10 July 2016

Let’s work the week backwards, just for fun.

Today was all about the mowing. The weather was not as hot as most of the week, so I had that going for me. But it was still a miserable sweatball of a day. But the lawns have been sheared, and I did some weeding as well. Bell peppers out of the garden today, a few tomatoes, and a couple of cucumbers. Here’s how the garden looks as of today:

Bilbrey garden - July 10, 2016

Bilbrey garden – July 10, 2016

*      *      *

Last night, we went up to Annapolis to see ASC‘s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented outdoors in the gardens of the Charles Carroll House. It was a wonderful production, and cool enough by the harbor to be tolerable, even for July weather. This company continues to impress me. If you’re in the DC area, look into going to some Annapolis Shakespeare Company productions, and supporting them if you can, as well.

*      *      *

The four day work week was busy and productive. On the exercise front, I’m moving back into the groove.

(Legend: Sit  ups / Squats / Push ups :: Elliptical steps / in Minutes)

Monday:  Holiday – just over 7k steps logged on the Fitbit.

Tuesday:  40 / 20 / 21 :: 5350 / 39 – 18k+ steps logged.

Wednesday:  60 / 30 / 27 :: 7400 / 54 – 17k+ steps logged.

Thursday:  80 / 40 / 32 :: 5350 / 38 – 15k+steps logged.

Friday:  Recovery, nearly 11k steps logged.

Saturday:  No specific exercise, but 15k+ steps logged.

Sunday: No specific exercise, but yardwork, leading to 15k+ steps logged.

Last week’s total steps logged (Sunday through Saturday): 97,000.

*      *      *

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

16 June 2016

Friday last, while at the office, I patched and rebooted the server this site and others runs on. That’s not totally uncommon: unlike most of the servers I manage for work purposes, I had no remote console access to my server. And since $FIRM kindly gives me power and pipe for this place, that’s just fine. Sadly, upon reboot, I waited … and waited, and finally went into the data center and connected the crash cart to the system. Um, kernel panics and NMI (non-maskable interrupts) all over the screen – it appears I had a hardware problem. Finally the system finished booting, and surprisingly it was working. I didn’t, however, expect it to remain in that state for long.

Come Monday, I went shopping in the recycle stack for a slightly newer retired server, finding a freshly-out-of-warranty R710, not much RAM, but two quad-core Xeons. Permission attained, I then racked the box, cabled it, and started thinking hard about how I was going to get everything migrated. I’ve done it before, but configuration from scratch is hard and prone to errors, since I don’t have this one artisanally crafted host under any sort of configuration management. Yes, yes, the cobbler’s child has no shoes, I understand. I have good backups, but I’d still rather not rebuild the whole system from scratch.

And I shouldn’t have to. I’m using FreeBSD 10.x as my server OS, which brings me a couple of strong advantages: good support for server-grade hardware, and ZFS, the best filesystem on the planet. So I spent a little while poking around the Internet, and formulating a plan, which combined elements from these two sites:

http://daemon-notes.com/articles/system/zfs-maintenance/clonezfs, courtesy of ‘ken’, and

https://forums.freebsd.org/threads/49702/, thanks to Farioko and the FreeBSD forums.

The former helped me get the initial copy over to the new system, and the latter provided guidance in properly configuring the second disk to mirror all that stuff over. Grand total of actual time working on the transfer and getting the mirrors setup: About 45 minutes. Then I had a full copy of the old machine’s system running on the new hardware. Finally, I moved the ethernet  cable over, and wiped the old system’s drives clean with DBAN.

*      *      *


Monday – 80 sit-ups, 40 squats, 32 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 7000 strides on the elliptical in 50 minutes.

Tuesday – Off. I pushed really hard Monday.

Wednesday – 100 sit-ups, 50 squats, 40 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 6400 strides on the elliptical in 46 minutes.

Thursday – I substituted yard work for exercise this evening, getting the lawn mowed before big rains move in tonight.


12 June 2016

My heart goes out to all affected by the terrorist attack in Orlando.

*      *      *

Four days ago it was 47° F on my drive in, before 7 AM. This morning before 7 AM, it was 30 degrees warmer than that, and consequently a lot warmer today. Still, I got a few chores done. There wasn’t a need to mow this weekend – we’d had no rain in the last week, and so the lawns pretty much stopped growing. I got some weeding done in the garden beds. And today I got the front automated watering setup working, and added the potted roses to the rotation. In summer’s past, I’d count on being able to remember to water the roses manually. That hasn’t worked out too well. I expect the roses to do a lot better this summer, and be in much better shape come Fall.

No veggies out of the garden this weekend but for one small green pepper. I didn’t want a small plant to put energy into growing a single pepper, so I had two halves of a tiny pepper with lunch yesterday. There are tomatoes appearing on those plants, which is a good sign. A few more weeks and we’ll be eating salsa!

*      *      *


Thursday – 80 sit-ups, 40 squats, 28 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 6300 strides on the elliptical in 45 minutes.

Friday – None. Work, followed by an evening out at a birthday party.

Saturday and Sunday – yard work and house chores counted as “walks” for exercise by the FitBit. But no formal exercise.

*      *      *

This week I read Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders. Such a joyously talented writer. I also read last month’s ePub edition of Strange Horizons, an online SFF venue that I support. Again, great stuff. Online, there’s fiction every week, reviews, poetry, and other features. Highly recommended. I’m currently reading this month’s ;Login: magazine from USENIX, and also this month’s Clarkesworld, which I subscribe to via Kindle. For winding down at bedtime reading, I’ve got a couple of Pratchett’s Discworld paperbacks at the bedside.

Also, recently, I finally finished reading In the Shadow of the Master, a collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s work, interspersed with essays from some of the best mystery and horror writers of the last few decades. This reading was inspired by our attendance last year production of Poe, an original play staged by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company. For some reason, Poe’s works eluded me throughout most of my education, probably because I was taking some specialty English courses at the same time as the sophomores and juniors in my high school were reading Poe. So, while I appreciated the play, I didn’t have much of a grounding in his works or his life. I know a lot more now, and am eager to attend this year’s production, with a fresh script!

*      *      *

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

9 June 2016

The weather has cooled dramatically, after a day of wind and a spot of rain yesterday. This morning it was 47° F during my drive in. Busy week, what with chores and a CALUG (Columbia-Area Linux Users Group) meeting last night.  The speaker was Eddie Roache, on the topic of Docker. That’s something I know very little about, which makes it fun! Now all I have to do is find time and resources to play with it…


Monday – 60 sit-ups, 40 squats, 24 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 6150 strides on the elliptical in 46 minutes.

Tuesday – 48 sit-ups, 30 squats, 21 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 4100 strides on the elliptical in 32 minutes.

Wednesday – 64 sit-ups, 40 squats, 28 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 6100 strides on the elliptical in 45 minutes.

5 June 2016

On the exercise front:

Monday – Holiday.

Tuesday – 75 sit-ups, 50 squats, 30 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 5100 strides on the elliptical in 38 minutes.

Wednesday – 45 sit-ups, 30 squats, 18 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 6060 strides on the elliptical in 45 minutes.

Thursday – 60 sit-ups, 40 squats, 24 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 6130 strides on the elliptical in 45 minutes.

Friday – My back was wonky from a new addition to the “assorted stretches”, so I took the day off. I didn’t even get up to 10K steps (but close-ish at 8900).

Saturday and Today – Yardwork counted by Fitbit as exercise to the tune of 3.5 hours and 30K steps. Good enough.

*      *      *

Yep, the lawns are edged and mowed. The veggie gardens are weeded. And I pulled out enough broccoli to provision three dinners for two. Tonight’s was brown rice cooked with chicken stock, chicken breasts braised in chardonnay and fresh chives, and … broccoli. I also added some chopped fresh chives from the yard to my rice.

I spent some time in the woodshop working on a project for my dad, and that covers the non-working week.

*      *      *

I’m falling behind on my reading, though. There just aren’t enough hours and energy in these summer days.

Ooooh, yeah. There was something else…

I have a large primary UPS here in my home office, to run the always-on home server and assorted network gear, along with backing up a couple of other computers that are running from time to time (but I never like exposing a computer to line power). I’ve had it for several years now, and while the available run time has dropped off a bit, I never got a “replace battery warning”. Instead, at about 10 after 6 (AM) yesterday, it startled me out of sleep with a screeching alarm and an error code that didn’t make sense in context (overloaded). Hmmm. A bit of exploration online, and it seems that there’s something fundamentally off. More than just replacing the battery will fix, I’m sure. So instead I went down to Best Buy and picked up a replacement APC XS 1500 unit. On trying to shut down the old one a last time, I managed to elicit the same error that woke me in the morning. So it’s a good thing I replaced it.

*      *      *

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

29 May 2016

Exercise this weekend was due entirely to yard work. The Fitbit reports that I managed nearly 32,000 steps in the two days, and based on activity, gave me nearly an hour of heart rate + activity actual exercise time each day. So that counts.

The garden itself has really appreciated a week of sun and warmer temperatures. I lost a couple of squashes and all of the cantaloupe to the month of rain and lower-than-normal temperatures. The cantaloupe I replaced today, but here’s a snap from yesterday afternoon:

Garden : Late May 2016

Garden : Late May 2016

The tomatoes have gained a lot of ground in the last week and the broccoli look great. But the best that can be said for the peppers and the remaining squash and cucumber plants is this: Not Dead Yet.

Today, the morning was nice (hot, actually): we got the shopping done, then I pruned ivy along the fence line and got that staged for green pickup next week. Then I went to the nursery, picked up some replacement plants, got those installed, and weeded in the garden for an hour or so. Just in time for more rain, yay? We got half an inch or so today, and more expected over the next two days. So much for holiday Monday, eh?

We’ll celebrate anyway, both in remembrance of those who died in service to our country, and to enjoy our 18th wedding anniversary! Huzzah! Oh, yeah, I also picked up some lovely red roses for my bride and gave them to her today.

Reading this week: I enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. You will, too. Highly Recommended.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Gunner’s Mate Seaman Connor Alan McQuagge, 19, of Utah, who died on May 26 of a non-combat related injury while underway in the Red Sea.

25 May 2016

Monday: 40 sit-ups, 20 squats, 12 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 3600 strides on the elliptical in 30 minutes.

Tuesday: 40 sit-ups, 20 squats, 12 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 4000 strides on the elliptical in 33 minutes.

Wednesday: 60 sit-ups, 30 squats, 18 push-ups, assorted stretches, and 4350 strides on the elliptical in 35 minutes.

Being more public about my workouts might help with my consistency in such activities, so thanks for observing.

Pushing harder

First, exercise. I’ve been pushing a lot harder the last couple of weeks. I’ll do 20-30 minutes of alternating stretches and exercise (squats, sit-ups, push-ups), followed by 45+ minutes on the elliptical. My “best” day of the week was yesterday: I managed 60 minutes, 8200 strides, 1000+ calories burned on the machine. I probably pushed too hard – it hurt when I did a normal workout today. But overall, I feel better, and I sleep better. Those are both good things.

I skipped a day on Wednesday. The body was demanding a short break, and the UP24 was mis-behaving. Taken together, those are good enough reasons – I only managed about a total of 4500 steps that day, which dragged my daily average for the week down to 13,500 steps a day. The week before was nearly at 15K steps daily.

*      *      *

Turns out that among certain circles, last year’s Hugo winners were seen as an upsetting bunch of diverse and progressive upstarts. So this year, the upset ones decided to mount an outright campaign to return the awards to people they like (which appear to be mostly conservative/libertarian white folk). This, while playing within the rules of the Hugo nominations, has now upset a bunch of the progressive wing of SF&F (authors *and* fandom). Here’s an article on io9 that might bring you up to speed if you care to know more. Me? I liked many of the stories that were nominated last year.

More to the point, there are an unlimited amount of fucks I don’t give about the politics going on. There are lots of wonderful people and authors in SF&F. There are some who are … less wonderful. Some are outright assholes.  But, importantly, what I want is good stories. Since I’m not a good enough writer to make them myself, I want other people to write them. I don’t care (much, if at all) about the politics, gender/sex orientation, race, or anything else about an author. What I care about is that the author has one job. ONE JOB. Entertain me. For their sake, I hope there are lots of other people that they can entertain, too, or they won’t eat well.

So this year, for the first time ever, I’ve become a WorldCon Supporting Member. This means that I can vote for the Hugos in the way that’s most important to me: The stories. The stories. If it turns out that the stacking of the nominations means that the stories I like are written by people who dislike diversity and people having sex with some old white guy non-approved person … oh, well – I like the story and it will get my vote. IF, however, the stories suck … it doesn’t matter who wrote them. No vote for you.

If you’re a Science Fiction fan, and want to make a difference in the fiction that’s rewarded by fans, in a way slightly less important than, say, buying the author’s work, then register for this year’s WorldCon – Attending if you can, Supporting if you can’t. And vote. If you want to vote on the politics, fine. If you want to vote on the stories, well, that’s what the Hugo’s are for, and I’d like you to do that. But you can’t make a difference if you don’t register and vote.

Also remember – the most sincere way you can register your love of an author’s work is to support their anti-social writing habit by buying the stories they produce. If you like short fiction, subscribe to those markets (I’m a fan and subscriber of Clarkesworld, myself). If you like novel-length work, buy the books. Support the authors so that they can write more. Hugos are nice on the mantle, but royalty checks can feed the family.

Oh, yeah: As a favor to me, if you do register, remember that I’d like it very much if you voted to bring the WorldCon to Washinton DC in 2017. Just sayin’.

*      *      *

Last week, I impact tested one of my remote backup disks to the point of failure. So I bought a new 1TB drive, which should arrive tomorrow. I’ll talk soon about how I’m encrypting these backups.

Also coming up, a new table is getting ready to emerge from the woodshop. I’m also putting another new handle on one of our kitchen knives, since the plastic is crap was cracking.

*      *      *

No casualties were announced by DoD in the last week. Yay. Ciao!

Staying Busy

It’s a long list of small-ish chores that got done this weekend, too dull to enumerate. But lots got done, which is good. We’re hopeful that by next weekend, Marcia will have the sewing room and fabric room reassembled and nice enough to show y’all a picture or two of how it came out. But right now it’s a slice of Hell for the compulsive tidier…

It was pretty cold this weekend – hovering around freezing. So, no yard work (not that I had time for any). On the exercise front, I’m back in full swing, however. According to my Jawbone UP24, I did a shade over 100000 [Corrected to 100K+ on 3/30] steps in the last 7 days: Monday through Sunday. Whoa!

*      *      *

Still no new casualties to report, according to DoD.

Welcome to Winter

I’m thinking of Jerry Pournelle a lot these days, and wishing for him a speedy and complete recovery from his recent “small” stroke. What I *want* is for Jerry to keep defying odds, and keep putting out first rate science fiction (selfish of me, I know), and for Jerry to keep enjoying life. Not much to ask, is it?

*      *      *

Just another busy weekend for me, though. Much of yesterday I was in the woodshop, and repeated that again today. Among other things, I dismantled an old humidifier that was wasting space. Most of it is now in the recycle bin, but I scavenged the fans, controller, wheels, and inlet grid.

Scavenged from a humidifier

Scavenged from a humidifier

I built a box yesterday, and finished it out today, cutting holes and mounting bits until the new shop air cleaner was up and operational.

New shop air cleaner

New shop air cleaner

The prior “air cleaner” was a filter duct-taped to a box fan. The horizontal exhaust of that setup seemed to cause some extra dust issues, sometimes. And it was prone to falling over. This new one, bigger and sturdier, certainly isn’t going to fall over, and exhausts straight up, which should be good for keeping the air circulating in such a manner as to get more of the dust out of the air and onto the filter. AND the filter is easily removable, which is also a win.

I was also working on rebuilding some front legs for a Sauder shelving unit that was damaged by the water issues from last June. The feet had swollen badly, as MDF is prone to do when exposed to moisture. So I partially dismantled the unit, and removed the front legs (which are actually the full verticals from floor to top, making up part of the face frame). After making some measurements, I did a glue-up yesterday to get a couple of new legs of the right size. Today I cut them down to final dimensions, and used the router table to cut a slot in each to mate up with the shelf sides. I’ve got some sanding, staining, and sealing yet to do for those, so it’ll be another few nights before that project is finished. Then I can get back onto the remodeling of the basement: flooring, touch-up and paint on the walls, and reassemble Marcia’s sewing area.

*      *      *

The exercise continues to treat me well: In my ~20 minute warm-up routine, I’m up to 60 sit ups, 30 push ups, and a variety of stretches. Then, my current elliptical routine runs like this:

Goal: 134-142 steps per minute (excepting two minutes of cool-down at the end).

Goal: 6000 steps in under 45 minutes (below 44 when things are good).

Elliptical stages:

Resistance Slope Duration Elapsed
2 10° 2 2
3 10° 2 4
4 15° 2 6
5 15° 2 8
6 15° 2 10
5 20° 3 13
6 20° 3 16
7 20° 3 19
6 20° 3 22
5 20° 3 25
5 25° 3 28
6 25° 3 31
7 25° 3 34
6 25° 3 37
5 25° 3 40
4 20° 3 43
3 15° 3 46
2 10° 2 48

Boom. Today: 6000 steps in 43:27, total of 6550 steps in 48 minutes. A good day! The elliptical says I burned 850 calories doing that. My UP24 monitor insists that I only eked out 810 calories for the same work. Moot point, though. Feels good.

*      *      *

DoD reported no new casualties in the last week.