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February 2004 Archives

February 2, 2004

He fakes to the left. No -- he fakes to the right. He doesn't fake. He *thinks* about faking; he *pretends* to fake... I don't know where I am.

I'm left handed. Always have been. Well, actually, I guess not _always..._ When I was very young, I can remember being able to write with both hands. I guess I just gradually gravitaded towards my left. [shrug] The odd thing is that I write and I eat with my left hand; I do almost everything else right-handed. I throw right. I bat right. I golf right. I kick right. I have no explanation for this. Tracy and I were out to dinner the other night and I decided to eat my entire meal right-handed, just to see what it would be like (luckily, I had ribs, which didn't require a knife -- fork-able items included my salad and my side dishes). It was an odd experience. It wasn't so difficult, but I did feel weird about it. I had to constantly remind myself to put the fork back in my right hand, because it would magically appear in my left. I was a relief when dinner was over; all was right[left] with the world again.

We recently switched local/long distance phone plans at home to pay less per month, and we now have caller ID and call waiting. Only one of the phones in the house is caller-ID capable, though, which is kind of a bummer. Amusingly enough, our DirectTV receiver displays caller ID information on the TV when the phone rings. However, since we have Tivo, the information is rarely shown _when_ the phone is ringing. Frequently, it is shown anywhere from 5-30 minutes after the phone rang, at which point, Tracy and I will look at each other and say, "Oh yeah... your parents called about a half an hour ago." Sometimes it's days later when we actually see the Tivo-recorded DirectTV caller ID information, which makes it all the more amusing -- especially if the person hadn't left a message. :-)

Airlines suck

I was reminded today that I hate the airlines. American Airlines, in particular. I was in Santa Fe recently for an extended period of time. Hence, I brought two suitcases -- one large, and one small. I hate lugging suitcases through the airport, so I almost always check my luggage -- even if it's small enough to carry on the plane (the smaller of my two suitcases was small enough to carry on the plane). While I was in Santa Fe, I picked up several technical books and Very Large Printouts (VPLs), on the order of 300+ pages each. These all went in my luggage. My smaller suitcase was already stuffed with clothes, so I just dumped the books in the larger suitcase. When I got to the airport, I was told by the American Airlines representative that my luggage was overweight. Grumble. I figured that the books/VLPs had put me over the limit. "Well, it's only your big bag that's overweight. You can move stuff from the big suitcase to the little one, which should put you underweight." Er... what? Yes, that's exactly what he meant. They weren't weighing both my bags _together_ -- they were weighing them separately, and judging my luggage oveweight because one of them was overweight. This, in spite of the fact that the combined total weight of both bags was comfortably below twice the allowable weight for a single bag. And so they charged me $25 because my baggage was overweight. This is clearly a total scam by the airlines (American Airlines in particular), since the math -- literally -- doesn't add up. Grrrr....

February 10, 2004

24 and a wakeup

So I got a pretty big surprise last week.

Wednesday evening, I was just getting in my car after picking up uniforms at the dry cleaners when my cell phone rang. It was MAJ J, from my unit. “Jeff, this is an official call.”

My heart sunk. ☹

I was being mobilized. MAJ J had very little information — he only had the alert which had literally just arrived, and since it was later enough in the afternoon, every office was closed and no more information was available. He did have a report date — about 2.5 weeks from now. And the unfortunate possibility that I might be called on for my annual 2 weeks prior to that — making the earliest I could be called up just a few days from now. He promised to talk to me in the morning when he got more info. Yikes.

Needless to say, I was so distracted on my drive home that it’s a miracle that I didn’t cause any accidents. I spent the night talking to a few friends and Army colleagues, and pretty much preparing myself mentally for another deployment. To make matters even more interesting, I knew the unit where I was going, so I looked them up in the Army Knowledge Online database, and found their mobilization order. One word jumped out at me: Afghanistan. Double yikes.

In the morning, I called MAJ J and talked with him some more. He didn’t have a whole lot more information, but he did advise me to start putting my civilian affairs in order, telling my boss that I’m going to be away, etc. So I did. I made phone calls, sent e-mails, etc. This pretty much took all morning.

I finally took a break (it was pretty depressing; just about everyone had the same reaction — “Again? Didn’t you just come back?”) and went downstairs for some lunch. I got a call from Mr. M. at my unit saying, “Hey, it looks like they either never had or lost your records from your previous mobilization — you need to bring that paperwork in right now.”

So I promptly jumped in my car with all my records and headed over to the unit. MAJ W. (G-1) did a fantastic job — she took my records and started looking up regulations, etc. She finally dug up the rules stating that a reservist can only be called up for a max of 24 months on a single executive order. I’ve already been called up for 12 months under the current executive order (it’s the same one that’s been in effect since shortly after 9/11). This new mobilization was for 18 months — that would have put me 6 months over the limit. So it turns out that I was not eligible after all.

So I’m not going to Afghanistan. ☺

While I’m more relieved than words can say, I am still sad because someone will have to go.

In celebration, on the way home from my unit, I stopped by Best Buy and bought a caller ID unit for my office upstairs (we just recently got caller ID service when we switched local phone plans to save money). Woo hoo!

So I had to make a bunch more phone calls and send more e-mails to un-do all the stuff that I had done earlier in the day. But that’s ok. I’m not going to Afghanistan. ☺

Saturday started a drill weekend for me. Even though I didn’t announce my intentions to anyone, no one was surprised when I turned in a letter resigning my Army commission (I’m told that there was a pool going of exactly when I would turn it in). Mind you, this mobilization is not the only reason that I’m resigning — it’s really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. My resignation letter explains it fairly well:

Simply put, I am no longer able to divide my time between two wholly separate, intensive, time-consuming, and mentally challenging careers. If I continue both, each will suffer, and therefore I must focus on one. I have learned more than I ever expected when I enrolled as a ROTC cadet, been honored to serve with many exemplary soldiers, been humbled to be a part of this great Army, and successfully served my statuatory and contractual obligations. It is therefore time for me to leave the military.

The paperwork is filtering through my unit (I have the full support of everyone in my command), and will eventually make its way to AR-PERSCOM. Hopefully, this will proceed fairly quickly.

February 15, 2004

To your hair

So Arun got engaged.

Quotes from an IM conversation with Rich about this:

CPT J Klak (AOL): Wow
CPT J Klak (AOL): He finally did it
Rich M (AOL): Arun?
Rich M (AOL): yup
Rich M (AOL): did you see the pictures? he has a KICK ASS blue shirt :)
CPT J Klak (AOL): Ya — I noticed that picture
CPT J Klak (AOL): I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have a serious contender
CPT J Klak (AOL): But nah — I got him beat HANDS DOWN
CPT J Klak (AOL): 8.5 years of dating, baby
Rich M (AOL): awesome
Rich M (AOL): you win
CPT J Klak (AOL): So
CPT J Klak (AOL): His shirt
CPT J Klak (AOL): It should never be worn again
CPT J Klak (AOL): It should be displayed along with a velvet picture of Dogs Playing Poker
CPT J Klak (AOL): it needs to be enshrined
CPT J Klak (AOL): a tribute to bachelorhood
CPT J Klak (AOL): Plus, Sheleece (sp?) will never let him wear it again anyway ;-)
Rich M (AOL): indeed! that’s AWSOME
Rich M (AOL): we should get him the dogs playing poker picture

And another quote from Arun after the announcement:

Fun fact: Because I have no memory I had to make a note to pick up the ring. However, Shelece often sees the emacs buffer I use for my schedual, so I used “MPI Ring Counter” as the codename for all engagement related activities. i.e. “Design MPI Ring” -> pick out ring. “Implement MPI Ring” -> pick up ring, etc…

Congrats to Arun — welcome to the second life.

Had a good week of next generation LAM work last week. Things are progressing quite well. More details as time goes on — suffice it to say that the next generation of LAM is gonna rock.

So D&D win the award for the classiest wedding invitation ever — got a wine bottle with custom labels in a custom wooden box. The bottle was closed with a cork and a seal, and contained a rolled invitation to the wedding.

Cool stuff.

The date for my graduation party has been set — 3 July 2004.

Now all I have to do is graduate.

Another saga has finally come to a close.

I finally got around to filing my final travel voucher from my Arizona deployment late last October, almost exactly a year after I returned home from deployment. I submitted it through my unit’s finance office. It got kicked back to me via snail mail about 1.5 months later in mid-December because I forgot to include a form. I promptly re-submitted it (thtough my finance office again) a day or three later. Come late-January, I stilll had heard nothing. So I asked about it. DFAS had no records that I submitted it. So they told me to submit it again. I did (through my finance office).

A week later, I called DFAS to check the status of it. Surprise — they had no record of it. The helpful lady strongly recommended me to fax it myself from my home fax machine. 10 minutes later, I did.

A week later, I got paid.

February 17, 2004

It's raining mail

In my never-ending quest to find a great mail client, I tried Thunderbird yesterday (the Mozilla mail client).

It seemed like a fine client, but I had some major problems with it. Here’s the problems that I found:

  • Thunderbird’s folder subscription mechanism was both erroneous and did not scale. I have hundreds of IMAP folders — selecting and unselecting all of them (or even picking which ones I want) in a tiny window with no multi-select capabilities was annoying at best. Thunderbird was also convinced that I was subscribed to many folders that no longer existed, so whenever I tried to go in there, Thinderbird would report an error from the IMAP server saying that the folder didn’t exist (duh!). The only way that I could convince Thunderbird that I wasn’t subscribed to these folders was to “delete” the folder (even though it didn’t exist). There were far too many folders like this for me to want to sit through deleting all of them. The subscription mechanism therefore seems to still need some work.
  • Similarly, the “which folders do I want to be available offline” doesn’t scale for exactly the same reasons. It would be really convenient, for example, if there could be a quick shortcut for “all of them”.
  • There seemed to be a nice flexible ruleset mechanism, but it lacked the ability to colorize entries in the index pane. This is a feature that I have grown to love in my current mail client (different kinds of mails are shown in different colors in my index).
  • The search capabilities were nice (search through all folders, even through the bodies of mails), and it seemed to work nicely. But it would be nice if you didn’t have to open a separate window to do it — there’s a search box in the main window, you can only search through subject and sender information.
  • There didn’t seem to be capabilities for multiple “roles” or “personalities” in addition to the ones that you had official accounts for. For example, in my current mail client, I have about a dozen roles — settings that affect the “From” line in my messages, signature, sent-mail box, etc. I have more roles than e-mail accounts for two reasons: 1) all my mail funnells down to one mail server, and 2) my mail server has several different DNS names. That’s a killer feature, and I really need it.
  • There was no ability to save my settings or addressbook on the server. I’ve only seen one mail client have the ability to do this (pine, my current mail client), but it’s really useful. Especially since I commonly use at least 3 different machines to read my mail, when I store all this info on the server, there’s never a need for manual synchronization (which can be a huge hassle); the most recent version is always downloaded from (and saved to) the server. I have grown totally addicted to this feature.

So I’ll stick with pine for now. I really was looking forward to being able to handle PKI certificates properly and having true IMAP disconnected operation. But oh welll….

February 19, 2004

I don't know what kind of salad it is. There's no difference between them; it's a bowl of weeds. Some of them have cheese. This isn't the kind with cheese.

My [free] Roady XM radio home kit arrived today. I have it hooked up in my office and techno is blaring (currently: Fatboy Slim). My productivity has gone up 13%.

I unfortunately had to disconnect my speakers from my computer to do it, but I’m sure that when I spend a little time that I’ll be able to figure out a better solution.

Right now, I’m concentrating on my dissertation. I have a defense scheduled at Notre Dame in about 2 months, but I have to turn in my dissertation loooong before that (about a month before the actual defense). So I have only a few weeks to finish all the writing (most of the text has been written, but it’s a matter of [significant] polish and re-spinning to tell a cohesive story). This will pretty much consume my entire life for the next few weeks…

Team Felcher

Stumbled across this on a random web page today:

As for thesis writing advice, the main item is: do not ask around for thesis writing advice. Just write the fucker.
—JEL, 2003

I don’t know who JEL is, but that is certainly sage advice.

February 21, 2004

Lust for Glory

This is from a theme of several years ago, but it’s such a great picture that it’s worth showing…

Engineering: Lust for Glory

In other news, Kevin B. is engaged! Welcome to the club, Kevin. Time to give up the velvet poster of dogs playing poker…


Yet another chapter in my life closes.

I got my honorable discharge certificate from the Army in the mail today. It was effective 18 March, 2004.

I’m really happy, but at the same time, it still hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It’ll take a little time, I’m sure — something that has been part of my identity for so many years is now over. At some point in the near future, my .mil e-mail address will stop working, and I’ll be shut out of Army Knowledge Online (the main Army collaboration portal).

It was a good tour. If I had to do it over again, I’d do it the same way. Darrell asked me this evening:

“So aside from all the leadership experience, comraderie, sense of duty and fulfillment, working with other soldiers for something greater, learning about massive organizations, practical experience with all levels of command, and the huge chunk of cash that you got to attend to Notre Dame, did you get anything out of the army at all?”

Yes, yes I did.

Thanks to all who helped me have a fabulous Army career; you are all too numerous to mention. How many of you kept a young LT / CPT straight and honest? You know who you are. ☺

February 22, 2004

We should've gotten a live chicken

CVS commit message of the day:

It’s an uncommon practice to use strlen(“SOMETHING”) && strncmp(…) as the value for a length parameter to a strncmp. I’m therefore assuming it’s wrong, and fixing it. I’m also going to get some breakfast. I was thinking Lucky Charms, but we’re about out of that, so I may go for bacon instead. Or I could go take my shower and get some donuts. It’s a tough decision.

I know it's not exciting, but it's kinda fun to watch


  • The quote in the title of this entry is actually from this year’s Super Bowl TV commentary. I’m not kidding.
  • I really need a favicon for JJC. Anyone got any suggestions?
  • Here’s another good quote:

“Coding is not just about writing code.”

  • My dissertation looks like it’s going to be 8 chapters and 5 appendices. Woof!

February 24, 2004

Wakeup: part deux

I sent out a mass e-mail the other day announcing that I am getting out of the army, and including the same paragraph from my resignation letter that I posted in a previous journal entry.

Unexpectedly, I have received a large number of replies — a whole bunch of “thank you for serving!” mails and a few extraordinarily kind replies from some fellow soldiers.

I honestly don’t know what to say; I’m flattered and honored to have elicited such a response. Indeed, I don’t feel like I really deserve it. Sure, I was deployed for a year, but in comparison to many, many others, my deployment was tremendously easy. There are thousands of others who have endured far greater hardship than me.

I can say from experience that it’s always great when someone thanks you for serving. This has happened to me several times when I was walking around in public areas with my uniform on — some random stranger comes up and just says “thanks,” or something similar. We serve at the pleasure of the president, and the president serves you, the citizen. So when you, our commander-in-chief’s boss, tell us “thanks,” that really makes the whole job worthwhile. It certainly isn’t the pay or the lifestyle! (recall previous journal entries about my soldiers being eligible for food stamps) I can tell you that every military person definitely appreciates it when you do that.

So the next time you see a service member in public, thank them. You don’t need to make a big show; a quick, “Hey, just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for serving…” will do.

It’ll go farther than you can imagine.

February 29, 2004

If you'd been listening, you'd know that Nintendos pass through *everything*

A bunch of random stuff:

  • Went to the SIAM conference on Parallel Processing in San Fran last week. Didn’t attend much of the conference, actually — I was holed up in my hotel room writing my dissertation most of the time. I emerged to meet a few other attendees, attend one session, have a meeting with the flashmob computing guys, and eat meals.
  • Notre Dame just charged me $485 for student health insurance. I never got a chance to opt out (they normally send opt-out letters at the beginning of the semester but I’m quite sure that I never got one!). Why on earth would they force non-resident students to enroll in a health insurance program that requires you to visit the ND health center before any other health care facility? The ND health care center is several hundred miles from me. I’m going to have to call and argue with them about this tomorrow. ☹
  • Dissertation is coming along. It looks like it’s going to be 8 chapters and 5 appendices. No final page count yet, but it’s going to be a lot. ☺ Final major rev is due this upcoming Friday (probably only have minor revs after that), so no one will likely see or hear from me during this upcoming week.

About February 2004

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in February 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2004 is the previous archive.

March 2004 is the next archive.

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