Category Archives: life

my once-a-year gardening binge

Around this time of year, I always get ideas in my mind for what I could do to make the yard look nicer. I already know that I will never have a magazine article written about my yard, or have one of those “neighborhood beautification” awards staked in my front lawn. But it’s nice to be able to be productive with my hands and make the yard look a little nicer at the same time, right?

This weekend, I had two goals in mind. Split my cast iron plants, and transplant some of the monkey grass growing out-of-control in places that I didn’t want it to line the the azalea bed.

The seven cast iron plants started from a single plant that lived in a front bed when we bought the house. It was getting too much sun, and it showed; it was overgrown, and the leaves were ugly, brown, and shredded. So I dug it up and split it into eight (yes, eight) plants. I put seven of them around a big tree in the back yard.  Fast-forward almost six years, and each of those plants had become slightly smaller versions of the original. It was time to do it again. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting eight plants from each, but I figured that three apiece wouldn’t be out of the question.

I was concerned that it might be difficult to extract them from the soil (my back yard is especially rocky), but this proved to be a non-issue, as their root system is pretty shallow. One by one, I dug up, divided, and replanted. In the end, I ended up with seventeen plants in the ground and another three in pots with potential new owners. It’s always nice to have something that grows prodigiously enough that you can give it away.

On to the monkey grass. For whatever reason, my back yard is a haven for the stuff. It has almost taken over one corner, and there are several other sections of the yard where it has popped up and clumped together. Even taking twelve clumps or so from around the yard, I didn’t even scratch the surface. Now it has a more desired home; hopefully it can take root in the azalea bed and stop the pine straw from going all over the sidewalk.

In total, about six hours of work for hopefully years of enjoyment. Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

on bugs (the software kind)

This week at work, I’ve fixed quite a few bugs in the new application I’m working on.  I never know what to think when it comes to fixing bugs in an application. On the one hand, it’s good to make software work correctly, of course: it pays the bills, and there is a sense of satisfaction that comes from it as well.  On the other, there is always the possibility that I was responsible for the bug in the first place (as has been the case many times this week), so that’s never fun.

We have sometimes played a game at the office affectionately known as “who’s the blockhead” where we examine the history of code to see who’s responsible for the really insidious bugs. it’s all in good fun, really; no one’s job is at stake or anything. But even so, it’s always a little sad to see when it’s your fault.

I don’t tend to talk about my job much in this space: most people probably wouldn’t find it particularly interesting. But there is one thing that I think is pretty unique about software development: it’s one of a very few professions where workers are fully expected to have issues come up regarding their work that are a) unintended consequences of well-intentioned effort, and b) can occur some time (years, even) after the work has actually taken place.  I don’t think there’s a programmer out there that has written anything non-trivial that has never introduced a bug into their code.  In the end, you just hope that the ones that you’re responsible for aren’t too bad and that you can fix them quickly.

Three little letters

F. L. U. There may be no worse three-letter word in the English language; if there is, I admit to bias based on current circumstances.
Fortunately, this hasn’t been the worst case I’ve had. The fever, body aches, and coughing are there, but I’ve been able to work from home for some of the day. This is only day two, though, and I’ve heard that this strain gets worse as it goes along, so there’s that.

The joy of telecommuting

I haven’t telecommuted often. It’s not really necessary when one lives so close to one’s workplace. But the threat of imminent snow/freezing rain/sleet/whatever necessitated it today, so this morning I threw on jeans and a sweatshirt and headed downstairs to work. “Highlights” of the workday included:

  • Getting to reconfigure my VPN connection because my computer forgot the one I had previously set up, which necessitated a call to my boss to get the security credentials again
  • Replacing a DLL file on my laptop that wasn’t working with a completely identical one from my laptop, which magically fixed the problem
  • Windows shutting down my computer mid-keystroke to restart after installing updates
  • My dog London doing his best Snoopy impression, demanding his dinner starting about four in the afternoon
  • There being absolutely no reason weather-wise why I couldn’t have gone in to work today, because all it did until 7:45 this evening was rain

I did actually get some work done, And it was nice to have the whole lunch hour here, with my trip back to work consisting of four steps. So it wasn’t all bad. And with the snow now serenely falling outside, it looks like I’ll get to try it again for at least part of tomorrow.

things I learned from running a half-marathon

  • There are lots of like-minded individuals out there. There were over 5000 today.
  • It’s really freakin’ cold at 6 in the morning in February in downtown Birmingham.
  • Training would be useful for next time.
  • No matter how much clothing you wear when you run, you’ll warm up best by just running.
  • If it weren’t a matter of my legs getting sore/stiff, I really believe I could have run the full marathon at a ten-minute mile pace today. I wasn’t even breathing hard at the end. That knowledge is really heartening.
  • I like chocolate and berry-flavored Gu. Vanilla bean, not so much.
  • Running 13.1 miles generates some of the worst B.O. known to man.
  • It’s a lot easier to walk down stairs backwards when your legs hurt as badly as mine do right now.
  • It’s awesome to be able to eat a whole medium pizza for dinner and still quite possibly be calorie-negative for the day.
  • I’ve got my medal and my finisher’s hat, but I think that my biggest thrill was being able to put a “13.1” magnet on my truck, and know I earned it – running the whole way.
  • My wife is awesome for coming out and cheering for me in the aforementioned freezing temperatures. For that matter, everyone else who stood outside and cheered is awesome too.
  • I’ve come a long way in nine months – from couch to 13.1 miles.

halfway through the Daniel diet

To answer a few questions:

  • Has it been difficult? Not as much as you might think. Kelly has been instrumental in this effort: she’s looked up and tried lots of new recipes. My lunches, even the ones eaten out, have usually been pretty good.
  • Do you feel any different? Yeah, maybe a little. I definitely don’t feel as “stuffed” at the end of a meal, even a big one. I feel like my body may be digesting the food a little better as well.
  • Have you lost any weight? Yes, a little. The last time I weighed was yesterday, and I had lost about three pounds from the beginning of the month. I haven’t really been doing any exercise to speak of, so I’m left to believe that it’s simply been a matter of eating less overall, and more of the right things.
  • Are you taking a vitamin to supplement your diet? Yes, when I remember to.
  • Are you going to keep doing this after February? Not full-time, no. I think that I could easily see myself doing it for a week at a time or so, though. As mentioned above, it seems to have a good effect on my body.
  • What’s the best thing that you’ve eaten so far? Probably the eggplant Parmesan, although the spinach enchiladas, spinach quesadillas, summer zucchini casserole, and the black bean chili that we’ve made have been quite good too. I’d eat any of them again.
  • Anything that you’ve tried that you wouldn’t eat again? Actually…no! It’s all been good.
  • Come on, level with us. How many salads have you eaten? Thus far, four.

yard version 2.0!

For the past couple of weeks, I have made it a personal agenda to give our yard a makeover. Since we bought the house, there have been things that I haven’t been able to change to fit my liking. Much of that had to do with the fact that it just plain gets hot in Alabama in the summer. Also, it was pretty overwhelming…I’d say about 60 percent of our yard area was covered with leaves prior to this. That included all of our beds in the front yard and the vast majority of the back yard as well. The back yard was a combination of this ugly gray “forest floor” effect, bare earth where nothing could make headway, overgrown areas of weeds, vines, and some small plants, and some grass struggling to grow amidst the wild violets that had made major inroads in our yard.

Now, as some of you know, I’m not afraid of yard work. I have a long history with it. I can tell you stories of hauling dirt around the yard, creating new beds from scratch on summer Saturdays, planting literally over a hundred red tops along the perimeter of my parents’ yard…the list goes on and on. Somewhere during that time I figured out that I actually kind of enjoyed it. I learned pretty quickly, though, that I would enjoy it more when it was actually my yard that was the one being worked on.

Well, the years passed, and we finally got around to the part of our major purchase list that involved the yard. You’ve already heard about the chipper/shredder, which I have put to good use creating leaf mulch (home improvement stores call it “soil conditioner” and sell it for $3 a bag). Well, last Wednesday evening I took it up a notch. That was when the dump truck from the landscape materials company came to my driveway, not once, not twice, but three times with a load of mulch. According to a home improvement website, a cubic foot of pine bark mulch weighs about 22.5 pounds. This was 24 cubic yards – over seven tons of mulch.

I finished spreading it Friday evening. Ready to see the results? (By the way, these pictures are 80-100K each, so if you’re still on dial-up, it’ll be slow…)

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