Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cleanup in Aisle Zero

Had a little bit of water in the basement* - not all of it, as it turns out, from the rain. The furnace, which had been discharging about six gallons of water a day for the last few months, suddenly went-a-gusher, and I simultaneously figured out that the reason that the ceiling light fixture next to it wasn't working was that it was on the same line as the outlet that the closer sump pump was plugged into - and, as it turns out, the sump was the thing that was shorting and throwing the breaker.

Got all that? Furnace leaking and sump pump broken are the only things you need to register in order to continue.

So I took a long lunch yesterday and bought a new sump and a new dehumidifier (both basement dehumidifiers went tits up over the last year). The dehumidifier set up like a charm - out of the box to running in about a minute. The sump was another story - and I'll spare you the long, torturous process of figuring out what the problem was and cut to the chase - because it turned out that there was an adaptor missing. So my dad (who I called in for emergency backup, but who mostly just served as a delaying tactic) went back to Lowe's armed with my receipt and dug through another box to steal that adaptor. Which is how I imagine my adaptor went AWOL in the first place.

As soon as the adaptor was in place and the sump had a hose attached, it got rid of all the water in about five minutes. It's always so satisfying to see that happen, can I say? A whole 1/6th of a horse can do a lot of pumping.

Now it's just a matter of drying out the corners, and I'm taking this as an opportunity to really give the basement the thorough cleaning I've been meaning too. Just in time to go with the new furnace, I guess. Actually, we'll probably wait until August to get a new furnace put in - we've had a lot of small and not-so-small expenses in the last few weeks, and out diminished earning is letting itself be known in this as well.

Besides: April 1st seems like as good a point as any to turn off the heat, doesn't it?


*No need to freak out, bandmates: it was dealt with long before we got to anything worse than just an inconvenience - a few puddles at most. Although the drum mats, as usual, got soggy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I've just finished setting up a WordPress blog for Noah's site - the official site launch is Thursday, and the Blogger blog wasn't cutting it, mostly due to that darn non-functioning 'search' feature. It's almost like a zen exercise - typing in a search term and coming up with no results - except it doesn't soothe your mind, it vexes it. But the new WP blog has a search tool that works zingingly, so that's all taken care of. It's a bit ironic that the main thing that's broken with the Blogger FTP/Custom Domain migration is the search function, considering that Blogger is Google, but, anyway...

I digress, though: yes, I'm pretty sure that WordPress is the way to go, so don't be surprised if the Rambler changes yet again in the next couple of weeks. There's an embarrassment of riches in terms of templates available for WP, and I like the whole lazy idea of just finding one I like and going with it, tweak-free.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Like Flynn and Ugly As Sin

Goddamn, but this color scheme and template is a fucking eyesore, isn't it? It didn't look good even five minutes after I settled on it, but Blogger templates are so limited and digging through the code to get them to look decent is always such a bitch.

In the meantime, I'll mess around with the color scheme a bit until I get something tolerable. But, man...

In other news: our heater decided to go all fritzy yesterday - I was wondering why the house seemed so cold, and the answer was that the ignition didn't actually ignite. We only worked out that the heater wasn't working Friday evening, by which time it would have been a minimum $200 fee to get the service guy to come out, so we opted to hold off until Monday, cold snap be damned.

Today, we went out to search for a space heater (which is really the type of thing we should have) and found that - with the exception of one of those cheesy fireplace numbers at Bloodbath & Beyond - there isn't a single space heater for sale in Rockland County. They're considered 'seasonal,' so their aisle was filled with air conditioners, fans, and garden gnomes.

Killing time, we went to see How to Train Your Dragon, which we both enjoyed thoroughly. I knew in advance I was going to like it, since it was made by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the team behind late-period Disney classic Lilo and Stitch - and really dealt with a lot of the same themes, mainly, compassion and understanding overcoming inbred antagonism, and taking a monster and making it into a really cool pet.

After that, we delivered a box of truffles to Karl - they're really good truffles - then we went to feed my parents' cats and see if we could find a space heater there. Indeed, we did - a sweet little Holmes number that's keeping our bedroom nice and toasty, even while the temperature in the rest of the house is below 50 degrees. So I'll be moving the heater into Yesenia's office tomorrow while I work on the oil portrait in there, as I'm not big on the whole artist-freezing-in-garret meme.

Finished off the day with a couple of episodes of Jamie Oliver's new Food Revolution which - and you can take this quite seriously, since I normally loathe 'reality' television - is an excellent show. A reference point would be more Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days, meaning that Food Revolution is about as close to thoughtful documentary as you're ever going to get on network television. At least in the first two episodes. Of course, since it is network television - and the Disney-owned ABC at that - it's still manipulative and clearly edited-for-effect, but the subject matter is wholly gripping and Jamie Oliver has apparently become a hero of mine. Take that as you will.

I also spent a little bit of time working on the website for the recently-singerless but finally-named band-with-no-name, but I'll wait until we've got something to show before announcing the name or the site.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Last of the Big Time Satans

All right, so it turns out that the reason the comments aren't coming through to my email is because when I set up the subdomain, I apparently had to do a few crazy extra steps with pointing DNS numbers to my various mailboxes. What's odd is that I knew in advance that adding a CNAME might cause problems with my email, since the same thing happened with Noah's site when he tried to create his own subdomain. I was able to fix that on his site - his host had a really straightforward tool for digging through all of that. My host did not, and Google was (of course) mum on the topic. Thankfully, my host (StartLogic) is always good about both fixing stuff and walking you through stuff over the phone, so as soon as I realized what the flashpoint was, it got cleared up tuit suite.

I promise that this will be the last of the 'Moving of the Rambler Technical Notes' entries, but I actually found all of this pretty fascinating. Since that was the last technical hurdle to overcome, I'm declaring Rambler 3.0 officially launched, and I'm going to go now and put a new skin on it, since it's way overdue for one.

I don't know if the Search feature will come back any time soon - I'll keep checking on that and post when it's available. In case I wrote something in 2008 that you're just dying to re-read or email to somebody, let me know and I'll mail you a link.

Thanks for sticking with me on this.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Satanic Details

...annnnnnnnnd it looks like Blogger's decided to no longer send me an email notification when someone posts a comment.

I guess if you were feeling the need to leave some scathing reply to an older entry but didn't want me to find out about it, now would be the perfect opportunity.


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Satanic Details

So: looks as though the Blogger Migration tool did the job fine, with one major hiccup - a hiccup that I knew going in was likely to happen. The search function no longer works. Something similar happened with Noah's blog, which I'd moved from FTP to Blogspot hosting a few weeks back. For him, merely an inconvenience, since he'd only posted about ten entries. For me, something more of a web-tragedy, since even with the much-reduced frequency of the last few months, this particular entry is Rambler number 727. Having 700+ entries with no way to search for content is depressing, and I sure hope there's some way to fix it.

Beyond that, everything else looks like it worked fine. All the comments came over fine - my other big fear was losing them. So once I get the indexing/search function back up and running, I'll pick a new skin for the Rambler and call it a success.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Portrait Train Kept a Rollin'

Another portrait, this time of mathematician Mel Henriksen, a research colleague of my father's who passed away recently. This will hang in the math offices of the school where he taught, Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.

I knew Mel a little bit - he and my father worked on a number of papers together in the 1980s. I remembered him as a jocular, somewhat socially oblique man - as all genius-level mathematicians are. An early girlfriend of my father's once told my dad that he was 'beyond manners.' And why not?

At any rate, Mel always struck me as a really positive presence, so watercolors felt the right fit to memorialize him. I was originally planning to go with my default 'Illustrator Dave' technique, which is a basic watercolor wash, textures and volume added with colored pencils, and then given contour with brown ink. But as I worked on the watercolor phase on this, I realized that the colored pencils and ink weren't necessary - which actually makes this a unique piece by me, since I always fall back on them.

The final result feels less cartoony and more naturalistic than my work normally does, and for that, I'm pleasantly surprised. Hopefully, my father and Mel's colleagues like the finished work. And I hope Mel does, too.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blogger Is as Blogger Does

Man, for some reason, I thought moving the Rambler from one location to the other on my site would be easy. I probably should have taken a clue from what Google has chosen to name the process and specific software package they've come up with to make it all go - 'migration.' That's kind of a loaded term, don't you think? I mean, if it calls to mind flying thousands of miles a year just to get away from a little cold weather or if it makes you think of piling all of your belongings on a rickety mule-driven cart to escape the pogroms, there's really no usage of the word 'migration' that doesn't sound like a huge, peril-fraught pain in the ass.

Even given that Google's 'Migration Tool' leaves premonitions of the Rambler stuck in a muddy ditch on the side of a Siberian meadow, I went to take the plunge today. Of course, I immediately did something wrong (in fact, I'm kind of wondering now if this entry is going to publish!) - and it's only partly Google's 'fault.' As my understanding of just what a 'CNAME' is and what it does expands; it's a subdomain on the main site. And I thought that StartLogic (my host) set it up for me. And it does exist! But... the next step in the process is telling the subdomain to redirect to some Google something or other, and for that, I need to know which DNS numbers to enter for the main domain, and...

Uch. More and more, I'm thinking that I just want to use this opportunity to switch to WordPress. I'll still have to set up the CNAME and add a dedicated database, but I'm just getting super, super tired of Google's half-assed technical notes for all of this. Regular readers of the Rambler - if there are any of you left out there - are no doubt familiar with my growing general bad feeling about Google as a corporate entity. Even putting aside their questionable moral grounding, they'll always look poor in my eyes for the shambles that is their technical support. Look: it's fine that there's no-one to speak to, or no-one to email. I get it; you're giving the stuff away, so you don't feel the need to spend any money on helping morons use it. And I'd be fine with that if Google's technical notes and support sections for their various applications weren't such a labyrinthine tangle of recursive impenetrability. Where their help sections aren't under-informative, they're overwritten and poorly organized.

Case in point: the 'help center' for the FTP Migration Tool is some dude's blog. Written in first person, and only seemingly in answer to specific problems as they crop up. Nowhere is there even a simple, easy to navigate FAQ. The best they have on that front is a video showing the Migration Tool in action, narrated by the same dude, which makes it all seem sweet and straightforward but really glosses over some major technical details - such as how to set about getting Google to find the new subdomain once you've set it up.

As you can tell, I could seriously go on and on about this issue. And it'd be one thing if I'd just used Blogger for the Rambler, but over the years, I've used it for a lot of functions - always using the FTP publishing tool, of course - and now I have to go back to all of those sites and deal with the fallout from this.

I'm doing my first WordPress experiment with one such instance, the blog for Noah's site. Based on how that turns out, we'll see how I feel about just throwing the Rambler that way, as well. Stay tuned.


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Friday, March 5, 2010

Enter the Draggin'

So, good and bad:

1) Blogger extended the cutoff date for FTP support until May 1st. But
2) They put a message at the top of the Dashboard that pretty much said 'fucking get with the program, already.'

So I think the time has come to make the switch. Starting soon - not this weekend, but early next week - the Rambler's new address will be ''. I have no idea how this will affect those who access these dwindling presumptions and observations via RSS, but just the fact that you use RSS means you know about this stuff and will plan accordingly. Or is that play accordion? I forget.

Supposedly, the migration tool that Google has set up will port not only all the existing entries, but the comments, too - but I apologize in advance if I do something that makes your comments on previous posts go spiraling out into the black haze of the digital void. I actually do really treasure the comments here, and in fact the main reason I haven't yet dealt with the FTP situation is that I was afraid of losing them.

The Blogger migration tool also promises to make sure that all links - internal and external - to individual entries will be automatically redirected when the blog republishes. Which seems pretty magical, to me. They also promised me a pony and a new bicycle, so we'll see just how trustworthy they are. This is Google, after all.

Anyhow, I've gone ahead and called my host and set up the CNAME, so as soon as that resolves (within the next 24 hours), I'll be free to make the change. I will, of course, place a redirect at the Rambler's current address, so you can't miss it.