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.

30 September 2018

This has been a busy, busy weekend. Two words: Capclave, Theatre.

Capclave

First up: Capclave. This is a lovely small literary SF/F/H/etc. conference run and sponsored by the WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association). They’re a wonderful, motivated, well-organized group who’ve been putting on Capclave annually for a long time – Hat’s off to the team and organizers!

The Guests of Honor (usually GoH) this year were Alyssa Wong and Nancy Kress. I was, frankly, embarrassed to know not very much about the work of either, for very different reasons.

Alyssa writes superb, award-winning short stories, most of which may be considered horror, for the purposes of conversation with those of us who aren’t Alyssa.  See her Bibliography, read the stories, decide for yourself. She’s a smart writer with a strong voice and great personal presence. Heck, she won the Nebula in 2016, and was a John Campbell Best New Writer finalist the same year. Why hadn’t she gotten onto my radar??? She’s working on her first novel, and I’m looking forward to reading her work for decades to come.

My embarrassment regarding Nancy is something else entirely. She’s a writer of hard SF, which is totally in my wheelhouse. And she’s been writing for a lot of years, and winning bunches of awards. And the only thing I know I’ve read of hers is Dear Sarah (the one she read to us this afternoon in her GoH Reading session). She’s fun, smart, talented, and I’m looking to catching up on a lot of her work. Additionally, her GoH interview session was done by her husband, Jack Skillingstead, and that was a hoot of an hour!

I also became acquainted with the author who goes by the name of J. L. Gribble. I did this totally on purpose. One of the key features (for me) of Capclave is the nearly continuous string of author readings. Much as I want to sit in on every panel (up to 5 in any given hour) and attend every reading, I always make time to sit in on at least a couple of readings from authors I either don’t know, or haven’t read recently. Hanna (of J.L. fame) was my new-to-me author this time. She read from her latest work, Steel Time.

There’s so much more that’s awesome about Capclave. I was there Friday, Saturday, and today. But I missed the mass signing event, and the WSFA Small Press Awards ceremony last night, because Theatre.

Comedy of Errors

So, last night at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, it was the Press Opening for The Comedy of Errors. Staged primarily in an 1890’s steampunk Paris, this Sally Boyett designed and directed production also featured a time travel twist, from “time to time” through the production. Also, clearly influenced by the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, and other past masters of slapstick comedy, this show was a joy for me. The Antipholus twins were played with verve by Matthew Murry and Morgan Hooper. The Dromio twins were executed with humor and an excruciating lack of grace by Clay Vanderbeek and Joe Leitess.

A tarnished brass set was alternately the streets of Syracuse, and the inside of the household of Antipholus of Syracuse. Adorning the back wall, a clock hovered in front of a projection wall that was used to enhance the time shifting scenes. The clocks hands were moved forward through the day of the events in question by the town gypsy, later to be revealed as Emelia, mother of the Antipholii (?), played by Christine Asero.

In all, a cast of thirteen played nineteen roles, but for me, Shubhangi Kuchibhotia as The Mime steals the show. Occasionally, she’s on stage, as a part of the chorus, moving around and through the main characters. Mostly, though, she’s in a mock Foley booth in the corner up in the seats, stage left. There she operates assorted sound effect devices to add comedic flare to the often violent interactions between the assorted Antipholii and Dromios. And throughout, she’s acting and reacting to the action on the stage, with face and body. I told Sally and Shubhangi that I was going to have to come back to see the play again, to just watch her throughout and enjoy the play that way.

Please, are you in the area? Are you going to be in the area? Go to the website, follow the links, buy the tickets, see the work. I promise you’ll laugh, love it, and have a wonderful time.

Lexi, Because

Lexi, our dog, sleeping curled u0p beside me, head tucked against the arm rest of the sofa, as I watch the telly.
Lexi, sleeping beside me as I watch the telly

Winding Down

I’m now a full weekend behind on Fall yardwork. Now, that previously may not have been an issue, because it’s been too wet to be outside, but we’ve now had three continuous days of no rain. Things are drying out, and I need to get some work done. But next weekend, I’m working (at work) on Sunday, all day, at least. I’m going to have to make time somewhere. Perhaps I’ll take Friday for yardwork.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

31 July 2018

And that puts the fork into the seventh month of this dismal year.

In such good news as there is, I got the major yard work – lawns, etc. – done this last weekend, and several other chores to boot. Not much else to report. I did finish up the last few pages of that V.E. Schwab book, A Darker Shade of Magic. Fun tale, with the boring caveat that almost everyone lives, which seems unreasonably unrealistic. But the book is well written, and I’ve gotta find out what happens next… Now all I have to do is fit more of those books into my reading budget (money and time).

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In the boy-howdy-can-people-ever-be-shitty-to-other-people department, check out the recent Everywhereist (aka Geraldine DeRuiter) post What Happened When I Tried Talking to Twitter Abusers. Assholes on Twitter are just one of the many reasons we can’t have anything nice anymore.

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last few days. Thank Cthulhu. Now it’s time to go roast some coffee: a Guatemalan from Sweet Maria’s.

26 July 2018

Well, I guess it’s been a bit. I participated in two long painting days at the theatre last week, and by Sunday, after chores, etc, I was plain tuckered out. Since then, I’ve just been either busy or forgetful … I can’t remember which.

Upcoming is the last weekend of Love’s Labour’s Lost presented by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company at St. John’s College in Annapolis. Also, still running through late September, The Miser is on in the courtyard at Reynold’s Tavern. We’ve seen and loved them both (and we would, even if Marcia wasn’t volunteering as a part time office manager, and I wasn’t on the Board). The next season is going to be a joy, too! Get tickets, bring your friends, see the work, love the work, become subscribers. That’s precisely how we got hooked!

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What I’m reading in my copious spare time: Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound (book two of her Bone Universe trilogy; I loved Updraft, and Horizon is on deck – she signed all three for me at Capclave last year, yay!). These are wonderful, extravagantly envisioned works of fantasy. Fran crafts characters that I care about immediately, and gives them a consistent place above (and in) the clouds for them to love, contend, and try in their own ways to save themselves and their society. Inevitable conflict is the main story. However, the little touches of side story show that this author is superb at building a universe much larger than we can see, and showing us just what’s necessary for the story. I love these books, and I think you will, too. You can find them at many booksellers.

I’m also reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, set mostly in three Londons. Magic missing, magic mostly in balance, and magic as weapon … then there’s Black London. I’m enjoying the tale a lot, and I’ll probably pick up the rest of the series. Then there’s my late night bedside re-reading of some of Iain M. Banks Culture novels – love those a lot.

I’ve been listening to a lot of David Bowie, The Eagles, and Amanda Palmer of several incarnations, of late.

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The garden has been producing a quart or so of cherry tomatoes every couple of days, which is delicious and wonderful. Last night I made a south-of-the-border-ish dish with pork, rice, shallots, a couple of serrano peppers and a double handful of halved cherry tomatoes. Yum.

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Recently roasted coffees include single origin beans from Guatemala and Burundi.

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week and a half.

28 May 2018

Memorial Day for those in the US. All respect and honor to those who gave their lives in service to our Country and Constitution.

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A busy week last week, building new systems for new services, retiring old systems, and generally doing modern system administration stuff. Continuing to build out the configuration management system to improve system repeatability, reliability, security, and availability. So there’s that. The three day weekend had a bit of lawn work, a bit of garden work, coffee roaster maintenance and roasting, etc. Oh, and a bit of old-school wood working:

Breaking out the block plane to smooth a small cutting board glue-up.

Breaking out the block plane

 

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I’m also signed up for this year’s Capclave. Such an awesome small literary speculative fiction (F/SF/etc) convention. Wonderful, supportive, inclusive, and diverse … and such a deal: 3 days of convention for $55 currently (it goes up in $5 increments as the last weekend in September 2018 approaches, but even at the door, it’s only $65!) Are you in the DC Metro area? Can you be, in late September? Join us!

Oh, hey: Annapolis Shakespeare‘s production of Molière’s The Miser opens tomorrow night for an 18 week run in the courtyard at Reynold’s Tavern in Annapolis. Exceptionally, for us, we’re going to miss an opening night, but we’ll see it soon. Gonna be fun! Dinner. A show. You should go!

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Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Conrad A. Robinson, 36, of Los Angeles, California, who died on May 24 at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, from a non-combat related incident.