December 10, 2020

Roomba II

More than a decade ago, I bought a cheap Roomba off an overstock deals website that no longer exists. It served me (and then us, when I married) well, but after five or six years its battery wasn't holding a great charge anymore, and we ditched it and returned to vacuuming with an upright vacuum.

The Roomba was handy, but it had flaws- being so small, it had a tiny dust compartment, and removing it, dumping it, and reinstalling it was a constant chore. Also it's brushes were constantly getting clogged with hairs and the tool used to clear them off wasn't very good at the task and was uncomfortable to hold as well. Plus as the battery endurance got lower, it would often run out of charge while part-way through its task, and then I'd have to search out where it was in the house and carry it back to its base to recharge.

Anyway, for Christmas I ordered my wife a newly-released Roomba after reading many positive reviews. After putting the box under the tree, I read a wise quote online: "If you want a new toaster, don't give your wife a toaster. Just buy the toaster." So I unwrapped the Roomba and set it up in early December, and got my wife something else.

Anyway, the new Roomba is a substantial improvement on every pain point. I got one of the "+" models, which means its recharging base also has a built-in vacuum of its own, sort of. Basically when the Roomba docks to recharge, the base will suck the dust out of the Roomba and catches it in a standard vacuum bag that is much easier to replace then getting down on your knees to flip over the Roomba. The robot itself is also smarter; it makes a map of the house as it goes, so when its battery runs low, it can always make it back to the charging base, no matter where in the house it is.

I'm sufficiently impressed that I might buy a second one next year and install its base upstairs; but even that is less of a pain that the previous Roomba was. The new one, with it's ability to map the area it is working in, will return to its start point if it can't see a charger as it worked. So basically I can drop it off at the head of the stairs, let it do its thing, and then when its done I can just to back to the head of the stairs and there it'll be, waiting patiently.

It's also has rubber "brushes" instead of the, um, brushy brushes the old one has. They seem to be getting much less hair wrapped around them, and are easy to clean when it does happen. And while once it sucked a cord into itself, it tried to disgorge it by reversing its brushes, and then when that didn't work it pinged my phone with an alert that it was having trouble.

So kudos to the people at iRobot, who removed most of the pain points from the original Roombas.

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January 27, 2020

Honk Honk

There's a family car swap for a few days because one car is in the garage. So my wife is driving my cute little hatchback, and I'm driving a minivan. She was all excited about how easy it is to park my car. Me, I felt like less like I was driving, and more like I was commanding a vessel.

"Yeoman, signal a left merge." "Signal left merge aye."
"Helm, make our heading I-290W." "Make heading I-290W, aye."

Sadly I was both ends of that conversation.

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September 16, 2019

Résumé Thoughts

I'm applying for an internal promotion at work that requires an updated résumé. While trimming it down, I am removing the various retails jobs that I worked at when I was but a callow youth. It feels... good.

But I'm mentioning it on my mostly-anonymous blog rather than my social networking site, because many of my friends are still working at retail jobs, and I don't want to hurt any feelings.

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February 28, 2019

Tendimus huc omnes; metam properamus ad unam. Omnia sub leges mors vocat atra suas.

(We are all bound thither; we are hastening to the same common goal. Black death calls all things under the sway of its laws.)  -- Ovid.

On my first day of college, I met quite a few people, naturally. Among them were a fellow named Ed and a lass named Tammy. I got to know them, we hung out, time went on as it does.

Three weeks before my wedding, I (and my fiancée) had the pleasure of attending Ed and Tammy's wedding. It was lovely. They had a showing of "The Princess Bride" at the reception; that happens to be my favorite movie.

This afternoon, Tammy died. It sounds like it wasn't the cancer per se, it was the chemo that killed her. But in the end, does it matter?

Eripere vitam nemo non homini potest;
At nemo mortem; mille ad hanc aditus patent.
(Any one may take life from man, but no one death; a thousand gates stand open to it.) -- Seneca

Alas, poor Ed. I share your grief.

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February 04, 2019

New Job

After five years of working for a Major International Bank, it's time to move on. They've been good to me- the pay was fine, and management was supportive. But the job schedule included twelve-hour shifts every Saturday and Sunday, and that was causing family stress because we just didn't have that much time all together. Plus weekends are when all my friends get together to do things, because we're mostly grown-up now with grown-up jobs.

So I got myself a government job. Yay, I'm a bureaucrat now! It's M-F business hours, doing work that I feel helps people. Plus I'm earning more money. The one downside is that the bank's vacation policy was set in their European HQ, i.e. we had a crazy quantity of vacation by American standards. The new job is three weeks vacation annually, which honestly is still decent by American standards.

So far I'm enjoying it. Working in a cubicle isn't awesome- my wife has her own office which obviously is better. But my bank job was hot-desked, so it's nice to have a chair that only my butt sits in, and a keyboard that only my crumbs fall in. After two years I'll have the option of working from home for part of the week. I might take it- it'll be nice to save the commute. But that's a decision to make down the road; who knows, the policies might change before we get there.

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October 25, 2018

Costume Drama

I'm a member of a book club, and one of the club traditions is that for the October meeting, everyone dresses up as a character from any of the books we'd read in the past year. Well, time kind of crept up on me, tonight was the meeting, and I didn't have a costume ready.

Then I remembered one of the books had a character that was a mustered-out Vietnam aviation enlisted man. So I pulled out my old Marine working coveralls and steel-toes, tossed on my float coat and cranial, and I was good to go.

It had slipped my mind that the hostess's husband was a captain (or maybe first lieutenant) in the New York Guard. He was genuinely offended that I was wearing a uniform as a costume. And then more offended that I found his taking offense amusing. He may be an officer, but there's three strikes against him-- As a Marine I look down on the Army, as an active-duty veteran I look down on reservists who were never active duty, and finally the state guards are the absolute lowest on the hierarchy of military services.*

That said, he keeps asking if I want to join. I might, state guard duty is super easy from all I can tell...

*: The hierarchy is as follows: Active Duty Marines, Active Duty Army, Active Duty Navy, Reserve Marines, Active Duty Air Force, Reserve Army, Active Duty Coast Guard, Reserve Navy, Reserve Air Force. Then Air National Guard, Army National Guard. Finally Young Marines, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, then State Guard.

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October 17, 2018

Sleep Over

Last  night I had to work late, came home and got five hours of sleep, and then went back in early for more work. So we decided to have our year-and-a-half old daughter sleep over at her grandparents' house. By all accounts it went well: she went right to sleep at her usual bedtime, and woke up and was cheerful.

The problem was at our house. The cat was very upset. She couldn't help but notice that the human kitten was missing and yet we were failing to do anything about it. Shouldn't we be searching for her? How could we be so neglectful, going to bed like nothing was wrong! She normally avoids the baby's bedroom but she refused to leave it, meowing urgently.

Poor kitty. The baby is coming home in a few minutes, and I expect in her grumpy way she'll be happy to see her again.

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September 27, 2018

Run Run Run

This weekend I've got another half-marathon coming up. The good news is, I didn't suffer a stress fracture three weeks ago; the bad news is, I suffered a sprained ankle. I'm going to wrap the dickens out of that ankle and run it out for Chesty. I give it a 30% chance I'm hobbling at the end, but so be it.

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May 08, 2018


As every educated person knows, the two classic blunders are fighting a land war in Asia, and going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. But it turns out I stumbled into a third. I made a complicated spreadsheet to help me out with a one-time task. But my boss discovered that I had created the spreadsheet and decided it was useful, so now instead of ignoring it, I have to update and maintain it.

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January 11, 2018

Plugs and Beeps

I successfully tested my snowblower when I filled its gas tank the week after Thanksgiving. Then, when it started snowing in December, the darn thing wouldn't turn over for love or money.

I didn't spend much time working on it, because the first substantial snowfall happened right when my sister and her family came to visit, and who wants to be doing small engine repair when you've got company? And then when they left we were hit with weeks of Artic chill, and even with a garage to keep me out of the wind, I was in no mood to work in 3°F conditions. Plus it was so cold that the snow was only falling in an inch or two at a time, and little snowfalls like that are not troubling to just shovel.

Today, though, the weather was a glorious 55°F, and tomorrow there's a foot of snow forecast in the afternoon. Schools have already announced early closures. My wife's office is basically shutting down at 1 PM. So if I was going to get the snowblower fixed, today was the day.

Long story short, it needed a new spark plug. The old one looked fine and still had a good gap, but it just wasn't firing. I got a new plug from Wal-Mart, put it in, and the snowblower fired up on the first pull. Victory!

I figured I should let it run for a few minutes just to make sure, and also to let it get up to operating temperature, so I opened the garage door and let it run. As I came back upstairs from putting my tools away in the basement, I realized I could hear a loud beeping over the noise of the blower. The garage door wasn't sufficient ventilation to keep the garage's smoke detector from going off! I went back outside to turn the snowblower off and reset the alarm, and discovered that the neighbor from across the street was already walking up my driveway to make sure our house wasn't actually on fire. It's a good neighborhood, people here look out for each other.

Anyway, long story short, removing the snow tomorrow shouldn't be too challenging.

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