manage your budget however you see fit.)

The big advantage of ATMs as a money-maker is that they won't send anyone into a seisure.

Speaking of newspapers (I did! It's right in the first paragraph.), why can't you put newspaper dispensers behind the gates, too? Then, I could buy something to read while I'm waiting on the platform for that darn Red Line train to get around to showing up. It would be really cool if I could use my SmarTrip to buy the paper, eh?

Yours truly.

No Joke, Broke a Spoke


  • 6:17 - 6:30 Drive to Greenbelt station
  • 6:34 - 7:39 Metro to Dunn Loring (via L'Enfant)
  • 7:39 - 7:48 Shuttle to site
While unlocking my bike last night, I noticed a broken spoke. A broken spoke in the front wheel is no big thing, but this one lives in the rear wheel. It's pretty hard to get behind the cassette to thread them, so I generally leave back spokes for bike shops. The main drawback of a broken spoke, initially, is that the wheel is out of true, so it rubs against the brake pads. The ride is a lot harder when you're working against your brakes. On a long trip, the other spokes can be adjusted to account for this, but I didn't feel like it last night, so I drove over to the Metro station. It looks like I was seven whole minutes faster by car. Going home will be even less different because there's generally an automobile backup coming out of the parking lot which I fly past on my bike (though they catch up on the road).

I chose driving over the bus because I have no cash and cannot be certain there'll be a Smartrip reader on the bus.

Oh, and there was a disabled Red Line car keeping us in the tunnels last night. Oi. Is it just me or do the Red Line cars break down more often?

Eyes Like a Cat

I have a CatEye Cordless 7 bike computer. The only thing I ever use it for is distance and speed, but it supposedly keeps lots of other information.

Well, I should say kept. The thing stopped working this spring. I assumed it was a problem with the batteries. There's a transmitter on a fork on my bike and the receiver unit on the handlebar. Both take a battery. I went over to They wanted $5.09 for each battery. That seemed a little high, so I went over to my new best friend Battery Bob. Bob charged me $3.00 for a pack of five! I couldn't believe my luck, but sure enough five wee batteries showed up in my mailbox this week.

But the bike computer still doesn't work. Oh, it displays okay, but none of the data is changing. (Or maybe I really do ride 0 miles per hour and it's 0 miles between our house and the Metro station.) Ack. Apparently, I'm not the only one experiencing this problem.

Don't Bug Me

  • 6:43 - 7:02 Bike to Greenbelt station
  • 7:04 - 7:53 Metro to Medical Center (Via Chinatown)
  • 7:53 - 8:00 Walk to site
I forgot to keep track on Monday, and Tuesday/Wednesday were driving days. I swear, I'm a terrible researcher. I keep horrible records. I guess that's not so great for a configuration manager, either. (I have a rant for that later.)

Have you ever noticed that terrible and horrible are such similar words?

Today's exciting event: bugs take over the Metro. I was quietly doodling away on my notebook, trying to make up jumbles for the Brunette's birthday, when a very large bug landed on my notebook. I jumped, not so much because the bug was big (It was, of course. It was huge. It must have been at least two hundred pounds with its gi-normous biceps.), but because I was startled. The college guy next to me jumped, too, and he was bigger than I am. (What is it with kids these days? Do they take human growth hormone or something? I used to think of myself as on the tall side of average at 6-2. But now I feel like a wee leprechaun in a train full of ents. Maybe the weight I've lost hasn't been from my stomach, but from my height. Or something.)

The college kid's first words were, "That's not a little bug!" This was followed quickly by, "But I jumped because you jumped." Yeah, right.

I still don't know what the bug was (it was like a souped-up mosquito, but I don't believe it was a mosquito), but it and the college dude (and his skateboard) eventually went out the door at Tenleytown.

I'm Getting Older, Too

Happy Birthday

Apple Dumpling gangmember Don Knotts turns eighty today. I am having trouble grokking that. An octogenerian!

More DSL Heck

Digital Stupidity Line

A Housing Report

The Brunette fought the good fight yesterday. Oi. You might remember a couple of weeks back I kicked off the DSL move game but was blocked by this requirement: You can't start the planning for moving an AT&T DSL account from one number to another until the new number is actually connected. Since the new number takes a week to turn on (who knows why), we had to wait a week to even request moving the DSL.

I thought that maybe AT&T would move faster, then, to turn on the service at the new location. I was wrong.

The Brunette called the last number I used. She was told that they only handle local phone service sales. She was given a new number and helpfully transferred.

That number was too busy. Its recording insisted she call back later, then it hung up on her. The phone company still doesn't have enough people to answer the phone! The recording also helpfully suggested requesting internet access on-line.

Of course, that would have been a lot easier if we could have scheduled the move before the old number was disconnected. In fact, I now can't seem to find anywhere on-line to make this request.

The Brunette tried the number again and was lucky enough to speak to an off-shored operator, who desperately tried to talk her into signing up for long distance service. He also took all of her information. Even after she got upset and insisted she only wanted to talk about DSL, the operator said, "One last time, it's much better if you get long distance..." Finally, he told her that he could not help with DSL orders, then tried to transfer her to another number. But the line disconnected.

Apparently, AT&T's personnel don't know how to use their phones.

And they know it, because the operator had given her the third phone number before dropping her call, just in case. The Brunette called the third number and was on hold for nine minutes. She told me, "The Muzak featured a lovely alto singing 'I'm getting older, too.'" You can't make that kind of stuff up!

Finally, she got through and another out-sourced resource was able to help her put in a request to move our DSL from one phone number to another.

And it will only take seven days!

Peter Loon (Van Reid) & I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)

I picked up a diet Cricket from the New Deal Cafe and settled into one of the green metal chairs in the middle of the plaza at Roosevelt Center. The green umbrellas above the metal tables provide a comfortable place to watch the comings and goings in this little lefty mecca.

For example, I could see, over to my right, a young lad with a skateboard. He was standing perfectly still, motionless on his wheels in front of the movie theater. Perhaps he felt that he was not violating the spirit of the "No Skateboarding" prohibitions if he didn't actually roll. On my left, an older gentleman eyed the skater cautiously while strumming a decrepit guitar. His guitar case was covered with stickers. I recognized the standard "Keep it Wooded" and "George W 1984" stickers. I'm still not sure what "01d F4R7" one meant. His ponytail was a tad scraggly, but his beard was full and gray.

I couldn't see how he kept it from catching in the strings.

Seated between these chaps was woman of indeterminate age. Occasionally, she stole glances at both of these idlers, rearranged the Co-op grocery bag at her feet, then returned to her book. The Mother and Daughter sculpture watched over her without comment.

I wondered what she was reading, so I meandered over.

"Peter Loon!" I exclaimed. She jumped, dropping her book and knocking over her back of groceries. "The book you're reading, I mean. Not me. I'm not Mr. Loon."

As I watched her collect her groceries, I could tell that this was not convincing to her.

"That's a great book," I pressed on. "I think Van Reid has created a lot of great little characters. Young Peter is quaintly funny and innocent in the little adventures he experiences as he searches post-Revolution Maine for his erstwhile uncle."

"Bullocks," interrupted the guitarist. The woman jumped again, but her grocery bag remained upright. "That book is not some cute pastoral. It is all about terrorism, man. Those so-called Liberty Men were hardly innocent."

"Well, sure, in the background," I stuttered, "I see what you mean, but I'd think you'd support the aims of the Liberty Men -- finish the revolution, redistribute wealth, down with absentee capitalist landowner pigs, and all that --"

"Bah," he said. "They blew things up and killed folks. That's not peaceful resolution. Revolution needs to involve the people being freed, or it's useless. Eventually, plain folks got tired of the violence, and the Liberty Men lost their support. That tells me they weren't really about helping anybody but themselves." He turned back the woman, who was shielding her face with the book. "Now, ma'am, if you don't mind my saying so, that's one violent book --"

"Aw, dude, c'mon --" interrupted the skater, who had joined our little group. The reader jumped again and dropped her book. The skater picked it up, but she snatched it from his hands. "That book is about love, man. That Parson Leach is just trying to hook my man Peter up. Everywhere they go, babes galore."

"Violence!" the guitarist shouted.

"Love!" the skater yelled.

"People!" I hollered. "Shush. You sound like a bunch of characters from I, Robot --"

"The book or the movie?" the skater asked.

"He's gotta mean the book," said the hippie. "I read the movie was only suggested by the book, not even based on it."

"What I mean is: the only way you have to express emotion is by yelling."

"Hey, where'd she go?" the skater posited. Sure enough the lass had picked up her groceries and escaped down the steps near the post office.

"I guess that's it," I said. And we started to drift apart. "Don't forget," I called, "next month on the Constellation."

They waved to me as they melted back into the background, and we all returned to our normal activities...

Marriage Rant

I won't go on for too long, I promise.

I'm just thinking about this thing in Virginia. Their conservative legislature jumped to resolve a critical mistake: attempt earlier this year to strike the state's long-dormant "blue laws" from the books actually opened a loophole that could have allowed workers to demand a day off on weekends.

At the same time, our national legislature spent a little time debating the merits of an amendment to prevent our nation from falling into a sinful state full of gay marriages.

Now, I'm no expert, but it seems to me that God would be a little more concerned about the sanctity of the Sabbath than about the sanctity of marriage. But it's not faith driving this issue, is it? If both things happen (no right to Sabbath, no right to gay marriage), it isn't the faithful who benefit, right? It's the businesses.

1 Corinthians 7:1



  • 6:10 - 6:25 Bike to Greenbelt station
  • 6:30 - 7:20 Metro to Medical Center station (via Chinatown)
  • 7:20 - 7:30 Walk to site

Saw a raccoon scamper across Cherywood Lane on the ride in this morning. Does any other animal that big scamper? I think squirrels scamper, but they're a might smaller.

Also saw a formation of helicopters above Greenbelt station. Actually, the three helicopters were hovering over the Beltway/I-95 junction. Not clear what they were doing, but there was something eerie about they way they hovered in place, seemingly glued to the sky.

Racking My Brain


  • 6:00 - 6:15 Bike to Greenbelt station
  • 6:20 - 7:20 Metro to Dunn Loring (via L'Enfant)
  • 7:40 - 7:45 Shuttle to site

My first bike ride over to Greenbelt went fairly smoothly, I think. Much of the route includes a bike lane, which is much nicer than College Park to PGP, but the hills are a little more varied. I think it will be a tough ride home tonight.

The bicycle racks at Greenbelt are all in the inverted "V" style. The three-prong racks are supposed to be more secure because the prongs go through both wheels and the frame, keeping even detachable wheels safe. Unfortunately, my bike has a splash guard on the chain (it's hard to buy a bike in the UK without fenders and guards and, dorky as it looks, it's much cleaner for commuting) which prevents the rear prong from getting through the rear wheel. The result is that I attach my front tire to the middle prong and hope that the bike doesn't stick out into the walkway too much.

The racks at PGP are a mix of "V" and flat styles. The flat style works much better with my bike. Maybe next time I'll just chain to the fence. Here's the only image I could find for the rack (from the National Transportation Library).

And, finally, what did Taleswapper forget today? His notebook. I left it on the Metro. So, whenever I get around to posting stories about Great Uncle Leadbelly flipping out at Jaleo and the Public Book Group meeting in Greenbelt Center, you'll know that the stories are only mere shadows of the glorious tales written in that notebook and lost forever.


Good News

A Commuting Report

Turns out the car is not dead. I was sure we had thrown a rod, or blown a valve, or jumped a broom, or something, but all that happened was we destroyed a spark plug. Weird. The wee car purred along fine and dandy today as I drove to Tysons and then to Merrifield. I assume it'll even get me home tonight.

Sometimes, things work out.

Pop, Coke and Soda Have the Same Number of Consonants

I was surprised when my imaginary friend Bertie wanted to meet at the Gourmet Shish Kebab in Laurel. Oh, the food is great, and there's something special about the mix they get in their Coke-on-tap, but I also knew that Bertie was on that new diet craze. He didn't need to lose any weight, of course, but counting consonants was supposed to both aid in weight loss and provide mental balance and tranquility.

After ordering, I popped off to the restroom. When I returned, Bertie asked, "What's wrong?"

"The bathroom's been renovated since I was last here," I replied, looking around to see if anyone could hear me.

"It's been a while," he agreed. "So?"

"So," I said, "there's a sit-down and a stand-up, if you get my drift, but no stall. Am I supposed to lock the door?"

"If there's no stall, I would think so," he said slowly.

"But if I'm supposed to use it alone, why put up a half-screen between the, um, utilities?" I wondered.

"You're obsessed with public restrooms," he said, then went to the counter to get his food. I didn't know what he meant, I have not written about toilets since November.

"Mmmm, spicy chicken kebab and baklava. 17 consonants, and harsh ones at that," I noted when he returned.

"The 'and' doesn't count," he replied. "Besides, I've given up that silly diet." He went on to tell me about his last support group meeting and how it had disintegrated into a rumble. "It was all the fault of the Netters," he finished.

"The Netters?" I prompted.

"They think you only have to count a consonant the first time it appears. Oh, and you can subtract silent consonants and consonants that are soft, like 'h'."

"Ah," I said intelligently.

"Of course," he continued, "they don't get along very well with the Absolutists as a general rule, but that night another faction started making noise. It all started with the cherry tarts. Although pretty low in non-repeated consonants, the consonants as a fraction of the entire set of letters is pretty high. So ensued a melee."

"So they had a fight?"

"Yeah, I pulled Arnie aside and tried to remind him about peace and joy. He socked me in the face with a bag of blueberries. I figured none of their versions had helped anyone to tranquility."

"Apparently not," I said.

"Excuse me," he said, "I have to go to the bathroom."

"Are you going to lock the door?" I asked. Before he could respond, a woman's scream rang out. A red-faced man came out of the hall of restrooms.

"I think so, yes," was Bertie's reply.

How Smart?


  • 6:05 - 6:10 Walk to bus stop
  • 6:25 - 6:45 Bus (T17) to Greenbelt station
  • 6:50 - 7:50 Metro to Dunn Loring (via L'Enfant)
  • 8:00 - 8:05 Shuttle to site

Today's excitement? The bus was equipped with a SmarTrip reader! I was so excited, I dropped my change all over the floor. How embarrassing.

In the at least it happened after settlement category: Our poor wee Neon went kaboom yesterday evening on the way to a book group meeting. The engine has been ticking and tapping for a few weeks now. It got worse last night, then the engine made a large noise, and finally smoke came puffing out from under the hood. It was no car-b-que, but the little tyke wouldn't move any farther. Called AAA: 75 minutes estimated wait time. Actual wait time: 75 minutes.

ClearQuest Tic-Tac-Toe: History

Irrational Use of Rational Tools

Well, we spent a little while starting to make a schema for ClearQuest that allows us to play Tic-Tac-Toe. We got as far as creating the record type, setting up states and actions, and beginning game play. At this point, a tic-tac-toe game could be played with the schema, but we haven't done anything to restrict which user is performing a move, nor have we set up any interesting queries or reports. Also, we haven't implemented a method for seeing who won the game (or even if it has finished). That one will be interesting: we can make a hook to evaluate the move, see if it means the game is over, and, if someone won, change the state to Finished.

But I want to do a couple more things before we go that far. This time out, we'll look at tracking the actual moves using a new record type.

If you're familiar with ClearQuest, you know that IBM-Rational provides a package for implementing history tracking for the record types. It's a fine setup and tracks useful things for typical change request tracking. One drawback we sometimes see, though, is that the history that is maintained is only a record of the actions taken, not what data was actually changed. So, while I can see that Lex performed a modify action on Monday (at 10 am), I can't see what he actually changed.

Posted by Hello
For the purposes of our game, I'd like to be able to see a historical listing of the moves, including not only who made the moves, but where they put their marks. Since the ClearQuest API allows me to grab a list of changed fields (and their contents) when an action is performed, I should be able to grab which space field was modified and store that information into the new record type. In fact, I want to put the data down in "plain English", so we'll design the new record type accordingly.

The first step is to create the new record type. This type will record information about the move history, but it won't have a lifecycle of its own. Therefore, we'll make it a stateless record type. Let's call it: move_history.

The fields we'll want for this record type are: mover (a REFERENCE field to the user making the move), move_letter ("X" or "O"), move_space (name of the field that was marked), and move_date. We'll also want a field for putting in a plain description of the move and a REFERENCE field to relate each move_history record to a game record (tt_move).

A note on the tt_move field: the easiest thing for display is going to be to make this a reference field with a back reference to a field that lives in the tictacgame record type. ClearQuest will then automatically handle synching the REFERENCE_LIST on the game record whenever a new move_history record is added, and we'll be able to see the history listing associated with a game right on the game's base form. Sadly, though, the relationship, though recorded in two places, can only be initiated on one side or the other. We can set the system up to allow for linking from the history record type or from the game record, but not both at the same time. (Well, we could set up another set of fields, but that's much more complicated and fraught with danger than we want to address here.)

Each field will be populated by hook on the game record type, except for the mover and move_date fields. We can set those automatically from the side of the move_history record by setting up hooks on the default value column. As an example, the default hook for the move_date would look like:

Sub move_date_DefaultValue(fieldname)
  • ' fieldname As String
  • ' record type name is move_history
  • ' field name is move_date
  • SetFieldValue fielname, now
End Sub

Now, this new record type doesn't really need a form because it will only be submitted automatically. It also doesn't require any states because it is stateless. The only other requirement at this point is to choose a field for a unique key. We'll just take the automatic dbid field for that.

The exciting part is making the hooks to populate this record type and modifying the game form to show this information. This is already more lines than I had thought, so we'll do that next time.

Moving On

Are we the Moveable Type?

Of all the activity over the last few hours, half of it will be undone by the time the weekend is complete. There's something terribly temporary about all the boxes and tape that are used up during this process, and their only purpose is for organizing our stuff into manageable moveable chunks for a period of less than two weeks.  I'm trying not to feel terribly guilty about the waste as I watch the movers wrapping rolls and rolls of tape around blankets enveloping our few sticks of furniture.

The movers are currently in the process of evacuating our basement apartment, and my only task is to make sure they don't take anything that doesn't belong to us.  I went upstairs for only the briefest of moments, only to return to see a table completely blanketed and taped.  It isn't our table.  Ah, well.  Over all, they seem to be doing a fine job, so far.

DSL Heck

It's Settled

A Moving Report

Settlement went very smoothly. We now own a home and are a part of a cooperative. We'll move in for real tomorrow, if we can make it through this heat and none of these book box towers collapses on our head.

I've been spending the afternoon trying to get services switched over. Although PEPCO's machines said they had an average 45 minute hold time, they answered in three or four and took the electricity switch order in less than five minutes. Kudos to PEPCO. PEPCO had this really nice service where I could leave my number and hang up, but when my turn in the queue came up, they'd call me.

Verizon was a little slower, but switching our local telephone service was quick -- at least, it was quick to request it. Our new phone service won't be connected until next Friday. Hopefully, the will not disconnect our existing number before then, but that would only affect the DSL any way since we pretty much live on our mobile phones.

I was able to switch the address for mobile phones very easily on AT&T's website. Of course, we're moving within the same county, so it should have little impact on the cell phone service except for where to send the bill (and I hope we'll get better service outside this heavily protected basement).

AT&T did not do so well with our DSL, I'm afraid. Nothing on their website helped me change addresses, and calling the place was not terribly useful, either. We started our AT&T DSL on our current Verizon line last fall. The representative I got in touch with told me that he couldn't find my number in his listing. After making sure that I knew the difference between a cable modem and a DSL modem, checking that I had given him the correct number, and ensuring that I was really able to connect to DSL, he told me that it couldn't be possible since you're required to have AT&T local service to have AT&T DSL. That can't be right, I told him, we've had AT&T since the fall and in the fall, there was only Verizon. So, he transferred me off to another number. That number took information from me then told me that they were too busy to answer my call, could I call back later? So, I have not yet transferred the call, but I have two questions:

  • If AT&T can't get enough phone lines to support its call centre, what hope does the rest of the world have?
  • If all these companies force me to tell the automated system what my telephone number is by pressing the keypad, why does the representative have to ask me what my number is? It's a total waste of time on either side, and I resent it. I've worked on CTI systems that handled this, so I recursively ask, if AT&T cannot handle CTI properly...

Unsettling News


If you haven't noticed by now, tomorrow is our settlement date. It's the day we go and sign the ownership papers and loan agreements; the day we let a huge amount of money pass through our hands (from the mortgage company, to the current owners) and plop down a reasonably large amount of cash to cover the downpayment, fees, and other stuff; the day we sign our mutual ownership agreement with the Cooperative. (Yes, we are joining the Borg.)

We'll meet at the settlement attorney's office (he happens to be the brother of the real estate agent, but we'll let that pass) to sign the papers with the current owners. They're going to be running off to their own settlement afterwards, so we've agreed to let them house their pets in the house until they're done. Pets for a day!

I called over to the attorney to find out what the exact value of the settlement will be so I can get a certified check at our bank. The loan officer gave us an estimate of the costs a few weeks ago, but there are always variables: we're settling two weeks early, so the interest payment is different, the interest rate is guaranteed, the exact humidity at the time of signing is not yet known. So, the estimate is usually lower than the actual costs. (I've never met anyone who had a lower cost than the estimate; have you?) Although I expected it to be different, I didn't expect to hear that the cost was going to be $6000 more than the estimate! I nearly had a heart attack.

I quick got on the phone with the loan officer, though, and the cost has come down, though not all the way. Part of the problem was that the estimate didn't include a key Cooperative fee -- which is refunded to us when we sell -- and that I assumed the initial estimate did not include our initial deposit. The other part of the problem was that the attorney's office missed an important piece of paper and added an extra $3000.

At any rate, I've picked up the cashier's check from the bank, the Brunette has been working very hard to pack over the last week, and we're just waiting to hear that tonight's approval ceremony goes without a hitch.

Bicycle Commute Across DC


Since I've been splitting my working time between Merrifield and Bethesda, I haven't been able to do the full commute on bike since last fall. Yesterday, though, I gave some IBM Rational Test Manager training at our headquarters in Rosslyn, so I took the bike in by Metro in the morning and bicycled through rush hour traffic in the afternoon.

The bicycle journey took just over two hours, which isn't too bad considering I took a short cut (which is always longer) and tried to avoid the hills by using the NE Branch trail. My odometer's battery is dead, so I'm going to guess my trip was closer to 16 or 17 miles than the 14 miles it was on my last try. That's under 8 miles per hour. Stopping and starting at traffic lights really impacts the average speed.

Oh, those tourists! They were out in force, walking four-abreast on the bike path between the Netherlands Carillon and Arlington Cemetery and again along the Mall.

  • 4:30 - 6:40: Pilot bicycle Rosslyn (VA) to College Park (MD).
    • Rosslyn - Arlington Cemetery: Bike Path
    • Arlington - Washington Monument: Memorial Bridge & paths along the reflecting pool. You have to go wide around the monument ever since they put up the flimsy panel walls.
    • Washington Monument - Capitol: Jefferson Drive, 3rd Street (NW), Parking Lot. The American Indian museum is definitely taking shape.
    • Capitol - Union Station: Louisiana and Massachusetts. This is the toughest maneuver: DC has designated this as the U bicycle route, but the only way to get from Louisiana to the marked lane at 1st Street is to cross the concrete island on Massachusetts, and at 1st street, you start off the wrong way down a one-way street.
    • Union Station - FEDEX: Bike lane briefly (a mile?) on 1st Street (NE), 1st Street across New York (through Wendy's parking lot), Eckington Place to road that curves into 3rd Street (NE) behind FEDEX (across from XM Radio).
    • FEDEX - Catholic University: 3rd Street (NE), S Street (NE), 4th Street (NE). The hill up 4th St after Rhode Island is no better than the hill up Rhode Island at the Metro station.
    • Catholic University - Maryland: Michigan Ave, Monroe Street, Rhode Island Avenue. Nicely sloped downhill on Rhode Island for quite a space, if you don't mind traffic.
    • Mount Ranier - Hyattsville: Rhode Island Avenue/US Rt 1 (the road changes names here and there). Not bad shoulders except around the circle at Mt Ranier.
    • Hyattsville - College Park: Armentrout, NE Branch Trail, River Road, under the Metro tracks at College Park station, across the MARC tracks, through the neighborhood to home.
We settle tomorrow, so today's the last day of commuting from College Park. The bike ride left me a bit weary, so I took the bus today. In Glasgow, folks waiting on the bus have to signal to the driver to get him/her to stop. Here, they all stop, whether you want them or not. Both the 83 and 86 use Route 1 at this bus stop, but I wanted to avoid Bus 86 because it takes a wandering path through Hyattsville. Of course, the 86 came first. I turned my back to the street to try to indicate that I didn't want to board, but the driver signaled and slowed any way. So, I turned and shook my head vigorously (which made my brain hurt!) and the bus moved on. I boarded the 83 that came immediately afterward.

  • 6:12 - 6:16 Walk and wait for bus
  • 6:16 - 6:36 Bus to Rhode Island Avenue station
  • 6:43 - 7:13 Metro Rhode Island to Medical Center
  • 7:13 - 7:22 Walk to site
Oh, and I forgot to mention that I smashed my finger on the bus. While sitting down in the first front-facing seat, I leaned on the side-facing seat's armrest for support. It collapsed and caught my finger. Ouch.

Well, Well, Old Bean

Do you ever feel like it would be nice to have a bag of quips on-hand in case of emergency?

We stopped by the LL Bean in Columbia today. I was puttering around the t-shirts, looking for ones with pockets. I like pockets. I wandered to the end of a row and looked at shirts. While I did this, a couple started doing their own examination of the shorts hung below the t-shirt shelves.

I wandered back to pick up a black t-shirt. One of the couple had placed a bag on top of the pile of black t-shirts. When I tried carefully extracting an extra-large black t-shirt, the male of the couple snatched the shopping bag up and mumbled (quietly, but loudly enough for me to hear), "It's not like I wasn't standing right here."

I was flabbergasted. I wanted to shout at the man that he had no right to try to make me feel bad when it was his bag inconveniencing me! The idea that his little yuppy bubble was intruded upon by me really boiled my onions (hence, I knew that I needed something to eat: I'm always grumpy when I'm hungry). He deserved a scathing, but intelligent, retort.

What I came out with in the heat of the moment: "Yeah, and it's not like it's a table, either."

I'm not completely sure what I meant by that, and I'm not so sure it really put him in his place. I want to come up with a better one in case it ever happens again.

No Interview

No Coop Like an Old Coop

You might remember that we are in the midst of purchasing a co-op in Greenbelt. Part of the process is supposed to be going through an interview to be approved for membership. Our interview was scheduled for Friday, but it was canceled. Our interviewer had other business to attend to suddenly, so she just sent us the paperwork for our signature.

Sadly, the paperwork seems to be incomplete. There is only one paper to sign, and it has to do with acknowledging we've received the member's handbook and that we'll owe a fee if we return it damaged or lose it before we move on. Of course, the package she sent us didn't include such a handbook, so I called to see what was going on. Our interviewer was not in, of course, but the receptionist was no help either. I explained to her that our interview had been canceled and papers sent for us to sign, but I didn't have a handbook, so I wasn't going to sign saying I had one.

"Well, you'll get that when you do your interview," she said.

"We're not doing an interview," I replied.

"Oh, then, you're coming in to sign the agreement, right?" she said.

"Coming in? Nobody told us to come in. We're supposed to be reviewed by the board on Thursday and settle on Friday."

"Maybe you should call again on Monday," she said, uncertainly.

"Will anyone be there on Monday?" I asked.

"Sure," she said.

"Even though it's a holiday?"

"Oh, I meant Tuesday."

Oh, she meant Tuesday. The day before the day before the board has to approve us and we have no paperwork. I arranged my schedule to take time for the interview on Friday; but this coming week, I'm already taking off for the settlement and I have to give training to a set of customers.

Are they going to deny us for no paperwork? Are we going to miss out on our chance at home ownership? The American dream, no less! And this the week of Independence Day, too!

Tune in later to find out.

Smoke Test

A Neighborhood Watch Report

In software development, we often use the term "smoke test" to indicate a quick verification. Sometimes, smoke tests are automated and run overnight. The idea is to verify that newly checked-in code doesn't cause any immediate obvious problems; the engine isn't smoking, you might say.

To our water department, a smoke test means to actually blow smoke into our pipes and see if there are any leaks. A little smoke came into our apartment through the sink drain, but nothing dangerous (I hope). Though the water department had given us ample warning, five minutes after I took this picture three fire trucks, an ambulance, and a police cruiser showed up. What a day to pick to work from home.

Interestingly, if you do a Google search on "smoke test pipes maryland", you get lots of sites like this. I couldn't find Maryland anywhere on the site...  Posted by Hello