Thursday, December 13, 2007

Email Woes

email-at1 Today was the day I set aside to study for the SCCM beta exam. Granted, I'd been reading off and on, playing in the lab. But today was the day to blow up the lab and rebuild everything with the RTM version and really dig and try different things.

Until.

One user can't send an email to a domain. The ticket gets escalated to me. I do the usual : MXToolbox, etc. We just came off of several blacklists due to some rocket scientist setting up a virus-infected client pc on our network that proceeded to send thousands of SPAM emails out. Yes, port 25 should have been blocked to not allow that traffic, but that was a decision by committee.

Further testing shows an email sent to any address on their domain bounces back almost immediately with that wonderfully useful 550 error.

So I start checking the blacklists again, and it appears that we're all in the clear.

I sent an email from an external account, and a reply came back about half an hour later. So their mail server is actually working.

I immediately decide to blame Postini, but the domain is not on any firmwide blacklists.

Finally I began to wonder if the email was ever even making it out of our environment. The bounceback usually arrived after less then 10 seconds, and that just seemed odd. So I collared out WAN guru and had him sniff the external interface for traffic on port 25 to Postini containing the offending domain... nothing. Specific strings in an email to the domain... nothing.

I set up a second SMTP connector to route email without going through Postini for email to that domain... still no dice. Messages just sit in the queue.

Now this is too weird.

I connect to their email server via good old telnet <servername.domain.com> 25 and get a happy SMTP response. I figured I'd send an email manually to the administrator, who by this time I'd spoken with to confirm that we weren't blacklisted on their end. I'd just let him know that I got this far in testing.

So I type : "EHLO mydomain.com" and get an error response.

That can't be right. There must have been a control character in there. So I type it again. Same error. I check to make sure my syntax is correct, and it is.

Then I try "HELO domain.com" and it works. Like a champ. I send the email. A quick check of our Exchange server shows, sure enough, that it is configured to send "EHLO" and not "HELO". In all the years we've been on Exchange, this is the first time I've run into another server that refuses "EHLO".

I telnet back in and explain the issue in another 'manual' email session. I'm not sure what this admin will respond with, but I'm not inclined to change our config for one domain.

Yes, we could set up a second SMTP connector to route email to that domain that IS configured to send "HELO". But at this point it's the principal of the thing.

We'll see how they respond.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dumbest idea ever, redux:

John Scalzi finally got around to visiting the Creation Museum, which I blogged about briefly awhile back.

His post on his visit is priceless, and indicative of why he is a published SF writer and I am not. I could never describe a pile of horseshit so perfectly.

Read his post here. And skip not the comments thread. It's nearly as good as the post.

If you read Science Fiction and do not read Scalzi's blog, what are you thinking? Get thee to the RSS reader!

Obvious caveat: If you are a creationist young-earther, this probably ain't for you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving

Things I am thankful for today:

My wife.

My kids.

A roof over my head (even if it is rented, and even if it is the worst house in a mediocre neighborhood).

Sassafras trees.

Autumn.

Trees in general.

Flat land and tall corn: the scenes of home.

The Discovery Channel.

Videotape.

Pictures, both digital and chemical.

The capacity to love.

Living in America, in the time that I do.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Call Maintenance:

weightless

The gravity generator in room 315 is on the fritz again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

70-400

Since the beta is nearing it's end (last day tomorrow!), I feel relatively safe in posting my thoughts that I jotted down the night after I took the test.

A short note that the SCCM beta is out next month. Keep an eye on MyITForum for details.

 

So I took the TS: Configuring Microsoft® System Center Operations Manager beta test on Friday. I found it a little disappointing, and I’ll tell you as much as I can without divulging questions or answers.

Firstly, it was strictly question – answer, your standard Microsoft exam. Some multiple choice, some select three of five, some select the right answer. No “Drag three of these five over there in the correct order”, no “Where would you click to do this”, no interactive at all. This could be simply because it was a beta test, I don’t know. But I found it a bit disappointing. I expected that since the exam is new that there would be a higher level of interactivity. Perhaps those questions are to come in the final exam.

It also lacked the dreaded "scenario" questions. Gone are the three paragraphs of garble that you have to sift through to find the two words that lead you to the "most right" answer. I didn't miss those at all.

There were many questions about restoring a dead RMS server. Be prepared to know how to do so, whether or not you have the encryption key backed up. And know the command line utilities associated with doing so.

Know how to import MOM 2005 management packs.

Know reporting and report subscriptions and publishing. This is likely the area I was least prepared for.

There were many questions around client monitoring. Know what the different client monitoring MP’s do, and what the “Business Critical” group is for.

Obviously, know what a Gateway Server is, and where it goes in a configuration where it’s needed. And know when you need it.

Know the difference between a console task and an agent task, and when each should be utilized.

The test was very straightforward, with very little I hadn’t encountered before. I relied upon real-world experience, reading all of the Microsoft documentation I could lay hands on, and watching the great MyITForumTV videos around SCOM.

It’s likely too late to sign up for the test, but if you’ve signed up and not taken it yet I wish you well.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Wait Until Next Year... again


I may be one of the only Cub fans that did NOT expect them to take the World Series this year. They were after all only the best team in the worst division, and in any other division would not have been in the playoffs. And you can't have Ramirez going 0-the series and expect to win.
Still, it was nice to watch the Cubbies play some October baseball again.
If they come back mostly intact next year, they should be a force in the division again and hopefully go farther in the playoffs. Maybe even all the way.
Go Cubs Go!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Great New Blog


New York Times columnist joins the blogsphere! Excellent posts abound at his blog here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Random Thoughts

Stolen from the Internet:

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are flat?

Why do banks charge a fee on "insufficient funds" when they know there is not enough?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an "S" in the word "lisp"?

What is the speed of darkness?

Are there specially reserved parking spaces for "normal" people at the Special Olympics?


If the temperature is zero outside today and it's going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it be?

If it's true that we are here to help others, what are the others doing here?

Do married people live longer than single ones or does it only seem longer?

Do you cry under water?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Did you ever stop and wonder......

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these pink dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out?"

Who was the first person to say, "See that chicken there... I'm gonna eat the next thing that comes outta it's bum."

Why do toasters always have a setting so high that could burn the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their bum when they ask where the bathroom is?

Why does your Obstetrician, Gynaecologist leave the room when you get undressed if they are going to look up there anyway?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

Can blind people see their dreams? Do they dream??

If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Why do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

Stop singing and read on . . . . . .. . . . .

Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet Soup?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sweet Corn


It is a yearly tradition. The Hoopeston Sweet Corn Festival sneeks up on me. It completly slips my mind, and suddenly it's here.
And I loath the thought.
It works like this: I dread going, I enjoy the time mildly while we're there, and I hate having gone. I miss the money that went into the pockets of the vendors and the carnival bosses. Given the sheer number of kids we take, we can never get out of Hoopeston for less than a hundred dollars. And that's limiting the kids to three or four rides.
Yesterday, it cost about $3.00 each to ride the merry go round. $2 to go down the slide below.
And yesterday marked a big milestone in the saga of yearly carnival trips. But the kids have a great time, and look forward to it for weeks. And part of the proceeds go to a good cause.
For the first time in at least ten years, I was not required to escort a child down the big slide. I must admit a sense of loss while recording the kids coming down without me. While I look forward to thier growing years, watching these milestones pass and knowing that no more are coming to fill in the space is sad.
To say all of the above in short: I'm getting old.
And I post the movie below simply because I can. Yes, it's a crappy video taken from my Cingular 8525. But I smile every time when I watch Jeremiah come down on his back, laughing all the way.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Too early?


It's the first of September, and the Cubs are in first place. They are playing well, and would be great if Zambrano could remember that little rectangle called the strike zone.

I am daring to hope...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Frugal Muse

I have found nirvana. Well, maybe geek nirvana. Booknerd Nirvana.
On the way to Pedro's (very good food, great salsa!) for lunch I spied a used bookstore. I hit it up after work and barely got out alive.
The Frugal Muse is a fine mixture of current and used books, CDs, videos, and DVDs. They have a great children's section, a fine SF section, and perhaps the largest selection of boxed books I've seen. The first thing I saw was a copy of Tad Williams new short story collection, signed. Be still my heart.
I picked up Hatchet (which believe it or not I've never read), Cruddy by Lynda Barry (which I'd never heard of but looks excellent and was $5.95) and Dan Simmons' The Terror ( a library reject for $8.00). Not a bad haul, and I would have spent more if they hadn't closed at 8:00pm.
Frugal has a giant SF section, including a great selection of Bradbury in both hardback and paperback. I also found Vonnegut's last published novel, and a few others that will have to wait until next trip.
The Frugal Muse is a dangerous place for someone like me. I'm going to have to limit the amount of cash I have on me when I go in there.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Once around the lake... again

I figured if I can make it around the lake in Madison, surely the same thing would apply back at home, yes? Around an even smaller lake?



On Tuesday of this week I set out around our local Lake Vermilion. It's a shallow pond in comparison to most lakes in Wisconsin, but hey, it's our lake, and it's there.

I set out up Logon and then down the very steep hill to the lake on Denmark Road. This hill would never exist were that road made today, it's too steep. IDOT would figure out how to lengthen it and make it shallower. I was able to drop into Granny gear and power up the other side, and the it was down the hill past the country club and back up. Again I powered back up, but by the time I got to the top I was done in. I didn't stop but slowed way down and took my time.

The day was much hotter than my trip in Madison, and it was around 10:30 when I set out so it was getting hotter, not cooler. All of this ice in my first bottle was already gone. My second bottle though, which I had completly frozen, was still mostly solid and delicuously cold. Lesson learned: freeze the first bottle about half full then fill just before the ride, and freeze the second one entirely.

What I had once thought of as the long flat stretch of Denmark Road, going to West Newell, is not flat. It's a long hill going mostly up unti it gets to Denmark Road. There are some ups and down, but it's mostly up. Drive it and pay attention and you'll see it.
What all of that amounts to is that by the time I got to the long (and much welcome) downhill on Denmark Road, I was done. Seriously done. So I pulled into the Heron Wetlands (the second longest boardwalk in Illinois, did you know?), parked my bike in the shade of the pavilion, and crashed out on one of the picnic tables. It was wonderfully quiet and there was a nice breeze, and after ten minutes and some still-cold water (still ice in the bottle!), I was rejuvinated.
I'm somewhat proud that I made it up the other end of Denmark Road without stopping to walk the bike. The hill is not real steep, but it's long. Then the rest of the way home, a mostly straight shot down Vermilion, was uneventful. Well, except for the nearly overwhelming desire to stop for Dairy Queen, and missing the old A&W Root Beer stand across from the mall.

Some differences between Madison and Danville:

Bike Lanes: Danville - none. And I missed them. There's nothing fun about riding down a rural road with no bike lane and cars whizzing by at 55 mph.

Road Kill: Madison- one squirrel. Danville - many possums, and what may have once been a bird. I don't know why this struck me, but it did. Far more road kill down home. This is likely due to the more rural nature of the route.

Shade: Oh how I missed the shade of Madison. Much of my ride in Danville was in direct sunlight. Again the rural nature of the route, but there do seem to be far more 'old growth' trees up north. That's what I get for living on the prarie.

Hills: Wisconsin is far hillier than Illinois... unless you're riding around the lake.

Conclusion: Next time, ride it early or late, but never in the middle of the afternoon when the temperature is over 90 degrees again.

R.I.P.


Appleworks was the first word processor I ever used. I remember to this day the thrill of graduating from my electric typewriter to my first real computer, a Lazer 128 Apple clone. And Appleworks.

The notice of the death of Appleworks sparked many memories.

When I first started you had to switch 5 1/4 floppies in the middle of the program load. Then I upgraded to 3.5' disks, and I was the shit. I could load Appleworks without playing floppy swappy. Eventually I upgraded to TWO 3.5' disks, and I could have one for program and one for data.

I think I could navigate around Appleworks more quickly with keyboard shortcuts that I can around Word yet today. I wrote tens of thousands of words of fiction in Appleworks. Most of it crap, but hey.

Appleworks remains the first Suite of products : Word Processor, DB, Calc program. In it's day it outsold Lotus 1-2-3.

The move from Appleworks (ClarisWorks) to iWork makes sense and is likely overdue.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Once around the lake, please

So I shlepped my Giant TC2 into the back of the PT Cruiser rent-a-wreck all the way up to Madison this week. In a town criss-crossed with bike trails, I had to ride somewhere.

This morning arose cold and rainy, and it looked like it was going to rain all day. Lunch time was still wet and drizzly. But miraculously, I came out the door after work (late, of course) and the sun was shining and the pavement was dry. Well, mostly dry. OK, dry enough.

I came back to the hotel long enough to change and fired off to a park along Lake Manona, the smaller of the two lakes in Madison. I knew there was a bike trail along at least a portion of it, and assumed I could follow it around the lake without too much trouble.


I set out with great energy and hope. I'd had a light lunch and was feeling great. I passed about three people swimming around the lake, being followed by canoes. I'm not sure if they were college kids or what, but I thought they were nuts. I enjoy a good swim now and then, but laps around a lake? Or even up and down the shore? No thanks.
Then a bunch of kids (I say kids, meaning college age) were water skiing in formation, making pyramids and crashing mightily into the water.
Young kids with their fancy bike clothes on their high-end Trek bikes kept passing me like I was a lamp post. I passed some joggers, but that was the extent of my prowess. One of them asked me if I knew how far the trail went, and out of the hundreds of smart-assed replies that ran through my head I managed to come out with "I have no idea". Not that I was being nice, but it was about all I had the breath to say at once.
Being the fatso that I am, I ran out of gas about three-quarters of the way around. My water tasted like plastic, my shoestring got caught in the pedal, my back tire was starting to flat.
Joggers were now passing me.
Somewhere I lost the trail and swung closer to the lake, following it more directly than the path above shows.The houses were stacked on top of each other. They are lovely, but close together. I did like the fact that now and again there is a parcel of land set aside as a park on the lake. It's nice to know the city is concerned enough with quality of life to take a piece of land that's worth hundreds of thousands and set it aside like that.
Also they kept the tall trees throughout most of the lakeside neighborhoods. So often you see development with no tree over thirty feet. Here "old growth" was prominent. My guess is that there may be zoning ordinances concerning tree cutting and care. If there's not, there should be. It was great to be in the shade most of the time, to see a bazillion squirrels, to hear as many birds as I did. Madison is a very densely populous area, and I'm most impressed by the fact that in many areas they've managed to maintain that park-like feel.
The common denominator everywhere seemed to be construction. There wasn't a half mile when I didn't ride by some house in some stage of remodel, redesign, or repair. Most of the houses along the lake that I saw are older and their age is beginning to show.
Somewhere in there I hit a decent hill, and my indexed shifter decided it was not going to co-operate. I'm exited about the new set I ordered off of ebay for $130 (OK, slightly used but guaranteed), but they're not in yet. So off the bike and push up the hill, with no shame. It gave me a chance to straighten up, down some plastic tasting water, and catch my breath.
On the next hill my front shifter decided to work, and I got into granny gear to go up. I thought perhaps there might be a God after all.

( I hate to digress here, but on TV is "Flipping Out" on Bravo, where someone is giving acupuncture to a cat. No, really. It's perhaps both the saddest and funniest thing I've ever seen.)

Finally the end of the line was in sight, and I could see the Cruiser in the distance. I still had strength to turn over the bike, disassemble and stuff it back into the Cruiser, and dump out my plastic water. Everyone that left around the same time I did was long gone. I'd left for my adventure at around 6:15, thinking I had plenty of daylight left. When I climbed in the Cruiser to crank up the air, the sun was setting and it was just about eight o'clock.
Then I drove around the lake, taking the same route, in about fifteen minutes. I wanted to cry. I nearly stopped at a Dairy Queen on the way back to the hotel to make up for it, but willpower prevailed.
The true test of the ride will be in the morning. I'd like to hit another, shorter trail by the hotel. I'm guessing I'll wake up stiff and sore and not do it. I'm old that way.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Trek lives on....


...and on and on and on.
I've always known that Star Trek, in one incarnation or another, would never die. I figure every ten years or so we'll get hit with some 'new' version of the series, boldly going where no man has gone before. (Had to say it.)

When I first heard of a group of people producing NEW episodes of the ORIGINAL Trek, I pictured a bunch of amateurs stumbling around a make-shift set. Something a little less flattering than that long-ago Saturday Night Live Star-Trek parody.

But after visiting the website for the show, it appears that these guys are professionals. The first episode directed by none other than David Gerrold.

The first two episodes are already available for download. How could I have missed this for so long? Have I removed myself that far from the world of the uber-Geek?

The next webisode, "The World Enough and Time", is up next starring none other then George Takei, our own Sulu. There's a list of upcoming episodes here.

I'll report back after I've watched a couple.

Live long and Prosper.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sullivan's Steakhouse

If you've read previous posts and looked at my avatar to the right, it should come as no suprise that I like food. Good food.
But I'm not a connisour, like my fellow central-midwestern blogger. I just like to try new things, new places. Fortunantly my travels with the company have enabled me to do that.
Last week I had what may have been the best meal of my life at Sullivans Steak House in Naperville. We went to celebrate the completion of a complex and time-consuming data center move, and about 11 of us sat down at 8:45pm.
I started with the spinach salad, which was yummy. Just the right texture and dressing, not too much bacon to throw off the taste. Then the Cajun Ribeye. Normally when I order something Cajun I expect it to be a little too hot, but this was nearly perfect: a strong hint of Cajun spice and flavor without the heat. The steak was cooked perfectly. I wanted badly to lick the plate when I was done with it. I ate it slowly, cutting it into small bites to make it last, and man it was great.
We ordered sides of au-gratin potatoes and asparagus for the table, and those were excellent. The asparagus particularly was cooked just right and still had a bit of snap to it, not the usual overdone wilty fare.
Then dessert and I ordered the creme boulet. I would expect a little hockey-puck sized serving, but what I got was slightly bigger than a pot pie and it too was marvelous.
If you're a drinker (I'm not) they have about a bazillion wines to choose from, and the wine racks are behind glass and visible from the dining room. The service was excellent.
My dinner was around $50, not bad considering the quality of food, service, and the resturaunt. I'll most certainly go again... expecially if the company is buying.
I think we lucked out walking in with a group and being almost immediately seated. The night was winding down for the resturaunt. If I go again I will call and make reservations, as the place was otherwise packed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter the Last

I write this with a strange mixture of elation and regret. At 9:15
this morning I began ...Deathly Hallows, and about twenty minutes ago
I finished.
My initial respone? I am in awe of J.K. Rowling. What an amazing
achievment these books are, and the last best of all. In years to
come, when great fantasy literature is discussed, Harry Potter will be
in the same breath with Frodo and Sam.
All of the questions are answered, all of the loose ends tied up. Is
Dumbledore dead? Is Snape evil? Will Harry find the remaining
Hoarcuxes? How can he destroy them without Dumbledore? All is told
without great honking chunks of exposition - except Snape. We learn
Snape's entire story and find out finally exactly who he is, and why
he is the way he is. And Rowling saves and saves it for deliciously
late in the book.
Rowling has become a master at this sort of thing, and this book is
her masterpiece. I can't wait to dive into it again, at a much more
leisurely and carefull pace.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Double Rainbow

On my last trip to Madison I came home "the slow way", avoiding four-lanes and tolls. Just outside Rossville I pulled over and took this picture with my phone. This was as the double rainbow was beginning to dissapate. You can just see a band of color in the middle left of the photo where the double rainbow was. A couple of miles back up the road it was really strong and clearly visible. It was more visible here than this crappy phone photo shows.
It was one of the coolest things I'd seen in years and I had to document it... I just wish I would have had a better camera.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Today Heinlein is 100




Sometimes things like this sneak up on you, but in this case I think I had no idea this was going on. Not that I could afford to attend, anyway, but it would have been nice to celebrate by re-reading some of my favorites.



The celebration is weekend-long in Kansas City, MO. Guest speakers include everyone from Arthur Clarke to John Scalzi.



Heinlein is one of the grand masters of Science Fiction, and in my list ranks somewhere below Asimov and above Pohl. I remember starting with "Tunnel in the Sky", then "Citizen of the Galaxy". Then being blown away by "Stranger in a Strange Land". You grok?



But where would one start today? If you're younger, we'll say pre-teen, then "Tunnel in the Sky" or "Citizen" are great books to get your hands on. I've likely re-read "Citizen" ten times, and it's not the science fiction that pulls me back - it's the characters and the story, again and again.



"Stranger in a Strange Land" brought Heinlein many new fans in the early sixties. Indeed, hardcore Heinlein - o - philes will tell you that there are two types of Heinlein fans: those that came in through SIASL and those who were there before. "Stranger" was written to break Heinlein out of the "children's author" pack, and break him out it did.


You can find a pretty pervasive site recapping Heinlein and his works here.

Gas, Oil, and the cost of Life


I have learned that, as things stand today, oil surplus supplies are up, while gas production is down. Why is this? Refineries are only running at about 86% capacity. This means that they could make more gas, but are not.

While cruising the news shows today I heard a pundit say that at $2.50 a gallon, the oil companies make 35 billion in profits. At $1.50, they'd make $20 billion. So the question is not allowing them to make a profit, but how much profit is enough? And should we be able to dictate? And granted, I realize that the commenter could have been pulling numbers out of thin air.

Like it or not our economy is dependant on oil and the gas that is made from it. What the maximum gas price we can sustain before the price of goods will rise beyond affordability? How high before all of those commuters overwhelm the public transit system? How high before cities, counties, and states have to cut other services to be able to pay for gas for police, fire, public works vehicles?

The last energy bill was written by the energy companies most likely to profit from it. It's time to give someone else a shot.

Friday, July 06, 2007

2012



So we came back last night from lighting fireworks (legally, thank you, across the state line) and the kids are asleep and I find myslef with (gasp!) a few free minutes.

Dirty Jobs was a re-run. The History channel was the second place I looked.

On the history channel they're talking about prophesy, and end times, and the ancient Myan calendar (are there modern Myans?). And I'm all into it, until they tell me the world is going to end on December 21st, 2012. At first my only thought was "Cool. I'm buying a big-ass Lincoln on December 1st."

You see, the Earth's magnetic poles are going to shift on or around that date. So are the Sun's. Some folks think that the surface of the planet will actually shift (called "pole-shift) on top of the core of magma and Alaska will end up at the equator, putting us somehwere in South America.

To which I said "Yeah, right".

Then they started correlating the 2012 date with the bible, and Nostradamus, and other ancient prophesiers. There are blogs about it, a Wikipidia entry about it. It must be true! Some scientists insist it happened before.

Let's see now. In 2012 I'll be 47. My daughter will be 8. The twins will be 10. I'll have been married almost 20 years.

Having just survived the global holocaust of the year 2000, I can face the next one with some amount of bravery. I'm not afraid to die, even though I'm not real convinced there's anywhere special to go when you do.

All I can say is when it starts, make it quick please. I'm a wimp.

Then I turned back over to Dirty Jobs and there Mike Rowe making a snake regurgitate, so I figure the world can't be ready to end just yet.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rated PG

Online Dating

Why PG?

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
ass (3x) death (2x) kill (1x)


Apparantly the tool doesn't know from jack-hole.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Windows Live Writer

I have found Windows Live Writer (Beta), and it is good. No, it's great.

After some initial install pain (getting it to be happy with MyITforum required custom selecting the CommunityServer host, and adding http://myitforum.com/cs2/blogs/ to the front of the 'remote post' server url.

Once configured and pointed at your blog, it gives you a screen to create and edit you post in that looks like your blog, uses the same basic colors. I find this to be a big advantage over other remote blogging utilities like BlogJet.

Other functionality includes everything you could want (ok, well, everything I could want) from a WYSIWYG editor.

Highly recommended.

Begging?


So I've caught some flack - in email, not in the comments - from folks who can't believe the audacity in my posting about health care debt, and "begging" for money.
Well, first of all I like to think of it as "reqesting funding assistance".
Second of all, folks filing for bankruptcy from health care debt is a reality. It happens every day, probably hundreds or thousands of times a day. It's not something I want to do, but something I may have to do. If the fine organization the saved my wife's life isn't happy with what we can afford to pay them (which, with four small-ish kids and utilities and rent, ain't much), then they'll take us to a judge who will throw some unrealistic number at us, like 20% or 15% of income. Which will put us over the edge.
They've already cut us off from service.
So that is the position I find myself in. We don't live a lavish lifestyle (see my post on vacations a while back) and have literally nowhere to cut back. So if you want to help, great! I won't know who you are unless you want me to. If you don't or can't, then that's great too.
And if Mr. Moore is reading this, that's even greater. The Donate button is over there on the right.
And a note to click on the begging dog for more of the artist's amazing work with dollar bills.

Friday, June 22, 2007

That Bozo stole my yellow!


Random thoughts and things heard while bicycling home:

You, the bozo in the SUV that turned right in front of me: I had the yellow. It was mine. As a bicyclist, you're supposed to treat me just like a car and I was in the intersection already when you started your turn. You looked right at me, so I know you saw me, slamming on my brakes. If you would have just waited for me to proceed, you would have had plenty of yellow left to execute your left turn.
And by the way, congrats on being the only person in your seven passenger SUV. Way to save the atmosphere.
Bozo.

"Get on the Sidewalk!"
No, you see, if you go back and
read your Rules of the Road, I don't belong on the sidewalk. I belong in traffic, riding the same direction as you. I keep my line at the right side of the road. You have plenty of room to go around. I don't need a six-foot gap between my bike and your car. A couple of feet is plenty.
The sidewalk is for pedestrians, jack-hole.

"Ride on, Fatty!"
This may be my favorite. I've heard many variations, some not so nice. The size of my ass has been mentioned at least once (as in "Pedal, fat ass!"), which is ridiculous. I have no ass. My weight is around my gut. But hey, thanks for the recognition. While you drive away in your steel cage, likely sucking on some caffinated drink and munching some fast food, I'll gladly endure your ridicule to pedal away and burn some calories.

"That's one way to save gas!"
Well, really. Thanks for letting me know. Because that's the last thing on my mind. I was actually trying to waste petroleum products by increasing the rubber used to make bicycle tires.

"Nice hat!"
I have a big melon. I like the squishy stuff inside it, so I protect it with a DOT approved bicycle helmet. If I ever wreck I expect it to save my life. I spent extra time finding it, because none of the helmets at the local bike shop would fit the afore-mentioned giant cranium. They had to special order it. So thanks.


"I wish I could do that."
You can. As the fine folks at Nike would say, Just Do It (tm). Every year the police auction hundreds of stolen bikes for next to nothing. Better yet, go to the local bicycle shop and ask if they have anything used. That's what I did.
Or better yet, find an old bike some idiot is throwing away and fix it up. That's what I did years ago.

And how come there is only one street in town with a bike lane? One thing you notice about Madison is that there are
bike lanes everywhere. And people use them.
New law: any street widening should require bike lanes be included.

Sicko

'What can I do?' - SiCKOSo Michael Moore's new movie "Sicko" opens soon. It's about everything that is wrong with the Health Care industry in America. And really, doesn't that sum it up? Health Care Industry? Treating the sick should not be a for-profit exercise.
So of course, Michael will be donating the profits from his new movie to foundations that help those with outrageuos medical bills.
Or not? Really?
Hey, Mr. Moore. Over here! Yeah, me. I've got over $50,000 left to pay AFTER my insurance company was done paying for a complex pregnancy (twins!) and my wife's brain cancer. Everyone is fine now, thank God and good doctors. But soon those healthy people will be looking for something to eat in bare cupboards, if we can afford to keep the cupboards.
I posted a link to your movie and your website. Feel free to send a little love my way via Paypal:






Madison


Spending another three days in scenic Madison Wisconsin. In spite of a couple of showers and a brief thunderstorm, the weather appears has been nothing short of glorious. I got to drive around a couple of times after work and just see the countryside. It is a stark contrast to the flat lands and tall corn of downstate Illinois.
I can remember riding the bus in high school going to Bloomington for marching band contests every year. The few of us who were perhaps more smart-assed than the rest would celebrate when we got to the "hills" along I-74. These hills could never be considered a rolling, or varied. They were just momentary dips in an otherwise almost perfectly flat plain.
This week in Wisconsin everything has been wonderfully green, and up here the hills are truly rolling, the scenery and the topography are as varied as can be. The crops up here are well on their way to full maturity not quite as tall as full we see downstate. Nearly everything is covered in a blanket of green so green against the blue skies today that words fail to describe the beauty.
As I drove rolling hills and countryside spotted by a new developments alongside old farmhouses and barns, I couldn't help but be struck by the sprawl. Yes the $600,000 mansions are nice to look at. The giant green lawns are well kept. But the juxtaposition of them sitting alongside stone farmhouses that date from the 1800s is nearly too much to look at.
I found an old farmhouse that someone had abandoned in the middle of reconstruction. It has a limestone walls that are two feet thick. It sits on a foundation of limestone that has been in place for well over 100 years.
The owners were in the middle of bringing it up to code, up to date, when something got in their way. Something as likely as trivial as time, or work, or kids. But this house, this great stone house, sat for over 100 years and will sit for 100 more even if nobody does anything to it.
They were on the right track. There is new electrical service, they installed central air conditioning they put in lighting and a new bathroom. Yet the basement remains unfinished, the floors for remain unfinished, the windows are perhaps as old as the day they were put in.
And what struck me the most about this house and the property that it sits on is that it is on the market for $329,000. It sits outside a subdivision full of people who can afford homes that cost $600,000 and up. Certainly with their money they'd bought pride, bought the land, they bought a house to showcase their wealth. But sitting less than 100 yards away, is a piece of history that less than half of that money could have brought back to glory, and no amount of money can reproduce today.
It makes me wonder what they were thinking.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


For the first time, I hate to admit, I am reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My kids liked the new version with Johnny Depp (not bad, I thought), so I showed them the Gene Wilder version that I love (It's all right here, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks...)
So that led me back to the book. Our library actually still has the hardcover original. What amazes me so far (and we haven't even made it into the factory yet) is how toned down the movies are. The kids aren't just bad, they're horrible. Augustus Gloop is not merely fat, he's disgustingly fat. Mike Teevee is beyond obnoxious. Veruca Sault is more spoiled than we believe possible.
And most shocking of all: Charlie and his family are not merely poor, they are starving. My boys were wide-eyed as I read to them about Charlie being hungry, about the family eating cabbage and not having enough of that, about Charlie having to walk by the factory every day and smell the melted chocolate, about smelling it so hard it was like he was trying to eat the very air, he was so hungry.
And when Charlie finds the one dollar and wolfs down the candy bar, we understand something that just isn't there in the movie. Charlie wolfs it down not because he loves chocolate, or so seldom gets a candy bar. He's starving. I read Dahl's description of Charlie, finally being able to put something solid in his mouth and chew, with tears in my eyes.
That's the kind of book I would like to write. Nearly fifty years after publication, to bring a tear to the eye of a reader. An overly sentimental middle-aged fat guy, to be sure, but a tear nevertheless.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Graduation Day

Insert motorboard hereI've had the unique experience over the last two weeks of attending two graduations that couldn't have been more different.
The first was your typical high school graduation. Speeches from valedictorians, pledge of allegiance, the high school band playing the processionals. It was a relatively quiet experience, with the usual admonishments to please hold applause, etc. What it amounted to was a muted celebration of the mundane.
And really the general feeling was not one of accomplishment, but just of taking another step on life's road. A necessary step, to be sure. An expected step.
I'm not trying to belittle anyone's hard work in high school. Some struggle mightily to get through the high school experience. Others, like myself, skate through on minimal effort and little caring.
Tonight we just returned from a graduation ceremony for students who had achieved their G.E.D. this year. This was a group of happy adults and exultant parents, friends, and relatives. This was an achievement for them, the highest pinnacle they had yet reached in their lives. It was hard work for the most of them, and work they appreciated because they knew clearly what they had missed out on the first time.
The speakers did not speak loftily of the future, of changing the world. They spoke of changing their world, of making a better place for their children, for their spouses, for themselves. They spoke of the struggle to hold down a job and raise kids and take classes and keep transportation. They spoke of real life, and thanked God and Mom and Husband and wife.
The people they brought to watch them walk were exuberant, joyful. They wanted to hear every graduates story, from the girl who broke down talking about the encouragement she received from her teacher to the young man who wasn't sure where he was going to go from here. You could tell they both felt like they had something now that they didn't have before: a future.
The cynic in me wanted to sit back and tell them how little their GED was actually worth, that any job that only required a GED was worth only slightly more than one that did not. But that GED is worth one thing: it's worth more than not having it. For these folks it was a stepping stone to a future they didn't have before, a future they could see but not grasp that is now held firmly in their hands.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nerd Fantasy


slaveleia1
Originally uploaded by bonniegrrl
Suddenly, thousands of nerds feel the need to spend some time to themselves...
This from the recent Star Wars Celebration. Wish I had been there.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Winter Haunting

Have I mentioned that I’m a huge Dan Simmons fan? A quick search of my blog tells me no, but I find that hard to believe, but there it is.


I discovered Simmons with his Hyperion series (Science Fiction Book Club edition, thank you) and have been playing catch up since then. Simmons is from Illinois, and “A Winter Haunting” takes place there. Or here.


I’m always slightly intrigued when novels are set in, or mention, my area. King drives right by Danville in “The Talisman” but doesn’t stop.


A Winter Haunting is a fine novel. Simmons demonstrates mastery in every genre I’ve read him in, and horror is one of his best. This concerns a professor, Duane McBride, who returns to his home town on sabbatical to write a novel about the summer of 1960, a summer that changed his life. Along the way we learn that he left his wife for a grad student, got dumped, and failed to commit suicide.


We walk the line with Duane between madness and sanity, and most of the time we don’t know which is which. Just when you think you’ve figured something out, you find out you’re wrong. Take nothing for granted here. Simmons takes the conventions of the horror novel and turns them on their collective ear. Our protagonist most certainly does not believe in ghosts, even while living in a house that we most decidedly believe is haunted.


A Winter Haunting is a page-turner of the first order. I devoured most of it in a single day. Then, as has been my habit of late, I hit the Internet looking for reviews. I quickly learned that this is something of a sequel to “Summer Night”, resurrecting locations and some characters. Now I know what’s next on my reading list.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lisey's Story

Lisey's StorySo it’s been many moons since Lisey’s Story was published. You may be wondering who cares now? (Really, I have to wonder who cares what I think anyway, but that’s beside the point.) I purchased and read it the first week it was out.


Early reviews were good, great even. I went into Lisey’s Story with great expectations. To great, perhaps. While I enjoyed the novel greatly, once again I think that pre-read hype did me in.


I suffered the same thing way back when Stand by Me came out. Early reviews were through the roof, and I already loved “The Body” which it was based on. The movie was everything I expected it to be, and therefore somehow less than outstanding.


Don’t get me wrong here. Lisey’s Story is a great book. Perhaps not King’s best, but in the top five. But the story of Scott and Lisey Landon is first and foremost a love story. There are frights and haunts to be sure, but they take a back seat to the story of a love, and a marriage.


It makes me wonder about King’s marriage. His relationship with his wife Tabitha has survived poverty, riches, drug abuse, and near death, just to name the things I’m aware of. In my completely ignorant opinion, I choose to think of Lisey’s Story as a love letter to his wife as much as I think of it as a work of fiction.


Lisey is finally sorting through her deceased husband’s papers, two years after his death. She is prompted by a nosy professor, who may or may not have convinced a slightly crazed fellow to help ‘convince’ Lisey to donate them to the right place. What she finds instead are clues that Scott left behind, clues to take her back to B’ya Moon, clues to help save her life and move on with it at the same time.


The true measure of a King book for me is how many times I’m drawn back to it. That makes the champion on my bookshelf the short fiction piece “Head Down”, the story of King’s son’s little league team and their fight through the Little League Championship series. I come back to that time after time. Second is IT. I can read the scene where Stuttering Bill takes his wife on a bike ride a million times and still get tears in my eyes.


I have yet to go back to Lisey’s Story, but the main reason that I write this today is that I glanced through my bookshelf, looking for something to kill some time, and Lisey is what I pulled down.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What?

What? I mean... well, damn. The best writing blog goes dark.
Miss Snark's advice, while witty and direct, was always spot-on. It was the fist blog I checked in my RSS reader for well over a year, and every post was worthwhile.
If you're a writer or an aspiring writer, get thou quickly Miss Snark's blog and capture the entire thing. You won't be disappointed. She'll save you from thinking stupid things, making stupid mistakes, and gives you all of the tools you need to get ready for the business of writing.
Goodbye, Miss Snark. I sincerely hope you take the best of your blog and write a book. I'll be first in line.

Miss Snark, the literary agent: Miss Snark is Retiring

Friday, May 18, 2007

Stranger than Fiction


Being a lover of books and movies, what could be better than a movie about a guy who thinks his life is being narrated by an author?

For me, not much. I loved this movie. Funny and poignant without being sappy, Stranger than Fiction is the best non-Action Adventure movie I've seen in ages. Will Farrel is resplendant and restrained as Harold Crick, an IRS auditor stuck so deep in a rut he can't even see that he's in it anymore. While brushing his teeth one morning a narrator starts describing his life. But only in his own head. No one else can hear her.

Concerned co-workers tell the company shrink, who wants to help... oh my God it's Tom Hulce! When did he get so old? And fat? I love Tom Hulce! You can see a bit of the old Parenthood Larry grin hiding under the gray hair and the extra chin.

And how did I not know the Queen Latifa was in this movie?

Then the narrator tells us, and him, that Rick is approaching an immenent demise.

Understandably upset, Rick seeks out a therapist (Linda Hunt!), who sends him to a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman!), where they try to decide: is Rick in a tragedy, or a comedy?

So Rick falls in love, takes up the guitar, learns to love cookies, and finally meets his narrator.

And begs not to be killed.

Describing the movie like that makes me wonder. How stupid could it be? But there's something about Rick as he goes about his everyday existence, knowing his demise is imminent. How he opens up, and changes just a little. It doesn't take much, and Rick is nearly a regular guy. I think it's the cookies that start it all.

This movie is small and thoughtful and quiet and intelligent, something movies rarely are these days. It walks a line that spans fantasy and romance and comedy, and is modern enough to include neat little graphics that pop up randomly, showing has the way Harold compulsivly counts, compares spatial relationships, and measures. The hand soap in the bathroom is not merely partially full, it is 93% full. That is Harold.

I started to think the ending was trite, a bit too easy. But it isn't the movie's compromise that produces it, it is the characters. And that I liked.

I can't recommend this enough. Watch it closely, in a place where you can really listen. This is one for after the kids are in bed. Not because it's racy (not even close), but because you'll want to be sure and catch every word.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Google Reader


The joys of RSS are many and varied. I've gone through about four different reader between my desktop and laptop and workstation at home. I tried the reader in Outlook, the reader in Thunderbird, and on. I finally settled on the reader in Firefox. Between the built-in reader and bookmarks synch, it kept my feeds updates on every machine I used. I was in heaven. I could read during lunch, then later that night the posts I had read would be marked read when I looked on my home pc.
Then the company outlawed Firefox, for security reasons. Which is kind of like saying you want to... well, I don't have a metaphor at the moment, but Iwasn't happy. The real reason Firefox was banned is because it lags in Enterprise configurability and we couldn't monitor it.
But google is still allowed, and google has a feed reader. So with much regret I turn to the Google Feed Reader.
And never looked back.
To start with it allowed me to import all of my feeds without fuss, and allowed me to arrange them in groups so that I could easily discern my "Tech" feeds from my "writing" feeds. For the record : around 30 writing blogs and 32 Tech blogs and 5 "Political and Other" blogs.
Then Google introduced the personalized homepage, finally catching up with the rest of the world (Yahoo, CNN, etc). So now when I go to www.google.com I see my latest 8 or so messages and most recently updates blog feeds, along with the latest news. And it's updated whever I sit down to use the internet.
I am again in heaven.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Legislature Gets Something Right


Hell has not frozen over. The Cubs have not won the World Series. But the Illinois Legislature dealt a significant blow to Gov. Rod's Gross Receipts Tax today.

It's the right idea (health care access for all) funded the wrong way (tax on gross receipts).

I'd say 107-0 is a pretty clear message, right Mr. Gov?

When are we going to wake up and realize that we are no longer living in a manufacturing economy, but still have a manufacturing tax base?

Can anyone else say Tax on Services? No, I don't like any new tax. But a tax on services coupled with tax relief for manufacturing seems to be a good start.

McMurtry


There are damn few fine novelists writiing today, and few finer than Larry McMurtry. I can pick up nearly any of his Western novels and get lost in moments. I can open Lonesome Dove to literally any page and be at one of my "favorite" passages.

He is the King of dialogue attribution. You'll find nary a 'snarled', or 'grunted', or 'cried' in a McMurtry novel. We know how the characters are speaking because McMurtry shows us, he doesn't need to tell us.

So I just finished Zeke and Ned. The courtroom gun battle alone is worth the price of admission. In this case, the price of admission was zero since I Bookmooched it.

Colorful characters are the hallmark of McMurtry, and Zeke and Ned does not disappoint. Pasasages are laugh - out - loud funny.
A also recently finished his Barrybender novels, which are a rollicking riot from start to finish. All highly recommended.

Friday, May 04, 2007

In My Inbox

This is too good not to pass on. Guess who I voted for?

Best Bush T-Shirts

1) (On an baby’s shirt): Already smarter than Bush.

2) 1/20/09: End of an Error!

3) That’s OK, I Wasn’t Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

4) Let’s Fix Democracy in This Country First

5) Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

6) You Can’t Be Pro-War And Pro-Life At The Same Time

7) If You Can Read This, You’re Not Our President

8) Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?

9) George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight

10) Impeachment: It’s Not Just for Blowjobs Anymore

11) America : One Nation, Under Surveillance

12) They Call Him “W” So He Can Spell It

13) Which God Do You Kill For?

14) Jail to the Chief!

15) Who Would Jesus Torture?

16) Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

17) Bush: God’s Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full Of Crap

18) Bad president! No Banana.

19) We Need a President Who’s Fluent In At Least One Language

20) We’re Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them

21) Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Blood

22) Is It Vietnam Yet?

23) Bush Doesn’t Care About White People, Either

24) Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

25) You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

26) Impeach Cheney First

27) Dubya, Your Dad Shoulda Pulled Out, Too

28) When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.46/gal!

29) The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

30) 2004: Embarrassed - 2005: Horrified - 2006: Terrified

31) No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bein' Green

Just because I'm a huge Kermit fan.

King of the Hill

If you haven't seen King of the Hill... where the hell have you been? The funniest 'clean' show on TV, King of the Hill ranks right up there with The Simpsons, it is perhaps the only redeeming thing to come out of Faux Broadcasting.
Prior to today, my Favorite episode was when Bobby modeled plus-size clothes. Favorite line: "Peggy, somewhere along the line we forgot to teach that boy about shame."
Today, I saw the episode where Bill joins a gay men's chorus. Best line ever: "This chorus is the feces that is produced when shame eats too much stupidity!"

Roger Ebert


Thank God for Roger Ebert.
Ebert has been undergoing treatment for cancer of the salivary gland. His cancer spread, resulting in the removal of half of his jawbone. This left him with a trache tube and unable to talk.
So he went to his Overlooked Film Festival anyway. Let the gawkers and the cameras and the idiots be damned.
Too often we shy away from the sick and the "abnormal". I'll never forget my wife swelling to nearly 400 pounds as a result of steriods taken during full brain radiation for her brain cancer treatment. Bald and undaunted, and braver than I, she still refused to be left behind and went to class reunions, summer picnics, and public dinners. I wanted to scream at the starers, or make a sign that said "She's got Brain Cancer ASSHOLE!", but didn't.
Roger is an example for us all, both in his courage and his indifference.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Four Stages of Life

1. You believe in Santa.
2. You don't believe in Santa.
3. You are Santa.
4. You look like Santa.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SMS 2003 and Wake on Lan


UPDATE: This post is by far the most popular of my blog. If it does you some good, consider hitting the Paypal link on the right and buying me a Diet-Coke. Or two. Also, I'm doing the vast majority of my technical blogging over at MyITForum these days. Check it out.

One of the things we've missed after moving from Zen to SMS 2003 is Wake on Lan. For those of you not in the tech world, this gives us the ability to remotely turn on a computer using it's network connection. It's endlessly handy for patching and other things that might take a while, or just need to be done after hours.

I was flabbergasted to learn that SMS 2003 did not have Wake on Lan built in. The next version, System Center Configuration Manager, does have it. We've had WOL in Zen for years and years.

There are companies that offer WOL capabilities as an add-on to SMS. But another client on the workstation and another expense are just out of the question.

So I found, over at the great MyITForum site, some contextual add-ons for SMS that were free, and one of the was Wake-On-Lan. Hooray!

Alas, the wake-on-lan only worked on it's own subnet. Not good enough for me.

I found a free WOL utility from SolarWinds that purported to be able to WOL across subnets. I tried it out and it worked like a champ. But could it be scripted, in the same way that the contextual add-ons scripted the other utility?

A quick reg check and I found the portion where the other utility enumerates it's command line to link into the magicpacket program. A simple edit of that reg key yeilded a working result. Here's the exported .reg for the edited key:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\MMC\NodeTypes\{4D26C0D4-A8A8-11D1-9BD9-00C04FBBD480}\Extensions\SMS_Tools\310]

"Description"="Use the SolarWinds WOL to wake up the client."

"CommandLine"="cmd /C \"c:\\Program Files\\SolarWinds\\Free Tools\\WakeOnLAN.exe\" -IP ##SUB:IPAddresses## -MAC ##SUB:MACAddresses##"

"CriteriaMessage"="Unable to find ##SUB:MACAddresses##"

"Name"="WakeUp""CriteriaQuery"="select * from SMS_R_SYSTEM where ResourceID = ##SUB:ResourceID##"

So with the SolarWinds Wakeonlan.exe installed in the default location, I get Wake On Lan capability across subnets from the SMS console for free.

Up next: figuring out how to Wake a collection.





Thursday, April 12, 2007

An Old Friend...

Kurt Vonnegut changed my life. Can I put it any more plainly than that?
I distinctly remember being assigned Slaughterhouse Five in high school English class and thinking What? Who?
At the time I was steeped in Asimov and Heinlein and, God help me, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Who was this lanky guy with crazy hair that wanted to preach about war? And then I remember closing that book, maybe a day later, compleltely blown away. So this is what fiction can do. It affected me like nothing I've read before, and maybe since. I read it like a prisoner fresh off a hunger strike would attack a buffet. It made me go back and research the war, and the bombings at Dresden, and form my own opinions. It forced me to think.

And I went on to collect and read just about every novel he wrote. A couple were painful. Most were brilliant. All had an effect on me. "Cat's Cradle", "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater", "Player Piano", "The Sirens of Titan", "Breakfast of Champions": these great works marked my summer of 1983. I was changed, I was expanded, I was thinking for myself, questioning authority, exploring areas I hadn't thought about before.

Vonnegut was a humanist, something I didn't quite understand then. Like everything else in my life, I had to learn more about both Humanism and other 'religions' before I could form my own opinion. I'm still learning today, but I think the Humanists are closer than anyone else.

About our great leader George HW Bush, Vonnegut said "By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East?" he wrote. "Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas in December."

In A Man Without a Country, he wrote that "George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography."

Vonnegut's fictional recurring character, Kilgore Trout, dies at the age of 84, in luxury in the Ernest Hemingway Suite of the writer's Xanadu in the summer resort village of Point Zion, Rhode Island. Yesterday Vonnegut died in his home at the age of 84. I think he would have found that fitting. Of course, as can only happen in the world of Vonnegut, Trout had died before. In Breakfast of Champions, he was born in 1907 and died in 1981. In Timequake, it was 1917 to 2001. Both death dates were set in the future as of the time the novels were written. More recently, Vonnegut "reported" that Kilgore Trout committed suicide by drinking Drāno in an article for In These Times magazine.[1] Trout "died" at midnight on October 15, 2004 in Cohoes, New York, following his consultation with a psychic, who informed him that George W. Bush would win the U. S. Presidential election by a vote of 5-to-4 in the Supreme Court. The epitaph on his tombstone reads, "Life is no way to treat an animal."

There is no more profound statement about his death than can be found on his website here:



I like that the little symbol for his site is his crude drawing of a sphincter, from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater if memory serves. I will miss his irreverence, his wit, his humanism.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I Voted!

Yesterday I participated in the process. I voted early.
I love voting. Never do I feel more American, more a citizen, than when I punch those cards, or fill in the little black dots. There's something liberating about walking out of your polling place knowing that you've done your civic duty.
The disenfranchinsing things: It was a local election cycle, and many of the races were non-contested. As is my usual, in races where I did not like the incumbent, I wrote in a candidate. Sometimes I write in myself, sometime someone else. I once got two votes for Democratic Committeeman, or some such, when my wife adopted my write-in policy. It was a close thing.

I work hard to be an informed voter. I research each candidate and know why I'm voting the way I am. The last time I voted "with the crowd" was Reagan. I was eighteen, forgive me. I even voted Green Party in some of last year's statewide races.

I'd like to see more people vote, but I'll qualify that statement by saying I'd like to see more 'informed' people vote. Care about the issues, know what and who you are voting for, and be part of the process.

Friday, March 30, 2007

MMS : Misc Pictures

San Diego

So here are some general pictures I took of the area. Click the picture for more from my Picasa Web Album.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

MMS : Day Four

Today begins with a great keynote session involving a breakout discussion among four major CIO / IT Manager types : Carnival Cruise, Dell, EDS, and Virgin. The discussion around their needs and different environments, and how they are each using the System Center product line, provided a lot of insight into what going on in the real world.

We had the discussion that, five years from now, System Center will be the product line everyone is using in the management space. I'm not even sure that catch-up is the right term for what everyone else will have to do. Interoperate is more like it.

Then it was off to the 911 Case Studies session. Best session of the week by far. Finally, a chance to get in front of an SMS Support Engineer and delve into real problems that affected real people. The case studies were great, the support tools presented were well displayed. Can't say enough about how good this session was.
Looking forward to Assett Management and Internet Client Management after lunch.

UPDATE: Let me just say it now: Service Manager is going to rock. If the pre-release stuff looks (and works) this well, the final product is going to be great.
With auto-incident creation, deep hooks into SCCM07 and SCOM07, Service Manager is going to be the asset / incident / change manager of choice for many, many companies. Can't wait to get me hands on the next beta.

UPDATE: The next item to get a round of applause (and a "That's TechSexy!" from someone) was Internet Based Client Management. This is something that has been plaqueing our company for years now. What do you do when a laptop user doesn't come in the office for two months? How do you distribute new software, patch the OS, etc? We finally have an answer in the Internet Based Client in SCCM07. This is just going to be a HUGE help in our environment.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MMS : Day Three

Day three and we have sunny skies, less wind, and real bacon for breakfast. Not a bad combo.
I'm idle until 10:15, so catching up on some work and correspondence. I'm currently torn between the "Deploying Config Manager 07" and "Intro to Ops Manager 07" sessions. Leaning towards the Ops Manger.
The Config Manager Deploy is a Hands-On-Lab, and while nice, they do leave a bit to be desired. Step-by-step installs aren't what I came hear for. I can run through the lab on my own in the big hall later.
I'm chomping at the bit to get home and implement my lab and start testing against a backup of our DB.
More as it happens.
Update: Well Deploy Config Manager session 2 was a bust. Spent most of the session going over stuff that was covered in session one, and then watching install screens snooze by. I walked out to use the restroom and passed no less than four people asleep.
We come to these things for the deep dive, the technical specifics. If someone wasn't at the first session, they can catch it on the DVD. The info was fine and the speakers were good, they just spent too much time covering territory that was already covered, either yesterday or in labs. Deploy multiple secondary sites and DP's! Upgrade the MMS client network!
DO something not in VM? What a concept!

MMS Day Two


Another long day.... and night. It's a good thing that there's a Starbucks in the convention center. The one tool no one tells you about is caffeine. Use it liberally.
I participated in an excellent 'focus group' today on documentation. Everyone was vocal and gave Microsoft excellent feedback. The consensus was to make "documentation" more dynamic, more easily updateable, and perhaps even available via RSS.
I think everyone agreed that making Support-level documents available, even if it was via paid subscription, would be an invaluable tool. How many times have you called support and had to get to the guy at level 3 just to get the right documented answer? Just let me at that database! I'd be thrilled to pay for it as part of my VLA, or SLA, or whatever they're calling it today.
The new SCCM07 console is much, much improved. I've never seen a bunch of grown humans more excited over drag and drop functionality. And it was interesting to note that PKI was required to deploy internet-facing SMS functionality, something we're dying for. So PKI now gets added to this summer's hit list.
I missed the IT Forum party, much to my disappointment. I used the time in the open labs, hitting a couple of the scenarios I haven't had a chance to look at yet. It would be fabulous if all of these VM's were available for take-home, so we could pass these labs on to our peers back at the office.
Tomorrow: Vista Deployment, SCOM, and Microsoft Communities.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

MMS Keynote


I could go on about the MMS Keynote, but this guy here did a much better job of taking notes during the presentation.
Various conversations with Microsoft personell over the last few months had left me convinced that they were buying Jalasoft, and that would be announced this week. Suffice to say, I was wrong.
No wonder the guy at the Jalasoft booth thought I was insane.

Monday, March 26, 2007

MMS : Day One


Here in scenic San Diego for MMS. First day was long, but worthwhile.
The walk from the hotel to the event is not too bad, a bit less than a mile. The hotel, while costing $249 a night, sticks you for another $10 per day for internet access. This is ridiculous. You're the official hotel for an event where thousands of geeks are getting together, and you want to hose us another $10 for internet? That nearly every other hotel gives away for nada? Give me a break.
PdaNet works like a champ, and that's what I'll use for the duration.
And while I'm on my soapbox, you don't put out food and drinks at the convention center and then force about 70 fat IT guys to stay away for 15 minutes until you "open". There was nearly a stampede. And the food was not worth the wait. C'mon, Micro$oft. The group attending this event spends hundreds of millions on your products, and everyone that didn't get a voucher is about $5000 out of pocket for travel, hotel, and conference. Just keep the food / beverage tables stocked and open. I ended up wolfing down a mediocre turkey sandwich and Diet Coke to get to my next session in time.
So far the sessions have been very worthwhile, the best of the day being 'DeMystifying SQL" about creating custom queries / reports in SMS / SCCM. Very well done.
The Expo Center opened this evening and the crowd press was insane. The food was good and well spread-out, but you couldn't move. Popular booths were hard to get into, and the MyITForum booth was the worst. It was five deep for most of the night. I'll be getting more time with vendors later in the week. Tonight was about the food and the swag, and I got plenty of both.
More tomorrow : first keynote and community seminar.