A Very Local Move

Well, it looks like I’ll be moving on either March 1 or April 1! Not very far, mind you… Same building, one floor down. Indeed, the super called today with news that she received a very unexpected notice from a tenant.

My New Place

The apartment that’s being freed up (two windows to the left above and two unseen towards the front) is not the one the supers and I were considering in December. It would actually be closer to where I am now. The building where I live is L-shaped, and I’m currently at the back of the shorter part of the L; I would be in the front of it now. And unlike in this apartment where the balcony gives to the living room, the balcony there would give to one of the bedrooms, which I’ll probably turn into my office. That would in fact be better than now since I spend so much more time in the office, so I might be moved to step outside more often when I need to clear my head of whatever I’m working on. The only possible hitch right now is that the second floor won’t be sufficiently far from the ventilation system, so I’ll be touring the prospective apartment on Tuesday afternoon just to make sure it’s worth the trouble of moving downstairs. I expect it’ll be okay, but if it’s not, then a move out of the building is in the picture for 2005.

Meanwhile, after being so cold in the apartment for much of the past week, I’m now back in the “there’s-too-much-heat” mode. Apparently some repair was done incorrectly on the furnace in December, leading to random apartments on my floor (including mine, obviously) not getting enough heat. Add the fact that today was the first when the high temperature wasn’t in the double-digit minuses (it was a balmy -2C today!), so I woke up roasting this morning. But my woes pale in comparison to those BeeGoddessM had to endure Friday night, when her furnace ran out of oil whilst the mercury had dipped to -18C (-27C with the windchill). Thankfully oil was delivered to her within an hour, although you’d think there should be a law in this climate against oil companies not believing you when say repeatedly that you’re on the verge of running out of oil…

Reaching Back in Time

The third blizzard of the week has started both here in Halifax and in Moncton, so the only thing to do is to stay indoors and keep warm. That’s a bit difficult for me, mind you — the “keeping warm” part, that is. It’s quite chilly in my apartment even though all the heaters are cranked up to the max. Two of four are pumping out some heat, while the other two aren’t and I can feel the cold coming through the windows and balcony door. I don’t have a thermometre inside, but outside right now it’s -11C, windchill of -22C, wind N41 km/h gusting to 52 km/h. Most of my apartment faces east, though, so I don’t know why it’s so cold in here. I tried calling the super, but to no avail. So I’m dressed heavily and keeping myself wrapped in comforter.

However, I didn’t start this entry with the intention of talking about how I’m freezing my nuts off in here. Rather, I started because of an e-mail message I just received from my mother. Equally homebound due to the blizzard, she’s spending her day on the phone. That’s not so usual in itself; my mom can get on the phone and talk a hole through a steel plate. But it’s who she’s calling that’s unusual.

First, she tracked down someone now living in Quebec City, whom she took in as a boarder around 1955-1956, and called him and his wife yesterday. Today she’s planning to call a former neighbour from the street where she grew up in Rivière-du-Loup (between 1940 and 1951), as well as “a school-days friend who still lives in the home of her late parents.” She then wrote about how much she enjoys talking to these long-lost friends, adding that they clearly seem to enjoy receiving the call, too, judging from their reaction.

I think it’s wonderful that my mom is moved to reach so far back into the past and find these people. However, she was never one to do that — at least not to this extent — before my father died. When my father would track back some of his cousins, which he did quite a bit in the last years of his life, my mom was a bit dismissive of his quests. She wasn’t dismissive of how my father seemed so intent on touching base with everyone he ever knew before dying; her dismissiveness was voiced in how she noted that these people never called back to ask after my father.

My mom has always been more about living in the present and not dwelling much on the past. So upon reading her message today, I couldn’t help but think that she’s probably feeling lonelier than she’s been letting us on. Either that, or now that she’s settling into her routine of not being a full-time caregiver, she can afford to reach into the past because the present is more manageable and under control. She still keeps a busy social agenda, and this month she bought herself a new computer — her third since ’98 — because her previous one was acting up and would cost almost as much to repair than buying a new one. When she bought her second computer, she had said, “Well, let’s face it! It’ll probably be my last one…” When she told me about her third computer, she started to say the same thing but then stopped in mid-sentence and said, “Then again, I could fool you all and live to be 100!” She very well may, and I wouldn’t feel “fooled” to have my mother until I’m 65 — assuming I reach that age!

I think I’ll be calling Mom later today rather than respond to her message…

2s Definitely Come in 3s

Here we go again! We had a nor’easter blizzard last Monday, an Alberta clipper blizzard on Thursday, and now another clipper is coming tomorrow. Those of you who aren’t familiar with extreme Canadian winter weather might not realize that, usually, when it snows heavily, the temperature tends to go up near or slightly above the freezing point. And certainly in the recent past years around Halifax, snowstorms would often end with a prolonged period of rain, causing a slushy mess that would freeze up after the storm’s passage. So, I find it quite fascinating how, for the clipper that’s coming tomorrow, the temperature is expected not to go above -6C and that it’ll start hitting when the temp is still around -16C. Therefore, with the wind that’s expected to gust to 100 km/h tomorrow afternoon, the current blizzard warning is coupled with an extreme windchill warning.

On weeks like this, it’s hard to imagine that it can be possible to lay naked (or nearly naked) on a beach in these parts. I just hope that, unlike last summer, next summer will make up for all these blizzards. I want a real friggin’ suntan this year! Because last summer was so horrible, my skin is already as pasty-white as it is by March or April after a normal summer…

One Giant Step for Me

You’ll recall this recent entry in which in wondered how I should go about protecting my TextStyleM source code so that I could consider distributing it more widely. Well, I was working on my “calling home” idea last week, and even though I got it to work, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it — not because of the basic idea (i.e., calling home) but for other technical reasons. So, on the spur of the moment, I thought I’d ask Damian his thoughts on how he would handle those concerns I had.

Good thing I did!

I didn’t want or expect him to hand me over a solution, although if he happened to have one sitting on his desk, next to some file folder and the leftovers of yesterday’s ham and cheese sandwich, that would be fantastic. He responded just minutes after I fired off my message, not only answering my question but also pointing me to Zend’s Small Business Program. I didn’t know such a beast existed, let alone that it’s affordable for someone like me.

To make a long story short, I downloaded the evaluation version and tested a few things out, and once I was pretty sure it would work for me, I reworked my entire local license file scheme. It’s much better than it used to be, not only because the file itself is no longer human-readable but also because it pushed me to think about a per-site license within a single installation of TextStyleM. The documentation states that the encoding should not hinder a script’s performance; having uploaded an encoded version of TextStyleM on my own site, I’m convinced the resulting smaller files are in fact making my script run faster — not that speed was an issue to begin with. So it looks as though my work of the last two weeks has yielded (1) a faster script, (2) a stronger licensing scheme, and (3) encoding that will open the possibility of distributing my script without fear of it being tampered with.

Damian’s kind help reminded me of a conversation I had with my sister back in late October, en route to Moncton. My sister does and does not quite understand what I do for a living. That’s in part because computers don’t do much for her. When I showed her an earlier incarnation of TextStyleM nearly two years ago, she didn’t feign interest, but what she kept saying is that she couldn’t believe that everything I was showing her, I had put together line by line. But add to that the fact I work at home, and to her it seems like a lonely existence devoid of interactions with colleagues. In the course of our conversation, I assured her that’s not exactly the case — that others like me “meet and discuss,” although most often online. My note to Damian and his reply are just one of many examples of this, as are my chats with Kevin whenever one of us need a sounding board to think through an idea.

Another prong of that October conversation with my sister was her suggestion that I find either a way of getting my product more out there (despite the fact I have to do everything myself since I’m alone), or a part-time job to relieve some of the financial stress — an option I’m reticent to consider just yet. And a while later, BeeGoddessM also tried to get me thinking about wider distribution. So if you think about it, you could say that what I’ve accomplished in the last two weeks is the result of taking their advice seriously. The biggest professional goal I’ve set for myself for 2005 is expanding my market in ways I shied away from until now, and only 20 days into the new year, I’ve already accomplished a lot towards that goal.

Major Interference

I suspect that my dear, hard-working computer didn’t take well to being shut down abruptly TWICE due to those short power failures the other day. I think it’s been since about that time that the poor thing would get really sluggish and in need of an increasingly frequent “Refresh Me” reboot. Around New Year’s I checked if I needed to do a disk defrag. WinXP assured me I didn’t back then, but it thought it would be a good idea tonight! Now that I’ve done it, everything’s back to normal.

What was weird that day is that the weather was calm, so that didn’t explain why the power went off. Tonight might be a different story, though. A surprise blizzard has started to hit Halifax about an hour ago, and we’re expecting anywhere between 20 to 40 centimetres (or 8 to 16 inches) of snow, high winds, and possibly ice pellets to cap it all off. That means most of us can expect a day off tomorrow. Except if that’s what’s going to happen, let us remain with the heat and lights in our homes. If it doesn’t turn out that way, I expect Nova Scotia Power is going to have to face a riot (once we’re all digged out). The utility has received a lot of harsh criticism recently — much of it deserved — which is leading many to wonder if this is one of the long-term results of privatization (i.e., chronic neglect of the infrastructure). Surely in the past, power failures weren’t the first thing we’d expect and fear whenever a winter storm would blow in.