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Rounding up the Usual Suspects
Steve's Livejournal
This morning the Sun was peeking through hazy clouds, taunting me with the possibility that I might have a chance to take a peek at the huge sunspot that recently appeared on the Sun. But the haze stuck around until it was time for us to leave for our Wednesday job.

The current sunspot is one of the largest sunspots on record. The customary measurement is millionths of the area of the Earth-facing side of the Sun. The current sunspot has reached 2740 millionths, exceeding the 2640 millionths of a 2003 sunspot (according to the US Naval Observatory Facebook page, October 24 message.) As far as I can tell, the largest sunspot on record was a 6100 millionth size sunspot in 1947 (according to this Space Weather article: "History's Biggest Sunspots").

A couple more sunspot articles:
"Jupiter-size sunspot group now in view", Sky & Telescope
"AR 2192: Giant on the Sun", NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

So, back to our morning. Soon after "J" and I started on the drive to work, the sky started to clear for real around the Sun – not just bright haze, but fully clear sky. And my solar telescope was at home. How frustrating!

Work was productive, but both J and I were pretty worn out, so we didn't stay as late into the evening as some weeks. Still, by the time we were headed home, the Sun was lost behind clouds, and was pretty close to setting when we got home.

This morning, "J" and I got up some earlier than usual for an all-day session of our usually-on-Monday class. It was quite an endurance challenge for all of us (12 of the 14 students, and the instructor). To make the passage of time less obvious, the instructor removed a clock from the wall and asked everyone to put their phones away. I'm not sure whether that made time seem to pass more quickly, more slowly, or just made it harder to be aware of the passage of time. Some of the lessons in the morning seemed somewhat pointless at the time, but they connected to things later in the class in a way that made sense; that was a bit strange.

In the evening, I went to my programming Meet-up. Turnout was larger than last time: I think nine or so, including two new people. It was a reasonably worthwhile session.

Tonight, I spent some time working on the Wednesday job project, mainly puzzling over some SQL code. I think I have figured out what the code in question does, but I'm still not sure why it does it.

Early this morning, "J" and I were awakened by an odd knock on the door. It was a guy from the power company, asking about a report of trees overhanging power wires in a way that caused a hazard. But it didn't make much sense, because the name the power guy asked for wasn't mine; he even asked how long I had lived here, and I have been here since before the report was made. I mentioned the 1850s maple that the power company's tree contractor had removed, but he was concerned about cottonwood trees. Strange.

The power guy asked permission to go into our back yard anyway, to inspect the wires. I didn't mine; even if I hadn't reported a problem, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have the wires inspected. I peeked out the window briefly to see what he was up to, but it didn't look interesting, so I went back to bed without knowing whether he found what he wanted to know.

Around noon, J and I had an appointment at home with "S", who turned out to know both the instructor of our Thursday evening class and someone else we've met with a few times. It went well.

This evening, J and I went to Bellevue for dinner with my parents, my brother, his new wife, and a doctor my brother has known since the 1980s. My mother made a chicken and rice dish that was delicious. She said that she learned the recipe in the early 1960s. She also treated us to pumpkin pie, which was good too. It was a very pleasant evening.

This has been a very busy day. It started early this afternoon. "J" and I went to an appointment in Kirkland. It went smoothly.

The rest of the day was all related to a wedding. We went to a bakery in Redmond to pick up a wedding cake. J and I had volunteered to contribute the cake to the wedding; we ordered on Saturday. Actually, we ordered two cakes: a large one for the wedding, and a small one for the wedding couple to freeze and save for their first anniversary. They looked beautiful: lots of swirls on the sides, and a pair of frosting roses on top.

After the bakery (and a nibble for lunch), we went to a hair salon, where J got her hair done for a surprisingly reasonable price. Next door to the salon, she went to a shoe store and got a pair of boots, also for a surprisingly reasonable price.

From there we went to Bellevue, where we met up with my parents, my brother, and other wedding guests. We set out to the wedding site – a court house – in a small caravan. We went to the building just before closing time and checked in through security. (They wouldn't allow my mother's Swiss army knife inside, so my father had to run it back to their car.) While waiting for the schedule time, guests made introductions and conversation.

The time arrived, and we went into the judge's chamber. I was serving two roles in the wedding: one, as the primary photographer (assisted by J and my father), and two, sharing Best Man duties with my father. The judge suggested a number of types of shots that I might have forgotten, and we took those. The judge even took a group picture of the wedding party and all the guests. The bride and groom signed the marriage certificate, and then the groom asked my parents to sign as witnesses (traditional duties of the Matron of Honor and Best Man).

The judge led the happy couple through the vows. When the exchange of rings took place, I did my share of the Best Man duties, handing the rings to each of them when the time came. I returned to my role as photographer as the judge pronounced the couple husband and wife and invited them to kiss and face the guests. My brother was the groom.

After the ceremony, some more pictures were taken, and the judge excused himself for a few minutes. When he returned, he let us out of the locked court house, and we were all on our way.

Next stop was the reception, in a private section of a large hotel. (It's normally just a section of the hotel restaurant, but there the hotel wasn't so busy that it needed the entire restaurant space, so they reserved it for the celebration.) J and I set up the cake, on a glass cake stand we had brought from home. I took more pictures. We sorted out the seating arrangements at the dinner table.

One of the guests, "M", was a woman J and I knew mostly because we had photographed her retirement party soon after J and I met. (She's a good friend of my brother and mother, who had suggested me for the task.) In addition to M's gift to my brother and his new bride, she had a gift for J and me: a beautiful quilt. M loves making quilts, and frequently gives them as gifts; one of her quilts was the first wedding gift J and I received when we decided to get married. My brother and his bride opened their gift from her too; it was also a quilt, also beautiful, but entirely unlike the ones she had made for us.

Soon after everyone settled for dinner, I noticed that there was a double rainbow out the window of the restaurant. I pointed it out to everyone, and several people suggested I take pictures. I did, then settled back to the dinner table. Soon, the rainbow brightened, and I took a few more pictures. It brightened some more, and I took a few more. At that point, the weather gods decided to stop messing with me, and the rainbow started fading away.

The waiter took orders, a few toasts were made, and conversation continued. When the food arrived, it was delicious. (I had a salmon dish.) After contemplating for a while, my father made a speech honoring the bride and groom (another Best Man duty). I don't recall what he said, but it was a really good speech.

After the dinner, it was time to cut the cake. I took more pictures. The bride and groom fed each other a bite of cake. After they had their cake, the bride's friend took over the cake duties, slicing portions for each of the guests. The cake was just as snow-white on the inside as the outside. (That was a bit of a puzzle for J and me, because we thought we had ordered chocolate on the inside.) It was light and delicious, with a hint of lemon scent.

After the cake was mostly consumed, it was time to adjourn the event. J and I still had some time for the evening, but we mostly relaxed after the long day. We had to skip one session of our Thursday evening class, but we had a good excuse.

This morning, "J" and I went to our Wednesday job, as usual. It was a fairly productive day for both of us, but it was a little frustrating right at the end of the day. We were both puzzling over an SQL mystery, and it seemed like we were right on the edge of a solution – but we had to shut down our work right before testing out the possible solution we had worked out.

The reason we had to leave was that we had made plans to see a movie at the Egyptian: the documentary film Altman, about the director Robert Altman. We may have been able to reschedule it for another night, but tonight seemed like the most convenient opportunity, and we don't think it will be showing very long.
Update (Saturday): It was only here for one week, and we've had a really busy schedule, so Wednesday was our only chance.

The documentary screened with three short films by Altman, starting at 6 pm – a bit on the early side for evening films. The short films weren't Altman's best work, but because they were featured in brief clips in the documentary seeing them in full before the documentary did provide more context. I'm not sure whether the shorts are screening with the documentary everywhere, or if that's just something special SIFF pulled off.

The documentary was good. It presented a lot of history about Altman. He started his film career by writing a minor "B" film script, then used that to bluff his way into doing "industrial" films. (The documentary included a clip from an industrial about how to manage a Phillips 66 fuel station.) In that phase of his career, he learned all sorts of technical aspects of film-making, not just directing. He also made some short films, and a producer who saw one of them hired him. He mostly worked in television, and on one of the shows he met Kathryn Reed; they married and stayed together for the rest of his life, 47 years. A producer with a pet project gave him a script after everyone else refused, and the studio tried to kill it: the film was M*A*S*H, one of the top movies of 1970. One neat feature of the documentary is that it includes a number of Altman home movies; it's quite a treat to see a film director's home movies.

After the documentary, J and I stuck around for another Altman film: Short Cuts. When SIFF advertised its week-long Altman film series, I thought I had already seen Short Cuts, and liked it enough that I figured it would be nice to see it again. But based on the clips from it shown in the documentary, I concluded that I hadn't seen it at all. Although both J and I were pretty worn out from work, we decided to stick around. The film was a real treat for both of us; it was a very good film. It was based on nine interwoven stories (and a poem) by Raymond Carver, with an emphasis on realism and loss. The film included enough dark humor that it was more comedy than drama; I don't know whether that was present in Carver's writing.

It was a long day; we arrived home right around midnight.

This morning, "J" baked us a treat: quiche. She has a really good recipe, and it turned out well.

For much of the day, we took turns working on our respective parts of the Wednesday job project. We have made a lot of progress today.

Setting up Gandalf

This evening, J started setting up a new laptop, named "Gandalf", following our convention of naming desktops for Tolkien world places and laptops for Tolkien characters. For a while she avoided setting it up because she didn't want to deal with the annoying user interface of Windows 8 (in spite of the good stuff hidden behind the scenes). Eventually I got around to installing a few utilities to make it look like Windows 7.

The set-up job was mostly a matter of installing the software she uses most. First she installed a text editor named Edit Pad Pro. That was no hassle at all, other than finding her registration code and determining that it can be used for either one user (her) on more than one computer or any number of users on one computer.

Adobe hell

The next task was buying an update of Photo Shop Elements and installing it. That was a mess that made me wonder how Adobe manages to stay in business.

The first problem was just trying to navigate through the Adobe web site, which kept trying to sell her the subscription plan, when she just wanted to buy the current version.

The next hassle was the download. The download page was cryptic enough that J asked for my advice. The page presented us with several options: download the 32 bit version with an Akamai download manager, the 32 bit version without the download manager, the 64 bit version with and without the download manager, and one more with a cryptic name I've forgotten already.

Since most download managers I've encountered have been troublesome in one way or another, I suggested that we choose the 64 bit version without the download manager. It presented with two links marked "part 1" and "part 2", with no hint about how to combine the parts. I suggested that we take our chances with the download manager.

The Akamai download manager downloaded quickly and installed easily. Finally one step of the process was simple – but that piece was from Akamai, not Adobe.

Next, the download manager started to download the 64 bit package. (I forget whether we had to tell it to do that.) A few minutes later, we had a huge executable file. We ran it, and it asked where to extract itself – offering the desktop, instead of the download directory like a normal intermediate step in an installation process.

After we showed the huge executable the way to the download directory, it spent quite a few minutes grinding. Eventually we had a new subdirectory in the download directory. Inside that directory we found a small executable named "Setup". We started it.

"Setup" asked a few typical installer questions, and after we answered it started grinding again for several more minutes – long enough that we turned our attention to something else for some time, and found it almost done when we looked back at the computer.

Were we done? No. Next the program had to ask whether the installation was a demo or paid version. J clicked paid and it asked for her Adobe user registration e-mail address and password. She provided that, and it asked for her registration code: a 24 digit number, broken into six four digit pieces that were separated by hyphens when she got the code, but separated into six text boxes on the form that wanted the code. After the necessary ALT+TAB, CTRL+C, ALT+TAB, CTRL+V, TAB, ALT+TAB, etc., J clicked the confirmation button.

At long last, the program was finally installed. How does Adobe stay in business?

This afternoon, I gave "J" a ride to a swimming pool, where they had a water aerobics class. She got a really good work-out, and the water made her ankles (which sometimes trouble her) feel better.

This evening, we went to our Monday evening class; 12 of the 14 students were present, plus the instructor. It was a good session.

This afternoon, "J" and I went to our usual Sunday brunch. All six of the regulars were present, plus our friend "D", who we usually don't see except during film festival season. It was fun, as usual.

In the evening we worked on the Wednesday job project, but we weren't all that focused (or at least I wasn't), and it didn't feel like the most productive work session. Still, we made some progress, so it was worth the time spent.

This morning "J" made the best pumpkin pancakes yet. I think we have a keeper of a recipe. We encountered similar pumpkin pancakes at our favorite diner quite a while ago, and we've been trying to replicate them with a home recipe for a while, but previous attempts just haven't quite matched the diner's recipe. It seem we've figured it out now though – and because we have real maple syrup at home, ours may be even better.

Later in the day, J and I went to a swimming pool for water aerobics. We had both planned to swim, but although I had my swim suit, I didn't have some of the other swimming accessories, so it ended up that only J went swimming. She felt good after the swimming; it was particularly good for her ankle, which has been bothering her lately.

After the swimming, J and I went to a bakery to order a wedding cake. No, we're not getting married again – we're just pitching in on another wedding, scheduled for next Thursday. It will be a small wedding, maybe ten people or so. We ordered a small two-layer cake, all white, with decorative frosting on the sides and a pair of roses on top. We also ordered a small single-layer cake (smaller and without the roses, but otherwise the same) for the bride and groom to freeze and save for their first anniversary.

This evening, we had a nice, lazy-food treat for dinner: salmon burgers with cheese bagels for buns. Yum!

After dinner, I fixed two broken legs on a table. It didn't cost us much, but the table is a good fit for the spot where we use it, and it's nice to keep it out of the trash.

J spent a lot of time working on our Wednesday job project, and made a lot of progress. We're hoping to finish soon, and tonight's progress brings a little closer to that goal.

Meanwhile, I went to the programming Meet-up. The turnout was pretty light, but it was still a good meeting.

This afternoon, "J" and I visited my parents in Bellevue. We hadn't really allowed enough time in the day for the visit, so we weren't able to stick around all that long, but it was nice seeing them.

In the evening, J and I went to have dinner with our friend "D" at his home. He served a tasty chicken and peanut sauce stew, with his cookies for dessert. The conversation was nice and the dinner was good.

This afternoon, "J" and I had an appointment at home. (The woman knows the instructor of our class, as it turns out.) It was a good meeting, but we could have used a bit more time than we had.

Late in the afternoon we met a couple of J's relatives at a good little restaurant in Pike Place Market, with a great view of Puget Sound. It was very nice seeing them; they're good people and we only get to see them occasionally.

While at the early dinner, I got a phone call from my brother to invite us to his wedding – just one week from today, in Bellevue. We'll be there, even if it means being late to our Thursday class.

After the dinner, J and I headed to Ballard for our Thursday evening class. Since we ended up with some time to spare before, we stopped for ice cream at a one of a kind shop next to the Ballard library. The ice cream was delicious.

The class was very informative. Attendance was lighter than most sessions; I think about six of 20 students were absent.

It wasn't exceptionally late when we got home, but it was such a busy day that we were pretty worn out anyway.

This morning I gave "J" a ride to a meeting, and went to Costco while she was busy. I spent quite a bit less than usual there.

After J's meeting, I picked her up again and we went to an appointment of mine; she waited for me there because we didn't have time for me to drop her off at home in between. She had things to do while she waited, so that was no bother for her. My appointment went smoothly.

This afternoon J worked on follow up from yesterday's business in Lacey, with my help. Then this evening she made some more progress on her part of the Wednesday job project, with my encouragem, but not much other help. It seems like we are close to finishing it   but at times our progress has reminded me of a Zeno's Paradox.

This morning, "J" and I went to a meeting in Lacey. Traffic was fairly light, and the car gave us a very comfortable ride (and great mileage). The meeting was pretty dull, but reasonably productive.

The view of Mount Rainier was beautiful as we started on the trip back toward Seattle, with the mountain and clouds lit by the late afternoon sunshine. We were pretty hungry, and stopped for a take-out sandwich, then continued on our way.

Approaching Tacoma, we encountered some sort of miserable traffic situation. According to the traffic report, it was just a stalled car on off ramp. But the traffic back-up seemed way too much for just that. When we reached the place where the mess seemed to be, we saw no sign of the problem itself – except five or six police cars with flashers lit, stopped on the overpass above us. What happened? It's a mystery.

We continued on our way to our Monday evening class, and traffic the rest of the way was light enough that we were a half hour early, after worrying about how late we would be.

Tonight's class was the first with everyone in attendance: all 15, including the instructor. There's a snack break in each class, and this week's snacks were particularly good: pumpkin spice biscotti, blue corn chips, and guacamole. We had to pay a bit extra for parking because we had arrived early, but we had expected that.

This morning "J" and I had an appointment scheduled with "D", but we both completely forgot about it. Oops! We only remembered it when we got a call from D – to tell us that something had come up and she had to cancel. Her schedule rescued us from a bit of embarrassment.

During much of the day, J and I worked on the Wednesday job project. Sometimes I was working on it, sometimes she was working on it, and sometimes we worked on it together. We made a lot of progress.

This evening I went to the Saturday programming Meet-up group. Ten people were there this week. It was fairly interesting.

This morning on the way to our Wednesday job, "J" and I went through an intersection that is often blocked by people who enter the intersection before there's room for them, then end up blocking traffic in the other direction when the light changes. The problem happens enough that we even went through the hassle of calling the police non-emergency number to complain that it is a recurring problem.

This morning we had a pleasant surprise: a motorcycle cop had three traffic blocking scofflaws pulled over, waiting their turns for a verbal warning, written warning, or citation. (As far as I can tell, the fine is only $42, which is not much of a deterrent. But that's just the state law; city laws may be tougher.)

This looks like the relevant law:
RCW 46.61.202
Stopping when traffic obstructed.

No driver shall enter an intersection or a marked crosswalk or drive onto any railroad grade crossing unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection, crosswalk, or railroad grade crossing to accommodate the vehicle he or she is operating without obstructing the passage of other vehicles, pedestrians, or railroad trains notwithstanding any traffic control signal indications to proceed.

[2010 c 8 § 9067; 1975 c 62 § 48.]

This afternoon, I had an important phone appointment. There were some technical difficulties (my phone dropped the connection more than once before I changed a setting that solved the problem), but I was mostly pleased with how it went.

In the evening, "J" and I went to another session of our Monday class. Attendance was slightly smaller; one guy was out sick. This time we found the class quite a bit more instructive than last week. One of the things we covered last week was surprisingly helpful tonight. J and I need to put in a bit more effort on our homework during the next week, but we're looking forward to next week's class.

Today is J's birthday. Please wish her a good one.
Today I worked on my Wednesday job project some more. "J" and I have partitioned the project, and I think I've largely finished my partition. Now I'm working on a supplementary piece that's relatively simple compared to the main partition.

In the afternoon, I took J to a minor appointment. I brought along the computer I've been using for the Wednesday job project, and got a bit more done during her appointment.

When we got home, I harvested our apples. We have one large Gala apple tree. In past years it was never very productive, because it was in the shadow of an old maple tree. Unfortunately, the old maple was in poor condition, and the power company's tree contractor cut it. As a result, our Gala apple tree is no longer in the shade of the maple; I think this was its first full growing season in full sunshine. It produced a very impressive crop of apples.

We have two smaller apple trees too. I planted both of them soon after J and I moved to this house together. One of them was damaged by a falling branch from the old maple, but – much to our surprise – it managed to survive, but recovering from that trauma didn't leave it enough energy to produce any apples. The other small apple tree, a [something] Mist variety, is still to small to produce much, but we got two apples from it. We shared one this evening; it was delicious.

This evening, I went to another programmers' Meet-up. This one was on the topic of dynamic programming. The example problem started with a simplified case, which was an example of the maximum subarray problem, which was well-suited to the format of the Meet-up group. The full problem didn't fit the Meet-up format very well, however; it would have worked better to limit the problem to memoization. Still, the Meet-up was worth the time spent.

Today I went outside again to harvest even more tomatoes. I picked a bunch of them (and lost a few that were over-ripe), leaving only ones that are still green or mostly green. I think some of them will finish ripening before the tomato plant dies, but some will probably end up as hard green lumps; I'll keep checking up on the plant for more as long as they continue ripening. This year has been really good for tomatoes; with just one plant, that we transplanted into its pot a bit late, and we still have enough that we're able to give away quite a few to friends and family.

This evening, "J" and I went out to dinner at a restaurant that specializes in burgers – and we both ordered salads.

During much of the day, I studied more about the "Shellshock" vulnerability, in case my new-to-me laptop "Mandos" has it. Mandos definitely has the bash shell installed. I ran the test for the vulnerability, and it appears that my Ubuntu Linux installation already had the best available fix installed. Some sources say that it doesn't completely resolve the risks, but I couldn't find any documentation of what might still be at risk about bash after that fix, but no one has clear answers. One possibility I thought of is for machines that are up to date, the fix completely resolves the problems, but the problem hasn't been researched it well enough to say prove it's fixed.

This morning, "J" told me about a news story she read, about the "Shellshock" computer vulnerability. It affects computers that have the bash shell installed: pretty much every Linux or other Unix machine, lots of devices like routers, and even modern Apple phones and computers. I spent some time investigating the bug, to try to find some real details, since I installed Linux (Ubuntu) on my new-to-me laptop "Mandos" just two weeks ago.

Unlike most malware scares, technical details on this one were pretty difficult to find, even in technical media sources that are usually pretty informative (such as Ars Technica). The problem is ancient in computer terms: it was introduced into the bash shell in 1993! No one noticed it until very recently. It appears that there is already a fix for the problem, but some sources say that it's only a partial fix. I'll have to investigate more tomorrow.

I spent quite a bit of the day continuing work on the Wednesday job project, adding a few things on top of yesterday's big accomplishment. I didn't quite get everything done that I had wanted to do, but it was a productive work session.

In the afternoon, I took J to a massage appointment. I did some more work on J's laptop in the waiting room while she was in the appointment.

In the evening, J and I went to the first session of another class. (It's not the same class as the one we started on Monday.) This one was larger, I think 20 students plus the instructor. The instructor in this one is really a talented teacher. She has all sorts of fun props to illustrate the subject matter and keep students engaged in the lecture, and even without the props she'd still be great at explaining the material.

Name: steve98052
Back October 2014
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