This is what I do when I’m not at work.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Posted: April 17th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: events, life | No Comments »

Well, it looks like 2008 is going to be as rife with change as 2007 was. I certainly hope the end of 2008 equates to relative stability and prosperity, but only time will tell. I can’t even comment on most of these changes because I honestly don’t know what most of them are going to be. All I know is that patience is a virtue and that one must remain calm in the midst of chaos.

Wonder Woman says \'Oh no you didn\'t!\'

More news as it happens. See you at Elmo’s!


Predictable Like The Weather

Posted: March 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: generic, local | Comments Off

Pretty much as soon as I made that last post about the winter snow, the rain came to wash it all away (to prove me wrong, I presume). Since then we have seen many signals of Spring, including sunshine, plant growth and people wearing t-shirts in 40 degree weather. It is almost like Miami around here!

There have been four or five other snowfalls, but they were so light that they only hang around for a day or so. It does make for some extra muddy dog walks, but I guess this is how this area gets its moisture for the season. During the rest of the year this is supposed to be one of the driest regions in the USA. Oh well, “Summer will be beautiful!”

Work has been keeping me busy and I’ve since launched a large-scale scanning project at home to digitally archive all my important memories from the past twenty years or so. My camera was away for repair for almost two months and I think that is the longest stretch I’ve lived without a camera for my entire life. It was rough to miss out on capturing some neat sights. As the days grow longer and warmer, I hope to get out to explore and photograph some of the beautiful places around Moscow.

Apparently, the UNC Tarheels are doing really well in some basketball tourney that is going on. I don’t even know what a tourney is, but since everyone knows I’m from North Carolina I can’t walk fifty feet without someone mentioning it to me. I’m always like “Oh yeah! Awesome! Tarheels ROCK!!” and this seems to be a satisfactory answer. On the flip side, this is way better than everyone talking to me about tobacco farming.


Cabin Fever Anyone?

Posted: February 18th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: life | 2 Comments »

Here I am relaxing by the fireplace and watching the lovely snow fall.

Jack Torrance relaxing

When I was interviewing last September, they told me about the “mild” winters in North Idaho. When I arrived in November, it was only a matter of days before the snow began falling. Since December, there has not been a time when giant mounds of snow were covering every inch of ground. Two weeks ago, the university closed on both a Thursday and Friday because the amount of winter snow was so insane. Yes, the entire university closed for two full days. No, the university hadn’t closed for snow-related reasons since 1969.

Needless to say, it is cold as a mofo and those of us not made of cast iron are stuck indoors at all times. You know things are rough when I begin referring to days as “warm” when they are reaching the low 40s. There is constant mention that “The summers here are beautiful!” and I thought the Spring might bring some relief, as well. Now folks are telling me that it is cold right up ’til July 4th. Then they say “Although it is unusual to have snow fall on July 4th, it has happened.” WTF? I will be in an asylum by then. Pray for The Tuze!


Chocolate Cherry Bagel

Posted: February 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: local | 2 Comments »

CHOCO CHERRY BAGEL

Why am I posting pictures of frightening looking turds on my weblog? Ha-HA! I am not!! That, my friends, is the world’s greatest culinary creation — the Chocolate Cherry Bagel !!!

In Moscow, we have this truly fantastic bread and pastry shop which goes by the moniker of Wheatberries Bake Shop. You will find me in this place at least five days a week. I would be there seven days a week, but they choose to make me suffer by being closed on Sunday and Monday. This means I usually have to stock up on Friday and Saturday.

One day around the holiday season, I see this funky, turdy looking thing in the back of their display case and I had to inquire. Once they told me it had both chocolate AND cherry in it, I was sold. I purchased the little turd and brought it to my office. Little did I know that this bagel would change my life.

The story goes that for the holidays they make chocolate cherry bread and there happened to be some batter left so the owner thought “What the hay?” and made some bagels. The chocolate cherry bread is only supposed to be a once-a-year thing anyway. Yet I have caused such a stir in their tiny little shop that they had no choice other than appeasing the “big crazy white man” and deciding to offer this manna from heaven at quasi-random intervals. This means that on the days I see them in the case, I have to buy all of them immediately to keep anyone else’s greedy hands off them. Mmmmmmmm….. Mine all mine, Choco Cherry Bagel. Arrggglllll….

I feel sorry for you if you can’t have a choco cherry bagel at least twice a week. I mean, what are you living for?


GIAC Rising

Posted: January 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: events, technospiel | 1 Comment »

The certificate granting branch of the SANS Institute, GIAC, just reached two important milestones. The first one was attaining ISO certification, which I’m not sure about, but I think it means that if an airline pilot has a heart attack and they need someone to fill in, then they will let me safely land the plane. The second big deal was that there are now over 20,000 of us. Twenty-thousand elite hacker, plane flying super geniuses who are all out there protecting your data from that evil CATS character.

“What’s a GIAC?” you may be asking. I wasn’t sure so I had to go look it up myself. Just kidding! If I learned one thing from my GSEC class (and I did) it was what GIAC stands for.

GIAC (pronounced Gee-ACK) = Global Information Assurance Certification
GSEC (pronounced Gee-SEC) = GIAC Security Essentials Certification

I guess they would call that second one a recursive acronym. If you have any idea what ‘recursive’ means. Anyway, this is all good news for SANS (Steven Northcutt) and GIAC (Jeff Frisk). It is good news for me, too, because in 100 years, employers in the technology realm will know what GIAC stands for.

You see, there is this other “certification” (if you can call it that) named CISSP. I have no idea what that stands for either, but it has one more letter in it. This obviously means something really really good to hiring managers because everyone I’ve ever known who got a really awesome job has “CISSP” after their name. I’m sure a simple Google search could unearth this mystery, but honestly who has that kind of time?

Anyway, there are a lot of CISSPs out there. Droves. Like a bazillion or so. And they hog all the headlines when it comes to those slick technology magazines that you all want to be seen reading in the coffee shop. So GIAC wants to dethrone CISSP. Or at least give it a huge black eye. But the playing field is, like, way unfair and stuff. So think back to that incredible theatric release of 2006, 300. It is like that! Dramatic, huh? Except we (the GIACs) are like the Spartans. So now envision me (and a bunch of other pot-bellied dudes) waving GSEC certificates over our heads whilst screaming “THIS IS SPARTAAAA!!!!!” and charging a bazillion nerds wielding CISSP certs.

Whoa. That would rock. And much blood would be shed. But it is all for a good cause. We just want to protect your computers, like, man. And thus was the tale of GIAC Rising.


Tragistrophic Leopard Upgrade

Posted: January 19th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: computers, grousing, sorrow | 4 Comments »

LEOPARD EQUALS DEATH!

The advertisement from Apple says “So advanced, it practically installs itself.What a load of garbage! Here is the story of my nightmarish upgrade to Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

Before we even begin, I have to own up to my culpability for not ensuring I had full and complete system backups before beginning the software upgrade. In my defense, I did not have sufficient external disk drive space to perform this backup, otherwise I would have done so. And while I have seen glitches and issues with Apple upgrades in the past, I have never experienced complete, total, catastrophic data loss. Now I know what true suffering feels like…

The new Mac OS X release “Leopard” came out while I was accepting a new job and moving across the country, thus it wasn’t a good time to perform an operating system upgrade. So I waited. It wasn’t until I had settled into my new town and was learning the ropes at my new job that I felt the urge to see what all the fuss was about. November 12th was that fateful day. A day that will live in infamy as far as I’m concerned. I had three years of customizations and perfected settings in my 10.4 Tiger system and was concerned about losing those settings. I should have been a lot more concerned.

I have been having data storage problems lately, as my music library grows well over 300 Gigabytes in size and my movie collection is easily 100 Gigabytes or more. Currently I cannot afford to purchase more external disk drives and the idea of burning everything onto DVDs is about as appealing as unnecessary root canals. I had as much as possible copied onto my external hard drive, but there was not enough free space to make a current copy of my user directory or the all important ~/Library directory (hint: your email lives here if you use Mail.app). Like I stated above, I’d seen some funky behavior at upgrade time in the past, but never had everything destroyed.

My main system drive is 500 GB, which in real terms means 465 GB. At the time, I was using 460 GB on this disk. The first Leopard upgrade attempt failed because there was not enough disk space to install the new operating system. So I grudgingly deleted a few crappy movies and other random files of lesser importance. Once I had about 7 GB of free space, I chose the most minimalist upgrade option and the installer told me it would need just under 5 GB of disk space. I figured “No problem! I’ve got at least 2 GB to spare.” This was where my thinking was terribly, terribly wrong.

On a fast system, the average time to upgrade an OS is about 20-25 minutes. Mac OS X likes to perform a system analysis before actually beginning the upgrade and this can run a couple of minutes tops. Well, it was stuck in an “Analyzing system” state for a good hour or so before even beginning the install process. This was my first clue that something was going awry. I assume it was indexing all the files on my hard drive during that time, but it should have stopped itself at some point with a message akin to “Dude, your hard drive is too full. This upgrade is going to make your data toast.” Instead, it ran the disk through a grinder for hours and hours — always telling me that it was 99% installed and “1 minute from finishing installation.”

After four or five hours of waiting and praying that this wasn’t the end of my happiness, I called my friend Ian in a panic. It was the middle of the night where he was, but I had an emergency! He nervously tried to offer trouble shooting advice from thousands of miles away and we finally conceded that my only option was to power the box down and pray for the best. Well, the power up was a bit shaky with screen resolution doing some crazy things and it seemed like it took 10 minutes to boot (but was probably closer to 5 minutes). Behold! A login prompt!!

From the first moment I logged in, the machine was exhibiting bizarre behavior. Lots of GUI errors and things jiggling and fritzing with no correlation to user input. My data was still there, however, and I was now running a Leopard system. But the instability bugged me and I wondered if there was an Apple patch to deal with issues on freshly installed systems. I don’t remember checking available disk space, but if I had to guess, the main drive only had a couple of MB left free. Foolishly, I went to Software Update and commanded it to heal thyself. This was a bad idea.

Had I known what lie ahead, I would have gone immediately to the all-night external disk drive store and purchased an emergency drive (you can always return it in the morning, right?). So, the PowerMac hurled and wheezed and spun its wheels for hours downloading Apple patches and filling up the remainder of space on my drive. Then it wouldn’t boot. At all. Like nothing. Nada. Blue screen of “You’re a dumbass.” And with that, all my years of diligently acquired data were gone. I spent more hours into the wee morning trying to access it, perhaps boot it as a firewire target drive, anything. All to no avail. My Mac was gone. I was making the sad Mac face. Well, it was more like the completely exhausted and utterly pissed Mac face. I had to go to work in, like, three hours.

The next day I sat at work completely disgusted with myself. I ran over every data recovery scenario in my head and thought of my mistakes along the way. As you can see, I am taking most of the blame for this royal screw-up, but I still refute Apple’s claim that Leopard is “So easy to install, a monkey could do it.” It told me that it needed 5 GB of disk space. I had 7 GB of available disk space. At no point did it say, “Oh yeah, we was just kidding about the 5 GB claim. ABORT! ABORT!!” That error message would have been a welcome sight compared to losing all my files.

So here is the post mortem: I lost ten years of meticulously archived and sorted email. TEN YEARS! A folder for each friend, family member, business contact, you name it. All gone. This has burned my britches the most. I am sad that there are people I will probably never hear from again and I have no real way to contact them without an email address. I lost every single imaginable system preference, saved password, application customization — basically anything that helped me work better, harder, faster, stronger. I lost every single file I had added in the month prior to November 12th. That was hundreds of MP3 files, quite a few movies, lots of personal photographs, and many text files with notes about important shit that I have now forgotten. The frustration, at times, has been too much to bear. Oh, and I also lost all my applications — the things that enabled me to make websites and edit photos and record music and do just about anything. All gone.

November 2007 was one of the saddest months of my life because of this data loss. All thanks to a wonky OS installer that told LIES! Lesson learned: NEVER TRUST AN APPLE UPGRADE! Now I don’t want to have any data on my machine at all. I am looking for a network file server solution to house all my important data and I’ll just keep current working projects on my workstation — with regular backups, of course. I don’t know what is embarrassing in other lines of work, but when you are paid to do computer work and you completely hose your home system it is more than egg on your face. It is like a Denver omelette with jalapenos and motor oil all over your face. I felt like I had been Jackassed and Punk’d and Flip This House’d all into one. Total Lame-Tard status.

Anyway, in case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing with myself over the past few months, I can tell you I’ve been working a lot. And in the few hours I’m not eating, sleeping or working, I am tiring endlessly to restore my system to the state it was in before November 12th. I am now living in a post-11/12 world and it is painful and terrifying. Never forget November 12, 2007. The day I lost my data and all related happiness. That is my tale of the tragistrophic Leopard upgrade. I hope it didn’t happen to you!

As a final note, I want to plug Joe Kissell and his amazing work on the Take Control series of eBooks for Macintosh. This guy is awesome and historically I have purchased every version of his “Upgrade to [new OS X version]” eBook ever published. This time I was in a hurry and look what happened. I should have bought his eBook, read its contents, meditated on the Kissell koans and then hired a shaman to do my upgrade. If you try to tell me there is a better person out there writing about Mac upgrades, then I will beat your ass. Capiche?


Insta-Blizzards

Posted: January 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: local, observation | No Comments »

So one of the coolest things (at least to me) about North Idaho is that in a matter of minutes an enormous snow storm can whip up out of nowhere — even at times when no snow is predicted. This happened two weeks ago when I went into Wal*Mart and there was no snow, nor signs of snow. When I came out from shopping 25 minutes later, it looked like I fell off Santa’s sled somewhere over Antarctica. Just blizzardy-ass snow from out of nowhere.

This evening, I was too lazy to make dinner so I decided to drive across town to Winger’s. You guessed it. Winger’s is a hair band themed restaurant where they only serve blazing hot chicken wings and blare Winger out of their 40,000 watt stereo system. Totally chic and romantic, if you are in that sorta mood. Anyway, I was only in there for about 40 minutes, but when I tried to leave it was difficult to see my vehicle across the parking lot because this Class 17 snow tsunami had sprung out of the blue.

It was great. I got to race home in the sideways driving wet snow, sliding around corners and honking at all the slow moving locals. I have no idea why everyone slows down when a tiny little blizzard hits. I mean, they are supposed to be used to this, right? Well, I consider a good snow storm to be a stealth mechanism for my car so all bets are off and all rules of the road are suspended. When it snows, it is time to put on your game face. And nobody better be in my way. I just wish I had a camera good enough to share it with you.

All the power just went out while I was posting this. Thank goodness for uninterruptible power supplies. Someone must have bowed out of the Snow Dog 500 and into a telephone pole. Ooops. Time to go reset all the other clocks in the house…


Got Me Some Netflix

Posted: January 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: eShopping, interwebby, movies | No Comments »

Well, I had been putting off getting a Netflix account for several years now, but that wind of change was blowin’ through 2008 and convinced me to commit up to $17 per month to another online merchant. They say the first two weeks are free…

NETFLIX.COM

Now I fully expect to become a couch-ridden blob, unable to answer the phone or go to work, simply popping in DVDs and making snacks 24/7. This is my destiny! However, I am not so impressed with their service. I opened my new account thirty minutes ago and I am yet to receive a single DVD. What? Do they think I’ve got all night??

Happy New Year to you! What is your resolution (if you chose to make one)? Does it require as much athleticism and physical endurance as my New Years Netflix resolution? What movies should I put in my queue?


Got My Christmas Wish

Posted: December 25th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: life | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Well, it wasn’t until 7:00 PM tonight, but it finally started snowing! It has been coming down for the last hour or so and since the temps are below 30 it should stick around for a while. Now if it would just snow hard for the next 24 to 48 hours, then I can go sledding on campus. Woo-Hoo!!


Please Let It Snow For Christmas

Posted: December 21st, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: life | No Comments »

…if only in my dreams!

Actually, we have four solid days of snow predicted, so I hope at least a few flakes fall. I am ready to see more Winter Wonderland.

Merry Christmas, all!