Happy Kwanzicamas

A quiet day at home for us. Happily, our combat forces appear to be done in Iraq, and perhaps mostly at home with their families, at least until that notably unstable “country” blows up again. I think we have no further responsibility to send young men and women there there die, come the day that decision must be made. Aaaaand, we still have a bunch of folks in harm’s way in Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with them and their families this holiday season.

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I was momentarily hopeful, but that gift was denied – we have one casualty reported from Afghanistan in the last week. Our condolences to Specialist Bragg’s family, friends, and unit on the loss of one more warrior:

  • Spc. Mikayla A. Bragg, 21, of Longview, Washington, died Dec. 21 in Khowst province, Afghanistan.

Process and Paranormal

Process and Paranormal – it’s not a Jane Austen parody, although those are surprisingly popular these days, especially those with zombies baked in. I’m just thoughtful about two different things right at the moment and rather than make progress on anything, I’ll stop and discuss things here.

*     *     *

Process is much on my mind not just because of my on-again, off-again forays into the land of productivity porn. My in-field class this upcoming Winter session has Pressman’s Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach as the text. Software engineering is all about process (as is personal and work productivity). I’m pre-reading the text before class starts – it’s a practice that I’ve worked at with some little success since I enrolled at UMUC in 2008. Sometimes I merely skim the material, other times (like this one), I’m properly reading the book, and taking a few notes where the process stuff might be immediately useful to me, or when a referenced work might be worth acquiring for further reading.

This depth of reading also means that I manage to stumble over sections, statements or phrases that cause me difficulty one way or another. Sometimes the difficulty is because I don’t know enough about the topic and need more of a mental framework within which to properly hang the information I’m assimilating. Other times I’m catching errors of fact, omission, or commission that make me question the quality of the passage (or if there are enough of them, the value of the whole work).

The last mode of reading problem I have is this: I read something that sends me off on a train of thought that leaves the work at hand tangentially, sometimes so quickly that I’m stuck out in left field. This might, were I in grade school these days, be diagnosed as one or another of the attention deficit disorders that seem so popular among the education set as an excuse for their inability to teach. Me, I think that it happens as a confluence of three things: a momentary lack of mental discipline, combined with a fertile imagination, and a capacious memory for that which I have read before.

Tonight, for example, a sentence from text reads (almost as received wisdom): “People derive as much (or more) satisfaction from the creative process as they do from the end product.” Immediately, I want to know where I read “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.” Surely that’s a paraphrase, and one repeated by more than one author of my acquaintance. The intarwebs, courtesy of Google, gives me a University of Manitoba page which quotes Farley Mowat as saying nearly precisely that. But that’s fairly recent, only 20 years ago, and it is a much more universal thing. Others attribute it to Robert Louis Stevenson. The preponderance of attribution seems to go to Dorothy Parker though, with this version, “I hate writing. I love having written.”That has the ring of truth to it: short, pithy, and very DP. I imagine Wilde might have uttered something similar, too. Even Heinlein acknowledged in his fiction that writing was equal parts obsession and curse, making the writer not fit company. I can’t but think that this may be true for other creative types. And now I’m quite a distance from the text that I was supposed to be reading … and I’m writing about the diversion, not the reading!

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What, you want to know about the Paranormal part? Well, there was this weird dream I had of trying to save someone, a young girl or woman, from something vaguely troll-ish, by hiding her in my house which was constructed much like a wooden ship. Yah, not very paranormal, but the troll was fairly erudite, although not very forthcoming about how he disposed of his prey (but she was gone, gone, gone).

You want paranormal? This is the right season for it: The Carol of the Old Ones will darken your day, your spirits, and your final hours on this ball of dirt.

13 Days and Counting…

Shopping in the morning, and several hours of hardware maintenance at the office through the middle of the day … and my day is done.

*     *     *

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

  • Lance Cpl. Christopher P. J. Levy, 21, of Ramseur, North Carolina, died Dec. 10 of wounds sustained Dec. 7 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. Christopher L. Muniz, 24, of New Cuyama, California, died Dec. 11, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Ronald H. Wildrick Jr., 30, of Blairstown, New Jersey, died Dec. 11, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Pvt. Jalfred D. Vaquerano, 20, of Apopka, Florida, died Dec. 13, in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries suffered from enemy small-arms fire while deployed in Logar province, Afghanistan.
  • Maj. Samuel M. Griffith, 36, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, died Dec. 14 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Plague of Imagination

The problem of having a rich imagination is this: Anything that can go wrong, already has … in my mind. Imagine driving home from someplace unusual, as I did this afternoon. Imagine using the Nav system built into the car and pressing the “Go Home” button. Once I get out of the area I don’t know and I’m on a known path home, I want to make the car stop talking to me. So I press the DEST button on the dash, select “Del Dest” on the screen, and be prompted: “Delete Destination? [YES][NO]” I tap the yes button, then wonder … when I get home, is there going to be a smoking crater? Have I just deleted my house? Sigh.

So far today I’ve gotten the car serviced (up at 0615, at the dealership by 0720), gone to a funeral service (and driven home, wondering if I deleted the house), and roasted coffee. A busy day.

School is pretty well done for the year. It’ll be a week or two before I get the grade, but I make no predictions since 35% of the grade is the one final project. I may have tanked it completely (again, Del Dest!!!).

Here’s some Lexi for those that love dogs!

Watching Lexi-TV

Watching Lexi-TV

Sad and cold…

 

A couple of hours of remote work this weekend, and 15 or so hours of work on the final project for my Java class. Progress is. Oh, yeah, and it was 15°F out this morning. I think I know what the ‘F’ stands for.

*      *      *

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

  • Sgt. Ryan D. Sharp, 28, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, died Dec. 3, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered Nov. 21 at Kandahar province, when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Clark A. Corley Jr., 35, of Oxnard, California, died Dec. 3, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Ryan M. Lumley, 21, of Lakeland, Florida, died Dec. 3, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Thomas J. Mayberry, 21, of Springville, California, died Dec. 3, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Orchid in bloom

The orchid is blooming

The orchid is blooming

A few years back … three, I think, I got Marcia an orchid as part of my anniversary gift to her. It was in bloom at the time, and stayed that way for quite a while. Wonder of wonders, although the flowers eventually faded and the stalks withered away, the plant itself has been pretty hardy. I keep up with the watering, and it sits by a window in the library, so it gets some afternoon light. But it hasn’t bloomed since there.

Late this summer, I read someplace that orchids need some cooler overnights in order to stimulate flower blooming. Yeah, well, whatever. But as we rolled into Fall, I put the orchid outside, and left it there for a few weeks, with overnight temps between 45 and 60 fahrenheit. As the temps headed quickly towards freezing in early October, I brought the plant back in, and thought nothing further of it. By the middle of November, though, it was clear that what I read was right – the plant was blooming. Only one of the orchids actually threw up a stalk, but still a good thing.

And finally, in the last couple of days, the flower is starting to bloom. We’ll see how long this lasts…

On the value of shorter class sessions

With this Fall Semester, UMUC fully transitioned all of their classes to an 8-week format. Most classes previously had been 12 or 13 weeks in length. The price is the same, and the number of units granted for completing the class are the same, but the material, and time, there is less. Here’s the pertinent commentary from one of the course evaluations I’ve written this Fall:

This course suffers from the shorter (8 week) session length. The ONE value of the shorter courses is that they’re shorter. It’s like 1.5 quart ice cream for the same price as the old half gallons. They’re lighter, but that’s it. Otherwise, only value had been subtracted from the courses, but they still cost the same.

Not much more to say, really. I’m still making big efforts to get as much as I can out of this work, but the school isn’t making it any easier with this Education-Lite policy. I’m sure they’ve got some perfectly rational explanation for what they’re doing, and probably some education theoretician backing up the move with brilliant data, but that only works in the computer models. Like with climate, and unlike the world for practitioners of Null-A, the map is NOT the world.

Hah!

The formerly missing screwdriver.

The formerly missing screwdriver.

Remind me not to attempt brain surgery this week.

I ended up remounting the Windows drive into the chassis, and booting there for the financial management software. Hard mounted to metal, so it’s noisy as hell. But it got the job done, and I was able to boot back into hellboy shortly thereafter.

It was opening the chassis to pop in the drive that revealed the missing screwdriver. Hmmm.

Transitions

Another busy week, another year nearly wound all the way down. Work was assisting in proposal writing, preparing for a big weekend systems test, and ten hours yesterday working remote on said test. In between, a bunch of reading and some coding and conference participation for my Java programming class, a bit of left-over turkey for noshing, and sleep when it was able to fit into the schedule.

Oh, yeah. “Transitions”, eh? So I stripped out all the installed games off of the Windows box, and got that all winnowed down just the small-ish C-drive. Then I pulled the drive out of the system and plopped in spare terabyte drives from here and there, as well as a 500G boot drive. All that was in support of installing the latest version of OpenIndiana – build 151a. OpenIndiana is the illumos-based operating system that is the inheritor of the OpenSolaris code base. So I’ve got a UNIX platform now that I can use for all the stuff I’ve been doing with Ubuntu, only it’s got ZFS, and dtrace, and all sorts of happy stuff to experiment in my copious spare time. I’ve named the box hellboy. Easy to remember, and easier to type than Slartibartfast, the name held by the Ubuntu box.

That install was done before I retired Friday evening. Saturday, during periods where all I was responsible for was keeping an eye on my email box, I got BIND9 (for home DNS services) and Dovecot (for home IMAP services) installed, configured and running properly. I started experimenting with ZFS sharing and ACLs, too. Keeps the mind nimble, change does. I’m going to attempt putting that Windows disk into the external eSATA chassis from Antec, and see if I can boot from it for those occasions when I need Windows. If not, then once the Linux box is done with, I’ll mount the Windows disk in there instead. I need to get a low-end video card for hellboy, too – a top-notch gaming card is too good (and sucks down too much juice) for a UNIX server/utility system. I’d run it headless, or just use the motherboard video, but the latter isn’t recognized by OIb151a drivers.

Today so far: Walking the mutt, shopping, walking the mutt, roasting some Yemeni coffee, and (whoops!) this post. I should have gotten out some things to thaw for cooking, starting shortly. Be right back…

*     *     *

We’re glad to see the last of the troops are headed home from Iraq. It’ll be even nicer to have all of our people home from Afghanistan, sooner than later. I’m sure that the efforts of our men and women in uniform in pursuit of policy will make that happen. Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Cpl. Adam J. Buyes, 21, of Salem, Oregon, died Nov. 26 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Dennis R. Murray, 38, of Red Broiling Springs, Tennessee, died Nov. 21 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Staff Sgt. Vincent J. Bell, 28, of Detroit, Michigan, died Nov. 30 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

For those that celebrated the holiday, or for those that just like to give thanks, and belatedly, Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a quiet week at home. We were both off work for the whole week. I gave a fair bit of time to school work, and a few hours to Skyrim. Marcia quilted and ripped and quilted. We did a big bird for the day itself: 23 pounds. We’ve now got a pot full of yummy turkey soup, a week’s worth of turkey tetrazzini, and more meat left. So, a good week overall. We hope that everyone else enjoyed theirs, as well.

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We’re also thankful for the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make on our behalf. Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Lance Cpl. Joshua D. Corral, 19, of Danville, California, died Nov. 18 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Pvt. Jackie L. Diener II, 20, of Boyne City, Michigan, died Nov. 21 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.
  • Cpl. Zachary C. Reiff, 22, of Preston, Iowa, died Nov. 21 of wounds suffered Nov. 18 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.