April 2009


Back when I was learning to program in BASIC on the Wang 2200, I ran into memory limitations when the code I was writing exceeded the machine’s 4K of RAM. I had been writing the code, a Star Wars game with four different mini-games, at home on paper, typing it in at school, and saving the program to cassette tape. It was a very black day when I hit the 4K limitation.

My new machine is lovely but had been having some swapping issues. I am hard on computers… At any given time, I have email open, a to-do planner, a calendar, an IM client, iTunes, Firefox with six or eight windows and numerous tabs, and three or four terminal windows. Depending on what else I am doing, I might have an IDE open, a database visual developer, MySQL, and JBoss. If I am working against Oracle or SQL Server, I will additionally have VMWare open running a virtual Linux box (for Oracle) or XP (for SQL Server). There are a host of other things that might be open; photo software, blogging software, music software, office software.

When I have a bunch of things open, swapping between the big processes (a VM or the IDE) could take up to thirty seconds; a big drag in terms of productivity.

So I’ve gone and maxxed out the RAM; 8 GB. This is (assuming my math is correct) twenty million times more RAM than the Wang 2200 I started on had. Probably more RAM than was available in the entire state of Connecticut at that time.

I’m also upgrading the hard drive from a 5400 to a 7200 HD. Still 320 GB. I have not done this yet as I am engaged in a comedy of errors regarding an external drive enclosure that I need to do the transfer; first, the enclosure was incorrectly specified by a trusted friend (you know who you are), then the replacement I managed to find locally doesn’t seem to have the oompf that the 5v/800 mA new drive requires. Sometime over the weekend I will take out the DVD/ROM and temporarily replace it with the new drive while I format and transfer. With a little luck, the enclosure will work with the current HD as it does with an Apple-branded 60 GB HD that came out of the DTG Mini when I upgraded that to better run Logic.

Anyway, the new RAM is awesome and I find that I can have my Linux VM and Eclipse open at the same time along with everything else without problems.

My current contract is going well but entails a lot of work. I have billed for more than sixty hours each week since I started although I have actually worked more than that. They seem to be happy with the work that I am doing and have extended my contract from May 30th for the summer.

Although I was hired for my text messaging experience, I have been doing very little related to that. Much of my work revolves around databases, Java, and web services. I have picked up some new skills and brushed off some old ones. It is certainly interesting work and I am pleased that they have extended my contract.

Tomorrow morning I am assisting my paid department at ‘Traumaproma’. This is to be a performance of sorts at the local high school. Saturday is the prom; tomorrow we will respond to a mock drunk-driving accident at the school involving two vehicles and four patients. I understand the injuries may be severe; someone may die and someone may be transported from the scene by helicopter. It sounds like fun.

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The patient had tried to commit suicide; at least tried to appear to have tried. She claimed to have taken a handful of several different types of drugs including some powerful opiates some time before we had been called. Her story didn’t add up, though; she was not as out of it as she would have been if her story was accurate.

Still, she claimed to be suicidal; the police reported that her husband had wrestled a pistol away from her earlier in the evening after she threatened to use it on herself.

We delivered her to the hospital. The nurse asked a few questions.

“You have some family here… Is there anyone that you don’t want to see?”

“My children… I don’t want them to see me like this.”

I was instantly irate. She tried to try to commit suicide but, now that she failed, doesn’t want her kids to see her in the hospital?

On the way out, I saw her family; two tearful teenagers and a tearful husband. I felt really sad for them.

I just don’t understand people.

On Monday, I took O2 to cotillion practice. We picked up his tux (pics later) and then I was free for an hour and a half before I had to pick him up. I fortuitously had a book in my bag; I so very rarely read for pleasure these days that it was a bit unusual for me to have such a thing. In any event, I went to the diner and had a lovely dinner while reading something that had nothing to do with computers.

The book, FWIW, is Population: 485 by Michael Perry. I bought it a few weeks ago in an airport someplace and read part of it on the plane. The book is autobiographical and is about the author who moves back to his hometown and joins the local fire department. Some of his insights are very interesting; some of the things he says about small-town life in general and small-town fire/EMS in particular ring very true.

After dinner I drove back to the school where cotillion practice was being held and sprawled on the grass until it was time to get O2. Spring seems to have been leapfrogged by summer; the night was very warm and it was a pleasure to lie in the grass and indulge in something totally non-work-related.

I picked up O2 and we headed home. It was still light out though getting towards dusk.

I noticed blue lights in my rearview mirror; a police car was two cars behind and trying to pass the car between my truck and the police car. I was totally unconcerned as I was not doing anything wrong; I was even driving uncharacteristically slowly while enjoying the weather.

The police car passed the car behind me and I prepared to pull off on the shoulder to let him pass. The blue lights went off and the car settled in behind me; I realized that for some reason, I was the subject of the police officer’s attention.

After a few moments, the lights came back on. I pulled to the side of the road, turned off the truck, put my wallet on the dashboard, and put my hands back on the steering wheel. O2 was incredulous that we had been pulled over.

The officer came up to the truck window. He was quite friendly and asked if I knew why I had been pulled over. I said that I did not. The officer said that it was state law that drivers must have their headlights on 30 minutes before sundown. Could I please produce my license? Oh, and isn’t the weather beautiful?

I was shocked and annoyed although the cop was, as I said, quite friendly. The car behind me, the car the cop passed to pull me over, did not have its headlights on. Clearly I was being profiled; pulled over for driving a polka-dotted truck.

But I said nothing. I handed over my license. The officer went back to his car to run my license. O2 was annoyed at the delay and the injustice.

After some time, the officer came back. I knew what information he had been given; he would know that I had a red-light permit for the truck; he would know that I was given a warning in that town a few years ago for going through an intersection while the light was orange.  No arrests; no DUIs, no outstanding warrants.

He returned my license, cheerfully told me to have a good day, and returned to his car. He didn’t ticket me, issue a warning, or even advise me to turn on my headlights. Nothing.

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Responding to a brush fire
Cornish, New Hampshire
April 28, 2009

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I outran the taser.

I knew him, Horatio.

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Nick S. considers his new pet, Fluffy.