10 March 2019

And Back

It was an interesting week. I skipped last Sunday for a variety of reasons. The most important is that we were up early that day, to get Marcia onto a plane for Salt Lake City, Utah. She was there for a few days doing Handi Quilter factory training on her software and machine. She learned a lot, and is now taking advantage of some superior features in the new motor control software.

I worked short days for most of the week, to burn a few hours of vacation time and reduce stress on a little Lexi that was missing her mum.

Lexi  the mutt wanted lots of attention while Marcia was travelling.
Lexi wanted lots of attention…

Marcia flew back late Thursday, and we’ve been trying to settle into normal, only to have AN HOUR STOLEN FROM US. WHERE DID OUR HOUR GO?

Entertainment

(Sadly for Marcia) I had a wonderful time last Sunday evening at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, attending a Cabaret Evening featuring 60’s popular music performed by Sally Boyett, Christine Asero, and Joe Rossi. My favorite bit was at the beginning of the second act, when Joe and Christine did “I Got You, Babe”, and Christine nailed the Cher hair flip. All music I knew, all fun

Pride and Prejudice is opening this next weekend at ASC, too. We know a lot of the actors in this one, which always makes the show more fun for me. You should see it, too. Are you anywhere nearby? Go to the site linked above, and get thee some tickets. I promise you’ll enjoy yourself

I’ve been reading the Frontlines series from Marko Kloos. So good so far. Grunt in interstellar conflict unexpectedly lived through sequential should-have-died events, while traveling between stars in the appropriately unexplained (the math is too hard) method. But I’m enjoying the books (currently in Angles of Attack, book 3).

Winding Down

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

  • Sgt. Holli R. Bolinski, 37, of Pinckneyville, Illinois, died on March 5, 2019, as a result of a non-combat related incident.
  • Spc. Jackson D. Johnson, 20, of Hillsboro, Missouri, died on March 5, 2019, as a result of a non-combat related incident.

Oh, hey. It got up to nearly 60ºF today. Fishing is JUST AROUND THE CORNER, FOLKS!

24 February 2019

Farewell

Our family said their goodbyes to Dennis yesterday. He’s resting by his grandparents now. Sadly, I didn’t know him as well as I’d have liked, and we didn’t make the trip for his memorial, because it was a small affair, and nobody needed out-of-towners to deal with on top of everything else. He’ll be missed, rest in peace.

Hardware Woes

Work was a week like so many others, not worth remarking on. However, on the home front, the computing environment continues to have drastic changes.

Yesterday, I pulled the final backup from my FreeBSD 11 server, Serenity. After that, I shut it down. Later in the evening, I went to spin it up in prep for putting VMware ESXi 6.7 on the hardware. But it stayed dark. Hmmm. Power supply bad? Dunno. Left that for today.

Today: Same thing. Swapped power supply to my backup Antec. Still no joy. Plopped in the emergency Corsair PS. Still no joy. Okay. the hardware is actually dead. This chassis has seen 3 or 4 motherboards, several different Linuxen, FreeBSD 10 and 11. It’s been the home server and primary home workstation for a long time. But lately it’s ONLY been the home server, which is asking not very much for a server motherboard with a Xeon and ECC RAM. And I was burning 100W continuously keeping that system online. So it was time for a re-purpose.

The little NUC box is now running FreeBSD 12, disk mirrored on a couple of 1TB drives. I’ve got too much RAM in it, 32G, because I planned on something different. Best part: 11W draw in normal operations. So, a good home server.

But it isn’t a good VMware host for a couple of reasons. So I wanted to use the Xeon box for that. Nope. I’ve got another NUC8 Performance on order, and that’ll be the VMware box.

Winding Down

Not much to promote – we’ve not got a show at Annapolis Shakespeare until next weekend. And I’ve not had much time for reading. Pretty boring, outside of my normal tech routine.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

Ciao!

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.

27 January 2019

Weird Times

Because they are, just sayin’… So I’m going to ignore all of that for the moment. Marcia did a bunch of wonderful baking and cooking, so for supper with friends Saturday night we had scratch made: crackers, focaccia (two kinds: rosemary and olive), pasta, and cake. Carb-loading for the gluten gluttons only? Yup. But super-tasty!

The house got cleaned, too. Coffee from Kenya got roasted. And I did some intermittent remote work over the weekend, getting stuff done, which is good. Finally, I spent a bit of time playing around in Skyrim. Net result, there: I’m now the Arch Mage of the College of Winterholm. Yay?

Tired now and time to sleep, and if it gets real cold, I may just stay there until April or so…

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Joshua Z. Beale, 32, of Carrollton, Virginia, who died on Jan. 22, 2019, as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire during combat operations in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.

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.

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.

30 December 2018

Year, Gone

We enjoyed a quiet Christmas at home, mostly binge-watching The Great British Baking Show. In the evening, we watched the Springsteen Broadway special. The dog got a couple of new toys, as did I. Marcia was surprised to get a couple of things, too, since we’d already got her “Christmas presents” a couple of months ago.

With Christmas gone and New Year’s Eve tomorrow, another year’s gone by, and each goes faster than the one preceding. But here at Hovel Bilbrey, we’re continuing to do okay. The big changes of the year involved first ramping up our involvement with the theater company, then backing off to just enthusiastic patrons and subscribers. Too much sausage making, relative to the amount of sausage. Marcia’s ramped up her quilting, and is enjoying that a lot.

Speaking of sausage, I have a chili and another dish that I like making from a hot Italian sausage. But two weeks in a row, no hot Italian at the food warehouse. But there was picnic shoulder there, so I’ve made my own sausage. Here was the setup:

Prep for grinding pork shoulder at home, using the meat grinder accessory for the Kitchen Aid.
Prep for grinding pork shoulder

We’ve had the meat grinder accessory for our Kitchen Aid forever. But I’ve used it only rarely. So I ground once, seasoned the grind, and reground it. Now it’s resting in the fridge, and I’ll cook from it on New Year’s Day. I’m very pleased with the results.

Winding Down

No new casualties were reported by DoD. Elsewhere, I hold out hope for either an outbreak (a tiny one at least) of sanity in our nation’s capital … or a giant asteroid strike. So, win-win.

25 December 2018

Merry Chistmas, y’all

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, with or without family, with or without larger significance, please let it give you and yours both joy and peace.

I had a lovely few days off work. We spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time binge-watching The Great British Baking Show, and to join us in our turkey dinner today, we were joined by a Mister Bruce Springsteen, shown in the production filmed over a couple of nights of his Broadway run. What a lovely show.

We leapt out of bed this morning at the crack of 8:41, and once the dog was walked and breakfast/coffee consumed, we did the rending of paper and revealing of gifts thing. Marcia’s “big” presents had already been around for a bit, but I still had a couple of things under the tree to surprise her. She managed to steal the list I sent to Santa, and all of that was there too. Lexi even got a couple of new toys to abuse.

Winding down

This space is usually reserved for showing respect and final farewells for our troops dying in harms’ way, on our behalf. But today I wish to offer our deepest condolences and regrets to the family and friends of eight year old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, who died today in CBP custody, separated from his family. This follows the death of seven year old Jakelin Caal Maquin on December 8, also in CBP custody.

Incompetent and irresponsible, this agency is. When your agency is given unethical and immoral policies to implement, consider pushing back. If you (being the agents and bureaucrats of DHS/CBP) don’t challenge this, I hold you personally responsible, along with the administration that issued the orders. This misguided policy of detaining asylum seekers at the border and breaking apart families must not stand.