Dysmey Post Archive > Pages for 2004 > Xmas 2004 Edition

Xmas 2004 Edition

Merry Xmas to all of you, and I hope you get good or useful or tasteful or appropriate presents.

gift and dinner

I myself got clothes, a couple of books, and gift cards to Borders and the Olive Garden. I also got a pair of Reeboks. The box said size 11; the shoes told my feet some size a lot smaller.

I got Vickie (the freelance editor in desperate need for storage) a USB minidrive. I got Tina (the science teacher striving for her Ph.D.) a T-shirt with phases of the moon. I wanted to get one with the periodic table of the elements, but they were sold out in her size. I got the folks the Braun blender labeled a Best Buy by Consumer Reports. I got Erin a couple of CDs by the New Age group Amethystium.

Then for lunch we had steaks from the Omaha Steaks the folks got from my cousin Neil.

white xmas

The Xmas season began with a massive snowstorm coming up from the south starting Wednesday night. By dawn on Thursday it buried Muncie with a half-meter of snow. I could not go to work on Thursday morning. (But at least I know I got paid.) Padre is recovering from surgery, so I had to shovel snow off the sidewalks. I also dug out the folks' minivan and then my own car, which was buried even deeper.

The trick to shoveling very deep snow is to remove one layer off the top at a time. Take off another layer, then another, until you reach the sidewalk or ground. It takes a long time, and it's tiring; but in the end you'll have cleared the snow without giving yourself a heart attack.

my car

On the subject of my car, the "check engine" light came on and stayed on. I thought at first that the engine was overdue for a tune-up and the long-defective starter was finally giving out. It cost me plenty for the tune-up and starter replacement. The "check engine" light was off for awhile, but it came back on again a week later.

I've always had problems with the speedometer on the car. On cold days it would bounce about and let out a loud, annoying squeak starting at 30 mph. At higher speeds it would go nuts and fly off the scale with a scream. Once the speedometer warms up it would work as intended.

This year the speedometer went from annoying to troubling. The needle shook off one day. I don't know where it fell, for I couldn't find it inside the panel. I had to tell the speed from the white dot where the needle once was. Anyway, the speedometer cable is now messing with the vehicle speed sensor, which is one of the things the car's computer checks. As a result, the "check engine" light is back on.

I learned that bad speedometers are a feature of all models of Ford subcompacts during the 1990's. There is nothing for it but to replace the speedometer. Therein lies another problem: Ford doesn't make them anymore. The folks at the big Ford dealer in Muncie told me Ford stopped making them this past June. I will have to visit the junkyard in Anderson to see if it has one. If they do, I will see if the guy who sold me my car has time to install it.

my job


I don't know why, but there seems to be this thing about icons: little descriptive images, like the ones on a Windows desktop. Many Web sites, including library sites, use them.

At the request of my bosses I created an alternative site that makes extensive use of tiny icons that you can site on a small cell-phone screen. I based the icons on a set used in cell-phone browsers, but had to make a large number of them myself.

The site looks good, but I don't think it is practical. It costs money to download Web pages onto a cellphone — a penny a kilobyte on the cheapest Cingular plans — and images just add to the cost. The images themselves are small (240–270 bytes), but four or five of them will cost a user an extra penny.


At the library I've reached the point where I will work less on the mobile Web site and more on the book search application MOPAC.

MOPAC, simply put, sends requests for a book author or title to a catalogue database, which in turn sends a list of books that match the author or title.

A coworker worked for months on the engine to communicate with the catalogue database at Ball State's University Libraries. I really don't like to make it all for naught. However, if I can get YAZ (a set of functions that lets a program talk to a library catalogue) to work with MOPAC, it would save me a lot of effort. One of the whole themes of the open-source movement is that a programmer should never have to write code for an application when code for that application already exists.


The fall semester ended last week with a final exam in my accounting class on the sixteenth. And with it comes the discovery of a new Web application: Gradebook. I had thought at first that it was a part of the larger Blackboard, but in fact it is separate. I found I got a B for both the final and for the whole course. I am rather pleased with that.

Copyright © 2004 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Written on 25 December 2004.