Tag Archives: Geek stuff

Look to the skies

Space nuts, unite! The Perseid meteor shower will peak on August 12. Get out and do some sky watching. If it’s mosquito season, as it is here, and you have lots of standing water from constant rains, as we do here, put on something to repel them. I was out taking some pictures of Mars this evening, and they were horrific.

Speaking of Mars….

Taken with the Canon.

Taken with the Nikon. Mars is just below and left of center. Hit the image to see the fuller version. This was taken with an extended shutter time, because of course it’s dark as hell out here at the ranch, and I wanted to capture more as we have a rare clear evening here in the summer tonight. It’s gorgeous and rather humbling to gaze up at the night sky.

Back here on the mothership, though, we still have things to do, people and animals to take care of, and on and on. I spent several hours at the NOC today, redoing a server for someone who wants a testing server in addition to their production server, and crawling around, tracing lines. It’s time for our location audit, and at least one part is done: the physical locations of every piece of gear. Tracing power cables and ethernet cables, though, is tedious, dirty, sweaty work (because you’re on the heat side of the row, with all those servers blowing hot air on you) and takes more than one trip (unless it’s a completely epic trip where you get to ignore everything else in your life for eight hours).

I had stepped outside last night to look off to the east where a storm was passing, to see it was viable to set up a camera to try to capture some lightning. It was not, but I did find this fat bumpy guy hanging out on the porch.

He didn’t budge, even when Einstein was sniffing him.

And because I have 21 chicks hanging out in my garage, here’s a pic of a bunch of them piled up in the corner after I had changed out the pads in the brooder. You’ll notice there’s already poop on the new pads. Apparently they cannot go more than two seconds without pooping. But, they are all still alive, happily peeping away when they’re not sleeping.

After the NOC work, I popped by Tractor Supply to get some pine shavings for their bedding. They’ve had enough time to understand what their food is and where, so they should not be trying to eat giant volumes of the bedding.  At first, they didn’t want to walk on it.  But as I spread it out all around them and then into the corner they all ran to, they got themselves together and went back to their pooping, cheeping ways.

The Cornish X bird – the yellow ones – are growing much more quickly than the layers. You can tell already. They are going to be good eating when their brief, but happy, lives comes to an end.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Police yourself

Or at least your email.

Company-wise, we have a policy of three year retention of mail; indefinite for certain special items. Personally, I try to keep things trimmed to the last year at most. I wish more people would set themselves some kind of purge schedule for mail. I’m trying to move someone with 140 gigs – that GIGS – of mail spread throughout their corporate mail. Do you really, really need a copy of  that mail you sent six years ago? Or some piece of mail you received four years ago that references something that no longer even exists?

Figure out some kind of policy for your mail and make it as common a chore as vacuuming your floors or changing your bedsheets. Your mailbox (and your mail administrator) will thank you.

Tuesdays are the worst

I’m not sure what it is about Tuesdays in tech. They are absolutely the worst day of the week, with weirdo requests and people not bothering to take in anything you’re telling them. For instance: we’ve just told someone how to set his email client so he can actually, you know, GET HIS MAIL. He’s decided to leave everything alone  and only change if it becomes a problem. Sir, it already is a problem, so perhaps taking our instructions would be beneficial to your email operations completing properly. These things don’t magically cure themselves.

I have a theory about this phenomenon: I think people get back to work on Monday, blow through whatever it is they have to do, and by Tuesday are once again slacking off and leeching off their employers’ internet connections to do stuff related to their sites. It’s the only thing that makes sense given the sheer number of tickets on Tuesday versus other days of the week. Not that I’m knocking slacking off – if whatever you have to do is done, slack away.  I have a suspicion that some people have not completed their work when they indulge their slackiness. Shame on them.

I don’t recall ever seeing this specific issue in the non-tech, in real life jobs I’ve had in the past. It may be that those jobs were just hellish all the time. Certainly the retail jobs I’ve held were pure hell, every day.

If this is as bad as it gets, user-wise, on otherwise normal days (no server crashes, network issues, etc.) then I guess it isn’t too terribly bad on this end. We could still dowith a little relief from the folks who are not inclined to take instructions to heart, though, regardless of the day.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

New tools

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just cannot seem to get started on that Thing you really, really want to do, and if you do get started, you don’t carry forward with it.

Now, having things that must be done so something else doesn’t die – managing the bees, for instance, or feeding the dogs, or making sure the chickens are ok – makes it much easier to do those things. Other activities, that hurt no one and nothing (except maybe your psyche) are easier to rationalize when you don’t do them. Writing is one of those things, for me, mainly because in my justifying-energy-use head it just doesn’t seem to be as important as everything else in my life, when in reality, it’s absolutely quite important, according to my “what do I want to be when I grow up, what is it I do best, what’s the most fun thing to do” brain.

I’ve read tons of tips and books and watched scores of videos about procrastination, getting out of your own way, naming the importance of what you want to pursue, and all that other stuff that goes along with not doing the Thing you tell yourself you want to do.

But the other day, via a video (that I was watching more for fun than anything else), I heard about Focusmate.com. The theory behind it is one of an accountability partner – which, as plenty of people know, helps when you’re trying to do something like write or paint or sculpt or practice the piano, or anything else. You create an account, then book a session for whatever time you like. They pair you with someone, and at the designated time, you launch the session, and both you and your partner for that session are on webcams, doing your work and watching (out of the corner of your eye, if your screen is set up correctly) one another.  It’s like being there in person with one another, except without the travel or noise of whatever environment you might been in had you gotten together in real life.

Even though my internet connection sucks on the best of days, and because there is no way I’m meeting up in real life with a person or persons at a coffee shop or anywhere else, it seemed like something worthy of at least a try. So I ordered myself a cheap little webcam that is now hanging atop my monitor like The Raven, eyeing me, and today signed up for a session at 2, with another upcoming at 6. The sessions last 50 minutes – about the time of the typical session with a shrink or analyst, and I imagine that is not by accident. You log in, launch the session with whoever you’ve been paired with, exchange greetings and what you’re working on/hope to get done, and off you go, doing whatever it is you are respectively doing. In the early session, I was paired with a guy working on some computer science-related material; as I type this, it’s about half an hour or so from the second session I booked. I’m happy to report that in that earlier 50 minute session, I pounded out 968 words, according to Scrivener.

You’ll also get notices from the site when the next session is starting if you log in via your phone – I discovered this by accident because our internet connection went down about 40 minutes before the start of the 2 PM session I had booked. A notice popped up on my phone 30 minutes before I was due to launch the session on my desktop. That was nice, although I thought I was going to have to cancel that session thanks to my sucktacular ISP. Luckily, they got themselves going again, and I was able to complete the session without a problem.

So, if you’re looking to do something – even doing some reading you’ve been wanting to get to, I imagine – and like me, can’t get yourself to do it because you have ten million other things you need to do, you might want to give Focusmate a try. It’s free, and the only things you need are a camera, mic, and a computer with an internet connection available.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

First tomatoes

Tomatoes. The star of the garden. They can be rather diva-like – the heirloom varieties especially. For four years straight, for instance, I tried to grow Cherokee Purples. I think we got half a dozen fruits off them. While they were tasty, they were too much of a pain, so I set them aside.

This year, I tried to limit the number of varieties. Ha! Just kidding! No, really, I did, picking the ones I thought would be best for eating, canning, making sauces, and so on, a mix of determinate and indeterminate varieties, and a mix of things that would mature from early to late season.

This year’s varieties: paisano, skyway,valley girl, early girl, mortgage lifter, 4th of July, sungold, indigo cherry drop, gladiator, oh happy day, big beef, sweet million, park’s whopper, season starter, legacy, corleone, dixie red.

I transplanted the majority of these in April, and they are doing very well.

I even found the first fruit out there.

And some art, courtesy of Mother Nature.

With the appearance of the first fruit, it is now a race between me and the pests: who will overcome the odds against them and be crowed master gardener? I’m afraid we will have to wait and see how the season progresses.

Still working on editing some videos. it would be nice to be able to devote some serious time to learning the software – I picked up Vegas Pro (thanks to Stacy for that recommendation, via her kids) and we’ll see if that’s a tad more friendly to people who just don’t have the time to get really into the guts of Premiere.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Weed, man

Wait, that’s “weedS, man”.

So there’s this weed called chamberbitter. It’s also known as mimosa weed, and if you’ve ever had to deal with a mimosa tree spinning off its seeds and creating clones of itself everywhere, invading the land, you’ll know why.

This particular weed is extremely hard to control, and has a multitude of seeds under each leaf. This weed, like many in the gardens here, arrived courtesy of manure: cows eat them as they’re grazing, poop the seeds out, and then that manure gets hauled off somewhere. And they are legion.

A long row to hoe

All that stuff down the middle is mimosa weed. Its seeds germinate when the soil temp hits 70F, and for us that came pretty quickly this season. Since I was sick for most of the first part of the month, they gained a foothold here where the shelling peas were down the lines marked with the posts.

That rain also means the soil is wet and heavy. Between that and the weed’s solid rooting, it’s a tedious and sweaty task to get them out.

This is the result of two 25-minute sessions.

Unlike purslane, this weed can’t be sold to hipsters

It’s humid and hot here, and some things, like ridding this bed of mimosa weed, seem to take forever. I was going to put the cukes here now that I pulled the spent shelling peas, but I realized there was simply too much work to be done through this row before I could put anything else in it. The first of the cuke seed – 30 seeds each of two varieties – went into another row before the rains came. I still have four more varieties to get sown, and if I can get work stuff done at the NOC in a reasonable time, I might be able to get them in tomorrow before the rains come again.

Apropos of nothing, there’s this show on TLC called “Our Wild Life” about a woman and her family in North Carolina who apparently adopt animals. Not just pets, but farm animals like sheep and llamas, birds, lemurs, baby kangaroos, miniature donkeys, tiny pigs, and so on. There are a lot of animals wandering around inside the house, and my first thought when seeing that was about just how much poop is scattered about the place. For some reason, they’re showing some extended clip of their bible study with all the animals wandering around, and that’s the end of the line for me. Not terribly interested in that

That aside, until next time, peeps: be well.

Night drive

I missed the window for a new posting on Wednesday. I was actually in the process of composing it when I had to head out to the NOC to beat a server into submission. Unfortunately, I also found another issue with a power unit while I was there, which means setting up another unit, configuring it, then switching the servers on the bad unit to the new one. It seems as if there is always something crying out for attention in the tech world. It can be very annoying and quite tedious.

But it was somewhere around 11 PM when I left, and the roads were mostly clear. There is literally no way to get anywhere I need to go without running into construction along the way. Jacksonville: Our Lady of Perpetual Construction.

It isn’t a terrible drive for thinking and having some music on during the trip out and back (about an hour and 20 minutes for the total round trip). I let my mind wander throughout the drive, and usually come up with a scene or two for some of the books that have been percolating in the back of my head. That happened tonight, and one of those scenes is a rather pivotal scene toward the end of the book that will contain it. The problem is I haven’t been writing. At all. Between being sick and work, where things can be really nutty sometimes, and have always-active tasks that need to be done, it doesn’t leave a ton of time when my brain is not totally fried from dealing with those tasks or with clients who are having some kind of issue.

I’ve said before (maybe here, maybe not) that a lot of tech work involves waiting. Waiting for a new kernel build to update on the servers. Waiting for the servers to reboot to finalize those new builds. Working on transfers of content from other networks to ours and doing the hundred little things that need to be done if they’re coming from a network that doesn’t use the same control panel we use. I’d guess it probably amounts to a little over a quarter of our time. What I would like to do is be able to train myself to get some writing done in those in between times of waiting or on tickets that land in the box for support. I read that Anthony Trollope would break out his writing into 15 minute chunks over the span of a few hours. He managed to pound out all sorts of stuff doing that. AND he was working for the post office.  Since it’s rare that I’d have a few hours in a row, I’ll have to make some adjustments and grab time where I can, making it a priority.

And that, my handful of readers, was my late evening. I hope yours were quieter.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Discipline

Lacking. Completely.

Nah, not totally, but it could use a bit of a kick in the pants. I’m in week six of the current pneumonia battle. This one is hanging around longer than the other five times this year. I have however, been busy, both inside and out. Sort of.

The gardens, oh my, the gardens.

It’s almost like I’ve been growing this crap on purpose

That’s the front. The back garden area is bad, too. But I’ve been concentrating on the front because there are things actively growing there right now: peppers, still chugging along – the tabascos certainly, the jalapenos to a lesser extent, and either the tabascos or the cayennes that weren’t chewed to death by bugs, too. Why the or? Because they both start out looking the same, and it’s impossible to tell what is in what frame row without breaking out the original season map I did. I haven’t done that, as it’s depressing to see the season that could have been.

That pic up there is from November 21. I decided to get off my ass and start pulling weeds and get things moving as our “winter” doesn’t last long. I’d rather not have a gigantic list of things that need to be done to get the gardens in shape when I’m tending seedlings and trying to guess what Mother Nature is going to give us in the new year – if it’s a mild winter, do I take the chance and start getting tender things like tomatoes and peppers out, or do I wait until our usual last frost date, that we didn’t have last year? It’s a challenge.

This is what I got done by November 27.

Less crap, more open space and clean!

This is December 2.

Getting there

In the mid left are the remaining peppers, and behind that, the long asparagus bed. At the far, far rear, those are palmetto bushes along the area near the fenceline, not more crap to pull. Those are horrific to deal with when you want them gone, and take my advice: hire a tractor guy/gal or rent something to dig down into the ground and pull them. Don’t dig them by hand. One, sure, maybe. More? Nope.

When I managed to get the frame where the carrots had been a bit clear, I found some carrots that had either happily sat there for months or that were just now germinating for whatever reason – most likely, weed pressure, since I was sowing carrots every other week when spring came. When the hurricanes blew through us, they also blew down many of the taller weeds in that frame (and others), allowing light to get down to those carrots seeds again. There aren’t many, but the ones I found were perfect, and – according to others – mighty tasty.

I pulled more weeds yesterday, and the asparagus row is about halfway cleared. None pulled today, because it’s the time of the year my health insurance company jacks up my rates by 50% and the other options available basically amount to the exact same plan I have now as they relate to premiums plus deductibles plus copays and total out of pocket. This is life with chronic health issues. But, I know the vast majority of people will not have to pay higher premiums thanks to the ACA, so that’s good.

There was also no weed pulling today as I had to go to the car dealership and pick up my car – a couple of recall notices about the airbags, an oil change, and new tires. The service guy who handled it also mentioned other thins they “found” during the inspection – like “the engine is leaking oil somewhere, and to find it [they] will have to drain the engine, put dye in it, and find that, and oh, that will cost a couple hundred bucks just for that”. Really? It’s funny that seems to be a problem when there isn’t any oil under my car on the garage pad where I park. So, no thanks to all of that, and I’ll have my mechanic brother in law look at things here. One amusing note: that same BIL told my mother that one guy there in service was to be avoided if at all possible because he’s a jackass. Guess who handled my car check in yesterday. Yup. That guy, who wants to sell me another grand or so on other things.

**This took me a couple of days to get finished thanks to every day being a Tuesday for some reason – Tuesdays, in our little corner of the world, are batshit crazydays, and usually, they restrict themselves to Tuesdays instead of bleeding into others. But, who knows, this might be a change. It’s pretty quiet tonight, I’ve dealt with the issues that are incredibly time-consuming poking around in client stuff that wasn’t working and have gotten them all solved in some fashion over yesterday and today, and maybe, just maybe, the universe has decided my efforts have been enough to reward me with writing time.

That’s it for now, peeps. Until next time: be well.

 

Best laid plans

The actual quote behind “best laid plans” is from Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, in his poem “To a Mouse: On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough“, written in 1785:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
This comes toward the end of the poem. Of course the phrase has morphed over the years, and by now all one has to say is “Best laid plans…” in order to allow others to understand that something has gone awry.
Coincidentally, and probably not of interest to anyone but me,  but John Steinbeck took the title of his book “Of Mice and Men” from that very same poem.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this – it’s been several hours since I began this post before getting bogged down in work, but I think it’s going to be a twofer: one, writing progress. Two, dealing with assholes.
The first bit should probably be called lack of progress. I should have known better than to even attempt to believe Tuesday would cut us a break and not be insane, as they normally are. So yesterday, no writing, to bed at about 4AM this morning. Back up at 8:30 as my sister and the Soul Eating Baby came over, and of course, work work work. It’s pretty quiet now, so I’m going to get some writing in after I post this. “Why not do it before you post this?” you may ask.
Eating. Plus, getting warmed up before writing. (Note: this has not worked, as that very sentence was left hanging while dealing with someone’s DNS issue.) Summary: no writing yesterday, no writing today. It’s quite annoying.
Second bit: assholes who don’t pay their bills for five months beginning late LAST year, and who were termed early THIS year, having the audacity to show up a year later whining about their stuff, claiming that they were thisclose, on the cusp, on the edge, almost about to write a no doubt best-selling book and need that one domain for it, and why is that no longer theirs and what have I been paying you for.
You know what that gets you? A timeout. Also a bullshit notice, internally, because look, if you’re serious about your stuff and you have been around for years, and you’ve been billed the same way, at the same time, every month for years, it might occur to you to wonder a bit about how it’s odd that no charges from us have appeared. Or that the site was suspended. Or that the domain wasn’t working. Or, you know, you might show up a lot sooner than a whole YEAR LATER, asking what the issue is. That is, if it was actually important, and not some magically coincidental lie. Because we’ve read THAT book before. And it blows.
So there you have it. Another day in paradise. Until the next day in paradise, peeps: be well.

Maintenance

Way back in the day – and by that, I mean around 1998-2000 – I used to keep a personal page about the weirdo things we would field from people about their technical issues. This was originally set up on a GeoCities page. Remember that? At the time, it was groundbreaking: a place where you could build an online presence in a “city” where other sites similar to yours also lived. Eventually, I moved the content to its own domain.

The point of this history lesson is that at that time, HTML was language, and the page I maintained and updated weekly required me to go right in to the code and modify it to put in the things I needed to put in. It was a great experience: learning some things from the ground up, troubleshooting what didn’t work after you updated a page and finding that you left a termination code out, and deciding just which h code  you wanted to have for the title and headings to make them normal sized or large or gigantic and bold, and so on.

As time passed, of course people developed content management systems in perl and PHP and the world drifted over from doing things in HTML to doing things in other languages, first in raw files and then in applications people developed to make creating and maintaining sites much easier than they had been.

Fast forward to today. We’ve absorbed clients from other hosts over the years, and some of those sites are still anchored in HTML, built by those hosts and then not really updated code-wise, even if they had a maintenance contract with the user. When we inherited those folks, we also inherited the content modification requests. This is forcing me to take a very deep dive back into the brain and go retro on the editing the user wants to have done. I firmly believe that challenges like this keep those brain cells active, and according to “they”, this can only be a good thing.

And now back to that deep pool in the brain, swimming in HTML code.

Until next time, peeps: be well.