I need help… at work!

I need help.  There’s a lot of work to do at my day job, and we need another developer.  We’ve got a job posting up on our jobs site, and we’re posting to the appropriate job sites, but I really want to fill this position.  Mostly because I’m lonely.

I used to be a beta geek in an office filled with alpha geeks.  I loved this, because there were always people who understood the ideas I had and had ideas about how to make my ideas better.  I hate being the sole alpha geek in an office because then nobody understands the ideas I have.  But I also hate only having one other alpha geek to bounce ideas off of, because then if we can’t agree, there’s nobody to break the tie.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the job.  It’s a coding job, and it uses either Perl or Java (or both, if you’re so inclined).  If you’re reading this, you know me, and you’ll know that I’m still working for the current incarnation of what I’ve called “the best job I’ve ever had.”  If you’ve got a decade of experience, know either Perl or Java, don’t mind working in jeans and a t-shirt, don’t mind working in New York City and don’t think working with me would be a sign of insanity, let me know and I’ll get you in for an interview.

Workin’ on the company website…

I’m working on the PacKay Productions website today, and it occurred to me that since I’m using git on my desktop to track changes to our WordPress theme, I could also use it to sync changes to my server.  Thinking about it, I knew the webserver would be a remote repository, and I could publish my changes by typing “git push web”, but I figured there had to be things I was overlooking, so I hit Google to see what other people had come up with.

That’s when I found “Using Git to manage a web site.” It not only pointed out what I was overlooking–that if I made the website itself a git repository, I’d also be syncing all the .git files into the webroot and possibly exposing them to the public–it also had a solution: using the post-receive hook to deploy changes from a git repository sitting outside the webroot into a directory inside the webroot.

It’s a quick little read.  I like it.

The Red Monster sings!

After a few months of planning and almost two months of off-and-on shooting (during which my voice was shot because I had a sinus infection), we finally finished the music video we’ve been working on. Here it is!

February’s almost gone!

Once again, I’ve gone months between updates.  But I have been busy.  Folks who follow my social media feeds know that I was strongly considering a career change in January, but ultimately I decided not to jump ship from my current employer for a cool new startup; instead, I decided to stay on with my employer and take on some new responsibilities.  It will be challenging, because not everything they’ll have me doing will be things I consider to be part of my core competencies, but I’m looking at it as an opportunity to force myself to grow and learn new skills.  If it doesn’t work out, I can always find a new startup to go to.

On the puppet front, Kay and I have been busy.  Kay gave me a design for our website and told me she wanted it up by Valentines Day, so I put in some late nights learning how much CSS has changed since the last time I played with it and I was able to build a WordPress theme to generate the design just in time.

We’ve also been filming with the puppets a lot.  For Christmas, we whipped up a special introducing my monster, Rudy…

And just this past Friday, we posted a second video featuring Rudy and Kay’s cat, Ket, that pays homage to those old parenting films of the 1950s:

If you want to be kept up to date on everything we’re doing with the puppets, just join our mailing list!

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An end for some things and a beginning for others…

Well, many things have finished up here at Packy’s Place, and new things are starting.  I’ll go over the endings first.

The box office of Nutley Little Theatre right after Superstorm Sandy.  The person who took this picture says the base of the tree didn’t so much look like it had been blown over and more like Chuck Norris had roundhoused the trunk.

A Bad Year for Tomatoes closed, after losing our opening weekend to Superstorm Sandy.  In addition to the falling tree damage, we had blazing transformers burning up the utility pole in front, no power, and, in completely unrelated to Sandy bad luck, no heat.  We found out that when PSE&G had been out to do some work on the gas line in September, they had neglected to turn the gas back on.  Normally, this would have been an “Oops!  Sorry! We’ll send someone out right away to turn the ‘By law, this knob can only be turned by certified technicians’ knob!” but with power out over much of the state, turning on the gas for a business that only operates in the evenings wasn’t a high-priority for them.  However, we got power back after the first weekend, and we got the gas back for heat the day of our delayed opening night.  We did dress rehearsal with space heaters.  The performances themselves went well.  The sound design wasn’t particularly challenging: lots of doorbell sounds (which I foisted off on the cast by installing a real doorbell on the set for them to ring), a phone ring, some scene change music, and some pre-recorded dialogue that was supposed to be coming from a tape recorder on stage.  I hung some speakers over the spots where the tape recorder was being played and called it a day.

The sadder news is that Lily finally passed away.  She was getting weaker and weaker as October passed, and we knew she was going soon.  By the closing day of Tomatoes, we knew it was that weekend.  By the time Kay and I had to leave for the final performance, we didn’t know if she’d make it until we got home.  She didn’t.

We wanted to be with her when she died, but there was no way to bag out on the show.  As it was, we’d made her as comfortable as we could have, and we’re positive that she knew she was loved.  The next day, we took Lily upstate to my parents’ house to lay her to rest next to my cats Tiger (1981-2000), Kitty Galore (1990-2007) and Twinkletoes (1990-2008).  In the spring, we’re going to plant some flowers there.

RIP, Lily  (1997? – 2012)

So much for the endings.

Kay is busy planning out our Christmas episode for PacKay Productions, and she’s planning on introducing a whole lot of NEW in this next video.  First, this will be the first outing for our new HD video camera and tripod.  It will also be the first appearance of someone I’ve been working on for quite a long time.

Because we need him for the next video, Kay has taken over finishing off my rug monster. I’ve been home sick the past few days (something in my GI tract kept me close to a bathroom and a smidge feverish yesterday, today I’m keeping to bed to kill it for good), but Kay’s been pulling me down to the basement every few hours to show me things and have me make decisions about how certain elements work.

I swear–my wife is a genius.  And so, because of her genius, I’m able to introduce you to my new friend… Rudy Monster.


There’s still some work to be done on him, but he’s mostly there.  Since these photos were taken, Kay’s already affixed his eyebrow, and I’m debating whether I want to give him palm pads like I’d originally designed or leave his hands furry all over.  But this is close enough that I can show him and say “This is it.  This is the monster I’ve wanted to show you.”

And he’s a rabid Bruce Springsteen fan from Little Furry, NJ.  *sigh*  I don’t quite know how I wound up with a monster who’s really into The Boss (while I can take Springsteen or leave him), but, hey… sometimes new friends can throw you some surprises.

The next show I’m doing sound for!

RIP, Jerry Nelson

My wife came into my office as I was getting ready to go to work this morning to give me bad news: Jerry Nelson had died.  Jerry was the third puppeteer Jim Henson hired, after Jerry Juhl (who went on to be the writer for The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock) and Frank Oz.

We’d known Jerry had basically retired because of his COPD, but he still did work for Sesame Street, recording the voice for his favorite character, Count von Count.

There’s not much I can say.  Thank you, Jerry, for a lifetime of entertainment and inspiration.

A small shill…

One of my favorite webcomic artists just put together a new 125×125 ad for one of his webcomics, so I figured I’d link to it here.

Has it been two months already?

Well, a lot has been happening since I was last able to post to my blog.  First and formost, my wondrous wife Kay and I have moved.  We’d been getting tired of apartment living and having to share the building with other people.  So, after a frenetic search, we found an absolutely adorable single-family house in Hackensack. Once we found the house and signed the lease, then we started the month-and-a-half long process of frantically packing things into boxes and moving them from the old apartment to the new house.  Making the process of moving even more annoying was the constant harassment by our old landlord about when we would be out of the apartment.  “When will you have all of your property out of the apartment?” he would ask me.  My reply was always the same: “My wife and I will have everything out and the apartment cleaned up by the end of the month when our lease ends.”  This didn’t make him happy, but I didn’t care–I’d paid my rent through the end of the month, and I had enough stress to deal with trying to get everything done without having to worry about getting out of my old apartment earlier than I needed to.

Lily, at the vet’s after the worst of her ordeal was over.

One of the great stressors I had to deal with was my oldest cat, Lily, stopped eating after the move and became very weak.  She’d been losing a lot of weight recently, too, so we took her into the vet.  There, we discovered that she was in kidney failure, and, after some discussion, my wife and I decided to check Lily into a veterinary emergency clinic so she could receive 24-hour IV fluid injections for a few days.  She took to the treatment well, and after about two-and-a-half days of treatment we were able to check her out of the clinic and continue giving her daily subcutaneous fluid infusions. After another 10 days, we took her back to the vet, and her blood tests came back with excellent results.  She was still a sick kitty with malfunctioning kidneys, but the numbers that had been the worst were drastically improved, and her Phosphorous level was 0.1 MG/DL above the “normal” range.  She’s had her subcutaneous fluid infusions cut back to twice a week, and she’ll be checking in with the vet in September.

So, with all that going on, I didn’t have any time to work on my puppet.  However, on July 1st, once we were officially out of the old apartment, I started work again.  I spent much of my free time over the past week hand-stitching the hands for my monster.  We couldn’t machine-sew the hands because there wasn’t really enough room for a decent seam allowance, so Kay taught me a slightly modified whip stitch, and I was able to sew a finger or two a day.  Today, I finished both hands and Kay popped the proper thread into the sewing machine and we stitched up the rest of the seams:

All the sewing is done! Now all that’s left is…

… to turn him right-side out!

All in all, I’m quite satisfied the way the sewing portion of the project has turned out.  Next, we’re going to be tackling his mouth and his eyes.

There are patterns I must follow…

The postcard advertising NLT's production of 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane'Well, it’s been two and a half weeks since our anniversary, and we haven’t had time to work on my rug monster mostly because a) I was running the sound board for Nutley Little Theatre‘s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and my wonderful wife Kay has been rehearsing for The Barn Theatre‘s production of Stephen Sondheim‘s Assassins (information about when the show is running can be found here).

This afternoon, however, Kay had neither Fight Club (a nickname Kay and her coworkers have for their employer so they can refer to it in public and have it remain anonymous to people who don’t know them) nor rehearsal, so we set off to work.  First, Kay had me watch a series of videos she’d found online about making monster puppets.  Then, after that, I sat down to read a very long and detailed brain dump from my friend Missa who offered to tell me everything (and I mean everything) she could put down in words about working with fur. One of the things I’d never thought about is looking at which way the fur goes before you decide where to cut your pieces out of.  If not, you could wind up with the fur on your puppet pointing upwards once you cut it out.

Finally, I was ready to actually get around to making the pattern.  Generally, you don’t want to just cut up fur/fleece/foam willy-nilly when you’re making a puppet.  You make a pattern on paper first, then you cut from that pattern.  The reason is two-fold: if what you did works the first time out, you can then repeat it because you have a pattern (because puppets wear out, you’ll want to make replacements as time goes on).  If, however, what you wind up doing doesn’t work, then when you go to correct your problem you’ll know what you did originally.

This is the pattern I drew, on the back of some old Christmas wrapping paper:

The pattern for Packy's rug monster puppet

The pattern for Packy's rug monster puppet

This means the monster’s reach will be about four-and-a-half feet.  I’m going to lengthen the torso a little more, but the most important part of the pattern was the placement/sizing of the hands and head.  I’m going for a full-out Henson two-handed monster; when I’m working him by myself, I’ll just stuff one of his hands and pin it down, but Kay really wants to work the hands with me when I operate this puppet.