Highland Games and the Blues

Today we went to the 168th Annual Highland Games presented by the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit. This is the first time that we have attended this event, having only recently become aware of it. I have watched Highland Games on TV before, but despite trying on numerous occasions to attend the Renaissance Festival on Highland Weekend, have never seen them in person until today. We got to watch some of all the heavy athletics, including the Caber Toss, which once you understand the rules of is very fun to watch! We also watched some of the Highland Dance competitions and wander through the Celtic market. Besides the games themselves, my favorite part of the day was listening to all of the pipe and drum music! There was a continuous rotation of four live bands in the band tent as well: Crossbow, The American Rogues, Stone Clover, and Albannach. The food was delicious as well. We tried some traditional Scottish scones, along with a traditional Scottish Meat Pie and even some haggis! Our haggis was served in a puff pastry and was very good. I will be on the lookout for places to try this again in the future!

After spending the day at the games we then went and tried some of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. Honestly, I am typically not a fried chicken person. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but I can honestly not ever remember a time where I craved it or it was my first choice for a meal. So when Melissa said she was craving it, I acquiesced and we discovered Gus’s. The chicken isn’t just your regular fried chicken, their special blend makes the chicken hot and spicy. I am a big fan of hot and spicy foods, and this may have been the best fried chicken I have ever had because of it. We also ate some fried green tomatoes, baked beans and macaroni and cheese; all of which was decent. I can see us returning here again in the future should the mood for fried chicken strike.

On the way to dinner we passed by the Blues Brews & BBQ festival that I had forgotten was also this weekend. So afterwards we went over their for a few hours as well. This event is a yearly festival that our city puts on that showcases local blues artists, local beers, and lots of great BBQ. Seeing as this year we had already spent the day out and had just come from dinner, we didn’t partake of any of the BBQ or Brews, though Melissa did manage to find the worst elephant ear I have ever tasted (it was baked, not fried). We simply found a nice shady spot to place our chairs and listened to almost 2 hours of blues music before finally heading home for the evening.

Overall it was a long day filled with lots of new things. We had a lot of fun and we will certainly consider attending these events in the years to come.

Rain Bird and Patching

I knew I would most likely need to replace another sprinkler head at some point considering we now own a home with a sprinkler system, I just didn’t expect that to happen so quickly. Apparently, a sprinkler head cannot survive a battle with a lawn mower. Who knew? This is the second sprinkler head that I have replaced, and as I had hoped, this one went much more smoothly than the first. These are rotor head sprinklers that I am replacing with Rain Bird 3500 series heads. This time around the full replacement was much easier, including the edge alignment for the desired watering area. The one thing I am worried about is that this particular sprinkler still does not sit low enough in the lawn to be missed by the lawn mower. As such, at some point I may need to dig this back out and attempt to lower the line. This wasn’t the only project I undertook today though. I also patched the last of the holes in the garage, this one being over the back door. It was directly above the door frame and left the header beam visible. Because this is an outside wall I also added some insulation to the existing insulation as it was not full to the width of the hole. This insulation is probably less than the ideal amount for an exterior wall, but considering it was just for the garage and this hole has been there since we purchased the house, I figure it is fine and some more is better than what was there. I’m very proud of myself for all the work I have accomplished and learned how to do, while I do not consider myself a handyman by any stretch of the imagination, I still feel good knowing there are some things I can do.

Sprinklers and Patches

Today was a productive day for house work. Due to yesterday’s long travel hours back from the west coast, my manager told me to take today off. So after getting some needed extra sleep I began work on a couple of projects. The first was my first attempt at replacing a sprinkler head on my own. The actual work of digging out the failing head and physically replacing it with the new one was rather simple. The part I struggled with was properly aligning the left and right edges of the watering area along with the height and distance of the spray. I previously had a head replaced by someone else who ran a side business performing this work and he made it seem a lot simpler than I found it to be. However, after some struggling and a bit of googling I was able to get it configured properly. If I ever need to do another one, which seems likely all things considered, hopefully this experience will make it a little easier.  The second project is something that I am getting good at, that being patching holes within the garage. This particular one was a bit tricky because it was located above the cabinets above the sink to the left of the house door. Additionally there is a wire conduit that runs directly over the area that needed to be patched. I was able to loosen the conduit enough to get the patch piece in place though, and then put everything back in its original location. I now only have one hole left to patch and that is over the back door. I’m getting good at this….

Faucet Fix

Today I circled back to the sink in the garage, and am happy to report that I had better luck this time around. I have purchased a new faucet that also came with a new hose and sprayer and installed that into the garage. While it was a simple project, it was not without its issues. The first issue I had, was with the installation of the new water shut off valves that I purchased to install inline under the sink. The issue (and really every issue with this project) revolved around getting the fittings tightly connected. Even with Teflon tape it seemed like no matter how tight I got the connections it just wasn’t tight enough.  The reason for this is the water connection that I was installing everything into. The pipe is just a free-floating copper pipe that connects to the larger water pipe in the basement and then runs out to the garage. As such the pipe being able to move around fairly freely and not having any backing bolts made it difficult to tighten the fittings as much as needed. Eventually, however, I persevered and was able to tighten the fittings securely enough that they no longer leaked. This was not the end though, for when I turned the sink on to test the water I discovered that I had swapped the hot and cold connections; so now the hot was on the right and the cold was on the left. It was a simple fix that required me to swap the flex hose from each faucet to the opposite source pipe. This of course reintroduced the issue of getting these fittings properly tightened again though, it was a little easier the second time but that may be due to expectation though. Regardless, the sink is now fully functional without any leaks anywhere in the assembly, and the shut off valves work as expected! Oh, and I also labeled the pipes to better indicate which is hot and which is cold for any future needs.  

Now We Are Twelve

Happy Birthday Kylie! Twelve years sure has gone by quickly! There have been a lot of ups and downs over these years and you have grown and changed and adapted through it all. Now when I look at you I see the beautiful young woman you are becoming, but I still see my little girl too. I am so proud of everything you have accomplished over these last twelve years; academically you have grown and completed half of your primary education, working hard to overcome each obstacle that has come before you;  personally you have persisted with ballet and are developing a talent for competing in the pool. I can’t wait to see what the next years have in store for you! I hope that you continue to grow and chase your dreams! Know that no matter where those dreams may lead, that I will always be here for you. I love you Kylie. Happy Birthday!

Pure and San Fran

This past week (June 11 – June 15) I had the opportunity to attend one of my vendor conferences for the first time in my career, and to make it even better, the conference was held in San Francisco! The conference was Pure Storage’s //Accelerate 2017. This was a three-day event filled with a lot of information and collaboration with other vendors. I’m told that this is smaller than other vendor conferences, but seeing as I have nothing to compare it to personally, it seemed pretty large to me.

First, I’d like to get the negatives out-of-the-way.  The venue was…interesting. They held the event in what was previously an empty warehouse at Pier 70 (2), which gave it a nice juxtaposition with all the new high-tech hardware that was brought in for the conference; including the miles of cables and audio-visual equipment retrofitted for the presentations. The downside was that there was no running water within the building. As such they had to bring in portable toilets, albeit upscale ones, they were still undersized and not maintained very well; and at the end of the day they were still porta potties. Additionally this venue was rather far from the hotels they suggested that we book, which meant that we were relying on the bus schedule to go to and from the event. I feel it would have been better if the venue were more accessible to the accommodations. The session breakout rooms were an interesting take on the open concept that under other circumstances would probably have worked well. They were basically open sided shipping containers, which was a very nice tie in to the piers shipping history, but a poor choice for the sessions due to the high traffic area they were in. Sitting in one of these and attempting to listen to the presenter(s) was often difficult due to the high volume of background noise, even with their being some speakers configured within the space for amplification.  

On the upside, I felt that the content provided, at least in the sessions I attended, was solid. I sat in on multiple sessions presented by industry experts such as Cody Hosterman (Twitter) and Pete Flecha (Twitter), both of whom I was looking forward to meeting, and was not let down. Additionally the third-party vendors that attended were all a good fit with the technology that Pure Storage develops, and the representatives that were on site for those vendors were all technologically knowledgeable for their respective products. In other words, they weren’t simply sales guys. The vendors all had some interesting swag and giveaways as well. I scored a couple of shirts (which make me a walking billboard, but still worth it) and some more interesting items; like an RC Car and a really nice UE Boom Bluetooth speaker that I am really looking forward to using. As I mentioned earlier the location of the venue in relation to the hotels was not ideal, and this lead me to believe there would be an issue with food as well; this was not the case however, as each day they had a number of food trucks that we could choose from. We were provided with tickets that we could redeem at the trucks for lunch. Later in the afternoon different trucks would return and provide strolling hors d’oeuvre that allowed for a further sampling of local street cuisine, and honestly, the food was incredible.

During the conference Pure also handed out the Accelerator Award:

The award recognizes Pure customers whose business transformation is accelerating the adoption of new storage infrastructures and operating models in their respective industries.

While I was attending as an employee of AAA-ACG, I could not help but feel a sense of pride when my former employer, Secure-24, was presented with this award. After all, I was part of the company last year when they adapted and implemented the technology, and honestly I still feel very close to the team their.

Secure-24 for delivering the highest levels of secure application hosting while providing one of the industry’s most stringent SLAs to a steadily expanding customer base.

Secure-24 is an industry leader in IT operations, application hosting and managed cloud services to enterprises worldwide. It has standardized on Pure Storage, and every time a customer is moved onto Pure, performance improvements of 3x-10x have been realized. This has allowed Secure-24 to strengthen its SLAs, encouraging customers to confidently outsource additional workloads.

Recipient: Scott McIsaac, Chief Infrastructure Officer

In total I was in San Francisco for four days. This could have been cut down but there was some miscommunication and understanding about the conference in general. While the conference was three days long, the first day (Monday) was vendor and partner only, of which we are neither. This meant that I ended up with Monday to myself as I do not yet have the ability to work remotely, both in terms of not having a laptop and not having VPN access. So I was able to take in some sightseeing on Monday, and considering this was my first time in California as a whole, i did take advantage of this. I took a guided bus tour of San Francisco which included a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge. I also visited the famous Pier 39 and FIsherman’s Wharf, both of which were pretty neat and would require further exploration. While on Pier 39 I also took advantage of (thanks to Melissa’s persuasion) a boat tour of the San Francisco Bay which included a closer pass by of Alcatraz Island! The next time I get to take a trip out to San Fran. I fully intend to take a tour of Alcatraz in addition to spending more time on the piers! Also on this short boat tour we went over to K Dock and saw the famous Sea Lions!  Additionally, I would like to have the time to look around the fort locations near the Golden Gate Bridge, this alone could take multiple days! I also saw, but did not ride, the cable cars. I think I made the most of the unexpected free time that I had, but it made me realize that I need to add San Francisco to the long list of places to visit with Melissa and Kylie!

All in all I’d say it was a very good trip. The conference, overall, I thought was very good. That being said, I am not sure if I would attend this one again next year. While I am a huge fan of Pure Storage and their products, their products are currently limited. They perform great, and are very easy to use in comparison to other vendors, but it will take some new products or maybe additional industry disruptions on their part to deem a trip to this conference necessary again. What it has done, however, is made me even more interested in attending other vendor conferences. Both for the comparison and the networking and knowledge acquisition. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year brings and how the industry evolves.

More Shop Work

Today, once again with Zack’s help, we made a few more repairs to the shop. These will hopefully be the last repairs that are needed to this building for a long time. These repairs were found to be necessary after our work last fall on beginning to prime and seal the shop in preparation for an eventual full repainting of the shop. During the process of priming and sealing we decided that the south-west wall was so weathered that it first needed to be stripped and then primed and sealed. During the stripping process we found one section of paneling above the trim board that, during the scraping away of the paint, also showed multiple layers of the panel to be rotted. So many layers in fact, that once the scrapping was complete there was only a single layer of the pressed board panel left. In order to ensure this section in particular made it through the winter, we coated it with silicone caulk and primer. Today, that entire section was replaced along with the trim boards on both sides of the shop and another small patch on the south-west side from a previously covered small hole. This entire process today only took a couple of hours, unlike last year’s project. Now all that remains is to finish priming the shop, which should go a little faster as the rest of the shop isn’t bad enough to require being stripped, and then repaint the entire building. Once again, a huge thanks to Zack for all the help!

Ballet Recital Night

I look forward to this night every year. I don’t go to many concerts, and I would rather spend money to go see a cultural event such as a play or musical, but no matter how good those shows are, none of them are as great as seeing Kylie up on stage performing her dance. Seeing how much she has learned and improved over the years is very enjoyable. This year was no exception. I am very proud of all the hard work Kylie has put in to learning her routine and getting the moves right. I am already looking forward to seeing what next year will bring. She is already learning pointe, so hopefully next year she will be able to perform that for the recital! The yearly visit to Stroh’s was also, as usual, delicious.

Access Denied

This was entirely expected, but none the less, still frustrating. As I mentioned yesterday, part of converting to a full-time employee involves the changing of my employee ID. This ID is also linked to my corporate login for access to all of the systems, and while the badge ID changed yesterday and caused lack of access to the building, my logon ID changed sometime during the night and so this morning I could not access any of the computer systems. I spent a very large portion of my day resolving this access and the issues the automated conversion of my account caused. For instance, not only could I not access any of the systems this morning, including my main workstation, I also lost access to the last 3 months worth of email due to the automated system assigning me a new email address. Additionally, my home drive for all of my centrally stored files was linked to my old ID, so I lost access to the last 3 months worth of notes and work that I have done. Most of these issues were resolved today, but due to the way some of the applications work  I think it is going to be a couple of days before everything is straightened out and all of my access is fully restored. Unfortunately it meant today was not very productive in terms of work, but highly productive in terms of causing me frustration. Though looking back on it now that I am home and relaxing, I guess it’s a little humorous too.

None Shall Pass

My second day as a full-time member of the company was vastly different from the first, and very much an adventure, at least a short one. Short as in, couldn’t get past security, short. We use a badge system to access the main building area that leads up to the offices and this checkpoint is  about 100 feet into the main building, so I technically got into the building I just couldn’t get to my workstation. I had a feeling something like this might happen and attempted to get out in front of it last Friday, but something went wrong in that process. Before leaving work last Friday I had spoken with security and gave them the heads up that I would be converting from a contractor to a full-time employee and expressed concerns about my ID not working this morning due to my employee ID changing (we use different ID Standards for contractors versus full employees). They made a note in this system and extended my badge access so that my contractor badge would work through tomorrow so that today I could get the new badge (we couldn’t create it Friday because my new ID wouldn’t be live until today), but it looks like the system overrode those changes. This seems like it would be a simple thing to resolve except that the majority of the system is automated and I get to the office very early, 5am today in fact. This is an issue because the people needed to override the access aren’t in the office at this time. So it took almost an hour and me text messaging my manager to get it all straightened out. I was able to get temporary access and, later in the morning, get my ID badge updated to my new full-time employee badge. The rest of the day was business as usual though, so that was nice. Tomorrow should go much more smoothly.