the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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The Week That Would Not Stop

Bleah. Totally run down. Stressed out, burned out, and all-around fried. But still clinging desperately to life in the hopes that it might all settle down at some point. (It has to settle down, right?)

Thanks to a bumper crop of ragweed, I have spent the last two weeks wanting to claw my eyes out. Puffy. Sore. Goopy. Crusted over when I wake up. I feel like someone has scraped sandpaper over my corneas. I feel like I haven't slept since the allergies really kicked in.

Work is a super giant happy fun ball of stress as I attempt to coordinate a lot of last-minute things, deal with incomprehensible bug reports, and generally attempt to save the world. So far... meh... I think the world's still in trouble. It's taken me until today to start working on the things I was supposed to be doing on Monday. I guess it would help if I could get more than five minutes of uninterrupted time, but apparently that's out of the question at this point. *sigh*

I'm way behind on dealing with some vaguely important email for Clepy. I have had a tiff with DirecTV over their habit of failing to send me a bill and then charging me lots of late fees. (Surprisingly, not the first time they've done that to me...)

And it doesn't help that I've had things to do every night this week: Clepy (and post-Clepy festivities) on Monday, wine group Tuesday, German class Wednesday, and an appointment tonight. Tomorrow, I expect I'll probably just stay late at work, except that the parts for the new closet organizer system thing have arrived and I want to get started on that too.

Good lord, it's Thursday, and I still haven't picked up the new Star Wars DVD's, with the Han-shoots-first-thank-you-very-much original cut. For those that know me, that should give you an indication of what a general shitstorm it's been lately.

On the plus side, I finished The Confusion over Labor Day weekend. On the minus side, I still have about a thousand pages (hardback!) of The System of the World still to go... by which point I suspect that I will need to re-read Cryptonomicon since it has enough bits that tie in with the other books. It'd be easier if my eyes didn't feel like they were about to explode out of my head (see above).

...And I think I might have finally hit the point where Gentoo in particular, and Linux in general, is dead to me, the way someone who crosses Tony Soprano ends up in the deli slicer, or taken out to the Pine Barrens and disappeared. Midway through my third (fourth?) day of trying to get the emerge -eav world step of the upgrade to gcc-4.1, I am just about at the end of my geek rope. I fell in love with Gentoo because its packaging and update system "just worked", freeing me up to waste my time configuring and tweaking everything else to be just so. But this update is just insultingly murderous, as all kinds of supposedly stable things just won't fucking build right--because, y'know, that would be too easy. So, even if I have to turn in my geek badge and live life as a lesser mortal, beholden to the software update whims of Apple, I think that'd be okay with me, because this kind of time-waste is something I simply cannot allow in my life any longer.

Grr. Argh!

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Germany Photos: Intermission

Bloody hell, it's been almost twelve days since I've posted any new photos from the Germany trip. Harrumph. I guess that's what happens when I let myself get distracted by other things: houseguests, complete disassembly of the office/computer space to prep for painting, work, catching up with Tivo (I can't believe I've gotten Liz hooked on "Eureka", woot!), catching up on long-overdue library DVD's (Paradise Now, Munich, and, somewhat embarassingly, Aeon Flux, which at least I didn't have to pay for), slogging bravely through Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, and going to Oktoberfest with [info]geoffimusprime.

Today was part one of the annual two-day company pep rally thing for this year, which, on one simple fact alone, instantly qualifies as the best so far: free beer coupons for happy hour. Hooray, beer!

I have at least rated, retouched, and sorted the remainder of the vacation photos; hopefully I'll get around to posting them over the coming days. And then I'll have to find something else to blog about for a while. ;-)

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Auf wiedersehen, Deutschland; guten Tag, USA!

Back safely from Germany without incident; even our luggage made it with no hassles. I was shooting 100-300 photos a day, so expect steaming heaps of flickr before too long.

Of course, that will have to wait until I feel clean again. Our hot water heater apparently got very lonely while we were away and decided to commit leaky suicide all over our basement. Due to complications with shutoff valves that need replacing, we've had to turn off all water to the house in order to stop the leak... which means that the whole-body film of personal funk I've accumulated since starting in Köln yesterday morning is evolving into something really quite profound.

Until further notice, please use only poles of length ten feet or greater to interact with us. Thanks.

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Falling Apart

Okay, I surrender. Life has officially kicked my ass, culminating in a spectacular, week-long coup de gras involving crazy cat Julia, Liz's Powerbook, and my now thoroughly bandaged right arm.

In general, I've been feeling pretty crappy, too crappy to even whine about things on LiveJournal. Work has been extraordinarily stressful--it's been "crunch time" since early March, and I've lost count of the nights, weekends, and extra hours I've put in. To make things even better, I've had an especially difficult cycle of depression, much, much worse than the occasional gloomy day or down week that I get every six months or so. Nosiree, I've been having a soul-crushing feeling of complete emptiness, which, let me tell you, is a huge productivity boost. Liz has been a saint in putting up with me, but I've finally gotten it through my head that a patient wife alone won't fix my issues, so I think it's time for me to find some form of professional help to get my metaphorical shit together. Of course, that means I have to figure out when I will be able to do that, but at least it's a start.

Back to this week... Last Friday I started getting a sore throat. It was worse on Saturday, but I still went into the office for our scheduled "I need you to come in this weekend, mm'kay" day. I spent most of Sunday in bed, my head spinning and full of goo, so that I could be rested enough to go to work on Monday... where my Monday to-do's kept getting interrupted by more pressing matters. I was still feeling dead enough Monday night that I decided to ditch Clepy and come home to rest more; and it's a good thing I did, because I was able to be home to play every home owner's favorite game, "Why Is My Kitchen Ceiling Dripping?" I managed to find and shut off the source of the leak, but now we've got more unexpected action items on the "fix the stupid house" list. On Tuesday my cold started to shift out of my head and into my chest, and my still-unfulfilled Monday tasks lost out to again more immediate issues. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I was coughing in great, uncontrollable fits, and I'd managed to wrench my neck and upper back such that normal motion wasn't going to happen. Still, I had spillover work from Tuesday's schedule-derailments, which I then spent most of the day fighting with from home. Yesterday I felt decent enough to go to work, where unplanned spillover from Tuesday and Wednesday's unplanned work occupied most of the day.

Today, I am mostly recovered from the cold, though still a bit phlegmy, but my neck and back are worse than ever. Liz procured heat wraps and I downed a bunch of Advil; the plan was that I'd spend the day sprawled on my back on the couch, working from home with her laptop. It was a great plan until the cats decided that it was Thunderdome time, and Julia came rocketing onto me at top speed, leaving my arm torn and bleeding and exploding keys off of Liz's Powerbook.

Liz got me bandaged up, and I managed to get everything reattached except for the "J" key, whose little grabby teeth had been snapped off by the force of the feline impact. She's off to the Apple Store to see if they stock spare J's at the Genius Bar, and I'm here waving the white flag at life.

You hear me life? You can let up now. Uncle. UNCLE!!!

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Weekend, Surprises, Verbosity

After far too much not-blogging, I think I'm hitting the point where the withdrawal is really starting to bug me, so I guess I'd better take care of that.

Work is fairly unmentionable; I pulled a few 12-hour days last week, which I should probably stop doing if I'm going to be the only one (as usual) trying to put in the extra effort to keep the project on schedule. Hah. I am Jack's insane work ethic.

Far more mentionable is the weekend that just whooshed by in a bizarre combination of gosh-that-went-too-fast and cheerful, languid laziness.

Friday started out with one of the few rare instances in which I am proven right, but I was unfortunately too right. I don't know crap about cars, but I've listened to enough "Car Talk" to recognize the clicking sound that Liz's car was making every time she turned left as her CV boot. I felt somewhat vindicated when the issue turned out, indeed, to be her driver's-side CV boot, but as it happens I am karma's bitch--she needed to get both of them replaced. Somehow the old "why buy one when you can have two for twice the price" philosophy doesn't really feel so great in practice. Not the most auspicious start to the day, and it'd come at the end of a week far too long.

Liz quickly turned the tables on my week, though, starting with dinner at Nemo. We sat in the tiny little "Lover's Lane" nook, an odd little space barely large enough for a two-top table, and strangely, delightfully echoey. We had a great conversation, luxuriated in the sensations of food and wine (my Sangiovese was utterly fabulous with rack of lamb and mushroom risotto), and enjoyed the tumult of rain, thunder, and lightning outside.

We spent Friday night, Saturday night, and half of Sunday parked in front of the TV, breezing efficiently through the final season of "Six Feet Under" on DVD, a sudden arrival on seven-day loan from the library. The season had some weak spots, but overall it was a fitting conclusion to a great show, and a nice farewell to characters that have managed to become like family. It's definitely worth your time if you haven't seen it; if you can put up with the ever-present background morbidity, it's quite interesting, often hilarious, and surprisingly uplifting.

Much of Saturday managed to be simultaneously relaxing and off-kilter. Now, Liz and I had laid out a moderately elaborate plan for Saturday, consisting of all of our necessary and desired weekend errands in the proper order of timing and fuel economy, but the cats managed to completely throw it into disarray by nine o'clock in the morning as Julia came bounding up onto the bathroom counter, leaving a path of bloody pawprints in her wake. Realizing what was going on came in little quanta of sudden understanding: there is a cat here; there is something on the counter; the something on the counter is blood; the blood is from the cat; the cat is bleeding; oh crap oh crap the cat is bleeding all over; what has the cat done now? Liz was a shower and full set of clothes ahead of me, so after we corralled Julia in the bathroom to assess the damage and clean up her wounded paw, Liz and Julia zoomed off to the vet while I stayed behind to get dressed, look for more blood, and be someone for Valentine, the likely culprit, to howl confusedly at. Luckily, the bleeding--caused by a puncture wound to one of the pads on her left hind paw, either claw or fang--had stopped fairly quickly, and no stitches were required. The patient returned home promptly, along with a prescription for a week's worth of liquid antibiotics. The details of administering liquid meds--specifically pink liquid--to a fussy cat are best left to the imagination, but suffice it to say that Liz is now down one white shirt, and we had to add a trip to the dry cleaner to our Saturday agenda.

But! Our bloody cat had the good taste to get hurt, get better, and get home in time to let us get to our 10:30 appointment to peruse tile flooring options for the laundry room (a moderately long story in its own right that I won't get into here). From there, though, all of our errands seemed to start getting out of order, and the flow wasn't working, which unfortunately makes me a tiny bit fussy, even though I got a bunch of CD's from the library, got a haircut, and spent some nice time wandering around shops in Rocky River with Liz.

What really got to me was Liz's suddenly-announced, last-minute need to be on a conference call at two PM, right in the middle of when we were supposed to be tasting wine and getting groceries. Which then got rescheduled to three, allowing us to stop by Grady's to taste wine and nosh on little wine-friendly nibbles. But the vital trip to the grocery store had to be deferred. I sat upstairs and listened to music while Liz waited for her call. The cats hung out with me in the open window, relishing the fresh spring air and staring greedily at passing birds. When three o'clock came and went, I went downstairs to harass Liz about this call--shouldn't she call in or something?--and, rebuffed, I retreated back to the office to sulk and ponder whether we'd ever attend to the rest of our errands while I listened to Jethro Tull and Peter Gabriel. Slowly, there came a deep rumble, as the biggest semi I've ever seen trundled cautiously around the corner. Great, I thought, who's the asshole driving a giant truck through our neighborhood and ruining this perfect spring day? The truck pulled a little further around the corner, and I was able to see the Room and Board logo on the trailer. Liz and I had spent a day in downtown Chicago last winter trying to find a leather chair for me that was up to Baby Bear's "just right" standards, and had after several hours succeeded in filing an excellent candidate away in my permanent wish list. Swell. Somebody's getting awesome furniture and it's not me. I'm never going to get my chair.

Right about then, a lot of things happened at once. First, the truck whuffed and sighed to a stop directly across from our driveway. Valentine and I shared a dumbstruck moment of incomprehension; according to Liz, the look on my face was priceless. Liz closed the office door to keep the cat contained. And then, to my complete and utter astonishment, the delivery guys started unloading my chair, while, by complete coincidence, the Peter Gabriel CD I'd picked up at the library blasted out "Shock the Monkey."

After assessing that all was well and functional in the land of new things that recline, we did a quick furniture rearrangement in the living room, and since then I've been taking every opportunity available to test out my new manly man chair. I've covered one of the really long chapters of Head First Design Patterns; I've chilled with the iPod; I've enjoyed sitting by the open window with the cats; I've sipped wine and listened to Pink Floyd; I've passed out and drooled on myself; I've (now) blogged. So far, it has passed all of the important tests with flying colors. Well, almost all--the cats are still a bit scared of it, but I expect that with time they'll show it the same indifference that they usually show me.

So, yes, Liz's "conference call" was a lie, a ruse, a deception, a clever means to have me home so that she could see my reaction, and I completely, totally, thoroughly fell for it. In a way, that makes it all the sweeter. (Right?) In case I haven't correctly sung the praises of Liz lately, let me declare here that I totally love my wife, that she knows exactly how to spoil me, and that she is damn good at being awesome. My silly manly man chair is beyond excellent, unneeded, and unexpected. Thanks, hon!

Other than that, life is quiet here; lots of work, lots of studying, and as much slacking and irresponsibility as we can get away with. Gotta keep things in perspective, after all.

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"Honey Do" List -> "Honey Did" List

Phew! Even though I've been on vacation for a week, I don't think I've been so busy in a long time! The cause? Liz crafted an elaborate "honey do" list to help me pass the time. Since last Friday, I've vacuumed, scrubbed, buffed, shined, mopped, painted, repaired, mailed, and picked up just about everything in the house that a person can do those things to. (Well, other than the hand rail in the stairwell, and the coat rack in the laundry room, both of which have recently torn out of their respective walls and need some serious love to properly address them.) On a related note, I am now a big fan of the Method products--specifically the stainless steel cleaner, which worked absolute miracles on our sink and stove.

Oh, and our guest bedroom is now a lovely purple color, a refreshing change from the entirely too drab white that it had been for many years. (It's now Benjamin Moore's "Wild Orchid"--many thanks to [info]butterandjelly for providing objective third-party input on the matter; I definitely think it was the right choice.) I know it wasn't the most brilliant idea to repaint the guest bedroom mere days before the impending arrival of guests, but it's done now, and looks nice, and there's to be no more painting until 2006, so that's all that matters. Right?

My mother-in-law has arrived to help celebrate Christmas; as always it's good to see her. Last night we hung ornaments on the tree, had a marvelous feast of braised short ribs, and watched A Christmas Story last night to officially inaugurate the season.

Today, there's very little on the agenda, so once I get cleaned up and get some food into me, I think it's high time for some well-deserved KotOR2. Yes, I think that would be just lovely.

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I've been, in a bloggish sense, a bit backed up of late, due to rampant schedule craziness. It's time I do something about that. So... Here come lots of random and largely unrelated things that I've been meaning to post! (Oh, how lucky you are!)


After I managed to almost ruin a sweater last week, we finally got fed up with the door closer on the screen door in the garage and its wanton spree of greasy terror. You will be pleased to know, should you ever have the opportunity to avail yourself of this door, that we have purchased and installed a replacement closer, and you shall travel safely across that threshold without fear of horrible black marks on your back. Huzzah!


It's now officially winter in the Pirnat household--tonight we prepared the first gigantic pot of chili, guaranteed to warm your spirits (as well as various other parts that come into contact with it). The fun part is that it's a bit different every time; this batch has a deep, round, smoky heat that I find reminiscent of barbeque, but without the sweetness. Of course it needs a day or two to really mature correctly, so we'll see how it develops.


Walk the Line... We intended to see the new Harry Potter but ended up at the Cash biopic instead when Potter was sold out. Walk the Line was perfectly serviceable, and a fine film, just nothing that really blew me away. It seemed to lack some of the cinematic expressiveness of films like Shine or Ray (the latter of which really blew me away). I was quite impressed with the vocal performances (who knew that Phoenix and Witherspoon could convince me that they were just lip-syncing to the originals?), but I was bothered by the story structure, which seemed to imply that Johnny Cash's life was over, done, and of no more interest after June finally relents and agrees to marriage, which seemed like a bit of a cop-out to me. And I would have really liked his cover of "In My Life" over the end credits, but I can't have everything.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire... Entirely too many shows were sold out, so I it took a couple days before I got around to it, and at that point I found myself largely disappointed. Sure, it's pretty, and it's spooky and dark, and there are some really great bits... But it seems to have fallen back into the too-literal feel of the Chris Columbus Potter films. Also, it's about time that Harry got a full three hours (or more) or got serialized into multiple parts ala Kill Bill, because the amount of discarded material is really starting to detract from the filmed stories. In this case, the film might as well have been ...and the Triwizard Tournament, because just about everything else during the school year is just plain gone.

Miscellaneous other gripes... The confrontation with Voldemort was completely and totally devoid of tension or scariness; and Voldy really comes across as a poorly-costumed wuss in bad makeup; he's just silly, and not even remotely terrifying. Cedric Diggory's death? Nowhere as effective as the book, since we didn't spend nearly enough time getting to know him. I never would have expected a girl named Cho Chang to have such a thick Scottish accent; I'm not sure what I had imagined, but it wasn't her. There wasn't nearly enough done to establish the budding sexual tension between Ron and Hermione. I didn't remember the British retro-punk band at the Yule Ball, but it has been a few years since I read the book. Dumbledore's performance seemed to be all loud and shouty, merely a phoned-in cariacture. Oh, and excuse me, but there was nowhere near enough Snape.


I've been ripping a huge pile of CD's that have been building up on my desk for a couple of months, mostly stuff that I either haven't listened to in forever, or that I never gave enough of a proper listen in the first place. It's really a treat to rediscover a lot of this stuff! Some of the real winners have been:

  • My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult - A Girl Doesn't Get Killed by a Make-Believe Lover... 'Cuz it's Hot
  • Juno Reactor - Bible of Dreams
  • Warren Zevon - Mr. Bad Example
  • Various Alan Parsons albums
  • Vangelis - Oceanic


CSS geeks might enjoy learning how to create bar graphs with CSS. Now I just need stuff to graph!


And remember, kids, if you're giving it up, you're going steady with Hitler!

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The Sleepy Cat Health Care Plan

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

It's funny how much better life is when you have cats pin you down in bed for several days on end. I'm feeling significantly better, and quite thankful to have shaken off the worst of what by all accounts is the Cold From Hell. Everyone seems to be getting it, and it seems to be a uniformly miserable experience. It does make for some fun conversations, though--"Have you gotten The Headache yet?" and similar.


In other news:

I thoroughly enjoyed the Wallace and Gromit movie, which is not so much laugh-a-minute as it is a constant good-natured chuckle. It's a delightful little film.

I was not prepared for the "Madagascar Penguins" Christmas-themed short cartoon though--is it just me, or does Christmas start sooner every year? It was a cute cartoon, but it probably won't even be playing when it's even remotely seasonal. Can we please, pretty please, with Jack Skellington on top, please not start with the holiday cheer until after Halloween?

I determined that my lack of forward motion on experimenting with TurboGears was the lack of a proverbial itch to scratch (well, that and the whole coughing up my lungs thing). Luckily, I think I've managed to uncover an itch from some ages back, so at least now I have a little direction and focus. It's also been a bit of fun to hang on the #turbogears IRC channel and occasionally have something useful to contribute.

On house-related matters, not only am I now the proud owner of attic insulation (installed even), we are halfway to having bathroom fans that are actually effective at circulating air and moisture out of the house. Much rejoicing! To counterbalance this otherwise sunny progress report, however, it seems that our lawn mower has, with a saddening sigh, released the last of its Magic Blue Smoke, and try as we might to convince it otherwise, it seems that it shall mow no more. The timing was oddly perfect--the first dry day that both of us have been in good enough health or schedule to allow us to partake lawn maintenance, and boom! It wouldn't be that bad, except both neighbors mowed their lawns this weekend, so ours bears an increasing resemblance to jungle foliage. Definitely not high on the curb appeal scale.

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Boxed In

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

Two (maybe three?) weekends ago, we woke up to discover our mailbox was laying flat on the ground. We haven't figured out exactly why this happened, though we narrow our eyes suspiciously every time we see high school kids hanging around in front of our house for no apparent reason. We had some errands that had to be run that day, so we decided to sideline the mailbox issue until we got back; when we returned, the mailbox fairy had planted our mailbox back into the ground again, though not as deep--and thus not as stable--as before. We took that as a sign that we could delay dealing with it until it became a problem again.

Last weekend, the mailbox was down again, and this time (due to the stability issues) it had really landed hard, causing the box to take some serious damage. Definitely time for a replacement--only, where to find the time? It's hard to replace or even reset a mailbox when you aren't getting home until after dark. I got really down about the state of the house as the week wore on with no progress.

That changed, thankfully, this afternoon. After dragging myself around to multiple Home Depots with our roof contractors on the insulation front, I made a return trip to the store to acquire mailbox goodies. I am now pleased to report that I have a fully functional, almost respectable looking mailbox, ready to send and receive the morrow's post!

Yes, I caved in and got one of the plastic ones that I utterly abhor, but the installation was easy, and I have to say that there's something about spending $1300 on insulation first thing in the morning that makes it hard to justify blowing heaps of money on a fancy post and all the necessary supplies.

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Have you got a 27B/6?

And just like that, I am now living in a rejected set design for the film Brazil.

Hi there. I want to talk to you about ducts. Do your ducts seem old-fashioned, out of date? Central Services' new duct designs are now available in hundreds of different colours to suit your individual tastes. Hurry now while stocks last to your nearest Central Services showroom. Designer colours to suit your demanding tastes.

On the plus side, I have now witnessed one of the rarest spectacles of modern life: duct tape actually applied to ducts!

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