Tuesday, March 31, 2009
All of this testing was done on Vista-certified hardware that was no more than six months old. We worked directly with Microsoft and the hardware and software vendors to address these issues. Although they helped, it was a losing battle.
In our earliest tests, the applications required 500% more time to complete. After patching and updating drivers, we were able to get that down to 65%. For our 200 engineers at a $50/hour burden rate, that equates to a loss of $20,000,000 (or more) per year.
Now add the cost of hardware upgrades to support Vista. Then deal with the driver and application compatibility issues.
Therefore, we found no business case for Vista."
Monday, March 30, 2009
I got back and only had to work about two days last week. We went skiing on Wednesday, we got to go home early on Thursday due to bad weather, and I don't work Fridays anyway.
Already, I have some interesting projects:
Design a wireless battery testing system for when we go to power plants to test battery banks.
Replace some fans in a laptop
Pack and get ready for a trip to Parker, Arizona.
Yup, that's right. I just got back and I'm heading out to Parker Dam next week. Unfortunately, I'm going out to Parker to operate a wireless temperature sensor I don't have much confidence in :-) (This device we're using was built by a small engineering firm, and it seems that unless the company builds devices for hobbyists, their products always need some help.)
Sunday, March 29, 2009
It took a couple months, but I finally started seeing how someone could call Nevada "pretty."After a while, barren piles of dirt do start looking acceptable.
Anyway, I got back. I'm not as ambitious as some people, so I took two days to drive from Nevada back to Denver. I did a quick search on the Internet for hotels to stay in near Grand Junction and settled on the Wine Country Inn. It had really good reviews and for winter rates, it was priced moderately.It turned out to be a really nice place. My "cheap" room was rather large, it had granite counter tops, a huge granite shower with a nice shower head, the most comfortable bed I've ever been in, nice Kohler faucets, an LCD TV, a hairdryer with a retractable cord, etc. (No, I didn't use it, but I thought it was cool.) They also had expensive looking soap, too. It was such a nice break from my dust and spider infested hotel room with the mattress that needed replacing. After driving for 10 hours, staying in a hotel that nice was really nice and relaxing. True, I missed the free wine, but considering the fact I don't drink anyway, I didn't feel too bad. (The hotel is built in the middle of a orchard/vineyard/winery in Palisade.
After taking a shower and dawning my slumber wear, (Thanks for the weird term, P.G. Wodehouse.) I decided I wanted hot chocolate, but I didn't feel like returning to my normal clothes for such a venture, so I settled on coffee. That stuff never tastes as good as it smells. Oh, well.
I was going to eat breakfast at the hotel, but when I discovered a coupon for 20% off any meal excluding breakfast, I decided not to make the same mistake I had made at a previous hotel. Since I have always stayed in cheaper hotels, the presence of breakfast in the hotel lobby means "free food." Well, at a nicer hotel I stayed at once before, I went and ate... Fortunately, my bill came before I left, or I would have walked out without paying $16.50 for my breakfast buffet... Ooops!
After stopping at some fast-food joint I can't remember the name of, I headed for home. Colorado is colorful, by the way. Oh, and while we're on the subject, there's a stretch of road in southern Utah that has bugs that aim for your windshield. When they hit, they seem to transform into a splattering of mustard. When you use your windshield wipers, they smear all over the place.
Since I got home, I've pretty much only been working at work or on my robot. We went skiing Wednesday, and oh, boy. That was taxing. After living near sea level for two months, skiing, even on easy runs was murder. I felt like a snow-boarder and had to stop to pant every 500 feet! I'm glad my siblings are rather patient.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I picked up my ticket and found they require people to be seated 15 minutes before the show starts or they may not let you in. I didn't really want to sit around for that long, but I decided to go in 25 minutes before it started so I didn't have to wait in line to get in.
While waiting, I walked around the casino and found it to be much more impressive than I had remembered. There's a lot more going on at night during Spring Break :-)
I walked to the entrance of the theater and was surprised to find all the ushers dressed in elaborate costumes and using fake accents. They all looked like they should have been in Pirates of the Caribbean.
I went in and sat down... Wow. Quite the theater
It was really impressive. It looked like something out of the Myst computer game series. While you I sat waiting for the show to start, that smoke up front continued to roll backstage while they played weird noises over the speakers. Every once in a while, there was a big fireball. One of the ushers told me there's around 60 fireballs before the show starts.
Turns out that the show doesn't start till 15 minutes after they say it does... So if you get there when you're supposed to, the audience is sitting there for a minimum of 30 minutes :-)
Instead of dimming the lights to get people to sit down and be quiet, people dressed like natives come out on those platforms/walkways you can see in the picture. They jump from platform to platform like Batman. It's really cool to see. Meanwhile, other guys bungee-jump over the audience, some landing on hand rails. They walked along the rails yelling for people to sit down. Pretty effective :-)
Next, it was time to silence your cell phones. No "Please silence your cell phones." announcement. Instead, a "native" walked up behind an actor in the audience. We'll call him Bob. The native scared Bob and then escorted him to the front where the big evil guy in the show was waiting for him. Right then, Bob's cell phone rang and the big evil guy demanded Bob give him the cell phone. Though a rather comical skit, the evil guy threw the cell phone into the hole (where all the smoke is in the picture) and then tosses Bob in after it. Explosions marked when they landed :-)
The beginning of the show was a little dull in my opinion, but things got progressively more exciting. As it turns out, the "stage" is a huge platform that's basically an amusement park ride. It can tilt all the way to vertical, move up or down tens of feet, rotate, and even move back and forth. The top surface seemed to be some kind of big TV screen, so it could look like rock, ice, water, etc.
The lighting effects were really cool. With the right lighting and fog, they made the movable stage look like a boat in one place, a cliff wall in another place, and a mountain in another.
I'll just list some highlights:
The fighting scenes were really well choreographed. They looked as good as they do in movies, and those actors were really, really good acrobats. They must be extremely strong for some of the things they did.
There were some huge animals. A huge snake slithered down a pipe in one place, and there was a crab, starfish, and turtle I honestly thought were robots at first. The costumes were amazing to be able to cover up the fact that they were people so easily.
You know how a lot of times they show fighting sequences in movies from an over-head view? (Looking down?) Well... they did that in the show.... which means they tilted the stage vertically and everyone was on ropes. It was quite amazing. Plus, they wear fighting in a big puddle, and when they "stepped" on the stage, the water rippled. It was weird to see people walking up and down a wall.
People on the side platforms gave the illusion of shooting real arrows at the people on stage. When the arrows "hit," shafts shot out of the stage that they later used to climb around on.
They filled the whole stage with sand in one scene for a desert island.
There were tons of pyrotechnics.
There were fireworks inside. Really loud, really bright.
There was one part where they did shadow puppets with their hands... But these guys were REALLY good. Never seen anything like this.
A big bird flew way out over the audience.
They even illuminated the catwalks at one point to add to the scene.
Something died half-way through. All the actors froze... and sat there... for a long time... finally the music stopped... and then someone announced they were having technical difficulty. When they fixed it, they turned on the lights so you could see all the stuff back-stage. It was really impressive.
There was a ship in a storm in one place. People fell overboard and off the mast here and there. I wonder if they had ropes or if they used nets?
Ok, that's good enough.
Fireworks at end:
Teaser that has mostly the boring stuff:
It's... a guy... and a dog... and warm weather!
I decided to eat spaghetti one night... well, estimating the noodles didn't work out so well and I soon got sick of spaghetti.
Me starting to clean up to go home:Exhibit bed: Indication of how lazy I am. It saves less than 0.035% of the day (I calculated it) to make your bed, but it sure makes your room look junky.
Exhibit table: Again, in using 0.035% of a day, I could have not had to stare at those piles of junk since... er... the first time I went home for a weekend.
Exhibit fun stuff: Cool stuff!
I decided that even though the cheap seats at most shows in Vegas are over $100, I must see one before I go home. So, tonight, I'm going to go see KA. (http://www.mgmgrand.com/entertainment/ka-cirque-du-soleil-show.aspx) Looks kind of weird and dumb, but I've heard the staged shows are absolutely amazing. We'll see...
Last night, I had a surprise. I went to the front desk to give them a heads-up that we were leaving. As I approached the desk, I though, "Oh, no... It's someone I haven't seen before, so I'll have to explain our whole extended stay thing, etc." When I got to the desk, the lady said, "You're Ben, right?" For some reason, all the hotel staff knows who I am and what room I'm staying in even though I still see people I don't think I've ever seen before. She said, "You have two boxes here." I was like, "Uh... ok?" Turns out my family sent me a "birthday kit" and a miniature RC helicopter :-) It was great fun and I'd post a picture, but I have to leave for work to tie up the loose ends in 7 minutes. That helicopter is pretty sweet! Plus, I have some mini-cakes, decorations, and even a special birthday plate!
Today in the hotel lobby, I found there must be a swim team staying at the hotel. I don't know what it is about this hotel and sports teams. They were all dripping in their swimming suits in the hotel lobby eating breakfast. The odd thing is they looked exhausted. Must have been from having to do so many flip-turns in the hotel pool. :-)
Monday, March 16, 2009
Here's a medium-sized casino:
Here's the elevator lobby going to the hotel part:Here's some of the floor:
Here's a bar entrance made out of 1" square tiles:I took a whole lot more pictures, but I'm going to have to break down and bring a real camera if I ever want to show the cool stuff.
I was really bored, Saturday, so I decided to go to a shopping mall my co-workers told me I needed to go to. Boy, that was a waste of time. I even started following groups of people my age and younger around to see if I had just missed something. I did see the pinkest store I've ever seen. The place radiated pink. Saturated in pinkiness. I was working on top of some shelves installing some conduit. My coworker made a comment about all the cat prints in the dust on top of the shelves to a nearby electrician. He told us these cats live in the dam and powerhouse, but it's rare to actually see them:
They're feisty critters, but they tend to keep their distance unless corned beef.
Here are two of the four intake towers:These 395' tall towers are used to channel water from Lake Mead to the generator turbines.
Oh, if it's still cold in Colorado, you have permission to be jealous of my location. It feels like mid June right now.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I did a quick search and found I don't have a clue what any of it means... some detection of "a "double strange" Omega baryon."
After reading to find out what Omega baryons are, I decided I wasn't that interested.
"Omega (Ω) baryons are baryons containing neither up nor down quarks of isospin I = 0. The first Omega discovered was the Ω−, made of three strange quarks was discovered in 1964.The discovery was a great triumph in the study of quark processes, since it was found only after its existence, mass, and decay products had already been predicted. Besides the Ω−, a charmed Omega particle (Ω0c) was discovered, in which a strange quark is replaced by a charm quark. The Ω− decays only via the weak interaction and has therefore a relatively long lifetime. Spin (J) and parity (P) values for unobserved baryons are predicted by the quark model."
Who knows what that means!
Anyway, the traffic was just horrid. Henderson was having a St. Patrick's Day parade, so there were cars EVERYWHERE. I saw a guy in a kilt and decided they really need to ban them... Especially if they're not plaid:
(Sorry about the picture, but I couldn't find an alternative.)
I was thinking about going to AdventureDome today. The five-acre, indoor theme park houses, I believe, the last roller coaster in reasonable driving distance. Plus, $17 for a day pass to a theme park is not bad, in my opinion. Why, Heritage Square costs more than that. Then again, seeing Beth and Joe in a banana boat was priceless. For everything else, there's always MasterCard!
And, when MasterCard fails, you can go to your local power plant and sell the old bus work: (All copper construction. The conductors are made out of 4" square tubing that's 1/4" thick. The cabinets that house the conductors are solid copper. There's probably miles of the stuff.)
Or, you could hold one of the 16 generator breaks for ransom:
Or a thrust bearing shoe:
Forget it! Just steal an entire parking lot!
Or, you could simply tell Ben to stop posting pictures from his phone.
It made me realize Vegas is missing so much. Everything here is new and huge, but that leaves all sorts of architectural styles out in the cold. Denver has character. Las Vegas doesn't. (And, no, a gigantic swimming pool in the middle of a city doesn't really add character. :-)
I've seen some unusual things this week. On the highway, a car in the left lane was getting tired of going 10 miles over the speed limit, so he moved into the emergency lane (space between the median and the left-most lane) and tried to get around the guy in front of him. Well, the guy in front of him didn't like that, so he blocked him. The guy got mad and started swerving all over the place to get around traffic. It's a little startling to see road fights in real life at speeds over 65mph.
I'm sure we've all seen the typical girlfriend fight in traffic. This was a little more extreme than usual, though. At a stoplight on a fairly major street, the fight came to a climax. The girl kicked her door open. The light turned green. The guy starts going. Just after he starts, the girl hoped out of the car and calmly walked across several lanes of traffic to the shoulder of the road. The guy apparently got really mad and cut across all the lanes and screeched to a halt in front of her. It was kind of amazing she didn't get run over by all of that. Tip for you all -- don't do that in Lakewood. I saw some Lakewood snowplows box in a car and pull it over.
Here in Las Vegas, the buildings are bigger, there are LED billboards, there are more than two Spanish radio stations, and any store you've ever heard of is within 20 minutes of you. There are even injury lawyers on every corner, but the problems seem to be proportionally worse.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Oh, I forgot to tell you all. I was braging to Steve that my GPS brings me to the parking garage enterances when I tell it I want to go to a casino. Well, turns out at the yuppie casinos, it brings you to valet parking. So, I pretended like I was a taxi for a long time.
Uh... Let's see. OH! Tomorrow is Saturday. That's why I said, "Yahoo!" I still don't know what I'm going to do, but I did hear of the historic Las Vegas strip. I think it's now inside a building, but it's supposed to have the world's largest LED TV screen.
Today was a little slow. As I mentioned earlier, about half the electricians were there working overtime today. Usually, they work four, ten hour days. Right now, they're working five, ten hour days so they can boost their incomes.
It's kind of odd working at a place like this. The electricians are all paid by the hour, not the job. That means that if there's not enough time to start the next job, they have to stay there basically doing nothing until their hours are up. Well, there really wasn't much to do today, so I got to see all the ways people can stretch tasks out to interminable lengths. It was so ridiculous that they were even joking about it. Instead of singing things like "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go," even the foreman was watching the clock.
That did mean I got to take some more tours today. One of the things we did was drive up to the warehouse. There's actually a road that goes all the way down to the transformer deck at the bottom of the dam. It looks totally inaccessable by road, but there's a rather lengthy tunnel in the canyon wall that brings vehicles to a more accessable place.
Along the road to the tunnel are all sorts of odd things left over from when they built the dam. There are all sorts of structures that look like they were used for climbing down the canyon wall, a tunnel where they supposedly train tigers, and even some old bunkers they built during WWII.
As a reward for making it through a paragraph, I present you with a picture for your viewing pleasure. This is a picture from inside a scroll case -- that is, the pipe that goes around the perimeter of a generator turbine, delivering water to the hungry mass of steel.
Well, that's about all of interest. I know, I know. Get a life.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
(I actually like licorice ok.)
I did my laundry tonight and discovered you get more dryer time if you put more quarters in. (Duh! Ben felt stupid... especially when Bianca (my GPS) chewed me out for not reading the directions.)
Oscar (my stomach) wants spaghetti for dinner tomorrow night.
During the laundry brigade, the front desk person was trying to figure out who was using all the internet bandwidth. I guess I share internet with a guy who was using a bit torrent, so that explains why I've been unplugged off and on for the past few days.
I took a shower after work. There's no way I could become an electrician. Two showers a day are just plain murder! (Ok, ok... I don't mind being de-gritified. It's still odd to me to see muddy water come off my arms even though they're completely covered all day.)
Well, that's about it.
And, since I have nothing to write about, I'll trust the phrase, "A picture's worth a thousand words."
(And, no, I don't know why this was on our picture server.)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I decided I would have to write a blog post on it... I was guessing the name of the song was "She's a weasel woman to me," but when I searched on it, I couldn't find it... until I found a site of "misheard lyrics." Tell me, doesn't this honestly sound like "weasel woman" to you?
(Sorry, they disabled embedding, so you'll have to click the link.)
"The Story: When my daughter was little, we were riding in the car, and this song came on. After a while, my daughter asked, 'Daddy, what's a weasel woman?'"
Since they wouldn't let me bring my car on the plane as a carry-on, I made Steve bring me to get Propane for our grill. (Eat here. Get gas.) He started mentioning street names like "Federal" that sounded vaguely familiar. No "Steff-aye-nee street" in Denver! (That's how my GPS says "Stephine." It may have Spanish down, but it has problems with names. I think I need to name my GPS... Let's see... Oscar is my stomach... Bianca! That's it! Huh... My GPS is silver, not white. Eh, close enough!)
I had Dinner with Mom and Dad at the Black-eyed Pea. Sitting in the waiting area caused me to suddenly realize I have not seen any architecture that even resembles the architecture in Black-eyed Pea for a month. Las Vegas is all very grand, and that simply seems to throw tons of architectural styles out the window. The most "normal" architecture is the historic "Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas" sign that's pretty much in the middle of the city.
Like last time, my family pampered me, I ate great food, and April even made a grapefruit cake for the occasion.
We played games, we stayed up talking, we laughed together, we cried together, it was great. (Huh! Yet another indication I need to get a career change and work for Hallmark Hall of Horrors... I mean... card company.)
I got in to DIA late, so Mom and Dad took me out to dinner. That was great fun. As usual, I ate a hamburger :-) Dad, Mom, April, and I then curled up and watched a Poirot episode. Once the rest of the family got home from a concert, I went and commiserated with Abb about the pains of life for several hours.
Saturday, I tried out something I made last time I was in Denver and found it didn't work. After that, Steve brought me Pawn shopping, and of, course, that was a barrel of laughs. Watching that guy try to drive is just plain hilarious. Ok, ok... I'm kidding. It was a lot of fun.
Once I got back home, we played with the robot for a while and then ate a great dinner of hamburgers! ♫Oh, the cattle are standing like statues... between two slices of bread...♫ (Yes, you have permission to ignore me.)
The whole family then curled up with an Alton Brown show. (A guy off the food network.)
Sunday, I got to see everyone at church and caught the summary of the Sermon on the Mount series. (A "brief overview" that started last June :-) Wow... That feels like a different part of my life... Sorry, random comment.
We ate a great lunch and played around till dinner. Later that night, Kellie, Beck, Abb, and I then played a couple games of Clue that were absolutely hilarious -- probably because we were all tired.
Even though it was nice to go back, Vegas is starting to feel like home. BWAAAA, HAAA, HAAA, HA! Ok, maybe not. I was a little disconcerted to find I wasn't much over the half-way mark.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
BTW, today is 3 days after March 2nd which was 10 months after May 2nd which was the day after May Day.
Uh… here’s some dialog I’ve heard recently:
“Yeah, he’s being raked over the coals right now.”
"The wheel fell off the golf cart. When are the cops coming?"
“Bring that pig over here and let’s put ‘er on after we bend this pig.”
“Now where did that pig go?”
“Raise that pig up.”
(Some electricians call everything “pigs.” Electricians seem to sing circus music a lot, too.)
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The left-most lane at a traffic light is sometimes a U-turn lane.
You have to wait for a red right-turn arrow to turn green.
You have to stop at every light, independent of which direction you’re going or what time of day it is.
You hear tourists talking about being so drunk they can’t remember anything as being the most desirable state. (I didn’t think it was that horrible down here!)
There are more wedding chapels than grocery stores.
Every gas-station has slot machines.
Traffic lanes are marked with reflectors instead of paint.
Taxis can cross 8 lanes of traffic in a single city block.
The sun gets so low you can’t see anything while driving towards the sun.
All construction work is done at night.
Natives wear coats and gloves when the temperature drops below 80.
People drink massive amounts of beer out of plastic guitars.
You see a ton of drunk people at noon. (Yeah, I know… It’s always after 5 somewhere!)
Grocery stores play heavy metal.
Speed traps consist of C.O.P.s speeding in unmarked cars and pulling anyone over who's going as fast as they are.
Most people are grumps.
Most Nevada license plates say, “Las Vegas.”
Engineers constantly talk about how dumb gambling is. (You’d think after living here for years, you’d get tired of talking about gambling, but I guess not.)
You can see more slot machines than people.
It's hard to find a car wash.
Everything except “winning” is legal.
A light rain shower almost mandates absence from work due to hazardous weather conditions.
When it rains, you can skate on sidewalks almost as if they were iced up.
I’m sure you’re all riveted by my change in work status. Ok, maybe not, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Ok, so I’ll only tell you if you read this.
I, believe it or not, started working with the plant electricians. That’s actually quite an amazing thing because electricians have their unions, and in many plants, if you do so much as hand an electrician a screwdriver, they’re likely to file a grievance against you for attempting to take their work away from them. It’s a crazy world, but at Hoover, the electricians are actually happy we’re working with them. They’ve taken us on just as if we were apprentice electricians. That being said, we’ve gotten to do all sorts of things. What’s really cool is they’re not ridiculous about their safety rules. True, I still had to wear a harness when I was in a man lift 20’ above the ground, not doing any thing that required me to lean out, but I didn’t have to wear fall protection when I was on a 6’ ladder on top of a cable duct on top of a breaker cubical, 30’ in the air :-)
They’re putting in a new air compressor in the central section (central area between the two rows of generators where things like plant air compressors, sump pumps, etc. are located.) They’re replacing the old 480V compressors with a giant 2300V compressor… That means a new 2300V, 4/0, 3 phase feeder… which means a 3” rigid conduit from the USA room (room where all the station service breakers are. (I.E. compressor breakers, elevator breakers, etc.)) to the 2nd floor central section where the new compressor switchgear is.
LOL! A little too technical, hu? Ok… We’re running a 3” steel pipe from the 6th floor to the 2nd floor to hold a “power cord” for the new air compressor.
The electricians have let us help with everything. I’ve gotten to climb around in places that are normally considered places only electricians can go, I’ve been taught how to measure and bend conduit so it comes out right, I’ve gotten to play around with a narrow man-lift (those skinny things are a little scary… You feel like you’re on a giant spring.) I’ve gotten to install a lot of unistrut (Ugh… It only takes drilling a couple holes in the concrete ceiling before I’m bushed!), I was taught some tricks for pulling wire, etc.
Anyway… That was a lot to read to find out I’m working with electricians and am enjoying it, but it’s definitely not what I want to do the rest of my life. :-)
(Whoa! That's an old picture! The power plant is set up into two "wings." This is the "Nevada" wing as it's in Nevada. The Arizona wing is in Arizona. Each wing contains... Uh... 10 generators...)
Monday, March 2, 2009
At Hoover Dam, the traffic was backed up from the dam all the way to the security check-point which is at least a mile up the road. No wonder so many people came to watch our fire drill. That fire drill was kind of funny. They have an air-horn that sounds like an old steam engine... After standing outside for several minutes, I felt like I was in a movie as I joined the mass of workers walking back into the factory following the two short blasts on the air horn. I guess, in a way, it is a factory...
Man, I'm so lazy. I only get a fraction posted out of what I want to post. I still can't believe it's all that interesting reading the day-to-day life of Bozo Ben. I guess I underestimated just how bored all you readers are :-)
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I'm kind of missing traditional hymns. There's a huge range in this church, all the way from traditional to contemporary, all played in a bluegrass/Celtic style.
(And, no, this isn't the church. It's just a sample of one of the things we sang today. It's hard to sing hymns when you don't know them and only have the words.)