Or Samhain if you're of that variety. I love Halloween, it's the best holiday. I know there are a lot of Xmas types out there, but let me tell you, if Xmas was amazing for you as a kid, you're fortunate. I would venture to assume that more kids have positive memories around Halloween than do Xmas. Divorced families don't usually include Halloween in the "major holiday" child swap like turkey day and xmas. All the kids get the neighborhood candy and don't have to play the "santa gave the rich kids more/better things" comparison game either.
Listen, it's not that I really hate xmas, I just dislike a lot of things bout it.
I wasn't sure what to be this year. With a bunch of other things happening, I didn't want to put a lot of money (or time) into a costume. The only costume items I really own are garb-related and going to a Halloween party with a bunch of other folks who do re-enactment meant my garb, especially, isn't an impressive costume. So, I started to brainstorm. What could I do that repurposes clothes that I already have, but is different enough from medieval peasant?
Enter the knitted hat/beard combo. Yep, a bit of medieval clothing, a weird hat and a beard and suddenly you have- Female Dwarf. It was fun, it was easy, and it won me 3rd place for most original costume. Being of short statue, one friend quipped "you're not tall enough to be a dwarf." With that terrible joke I'll end this, Happy Halloween!
I recently got to dust off the thespian skills by becoming a cast member of a nearby Renaissance festival. For three days I regaled with terrible medieval dad jokes and sparkling (literally that mask sheds sparkles like crazy) wit. I got involved with this project because some of my friend family group's encouragement.
Some might call it browbeating, but hey if it works, it works.
I knew right away that I wanted to be a jester, it's a chance to be a fool without being foolish. I mostly didn't terrify the children and successfully got patrons, vendors, and other cast members to laugh. Most importantly, I made some amazing friends and got to experience a very cool aspect of the faire. Additionally, proceeds go to a non-profit foundation, so volunteering for this directly contributed to a worthwhile cause.
The skies in the photo were a constant presence throughout the weekend as the rains from hurricane Ian made their way up to the Mid-Atlantic. The entire event got drenched. Amazingly, the show went on and very successfully. While a few things had to be rearranged, and some vendors/shows pulled out, overall the crowds still showed up and the event was by every measure a success. Everyone deserves a break from normalcy to be something different.
I'll be waiting with bells on for next year so we can do it all again.
One of the bucket list items for travel was Ireland. I remember, as a kid, watching a documentary on Newgrange and was fascinated by the ancient structures. I've always had a proclivity towards ancient civilizations and certain Ireland has a rich history from the Neolithic period. In fact, one of the things I learned on this adventure is that Ireland has the majority of Neolithic sites throughout Europe. My father joined me for our trip, we landed in Dublin Sunday morning and immediately rented a car and headed off on our adventure.
First, we visited the Hill of Tara, the original site for crowning Kings in ancient Ireland, and home to the Mound of Hostages. The King's stone, pictured to the left, provides the official marker and location but is surrounded by other mounds, a nearby old church, and tons of fields. It's worth far more information than I could or should impart so I'd encourage reading up on the histories I mention here to be better informed on the topics. It's all fascinating!
After the Hill of Tara, we hit Newgrange. They only had one spot open, and my father opted to nap in the car while I visited the is and Brú na Bóinne, which makeup the larger tour. These burial mounds are some of the oldest Neolithic sites, dating to 5,000+ years ago (approx 3500 AD). There are a plethora of artifacts that I was able to view, later, at the Artifact Museum in Dublin.
These mounds were likely sites of religious and cultural significance. The wall of white stones is the archaeological interpretation of what the monument may have looked like in it's original state. Over the years the stones had fallen and scattered around. In Brú na Bóinne, the stones are layed out in front of the opening of the mound, as though it leads a person to the entrance. It's unknown if either, neither, or both are correct.
The second photo in the carousel to the right shows the front door to Newgrange. The "window" above the large stone in the front allows in light and during key times of year that light shines all the way into the inner chamber and aligns with the center floor. We were able to see a demonstration with electric lights and it's a unique experience to appreciate a phenomena with persons who lived in what feels like a different world.
The final photo shows a demonstration of the stone carving that is apparent more in Brú na Bóinne with all the large stones that encircle the mound. The swirls, circles, cup marks, and other engravings are as mysterious as they are remarkable. Truly this was an amazing adventure.
After a night's stay in Drogheda, we ventured further and into Northern Ireland. It was disconcerting to go from KM to MPH, while the latter was more familiar having road signs go from 110 to 50 makes you question yourself. On the topic of driving, the roads reminded me a lot of Scotland, though perhaps a bit more scary since Scotland has regular laybys and Ireland didn't.
The picture here is of the Giant's Causeway. I had seen similar geological structures in Scotland and was eager to see the Irish side of the famous tale that lends it's name to the site. The landscape is gorgeous and unique. While the brush at the top of the cliff was rough and needly, the greenage below is almost entirely blackberries. I love blackberries, they make me think of my grandmother. I made it a point to taste blackberries everywhere I could just to say I did.
The hike was gorgeous, and breathtaking, as well as crazy scary. If you're able to blow up the picture (no idea if that's a thing on this site), you can barely make out a blue shirt climbing a path along the cliff on the left.
When we got to Sligo, dad enjoyed a round of golf while I picked more blackberries and took in the old grounds of Castle Dargan. The original castle dated back to the 13th Century and had an interesting history before becoming a Golf resort. The blackberries were delicious.
Limerick came next, but mostly I went there for the Hunt museum which was a lovely look into some ancient artifacts that were collected by the Hunt family before begin donated to the Hunt museum.
When we returned to Dublin the Artifacts Museum was the highlight of the city. While there were other museums and sites that were fantastic and interesting, seeing the Bog men (unexpected!), and artifacts from the various Neolithic sites was a moving experience. All in all Ireland was a wonderful trip and I wish I could do the descriptions of everything more justice, but as always it's worth seeing for yourselves.
More Self-Inflicted IT Problems
If you're like me and tend to over-complicate IT issues, you're not alone. I shared this story with a couple of coworkers and they commiserated and empathized with me. Onto the story!
Friday, I had decided that it would be cool if I could determine a way to route all my traffic through a pfsense VM on my server. My server has two NICs, but Windows only wants to use them for redundancy. So, I say to myself, maybe I should try a different OS on the server and see if I could make this magic happen. To start with, I needed a visual aid so that I could work through traffic flow. I used LucidChart and came up with this:
An important factoid in this setup is that both switches are dumb.
So Friday evening, I've nothing else requiring attention, I decide to give it a go. First, I clean up some drive space from things like games, since I have the gaming laptop, and prep the system for a dual-boot setup. At first, I tried installing an Ubuntu server distro. I quickly realized that I'm not big into the Ubuntu distro. In this process I also managed to format the drive I had my VMs stored on, meh, no big I can rebuild. Everything truly important to me, I keep backed up on my external drive pool. Next, I asked myself, what if I treated the server like a server instead of a desktop and maybe run a bare-metal hypervisor on it?
One of the limitations I was running into with the hypervisor was that I wanted to be able to access the hosts without being required to login to another computer. I hadn't found a way to accomplish that. That led me back to my old favorite, Eve-ng. If you've not played around with eve, it's free and very cool for doing network lab-ing. It happens to also run on a flavor of Ubuntu that they created, and you can access the VMs with a web portal that uses HTML5. I figured, that can't be too slow right?
At first, I was over-complicating the installation process. The instructions say, paraphrased, "install the Ubuntu OS". I took their ISO, used balenaEtcher to create the bootable USB, but it kept telling me there was no boot partition to use. I flashed it anyway and of course it didn't work. That's where the over-thinking came in. I tried installing Ubuntu, again, with the hopes that I could install Eve-ng rather easily onto the OS. First issue was that I had installed 22.04. There is no way to easily downgrade the OS, you have to re-do it. So, I then installed an even older version (18) because I had been googling around about installing Eve on top of Ubuntu and someone had indicated that was the flavor. However, that was outdated.
I talked with the community live helpdesk and they indicated that I needed 20.04. However, I was still having issues with getting it installed after I changed, again to 20.04. I had an ah-ha moment and decided to try using Rufus to flash a disk with the Eve-ng ISO and whaddya know, it worked. However, the OS seems to indicate that I've maybe wiped my Windows partition. Finally, I've got Eve-ng successfully installed on the machine, HUZZAH! By this point I've spent the majority of my weekend on this product and have stayed up way too late each night. I move my server into the basement, freeing up desks space and am feeling accomplished.
By Sunday evening, I'm trying to stand up new VMs, since I no longer have any. I want to start with a Cinnamon machine, and a Win11 machine. The former is my "every day" use machine- email, web browsing, updating my website, etc. Almost everything is done on my linux box. My Win11 host, I use exclusively for connecting to my work VDI. I dislike having to use my work laptop, so my priority is getting the Win11 box running. First problem I ran into was the TPM check. To bypass that during installation you have to launch a command window and add a key and some dwords to regedit.
I use a software based keyboard, I didn't have a function key programed into that layer, so I took a couple of minutes and re-did some of my keyboard software layout so that I can accomplish a long press to obtain the function. Back to the installation in the VM, I succesfully shift+F10. The long-press got communicated to the VM and it launched about 20-30 command windows. The VM response across this HTML5 web console is already much slower than I anticipated, now it's at an absolutely crawl of a pace. I attempted to suffer through it a couple of times, but it's being problematic. So, I say no big, let me just run Win10 instead. Again, the slow progress makes it a futile endeavor. By this point it's late, and I need to go to bed. I've resigned myself to fixing it Monday when time allows and just working from my work laptop.
If you've made it this far, you deserve a reward, so here, enjoy this "cattop".
Monday morning comes around. I've berated myself all night for even attempting the project when what I originally had set-up was ultimately working and provided me with most everything that I wanted except for that original idea of using the VM for pfsense as a my network firewall for non-VM devices. Basically, I accomplished everything and still nothing at the same time. Additionally, I have to move the server BACK to my desk area so I can re-do the OS, for probably the 10th time by now.
I figured, why not take this opportunity to clean-up my office and re-arrange my furniture for winter so I'm not so close to the fireplace. So I did. Once everything is in place, I'm ready to boot up my gaming laptop so I can rebuild the USB drive to boot Windows 11.
My gaming laptop won't boot. It won't even power on. Likely I've burnt it out by never turning it off, and the fans on it were shit.
Big sigh. I don't even know, maybe I'll sell some of the parts or maybe I'll let it be a de-stressor and beat the tar outta it. I ended up using my kid's PC to load the boot image onto the USB (twice because UEFI), just to find out my Windows partition hadn't been blow away at all. It was missing some .dll files, so I ran a repair and am back up and running on my server. I still had to re-build the VMs, and silver-lining to the story, I talked with our vendor support person at work and was able to get a free license key for VMWare Workstation Pro. Now I'm back to running multiple VMs, which I can access from my host, and re-installing my games on the host itself. At least my RTX 2060 isn't going to waste as it was when loaded with a hypervisor. I'm not gaming in VM, so whatever.
Thanks for joining me on the ride, tune-in next time for more IT problems.
When my pseudo father-in-law recommended a drive up to Mount Washington while on holiday in Maine, I was all for it. A beautiful drive up to the highest point in New England, what's not to like? The website and a big sign at the bottom both warn that it can be a difficult drive, especially if you're afraid of heights. The road is narrow, winding, and without guard rails. It can also be quite windy, with record winds having been recorded at the summit. The mountain itself is over 6,000ft high and the climate is considered alpine up top. There are several hiking trails, and even a train that can carry you to the top where an observatory, shop, and latrine are located.
Now, I want to tell you about the drive experience. I would like to preface this by saying I have never had an issue with heights. I grew up flying on planes, I've been on tops of cliffs and mountains and never experienced virtigo or anything like that. I know that being high enough in altitude can cause some issues, but again, it's familiar and not a concern. So when we started climbing this road I couldn't anticipate how absolutely freaked out I became. I like to tell the significant other, it's not the height that was the problem, it was the drop-offs. The picture above does a fairly good job of showing you the view and how gorgeous and high you are. On clear days you can see five states and Canada (or so they say). When they said the road was narrow, it was certainly not a lie. It reminds me of driving in Scotland across the Isle of Skye and experiencing the random pull-offs because the traffic can't really be two lanes. This was slightly wider, you CAN get two cars, but the pull-offs are necessary on the way down to cool your brakes (you have descend in 1st gear), as well as provide opportunities for photos. The photo below is taken from the summit, but you can see how steep the drop off is there. Now imagine that's about a foot (30.48cm) away from the asphalt and you can understand how jarring that is.
All I could do was laugh. I was so terrified that I felt hysterical and just couldn't stop laughing. I didn't want to make my kiddo afraid because of how afraid I was, but said kiddo took it in stride and kept trying to get me to look down. I could not look down. Once we were at the summit, I was fine, but that drop-off was truly unnerving.
Artifical Intelligence and Pictures
Some of you may already be aware that Artificial Intelligence projects around photo generation exist. Dall-E is one of the famous ones and they have a free interface to generate some pictures. There are other companies, such as the one I was introduced to, that offer paid-for-picture generation based on GPU utilization. These things are wicked cool. The way they work is using witch magic and math, they take existing pictures and your text prompts to create an image that you can use to generate variations and upscales until you fine-tune it inot something you want. The AI isn't perfect, at all. If you want pictures of people, then the more famous the better. Having it generate things that are people like produces some odd results. Take for instance this attempt at the prompt "magic the gathering plains, battle angel, post-apocalyptic, high detail"
There are probably thousands of examples of angels for it to attempt to generate from. It takes a combination of poetry and randomization. Being able to provide it input that it understands is half the battle. From the four pictures above you can choose ones to create the variations (or choose all of them if you want to use the GPU time). Eventually you might get to something recognizable.
As you can see, it's still imperfect but certainly much close than what it had been. It's an addictive process, especially for someone like me who lacks the ability and talent to create images myself. There's a beta trial you can sign up for, if anyone happens to be reading this, hit me up on twitter @faerly_mad and I'd be happy to give you a trial link. Until next time here's a slideshow of some of the images I've created.
Self-inflicted IT Problems
The other day I was playing World of Warcraft with my sister and my internet blipped. I had a couple issues with the log file filling up on my Pi causing it to stop responding to DNS queries, and I wasn't sure if that was my issue. So I went into my network firewall to turn the DNS over to a different provider so I could delve into the Pi at a later time. Except then I did the stupidest thing, I meant to refresh the connection between my external interface and the upstream but what I actually did was disable my LAN interface instead. So, I locked myself out of remote access to the firewall. Great.
To add to the compounding issue, the only laptop that has the drivers and USB A port (work laptop doesn't have USB A) is the same gaming laptop with a broken display ribbon. So, local console wasn't going to be an option either. My S.O. had work maintenance and I'm busy moving cables to bypass the firewall all together. I logged into the access point and switched it to router mode. Then that became intermittent and it was apparent that there were IP conflicts. Finally, I ended up just resetting the router and rebuilding the network from scratch.
Honestly, it kind of worked out for me. The Archer series routers have so much functionality that I hadn't even really messed with. Between the antivirus, QOS, VPN, and parental control features it may end up being a better long-term solution than the enterprise network firewall I had been using. AND now I can remote back to my network and use things like my Home Assistant. Winning at failing!
Paint the Roses Red
That's what these tea roses remind me of, with their streaked red & white petals. I associate roses with two things: my da, and England. One of the things that made living in England a unique experience is the cultural differences with gardening. Everyone, seemingly, has a little garden, whether it's boxes under the windows, a back patio, or even indoor. Da fell in love with the roses and when we moved back to the states he always grew them.
About a year ago, one of my neighbors had posted a message to the rest of the development that they wanted to get rid of some roses. It was in the height of July and neither of us knew if they would survive the major pruning and re-planing in the middle of summer. I took three rose bushes and all three, amazingly, survived. They were all pink as well. I bought two more, the one pictured above and another pink. I didn't actually mean to have a row of mostly pink roses but I'm not against it either; they smell so good.
It's like ergonomics but for nerds. I got an email a couple weeks ago about doing an interview for a company I bought a product from. I'm being intentionally vague because I'd rather wait for the publication and just link and talk about that in the future. I was going to talk about my gear and post up a picture of some of my nerdy ergonomics I've got going on here. When scrolling through the photos something stood out. It's okay if it doesn't stand out to you. If it does, well it does!
Additionally, yes I did put stickers on the plastic covering you're meant to peel off the laptop. I wanted the stickers but it's also something I'd considered re-selling at some point so I figured best of both worlds. The fans on this are just awful and the model is known for it's fan issues. When replacing them I may have been a bit indelicate around the monitor ribbon. Sue me, it was a frustrating project. The new fans started becoming loud after like, no time at all.
Guess it's time to make use of this beast again, it's a power guzzler which makes her entirely impractical for mobility. Since I'm not terribly keen on mucking around with the innards for the ribbon cable replacement, I'm running the monitor in dual screen. When this machine was down for repairs I ended up doing a lot more gaming on my server box. When the laptop's new fans were acting up I kind of threw my hands up, powered it off, and left it to wallow in my hatred for a while. I'm ready to return to it, since the gaming capabilities of the 2080 beat the 2060 and my i9 in this is far better suited for gaming than my Xeons.
All this PC time means I'm basically a slug. Which is why, I have to practice good nerdgonomics. For me this included a good quality chair, a desk that can lift for standing, and a keyboard that spreads out far enough that I can have a relaxed posture. The article I referenced will cover the various components a bit more, but here's the spoiler pic of my setup:
She sure plays a mean pinball
I was kind of shocked when I had this song stuck in my head, and my friend Dan hadn't ever heard of it. In any case, I went with my Significant Other to the arcade recently and they had a handful of pinball machines. I totally forgot how much I used to enjoy pinball. It's one of those things where I had a digital game as a kid (it was one of the only games I had as a kid) and played the hell out of it. Over time, I never really thought about the game, or pinball, again. I had so much fun playing I went on a mission to see what other arcades are in the area. Luckily for me, I found one that not only had pinball, but a LOT of pinball. Additionally, it was only $15 cover charge with unlimited gameplay. That's right, no quarters needed it's all set to free to play. Even better, the proceeds all go towards Autism support. The arcade itself is a certified autism center, and I can't say enough about how amazing that is. Even more betterer (intentional English faux pas), I'm learning a lot about pinball history. There is a fascinating culture and the games are filled with artistic, musical, and engineering works. I love it. I'm on a mission now to go watch some historical documentaries to help me learn even more because you can't just go half-pinhead.
Since the trip to the arcade I figured, why not try some digital pinball again? Hoo-boy I had no idea what a rabbit hole I just fell down. Not only is pinball alive & well in the digital formats, but there is a PLETHROA of options. There's Zaccaria, which has a lot of really old games with some really neat knockoffs (like The Invaders  which was a rip of Space Invaders), and hard mechanics. Then there's Zen studios with their current Pinball FX3. What's nice about FX3 versus earlier releases is the addition of a classic single player mode that is supposed to use the physics from actual arcade versions.
I've gone ahead and built Win98 and WinXP virtual machines thanks to MS having uploaded their ISOs to archive.org. Also, they uploaded a really old MS Pinball Arcade game from the late 90s. I can see the rabbit hole growing deeper. How many pinball games can I play in VM? As many as I can get my hands on I guess.
My grandpa died from Parkinson's, he just couldn't shake it.
The reaction I've gotten from this joke tends to be one of awkward uncertainty with a bit of unintentional laughter. In my estimation, that's a mark of a good joke. Death tends to be one of those things that people feel the need to approach with prim seriousness. Yet, one of the things that tends to be pervasive in military culture is a dark type of humor sometimes referred to as gallows humor. For some, humor is a way of processing a reality that seems surreal. I tend to be one of those people. When I lost my grandma, I was a wreck internally while cracking jokes on the outside because that's just how I got through it. I like to think grandpa would've liked the joke, he certainly had a sense of humor though it wasn't always easy for him to communicate. Grandpa is the last of my four grandparents to pass away.
There's a non-profit group called Death is Hilarious Grief Foundation. A gal-friend of mine introduced me to it because we both have a bit of a macabre sense of humor. She lost her finance and exhibited the same tendency to joke in the face of pain that I have. There's a discord server as well and it's been a nice place to have non-judgemental funny support when dealing with personal grief. Anyway, there's not much more to say on the topic, but I'd encourage anyone who needs a place to laugh cry to check them out.
Kilauea Caldera and Lava Tube
I had a few things on my bucket-list of to-do's for Hawai'i. I knew I wanted to visit the Bishop Museum, Pearl Harbor, and Mauna Kea. It turns out Mauna Kea is way the hell up in elevation. Like, it's so high up that you can't take kids under the age of 13ish. You can't take a rental car, because the conditions for driving up require 4-wheel drive and experience. The summit is 13,803ft (4,207m) which is about the same height from which folks skydive. Needless to say, the atmosphere at this level is very thin. In fact, it is so thin, that you have to stop halfway up the ascent so that your body can adjust. Don't plan on snorkling prior-to because that is also not advisable- unless you like having the bends.
At the base of Mauna Kea is another volcano, Kilauea. This volcano, unlike Mauna Kea, is still quite active. Recent eruptions, as recent as 2021 and still on-going, have caused massive changes to the geological surface of the island. In the Volcanoes National Park, one can hike through tunnels created by lava flow, pictured above. This was a very cool hiking experience, literally as it's cold beneath the surface even with all the volcanic activity.
As part of a 4mi (6.4km) loop, you can descend to the Kilauea Iki caldera. This treck will have you climb down and up twisting slopes of 400ft (122m). The floor of the caldera is smooth in some places, and rubble in others. It is surreal to stand on relatively "new" ground and see the after-effects of several eruptions. The earth literally folds and cracks beneath while mists blow across seemingly every direction from down in the basin. Hovering over a vent you can feel the heat rise. The hike is advertised as moderate to challenging by the National Park Service.
Rats are gettin' me some good cheese
I've been playing this deck lately. I felt inspired by some of the historic cards that were available. Really it was the fear. I have a nostalgia for it. When I saw Marrow-Gnawer, a Legendary Rat-Rogue that allows you to sacrifice a rat and produce multiple more rats, and it gives all rats fear. Fear, for anyone who hasn't played the mechanic, makes it so that your creatures can only be blocked by black or artifact creatures. The latest expansion of Kamigawa provided a lot of rat rogues, that paired up with some old staples like Burglar Rat. It can be a nice return card with their Ninjitsu rat cousins. The other power card to this build is the Ogre Slumlord. He helps churn out more rats giving me great sacrifice options for the other added in mechanics. I've posted my build out below. Take a look:
2 Marrow-Gnawer (J21) 59
1 Ogre Slumlord (JMP) 260
2 Pack Rat (RTR) 73
4 Typhoid Rats (ANB) 63
2 Piper of the Swarm (ELD) 100
2 Drainpipe Vermin (JMP) 224
2 Burglar Rat (GRN) 64
2 Nezumi Prowler (NEO) 116
2 Mukotai Ambusher (NEO) 112
2 Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion (NEO) 114
4 Plaguecrafter's Familiar (J21) 18
4 Skullsnatcher (J21) 63
20 Swamp (DAR) 260
4 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
2 Village Rites (STA) 35
1 Blood Divination (M19) 86
1 Hive of the Eye Tyrant (AFR) 258
2 Bloodchief's Thirst (ZNR) 94
2 Parasitic Grasp (VOW) 123
(If you want to play it out, copy the deck to your clipboard and import it to MTG Arena)
Shove it in your pi
I have the opportunity to spend a week worth of work devoted entirely to professional betterment. What better way to do that then to devote some time to building out a Linux project I've been sitting on mentally. Okay, maybe there's a few I'm sitting on. I had to rebuild a pi for my Da so it got me thinking of some different things I want to do with Rasperries. HomeAssistant has been a lot of fun, and running in on a virtual machine at home is great. But, it would be cool to set it up so that I can do some remote widget monitoring and other things.
My firewall is starting to get dated as well, maybe I'll try out pfsense or a virtual firewall solution that I had in a lab at once point. THERE ARE TOO MANY POSSIBILITIES
So, I'm on the hunt for another pi, I've just started so don't blame me that I haven't narrowed it down.
Pick'n & Grin'n is hard
My fingers are hardening up pretty decently as I muddle through guitar lessons. It's weird going from a horn to something that can do chords. I've downloaded Rocksmith to help video game my way through the slog that is learning an instrument. It's pretty good but I regret that it's not really teaching you note locations on the fret-board. Meanwhile the guy I'm taking lessons from, and reminds me of Mr. Universe, is helping me work through a student manual of a guitar book. It's nice getting back into music.