17 February 2019

Sheepishly

Yet utterly unlike a sheep. Last Sunday, we were out at Cabaret Night at Annapolis Shakespeare. It was song and dance and showtunes from the 50’s, and the joint was rockin’! So much fun I forgot to post. And as I remembered, each ensuing day, well, I was at work, not relaxing at home, so I kicked the can down the road and here we are. The cabaret was wonderful, as always. Up next at the theater, another Cabaret Night, 60’s this time, and then it’s time for Pride and Predjudice to open (runs for 6 weeks starting on March 15). So good, so looking forward to the work!

Computationally

I’ve been building out new infrastructure for this joint, and for the home server. FreeBSD 12 has been out for a while, and I wanted to upgrade at a reasonable pace, rather than waiting for the 11 branch to go out of support. Additionally, unlike the transition from 10 to 11, I’m not upgrading these systems, but building out fresh, and doing clean configurations of the services I really need (and leaving every prior experiment behind).

Additionally, for home backups, I’m migrating to using the Free edition of the Veeam Agent for Windows. I’m a big fan of Veeam, and there are features in the free agent that are perfect for my needs.

First, the backups can be encrypted. Do that. Keep the credentials in a password manager software, use a good passphrase, and secure your backups. Why? Because you plug in the disk, run the backup, unplug it and take it offsite (like to work, or keep it in the glove box of your car). Because the backup might be in a less-than-secure environment, encrypt that backup.

Secondly, by default Veeam runs backups based upon changed blocks in the volume, rather than changed files. So if you edit a few bytes of a huge document, you may only have to back up a few tens of kilobytes instead of the whole file.

Finally (for me, there are lots of features), while Veeam defaults to configuring a job with a calendar schedule, that doesn’t make much sense when you’re backing up to media (say, a 1TB USB3 mobile disk) that only gets plugged in when you remember to bring it home. The answer is to change the job schedule to simply run automatically when the media is plugged in, then eject the media when the backup is done. That’s about the best you’ll be able to do. Why is this important? If you click on a malicious link in an email, and your AV solution lets you down, some jerk’s ransomware will encrypt or wipe every file on your system. Your backup won’t help you IF it’s also attached to the system, encrypted or not. Only attach your backup disks for as long as you need to run the backup.

One last point – every once in a while, plug up the backup disk, and restore a file or two and check them. Backups are wonderful, but you don’t know if they’re good unless you test them, regularly. You don’t want an emergency restore to be the time you find out that the backup wasn’t really working because you misconfigured the job, or the disk has errors, or whatever.

Bottom line: Make backups. Encrypt the backups. Test the backups. Only leave them connected for as long as needed for backups and testing. Store your backups offsite – a disaster that takes your house shouldn’t take your precious data, too!

Winding Down

It’s been a slightly busy weekend – we celebrated Marcia’s birthday on Friday, so I took off work that day. We hung out, did stuff together, and went out to supper in the evening. Saturday was a total write-off. I relaxed. Today was shopping and remote work and haircut and coffee roasting, oh my! Tomorrow’s a holiday, so it’s a four day weekend, but I have an office that needs cleaning, yet.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last two weeks.

3 February 2019

Weather, man…

It’s been an interesting week, weather-wise. For instance, it was properly cold for a couple of days, with lows in the single digits and highs in the mid-teens (ºF). And on Friday, when we were due an hour or two of snow flurries midday, Ullr sent us snow starting at 8 AM and lasting all day. It was light snow, but it all stuck, since everything was pre-frozen. I shoveled off the 2.5″ when I got home late afternoon:

Me heading back in after shoveling snow from driveway and sidewalks.

Me, after shoveling snow..

Two Men and a Boat

On the entertainment front, we enjoyed a superb opening night production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Clay Vanderbeek and Nate Ruleaux handed out stellar performances as the titular characters, well supported by Conner Padilla (as Hamlet), Morganne Chu, Stephen Patrick Martin, Ian Charles, Dexter Hamlett (really), and Phil Bufithis. Sharp, intricately timed verbal jousting is at the core of this show, with Nate playing off of Clay’s occasional confusion perfectly. The players, lead with power and cynicism by Stephen Martin, are a joy, albeit an occasionally disturbing joy. The set was stark and verging on minimal, suiting this show perfectly. A fun romp on it’s own, Stoppard’s most famous work is best enjoyed with Hamlet fully in mind. Running about two and a half hours including intermission, this show was directed by Donald Hicken. Highly recommended.

Coffee

Today I roasted a pound of Kenya in the Behmor 1600+ coffee roaster. After recovering from math and email reading issues, I can confirm that I’m calling this roast the ninth birthday of my roaster. It just keeps trucking along, even though I thought it was a year older. The freshness of home roasted coffee is just the best. Ask my friends at Sweet Maria’s, if you don’t believe me.

Winding down

DoD announced no new casualties in the past week. Some political careers are still holding onto unwarranted life, too. Oh, yeah, and there’s a football game being played right now. Not watching – skipped the “sport” altogether this year. Be well.

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.

13 January 2018

Snow Day

Yup, our first major winter storm arrived yesterday late afternoon. We’ve so far got over 10″ here in my back yard. I shoveled the driveway and sidewalks just after 4 PM, when a mere 6.5 inches had fallen. By the time was done, I went back over the whole thing to quickly remove the next inch of snow that had fallen while I was shoveling. Yay?

It's still snowing, and there's about 2.5 inches since I shoveled last at about 7.5 inches. So that puts us at 10" of snow in this storm. Wow!
Still snowing…

Oh, yeah. The snow was supposed to be done by now … but it’s still falling. That explains the schools pre-announcing tomorrow’s closure. The Feds? Who knows, all of the OPM people who communicate such things appear to be furloughed, so it’s down to the individual agencies.

Aside from shoveling snow, I got some remote work done today, supporting a database migration/upgrade. I also roasted a pound of green coffee from Guatemala, via Sweet Maria’s.

Entertaining

We’ve been watching Black Adder and a show about the Le Mans car race on the streaming services, waiting for the boys to show up in this year’s edition of The Grand Tour. I’m reading Fran Wilde’s Horizon, Kari Byron’s Crash Test Girl, and a bit of light interstitial reading courtesy of one of Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld books.

Winding down

Lots to do this week upcoming, but some of that depends on timing of storms, road conditions, etc. I’ve got to get Marcia’s car in for the emissions check, for one thing.

DoD reported no casualties in the last week.

25 November 2018

Coma

Turkey coma, that is. We roasted a full bird for the first time in a few years, and it was certainly one of our best. We started with a fresh Butterball, and Marcia dressed it and put it in the roasting pan with a cup of water to keep the humidity up. That trick worked a treat, and the bird was flavorful and moist. The other winner of the evening was also of Marcia’s concocting: a wonderful apple pie. Since then, leftovers, including a turkey tetrazzini that I made this evening, using … the pasta that Marcia made yesterday. So good!

Apple pies that Marcia made for Thanksgiving.
Apple pies by Marcia

We did make a few phone calls here and there, to family and friends. Happily, everyone seems to be in good health and spirits.

Lexi the chipuggle mutt on watch
Lexi on watch

Theater

Saturday evening, we attended the official opening night (and press opening) of this year’s production of A Christmas Carol at Annapolis Shakespeare. Wonderfully, even better than last year! The marvelous Dexter Hamlett took Scrooge and made the character his own. The whole cast brought the show to life with a minimal set, and superb mood setting with judicious use of a smoke machine and back-screen projections to set the place for each scene. Highly Recommended!

Next up from ASC: A Broadway Holiday: song and dance on the main stage.

Work

I’ve wrapped up patching for the month, and I’m in the middle of my on-call week. One thing I’m looking forward to is spelunking through the Beta of the new Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. The thing they refer to as App Streams interests me most, I think, as it should permit use of newer applications than the RHEL series have been able to provide in the past. More when I know more.

Reading

On dead trees, I’m still reading Cloudbound, from the splendid Fran Wilde.  On the phone, I’ve been reading The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of Holmes stories intersecting with multiple genres, written over the last 25 years, and edited by John Joseph Adams.

On the “other entertainment as required” front, our background noise over the last week or so is binging the first two seasons of Amazon’s The Grand Tour, in preparation for a probable early December start to Season 3.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, from Leavenworth, Washington, who died on Nov. 24, 2018, in Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaging enemy forces in Khash Rod District, Nimruz Province, Afghanistan.

18 November 2018

Holidays

Last week, Veteran’s Day. This week: Thanksgiving. So, food coma pending. Just sayin’ … not that I can really do that, I’m on call this upcoming week. Still, we bought an actual full turkey for this week. In recent years past, we’ve only roasted a turkey breast.

All in, it was a good week just past. I spent most of it puttering around in a BMW X2 M Sport. My car was in for servicing the headlights. They ended up replacing at least one of the assemblies, possibly both. Downside of computers and motors (in the headlights!!!). Had the car not been under warranty, this would have been bloody expensive. Those things go for between one and two grand each on eBay. Cthulhu knows how much BMW charges for them. Still, Tuesday through Friday noon for headlamps. Maybe it’s time to trade in for a ’68 Camero. No computers. No tracking devices. Hardly any effective driving around corners. Heh!

Much of the extra hours of the week were given over to patching assorted UNIX-like operating systems, rebooting, and testing them.

Technology

Marcia’s seven year old Windows 7 laptop finally gave up the ghost. She needs a small, relatively inexpensive machine to haul around when she’s getting training on the software she uses to run her assorted sewing devices. So I toddled down to Best Buy and picked her up a Dell touch screen Inspiron 13″ Windows 10 laptop. She’s smart, so Windows 10 won’t cause her a bunch of grief.

Also dropping this week: the Beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. It’s been four years – a long time – since the last major release. I’m excited to see what’s new in this version.

Entertainment

The entertainment side of the ledger has two items of note. Well, three. First, we’re nearly done binging all of the modern era Doctor Who shows. It’s been really quite lovely.

Second, on the book front, I finished up J. L. Gribble’s Steel Victory. The first book in the author’s Steel Empire series, Steel Victory introduced me to  Toria (mage and mercenary-to-be), Victory (Toria’s mom (?) and an elder vampire, as well as a ‘retired’ mercenary). They’re in Limani, smack dab between British and Roman forces, with a few choice local folks who want nothing to do with anyone or anything that ain’t human. Oh, yeah, in a post-nuclear war world, somehow. Weird, but it works.

I met Ms. Gribble (What an interesting pseudonym!) at her reading at Capclave this year. I enjoyed the excerpt she read from the third book of the series, so I bought the first volume from her to give it a proper try, and really enjoyed it. Yes, yes, yes. Vampires. Magic. Were-beasts of virtually every species. Brian (you say), not really your wheelhouse? No, but the story hangs together, it is very well written, and I found I cared about the characters. So, yes, I enjoyed it and I’ll be reading the rest of the books in the series. Only question – why didn’t I get her to inscribe the book when I bought it from her. Sigh.

Next up on the book front, I’m going to finish up Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound (Bone Universe book two), and jump right into Horizon, the third book in that series. I’ve had them in my stack for far too long (in hardbound, no less) and I only read hardbound at bedtime, so it takes me a long time. But I WILL get there, because these stories are great.

Upcoming – A Christmas Carol at Annapolis Shakespeare. Get your tickets today, we did already!

Lexi

Lexi (the dog), 'wearing' my sweatshirt
Lexi, ‘wearing’ my sweatshirt

Winding Down

Take good care of yourselves, enjoy time with family and friends, try to mend any fences that have been torn by the politics of this loony era. But first, be kind to yourself. Then you may find you have enough left over for those that need it.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

11 November 2018

Veteran’s Day

Thank you for your service. All of you!

Closer to Winter

What with the northern half of the planet angling further away from the closest star, the light is weaker, and the cold is stronger. Tonight will be our second consecutive night in the mid-20’s. Even so, the dog finds a way to lay in the sun…

Lexi the sun dog
Lexi the sun dog

That said, she’s battling fairly severe arthritis, primarily in her left rear hip and knee. Poor pupper.

We’re at about 50% over normal rainfall for the year, with more still to come. I’ve simply got to get out and do some remedial grading along the side of the house – we’ve got just a bit of water intrusion into the basement, and grading should fix things up. I sure wish we could send a small fraction of the rain back over to California and dampen things up enough to get those fires calming down.

Winding Down

Monday is the holiday, observed, so I’ve stretched out the chores and did not as much today. I got in a few rare hours of game-play today, with Shadow Warrior 2, a silly, rude first person fighter. More house cleaning and the aforementioned outdoor work is on my queue for tomorrow.

Our condolences to the family and friends of Maj. Brent R. Taylor, 39, from Ogden, Utah, who died on Nov. 3, 2018, in Kabul Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire.

17 Octogre 2018

First

Y’all: VOTE! Where registration is still open, do that. Then vote!

Where registration is closed, many states offer on-site registration in concert with early voting, so check it out, carve out some time, and do that.

Failing everything else, if you’re unregistered, at least find out where your correct voting location is, and totter down there with ID and do a provisional ballot. Important to be at the right polling place, though.

Running Late

I haven’t forgotten, I’ve just been busy. Especially Sunday, which had an evening full of song and a bit of dance at Cabaret Night at the Annapolis Shakespeare  Company. And coming up soon, an actual two week run of the musical Cabaret! Also, two more weekends to see and love the Comedy of Errors.

To make up for my failings, here’s a picture of Lexi with a body pillow:

Lexi the dog, with a body pillow
Lexi with a body pillow

That’s a Wrap

We’re still on the fence about seeing CoE another time – it’s a wonderful show, but I’ve been really busy, and it’d be nice to have a weekend or two without having to be “on”.

No other news to speak of, and no casualties reported by DoD since last I posted.

8 Octogre 2018

For Starters

A day late and a dollar short. Well, one of those, anyway. Yesterday was a half-day at work, updating firmware versions and upgrading hypervisor versions on the fleet at $FIRM HQ. When I say half-day, I mean in the CEO-sense: 12+ hours… long day. But it all got done, and everything was still working when the ball dropped. That’s not always guaranteed when working with systems that get rebooted and/or power cycled with no regularity at all. And BIOS updates are a feature in one of the special circles of Hell.

Since I was planning on a long Sunday, I took Friday off. I’d started my week with reasonably comprehensive plans about what and how much I would accomplish on the home front over the three day weekend-with-a-one-day-interruption, but that was not to be. I felt a bit peaky on Thursday, and got my annual flu shot that afternoon. Friday morning, I decided to take the day as it came, and hang the chores. And Saturday. And today. So, we did get a lot of Tennant-era Doctor Who watched, which was great fun. And via DVR, we watched the season opener of the new Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker. She’s brilliant. I’m excitedly anticipating how  Whittaker and fresh showrunner Chris Chibnall move the character and the show forward.

Not Talkin’ Politics

No sirree, not a all. There is nothing good I have to say about how the Senators treated Dr. Ford. There is nothing good to say about the mockery made of her by the holder of the highest office in the land. There is nothing good to say about … anything that went down in Swamplandia in the last couple of weeks. So I have nothing to say. Yet … I believe her.

Unwinding

Seriously, perhaps it’s the events of the last couple of weeks that are leaving me queasy and unsettled. I need to unwind. But also, tomorrow, work.

Our condolences to the family and friends of Spc. James A. Slape, 23, from Morehead City, North Carolina, who died on Oct. 4, 2018, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device.

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.