Minding the store

Today was Inauguration Day here in the US. Since no one offered me tickets to any of the glamorous events, I spent my day in the same sort of unglamorous duties that occupy my time: minding the network and the servers. Periodically checking my seedlings to see if anything else has come up. Looking at weather reports. Watching the various news stations, since ebb and flow of events is typically what drives other-than-normal traffic on days like today.

And, of course, dealing with the inevitable douchebags in the desk. Here’s a tip: if your web host tells you that it’s your site creating an issue on a server, repeatedly, and finally moves your site to be all by its lonesome on a brand new, powerful server so you stop impacting other users who had the misfortune to share server space with you, and the site still crashes the server where you’re all alone, guess what? It is, in fact, your site causing the issues. It isn’t rocket science to figure this out. So keep your snotty remarks to yourself about how we should use pixie dust or whatever the hell you think is used to keep things running around here to fix your site that we didn’t create and don’t maintain and how we’re always blaming you. It IS you. Best of luck with your next host, who instead of relocating your site will probably just turn it off until you get your shit together. I won’t hold my breath waiting for the apology you said you’d send personally. Oh, and you over there, who wants a credit for those “purported” upgrades we gave freely and you think you didn’t get: guess what that “N” in your plan name stands for, genius? That’s right: new.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here. Most of our clients are just normal, civil people. They write in for something, we deal with it, they say thanks (or not, which isn’t a huge deal as long as they’re squared away) and off they go, happily about their business. These other, rude, nasty people are just like weeds poking up in the garden, unnecessarily causing stress to everyone they contact. I had a theory many years ago, and I still hold it to be true: there are simply some people in this world so utterly miserable in their little lives that they seem to be on a mission to try and make everyone else just as miserable. They don’t seem to understand that it’s self-fulfilling to a point: if you’re a nasty bitch, no one is going to want to be around you, which leads to an even more miserable existence (“Nobody loves meeeeeee!”), resulting in more crap you try to shovel into other peoples’ lives, and so on.

Overall, however, not a bad day at all. The network traffic started creeping up as people got themselves in front of their computers to post about the pomp and circumstance, or comment on someone else’s postings. A rather humorous moment when Chief Justice Roberts flubbed his lines and Obama waited while he got his shit together to finish repeating the oath. Traffic peaked during Obama’s speech and then stayed there for awhile as people yammered about whatever they were yammering about, and then settled back down to normal levels. By this evening and the other events, we were right back at usual levels, with only a few spikes here and there. Which left me with time to get my brother to call Hughes about the issue we were having with the satellite.

And that was a colossal waste of time for everyone involved. Usually, when we have this particular problem – had it before, will have it again, no doubt – I fill out their contact form on their customer care page, telling them there’s an issue with the DNS server(s) and the proxy server(s), telling them exactly the behavior we’re seeing with the inability to connect to certain ports (something as simple as port 22 for SSH, for instance), telling them NOT to send me back the canned answer I know I will receive about calling in to the business support line since this has nothing to do with the equipment here and the issue lies at their end, and telling them to pretty please send along this information to someone higher up the food chain – like the network geeks.

What I usually get back is the canned answer: please call for support. But the problems themselves, they go away – I figure they send along the message to network, but have to send me a reply, so fill it in with the can.

Today, however, the contact form did not work. It allowed progress up to the point where you actually put in your comments, and when you submit the form, it times out. Now, if I am on the Hughes network – and I am, by virtue of my connection here – and their support pages are on that network, should I not be able to use their support site regardless of any other issues they might be having beyond being totally down? One would think so, but apparently that is not the case.

So I got my sister to try submitting the page, with my comments, since she’s on a completely different network. Nothing.

And that meant what I dread: calling them, to try and convince them that I do know what I’m talking about and that we really just need to pass the message along to network. I had my brother call, since I’d been dealing with the craptacular service since last night and all day long today while trying to do what I need to do here, was not in the best of moods, and mostly can’t be understood over the phone anyway.

First call: a guy. We go through our spiel. He puts us on hold, and then disconnects us. Great.

Second call: a woman. We go through our spiel. I realize we’re in serious trouble when she starts going through her script without listening to a word we’re saying. I realize we’re in even deeper trouble when she has to put us on hold so she can go look up what “DNS” means. When she comes back, we try again. Back and forth, back and forth. We want someone in network, or at least someone at a higher level. There isn’t anyone, she says.  That, of course, is an outright lie, since obviously she isn’t capable of understanding certain things and just as obviously isn’t running any portion of the network.

We try again. She goes through some things, tells us what we already know: that we do not have a problem on our end. Exactly! My brother tells her that he completely agrees with her: she says we have no problem. We say we have no problem. Can you see how this indicates a problem that is NOT at our end, but at yours, and thus requires that the information be passed along to someone who can actually understand and react to it? She doesn’t grasp this.

We ask for a direct email address for support. She claims there isn’t one, that the only contact is via the form. Another lie, as everyone has email. We then ask her another puzzler: if she (or someone there) cannot solve the problem or offer a way to get it solved, and the contact form does not work, just what the fuck are we supposed to do? Actually, that was my question, and I’m sure she must have heard that, but the boy cleaned it up before asking her that.  We then had to walk her through accessing her own company’s customer care area and contact form, then walk her through filling out the form, to teach her how to use it and to see what happens when someone like us tries to use it, rather than calling in for completely ineffectual support for a problem that doesn’t exist at our end.

Our call ended with me demanding the corporate mailing address. I have a printout of the diagnostics for the uplink and downlink, and it pretty much all reads BAD and MARGINAL. I’ll be including that, and something fairly similar to what I just posted above, in my letter.

Minus the “fuck”.



That would be me. Why? Because I started yet another flat the other day, mostly of tomatoes and peppers. The more I see fat food ads – no, that is not a typo – the more I want to ensure that we, here, and our family as a whole, have as much good food as is possible. I love a Whopper and some onion rings here and there, but some of the ads are positively nauseating. Does anyone really need to eat a one pound calzone in a single sitting? Bleh.

Now that we have the propane cooker rescued from my brother’s place, I’m hoping we will be able to actually regulate the temperature better for the pressure canner than is possible on the stovetop.Canning means massive quantities of roasted red pepers, available any time for soup. Pickled pepperoncinis for sandwiches (and my uncle, who used to eat them right out of the jar, as did I before my mouth became a mess). Tabascos, for making – what else? – tabasco sauce (or the equivalent since that may be trademarked and I’m too lazy to get up and check the jar in the pantry, so please don’t sue me, thanks). Canned green beans. Pickled onions. Hell, pickles, both sweet gherkins and kosher dills. And bread and butters. And whatever else we can stock up on so when it comes around to dinner time, we can taste the summer even in the dead of winter.

Not by bread alone

But heck, if it had to be, it might as well be this bread.

The entire kitchen and dining area smelled like dough while it was going through the rise and proof.

Nothing like a slice of freshly baked bread.

Maybe with some apple butter?

Bringing home the bacon

It’s been awhile since the last batch of home smoked bacon. I’ve been saying for months now that I would do another batch, but something always seemed to get in the way. Since I was feeling particularly energetic last weekend, I went ahead and broke out one of the pork bellies from the freezer, chopped it in half, set it to brine (pink salt, maple syrup, brown sugar, black pepper), and stuck it in the fridge for a week, turning it every day.

Today was smoking day. The wood of choice for this round? Apple. Last time it was hickory, but I thought the applewood and black pepper would go together pretty well.

Three hours at 200 degrees gave me this.

The left slab is meat side up, the right is skin side up. I’ve seen arguments back and forth about leaving the skin on versus taking it off before smoking, but quite honestly, taking it off before smoking is more of a pain than taking it off after, so around here it stays on.

The side view.

Are you ready for your closeup?

I removed the skin with as thin as possible a fat layer attached, and then started slicing – some thick, some thin, and some in a mini size. After all, sometimes you want big loads of bacon and sometimes you don’t.

Of course, no smoking day is complete without taste testing. The ends and the weird shaped pieces – since the bellies are not just uniform square slabs – go into the pan.

If I were truly devoted, I’d save that bacon grease for cooking: making up a batch of collards, or to use for browning some onions and garlic as the base for baked corn. But I don’t like collards, and we don’t have any corn at the moment, so away it goes. Unfortunately, I also can’t eat bacon since my treatment, so I enjoy the smells that go along with it while everyone else wolfs it down.

Reading the colors

The forecast was for 30-ish. We’d already had the peas and broccoli under cover for the past couple of nights, but tonight and tomorrow will see a true hard freeze for us here, so the smaller trees, not yet hardy enough to withstand that cold, had to be covered. Fortunately, with a number of five foot trellises previously used to brace al sorts of vegetables in the summer, we had plenty to useas suppotrs for the plastic we used to cover the trees to get them through the cold snap. I’m not a huge fan of cold weather. I am, however, a huge fan of being able to see large swaths of the sky as the colors change when we move from day to night (or night to day).

Alas, for an education

While driving back from yet another visit to the dentist, I came across two very good examples of something quite basically wrong with this country.

Item one: a spray-painted, stenciled sign, offering a trade for “Farm, Land, or Traktor”

Item two: the ironic one, at an elementary school, offering “congradulations” to a teacher of the year. I had to wonder, cringing all the while, if said teacher walked into the office and demanded to know if whoever put up that gem was once a student of theirs. Personally, I’d deny it.

2008 in review

In my idle moments today – between calming people frantic for no reason whatsoever, explaining to people that yes, they must pay for their domains before they are registered or renewed, and resetting yet another password – I thought about 2008 and what happened.

One of my cats died, from cancer. We got another dog, who is cute as hell. We got three chicks, who became chickens, and then started laying eggs. We had several great parties. We fenced the front of the property, and had a good garden going. We survived yet another brush with a hurricane and then a tropical storm that dumped a foot of rain locally. One of the chickens flew the coop. Another was killed by a critter. My sister had her baby, my brother finalized his divorce. I continued my numerous visits to the dentist in an attempt to keep my teeth. I finally had a PET scan that was determined to be “clear”, rather than one still showing small levels of activity. I turned 40 and my mom turned 60. We didn’t get any corn beyond a few ears, but haven’t given up, even though we’re probably fools for not doing so. We expanded again at the NOC, and made some application changes to make our lives simpler. We decided that the 2009 gardening should be much bolder – and much bigger – than 2008, and are planning accordingly. We spent a quiet New Year’s Eve at home, having dinner and playing games.

All in all, not a bad year from a life standpoint. What more could anyone ask?

Winter has arrived…finally

Our winter has finally arrived, starting tomorrow night: an entire week of freezing temperatures. I’m not terribly thrilled about it, since I don’t tolerate the cold very well, but it is good practice for the garden area and a time for experimenting. Leaving a few herbs uncovered, for instance – the sage is supposed to be incredibly cold hardy, so how will it react to temps in the 20s? The garlic should be able to survive, although we will be putting some straw down around it. The peas I know will not take hard freezes, so they will get teepees of plastic to carry them through each night. We’re building a cover for the wellhead and bladder, to keep them from freezing and knocking out the water when we get up in the mornings. And, we’re rigging a heat lamp in the coop to keep the sole chicken from freezing her tailfeathers off during the overnights.

I’m just happy I don’t live someplace like this:

Waiting for rain

We live in some weird Bermuda triangle-like area here: if the forecast says 30% chance of rain, ours is more toward zero. If it says 50%, likewise. Over that, and it starts looking better, but just barely.

Natural rainfall has a lot of benefits over watering from the well – plus, it saves on running the pump until we can get a solar bypass rigged on it, particularly to use during the summer months. Today, we had a brief downpour while I was at the NOC dealing with a recalcitrant server. Just now, we had a five minute or so massive rainfall, and just like that, it’s gone. This is the herald of a few evenings of freezing weather, so tomorrow will be hoop day in the garden to protect the little watermelon volunteers that made it through, and I’m going to try some peanuts under cover. They say they need four months of frost free weather, but with some plastic, I should be able to make them think it’s still rather balmy out.

Weekend pickoff results: I picked the Ravens (won), Eagles (won), Panthers (lost), and Steelers (won). Not bad, but a little weird that only one of the home teams managed to pull out a win in the playoffs.