Kids? The no snow today is my doing

This is something that’s bugged me since yesterday and I figured I’d post a public apology to my children. You see, they really wanted a snow day today or at least a delayed opening.

I’m going to take the chance and hope that my kids can someday forgive me and understand this mighty burden that fate has placed on my shoulders.

Letter to my kids

Dear kids,

I know you were looking forward to not going to school today but you are old enough to learn the truth. Your father has the super power of being able to prevent things from happening merely by preparing for them.

I’ll pause for a moment while you take that in.

I know. Right now that your eyes are wide open in shock and you may even yell out “I knew it!” but please think of your Grandmother. It’s too early for that sort of outburst.

I discovered I had this ability when I habitually carried my umbrella everywhere I went. It was tied to my backpack and I would forget I even had it. It never rained those days or if it did it would stop as soon as I hit the street.

But the day came that I switched bags and left the umbrella at home. That day on the way to Penn station we suddenly got 11 inches of rain in 30 minutes and I was soaked to the bone.

Seriously, I was wet for a week.

Now, your mother may tell you something like “Some people never learn to stay out of the rain” but please understand that she’s only trying to protect you from the truth.

Yesterday, fully armed with the knowledge of the Impending Snow Apocalypse™, I went to the gas station and filled up the portable tank. We now have enough gas for the snow thrower for the next 2 years at least. I moved the car in and put the snow thrower in right at the garage entrance.

I did this not out of malice nor did I intend to rob you of your cherished snow day. But I’m told the older generation has had it with snow and I’ve learned with enough Adult Supervision™ you have no choice but to be “grown up” about these things.

As a result of my actions we got almost half an inch of snow. If I had merely not done anything then I am sure we’d have had easily 14 inches.

So now you know the truth. When I prepare for something it is a hard guarantee that it will not occur. I hope you can forgive your father someday for robbing you of that snow day.

Your father,

Jan Dembowski

P.S. This may be the last communication from me for a while. I switched bags today and noticed that I left the umbrella home today.


I hope they take this letter well. It’s really cold enough today and I hope that Lily doesn’t mind my revealing myself like that to them. Or the world! She’s always concerned about what other grown ups may think about what I reveal about myself.

I’m not asking, but if I did ask what would be the answer?

My 12-year-old has gotten into trouble at home and even though he’s grounded it’s alright. He’s 12 after all and I got into LOTS of trouble when I was his age.

My parents had 4 sons and the whole family is opinionated and we all fought everyday. I learned at an early age where the line was and exactly how far over the line I could go before I got into real trouble.

This is a skill I carry with me in the workplace and for the last 6 years I’ve not gotten into that sort of trouble at work. That’s despite saying some extraordinarily ballsy things too. My sense of humor just comes out at the best times.

It’s good to know where the line is and how far you can stretch over it.

So I was really amused when my son came home this afternoon and said this.

“Dad. I know I’m not allowed to use the computer. And I’m not going to ask if I can. But if I were going to ask you when I can use the computer what would your answer be?”

My reply was along the lines of “Don’t push it kid” but after he left I laughed. He’s a smart kid but I do worry that his generation doesn’t have to deal with consequences at an early age. Later on yes, but every infraction can be fixed quickly. My son hasn’t yet learned that the plate is hot and you don’t put your hands on it cause it hurts.

Meh. There’s no rush. The kids will grow up soon enough.

That was a good day

Since Lily became half owner of a wine and liquor store she and the other owner (very cool friends of ours) have been working everyday since September. They took off Christmas Day because New York state says they had to close.

That’s one time I agree with the state blue laws.

Lily came up with an idea: they alternate Sundays off since that’s a short day (short as in 12PM to 7PM). The other partner was off yesterday and I worked the whole day with Lily. She’s off next Sunday as she plans to see family for Chinese New Year.

My day job is that I work in IT networks. I specialize in Internet related infrastructure such as DNS, proxies, firewalls, routers, switches, etc. The last time I worked in a retail setting was around 1988 for The Nature Company at the South Street Seaport.

What I did for that time was

  1. Make deliveries (went to an amazing cigar lounge, it was a very cool place).
  2. Move stock from the basement to the store.
  3. Help customers find what they want.
  4. Pretty much gofer anything that Lily said to.

I don’t think there is much chance that I’ll give up my current gig or line of work for doing this full time.

Afterwards we went out to a local thai food restaurant. The whole day was like a date. It was great and for the first time in months we spent the entire day together.

Being a store owner is not an ambition of mine. As I’m a contractor I generally just want to be paid and the appeal of “being your own boss” fell off my radar years ago. But I do understand and support Lily’s goal.

So I’ll give up more Sundays and work in the store. Eventually I’ll get the Internet connectivity in the basement working reliably and I’ll office from their on my WFH days. After all, that’s what a spouse ought to be doing. ;)

WordPress actions and filters are still very cool

I spend time perusing the WordPress support forums (now that’s an understatement) and sometimes I come across someone being unhappy with a plugin. In this particular case a plugin was adding a notice to the admin screens saying “Upgrade now for only $24”.

I really have nothing against plugin authors deriving income that way but I prefer that messages like that in my WordPress dashboard be dismissible. That dashboard real estate is mine and I just don’t like to share.

The plugin adds that message using this code.

add_action( 'admin_notices', 'emg_upgradepro_message' );

WordPress actions and filters are a wonderful thing. It’s a queuing mechanism meaning that the order that your PHP code loads or is executed does not matter. What matters is that actions (or filters) get added to the queue and executed in priority order.

That add_action() does not have a priority so it defaults to 10. Actions that are added that way can be removed too but you have to have that remove_action() in the queue after the action is added. You can’t remove it before it’s added.

I was able to easily (took me 3 minutes) by creating another plugin that just removes that action like so.

Plugin Name: Remove Easy Media Gallery Upgrade Notice
Version: 0.1
Description: This plugin removes the Easy Media Gallery Upgrade notice in the WordPress dashboard.
Author: Jan Dembowski
Author URI:

add_action( 'admin_init', 'mh_no_upgrade' , 15 );
function mh_no_upgrade () {
        remove_action( 'admin_notices', 'emg_upgradepro_message' );

And that’s it. The priority 15 should make it run after the action that adds that message and it does: the message is gone. This may not be the best way to do it but it’s an easy 3 minute fix.

Keep in mind that I don’t use this plugin on my main blog but exercises like this one just show how easy it is to extend WordPress.

12 year old Doctor Who fans are awesome

Like many people I DVR’ed the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode as well as the last Matt Smith episode. My whole family was smitten with Matt Smith but my son said something that put it all in perspective.

“I doubted Matt Smith at first, I didn’t think he’d be as good as David Tennant. But I liked Matt Smith even more. I’m going to give the new Doctor a chance.”

Smart kid and I really like that he’s got an open mind about this.

I always think that the actor’s run is too short (especially Christopher Eccleston) but Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor was great. There’s not a single episode of his that I didn’t like. I am sure that Peter Capaldi will also take the character to new places and it will be entertaining.

Now if only they could manage to bring back Alex Kingston…

Cats do not like change

When my parents moved out of their house into Lily’s and mine they had a Siamese cat. I drove the cat to the new house and he spent the short ride perched behind my neck on both shoulders.

Siamese cats are very talkative and I got an earful the whole ride.

When we got to the new house I took off my coat and he started to walking around the house. Eventually it was too much for him and he crawled into one of my coat sleeves. We thought he’d gotten out and was lost but he was just hiding while trying to adjust to the change.

I know how he felt. I’ve seen some changes this past year and a half.

The biggest is that my family lost my Dad in 2012 and I’m still dealing with that. His funeral was the day that hurricane Sandy landed in Long Island. I happen to think that’s appropriate since everyone was saying goodbye to a great man.

Dad did not like funerals and would have been unhappy that we had made any fuss. But all in all it was a cathartic experience and that’s really the point. I see him in almost everything I do especially with my interactions with the kids. It’s a shocking role reversal for me but I’m doing alright.

The other change I’ve been dealing with is more along the lines of “stop being a crybaby Jan!” Lily and old friends of ours purchased a wine and liquor store. She’s been working there straight for 100+ days without a single day off.

This completely changed my daily routine. Previously I would spend about an hour on the train next to her and another 15 minutes walking down 8th avenue from 33rd to 23rd street. After 5 PM I’d meet her and spend another hour on the train heading home. Round it up to 3 hours a day I’d spend with my wife and I miss it.

See what I mean about the crybaby part?

Lily’s fulfilling an ambition of her’s and I fully support her and help whenever and however I can. On Christmas Eve I was making deliveries and working the floor at the store. I even got $22 in tips for making those deliveries. Sweet!

But cats do not like change. They need time to adjust and they always want to go back to the way things used to be. So I’m dealing with it and still adjusting. Eventually I’ll find my equilibrium and it will all be fine but until then I’ll be hiding in one of my coat sleeves.

P.S. You know when the cat runs up the stairs really fast and stops at the top looking around? And you walk to them and they run off? I still do that.

At work you can have good failures too

Sometimes when things go wrong at work they still go right.

Two Friday nights ago I was at the office till about 11 PM working on some infrastructure. Originally the scope was for 2 devices but that was expanded to cover 4 devices instead. After notifying different groups I started at 5 pm.

Naturally I did the 2 easier devices first and that was wrapped up by 7 PM. One of my co-workers helped me out and sanity-checked my work. That part went well without any issues. After those 2 I was on my own for the rest of the night.

The next 3 hours were an exercise in futility. This included almost 2 hours on hold with the vendor that was supposed to be providing support. While I was on hold I backed out the changes on that device and worked on the last one. No joy there either.

Except for emphatically expressing my displeasure to the vendor’s duty manager (who failed to get me the support I needed, thanks anyway) I was not fatigued, I was not frustrated, and I never lost myself in “where am I and what am I doing here???”

Here’s why: the entire work effort was all my plan and the team I worked with vetted and approved my steps.

My managers not only knew what I was doing but was available if I needed help or just to explain that I was stuck.

My back out plan called for leaving the old devices in place and untouched. Putting it back all back was a pretty straight forward process.

When I called my boss to report the status he said those magic words:

“It’s been 5 hours. Back it out and shoot off an email to the stake holders.”

I was prepared to go at the problem from a different angle but he’d pointed out that I’ve already crossed the line where I’ll start making mistakes due to being tired. I backed out the last 2 devices, performed my checkouts, and shot off that email.

I got home after 1 AM.

It’s all about the support at work

Anyone who works in IT has times when things just don’t work. When that happens you can spend hours on the phone and let people know the status is still “Yep, beaming Happy Thoughts™ at it hasn’t solved the problem”. Those support conference calls are the worst.

But what makes it all worthwhile is knowing that I have the support of my teammates and managers. It’s a small group that I work with but everyone has each other’s back.

I’m not the easiest person to manage (due to my sense of humor- WHAT??) but no matter how deep into the pool I get I will always have a lifeline. Also good planning and being able to roll back completely is a bonus too.

Here’s why two weeks ago was not a failure.

  1. I planned for the worst.
  2. I made sure my back out plan was solid and I checked my plan with the team.
  3. I communicated in planning, before the work, during the work, and after. Did I mention communicate?
  4. I set a threshold for when to declare a failure and roll back. Which I almost didn’t follow but my boss got me to do.

This next week was spent working out those problems I encountered and last Friday night I tried again. The job was completed successfully by 9 PM.

So what’s the point again?

Being prepared is great and can save you grief at work. Having the support of your managers and co-workers? That’s awesome and I’m glad it’s part of my work environment.

Grosse Pointe Blank moment

Every now and then I read something online that makes me reply “Grosse Pointe Blank moment!” which is not necessarily a good thing.

Martin Blank: Who’s the ghoul?

Marcella: Whoa. This guy is a badass. Felix LaPoubelle. An accomplished amateur with the Basque Nationalists.
Few odds jobs with the Algerian Separatists. Went pro with a stunning debut aboard an elite Caribbean cruise liner.

Martin Blank: Oh, that’s where I know him from. He’s an asshole.

See, there’s a lot of wisdom in John Cusack movies.

People? Don’t be Felix La Poubelle.