Monthly Archives: June 2007

Puttering about in a pointless manner

Spent today puttering about mostly not getting a whole lot of things almost kinda sorta started.

First of all, I planned to spend the greater part of the day working towards finishing the painting on the trailer, only to discover that A) it was too hot to paint – the paint in my take-along container was getting all thick and sludgy well before I could use it up – and B) we need more trim color paint to finish the job in any case.

Okay, so that didn’t work out. Next up, I decided to work on the client/services database (not the Time Dollar one, a different project) only all of the functional computers were being used at the time for more important tasks. So I ended up rattling around doing odds and ends of busy-work to keep busy until one of them was freed up. Which got annoying real fast, so I gave up and ate lunch instead.

Finally, I got a computer and set to work trying (and failing miserably) to divine something useful out of the labyrinthine entrails of Access that were spread across my desktop, when we took a direct hit from the Random Thunderstorm Configuration of the Day (TM), which zapped the power.


So I sat around a while in the dark and did nothing, at least until the power came back on. Which really differed from the rest of my day only in that my not-doing-anything-ness was more obviously visible.

When the power came back up, I went back to panning metric assloads of Access sand for tiny bits of useful gold, only to wind up re-downloading the template I was customizing when it became clear that the one real problem I was having was completely beyond my ability to track it down and beat it into a bloody submissive pulp.

On that note, a small aside to Microsoft:

I can haz useful error message, plz?

I appreciate that somewhere, somehow, I’ve introduced an extra ) into a query string including the term =(Customer ID). Thanks for the heads up. My bad.

Now, since you can obviously detect this error with near-Godlike precision, could you please go the extra pixel and tell me where, amongst the just barely less than infinite instances in which this particular term occurs, this apparently critical, “until I fix it I can’t complete a function without which the entire database is pretty much moot” typo actually is? Because as it stands, that error message is just marginally less useful than a warning light coming up on my car saying it won’t start because I have a kink in my wire. ‘Cause, ya see, there’s a whole lot of them. Some of which I probably don’t even know exist. And since you’ve already detected exactly where this little breakdown in good punctuation exists, a quick little “edit this entry now” box (or even some half-veiled, teasing hint as to where this lapse might be found), would be amazingly helpful.

K’thanks, bye!

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They came, they saw, they kicked butt

[Sorry for the skipped post last night. I was having a personal “enough” day and sat out my after-work hours on the porch talking with a good friend and sipping a cold bottle of hard cider, both of which helped immensely. Nothing serious, really – basically just the personal equivalent of a mental health day. Anyway, all better now.]

As for what’s been going on, mass volunteerage is what. That Baptist youth group from Mississippi I was telling you about have been here for the past two days and they’ve made a good start on getting the trailer painted. And they got the garden pond emptied and cleaned of a year or more of accumulated silt. And they dug up and planted a potato bed. And an onion bed. And weeded the tomato beds. And so on. I get tired just thinking about all the amazing work they’ve done.

I thought they were going to be here tomorrow, too, but it turns out they won’t be (bummer). The painting process was slowed by the fact that it’s “daily afternoon thunderstorm season” here in the mountain south, so we’ve had to wrap up the job sooner than I would have liked both days to give the paint time to dry before the rain came in. Yesterday, despite much thunder and wind, it never did rain at the trailer (although I hear they drove into a real rat-strangler not a mile down the road on their way back to camp for the night). Today, though, the rain came down barely an hour or so after they finished up for the day, so I hope the paint’s okay. You usually need to let it dry for a few hours before it can get rained on, but you get what you get with Ma Nature – and anyway it didn’t rain that much or that heavily this afternoon, so I think we got off lucky.

Anyway, they left all the paint and supplies (including a 6′ ladder) as a donation, so between me and the regular volunteers we should have the trailer finished by next week, depending on the weather. I’ll post pics when I can. It’s now a gorgeous cafe au lait tan with java trim. Luscious. (And it hides dirt, which is a plus.)

But the garden…oh my, the garden. I tell you, they got a month’s worth of work done out there and were genuinely happy to be doing it. To be honest, although I wish they could have stayed to finish the painting, I was actually beginning to stress out over what I was going to have the ones who weren’t painting do tomorrow, since they got so much done these past few days. It’s amazing what a bus-load of motivated kids can accomplish in just a few hours. Wow.

After their work today, I gave them all a tour of our “facilities” (it’s a double-wide trailer, so it didn’t take long) and gave them the run-down on what we did and the services we provided that they were helping to support with their work.

With groups like that, especially younger kids, I like to be very specific with them about how their work affects people directly, as opposed to the “thanks, guys, you made our trailer all shiny” superficial stuff. The fact is, if the trailer isn’t maintained (which we can’t afford to pay to have done on our own), it will fall apart and all of the people we serve will lose those services if that happens. Sometimes it’s hard for volunteers who aren’t working directly with clients to see that connection, so I always go out of my way to make it clear as a bell. I feel it’s important for people to know that their work really counts for more than just making the place pretty or keeping some seed potatoes from going bad. It directly keeps our work going, so we can make sure the folks we serve keep getting served.

The bottom line is that every inch of paint brushed on and every weed pulled directly contributes to families being fed, kids being kept healthier, parents being taught better parenting and disadvantaged minorities and immigrants being given a chance to become contributing citizens, better educated and trained employees and valuable community members. And these kids made that happen.

Thanks guys! You are so far beyond cool there simply are no adequate words. Good luck and God bless.

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The Mystery of the Amazing Disappearing Data

Today the colleague with whom I’m working to update the Time Dollar database for the resource center informed me that several months of data from the database have gone missing.

Now, if I had actually been able to get anything done on the database, I’d be sweating bullets right now thinking I’d done something awful and erased nearly a year of data. But the thing is, due to a confluence of staff meetings and doctor’s appointments Thursday, I was poised on the brink of being able to do something, but ran out of time before I could. So instead, I’m just puzzled as hell.

And a bit worried. I mean, that’s almost a year’s worth of data just gone. I checked all possible options – there are a few different copies of the database in question on the various computers, an artifact of what appears to be a poorly coordinated movement of the program from one computer to the next, and I thought that maybe the program had simply gotten pointed to an older copy, but the newer data’s not on any of them. It’s just gone. *poof*

Time to bring in Scooby Do and the gang, I guess, ’cause this geek’s stumped. The only thing I can think of is maybe a compatibility issue between running a program with a built-in Access 97 Runtime infrastructure on a computer with Access 2003. But I don’t see how that would cause a solid chunk of data to just cease to exist. Which doesn’t forestall it from happening – with Microsoft, all things unfortunate are possible – I just don’t see why it would.

Anyway, I finally got the new update for the Time Dollar database downloaded, installed and all the shortcuts on the various computers pointing to the new, upgraded system (complete with ported data – what’s left of it – from the old database). Hopefully that will be the end of it, aside from a few frenzied weeks of data entry to replace the missing data from last year before the grant reporting deadlines come due.

Oh yeah, did I mention that all this missing data is required for state reporting? Wheeeee…

On a further note of potent portents of productivity potentially postponed, we’ve got 20-some-odd high-school kids (who’ve driven all the way from Mississippi to help us) rolling in tomorrow at around 10:30 for a three-day volunteering bender, which centers around giving our office building a much-needed new coat of paint, and it looks like rain all week. If that happens, I have to find 20 some-odd high-schoolers something to do for three days that doesn’t involve standing out in the rain, or standing around doing nothing, during a time when we have almost nothing going on (and certainly not 20 volunteers worth of something).


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Under pressure

This week coming, we’ve got 20-some-odd volunteers busing in from Mississippi to paint the Emma Center trailer that houses our offices and food pantry. Why are they busing up from Mississippi to paint our trailer? I have no idea, but they are and we’ve got to be ready when they get here so we don’t waste their time.

One of the things that has to happen before you paint a building is paint prep, and that means getting the structure pressure washed, among other things, to remove dirt, grime, algae, stains and other junk that would keep the paint from sticking.

Luckily, hubby’s a contractor who just happens to have a pressure washer. So he and I spent 7 hours Saturday afternoon and evening pressure-washing the entire trailer by ourselves. It’s cool, in that I learned a new skill, but man. I am beat. Hopefully I can get hours for it, but if nothing else hubby will get a receipt he can use to deduct the fair market value of the service from our taxes (being the accountant in our family, I’m making sure of this).

In any case, the trailer has never been so clean. Bring on the eager volunteers!

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Well, that was quick

Just a note that is possibly of interest to nobody but me. My previous post went up at 7:24 pm. At 9:30, I got a Google Alert email tagging it.

That has got to be the fastest Google indexing I’ve ever had the pleasure to personally experience. Really, two hours from crawl bot to email alert. Surely that’s got to be something of a record, no?

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Soni Pitts, community mediator

Hey, guess what? I made it onto the July calendar for the mediation center. So looks like yours truly is finally going to be given a chance to try and take over the world! help people solve their disputes in a calm and positive manner.

Didn’t end up on the August calendar, which is just fine. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in August anyway. This way, I don’t have to worry about scheduling around activities that don’t even exist yet.

Truth be told, I’m nervous as hell about this. In the wee hours of the morning, the fretful monkey part of my brain runs around wringing its hands and trying to prod the rest of me into canceling the whole thing and just spending the rest of my life sleeping in and being responsible for as little as possible. After all, that’s the best way to ensure that nothing is ever your fault. And I must admit that sometimes, das monkey, she can be very persuasive. Especially at 3am.

So far, I’m holding out though. I mean really…I’m just going to be sitting between two warring parties who quite possibly hate each other’s guts, dealing with issues that both disagree so strongly about that they have resorted to working with perfect strangers in order to work them out (and this has often gone on long enough that there are actual legal proceedings in place involving the disputants) and helping them create decisions that could seriously impact their lives and relationships forever.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Time flies when you’re having fun (or not)

Had a short day today for two reasons:

1. A rather fun staff meeting broke up a good portion of the mid-day, which gave me something different and non-linear to do with an hour or so (our staff is ultra-cool and so meetings tend to be collaborative, light-hearted productive activities instead of the soul-sucking, do-nothing time wasters you often hear about).

2. I had to leave at 2:30 (about 20 minutes after the meeting broke up) to go to…*cue menacing music*…the DENTIST!


Okay, so it really wasn’t that bad, although I was half expecting it to be awful. Turns out they didn’t actually do anything, since it was a get-to-know-you-and-your-teeth new patient kinda visit. I was thinking they were going to jump right in and start poking sharp things into my nerve cavities or something. I’m really pushing to get stuff done soonly so that hopefully at least some of the work would be covered by my soon-to-disappear Americorps health insurance (which actually has a nice, if limited, dental component).

To my vast relief, it turns out I don’t actually have any cavities – some time in the last year or so I had been, apparently erroneously, informed by a previous dentist that I did have a few, and I was dreading having to deal with them. So that takes a big weight off of my shoulders. That just leaves a butt-load of tartar for the hygienist to chip out, which has built up quite impressively since I never have money to go to a dentist for regular cleanings, although the dentist did say that it was best-case-scenario tartar, in that it hadn’t degraded the bone or otherwise created any real problems. And he complimented my brushing skills. So that’s a plus.

So, the only real work I need, happily, is to replace one old silver filling to fix some small cracks in the enamel around it (shouldn’t be a big deal) and, not so happily, to have a series of 4 under-the-gum-line perio cleanings. Ouchie. Double ouchie considering that perio work isn’t covered by Americorps until your second consecutive year. Which I won’t be able to do. To the good, even though it’s all going to be coming out of pocket, they’re going to be cheaper than I thought (although not, of course, inexpensive by any means).

Since we actually have a practicing dental clinic at the local technical school here in Asheville, the future of my teeth looks somewhat brighter. With luck, I should be able to use the students to do regular work at a big discount and save the “official” dentist for the scary, important stuff.

Gah. Not having health insurance sucks. As John Scalzi so accurately noted, among other things being poor is hoping the toothache goes away. God knows I’ve done enough of that in my life.

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