9 October 2017

Good morning. It’s a holiday for $FIRM, in the midst of a five day weekend (for me), so I’ve only been doing email and tickets for an hour or so, and work is done for the day. A busy weekend. First up, Capclave.

Capclave is a small-ish literary SFF convention put on by the Washington Science Fiction Association. It’s been held at the Hilton Gaithersburg for at least the last several years, and I’ve attended several now. It’s simply lovely. Loads of writers, editors, publishers. I’ve been attending intermittently since 2012. It’s good to catch up with some prior acquaintances and friends, and meet new fans and authors, etc. And oh, yes, I have a stack of new (and old) books to read. I managed all of the Friday and Saturday programming, but skipped Sunday because…

Last night, we went to The Great American Songbook, another fun entry in the Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s Concert and Cabaret Series. Sally Boyett and a double handful of talented actors and singers entertained us for a couple of hours, singing mostly love songs from the golden age of American show tunes. Great fun, and nice to see several of the actors from the current production of Much Ado About Nothing in a different context. We’re looking forward to seeing that show one more time before the run ends on October 29th. Get thee to Annapolis Shakespeare – I promise you’ll love it.

Now, I have to clean my office and do some other chores.

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

  • Spc. Alexander W. Missildine, 20, of Tyler, Texas, died Oct. 1 in Salah ad-Din Province, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy.
  • Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger, as a result of hostile fire while on a reconnaissance patrol.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger, as a result of hostile fire while on a reconnaissance patrol.
  • Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger, as a result of hostile fire while on a reconnaissance patrol.
  • Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, died Oct. 4 in southwest Niger as a result of enemy fire.

17 September 2017

A busy week and weekend. We made it down to Melford Pond for a couple of hours of fishing on Saturday morning. Well, Marcia was fishing (and caught a decent-sized catfish that she put back, might I add!), while I walked the dog around the pond. It was a nice start to the weekend. Chores: Mowing the lawns, changing old, worn-out locksets out for new ones that work properly, etc, etc.

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Tech-side, I’ve been playing around with Flask (a Python web framework). Yeah, should I find something more bleeding edge? Probably. Maybe I’ll revisit Node shortly. Or write something slightly useful in Go, to get a feel for that language. Why is there always so much more to learn than I have hours in a year???

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Reading! You MUST go buy and read Robin Sloan’s Sourdough (Powell’s link here). Seriously. It can be found at your favorite online bookseller and if you ask, probably at the corner bookstore you hopefully still have near you! (Wish I did.) So, as one of the blurbs says, Sourdough does for food what (Robin’s first novel) Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore did for books. I loved that first novel, and I’ve been waiting with little patience for the second. Sadly, I’m neither a first reader nor an ARC recipient for him (yet). Sourdough is a journey for a programmer, Lois Clary, back from the land of code and Slurry™ to what’s important: Food and relationships.

I’d pre-ordered the book, and it arrived while I was in Maine. Not being an idiot, I didn’t start reading the book until yesterday. I finished late in the evening, having read in stretches between chores, and then because I couldn’t put the book down, all the way to the end. I grew up and worked for years in the stomping grounds of Robin’s characters, which adds to the appeal for me – I recognize places where the names have been changed and the lens covered with petroleum jelly to yield that sexy soft blur. And oh, yeah. I love me some sourdough. That there’s a starter, a culture, a mother prominently featured in the book … nay, a character in the book. Wonderful. Highly Recommended. I’d loan you my copy except that I’m going to be re-reading it sooner than you could get it back to me.

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More reading news: I’m a fan and supporter of Strange Horizons, which is a is a weekly magazine of and about speculative fiction. [They] publish fiction, poetry, reviews, essays, interviews, roundtable discussions, and art. They’re in their annual fund drive at the moment. I’d recommend supporting them through their Patreon page, if you like their sort of thing, and you want more of that. They’ve got a week or two to go, so please go support them!

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week, but I’m still missing Jerry.

9 April 2017

G’day. Lexi was a happy puppy, yesterday late afternoon. That’s when Marcia got back home from a 9 day trip up to Maine, where she was spending time with her sister. This is a dog waiting for his mistress to come home:

Lexi waiting for Marcia to come home from Maine

Lexi waiting for Marcia

For the duration, I was bailing out of work early, coming home to walk the dog and work on fitting out Marcia’s closet. Every time I’d go down to the basement workshop, Lexi would eventually follow, and sit on her perch in Marcia’s sewing room (as above), and look a bit pathetic.

Here’s how the closet came out:

Marcia's closet completed

Marcia’s closet completed

So that, and getting the watering system setup for the hanging flower baskets on the front porch, pretty much ate my non-work week. This upcoming week will be fun – I’m spending some significant focused time on a configuration management tool chain.

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What I’ve been reading: Born to Run: Bruce Springsteen by The Boss, The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, 3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, and Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson. Note, those are all in-process books and I’m enjoying all of them. Additionally, I just finished reading The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. That was good fun and a great read. Wanting more and I have to wait for it…

Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire

Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire

You can see I’ve got James S. A. Corey’s Caliban’s War waiting in the wings. But I’m not, not going to pick up another book until I’ve got one or more of the currently-reading tomes done with…

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week. Gratitude.

12 March 2017

Wednesday, I attended an Ansible Automates event downtown. I’ve been making use of Ansible for configuration management for nearly three years now, but the rate of change and new capabilities since the project was purchased by Red Hat about 18 months ago is stunning. There’s a lot I have to learn to find out what else I should be automating with this tool.

A good weekend: got assorted things done, including roasting some delicious-smelling Tanzania Mbozi – Iwezya Station beans from Sweet Maria’s. We (mostly Marcia) cooked a lovely salmon supper followed by a blueberry pie for dessert last night. I had one responsibility: the garlic bread. It was all gone, so i guess I did my part okay, too.

Up next: Getting my Hugo nominations in, that closes on Friday, so I’d better be getting to that… Done. And I got my driver’s license renewed for another seven years.

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No new casualties were reported by DoD in the last few days. Ciao!

7 Feb 2017

Wow. Am I a slacker, or what? I’ve been really busy. Work is keeping me on my toes, and (wonderfully), we’re finally cooking with gas!

Cooking with gas: Our new KitchenAid Dual Fuel range

Cooking with gas

We got a KitchenAid Dual Fuel range – a natural gas range (that could be converted to LP if needed) with two electric ovens. Yay! Getting the range was Marcia’s birthday present, and she got the gasfitter to run the line for Valentine’s Day. No massacres yet!

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On the professional front, I’m working on the options for extending my Red Hat Certified Engineer status. I’m probably going down the automation path, with Ansible, for a variety of reasons. So I’ve got to spend a fair bit of time building test environments and building my skill set with the range of capabilities that Ansible offers today. I’ve been using it for a few years now, but not taking advantage of all that the tool suite has to offer. Should be fun.

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Books: I finally finished reading Leviathan Wakes – Book One of The Expanse by James S. A. Corey. Wonderful space opera set believably in our solar system (so, no light speed drives required to move the action along). Miller and Holden. Holy cow. If you’ve not read, you should. I’ll be reading the books before I start watching the series, which I hear is also seriously awesome. Next up, Born To Run, by the Boss.

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Lazy lookout guard - Lexi has to rest her head

Lazy lookout guard

Lexi had her annual check-up last weekend, and flew through with flying colors. The nail trimming and first round of shots didn’t make her very happy, though. She’ll be even less happy when she goes back for two more shots in a couple of weeks. The rabies vaccine booster was part of this year’s regimen, so the vet likes to split up the shots when there are a bunch, for a little dog like Lexi.

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Our condolences to the family and friends of Pfc. Brian. P. Odiorne, 21, of Ware, Massachusetts, who died on Feb. 20, in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from a non-combat related incident.

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…

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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