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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Slightly more on the Aldridge plinth

Sandy Aldridge has died. It was by her intervention that I got to attend South, which had computer classes that were more than “learn to type”, instead of North, which didn’t. She also handed me my high school diploma on stage and wished me luck, which appears to have been overall in my favor, so far.

I’m not sure what this means WRT the plinth.

Written by Ry Jones

10 May 2015 at 12:38

Sacred duty to maintain the Aldridge Plinth

Arden said she had replaced the mailbox at the Aldridge home when she was working in Indiana a couple years ago. I told her I’d replaced it when I was in high school in the 80s, and she now has to inform her first child “like my father before me, and his father before him, I have maintained the Aldridge Mailbox, a sacred duty, and in twenty five years or so you must return to our ancestral home and make sure it is in good form”

Looked at it on street view, it’s been moved across the driveway, and built to better specifications.


I think it’s more of a plinth now. Not sure what the next evolution might be.

Written by Ry Jones

4 May 2015 at 22:41

Setting the record straight: Mark Slackmeyer operated a PDP-112 in July, 1972

I was looking for a comic I remembered from my childhood – in fifth or sixth grade I bought a rubber stamp I was so inspired by it, so that bound the search a little. I searched the internet for possible publication dates, and it is widely reported that Mark Slackmeyer got a job programming (or operating, depending on which version you find) a DEC PDP 11/70 in May of 1971. I looked at every single Doonesbury comic from the start of publication until I found the actual set of strips – 28-JUNE-1972 (mention of the matchbook cover text), job starting 01-JULY-1972, continuing on 03-JULY (where he’s dealing with a PDP-112), 04-JULY, 05-JULY (mention of the matchbook and salary of $7300 a year as an operator, $41k inflation adjusted to 2015 dollars; he’s actually paid $1 an hour, or $2080 annually), 06-JULY, 07-JULY (in which Slackmeyer uses the still-common debugging technique of screaming), ending 08-JULY when Mark fights a threading problem with a tape drive. I’ll point out there was no PDP-112, but PDP 7 serial #112 is famous for being preserved. I don’t know the source of the widely (PDP 11, 1998) repeated (11/70, 1990 Usenet post) error, but I hope this post starts showing up higher in results than the wrong claim.

The strip for 02-JULY does mention a now-common technology. I’ll note Slackmeyer did have an undisclosed job at his dad’s brokerage in 1971 for a single day, and he does mention IBM in that story arc, but only as an equity, not a product he’s using.

I found a book review:

Throughout the book, the famous 
comic strip character Doonesbury 
and his friend, Mark, marvel at the 
many wonders of the computer. A 
newspaper ad for computer operators 
convinces them that they have found 
their true vocation in life. "Earn 
$7,000, impress your friends. MEET 

from September, 1976. repeated verbatim in the February, 1977 issue of BYTE.

I think:

"Earn $7,000, impress your friends. MEET GIRLS"

is my new motto.

Written by Ry Jones

3 April 2015 at 21:34

Domo arigato, Shikkoku sama

Shikkoku, named for the anime character, was put down this morning at about 10:30. I stayed with him until the very end – as he had been my nearly constant companion for twelve years, I could not leave him alone to die. He was truly more sinned against than sinning. His last day, I stopped the insulin injections and fed him full cans of cat food for every meal.

Shikkoku is annoyed
Picture 070


Written by Ry Jones

4 November 2014 at 22:56

Why I shop at Pilot Oil

Pilot Oil, Ellensburg, WA

Long story short: they are (or were in the early 90’s) a good company; they treated us well when we made a mistake.

Longer: In the early 90’s, I worked for my dad; my office job was bidding work. One of the jobs I bid was Pilot Oil’s new location in Terre Haute; one unusual point in the bid document was that the brand and color of the exterior finish was explicitly specified. As it wasn’t a brand we usually dealt with, it wasn’t in any of our product notes; Dad called the manufacturer to get the MSDS and product info sheets. They either couldn’t or didn’t fax them over; instead, they gave us the bare minimum data: the coverage rate.

For finishes (paints), the rate is specified in square feet per gallon for each surface type (pdf). For a CMU finish like this, the specs usually include smooth-faced CMU, rough-faced (split) CMU, and the like. The number we got was so many [‘]/g; I remember it seemed really high, but I also remember Dad asking the guy on the phone if that was the rough-faced CMU coverage; the number we worked from was, of course, the smooth-faced CMU number.

The guys on site had no idea about the coverage rates, but they knew the first coat was wrapped up and there was not enough finish to get the second coat done.

There are a couple options here. One is to paint up to a line, say a finish change, and forget the rest. Pilot Oil buildings used to have a band of smooth CMU about eight feet up; paint to this line, and if the customer notices the color difference, you just say it’s a trick of light. Another would be to cut the finish (over-thin it). The risks are leaving too thin a finish; also, the tints and binders will come out of solution at different times, and the paint will streak. Another option is to buy more paint and finish the job correctly.

We chose the third course. While we didn’t need much paint, it was expensive, an odd lot, and we had to have it rushed instead of taking the slow boat; all custom touches that meant the cost of the finish was greater than the profit on the job. These things happen.

Dad wrote a letter to Pilot explaining what happened, and what the cost delta was. I don’t remember the content of the letter much beyond that. The next two events happened in close proximity; the dust of time makes it impossible for me to tell you which happened first.

One, we got a check from Pilot for the overage on paint; two, the roof on Pilot leaked.

That they paid us when they didn’t have to is why I shop there; Pilot Oil was under no contractual obligation to us, yet they treated us well.

To finish the roof leak, story, though:

The leak caused somewhat of a production; the roof shouldn’t leak on a new building. The owner calls the general contractor; the general calls any sub that got anywhere near the roof. Everyone calls lawyers.

When finish schedules are written, they’re written in mils; as in, this surface will be covered with this finish for this many mils. In practice, you look at the product guide; this tells you the number of mils per coat, you find out how many coats you need, and it’s two coats of finish. This sounds risky, because you don’t really know if a finish is so many mils over the entire surface; however, in practice, it works well enough. Nobody checks mils.

Until the roof leaks.

Meeting day, everyone shows up; we all go up to the roof. It is every sub’s ass on the line; someone is paying for this roof, and it isn’t the general. We all carry performance bonds (insurance) on each project; this means the bond agents are there. Having to pay $50,000 for water damage and a new roof would dwarf the profit on an $8000 paint job; if the failure is our fault, we will never get bonded at an affordable rate again. Our ability to be bonded, and therefore bid commercial jobs, is on the line.

The lawyers for the owner brought in an inspector that said “the leak is on the south side. There aren’t any mechanicals in the area (the HVAC guys all sigh relief and leave). There are lights, flashing, roofing, and finish.” That leaves, basically, the electrical contractor, the roofing contractor, and us.

The schedules come out. The roof is to be so thick and of this type material. Up on the roof everyone goes; the inspector cuts out a small section of roofing material from the backside of the CMU. The calipers come out. It passes. It is to be bonded with a failure load of so many pounds. He attaches a spring scale and a clamp and pulls. It does not fail at the design load. This is repeated along the bonding area. The roof passes.

The fixtures (lights) are pulled apart and checked; they’re dry inside, which means water is not passing through them. The seals against the CMU are dry, so they aren’t leaking. Electrical is off the hook.

A drill comes out; the inspector drills into the CMU. A depth gauge comes out. Mils are read. This is repeated along the roofline. The finish passes everywhere. We’re off the hook.

The end of the story was the flashing was installed incorrectly along the cap of the roofline. This, along with heavy rains and driving winds, let enough water in to seep in to wreck stuff.

If we had gone for option 1 or 2 originally, we would have been boned; even though the finish may not of been at fault, we would have been financially culpable for some percentage of the damage caused by the failure.

How often are mils checked on a finish? Only when it really matters.

Written by Ry Jones

27 December 2008 at 5:08

Posted in Life