4 Dec 2016

We had a lovely supper tonight at Seasons 52 in Columbia – a holiday dinner with my co-workers and plus ones. I had half a chicken, Marcia had some seared cow, both were delicious. Dessert: tiny, delicious, and overpriced. Still, we’ll go there again: Recommended.

Marcia continues to make great progress in her hip replacement recovery. She’s been driving for a week now, and spending a fair bit of time standing, walking, and working on stuff in the house each day. Huzzah!

The week was weird. I took a couple of vacation days on Thursday and Friday. Got a few things done around the house, but mostly relaxed and tried to unwind a bit. I roasted a pound of an Ethiopian SO, cleaned the roaster, etc. It’s almost time to build something in the woodshop – I’m getting that familiar itch.

I’m also getting used to my early Festivus present: an Apple Watch. I like it very much, and it’s hugely more comfortable to wear (as well as much better for my eyes) than the FitBit Charge it replaced. But it doesn’t replace all of that functionality – the biggest lack for me: no sleep tracking, which I really appreciated on the FitBit. That said, I’m provisionally happy with the change, and getting used to the features and integration of this device.

Also from the week past, as posted on teh twitters, where I can be found as @bilborg: Best thing I read in November, BTW: Sarah Tolmie’s The Dancer on the Stairs, in @strangehorizons. Support speculative fiction mags, authors Please do visit Strange Horizons, read, enjoy, and support them if you can.

And with that, and no casualties reported by DoD in the last few days, Ciao!

10 Oct 2016

A day late, but a full weekend nearly behind me, so that’s a good thing. Not much on the exercise front last week though, sad to report.

I had a wonderful time at Capclave this year. Y’all may recall that I missed last year entirely due to food poisoning. This year I met new authors, discovered new works, and really enjoyed myself. The Guests of Honor were Sara Beth Durst and Tim Powers – talented writers both, expressive about their craft and the passion they have for their books. Lovely, lovely weekend. And as we were asked in at least one panel, “If you’re not writers, why are you here?” I find it fascinating to see how this particular sausage is made. So there you go.

And for the icing on the event-filled weekend’s metaphorical cake, my brother and his wife were in town for the Annapolis Boat Show (Sail), so we got to see them for a while and go out to supper. Excellent!

Books I picked up this weekend: Cherie Priest’s The Family Plot, Unidentified Funny Objects 4 and 5, edited by Alex Shvartsman, Find the Changeling by Greg Benford and Gordon Eklund, Tales of Time and Space by Allen Steele, A Legacy of Stars by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and the first bits of Backstage by Joan Wendland. I’ve already started reading The Family Plot (I’ve been waiting for this one).

Coming up on the entertainment dance card: We’re seeing Poe and Twelfth Night this month at Annapolis Shakespeare. They’re running the latter play from this upcoming weekend through mid-November, and Poe is playing from tomorrow through late November. If you’re in area, or going to be visiting, this company is superb: you should get tickets and enjoy one play or many! For us, we’re seeing the shows back-to-back before Marcia’s hip replacement surgery late this month. That gives her several weeks of recovery time before we’ll be attending It’s a Wonderful Life in December.

Today is a Federal holiday, so I’m off work. That means that I slept in a bit, relaxed this morning, and now it’s time to plow through the email and tickets so that my workday tomorrow isn’t ruined. I’d best get to that, in just a moment…

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Adam S. Thomas, 31, of Takoma Park, Maryland, who died on Oct. 4 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device that exploded during dismounted operations.

 

25 Sept 2016

By the calendar, it’s Fall. By my reckoning, we’re really close. I count “Fall” as the first morning below 50° F. Close, today, at 52°. A busy work week, productive but long after several “short” weeks under my belt. I also went to the office yesterday to do some work that required off-business hours AND onsite for “just in case the SAN firmware update fails.” All went smoothly this time, thank FSM.

The big events of the weekend were yard work ones. I used the hedge trimmers and the electric chainsaw to clear out the front garden beds and rid us of an elderly and crufty forsythia. I’m going to have to find something else to plant in that corner, but not immediately. Then I used a hoe and finished cleaning up the beds, a de-thatching rake to clean up some of the weedier areas of lawn (more to be done there) and got everything necessary out to the curb for tomorrow’s green waste pickup.

Tonight: ibuprofin.

This evening I composed a dish of red potatoes, mild Italian sausage, a yellow onion, some garlic (to taste, and I like a lot), several green bell and hot peppers (from the garden), and green beans. While the four pounds of potatoes boiled, I browned the 2 pounds of sausage in a sauce pan. Once the potatoes and the meat was drained and combined, I deglazed the sauce pan with a splash of chardonnay, then dropped in the  onion, garlic, and peppers. After a couple of minutes, I added the 2 pounds of frozen green beans and let everything veggie steam for a couple of minutes. All that went in on top of the sausage and potatoes, along with a liberal helping of additional dried red pepper flakes. Fold to combine, and enjoy! The pot contained enough to feed a small army, or me for most of the upcoming week.

This Tuesday is your last chance to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), staged by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company at the Reynolds Tavern courtyard. Just sayin’ …

Current (re)reading: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Tenth Anniversary Edition

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) Airman Devon M. Faulkner, 24, of North Carolina, who died on Sept. 20 of a non-combat-related injury while underway.

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!

*      *      *

Exercise:

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!

10 April 2016

A good week, overall. I was on-call for the first half, which is tiring, even when nothing happens. Yep, I sleep a lot more lightly when responsibility requires it. But one week out of every few weeks ain’t bad – and our monitoring and remediation are in a state of continuous improvement, so we get far fewer alerts and calls than in years past. All to the good.

I also executed terminal retirement on a stack of former virtualization hosts. Spin down, uncable from last network connections and from the SAN, spin up again with a DBAN disk in the optical drive: boom. No more data. Some may be repurposed as a lab environment, but the decision hasn’t been taken yet.

*      *      *

It was a fairly relaxing weekend, since the house is fairly clean, and it’s too darn cold to do any yardwork … Hey, did I mention that we had sleet, graupel, and snow on Saturday morning? Did I also mention that four days in the last week started off below freezing? So much for Spring. It had been warming up, and everything started to bloom, then BOOM: be cold and die, little plants! Good thing I’d not planted any veg in the garden yet, eh?

So we had Linda and Mike over to supper last night. Marcia made a wonderful, hearty, chicken stew, complemented by Asiago wheat bread and a green salad. Desert was a shortbread laden with blueberries. A good game of Ticket to Ride followed … good because against all odds, I won.

Both weekend days, I gave a few hours to playtime in the world of The Talos Principle (which I finished), and the Road to Gehenna DLC (which I started). Fun puzzle game: Recommended.

*      *      *

I’m currently reading Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man collection, along with last month’s Strange Horizons. I finished up the April edition of Clarkesworld earlier in the week, too. And I’m continuing to work my way through Learning Ruby the Hard Way, 3E. I’ve been spending years getting just enough knowledge to get the job done, but I want some more depth on something, anything. So, before I work on a substantial project, best to begin at first principles. That’s what I’m doing.

*      *      *

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week, for which we are grateful. Ciao!

13 March 2016

Friday the thirteenth falls on Daylight Stealing Time Sunday this month. Yay?

*      *      *

A good week and a productive weekend. Yesterday I got the spring fertilizer down on the lawn (in time for today’s rain-in), and got the garden beds cleared of all the fall and over-winter cruft. I still have to turn over and amend the beds, but a start is a start, so I’ll take it. I also did some aggressive pruning of the crepe myrtles in the front of the house, and weeded some of the beds there, too. Today? Well, I’m a bit sore today.

And I was up before the crack of Daylight Stealing Time dawn to do a small amount of early remote work – putting monitoring systems into maintenance so that someone else could do their job without waking half the world with pager alerts. We broke our fast, then headed out to do the shopping.

This afternoon, I did my (speculative fiction) civic duty and got all of my Hugo nominations entered in. Why bother having the vote if you don’t use it. But because this is the Hugos, everyone who had a vote last year is the electoral equivalent of a delegate this year, too! So my nominating is done. If you love Science Fiction and/or Fantasy genre fiction, you should become a  member of WorldCon and nominate and vote! Note – to vote for the Hugo’s, you need to be a member of MidAmeriCon II this year. You needn’t attend – there’s a supporting membership option that is a quarter of the cost. I will point out that as a part of the Hugo Voting Packet, there’s usually MOST of the works that are up for the Hugos available to read. Purchased, that would come out to considerably more than the cost of the supporting membership. So a good deal all around for the fans and fannish. Yes, I’m a supporting member of MidAmeriCon II this year, as I was a supporting member of Sasquan last year.

*      *      *

DoD has announced no new casualties in the last week, for which we are grateful. Ciao!

Kerfuffle, Past and Future

The Hugo Awards were last night.

First off, congrats to the winners. I’m happy for them. I enjoyed the winning work in each category that had a winner. Well, except Guardians of the Galaxy, through no fault of its own. I don’t go to movies, and rarely watch them.

Five categories went to No Award. To me, that seems a bit harsh. I read everything that came in the Hugo packet, and dug up everything I could that wasn’t in the packet. For me, only four or five works out of dozens rated below No Award. The people who annoy me on all the sides of this kerfuffle are the ones willing to vote on the person or the politics, damn the writing. I don’t ask that my authors be sane, or kind, or pleasant. I ask that their writing entertain me. I’ll admit that the authors from the Sad|Rabid side of the aisle mostly floated my boat less than some of the others. But not all of them.

And from all the sides, I find myself in general less entertained by hot-button current issues in the guise of SpecFic. If your characters are interesting, compelling, worth caring about, then it doesn’t matter to me about gender, race, etc. If the character exists only to be the gender or the race or whatever … then that character doesn’t advance the story.

For the coming years, I can only see the Puppies continuing to get their authors into contention. That’s unless the anti-Puppies also start block-nominating. That defeats the purpose of a bunch of people reading and nominating a bunch of stuff, and the best of the best bubbles to the top.

Is there a way around the conundrum? Sure. Get everyone to vote. EVERYONE. If every purchase of a SpecFic book (online, print, whatever) came with a token for a Hugo nomination, then people who read LOTS of SpecFic would get more nomination power. But everyone who just buys ONE book also gets a nomination token. Some tokens will go unused. Others will be sold on a darknet market somewhere. But getting more fans into the process will bring it closer to where I think it needs to be – representative of the likes and dislikes of the readership. There are ways to make it relatively honest, though there will still be a dead (zombie?) vote.

Would this put more voting power into the hands of people who buy popular work, instead of less popular but more “literary” work? Sure. But if I purchase and read 17 works next year (especially easy, since I ought to get a token for every month of Clarkesworld, for example), I can apply all 17 of those tokens to the one literary work I read. Of course, no one of consequence will see this idea, and it wouldn’t happen anyway, because herding cats. But I’ve had fun with the thought experiment.

Also from WorldCon: Sigh. I don’t think I can make it to Helsinki in 2017. That’s a deal, because I was hoping that DC in 17, my local WorldCon bid, would succeed.

*      *      *

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

Heat

Summer officially arrives next weekend. But so far as I can tell, it arrived this last week. 90+ degree temps, high humidity, big thunderstorms. Today, in fact, we had a storm line pass through that gave us a bunch of lightning and thunder, and 1.4″ of rain in 45 minutes. Note: Lexi really hates thunder. She spent the entire storm (and last night’s late storm) huddled against me, trembling.

*      *      *

The garden is doing okay with this heat, though. I saw one tomato starting to turn color – that’s a good sign. Once I spot that, I’m usually about two weeks away from eating lots of yummy salsa, etc. Tonight, we had freshly killed broccoli from the garden, and tomorrow night, I’m expecting to pull out a bunch of zucchini.

Garden - 14 June 2015

Garden – 14 June 2015

*      *      *

The surprise for me this Hugo season is The Goblin Emperor, a fantasy novel by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette). While I tend towards the harder, SciFi end of the speculative fiction genre spectrum, this Hugo-nominated work grabbed my attention and held it all the way through. I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series. If I were king-maker for the Best Novel Hugo, I think I’d have a tough time picking between this and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword. There’s still time to become a supporting member of Sasquan, and vote in this year’s Hugo balloting. Don’t fret about the ruckus. Just get the packet, read the works, vote for what you like. Given what’s in the Hugo packet, it’s $40 US well spent, any way you look at it. And if you’re a fan, you should support, read, and vote. You can ALSO pay the separate voting fee to become a supporting member (see the Site Selection tab on the Sasquan site) for the 2017 WorldCon, and vote for DC17. Just sayin’ …

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Krissie K. Davis, 54, of Talladega, Alabama, a member of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) at Anniston, Alabama, and deployed to DLA Disposition Services Bagram as part of the civilian expeditionary workforce. She was killed on June 8, during an indirect fire attack on Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan.

 

Whoa…

Sorry for the lag. I’ve been really busy. We got in some time with family from afar this weekend, and I wasn’t even able to get all of the small new weeds out of the garden:

Growing garden - May 2015

Growing garden – May 2015

*      *      *

I will point out that if you’re a supporting member of WorldCon this year: Sasquan, the Hugo voting packet is now out. I’ve got a fair bit of reading to do, since I’d only read a couple of the contenders. My recommendation? Ignore the controversy, read the works, vote for what’s good and well-written. ALSO, You can now pay your voting fee (which is additionally a Worldcon supporting membership fee for 2017) and vote for where the Worldcon will be held in 2017. I’d be thankful if you did, and voted for DC17 – bring Worldcon to Washington DC. It’ll be a blast and I’d love to see any/all of you there!

*      *      *

Sadly, Petty Officer 3rd Class Devon J. Doyle, 21, of Alamosa, Colorado, died May 16, in Manama, Bahrain, of a non-combat related incident while on liberty. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Year Winding Down

We’re about two weeks out, and at 36″+,  just a little under eight inches shy on precipitation compared to annual normal. Of course, the tree abutting the deck has put on some bulk in the last couple of years, and it’s entirely possible that the current siting of my rain gauge is in tree shadow part of the time. I’m thinking of re-siting it (or even getting a more comprehensive weather thing) in the next year. But that’s a project for another day (month?).

But this year certainly has flown by.

*      *      *

If you saw what I was working on last week, you’ll be pleased to know that I got the sump pit monitor (incorporating a Raspberry Pi, an HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Sensor, and code courtesy of Al Audet) functioning and in place yesterday. The most recent output: “21:06:05,8.0” – That’s eight centimeters of water above pit low. Eventually I’ll graph some of the data, but right now I’m just happy that it’ll send me a text if the water gets too high. There ware a couple of gotchas in the distributed code that I’ll want to document and get back into the public code base – mostly just comments that need to be in the raspisump.conf file to ensure that configuration items are done properly so that people don’t make the same mistakes I made.

*      *      *

I also got some coffee roasted, applied polish and elbow grease to my dress shoes, had a couple of good days on the elliptical, and finished up the monthly patch cycle of a batch of $FIRM systems (late Saturday night and early Sunday morning). What am I forgetting: that doesn’t seem like enough stuff to fill a weekend. Hmmm, oh, yeah: Shopping. Sending some ZFS filesystem snapshots from a production host to a copy of said host for testing purposes. Email read and responded to. Tickets reviewed, commented upon, and resolved, as appropriate.

*      *      *

Recent Reading: I’ve been re-reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon on the phone in dribs and drabs. I use the phone as dead-time reading because I don’t carry the Kindle or any dead trees with me much anymore. At the bedside is Aspirin & Nye’s Myth Alliances, which I’ve apparently had on the shelf for a good long time, and somehow never managed to pick up before. And on the Kindle (also bedside reading) is Joseph Lallo’s Unstable Prototypes. Plus I’ve got a stack of IEEE, ACM, USENIX ;login:, and woodworking magazines to get through one of these days.

*      *      *

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

  • Sgt. 1st Class Ramon S. Morris, 37, of New York, New York, died Dec. 12, in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Wyatt J. Martin, 22, of Mesa, Arizona, died Dec. 12, in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.