3 November 2019

Take Two

I was four paragraphs into the first pass on this post when I managed to hit a stupid combination of keys on the Apple keyboard and moved backwards three links. Whoops, I thought, and went looking for the auto-saved draft. Um, not there? Sigh. Okay, take two – I wonder how much this iteration is going to vary from the last?

Fallen

Fall is finally, properly, here. Six weeks in, and we finally got two consecutive nights below freezing. We’re due for another frost tonight before it warms up just a shade. Also, for the first time, the snow icon made it into the long range forecast on my phone. Of course, “long range forecast” is just an effusive waste of characters when what you want to say is “lie.”

I got the outdoor water delivery systems winterized today. Yesterday, I repaired the motion detecting light outside the garage door. Wait, did I say “repair?” I mean replaced, with modifications. The old fixture wasn’t new when we bought this house in 2003. And it was hardwired. And it was positioned badly, in the far corner of the front of the garage, where it was partially blocked by the substantial crepe myrtle. Additionally, a moderate wind would use that tree to continuously fire the motion detection. So, due for work even before I learned that the plastics were going and one of the two light sockets was gone, on Hallowe’en evening.

In replacing the fixture, I moved it to front and center on the garage. I mounted a switch in the garage so that we could turn it off entirely without going to the breaker panel in the basement. And bonus – the LEDs draw 25 watts when active, as opposed to the dual 100 watt halogens that were continuously cycling in the elder unit.

Kitchen progress

Little progress, but: I’m going to be fabricating one new bank of cabinets whole, and I’ve got the measurements for those, so I can do some sketches and gin up a material’s list in prep for purchasing, then fabrication.

Bookish

I’ve been reading the Liaden Universe books from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I’d read some of them in the past, out of order. I now have ALL of the books (21 of them, I think), and I’m following one of the many suggested reading orders (this one’s from Baen, and probably originates with the authors, so there’s that. I like them a lot.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Nathaneil G. Irish, 23, of Billings, Montana, who died on Oct. 27, 2019, of a non-combat related incident at Camp Taji, Iraq.

14 October 2019

Columbus Day

Yup, like it or not, the questionable “discovery” of the “new world” by Columbus is still a Federal holiday here in the land where some are free, and some are brave. Since my employer follows that holiday schedule, I was off work today. Yay? Certainly, especially since I didn’t have to travel to Columbus, Ohio, to celebrate. Don’t get me wrong – I’m in Columbus a couple of times a year for work, and enjoy the friendly people and good food a LOT! But it’s a long drive, and I do have to be in the office bright and early tomorrow morning.

We marked the day by going fishing at Centennial Lake over in Ellicot City. No actual fish disturbed the act of fishing, but it was a really nice early Fall day. Overnight lows in the mid-40’s (F) mark this time of year – it’s just possible we’ll see a high 30 before next weekend.

The Other Part

The other part of the weekend was cleaning. I did a major cleanup in the workshop side of the basement. There’s still more to do, but piles of wood dust and shavings in dark corners on concrete eventually lead to bad smells and mold. Mostly remediated at this point. Yesterday I cleaned much of the top floor of the house, and it’s better now, too. I’m just too cheap to turn to a service.

Now, my office is still a mess, but a light dusting and vacuum pass did wonders there, too.

Capclave 2019

Capclave is just about here – it starts on Friday afternoon and runs through Saturday. Our small literary SF/Fantasy/Horror conference is in it’s … twentieth year next year, it appears! But that’s next year. This year we have Martha Wells and Robert Sawyer as Guests of Honor, and a bunch of other authors, editors, and publishers in attendance. Capclave has always had a wonderful feel for me, and it makes me happy every year. Can you join us? Please do!

Winding Down

Whew. DoD reported no casualties in the last week. I expected some, given the ill-advised “decisions” issuing from the “chief of state” affecting parts of the world where our troops are in harm’s way.

6 October 2019

Continuation

Yep, it’s been two weeks since last time. A week ago Saturday we went out to Centennial Lake and spent the morning fishing. I caught one small bass, 13-14″ long:

A small bass (fish), caught on Sept. 28, 2019 at Centennial Lake in Maryland
A small bass, caught on Sept. 28, 2019 at Centennial Lake

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading: Clarkesworld, Forever Magazine, Alan Dean Foster’s Icerigger Trilogy, Neil Gaiman’s Don’t Panic, and not least: everything I can reasonably lay hands on by Martha Wells and Robert J. Sawyer in advance of this year’s Capclave (where Wells and Sawyer are GoH!!!).

This weekend I managed a fair bit of yardwork out front – cleaning out the beds and preparing to winterize the whole joint. Fall is here, overnight temps are going to be regularly in the low 50’s and high 40’s now.

Computing

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time diving into the depths of Red Hat’s latest Enterprise Linux offering, and wrapping my head around more effective automation using Ansible. Good fun, but after a fairly static run of years (in terms of system management), a lot of things have changed under the hood, and there’s a bunch to learn. So I’m reading a bunch of manual pages to supplement the formal documentation.

All the while, I’m still running FreeBSD, Ubuntu (on PC and ARM hardware), CentOS, Windows 10, and MacOS. So I keep all the mad skillz sharp by changing up platforms several times a day. Assume nothing!

Winding Down

No new casualties were reported by DoD in the last two weeks.

22 September 2019

Last of Summer

According to the calendar, tomorrow is Fall. According to the forecast, Summer looks to be in an extended run. We did have two nights last week drop into the high 40’s overnight – but highs for the next 10 days are supposed to be in the mid- to high 80’s. So, summer, still. Unless, y’know, the forecasters are wrong. That would be so unusual!

Mysterious Absence

So, yeah … no post last week. I’ve got no explanation but sheer laziness. This weekend was a bit more of the same. We did make it out fishing at Cash Lake yesterday morning for a few hours. No fish, of course. But relaxing right up until I cast while twisting my torso. That gave me a muscular tweak under the lower left scapula that continues to vex me.

Reading

My read of the last week is the biographical Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by some bloke named Neil Gaiman. At the moment, it’s free for $AMZN Prime members. And it’s a jolly good read, full of stuff I knew about Adams and H2G2, and MUCH other stuff that I didn’t. Fun.

On dead trees, I’m most of the way through a long-delayed re-reading of Cliff Stoll’s The Cuckoo’s Egg. Good stuff if you like 80’s computers and tracking down a cracker with a penchant for military computers that have crappy security policies applied to them.

Winding down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, from Greenbrier, Tennessee, who was killed in action on Sept. 16, 2019, by small arms fire when his unit was engaged in combat operations in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.

19 August, 2019

Dog Days

So, mid-August, and we’re in the “dog days of summer”. It’s been humid, hot, and unstable. How unstable? A storm that blew through last night racked up over 70K electrical discharges over a single hour. Most of those were elsewhere, but enough were nearby to freak out the little disturbed dog. Also with the heat, and fitting in with the origins of the phrase, I spent much of the weekend entrapped by lethargy.

Yes, yes, I was up early doing patching work for production systems on Sunday. But outdoor chores? Not this last weekend. It was just … miserable. Theoretically, it should be much better starting on Friday (which is its own brand of unusual for mid-August, but oh, well, any port in a heatwave). I did roast coffee and make a batch of killer salsa (thanks, Kat, for the peppers to fill in the role that our garden failed this year)!

Hugo

So, every vote counts, right? For both the novel and novella categories, I voted for the well-deserved winner. Seriously, congrats to all the nominees, finalists, and winners in the Hugo Awards, celebrated last night at Worldcon 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. I did a LOT of reading in the last year, and before I nominated and before I voted. None of the wonderful writing disappointed me.

But I have a LOT of fondness for the superb wordsmithing skills of Mary Robinette Kowal (Best Novel, The Calculating Stars, in the Lady Astronauts series) and Martha Wells (Best Novella, Artificial Condition, in the Murderbot series). Just wow. Read ANYTHING by these talented people and enjoy. No. Let me amend that. Read everything they’ve written, and everything they will write in the future. I know, I know. You can thank me later. See this Hugo site link for all the winners.

Winding Down

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

  • Gunnery Sergeant Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado, died on August 10, 2019, in Iraq, after suffering fatal wounds while supporting Iraqi Security Forces.
  • Specialist Clayton James Horne, 23, of Atlanta, Louisiana died on August 17, 2019 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a result of wounds sustained by a noncombat related incident.

11 August 2019

Better Than The Alternative

Still busy, that is, and that’s better than the alternative. Yesterday was given over mostly to food work – a new big batch of salsa, with only tomatoes out of the garden. Everything else came from the store, sadly. I roasted a pountd of coffee. I also made a batch of my potato/spicy sausage concoction, 10 meals worth. That’ll see me through the week.

Today: shopping, clean the shower, patching day for some systems at work, lunch, and lawn. And I’m a bit whacked. Time to get back to the office tomorrow, and spend the week recharging for the next weekend’s worth of chores.

OS News

On the computing front, I’m starting to move on to Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 8 (RHEL8). There don’t seem to be the same underlying massive changes that version 7 brought – no amount of sheer disruption similar to that brought by systemd. Note about that – I can (and must) live with it. There are even features that I shudder to say that I like. But it breaks the UNIX “small tools doing things well” paradigm so very, very much. Anyway, back to RHEL8 – it has a better built-in system for keeping optional subsystems — from the Apache webserver, to PHP, to Python, etc., etc. — more current and easier to work with. I have work to do…

Reading

I just finished up Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds In The Sky – it’s a complex story that includes some comfortable old ideas, just to suck you into the story, but then it gets weird (in a good way). Magic vs. technology, and not in a good way. Some of the sub-plots resolve precisely as telegraphed, but I didn’t see that ending coming, so … good? Recommended.

In other venues, I’m waiting to see how my voting aligned with the Hugo Awards. Tick, tock.

Winding Down

No new news from DoD – good. News from most of the rest of the world: floating between weird and sucks. But Al Yankovic is touring, so something is going right.

23 June 2019

AWOL

Well, away, but with leave. We spent the last week enjoying company with family, lovely weather, and intermittently successful fishing in Maine. The camp is on Cobbosseecontee Lake, near Augusta. Here’s a view from next to the lake-side of the camp:

Cobbosseecontee Lake view

We drove up Saturday a week ago. Per my usual routine, I threw a line in the water within about half an hour of arrival, from that very dock. A couple of dozen casts got one solid bite from a bass that squirmed off the hook, then a few minutes later, another bass that stayed on the line for me. Small-ish, perhaps 14″ long.

We enjoyed brunch out at Slates in Hallowell on Sunday morning with Nancy and Marla – always a joy – they have super food and service. Recommended!

Much of the week was then taken up with relaxing and reading at the camp, and fishing up and down the lake, while Lexi guarded the camp from chipmunks and squirrels. We did a lot more targeted fishing this time, as opposed to trolling. I’ll grant you, Marcia’s first two fish of the week were on our one trolling run back from the south end of the lake; She caught a small bass, and a keeper lake trout that we put on a stringer and gave to Nancy’s friend Myra to have for supper (it wasn’t big enough for more than one decent serving).

On Thursday morning, before the rains came to visit, we headed straight across the lake, to the near bank of Horseshoe Island (behind the party barge in the picture above). We drifted along the bank towards the north (left, above), fishing the banks and submerged cover with various baits. Marcia had success with a Sexy Dog top water bait, and I landed our big bass of the week with a 1.5oz deep crank bait in light blue and chartreuse. Both fish were in the catch-and-release category by regulation.

Marcia’s Thursday catch
Brian’s Thursday catch

On Friday we did a bit of dock fishing, undisturbed by actual fish. I did a few small chores around the camp to help Nancy get the place ready for summer, and we packed up and relaxed. Out the door and on the road at 0540 Saturday morning, we were home about 10.5 hours later. Lovely trip, very glad to be home. Did a couple of chores around here, but mostly unwound from the drive, today.

Reading

Along with assorted less-than-memorable works, I read the three books from the top of my TBR pile:

Both of the Scalzi books are sequels, and I’ve been putting them off for far too long. I would strongly suggest reading the first book for both, especially go for The Collapsing Empire (precursor to Consuming Fire) – the story is continuing. Head On can be read as a standalone, but it’s better as a second course. I enjoyed both of those a lot.

The stand-out read for me is Fran’s Riverland. A tale of two sisters coping with an abusive home environment as best they can, including telling each other tales of “house magic”. But when Father breaks the fishing float (aka the Witch Ball), the boundary between reality and the world of dreams begins to break down, and it’s up to the sisters to save each other, and rebuild the walls that protect reality from the river of dreams. The story transfixed me. Fran is a weaver of tales who has taken her third drink from the spring of Hippocrene. She’s a Grand Mistress of climbing inside your head and telling you about broken families, loyalty, and hard decisions, all wrapped up in a pretty story so that you’ll stick around for the important bits. Highly Recommended.

Winding Down

DoD announced no new casualties in the last couple of weeks. Tomorrow, back to work for me. Ciao!

21 January 2019

C-c-c-cold

Not properly cold, not in the ice moon Hoth sense of the word, anyway. But it was 11º Fahrenheit when I walked the dog early this morning, with winds gusting to 40 mph. I think that means a wind chill of minus one billion. As the day went on, it warmed a little bit, and the winds dropped to gentle breezes, which meant I could shed a layer or two for the later walks. It’d have been better if Lexi would simply walk, take care of her business, and be ready to head back in. But her idea of a walk is to spend half an hour inspecting and sniffing assorted clumps of (frozen) grass, (frozen) shrubberies, and (frozen) sidewalks, before grudgingly warming one or two of those items with bodily excretions. But we both lived, so there’s that.

Food

Marcia’s been baking wonderful things: Cakes and crackers and breads. I won’t torment you with descriptions of things you can’t have because they’re all gone, but I *can* tell you that if she keeps this up, I’m going to have to add some double doors to the house for the width I will achieve.

In coffee news, I roasted the second pound of Guatemalan beans this weekend. The first batch, roasted to a City+, was delicious, so I kept to that roast level again. Next up: Kenyan, and ordering more beans since I’m dropping below 4 pounds left in house.

Entertainment

We went to a 1940’s themed Cabaret evening last night at Annapolis Shakespeare. Big crowd, good energy, great entertainment! And their production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is just around the corner. I’m so looking forward to the show – I’ve not seen this play in 38 years.

Reading

Still holding Fran Wilde’s Horizon at night, reading the hardcover at night when I’m winding down. On the phone, I’m reading Kari Byron’s Crash Test Girl, which is a hoot of a read from a wonderful woman (Side note – the Kindle version is just $1.99 in the US store as I write these words).

I also just read this little treat from John Scalzi, over at The Verge: A Model Dog. Fun. Also fun and thought-provoking was this piece by Sarah Miller on Popula: The Why of Cooking.

Winding Down

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

  • Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of upstate New York, died on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manbij, Syria, as a result of wounds sustained from a suicide improvised explosive device.
  • Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, died on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manbij, Syria, as a result of wounds sustained from a suicide improvised explosive device.
  • DOD civilian Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis, Missouri, died on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manbij, Syria, as a result of wounds sustained from a suicide improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas, died on Jan. 17, 2019, in Landstuhl, Germany, as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire during combat operations on Jan. 13, 2019, in Jawand District, Badghis Province, Afghanistan.

6 January 2019

First Post

Of the new year, anyway. Not much of external interest happened in the last week – work was work, I got some chores done over the weekend, including the first coffee roasting of the new year. We’d been drinking from a couple of different batches of Rise Up coffee for a while, courtesy of a Christmas gift from the St. Germain’s. But that’s now running low, so it was time to get a pound of Sweet Maria’s Ethiopian roasted and resting in anticipation of Wednesday or Thursday brewing.

Reading

I am finally down to reading the wonderful Fran Wilde’s Horizon, the closing novel in her Bone Universe series. Updraft and Cloudbound were so, so good – I can’t wait to see how some of these story arcs end.

The best thing I read this week was Anne Helen Peterson’s How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation. I’ve been following @annehelen on Twitter for a while, and getting her weekly newsletter for a shorter period of time … she’s a thoughtful, deep writer on issues that are important. This piece on burnout has generated a lot of good conversation, and I commented:

I find that it’s often both more of an effort *and* more rewarding to read a piece (like yours) and find what I have in common with it, rather than to read dismissively with a “that’s not me” bias. Your writing pushes for a better me, so thank you for that.

@bilborg on Twitter

Winding down

DoD reported no casualties (on the assumption the people watching for and posting such things are still working/being paid during this recurrent inane “shutdown”).

Y’all have a great week.

17 December 2018

Winding Up

Almost nothing to report, other than the continuing deluge that is our weather this year. Over the weekend, we got ANOTHER 2.6″ of rain, as measured in my back yard. And more rain due on Thursday and Friday. Lovely. We’re up around 65-66″ on the year, smack between the record-breaking DC and Baltimore totals.

Marcia’s been baking some wonderful things, and we also attended a fun Broadway Holiday production at Annapolis Shakespeare on Saturday evening. That was a total hoot, and there are two more of those to go, running in rep with their stellar production of A Christmas Carol. Both highly recommended!

Lexi

Lexi, the dog, wrapped in a towel,  warm and looking worried...
Lexi, warm and worried…

Reading

I’ve just finished reading Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound, the second book in her Bone Universe series. Oooh, does that woman know how to craft a tale! Continuing to build on the events that started in her superb debut novel, Updraft, Cloudbound gives us Nat as our central character, being twisted and thrown down by people wanting power, and people wanting what’s best (usually also, power).  Dix made me so very angry, and still, how that ended made me a bit sad. Gosh, what a good writer Fran is. I’ve got a mystery to read, then I’m straight into Horizon, the trilogy closer. I know she’ll wrap it up real pretty, with a bow on and all … but it’s the getting there that has me on edge.

Computing

I picked up an Intel NUC, an inexpensive terabyte of SSD storage, and 32G of RAM to build a small VMware home lab. Next thing on that box: A FreeBSD 12 install.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Pfc. Joshua Mikeasky, 19, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who died on Dec. 13, 2018, at Bagram Airfield, Bagram District, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident.