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Weekend adventures and Low-profile PCs

Saturday. I finally managed to drag my sorry butt to work about 11 or so. I went to pay my rent at 10; the office was closed even though it was supposed to be open. The manager called me yesterday about 10, wondering where I was (gee, could it be I was at work, and that sometimes I have things to do other than sit by the phone waiting for her to call?) complaining that they needed to get into my apartment to fix a leak. I called and left a message saying go on in. She called back a couple of hours later and bawled me out for having a busted hose (I didn’t bust it) and for having stuff in the closet with the hot water heater, in violation of fire code. “The maintenance guy said you had a bunch of stuff in there, and that busted the hose, and that’s a violation of code so you have to clean it out.”
I checked when I got home. Apparently a snow shovel (necessary because they never clear the parking lot) and a kitchen mop sitting in the corner opposite everything constitutes “a bunch of stuff.” I put the check in an envelope, and since there was no one there to complain to, I scribled a note on the envelope. “I moved my mop and my snow shovel out of the closet. Apparently that constitutes ‘a bunch of stuff.'”

And Friday night I got out my lease and looked at it. I’d never read it thoroughly and I was shocked. For one thing, playing a musical instrument is strictly prohibited. Even with headphones. That’s a load of bull. If you can play a guitar on the Metro in Washington D.C. as long as you use headphones, then if I feel like strumming my bass inside the four walls of my apartment and no one can hear it, that’s my business. But I found what I was looking for. Since I’ve been here two years, the penalty for breaking the lease is one month’s rent. Losing me for the remainder of the lease hurts them more than the month’s rent hurts me, so I started looking for houses.

One of the girls at church (her name is Wendy) had mentioned earlier in the week that houses in Lemay are inexpensive, and Lemay, despite what Gatermann says, isn’t a bad place. For one, there’s a great pizza joint in Lemay. There’s reasonably easy access to I-255 to get around St. Louis. Plus two grocery stores and a department store. And if Wendy’s comfortable walking to her car at night in Lemay, my black trenchcoat and I will be just fine.

At work, an unexpected but totally welcome distraction happened. My phone rang. I was hoping it was the girl from church, but it was an inside ring. I picked up. “This is Dave,” I said.

“Hi! It’s Heather.”

That’s the name of my best friend from college, and it sure sounded like her voice. But she lives in Florida and she’s been bouncing from dot-com to dot-com since college.

“I saw your car outside so I thought I’d give you a call. I’m here with Olivia and we’re just checking on houses with my computer. I thought you might like to meet her.”

Oh. That Heather. She’s a twentysomething Kentucky native who’s lived in St. Louis for about three years. Olivia is her four-year-old daughter. She’s been looking for a house for about the past six months. Extremely nice girl, easy to talk to. Pretty too.

Talking to Heather and meeting Olivia promised to be a whole lot more intersesting than watching SpinRite run on that failing hard drive that forced me into the office on my day off, so I walked over to her area. Olivia saw me first. She hid behind a chair. I recognized her immediately, because Heather’s cubicle is practically wallpapered with pictures of her. I knocked on the side of the cube wall. Heather looked up. “Hi!” she said. She looked around and saw Olivia behind the chair. “Come out, Olivia.” Olivia shyly emerged. “Say Hi.” Olivia waved shyly and said hi. Yep, she’s just like her mom: way tall, and very shy at first. Olivia crawled up into Heather’s lap and started playing with her adding machine. She whispered something to her mom. She looked at her, puzzled. Olivia whispered it again. “You tell him,” she said.

“I like to dig through the trash,” Olivia said.

“Why do you like to dig in the trash?” I asked her. Heather laughed and explained. Olivia keeps everything. When she throws something away, Olivia usually goes digging for it. I told Olivia I used to dig through the trash when my mom would throw my stuff away too.

“Oh! I haven’t told you. We made an offer on a house!” Heather said, visibly excited. I asked her about it. Two-bedroom, nice heated garage, small yard but within walking distance of a park… in Lemay. I smiled.

I told her congratulations, and told her I started looking last night. She said there was a lot of stuff in Lemay. Meanwhile, Olivia and I played catch with beanbags. She has a lively arm on her, not that that should be too surprising. When you’ve got long arms like hers and get them extended, you’ll have some pop. Her first throw hit me below the belt, if you know what I mean. I saw it coming, couldn’t get my arm down there fast enough, and grimaced. Olivia laughed. I don’t think Heather saw. I picked the beanbag off the ground and tossed it back to her. No lasting effects–it was a beanbag, after all. But guys instinctively grimace whenever anything heads that direction, even a Nerf ball. It’s instinctual. Olivia’s next throw sailed past my outstretched hand and plunked the back of Heather’s chair.

“I’m glad you weren’t the second baseman the last softball game I played,” I said to Olivia.

So Heather and I talked houses while Olivia and I tossed beanbags around. I’m like her, I like South County and don’t really want to live anywhere else. She’s been looking long enough to have a pretty good idea what’s available. She printed off a couple of houses for me, and told me a couple of places in Lemay where several houses were available.

Eventually, I thanked her and left. I told Olivia it was nice to meet her.

Then last night, after none of my Saturday plans panned out, I wandered out in search of a haircut and the new Echo and the Bunnymen album. I found neither. I bought some used stuff: Echo and the Bunnymen’s self-titled 1987 release which I’d never gotten around to buying, Peter Gabriel’s fourth album, Peter Murphy’s surprise 1989 hit Deep, and a New Wave compilation that contained a couple of good songs from bands who only recorded one good song, plus a bunch of stuff I didn’t remember ever hearing. The sales clerk reacted to my selections. “Uh oh. Echo and the Bunnymen. Hmm. Peter Murphy. Who was he with?”

“Bauhaus,” I said.

“Was he in Love and Rockets too, or was that the other guys from Bauhaus?”

“Love and Rockets was Bauhaus without Peter Murphy.”

Yep, I was earning the right to wear a black trenchcoat last night. Too bad it’s August. I was impressed that the clerk recognized Murphy, seeing as he was probably born the same year Bauhaus broke up and Murphy’s only had one solo hit, though his post-Bauhaus stuff is really good.

So I hopped in my car, popped in the compilation CD, and went exploring. I found the area Heather told me about. But mostly I explored Lemay–what kind of stuff could I find? Being fairly close to a park would be nice. I found the pizza joint my dad and I used to go to, many years ago. Just about everything I need is pretty close together, and not terribly far from the big commercial district. The houses are older, which can be good and bad, and like Heather warned me, there are some areas that are a little bit redneck, but you’ll find that in a lot of parts of St. Louis. And like Wendy said, Lemay’s not a ritzy place and the people who live there know it, so the pretension you see in a lot of parts of St. Louis isn’t present there. That’s nice.

Low-profile. Dan Bowman sent me a couple of links yesterday to low-profile cases that would be suitable as low-end servers or routers. Over at CSO they’re selling Dell low-profile Pentium Pro-200 systems for $99, with 64 MB RAM, 2.1 gig HD, and a NIC. A Pentium II-266 runs $129. Specs vary on the PII.

That got me thinking and looking around some more. Over at, I found a couple of other things. An ultra low-profile LPX case (sans power supply) is running $10.50. It only has three bays, but that’s plenty for a floppy, CD-ROM, and single HD. An Intel HX-based LPX mobo (with built-in video) runs $19. It’ll take up to a P200, non-MMX though. The LPX riser card is $4.95. CPU availability is limited there; a P90 runs five bucks. Back at CSO, a P166 runs $15.

If you’re really cramped for space, building an LPX-based system is your best bet. But the CSO deal on the Dell is tough to beat. You won’t build an LPX system that even comes close for $99.

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