Dreaming of a White St. Paddy’s Day

Echoes of Bing Crosby chasing around my head as I look outside:

House in gray and white

House in gray and white

Very pretty, though

Very pretty, though

A downside is that there’s a couple more inches of the stuff headed our way, so I’ll be waiting to clear the driveway and sidewalks until mid-afternoon. And I’ll just have to assume that the snow peas are happy as clams in a snow-covered planting bed.

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Here’s the laptop pedestal I built and finished over the weekend. It’s designed to sit on top of a regular desk, to be a stylish standing desktop for laptop and mouse. It can also move down to floor level, and be a foot-rest or stool. But mostly it’s a standing desk. Someone I know needs this (not me!)…

Standing desk

Standing desk

 

Pictures or It Didn’t Happen

Some of you may not have heard Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra singing Pictures (or It Didn’t Happen), off of the most excellent and awesome album, Theatre is Evil. I will say that, although I love this song, it isn’t my favorite song off the album. But the song is appropriate for this post…

Bowie Snow Day, 3 March 2014

Bowie Snow Day, 3 March 2014

So I got the first coat of spar urethane onto the birdhouse this morning:

Birdhouse in progress

Birdhouse in progress

And Lexi continues to relax in one of her accustomed spots. I think that she’s waiting for sun that isn’t going to appear today:

Lexi relaxing

Lexi relaxing

The snow continues to fall, we’re up to about two inches so far, atop a layer of sleet and ice. So, overall I think a good call to make it a snow day. It’s supposed to drop to the single digits tonight, yay?

OMG Moar Wintar!!

There’s a bit of rain on the ground … about a tenth of an inch since noon. The temperatures are in the mid-to-high 30’s (F). So of course OPM has already called it for tomorrow: CLOSED. Now, depending on how reliable you regard our weather forecasting establishment to be, that might be a good move. Others believe, too: BJs was crowded early this morning, when I was there for the weekly shopping. Evidently, for some folks, a winter storm is actually Ragnarok.

I did a lot of small projects this weekend, and I’ve spent some time diving into Ansible as an alternative to Puppet for systems configuration management. It looks interesting, and a lot less programmatic in implementation. I don’t know quite enough about either to make an informed choice, yet. But soon, soon.

I also built a birdhouse for the backyard, out of shop scraps. I’ve applied some walnut stain to most of the outer surfaces. I’m going to get a bit of white paint on the roof, then apply spar urethane over the whole project. I’ll put it out in a couple of weeks (and a picture of it up, at that time).

Oh, hey. One of the people I follow on Twitter noted that they weren’t watching the Academy Awards. Those are on? Um, okay. Break a leg, film people.

*      *      *

DoD announced no new casualties in this last week, yay! Ciao!

Pre-cooling

While the West is unseasonably warm and horribly dry, we’re hovering around normal on precipitation here in this back yard – .28″ measured for 2014 to date. But the temps we’ve got coming are something else again. Today was a summer-ish 38° F, with some rain to knock down most of the snow, more’s the pity. It was pretty outside, but not so much, now. Day after tomorrow, we should be around 0-2° F over night, with a high around 12° or so. That’s cold, baby! And dicey driving on roads slick with snow-melt that stopped melting. After that, oddly, we’ll be back up into the 40’s for a few days.

*      *      *

I’ve been working on a small project. Here’s a piece of it in progress:

Working with wood

Working with wood

It’s nothing to do with a Buffy remake, if that’s what you’re thinking.

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Coffee – For these two weeks, we’re drinking a Guatemala Huehuetenango – Tono Sanchez. It’s roasted to City+, about halfway between first and second crack. Delicious!

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Sgt. Jacob M. Hess, 22, of Spokane, Washington, died on Jan. 1, 2014, while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. First Class William K. Lacey, 38, of Laurel, Florida, died on Jan. 4, 2014, in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when the enemy attacked his unit with rocket propelled grenades.

Nearly So

Paul guessed that the pictured object was a vertical file holder. Ye..ess, depending on what you’re filing. What I’m filing with it:

Cutting board holder

Cutting board holder

Pushed back to the edge of the counter, the holder keeps the boards from using too much counterspace, while still easily available for use. I made these two boards to replace two bamboo boards that cracked. We’ve also moved our two large boards (including the one made by Marcia’s dad many moons ago) up off the counter and above the fridge. We don’t need those too often.

We hope y’all had a nice holiday (if you celebrate). I’m celebrating by taking the upcoming week mostly off – I’ve got a couple of work tasks during the time, but only a couple at this time. The balance of the time is taken with house cleaning and other indoor chores. For example, I’m pivoting my *NIX system over to the Illumos-backed OpenIndiana distribution. I’ll have some Linux running as virtual machines, but this Solaris fork is going to be an interesting and useful platform for me. Today I’m migrating data onto it from backup disks.

*      *      *

I’m happy to relay that DoD reported no US Military casualties during the last week. That’s definitely something to be thankful for! Ciao!

 

What is it?

What is it?

What is it?

What is it? What would *you* use it for? No, NOT for skinning a cat… It’s almost certainly more boring than you can imagine.

Now, here’s Lexi, curled up on as much girly afghan as she can find:

Lexi on the girly afghan

Lexi on the girly afghan

And for Jen, who hasn’t seen Lexi in a while:

Lexi in a winter jacket

Lexi in a winter jacket

This mutt LOVES crawling up inside our coats when the weather starts getting cold!

Week Off – Objective Completed

Well, I got a fair bit done, and some reading, and learned a bit about Puppet, too! I also got the fence sealed:

Left Side

Left Side

Right side

Right side

They’re coated in Olympic Maximum stain/sealer, “Natural Cedar Tone.” From this vantage, it looks a bit like spray-on suntan, but I’m sure it’ll weather in well. I’ll probably recoat in the spring.

There’s more of course. I finished reading The Hydrogen Sonata. I wish Banks were with us still – there are plenty more tales in Culture Space. I also got through John Arundel’s Puppet 3 Beginner’s Guide. I’ve been wanting to get into Configuration Management for a long time, and haven’t had the cycles to address the issue. Very cool stuff. Overall, a good week. I’ll be doing another one, starting next Saturday, after a “3-on, 1-off, 1-on” work week. Then it’s the death-march to the end of the year, with a brand new project and short timeline deliverables attendant thereupon.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Alex A. Viola, 29, of Keller, Texas, who died Nov. 17, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device while on dismounted patrol.

 

 

Holiday Week

I’m burning off a couple of weeks of leave between now and the end of the year. As usual in such times, I start one of those weeks off with a stint of physical labor to kick off the front end.  Yup, it’s time to finish up the fence. Last month I did the left fence sections. Yesterday, I started by cutting the fence sections away from the posts, and setting them aside nearby:

Starting more fence work - fence sections set aside to left

Starting more fence work

The two free-standing posts are problematic. One of them has a 45° twist in it, the other has a serious lean. So they’re coming out. How difficult that’s going to be is a crap shoot. Doing fence sections at the bottom of the yard a few years ago, I had rotting posts set into concrete, and it was a long painful process clearing out the debris. These two? No concrete at all. A bit of waggling, then I screwed a crossbar to each and lifted them clear of the ground:

Post removed in a single lift

Post removed in a single lift

That was followed by stringing a mason’s line from the two end posts, measuring to the place on the line where each new post goes, and using a plumb bob to locate the center of the new holes in the ground. A long, slightly exhausting stint with the post hole digger (pictured above) netted me two 14″ diameter holes, each 42 inches deep. I poured a couple of inches of crusher rock in the bottom of each hole for drainage, and placed, measured, cut, and replaced the posts. After plumbing and securing the posts, more rock went in to secure the bottoms of the posts, then a sack of mixed concrete each for longer term stability:

Posts in place, with concrete.

Posts in place, with concrete.

By this time, the light was starting to fade, but I got all of the 2×4 rails (aka stringers) installed before the day was gone, and then moved the old fence sections back roughly into place and screwed them in to close off the yard for the night.

This morning, after shopping, I hauled the compressor out, and attached all of the pickets. I then marked and cut the arches in the three sections:

Right front fence section nearly done

Right front fence section nearly done

What’s left is to pressure wash the old front facing components, let everything dry for a couple of weeks, then apply a cedar natural tone stain/sealer. But the difficult parts of this job are now done.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Richard L. Vazquez, 28, of Seguin, Texas, who died Nov. 13, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device while on dismounted patrol in Panjwai, Afghanistan.

Pi tricks

But first, 0630 EDT on Saturday the 26th day of October, 2013, was brought to you by the word “Fahrenheit” and the number ’28’. Brrrrrr!

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I got home from work yesterday evening, and found Marcia watching something that probably first appeared on an obtangular Philco Predicta television in the late 1940’s. I threw an ENOTINTERESTED exception, then I came upstairs and started mucking about with the Raspberry Pi.  The little credit-card sized computer, named Dortmunder (for REASONS), has languished in a corner for quite a while. I first discovered that my phone life-extension battery (acquired at VMworld, thanks VMUG) also happily powers the Pi:

Pi, fully mobile with battery pack

Pi, fully mobile with battery pack

It’s worth pointing out that the 2200 mAh pack will probably only run the Pi for around 3 hours, since a 10 Ah battery’s been tested out to 15 hours. So, not a LOT of value there, but certainly a momentarily fun test. You can also see the size of the wireless adapter from Edimax, lit blue out of the USB housing at the top of the Pi.

More about Dortmunder: I’d considered buying a case for it pretty much from the day it arrived. I was an early Pi adopter, and at the time of purchase there were only one-off prototype cases spun up on someone’s 3D printer. While that’s cool and all, I didn’t have THAT much of a need for a case. After all, for months Dortmunder hung on a hook in my wiring closet, wired to the switch there.

With the recent addition of that Edimax miniature wireless adapter (see last Sunday’s post), the Pi can now sit comfortably with just a power connection anywhere I want. But the camera, hanging out there at the end of a 14cm ribbon cable, is not trivially stable. Nor is it easy to handle the Pi without risking static damage. So instead of going to Element 14, or Adafruit, or one of the many other Raspberry Pi resources online, I headed down to the woodshop, and noodled for a couple of hours with hand tools and scraps. I came up with this:

Dortmunder's hobby horse

Dortmunder’s hobby horse

There’s a couple of tweaks to adjust the operation and positioning of the camera on the “head”. I’d like to be able to get a good angle up (or down) to aim the camera properly. I have to think about that. But the circuit board body is quite firmly stable in the hand-cut grooves in the three wooden uprights. Fun little project, and the inexpensive accessory camera takes really sharp pictures:

Brian snapped by Pi camera

Brian snapped by Pi camera

Let’s just assume that’s NOT a halo, mmm’kay? It’s almost certainly the light that sits on top of that cabinet over my right shoulder.

Fencing, continued.

Yesterday, I got all of the left side front fencing replaced. Today, I executed the decorative arches on those sections:

Arching the fence sections.

Arching the fence sections.

I set a horizontal string line across the sections, and measured down, sinking a screw at each bottom end of each arch. I then used a quarter-inch thick, 7′ long cutoff from a piece of cherry, braced against the screws and pressed upwards in the middle to describe each parabolic arch. A quick swipe with a pencil marked each arch. I cut them with the circular saw, first plunging in the middle, then working along the curve to each end. The final bits I completed with a jig saw. That side of the fence now awaits stain/sealer.

I’ll also pressure-wash the gate and posts on this side, and the posts on the other side, to get a better match with the stain/sealer when that’s applied.

*       *       *

Today’s Solaris patching went off without any hitches. The best answer for the task is Martin Paul’s Patch Check Advanced. I can audit my systems for needed patches, apply them to snapshots of the root filesystem (these are called Boot Environments, and I can patch the copy while the system is still running, yay), and then make the patched copy the next Boot target. This makes Solaris patching a much less impactful event, compared to the days when a patch set was downloaded and staged, then the system was brought down to single user mode (no services running) for the entirety of the patch cycle. Much better service uptime this way.

*       *       *

Also this week, I picked up an Edimax EW-7811Un USB wireless adapter from Amazon, for use with the Raspberry Pi. An excellent, miniscule little product, works like a champ for my purpose. It’s also worth noting that setting up wireless on Linux distros these days is shed-loads easier than it used to be. I added two lines configuring the WPA settings to the /etc/network/interfaces file, and on reboot the network came right up. It makes the Raspberry Pi a much easier thing to work with, since I don’t have to tether it to a wired LAN connection.

*       *       *

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

  • Staff Sgt. Patrick H. Quinn, 26, of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, died Oct. 13, in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when the enemy attacked his base with small arms fire.
  • Sgt. Lyle D. Turnbull, 31, of Norfolk, Virginia, died Oct. 18, in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, from a medical emergency.