The Woolsey Fire came too close

Today, when you approach Calabasas from either direction on HWY 101 the first thing you notice are the black rolling hills. As far as the eye can see there are visible signs of the struggle that came with the Woolsey fire. Lucky for us changing winds and a strong first responder presence stopped the fires from getting to our place.

We woke up Friday, November 9th to a stream of text messages starting at 1am and carrying to 6am from friends asking if we were alright, had we been evacuated and did we need a place to stay? As we slept in our hotel room in San Francisco it went unknown to us there was a fire sprawling around the coast of Southern California. Mandatory evacuations had come in the night and the towns next to us were evacuated: Thousand Oaks, Oak Park, Agoura Hills and now Calabasas. We promptly responded.

Hundreds of miles away and previously occupied with San Francisco’s poor air quality due to 2018 Campre Fire that burned the city of Paradise, CA (to date CA largest fire ever), we started searching for information and watching the news. The fires weren’t as bad as the ones raging in Northern California but they were closer to home. Extremely close to home. Now it was a waiting and watching game. What could we find out? How close were we to loosing our home and everything in it? What would the Woolsey Fire do? Which direction would the Santa Anna push the fires next? We left SF and travelled towards Stockton but were unable to get away from the concern for our own place and the poor air quality of the Camp Fire.

Fast-Spreading Hill Fire Forces Evacuations In California's Ventura County

Despite the TV news coverage both Twitter and Instagram were our best sources of hyper local news with hashtags for our particular area being the most helpful. Go figure. Between local news reporters tweeting out details as they drove the streets and connections to random neighbors or friends of neighbors we got sporadic word of mouth updates throughout the time. Stories of nearby buildings on fire fed rumors that turned out to not be true (luckily).

A day later the winds changed direction and the fire turned away from Calabasas and headed south to the coast and towards Malibu. (I later heard reports of Malibu evacuations taking people 4 hours to travel to less than 20 miles to Santa Monica). A sigh of relief came, if only because it meant a chance to contain the fires near us. Unable to return home we stayed with family in Santa Clarita. We stayed away from home for nearly a week due to road closures, poor air quality, a lack of power and lack of internet but we were safe. In the end so was our place.

Two weeks later and things have mostly returned to normal. Our home just barely survived, with parts of the creek near us burned and a hotel two blocks away closed due to fire damage. There’s still some lingering smell of smoke but inside our home, our new air purifiers have mostly removed the reminder. Others weren’t as lucky and we almost weren’t either. It’s good when luck is on your side. Either way this fire came too close for comfort.

(In hindsight, writing about these events as it was happening and after helped me cope with some of the stress.)

The Gang and Us

Last night on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia the episode we were on set to make aired called The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award. It’s on Amazon, iTunes and possibly other places but I bought it and cut out the little section we are in.You’ll find us in the background at roughly 0:04 giving a high-five to the bartender and at 1:11 and 1:35 for our close ups. Ah our 4 seconds of fame; well worth the 10 hours on set. lol.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 12, Episode 3. Enjoy:

 

On Set with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

To watch our part in the aired Episode go here.


A month ago I was at my buddy Joe’s annual Multiple Sclerosis fundraiser when I saw a silent auction for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (my favorite show).  After some intense bidding to the very end of the auction I was victorious! As you can see below the package came with an autographed poster, autographed 2013 calendar, DVDs, autographed Sweet Dee bobble-head, kitten mittens T-Shirt, autographed group photo and, more importantly 2 walk-on roles.

It's Always Sunny package
The package of It’s Always Sunny goodies!

A few emails of correspondence with the It’s Always Sunny team and a few weeks later we had our shooting date. Call time was 7am on location in North Hollywood at The Federal Bar. At 7am the bar was only a 20 minute hop from the girls place (practically next door when you’re in Los Angeles) so we grabbed some food on the way just to be safe. I’d heard stories from friends about shows running out of or having crappy food for the extras and we didn’t want to take the chance. We arrived on set, checked in with the rest of the extras only we weren’t on the list as extras and then were separated as they called us contest winners. (On occasion they’ll have radio show contests and people will come from all around to visit the show. You are treated differently because you aren’t being paid.)

Check-in sent us to wardrobe where I was given a darker collard shirt and the girl was given a jean jacket to wear with her dress. Naturally she refused to wear it because, well, who wears jean jackets these days? We headed back over to get some food from craft services and waited until we were told what next to do. Ten minutes later one of the crew members came over, gave us some details on the scene and why we were at a bar and told the extras to head to the holding area. As they headed towards the holding area the girl and I were lead onto the set to watch the action.

The crew is setting up the bar lighting. Originally we sat where the ladder stands.

It took some time for the crew to set things up, something about adjustments or last minute changes. From our point of view it seemed like a lot of variables to deal with for maybe 5 minutes or less of total air time. We sat at one of the tables while the crew set up lights, the director ran around looking for shots and many others things unbeknownst to us occurred.

Now either the crew was used to having visitors on the set and/or they were just very nice because everyone kept coming up to us introducing themselves and asking where we were from. (Apparently some contest winners came from more than 20 minutes away!) I wish I could remember their names to give them proper thanks. I do remember we met some very nice lighting technicians, the associate director to the producers (I think that’s his title), the director, a really nice cameraman and others who, like I said, I wish I could remember their names.

At some point after sitting down, during the random meet and greets, we were given some background on the scenes being shot (2 scenes) and given a copy of the script. Naturally I read through it to see what was going on. One of the crew members walked us through the other parts of script including the actors who’d be on set, what scenes were being shot, etc. Turns out for this scene it would be The Gang minus Charlie but including Frank. At some point a few people came out to stand in place of the actors for the lighting adjustments. Then a while later, maybe 30 minutes, The Gang came to the set and did their line walk thorough. Charlie wasn’t in the episode but he was still there watching them as they went through their lines. After they were done with the walk through The Gang came over to our table and introduced themselves. Very cool!

Our drinks from Sudz bar. Sorry the photo is a little blurry.

I wasn’t paying close attention to the time but my guess is it wasn’t until around 9:30 or so until the girl and I got placement at the bar for a scene (mind you we had been on set since 8am or so). One of the benefits of the walk on role was “prominent” placement on camera (in terms of extras), so the girl and I ended up at the end of the bar next to the beer tap and kiddy corner to where The Gang was sitting. How prominent will we be when the show airs? Who knows, hopefully it will look like we are bar patrons and neither of us is just staring at Mac. The entire time I was drinking quality no-name beer and the girl had some fruity drink.

Around 10:30 The Gang came back to set and we started filming the first scene of the day: The Gang has arrived at the bar and are talking about what they see. For some reason Frank has brought a goodie bag with him. The next several takes / scene involves The Gang sitting down at the bar. Done; time for a break. It took that long and we’ve barely shot anything. The main actors take off and the girl and I wonder over to get some food. It’s interesting because there’s so much activity taking place on the set and so little of it requires the main actors.

Just past the bar where the scene is taking place was another bar where the crew had set up craft services tables, chairs for people to sit in, and a video feed for the directors and producers to see the shots they’d filmed. During one of our breaks one of the crew suggested we get this shot:

The Gang also contribute to the scenes through writing and direction

At break time there was food and a chance to sit back and relax and do whatever until the next shot(s) were ready. During one of the breaks we walked outside and joked a bit with the other extras about how much smiling we had to do (as soon as they start filming we have to talk to each other without speaking and always smile). It was like being at the dentist for a long time, eventually your face starts to hurt. A little chit chat to break up the monotony and then back for the next shots.

When it came time for the main shots the girl and I pretended to be talking with another bar patron while The Gang sat across from us, delivering their lines. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what they were saying because I was trying to “act” like I was having a good conversation which is hard when you are mouthing words but not saying anything. The show shoots 2-3 different angles with 3 different cameras which means repeating the same scene over and over again. During one of those angle changes the girl and I had to move.

We were sitting right where the camera guy is now standing. To the right is the feed for the 3 cameras.

Since I’d read the script I knew what The Gang was saying but it wasn’t until we sat next to the director that we were really able to see the scene come together. After the move we ended up sitting behind the director and Charlie Day, who wasn’t filming but was occupied with making the scene as funny as possible. On occasion he’d stop the actors and give them funny lines or tell them to keep going with a particular line or word they had. Day is a writer and producer of the show and he didn’t seem satisfied unless he laughed at the lines himself. Although the episode is scripted the actors do a fair amount of ad lib; in fact the funniest stuff is off the top if their head, building off each other’s conversations and building off of the script. They do so many takes of the same scene its during those later ones that things start to get really funny / over the top.

Lunch came around 12:30 and we all headed out of the bar towards craft services where we sat in the morning. As we ate the yummy food, we sat and talked with a few other extras about the jobs they’ve had (one girl was on set for 2 days in Miami for the filming of Iron Man 3). Then we described how we got on set – fundraiser winner! We returned to set after lunch at 1:30 but the crew was still setting up so we were escorted back out for photos with the cast. Apparently Charlie had left the set but we were psyched to get photos with the rest of The Gang. As we were walking back towards the cast’s trailers I noticed a Tesla Roadster. As I was drooling over the Tesla Roadster Rob and Kaitlin (Mac and Dee) walked up and jokingly said don’t scratch the car or the owner will get pissed (he was the owner). Rob and I started talking about his Tesla (I love ’em), how sad it was they stopped making the Roadster, if he was going to get a Model S which is when he pointed to Glenn’s (Dennis) Model S right behind it. Sweet.

Then we posed for pictures. Danny DeVito had come wondering up as we were talking with Kaitlin and Rob so we got a photo with them:

Danny DeVito, Mai, Rob, Chris and Kaitlin

After the first photo the girl and I joked to Rob about how she always does the stereotypical “Asian peace sign” pose. He laughed and mentioned a time some asian fans came up to him and wanted to take a picture in his car. They did the exact same pose. Danny took off and Glenn came up so we got another photo. This time everyone did the “Asian peace sign” pose:

Over featured image with Glenn, Mai, Chris, Kaitlin and Rob doing the “Asian peace sign”

After the photos we headed back into the bar for some final shoots with the extras. By 2:30pm we were tired and said goodbye. It was a great day on the set of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Looking ahead at 2013

2012 was a good year in my development as a software tester. I’ve slowly started writing about my experiences. Some articles were better than others (I’m not as concerned with popularity to an external audience as I am about my own internal, undefined standards). I’m making progress in my ability to detect and tell stories which helps me gain confidence as both a tester and writer. This year should see me writing more articles about testing and although it’s not my primary goal eventually perhaps other people will find my writings helpful or informative.

Here are a few of the things I did in 2012 to develop my testing skills:
  • Traveled to Orcas Island in July for the first ever onsite Rapid Testing Intensive. I got to do some testing, learned a few things I’m applying today in my work, blogged a bit about the days and got to meet some testers from around the world.
  • Joined the Association for Software Testing on June 1st!
    • Through the AST I enrolled in the Black Box Software Testing Foundations class which I completed in December.
  • Joined Stack Exchange, specifically SQA forums.
  • Joined Miagi-Do school of testing as a Student in November.
  • Read some good books and added dozens more to my Read List
    • I need to finish a few books including Lean Startup, Code and An Introduction to General Systems Thinking.

I’ve read more articles and publications this year about testing than all my other years combined. It was pretty cool to go through the BBST Foundations class and have already read an assigned paper. My circle of testers has grown considerably by joining several online communities and forums. I’m subscribed to about 20 testing blogs and through twitter, G+ and the aforementioned communities I now have a much wider base for learning and discussing problems.

So what does 2013 have in store?

Tomorrow I start the Rapid Testing Intensive Online which will be my first training session of the New Year. I expect to do quite a bit of testing over those 3 days and be able to use that information / work to build my testing portfolio. (One of the outputs from the first RTI onsite was supposed to be a report built by James using the participant’s content but it seems like the amount of work involved was a bit much for James to do on his own. This time around I’ll see what I can put together myself.) In fact I’ve got a cool bug report I’m hoping to publish very soon (thanks for sucking Microsoft).

I’m not sure when (in terms of dates) it will happen but I want to get through the additional BBST courses this year: Test Design and Bug Advocacy before moving on to the Instructor class. Through Miagi-Do I’m signed up for an online test competition in April and I plan to ask for a few test challenges through Miagi-Do and maybe via Skype with James or Michael.

An important goal this year is to become comfortable coding so I can break through this barrier of understanding how to do test automation. I’m thinking Python and Java are good languages with Python being my primary language. I want to get to a point where I’m comfortable enough that I can build some type of application and then test it along the way. As I said before my reading list is quite extensive (long) so I’d like to dedicate more time to reading and I think I can do that by teach scuba diving a little bit less. Reading lots of books sounds great but I think it’s more important to be able to relate what I learn through reading back to testing through writing.

It’s almost the end of January and I’ve got my goals set for the next 11 months. Here I go.

Associate SQL Server user with login after db restore for SQL Server

This post was borrowed from Computer Cabal and expanded upon:

After you’ve restored a backed up SQL Server database instance you may find the user logins are no longer associated with the users. You can’t make this fix via SQL Server Management Studio but you can run the commands below to fix it. Note: It only works for SQL Server 2005 SP2 and later, so the first thing to do is check what version of SQL Server you have.

    1. Log into the Management Studio for SQL Server 2005 run:

SELECT SERVERPROPERTY('productversion'), SERVERPROPERTY ('productlevel'), SERVERPROPERTY ('edition')

  • Or if you are using SQL Server 2008 run:

SELECT SERVERPROPERTY('productversion'), SERVERPROPERTY ('productlevel'), SERVERPROPERTY ('edition')

  • In the second column you should see a table with a row name you should see “SP2” or “SP3”, if you see something like “SP1” or “RTM” or don’t see a second column then you need to upgrade. Here’s the link to download SQL Server 2005 SP3.
  • Once you’ve got at least SQL Server 2005 SP2 run:

alter user [user_name] with login=[login_name]  

  • Now you should be all set.

For more information on How to Identify SQL Server versions and editions go here.