15 October 2017

On the face of it, three day work weeks are pretty nice. But I stay busy, and cramming a week’s worth of productivity into three days is less fun than it sounds like. That said, I got done what needed doing, and the coming week is prepped and ready.

*      *      *

Last night, we went back for a second round of Annapolis Shakespeare‘s production of Much Ado About Nothing. With 17 actors and a two story set, there’s always more going on than one can take in at one sitting. Since opening night, the actors have really settled into their roles, and we enjoyed it even more, if that were possible. They’ve been getting stellar reviews all over the place and I can only say this: If you’re in the area, there are nine more productions of this show: today’s matinee and four shows each of the next two weekends. Get tickets and go!!!

*      *      *

The daylight hours yesterday were full, too. Much of the day, I puttered with virtualization on my main home server, a FreeBSD 11.1 box that does internal SMB, internal IMAP, backups, and virtual machine hosting. When I started with virtualization on the system, I was using Oracle’s VirtualBox product, because the price is right (free, as in beer), and easy, easy to setup and use. But easy isn’t always my primary goal. So I’ve been experimenting with the native virtualization tool on FreeBSD: bhyve.

“bhyve, the “BSD hypervisor”, pronounced “beehive” is a hypervisor/virtual machine manager developed on FreeBSD.”

I make use of the appropriate section of the FreeBSD Handbook to provide guidance. As such things go, it’s relatively simple to stand up FreeBSD virtual guests, and a bit trickier for Linux guests. I’ll document some of the fun I had with that here, because there are gotcha’s that aren’t covered in the Handbook.

The Setup

I’m going to build an Ubuntu 17.04 virtual machine (VM), using a ZFS volume as a datastore. The use of ZFS is recommended for performance reasons. There are other advantages, too, like the ability to make quick clones of a VM. More on that later. So, my configuration is this:

root@serenity:// > ls /data/bhyve
images iso
root@serenity:~/ > zfs list zroot/data/vmimages 
zroot/data/vmimages 52.9G 1.07T 96K /data/vmimages

/data/bhyve/images is actually where I keep the runtime configuration and startup scripts for virtual machines.

/data/bhyve/iso is the repository for CD images for installation of virtual machines.

The ZFS path zroot/data/vmimages is the parent for all of my virtual machine disks.

I’ve also already done the initial networking setup with bridge and tap0 interfaces, per the Handbook sub-section, “Preparing the Host.”


Create and check the VM disk:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs create -V16G -o volmode=dev zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ls -al /dev/zvol/zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new
crw-r----- 1 root operator 0x9b Oct 15 13:59 /dev/zvol/zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new

With the disk volume in place, I can create the device map file, which sets (hd0) to the path to the new disk volume I created, and (cd0) to the  path to the ISO file (vim is the text editor I use):

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > vim ub1704new-device.map
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > cat ub1704new-device.map
(hd0) /dev/zvol/zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new
(cd0) /data/bhyve/iso/ubuntu-17.04-server-amd64.iso

Note that when a VM is or has been running, it creates an entry in the device tree, at /dev/vmm. Normally, one must always “destroy” that file before one can start/restart the VM (seems clunky, but there it is). But because this is the first time this VM will have been run (on creation), there should be no corresponding device file at /dev/vmm/ub1704new. I’ll check that, then create the VM using the grub-bhyve tool, which prepares the boot environment for the VM:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ls /dev/vmm/ub1704new
ls: /dev/vmm/ub1704new: No such file or directory

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > grub-bhyve -m ub1704new-device.map -r cd0 -M 1024M ub1704new
GNU GRUB version 2.00

|Install Ubuntu Server                                                     |
|OEM install (for manufacturers)                                           |
|Install MAAS Region Controller                                            |
|Install MAAS Rack Controller                                              |
|Check disc for defects                                                    |
|Rescue a broken system                                                    |
|                                                                          |
|                                                                          |

Use the ^ and v keys to select which entry is highlighted.
Press enter to boot the selected OS, `e' to edit the commands
before booting or `c' for a command-line.

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ls /dev/vmm/ub1704new

The “Install Ubuntu Server” line was highlighted, so I simple pressed the Enter key to accept that option. Disconcertingly, one is then dropped right back onto the command line. This is expected, however. And as you can see, we now have a VM entry for the new guest under /dev/vmm.

The next gotcha is this: There has to be a free tapN interface for the VM to attach to. The documentation wasn’t really clear on that, I think I assumed that multiple VMs could attach to a single tap interface. But in reality, think of the bridge interface as the virtual switch, and each tap interface as a port on that switch. So, let’s check if tap0 is in use:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ifconfig | egrep "^tap[0-9]+:"
tap0: flags=8902<BROADCAST,PROMISC,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
tap1: flags=8943<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,PROMISC,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
tap2: flags=8902<BROADCAST,PROMISC,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500

As you can see, I’ve run into this problem already, and have a couple of spare taps available. This output shows that of the three tap interfaces, tap0 and tap2 are available, while tap1 is in use (see the word UP in the flags). For the purposes of this exercise I’ll just use tap0. But it’s trivial to add more tap devices on the fly, and to add them to the /etc/rc.conf file so that they are present for future runs. In a super-happy world, my VM automation script will look for any available tap device, and use one if found, otherwise dynamically add yet another one and use it. But that’s another post.

Install Time

So, it’s time to start the VM for the first time. Important note: One should set the amount of memory for the bhyve run to match the amount one set with grub-bhyve, or errors ensue. Observe that the memory setting with grub-bhyve above uses the -M flag, and a trailing M. The bhyve command uses a -m flag, and Megabytes are assumed.

I’m going to give the VM two processors (it can certainly take advantage of two, even during the installation)

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > bhyve -c 2 -m 1024 -H -P -A -s 0:0,hostbridge -s 1:0,lpc  \
 -s 2:0,virtio-net,tap0 -l com1,stdio -s 3,ahci-cd,/data/bhyve/iso/ubuntu-17.04-server-amd64.iso \
 -s 4,virtio-blk,/dev/zvol/zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new ub1704new

  ┌───────────────────────┤ [!!] Select a language ├────────────────────────┐
  │                                                                         │
  │ Choose the language to be used for the installation process. The        │
  │ selected language will also be the default language for the installed   │
  │ system.                                                                 │
  │                                                                         │
  │ Language:                                                               │
  │                                                                         │
  │                               C                                         │
  │                               English                                   │
  │                                                                         │
  │  <Go Back>                                                              │
  │                                                                         │

 <Tab> moves;  <Space> selects;  <Enter> activates buttons

And so starts the text-mode Ubuntu installer. I’m going to assume you can find your way to figuring that out or find useful directions on the interwebs. A couple of installation tips:

  • The installer configures networking using DHCP by default. It’s easy to change to a static IP later, if desired.
  • Hostname entry – I generally use the name of the virtual machine I created. It’s just easier to keep straight in my head that way.
  • Partitioning – I’ve gone with “Guided – use entire disk and set up LVM”, but there are repercussions down the line. Manual isn’t hard, but can be confusing if you’ve not done much manual partitioning. LVM is a good choice because you can later add more diskspace to the volume(s) without even rebooting the system.
  • Automatic updates – These can be a good idea, some of the time. But with servers, I tend to have process around patching, booting, and testing, so I selected No Automatic Updates.
  • Software Selection – The only important choice for me at system installation is OpenSSH server: I need this to remotely administer any system: local or remote, physical or virtual.

Once the installer is done, there’s at least one more trick up my sleeve…

But first, we have to “destroy” the remnants of the prior run, then re-run grub-bhyve to figure out what our root and boot devices are:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > bhyvectl --destroy --vm=ub1704new
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > grub-bhyve -m ub1704new-device.map -r hd0 -M 1024M ub1704new
grub> ls
(hd0) (hd0,msdos1) (cd0) (cd0,apple2) (cd0,apple1) (cd0,msdos2) (host) 
(lvm/ub1704new--vg-swap_1) (lvm/ub1704new--vg-root)
grub> ls (hd0)/
error: unknown filesystem.
grub> ls (hd0,msdos1)/
error: unknown filesystem.
grub> ls (lvm/ub1704new--vg-root)/
lost+found/ etc/ media/ bin/ boot/ dev/ home/ lib/ lib64/ mnt/ opt/ proc/ root/ run/ 
sbin/ srv/ sys/ tmp/ usr/ var/ initrd.img vmlinuz snap/
grub> cat (lvm/ub1704new--vg-root)/etc/fstab
/dev/mapper/ub1704new--vg-root / ext4 errors=remount-ro 0 1
/dev/mapper/ub1704new--vg-swap_1 none swap sw 0 0

And there’s the information we need to configure a file to prime grub automatically, but first, let’s get this system running for the first time after installation:

grub> linux (lvm/ub1704new--vg-root)/vmlinuz root=/dev/mapper/ub1704new--vg-root
grub> initrd (lvm/ub1704new--vg-root)/initrd.img
grub> boot
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ >

There’s our prep done, now to run the machine:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > bhyve -c 2 -m 1024 -H -P -A -s 0:0,hostbridge -s 1:0,lpc \ 
> -s 2:0,virtio-net,tap0 -l com1,stdio -s 4,virtio-blk,/dev/zvol/zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new ub1704new
Ubuntu 17.04 ub1704new ttyS0

ub1704new login:bilbrey
Welcome to Ubuntu 17.04 (GNU/Linux 4.10.0-19-generic x86_64)

The next step is to update the freshly built system to with current packages and security updates, because the CD and DVD images are not respun every time there’s a changed package:

bilbrey@ub1704new:~$ sudo su -
[sudo] password for bilbrey: 
root@ub1704new:~# apt update && apt upgrade -y
root@ub1704new:~# sync
sroot@ub1704new:~# sync
root@ub1704new:~# shutdown -h now

With that done, now I’ll create a couple of files to make the startup much easier – we’ll create a file to feed grub-bhyve what it needs, and a quick and dirty shell script to automate all the startup options and run the VM:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > vim ub1704new-grub.in  # pull together our grub info from the first startup...
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > cat ub1704new-grub.in
set root=(lvm/ub1704new--vg-root)
linux /vmlinuz root=/dev/mapper/ub1704new--vg-root
initrd /initrd.img

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > vim start_ub1704new.sh  # shell script to config and run 
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > cat start_ub1704new.sh


stkargs="-H -P -A -s 0:0,hostbridge -s 1:0,lpc -s 2:0,virtio-net,${tap} -l com1,stdio" 

cd /data/bhyve/images
bhyvectl --destroy --vm=${imgname}  # Clean up prior run
grub-bhyve -r hd0 -m ${imgname}-device.map -M ${mem}M ${imgname} < ${imgname}-grub.in  # prep grub boot 
bhyve -c ${cpus} -m ${mem} ${stkargs} -s 4,virtio-blk,${imgpath} ${imgname}  # Run the VM

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > chmod 700 start_ub1704new.sh  # Make the script runnable (by root)

All done, now I can just start the VM:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ./start_ub1704new.sh
Ubuntu 17.04 ub1704new ttyS0

ub1704new login: bilbrey
bilbrey@ub1704new:~$ sudo su -
[sudo] password for bilbrey: 
root@ub1704new:~# sync
root@ub1704new:~# sync
root@ub1704new:~# shutdown -h now

Making Copies and Clones

Okay, a simple script run to start up the VM. That’s good. But we’ve put in a fair bit of work on this VM, what if I want some more of exactly that? I can use ZFS utilities to clone the VM image, do a couple of edits in copies of the files we just created, and we can have one or more copies without all the installation effort and pain. Here goes:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs list -rt all zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new 16.5G 1.07T 3.32G -

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs snapshot zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new@copy1

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs clone zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new@copy1 zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy1

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs list -rt all zroot/data/vmimages
zroot/data/vmimages 72.9G 1.05T 96K /data/vmimages
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy1 8K 1.05T 3.32G -
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new 19.8G 1.07T 3.32G -
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new@copy1 0 - 3.32G -

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs get origin zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy1
NAME                             PROPERTY  VALUE                                SOURCE
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy1  origin    zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new@copy1  -

[* Editors note – Updated above to add the zfs snapshot command, which did not survive the original cut and paste]

This read/write clone, ub1704copy1, takes about as long as it takes to run the snapshot and clone commands – no time at all, really. But it will be dependent on the snapshot (see the output of the zfs get origin command), and not an independent copy of the VM. So for quick-and-dirty testing, this is a great tool. If, on the other hand, you want to make use of that snapshot to make a long-lived copy of the VM, use the ZFS send/receive functionality:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs send zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new@copy1 \
 | zfs receive zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy2

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs list -rt all zroot/data/vmimages
NAME                                         USED  AVAIL  REFER  MOUNTPOINT
zroot/data/vmimages                         76.2G  1.05T    96K  /data/vmimages
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy1                8K  1.05T  3.32G  -
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy2             3.32G  1.05T  3.32G  -
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy2@copy1           0      -  3.32G  -
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new               19.8G  1.06T  3.32G  -
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new@copy1             0      -  3.32G  -

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs get origin zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy2
NAME                             PROPERTY  VALUE   SOURCE
zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy2  origin    -       -

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > zfs destroy zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy2@copy1

Note that the send/receive ALSO copied the snapshot, so I disposed of the copied snapshot… The send/receive took a couple of minutes for this small VM. A much larger VM would take a correspondingly longer time. Let’s create the scripts to run ub1704copy2:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > cp ub1704new-grub.in ub1704copy2-grub.in
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > cp ub1704new-device.map ub1704copy2-device.map
root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > cp start_ub1704new.sh start_ub1704copy2.sh

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > vim *ub1704copy2*

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > diff start_ub1704new.sh start_ub1704copy2.sh
< imgname="ub1704new" 
> imgname="ub1704copy2"
< mem=2048
< tap="tap0" 
> mem=4096
> tap="tap2"

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > diff ub1704new-device.map ub1704copy2-device.map
< (hd0) /dev/zvol/zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704new 
> (hd0) /dev/zvol/zroot/data/vmimages/ub1704copy2

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > diff ub1704new-grub.in ub1704copy2-grub.in

So, no changes to the grub.in file, as all things are the same, including the name of the LVM filesystem that is root. Remember, even though the VM is now ub1704copy2, it’s a copy of ub1704new, and will be until we run it, change the hostname, and make it different.

The device.map file has to change to point to the new ZFS volume, but that’s all.

And for the start_ub1704copy2.sh file, I really only had to change the imgname variable to make everything work.  But I also bumped the memory up to 4G, and changed the network device to tap2, so that new and copy2 could be running simultaneously. Now let’s boot copy2, change the hostname, and boot it again:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ./start_ub1704copy2.sh
ub1704new login: bilbrey
bilbrey@ub1704new:~$ sudo su -
[sudo] password for bilbrey:
root@ub1704new:~# vim /etc/hostname
root@ub1704new:~# cat /etc/hostname

root@ub1704new:~# sync
root@ub1704new:~# sync
root@ub1704new:~# shutdown -h now

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ./start_ub1704copy2.sh
Ubuntu 17.04 ub1704copy1 ttyS0

ub1704copy1 login: bilbrey
bilbrey@ub1704copy1:~$ ip addr show dev enp0s2
2: enp0s2: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 00:a0:98:27:32:75 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global enp0s2
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 fe80::2a0:98ff:fe27:3275/64 scope link 
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

Okay, we’re running in copy2, renamed the host, and we have an IP address. Let’s start up ub1704new, and ping the copy:

root@serenity:/data/bhyve/images/ > ./start_ub1704new.sh
Ubuntu 17.04 ub1704new ttyS0

ub1704new login: bilbrey
bilbrey@ub1704new:~$ ip addr show dev enp0s2
2: enp0s2: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 00:a0:98:d4:48:eb brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global enp0s2
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 fe80::2a0:98ff:fed4:48eb/64 scope link 
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

bilbrey@ub1704new:~$ ping
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.889 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=0.652 ms
bilbrey@ub1704new:~$ ssh
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:yARJTbiR8K2S1pTrYZ8xdDZawGMVqtukB3th2cf1Zjw.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.
bilbrey@'s password: 
Last login: Sun Oct 15 20:26:57 2017

There we go. The clones and copies are super fast and easy. I’m told by the interwebs that there are tools called vm-bhyve and iohyve that might be useful, but those are for another day.

*      *      *

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week. Ciao!


9 October 2017

Good morning. It’s a holiday for $FIRM, in the midst of a five day weekend (for me), so I’ve only been doing email and tickets for an hour or so, and work is done for the day. A busy weekend. First up, Capclave.

Capclave is a small-ish literary SFF convention put on by the Washington Science Fiction Association. It’s been held at the Hilton Gaithersburg for at least the last several years, and I’ve attended several now. It’s simply lovely. Loads of writers, editors, publishers. I’ve been attending intermittently since 2012. It’s good to catch up with some prior acquaintances and friends, and meet new fans and authors, etc. And oh, yes, I have a stack of new (and old) books to read. I managed all of the Friday and Saturday programming, but skipped Sunday because…

Last night, we went to The Great American Songbook, another fun entry in the Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s Concert and Cabaret Series. Sally Boyett and a double handful of talented actors and singers entertained us for a couple of hours, singing mostly love songs from the golden age of American show tunes. Great fun, and nice to see several of the actors from the current production of Much Ado About Nothing in a different context. We’re looking forward to seeing that show one more time before the run ends on October 29th. Get thee to Annapolis Shakespeare – I promise you’ll love it.

Now, I have to clean my office and do some other chores.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors:

  • Spc. Alexander W. Missildine, 20, of Tyler, Texas, died Oct. 1 in Salah ad-Din Province, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy.
  • Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger, as a result of hostile fire while on a reconnaissance patrol.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger, as a result of hostile fire while on a reconnaissance patrol.
  • Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger, as a result of hostile fire while on a reconnaissance patrol.
  • Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger as a result of enemy fire.

1 October 2017

“Wouldn’t you prefer a nice game of chess?”

*      *      *

I’ll just leave that there, okay? In other news, I just called my oldest best friend (I’ve known him since I was four) to wish him a happy birthday, which was pleasant and fun. I also left a voice mail for pater and mater, they’re probably out painting the town red. Some of our weekend was normal routine – shopping, roasting coffee, washing the car, going to the office to get some hardware maintenance done during off-hours, doing other chores, but…

Speaking of painting the town red, we had a pretty social weekend ourselves. Last night, we had neighbors in for supper and a board game. And on Friday night, we had a pre-show “Dinner with the Director”, followed by the opening night production of Much Ado About Nothing by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company. What a joy! We enjoyed the lovely prix fixe menu at Luna Blu. Director Sally Boyett didn’t get much supper, she spent the evening at the head of the table regaling the 16 or so attendees with tidbits about the show, the design of the sets and costumes, and what to be looking for as sub-texts. She seemed a bit disappointed that none of us had recently read the text. The show itself was a wonderful production. Put Much Ado About Nothing in the context of “Mad Men” on an American Caribbean island in the late 1950’s. That’s how it was set. And wow, did the new theater impress. Sally managed to get a two-story set into place – very impressive. A cast of 17 actors, fully half of whom were debuting with ASC in this production. We were treated to some fancy period-correct dancing, a little bit of guitar and song, and the words of the Bard. That cast and director earned our standing ovation at the end of the show. Highly recommended.

*      *      *

Lexi wants to know why she can’t have another treat, any time she’d like. What do you say?

Lexi, our mutt, sitting on the carpet in the living room, giving me a look that says, "I want a treat!"

Lexi wants a treat

*      *      *

DoD reported no new casualties in the last week. Glad of that. Ciao!

25 September 2017

That was a chore-filled weekend. The lawns are all lovely and flat, and nearly the whole house is much, much cleaner. But I was bloody exhausted by the time last night rolled around. So sorry.

*      *      *

Only big news is upgrading my MacBook Pro to the latest MacOS release: High Sierra. I’d popped for one of the Beta releases earlier in the Summer, and put in a few issue reports before reverting to Sierra. All of the issues I reported actually garnered responses from Apple, and they’ve all been remediated in the GA release of the OS. Frankly, it’s mostly an underpinnings and foundation release, which I find pretty cool, but doesn’t leave much to talk about. All of my regular use cases are fully functional, so I have no reason to revert and wait for the 11.1 release.

*      *      *

Nothing else of deep interest to discuss at this time. If you’re in the DC Metro area, tomorrow night is Annapolis Shakespeare‘s last production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. We *did* go to that show a second time last week, because it’s a real hoot, and they’re not running it next summer. If you can, go. Links on the website. Also, opening this week is Much Ado About Nothing. Sally says, “Imagine Mad Men meets 50’s glam!” We’re so looking forward to this show!

*      *      *

DoD reported no new casualties during the last week. Deo gratias.

17 September 2017

A busy week and weekend. We made it down to Melford Pond for a couple of hours of fishing on Saturday morning. Well, Marcia was fishing (and caught a decent-sized catfish that she put back, might I add!), while I walked the dog around the pond. It was a nice start to the weekend. Chores: Mowing the lawns, changing old, worn-out locksets out for new ones that work properly, etc, etc.

*      *      *

Tech-side, I’ve been playing around with Flask (a Python web framework). Yeah, should I find something more bleeding edge? Probably. Maybe I’ll revisit Node shortly. Or write something slightly useful in Go, to get a feel for that language. Why is there always so much more to learn than I have hours in a year???

*      *      *

Reading! You MUST go buy and read Robin Sloan’s Sourdough (Powell’s link here). Seriously. It can be found at your favorite online bookseller and if you ask, probably at the corner bookstore you hopefully still have near you! (Wish I did.) So, as one of the blurbs says, Sourdough does for food what (Robin’s first novel) Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore did for books. I loved that first novel, and I’ve been waiting with little patience for the second. Sadly, I’m neither a first reader nor an ARC recipient for him (yet). Sourdough is a journey for a programmer, Lois Clary, back from the land of code and Slurry™ to what’s important: Food and relationships.

I’d pre-ordered the book, and it arrived while I was in Maine. Not being an idiot, I didn’t start reading the book until yesterday. I finished late in the evening, having read in stretches between chores, and then because I couldn’t put the book down, all the way to the end. I grew up and worked for years in the stomping grounds of Robin’s characters, which adds to the appeal for me – I recognize places where the names have been changed and the lens covered with petroleum jelly to yield that sexy soft blur. And oh, yeah. I love me some sourdough. That there’s a starter, a culture, a mother prominently featured in the book … nay, a character in the book. Wonderful. Highly Recommended. I’d loan you my copy except that I’m going to be re-reading it sooner than you could get it back to me.

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More reading news: I’m a fan and supporter of Strange Horizons, which is a is a weekly magazine of and about speculative fiction. [They] publish fiction, poetry, reviews, essays, interviews, roundtable discussions, and art. They’re in their annual fund drive at the moment. I’d recommend supporting them through their Patreon page, if you like their sort of thing, and you want more of that. They’ve got a week or two to go, so please go support them!

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week, but I’m still missing Jerry.

10 September 2017

Sad. There’s a Jerry Pournelle-shaped hole in my personal Universe. Jerry passed away on September 8, 2017. I was a fan of Jerry’s fiction from early on, and additionally a huge fan of his Chaos Manor user technology columns in Byte Magazine. We met in person for the first time at a West Coast Computer Faire (1982, I think, at the San Francisco Civic Center). I’d previously corresponded with him via BIX (the Byte Information Exchange service) on a variety of technical and fictional topics. He was gracious enough to take the time to have lunch with me at that Faire. We crossed paths at a couple more of those, and at several SF cons and events over the years. For a decade or so from the late 90’s, I hosted his websites and email service. Jerry was a gracious and personally generous human being, with an occasionally crusty and cantankerous outer shell. I was blessed to have known him. All our condolences to Roberta, their kids, and the extended family.

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Large mouth bass

Large mouth bass

Yup. Large mouth bass: 17″ and 2# – My best catch of our second week on the lake in Maine. We drove back up to Maine for another week on the lake, with three goals: Fewer mosquitoes, less rain, and more fish. The only clear winner was on the mosquito goal. There were a few standing in for the millions we found in early June. This trip, like the last, had four days with rain. But even so, we had a couple of good half days out on the boat. And I’d say that for me, the fishing was more productive, though nothing I caught was a keeper. The bass pictured above had to go back – they have strict rules to keep the trophy fishing in reasonable fettle there.

Lexi came with us, and seemed to have a good time. Marcia and I both managed to relax pretty well, which is difficult for both of us.

We drove back home yesterday. Today was full of catch-up chores that I shan’t bore you with.

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week. Our thoughts are with those in danger from the large hurricanes that are pounding and threatening Caribbean and US residents.


4 September 2017

Hullo. Happity Labor Day, for US visitors. Happy first post in the final one third (not “two thirds”… sigh) of the year, for everyone else. Hurray for a three day weekend. I’ve celebrated by not checking email at all (for work), which means several hundred emails, mostly system generated, tomorrow. Oh, well.

Not much else to report – we went out fishing for a bit, but catching wasn’t on the menu. Otherwise a lovely weekend.

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Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Emil Rivera-Lopez, who was declared deceased on Aug. 31 as a result of a training incident on Aug. 25, off the coast of Yemen, where he was supporting U.S. Central Command operations.


29 August 2017

Whoops. A call from a family member was required to help me notice I’ve not posted properly here. Argh!

I had a busy work week last week, then a bunch of yardwork on Saturday, leading to a very, very lazy Sunday with an early-to-bed addendum tacked on. Yay? But no post. Work is full of virtualization and SAN work and preparing for an upgrade cycle. Home is yard work and getting ready for a Fall fishing season (it’s too bloody hot here in the Summer, even in a relatively cool summer like this one). Lexi and Marcia are both well.

On the entertainment front, we’re excited to go see ASC’s Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged, (again!) in September, followed closely by Much Ado About Nothing in October. Find out more about these shows at the Annapolis Shakespeare website.

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Our condolences to the family and friends of GS-12 Daniel Hoadley, 54, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who died on Aug. 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from a non-combat related incident. Our hearts also go out to the families of those lost in the maritime collision suffered by the USS John S. McCain:

  • Nathan Findley, 31, Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles, from Amazonia, Missouri
  • Abraham Lopez, 39, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class, from El Paso, Texas
  • Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26, Electronics Technician 2nd Class, from Gaithersburg, Maryland
  • Jacob Daniel Drake, 21, Electronics Technician 2nd Class, from Cable, Ohio
  • Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class, from Manchester, Maryland
  • Corey George Ingram, 28, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class, from Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Dustin Louis Doyon, 26, Electronics Technician 3rd Class, from Suffield, Connecticut
  • John Henry Hoagland III, 20, Electronics Technician 3rd Class, from Killeen, Texas
  • Logan Stephen Palmer, 23, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class, from Decatur, Illinois
  • Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, Electronics Technician 3rd Class, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey

20 August 2017

Well, we topped out the last four weeks at over 10″ of rain (I’ll only say ‘over‘ because I really need to re-site my rain gauge out of the wind shadow of the tree that’s doubled in size over the last few years).  And it looks like August is going to come and go with only 2 or 3 days above 90°F. Weird. Of course, what with excessive rain and relatively mild temperatures, the lawns which should all be brown and dormant at this time of year are growing madly. I had to double-cut the front yard yesterday, and the back yard needs a combine harvester, I think. Nothing else much exciting going on.

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Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors:

  • Sgt. Roshain Euvince Brooks, 30, of Brooklyn, New York, who died on Aug. 13 of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations in Iraq.
  • Spc. Allen Levi Stigler Jr., 22, of Arlington, Texas, who died on Aug. 13 of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations in Iraq.
  • Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler, 27, of Monticello, Utah, died Aug. 16 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations.

13 August 2017

We saw a wonderful play at Annapolis Shakespeare Company on Saturday evening: Alice and the Book of Wonderland. It’s a brand new show based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (well, duh, me), adapted by Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken.  Laura Rocklyn plays a marvelous Alice. The six remaining cast members: Ian Charles, Bill Dennison, Olivia Ercolano, Brian Keith MacDonald, Jackie Madejski, and Johnny Weisgerber – well, they cover the balance of the 24 characters in the show. Over time, each runs off, stage left, and seemingly moments later appeared stage right in fresh costume and makeup. Holy cow, do these folks work HARD to get us up and clapping!

Extra ovations for Mr. Dennison’s twitchy White Rabbit: by turns frightened and arrogant; Mr. MacDonald’s Knave, who clearly takes a page from the Book of Black Adder codpiece fashion; and the superbly evil Red Queen (Crash! Cringe!) played majestically by Ms. Ercolano. Also we were wowed by the costume wizardry of Sandra Spence!

It’s a magical show brought further to life by projections of artwork from Carroll’s original book, as well as a projected Cheshire Cat (portayed by the face of Mr. Weisgerber). From Rev. Dodgeson rowing with the girls to the Mad Hatter’s tea party to the Mock Turtle’s sad song, the show had us riveted throughout. This is a play that is child-friendly, but with sly adult references and pin-point precise topical political commentary.

There are FOUR MORE stagings of this production, next weekend (8/18 – 8/20/2017), before it goes back into the vault. If you’re DC-local, you really should go. Oh, yes. We also just ordered our flex passes for the upcoming 2017/2018 season, and we’re really looking forward to seeing all of these wonderful actors in new roles for another year. Join us, won’t you?

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week, but our condolences to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who died at the hands of an apparent domestic terrorist (in my opinion), James Alex Fields, Jr., in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017.