It seems most anything that the government touches turns to crap. Any idea successfully implemented in private industry no matter how great it is will turn to a pile of stinking poo when the government gets near it. Credit Card purchases, online travel booking, globally accessible email turns into crap by way of the government purchase card system, DTS and NMCI.

Well the disease of inability to do anything, especially actually… doing work has begun to spread to companies we deal with as well. Some would say that government contractors have been inept for some time but I fear it is getting much worse.

I have been attempting to purchase two MacPro computers from Apple since early September. The order was supposed to be finalized with Apple’s governemt contracting group in mid September. Well here it is November and I still have no computers. I do not even have confirmation that the sales number I was provided, FOR THE SECOND TIME, is correct. No one will call back, staff is getting moved around with the fiscal year change. The whole system is a mess.

I hate to say it but Dell has their act together. A colleague ordered three Dell PCs through our same contracting group at work and I can say that those PCs are installed and running RIGHT NOW. They may not be running well, or as best as a Dell can, but they are still there.

My MacPro only exists on paper and in my dreams.

I know Apple has always had trouble dealing with business sales, and I suppose government sales go along with it. I just don’t understand why they would neglect this sector and do such a terrible job with the staff that they do have. To make my purchase I worked with the Navy agent in the government sales group. Well he was terrible, could not keep track of this simple order, and at one point lost the order until I contacted him. He was then moved over to the Army team, so screw the Navy. I would think the sales agent would make sure the order was being filled before cutting off all his account ties. Call me crazy for thinking I should finish what I start. I currently have a new sales agent working the issue, I can only hope it is resolved soon.

For further purchases I will either have to go through a contractor or order through an Apple partner such as CDW. I wanted the custom configured machine but the system in place at Apple just doesn’t make it easy enough to support that. The cost to me in my billable hours that have been spent working this purchase have not been worth it. I love the Macintosh and it is what I use at home and professionally. I jumped at the chance to get the Dell I was given off my desk but even I can only do so much.

Come on Apple, these are government employees you are selling to here, they aren’t known for backbreaking labor. If Dell makes it easy and you make it so hard that a devout loyalist just says “screw it” who is going to win?

So I got home last Thursday to find my Wii alerting me, beckoning me to come listen to what it had to tell me. I hurried to turn on the TV to find what Wii wanted to tell me. This is when I learned of the new Wii Remote Jacket, or the Wiimote condom. I can say that I was very impressed by Nintendo’s loyalty to its customer base to supply these to existing owners of Wii Remotes. I immediately got on my iMac and placed an order for 4 new shiny jelly jackets. Well it turns out that most of the US came home from work Thursday to find their Wii calling out to them and did the same thing. When I submitted my request to nintendo.com the confirmation of order page failed to load, my guess being that the actual back end script to process the order pooped out. Checking my nintendo.com account showed that I had no orders. I sent Nintendo an email allertring them of this problem and went to bed. On Friday I discussed the issue with my fellow Wii owning co-workers and they had the same issue. Nintendo let me know that they were aware of the problem and hoped to have it resolved before the October 13 ship date. Hopefully they do. I think what would have been a better user experience would be if you could have processed the order on the Wii. I mean why not, if it has internet access and it knows its serial number, why should I have to enter it into a text box. Really Wii should have been able to handle the whole thing, they could have queried the Wii, asked it how many Wiimotes it currently had configured and then sent than many jackets to my registered address. I still commend them for giving them out for free, but it could have been automated a little better.

Maybe I’m an Idiot

Google is too smart for itself, or at least too smart for me. When I travel abroad Google likes to automatically redirect me to the Google it thinks I really wanted. This means www.google.com turns into Google in the language of the host country I am in, such as now it automatically redirects to http://www.google.co.jp/. I am sure they thought this was a nice feature for people who are not in the US to be directed to the Google they can more eaily interect with but for me it is really difficult. Luckily there is usually a link on the bottom the says “Google.com in English” which puts me back to www.google.com in English where I wanted to go originally anyway. It seems that Blogger which is now a part of Google does not do this, or I cannot find the link, and it should be obvious when most of the page I am writing this in has strings like, “によって下書きが自動的に保存されました”. So it should stick out. It does point to Blogger.com’s good clean design that I can still use this page even though I can read nothing on it except my login name and the title of the page at the top.

iMac 2007

I have to say that the new iMac is stunning. I had been waiting to purchase one because there were some features of the old iMac that I did not like, mostly the 3GB memory limit. So when the new iMac idea started buzzing around I figured this would be the time to get one. I did not like the glossy screen at first when I saw it online. I have to say though that I do love it. The glossy screen does not bother me. I do not notice the glare on the screen as much as everyone talks about. I wonder how long before the 24″ display will seem small to me, much like my 19″ CRT seems small next to the iMac. I’ve heard people talking about not putting the new iMac next to a window but I am not having any trouble and it has been between 90 to 100 degrees with 90% humidity here sincei I got it and it is installed next to a window.

The iMac was purchased with 1GB of RAM installed but 4GB has since been put in replacing the 1GB factory SO-DIMM. Installing the new memory was a little tricker than I would have thought especially for an iMac. I have had PowerMacs previously and a memory install is no trouble in those but pulling the little plastic tab to remove the old memory had me for a second. I wasn’t sure if the tab would pull out or if it just was lifting the memory out of the locking tabs.

Georgia had it coming

The Gamecocks played a hell of a game against the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday. We pulled off the win holding them 16 to 12. It could have gone either way at the end and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

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Go Cocks!

I can’t believe it but it is time for the best thing ever, College Football. I can admit that I was not really into it until I went to college but now I gladly had over my $2000 a year, smiling, for the priviledge of watching us win a few games. Hopefully we will really do something this year. Under Coach Spurrier we have been making some progress and for the most part I like the players I see on the team. I am not a Blake Mitchell fan and I would rather see Chris Smelley brought up to play this season opener with the Louisiana-Lafeyette Ragin’ Cajuns. I’ll see you out there tomorrow. Let’s Go Gamecocks.

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I can’t say when I reached 96Wave conciousness but it has been a part of my life and many Charlestonians and South Carolinias for that matter for some time. How many bands have gotten their chance with 96Wave? Who remembers reggae on Sunday nights? FreeFall Jam? Yes, I was in before Wavefest, BEFORE Wavefest. I can still remember when Hootie & the Blowfish and Big Head Todd & the Monsters were performing at FreeFall Jam in 1994. Both were competing to be the main draw and the next big thing. Now Big Head Todd has had some success but not like Hootie. I stil remember the commercial. How many stickers have been given out and what percentage of those are plastered to cars on Folly Beach?

So it finally happened. I turn on the radio tonight it is set to 96.1 and I hear a song that has no place on this station, I Touch Myself. I figured it was a DJ having some late night fun. No. It was over. I am now dialed in to the new
96.1 Chuch fm. I felt like a friend had just taken himself out. What sucks is I had just seen him that morning and on the way home from work and he seemed ok Why?

I guess I should have seen the signs, they were all there in retrospect. It has been a declining year for the station. I don’t know why when they have always had a real character and culture associated with them not like your cheesy 95SX sellouts. The first big blunder I remember was when they fired Adam, The Critic and Storm from the morning show years back. I remember it being the best and when it was gone it was irreplacable. We then got stuck with Howard Stern. Some people really like Howard Stern and he will say anything to make you forget the local guys he replaced. I did not forget. Many years later a crazy thing happened Critic was back and it seemed to be to save the station from a slump. Not only that but a new morning show was aired Storm and Kenny. Again I felt they rose to the top of the morning shows much like Adam and The Critic had before them. Again though management at 96Wave felt that ratings were not high enoubh and in April of 2006 they were abruptly taken off the air. I miss you “Traffic Fairy” you always let me know which way to go to work. Critic had a great afternoon show at this time featuring a whole cast of characters such as Evil Lou and out next president The Southern Avenger. I loved listening to Critic on the way home and hearing what the Southern Avenger was speaking out about. You need to check out his commentary, just listen. Things had started going downhill a few weeks before the Storm and Kenny firings. The station had changed their music format from the strict “alternative” and local to a much wider range, so would say they were too bold. It gets worse.

The Critic didn’t last long after they attempted him filling in the morning slot. His show was all about happy hour and his friends being at the bar. You wanted to come home and be listening to this, even if you had no friends you thought you were at the bar with them. Well the show didn’t make it and we got the semi-nationally syndicated Free Beer and Hot Wings. Now at first I refused to listen and I yelled about it wherever I went but I couldn’t find anything else to listen to. I couldn’t listen to 95SX Two Girls and a Guy. I just couldn’t do it, they make me wish I could close my ears and stop hearing.

So here we are in the downward spiral, if I would have been paying attention I could have seen them as death throws. Tonight I feel much much older as all I am left with are memories, there are no more good times coming. I miss you 96Wave, what else can I say? I wanted you here forever, I will miss your music and local commentary as I go to and from work. No longer will I go to the beach and hear about the bikinifest you are doing at the Windjammer. How will I know what great local acts are headlining our terrific venues? That is why I do not listen to sattelite radio, I want to listen locally, I want to do things locally. In your quest to keep listeners from running off to satellite radio with their wide-ranging playlists you have pushed away your core audience who loved you dearly. Goodbye 96Wave.

96Wave is Dead, Long live THE WAVE, WAVF Hannahan, Charleston.

For the past three months I have been trying to fix a leak in the roof of my house. Well it is really much bigger than that because I can’t just fix the leak, I have to fix all the problems that the leak caused as well as all the things I decided to fix(upgrade) while I had the opportunity. It turns out that what had happened was when the roof on the house that I am now occupying was last replaced the roofer was not well versed in the art of flashing. Now I believe that once someone learns about roofing and what it entails they see that flashing is the most important part. Flashing is really the art of roofing. I think most anyone, in an afternoon, could get asphalt shingles up on a roof, but figuring out the flashing is where the money is. So now that you know my stance on flashing and the flashing arts I will continue.

When water runs into your house through a hole in the roof, the water has to go somewhere. It turns out if you get a ring on your ceiling you are lucky because you know your roof is leaking. I received no such indicator from my leaking roof. The flashing around the sewer vent stacks was letting water run down into the attic and it would continue to run down the pipe into the walls. I had not one but two of these leaks on separate pipes in the same room. What tipped me off was one day I walked through the back room of my house and stepped on a wet spot. I figured I had just spilled some water and forgotten. Many hours later when I stepped on the same wet spot I figured something more serious was happening.

Into the attic I went, my gloves on and flashlight in hand. I suspected the vent pipe and had a look around the pipe. Pulling back the blown insulation I saw the top plate of the wall seemed in poor condition. When I pushed on the blackened wood and my finger went through it like paper I knew it had to come out. Back downstairs I got my crowbar and a hammer and began taking down the lovely wood paneling that was installed in the house in the 1970s. With the wall sans panelling I knew what I had to do. The top plate of the wall was rotten through both 2x4s as well as the 2×6 at the top used to fasten the ceiling to. It would all have to be replaced. What was going to really make this interesting is this is the wall that holds half of my kitchen cabinets up on the other side. That meant out with all the dishes, I did not want the wall to somehow fall over when I ripped the top plate off of the wall.

Another problem is the electrical wiring that was running down to my kitchen outlets and light switches would have to be removed and re-installed. I figured “Hey, I not completely stupid I should be able to pull these wires out and put them back no problem.” To help with this task I also labeled all the wires and then drew some diagrams of the layout, this helped but not as much as I would have liked. With the wires out the top plate could be pried off. The top 2×6 was actually many small 2 foot sections and those came off easy. The top most 2×4 also pried off fairly easily using a crowbar positioned between it and the lower top plate. The final 2×4 was a little harder. The board was toenailed in and I couldn’t just hit it up and off of the studs with a hammer. I ended up using a sawzall to cut the sections of the top plate out between the studs. I then was able to get the last pieces off the tops of the studs by smacking it with a hammer from the sides. This is also a good place to mention that to keep the studs from moving side to side I temporarily nailed in a 2×4 across the length of the wall horizontally.

Moving on I installed some new studs and attached the new wood 2x4s for the top plate and a new 2×6. I drilled the holes for the electrical wiring and brought the wires back down. I thought this would be the time to install some new white switches and GFCI outlets in the kitchen since I had to wire the switches and outlets back up anyway. This proved to be a decent pain in the ass. I spent the better part of an evening figuring out the wiring in my wall, “What is the line? What is the load?” It was a mess and no two boxes had the same wiring style. This is how I made my diagram useless and possibly more of a hinderance than an asset. I would try to use my diagram but since it wasn’t drawn using GFCI outlets which would wire up different it would just confuse me. The new light switches also were slightly different. I had to step back and figure out where the wires were coming from and where they needed to go before I could get the whole circuit to work. The lesson here was understand the circuit, a cheat sheet won’t help. I also found out that a switch in the kitchen that has never done anything was supposed to be wired to a garbage disposal that was never installed. The wire was laying bare ended in the wall. So what could I do, I had to install that garbage disposal.

New top plate, studs and wires in place, it was time to pull down all the trim, window casing, crown molding and paneling left in the room. This started early one morning, what sucked is when I got to the wall opposite the one I had fixed previously I FOUND THE EXACT SAME PROBLEM. Two of the vent stacks in the house had leaked around the flashing. The rotten wood around this pipe seemed even worse. What was really bad was I was planning to hand drywall the next day. I had all the supplies, or so I thought, now I needed more 2×4′s. So I had to knock this out much faster. I figured since I had already done this once before I could do it much faster. I would have to anyway because it took a week to do it last time, off and on. I won’t bore you with the details but needless to say it was the same story. I did get to use a Paslode portable framing nailer this time though instead of doing all the nailing by hand. This worked out well as there were some spots in the attic where I couldn’t have swung a hammer to get the top plate nailed in. A note about the Paslode gas cartridges is that they only have about a one year shelf life. They are sold in packs of no less than two so you need to use them. I had to make a hardware store run when I found the old cartridges were old and would not fire, at least not every time.

Just to make this project last even longer and really push the possibility of my wife leaving me I decided to take down the popcorn ceiling that existed on the adjoining ceilings connected to the one in this room. I have taken down popcorn ceiling already in four rooms in our house so I am getting pretty good but it is still very hard messy work. Your entire house will be a disgusting dusty mess and you stand the chance of getting mesothelioma. The popcorn ceiling may possibly contain asbestos if the house was built prior to 1975-1980 or somewhere in there. I put up plastic sheeting and taped around it on all walls in the rooms where I was working and on all openings to other rooms. If you don’t want it covered in slop and dust cover it up. In the end the plastic on the floor will be covered in a thick layer of popcorn sheets and dust. I Use the two inch wide blue masking tape run horizontally to hold the sheeting up against the walls in the areas where I will be working. This keeps the water also from getting behind the plastic. Water? Did I forget to mention water? This is going to get messy. I use a garden sprayer to spray water all over the popcorn ceiling to loosen it up and to keep the dust down. Keeping the dust down is very important, especially in older homes where there can be asbestos in this stuff. What you do is spray up a good amount of water onto the ceiling let it soak in and then use a wide taping knife to scrape it all down. It is very gross and very messy. Wear goggles and a respirator. I took a random orbit sander to the ceiling when it was dry to clean up any remaining ceiling bits. This is very dusty, the respirator is a must.

Finally, I could hang the drywall, or really I had the opportunity to hang said drywall, my abilities are still in question. I had a friend come over to help, this makes much faster work and it is much less aggravating. I used Georgia-Pacific made drywall so not name brand Sheetrock, though I did use Sheetrock joint compound. I bought the smaller one – two gallon size bucket, I should have bought the larger five gallon bucket, because before the job was done that is about how much I used. I also bought a Bosch drywall philips head screw sinking bit. My friend helping me and I both decided we did not like this bit and just used standard philips drivers on our cordless drills. Extra batteries for your drill are a necessity unless you want to spend most of the day waiting for the battery to charge and look at bare walls. Having a drywall square also made quick work of measuring and cutting the drywall, though we quickly learned that while the cut sections of drywall were square, a lot of the walls in my house were not.

One problem we hit was at the second plumbing vent stack that I had to repair the wall around. This is the main vent stack for the house so it is a bigger pipe than the rest in the house. Well it turns out that the fitting used to mate two sections of this pipe is just a little bit wider than a stud. When we put the drywall over this pipe and started screwing it down the drywall just started cracking up. We just screwed it down hard and figured I could mud over it later, remember how much mud I said to buy? I had measured how much drywall I would need fairly well, the only problem was the last few sections above a door and window were made of smaller pieces, which would require more taping and mud. I would avoid all such superfluous mudding and taping in the future. For tape instead of the old standard paper tape I went with the new self-sticking plastic mesh tape. This mesh tape works great because you don’t have to apply the joint compound to the joint first, you apply the tape, it sticks and you mud over that. I am not sure if it is as strong as paper tape but it was easier.

When it comes to mudding what I learned was for one, I am completely terrible at it, and two, if you are going to contract a part of the job I would make it this part. This is the make it or break it of the whole job. Since the mudding fixes all the little things you messed up you have to do a good job on the mud. I did a ok job, but I will have to fix it when I go to paint again.

What I am not telling you here is that this did not occur overnight or even over a weekend, much less over a few weekends. I drug this thing out for months. The corner of our room sat with no wall cover for probably three months. Women love coming home and to find the backside of the insides of their walls fully exposed. Needless to say my wife was ready for this project to be over. She was ready for the paneling to just go back up. In the end though it does look much better and I was able to go ahead and but in some low-voltage boxes and make provisions for one day finishing my home network installation by pulling phone/network/cabletv into this room. I can’t say this was the most fun I ever had and, I am not entirely sure I would do all this again though. In the end I would say the hardest part was mudding and sanding the drywall. If I contracted this it would not have been so bad and especially not so if I didn’t have to live in the mess while the work was taking place.

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