Gym Update

May. 25th, 2017 11:07 am
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As somewhat expected, the renovations at my regular LA Fitness in downtown Silver Spring are taking longer than they had planned. Instead of being shut down for three weeks ending May 22, they will be offline for five weeks in total, to June 5.

Since my membership expires today (May 25), I renewed yesterday at the Dulles Town Center location, after my regular workout and before heading to work at the data center. I've re-upped for one year at $179. While I'd rather renew for 3 years at a time to save money, I don't want to make a longer term commitment until I know the renovated Silver Spring location is worth my money: I definitely know the Wheaton location is not. I haven't yet checked out the Aspen Hill facility but may do so next week when life is calmer.

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This morning, a fruit basket & candy package arrived, sent by my COO, CTO & head of HR, addressed to the "Jarvis Family." The note attached thanked my clan for supporting me as I worked extra hours on the latest set of office projects. Nice touch --although I'd rather have a small bonus rather than $50 gift package. Thoughtful, though.

I've been working extra hours (extra extra hours?) this week as we run down the clock to our big data center migration. Today, two people who now report to me (one is my former boss, on contract!) are flying from San Francisco to Sterling, VA. Tomorrow morning, I also head to Virginia to meet with them, ensure their badges & keys work at the data center, and generally show them the cages, servers & tools we have on-site for this migration. I also hope we can discuss in person the sequence of steps we're taking once the site goes offline Friday night, filling in any details I may have overlooked.

I'm staying at a hotel in Virginia Friday through Sunday so I can be as close as possible to the data center. I'm also expecting that after many extended hours of battle, I'd be in no shape for a 40 minute drive home and return the following day.

Friday night, about 10pm Easter time, our site will go down and the fun begins. In our preliminary testing, we were getting speed improvements of 5x or so, but I think that's just a happy dream of what we'll be able to do in another two months: even after the apps move from the old cage to the new, the databases will largely be reaching back to the storage arrays in the old cage over a 4Gbps fibre link until we can migrate the data. I do intend to start migrating the data after we go live this weekend, but it will take weeks of effort to finish that (I'm hoping to have the bulk of it done by July 1).

I cannot say how relieved I am to get the new cage online. It's not just that we've been working on it constantly the past several months, but we've been letting maintenance of the old cage slide a bit, and it had inherent issues we couldn't easily fix anyway. Killing the old cage removes a lot of legacy equipment & unfortunate architecture decisions: the slate gets swept clean.

And even when we shut down the old cage, there is still much to do. We could only make this deadline by physically moving the Sun T4-1 servers with their Oracle databases to the new cage. We were originally planning to let that equipment be retired, but that aspect is a huge project in itself. In the next three month work sprint, we're going to: identify the data we need to retain, convert the data from SPARC data word format into Intel data word format, and restructure the database & LUN layout. All on live systems. The database team has 80% of this workload, but I'm still in the mix, doing the storage allocations and helping where I can with optimizing the process.

At this moment, here and now, I'm feeling rather serene. I've just ticked off the last of my pre-migration tasks, and finished scripting a lot of Veritas cluster stuff I need to do the moment the site is offline Friday night. In all, I'm now in wait mode. There is nothing left to do but wait for the dawn.

Gymming

May. 13th, 2017 10:51 am
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My regular gym, not-so-affectionately known as the slum gym, is still under renovations and won't re-open until May 22. (Side note: my 3yr membership expires May 25, so their renovations will largely determine if I renew. Make it good, guys!) This week, I had a couple of visits to the data center so I was able to use the excellent gym in Sterling, VA, close to work. This morning, however, I had to go to nearest LA Fitness, AKA the shanty town gym.

It's serviceable but it's just so low, low, low class. The gym itself has a long history of not keeping up with repairs on equipment: at least 15% of the treadmills & ellipticals are offline at any given time, sometimes more, and the staff have reached a point of complacence that they don't even bother posting "out of order" signs any longer. The sauna & pool are offline again, as they seem to spend most of their existence.

My biggest complaint is always about the weight & strength equipment as that's my primary area of interest. All of the equipment is in a relatively small space so one has to take extreme care not to accidentally step into someone else's workout, or even have to coordinate your own lifts with theirs to ensure you don't collide.

There are only two bench press stations, so I worked very hard to get in precisely at 8am when they opened today and get to the floor ahead of the crowd. I did well, I was the third person to arrive. Sadly, both one & two both went directly to the bench press stations and kept them for a half-hour each. Two spent most of that time typing on his mobile phone while sitting on the bench, but refused to let anyone else tag in. (At least One was using his bench extensively and on high weights so it was impractical to tag in with him: it would take more time to offload & reload weights than we would have gained by alternating, and since he was making good use of the equipment, I can't begrudge him that.)

I'm used to gyms piping in dance music interspersed with commercials & promotional announcements about their services. I'm also accustomed to people wearing their own iPod & earphones. I'm not at all familiar with the practice of people bringing their own portable stereos to play. Nothing quite like having 2-3 different people bringing their own clashing styles of music for all to (ahem) enjoy!

My gut instinct is to say that bringing & playing a stereo in public like that is a trashy move. In my experience, I think it's a rude, inconsiderate and frankly, low class move. Since my experience doesn't cover the entire planet, I have to wonder: is this acceptable behavior somewhere? Am I being culturally insensitive on this point, or could I "accidentally" drop a 75lb dumbbell on his stereo?

Discuss.
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Credit card companies are heavily into "big data," or what the rest of the planet has been calling statistics for generations: they analyze commercial activity to devise more ways of selling products, extracting more fees, getting rid of unprofitable customers, and spotting fraud.

And sometimes they spot fraud where there isn't any, and things go bad quickly.

Earlier today, the gov't of Canada attempted to charge my Citibank Amex card for my Canadian passport renewal. Citibank flagged it as potentially a fraudulent activity. The reasoning engine which scores transactions along the scale of legit to illegit is a black box and proprietary secret, but I'm hoping they simply presumed that I was unlikely to be in Canada at this moment and therefore this charge was probably incorrect. I'm hoping they didn't just decide somehow that the Government of Canada isn't a legitimate entity.

I contacted Amex to tell them this was indeed a legit transaction, but it's too late. I expect the passport office has already dropped my paperwork into an envelope and shipped it back to me with a form letter saying that they couldn't complete the transaction. And I'm going to have to mail back the entire package yet again --using a different credit card because I can't trust Amex not to screw it up again.

This evening, that same Amex card was blocked at our local service station. In anger & disgust, I went to a different service station, reasoning that perhaps it was just a telecom issue, but no, the next service station rejected the same card. Apparently, the black box reasons that not only could I not legitimately be in Canada, but I clearly can't also be in my own neighbourhood.

I finally purchased gasoline at the second station using a different credit card. And I had a few words with Citibank customer service when I got home.

I've had this credit card for 17 years, but at this moment, I have to honestly question whether I should keep this card. Citibank's fraud prevention has prevented a stack of transactions over the years. It works perfectly as long as I hold it in my hand and keep within a limited range of home. Once I get away from the Baltimore-Washington zone or the area around our campsite in West Virginia, it starts breaking down quickly. I've learned not to trust it for web purchases or telephone orders, but it didn't occur to me that it would also fail in mail order situations, especially when dealing with a government agency.

I'll have to think about this more in the morning when I'm a bit less pissed off.
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Folks are storing their data in the cloud, things are happening in the cloud, our businesses are becoming more cloud-based, etc..

Great buzzwords. Still a lot of hype.

There is no cloud, just other peoples' computers. There are still servers and hard drives out there, stuffed into data centers: you just get to rent a little part of it to store your files. The "cloud" nomenclature was created to demonstrate directly that you, the customer, have absolutely no idea where those servers, drives, and your data actually are. The sales pitch is that you don't need to know, the reality is that you can't know.

As one who has worked in major data centers for decades, trust me: I know where the cloud actually is. I've had a direct hand in building small portions of it. Indeed, since each machine has a number of sharp corners & edges, I've had more than a few injuries getting the equipment assembled & racked, and I'm of course not the only one.

It's an interesting thought: the 'cloud' contains not just your data, but an awful lot of very real blood, my own included.
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We survived the weekend in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Travel to Rehoboth is always a dodgy thing and it's not a place I enjoy, so I'm relieved we're done for another year.

My boss flew into town late last night to work in the data center. We'll be doing some long hours Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday; he flies back to California Friday morning. I'm going to help on some of the network stuff, but my major tasks are:
- moving four Sun servers from the old cage to the new one;
- configure said servers;
- install 20 new servers (due to arrive any day now);
- install 4.8TB of RAM in the form of 16GB DIMMs. Half are replacements for 8GB DIMMs in 35 machines, the rest are upgrades to existing servers, taking them to 128GB of RAM each. It's overkill for what we need today but will give us serious room to grow for the next couple of years.

Come Thursday, Bill Eyler will be coming to stay chez nous as we shuttle him around to various square dance gigs in the greater DC area. The recent minivan engine trouble was worrisome but we're back on schedule now that the PrincessMobile is fully repaired.

Speaking of square dancing, I've submitted my availability for the Zig Zagger's calling schedule for 2017-18. I've also sent my preferences for slots at the upcoming IAGSDC event in Palm Springs, CA, although I don't expect to hear back on that for another month or so.
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The trip home from Rehoboth Beach, DE, Sunday evening was a bit too eventful for my tastes.

While zipping along I95 southbound north of Aberdeen, MD, the battery light came on. A minute later, the engine light, oil light and others came on too, and the dash began beeping. As we pulled over onto an exit ramp, we lost power steering. As quickly as possible, we stopped on the shoulder of the ramp and killed the engine.

It's a 2006 Grand Caravan with 175,000 miles on it, so we were prepared for the worst, but after some consideration, we came to our own conclusion that the tensioner for the serpentine belt had broken. With such slackness in the belt, the alternator and other devices weren't functioning as they should.

AAA summoned us a tow truck and we were able to rent a Pacifica to get us and our equipment & luggage home while the PrincessMobile stayed at the garage.

Monday morning, our suspicions about the tensioner were confirmed. And this morning, Kent drove to Aberdeen to return the Pacifica and collect the PrincessMobile. The car repairs were about $320, the car rental $290. In all, it was better than going shopping for a new minivan.

Bleh

Apr. 29th, 2017 09:43 pm
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In all, I'm not having a great weekend.

At this moment, I'm in the business center area of the Sands Hotel of Rehoboth Beach, DE. This weekend is the 31st annual "Pass the Ocean, Hon!" square dance festival hosted by the Chesapeake Squares.

Most of my bad mood is due to external factors which I admit shouldn't bother me overmuch, but since I'm feeling a bit trapped so I have little else to dwell on, which in turn generates an ugly feedback loop.

I'd rather not have attended this weekend, but we have all the sound equipment stored in our basement so they really need us to come. I'm no longer a club caller and have withdrawn from all other activities & management rolls with the host club, but I still come in support of Kent who is still a club caller for them, and Michael likes visiting Rehoboth.

The traffic getting here Friday was, as usual, pure hell. Rehoboth Beach is the weekend getaway destination for most of the Washington-Baltimore corridore, and the Chesapeake Bay forces traffic into a handful of choke points which make comfortable travel very difficult. This year it's worse because of road construction in the same bottlenecks. In all, I was in a fairly bad mood before I even arrived in Rehoboth.

Checking into the hotel was a bit of a nightmare: there was a long line and only two people staffing the front. It was a long wait, then a wait again as they demanded Michael be present to show his ID as one of the co-occupants whose names were on the room reservation (they didn't care about Kent because his name wasn't on the reservation, although they knew a third person would be in the room).

Once we were checked in, I then realized there is no desk or work table in our room. I have no plans to dance at this square dance convention, but there was also no place where I could work on my own projects. Dammit.

Fortunately, I discovered there was a side room off the lobby which is technically described as their lounge bar where there are some work desks. It takes an enormous stretch to envision this as a lounge, especially since there is no bar in sight. That said, I'm sitting in a fishbowl: windows on three sides and a walkway behind me, so everything on my screen is visible to the planet. Yeah, definitely not doing anything NSFW, but also nothing which might be thought of as work-sensitive, proprietary or confidential. PITA.

So in all, I'm somewhere I don't want to be, not being able to do things I'd hope to accomplish.

What I really need right at this moment is a back & shoulder rub. I'm still tense from yesterday's chest workout at the gym, as well as the stress of driving here.

And so since I'm doing little more than whining here, I'm going to sign off for tonight and consider just reading the rest of the evening away.
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I had an unusual experience yesterday at the doctor's office.

While waiting for my appointment, a nurse came into the waiting area and called for Charles Harvess. No one stood up, but there were only four patients waiting, three of which were women. Not hearing my name called, I returned to reading Twitter on my mobile.

A few minutes later, the nurse came back and addressed me specifically. "Are you Charles Harvess?"

"No, I'm Brian Jarvis," i replied.

"Yeah, that's what I asked. Charles Harvess."

"I'm not Charles, I'm Brian. And I've never heard of anyone named Harvess before."

She showed me the papers. "Is this your name?"

And yes, it was indeed my name. So how does one read 'Brian Jarvis' and come out with 'Charles Harvess'? Seriously, how did my name become so difficult to pronounce to a native english speaker? More horrifying, do I want to deal with medical personnel who can't communicate a person's name effectively?
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I'm not planning to die any time soon, or at all. While I'm assured that my death is inevitable in perhaps 40-50 years' time, I'm personally against it. I am by nature a cautious person so it seemed prudent to ensure I'm prepared for my theoretical demise.

We already have wills in place to dispose of my earthly assets. And while I'd prefer to be buried body intact and in a nicely appointed coffin (dark wood finish, brass fixtures, free wifi), getting my hydrocarbons across an international border would require significant effort by my executor, not to mention a great deal of money. It would be vastly easier to cremate me and carry my ashes in one's carry-on bags.

While we were in the Charlton area, I stopped by the township hall to talk with the clerk, Gisele Belanger, to enquire how one goes about being placed in the Brentha Cemetary near my childhood farm.

My parents (also still alive) have a plot there, I-16. Gisele informed us that a plot may contain a coffin & three cremains, or a total of five cremains. My parents are planning to be cremated so as long as my parents stop by the office to officially RSVP me into their plot, my position is guaranteed. There is an administrative fee of $265 if it were to happen today, but otherwise all expenses are covered.

The cemetary contains a lot of childhood memories for me. Rather, it contains a lot of people I knew. I went to school with several occupants. Some I knew through church. Some we shared a telephone party line with, while others were merely neighbours we sometimes saw. There were parents or grandparents of my childhood friends. There was my bus driver for my first & second grade, as well as the fellow who was the janitor of my elementary school, buried with his late wife. There was the couple who owned sold us our farm, and their extended family. There was the local telephone switchboard operator until the systems went digital in the early 1970s. And so on. I could give a mini-biography on nearly 2/3 of the people at rest there. And I'm intrigued by the ones I didn't recognize: there are no more families named Goldstein, Schultz or Kiehna in the area, and I'm curious what brought them, and why happened to their descendants.

Like any good story, I'm left with a lot of answers, but a few extra questions too.
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I currently live in Maryland in the US, but I was raised in northern Ontario, on a dairy farm in Dack Township, near the towns of Charlton and Englehart. My parents still live in the area and since we were coming to Canada this week anyway for my grandmother's birthday, I thought it was a good opportunity to travel the full distance north to visit the homestead.

It's been a bit of an adventure overall. My parents are still living on the farm, but they've had their share of health problems and even they are conceding they can't stay on the farm for many more years before the maintenance simply overwhelms their ability to manage.

Much of the farm itself has changed over the years. There is currently the house and the barn with its attached milk house left. When I was a very young child (pre-school), there was the car garage, tractor garage (the original 1920s homestead), a grainery, a log garage for farm equipment, and the old barn. The house I grew up in burned in 1984; the parents' current house then is the third home on that farm.

The old buildings were mostly cleared away years ago. The old barn was collapsing under its own weight when I was a kid, and we were strictly warned never to go in there. Which we of course then did. There were some ancient farm implements, a couple old horse collars for the plow and little else, but it was fun to explore. It was torn down in 1976 as unsafe, along with the log barn.

My dad built the milk house in 1970 or so. While we haven't had dairy cattle since the 1970s, it has been a comfortable workshop for him since then and as held up pretty well.

The barn was built some time in the 1950s, I think, well before my family bought the property in 1969. It's been remodeled several times over the decades, but dad recently returned it to its original form: slide doors on either side to allow a pass-through for tractors & wagons of hay, and an open loft for unloading the delivered hay. The stalls are more modern but haven't seen cows in years.

The fences are all gone. We had maintained a distinct north field & south field, separated by a fenced cow pasture, and a path to the pond at the edge of the forested area to the back of the property. All traces of that are now gone: it is now one continuous field from the northern edge to the southern edge of the property lines, and it is currently leased to other farms in the area for their use.

Sadly, the ground has been too wet for us to hike back to the uncleared portions of the property along the eastern edge. The underlying rock of the Canadian shield rises above soil level in these spots, over 40 feet in some places. They were fun places to go when I was a kid and I had hoped for clear views of the full farm from there with the absence of leaf cover. The exposed and barely-covered rock surfaces however mean there is little drainage for heavy rains, not to mention melting spring runoff. I'll try again in a dryer season.

Many other surrounding properties have changed too. I noticed some houses where there were none before, older or abandoned structures have been cleared away, some houses & barns have simply vanished entirely.

The Mennonite community has been buying up a number of properties in the area, priced out of the southern Ontario market. Driving at night, it's easy to spot the houses lit by kerosene lamps, and we passed more than a few horses & buggies on the roads. On Monday, we passed several groups of children walking home from their school, the girls in long dresses and white bonnets, the boys in dark trousers & coats with wide-brimmed black hats. Other than their dress, they were perfectly ordinary kids doing perfectly ordinary kid things.

On the advice of Gesile Belanger, the town clerk for Charlton & Dack Township, we went to what is now known at the Heritage Center in Charlton. That building was the town hall when I lived there, built in 1909. It now has a room for community meetings (an artists' group meets there weekly), and houses archives of the area. Looking randomly through official voter lists of the 1950s, I found the names of many people I knew, including the people who owned our farm before us. Sadly, I wasn't able to determine who owned our farm before them, but I didn't have the time to dig as deeply as I wanted. Perhaps the next time.

Overall, the region is recognizable but very different from the place I knew. Charlton is very similar, but Englehart has unquestionably gone downhill over the past two decades. New Liskeard seems a mixed bag, a downtown a bit past its prime but not too far gone, and a burgeoning suburban shopping area, although at the expense of the mall next door.

I could wish to spend more time there, but I think I've had enough for this trip. The next visit should be in the fall, when the local tourist attractions are open, perhaps late enough to see the leaves changing colour.
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Last April, I had outpatient surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my left knee. Recovery was quick and I've had no problem since.

A few weeks ago, however, I received a letter from United Health about my appeal. Huh? What appeal?

Then last week, I received a letter from United Health turning down my appeal as I had waited past the 180 day term limit. I still have no clue what this is about.

Finally, yesterday, I received a package of correspondence from United Health, a stack of paper an inch thick. Each letter was accompanied by ten pages of statements about how one can obtain services in a variety of languages, how they adhere to HIPPA regulations, etc., but the actual correspondence was revealing.

The 7th page from the bottom of the stack held the secret. Why was there an appeal, for what, and by whom? It was the surgical center where I had my knee surgery. They had billed United Health $9,532, although with a co-pay from me for $364. But United Health had decided the procedures were worth vastly less and were only willing to pay $790.31. Cue the sad trombone, and the appeal.

I could understand their surprise and wanting to appeal the reimbursement from United Health, but it took them nearly a year to decide that, and United is within its rights to reject the appeal because of the 180 day rule. That said, I'm a bit worried about the future.

Will the surgical center simply eat the balance as business transaction gone bad? Yeah, UHG pissed them off, and I could understand if they never wanted to accept UHG patients again. The center really blew it though on the appeal period: missing that deadline was a dumb mistake and they have no one to blame but themselves. But they could also decide that since my insurance provider failed them, they are entitled to extract their extra fees from me as the patient and payer of last resort, even though it has been a year and they've blown their own bookkeeping.

So, I sit and wonder. Will I get a bill for $9k or not? I have no idea.
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For me, the love of LiveJournal began to fade when it was sold to Russian business interests. It became, well, something else. Maintenance wasn't great before but it became much worse during the transition. Stability suffered. It was no longer "our" long-form conversational space, but became "theirs," and while that isn't a bad thing in itself, it felt like the welcome mat was gone. Still, while I had migrated everything of consequence over to Dreamwidth, I didn't have a compelling reason to shut down my business with LJ.

In recent years and months, however, the Russian government has become more autocratic & paranoid, less tolerant of politically acceptable speech, and more aggressive against people who didn't offer proper deference to government wishes. I wish I could say the US government was better in that regard, but since last November, it's fared little better. While the US' executive branch has lost its mind and the legislative branch is flailing like a drunken chimp, the institutions of gov't haven't completely fallen yet.

And then there's this.

I'm done with LiveJournal. It's been a good run, but its operation & government oversight have become too dodgy for my tastes. There is a good chance I'm just being paranoid, but there are plenty of good alternatives out there so there's little reason to embed myself in a sketchy system.

If you're looking for me, I'll be at bjarvis.dreamwidth.org.

Thanks, and good night.
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This evening, I had an interesting pair of phone calls.

The first one was a man who immediately asked if I was Brian, then launched into a question asking about a network issue he was having. I was a bit flummoxed as I had no idea who he was, but attempted to answer the question (I theorized it was port blocking by the firewall). He asked me to confirm I worked for Deem; I then ask him his name and it was one I didn't recognize. But OK, no harm done, and we said goodbye.

A few minutes later, a woman called for me. She explained that the prior caller was her son, calling to see if I actually exist.

Yeah, that raised my eyebrows too.

Apparently, someone used my name, photos & bio to create a fake account on "Plenty of Fish," some sort of dating website, and she had been exchanging messages & txt messages with him. The fake Brian had been evasive on some question so she was a bit suspicious and started doing some checking with her son's assistance. They found my Instagram profile, which lead them to the red flag: Fake Brian mentioned he was in Belgium on business but my Instagram showed I was in Florida. She then called the hotel where he was staying and learned that they had never heard of him, and the room number he has sent her was invalid.

After she confronted him with this information, he vanished and the profile was deleted from the website. She then called me to warn me there was a copy of me floating around. And we actually had a pleasant conversation, and her son said he thought my resume was very impressive. Nice.

Anyway, I'm now googling my name to see what else pops up. So far, I've only found a fake profile in FaceBook (now reported & closed). My pic has been used in a couple of places as clickbait, one for a learn-anything-about-anyone site with dozens of different people named Brian Jarvis, and another which uses my image from Twitter to lure me into a pr0n website.

I have checked my credit reports and those came up clean. The information which I've found laying about has all come from public spaces: FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or generally visible public gov't documents. None of it has been especially personal.

I'm still a bit baffled that someone would have the need to create a fake profile, as well as a little flattered they decided I was a worthy person to imitate. I would like to ask the Fake Brian from Plenty of Fish why he felt the need, and what he thought he would accomplish.

If you know of any other means I should take to seek out more fakes of me, let me know. There are many valid Brian Jarvises out there than I had suspected, but I would like to track down anyone else using images of me or other such details.
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I've noticed for some time that my local LA Fitness gym isn't exactly top shelf. It's OK: it has space, a broad range of equipment, a nice yoga room and a cycle room, a large basketball court, and an intermediate-sized swimming pool. Not bad, but not great.

Over the years, the carpeting has started to show its age. The lockers in the change room are in need of repair. The shower heads and fawcets in the showers are well past their prime. It's not a horrible gym, but it's far below the level of the LA Fitness near my data center, a shiny & gleaming new facility which sets a high bar.

Sadly, the only other LA Fitness convenient to home or work is the one in Wheaton, MD. It's the same distance from home as the downtown Silver Spring one I frequent, but if my preferred gym is ghetto, Wheaton is an outright slum and/or shanty town. It is a sad & miserable place, suffering from extreme mismanagement and neglected maintenance.

My local gym has been announcing renovations "any day now" for a while, but they've finally marked a date in the calendar. As of February 20, we will lose the change rooms and showers: there will be some sort of toilets made available, but I dread to think what form that might take. The gym will close completely for March 6-20 for complete renovations.

I can deal with the lack of change rooms & showers: I'll simply dress for the gym at home and have my shower when I get back to the house. The two week closer is a bit more serious: I don't want to be out of circulation that long so it seems I'll either have to find excuses to head to the data center more frequently so I can use the shiny Sterling location, or hold my nose to head to the Wheaton gym. Both options are less than ideal, but it's only for two weeks. My latest membership contract is up in May so at least I'll have a couple of months with the newly renovation version before deciding on committing for another contract.
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OK, I'm now fifty years old. A half-century. Five decades. 18,262 days (remembering that 2000 wasn't a leap year). About 60% of my lifespan.

Surprisingly, fifty feels pretty good.

With age comes experience, and I'm better equipped mentally & emotionally to handle life now that at any point prior in my life. By gradual accumulation, I have financial & professional stability I would have envied when I was in my twenties. I am surrounded by a crowd of friends & family, including to my enormous surprise children & grandchildren (via marriage, but that's not significant). I'm also healthier & stronger than I've ever been, despite last year's knee surgery and minor issues from time to time. On the whole, I'm at the peak and it's all downhill from here.

The oddest sensation is that a huge burden of imposter syndrome has lifted away. I no longer feel like I'm faking being an adult: I am finally an adult now, in my internalized self-image.

I think I've been going through the motions of being a responsible adult since I was ten. I could do the work, I could keep up with the crowd, and I could handle the responsibility, but I wasn't physically the right age. Even if one is considered an adult at age 18, it's not quite true: proper maturity takes several more years. Biologically, our brains aren't even finished baking until the mid-twenties. In my thirties & forties, I still felt like I was the child being permitted at the grown-ups table, acceptable but not really accepted.

Today, there are no further doubts. There is something about that magic (and admittedly arbitrary) number of fifty in which all parts of me are finally in congruence. If there's any misalignment left, it's my mental image of me with brown hair rather than full grey, but that's all.

So this is what internal peace feels like. I kinda like it.

Now why hasn't AARP called yet?
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Every year, the DC Lambda Squares' Harvest Festival Hoedown raffles off a number of large prize baskets. It generates extra revenue for the fly-in, almost as much as dancer registrations themselves, and the event would run in the red if it wasn't for this extra income.

Interestingly, not every basket is claimed after the winning numbers are drawn. I suppose some people might have left early and didn't have the opportunity to check their numbers or claim the basket. Perhaps they were simply giving money to the club to support the event and didn't really care about winning anything in particular. Perhaps they won but decided against the basket itself as a version of buyer's remorse.

In any case, there were two baskets unclaimed and at last night's club night, we raffled them off again to the dancers at our annual holiday party. And I won one of them.

It's an eclectic basket. There were three serving bowls made from warming & shaping vinyl LP records, some luggage tags, a pack of holiday cards which have wildflower seeds embedded in the paper for future planting, two pairs of cufflinks and a number of York peppermint patties (the hoedown was held in York, PA, so the patties are part of our running theme).

This morning, I attempted to unwrap the package. I wasn't not entirely successful.

EVERYTHING IS TAPED IN PLACE.

Yes, the designer of the basket didn't want anything to shift in transit, so all items are tapped down with heavy but transparent industrial tape. I couldn't just unwrap the packaging: I had to cut the basket out of it. And then each individual cuff link, luggage tag, bowl and card had to be separately pried from the basket and wrapping, and each other. Even the peppermint patties had to be carefully cut away from the rest of the basket, sometimes unsuccessfully: the foil packaging would tear more easily than the tape. Given the number of foil failures, I had to eat several of the mints. It was challenging, but it was a sacrifice I had to make. You're welcome.

In all, I needed wirecutters, an exacto knife and a pair of scissors to free all of the items from their glittering cellphane prison. It shouldn't be this hard.
bjarvis: (Default)
Yesterday at work, we received an email from a former employee who left the firm about three months ago. Apparently, he was getting deluged with automated alert txt messages from our systems and wanted them to stop.

Digging into it, we were at first mystified: he's not in any of the recipient lists in our monitoring packages or even email distribution lists. He's not in the corporate directories or any other sources of record. Then we also realized that the messages were for systems we had decommissioned and removed from our monitoring tools. So where were these being generated?

After some considerable effort, we discovered that the bozo had:
1. created a monitoring script for his production environment which he didn't document;
2. the monitoring script wasn't folded into our suite of monitoring tools so it wasn't using our alert management & scheduling systems;
3. he was running this monitoring script for the prod env from a dev workstation, not the proper prod services;
4. he hard-coded his personal contact info into the script so that he alone would get the alerts.

In short, he created the very mess he was now complaining to us to have fixed for him, and he did it in the most incredibly unprofessional means possible.

While I'm sympathetic that his mobile is getting flooded with txt messages and costing him a bundle if he doesn't have unlimited messaging, my sympathy ends there. He built this mess for himself and I was sorely tempted to let him wallow in it a while longer as a lesson in how not to do things.
bjarvis: (Default)
It's been a busy few days but I'm slowly catching up.

We've been slowly decommissioning one old storage array at the data center, requiring us to move the data to a newer array. We discovered some performance issues this week so we had to migrate two particular volumes to a different RAID pool but these activities required essentially two all-nighters this week.

That wouldn't be catastrophic but I also had my regular build work for the new data center cage, and since I'm the only employee on the east coast, it's not going to get done so long as I'm being sucked into these other spontaneous demands. That was unavoidable in this instance but I've made it clear to the dev teams that I'm only available to them for major issues, not trivial ones for the rest of this month.

And as life would have it, I had a few square dance calling gigs this week too: our Wednesday C2 group, a special C1 night for the DC Lambda Squares, a Friday evening holiday party called by John Marshall which I really wanted to attend, and co-calling a six hour C2 event Saturday morning & afternoon with Kent.

I'm happy to report that all of the tasks for the week were accomplished successfully, although at the expense of my gym workout schedule. Still, that's a small price to pay for the pleasure of knowing the other items are under control.

Today's migration isn't about data, but relocating my computer bunker from the basement to the first floor sewing room & middle bedroom. The basement bunker is convenient and optimized for my work, but it gets cold down there during the winter. A small electric heater helps but it has to run nearly constantly to keep the room comfortable. It's easier (and cheaper) just to work from the main floor bedroom until spring.

In all, life should be a bit more stable & normal for a couple of weeks. I hope.

Solaris EOL

Dec. 2nd, 2016 04:46 am
bjarvis: (Default)
I read rumours this morning that Oracle was going to be shutting down all further Solaris development.
Solaris being canned, at least 50% of teams to be RIF'd in short term. All hands meetings being cancelled on orders from legal to prevent news from spreading. Hardware teams being told to cease development. There will be no Solaris 12, final release will be 11.4. Orders coming straight from Larry.

Even if development is stopped, there is still promised support for existing versions for a couple more years, but once the last version runs its course, the game is over.

I have mixed feelings about this, if it is true. I've been with Sun Microsystems since the Sun 3 line and SunOS 3.5, back in the 1980s when the Motorola 68000 CPU was hot stuff. Hell, in those heady days, the OS included a compiler! The machines were sturdy, the screens were huge (cathode ray tubes, naturally) and while they were expensive, they sold like hot cakes. I worked for a Sun VAR in Toronto in the early 1990s, then for the University of Toronto caring for a Sun 3/280 server.

The transition to SPARC and the Sun 4 line was joyful and traumatic. I loved the faster & more powerful CPUs, and the upgrade of our machine was as simple as swapping out a VME board. I did not love Solaris, however. Yeah, SunOS 4.1.5 at that time needed a complete refresh to handle newer communications technologies, extra cores, multi-CPU architectures and such, but it was a solid OS and worked well. Slowlaris was a painfully poor performer and a resource pig by comparison. And it didn't come on quarter-inch tapes: one had to lay down serious money for a CD drive since that was the only distribution method available. And adding insult to injury, it didn't have a development environment by default: it was an extra.

Over the years, my Sun 4/280 gained extra memory and SCSI drives. It was running better than ever, albeit two versions of Solaris later.

After some extra years, a couple of extra jobs and a move to the US, I landed at Fannie Mae for ten years. We were told Fannie Mae was the second largest Sun customer on the east coast (after NASA): I was part of the team which built and maintained their MornetPlus system, mostly built on Sun 250 and Sun 450 machines for data processing and a large pair of Sun 6800 machines for their core cluster. The 6800 machines were standalone, but the 450 models would fit two to a rack --and they weighed a tonne. We were mostly running Solaris 2.6 when I arrived, transitioned to Solaris 8 during my tenure, and began migrating to Solaris 10 as I left (now eight years ago). I loved having a single operating system for our entire enterprise: it made support so much easier, and Solaris 8 was again pretty solid.

While I used Solaris 10 at Fannie Mae and again at Talaris/Rearden Commerce/Deem where I work currently, I've never loved it. Solaris 10 and I tolerated each other. It felt snobbish and repressed. It ran solidly and had some interesting new features (introducing zones), but other kids on the block (eg Linux) seemed to be moving faster and offered more flexibility. And most of all, the new kids were vastly cheaper.

Fannie Mae paid an enormous amount to Sun Microsystems every year for support. Millions of dollars. Oracle bought up Sun Microsystems and continued to support Solaris and release new models of the Sun hardware, but they added their own special Oracle DNA, that is, their desperate desire to drain customers of every penny they had. Support costs soared and purchase prices spiked, although discounts sometimes be had if you bundled together other Oracle products, especially their software.

Even now, I'm typing this while monitoring a storage issue on a Sun T4-1 machine running Solaris 10. It's fine, nothing much to write about. But we're also building a new data center cage, refreshing our entire hardware base and allowing us to retire & scrap our old systems by spring of 2017. Sun will not be part of the new cage: the Solaris stops here.

As I said, Solaris 10 and I never loved each other, but after Larry Ellison got his mitts on it all, I knew it was time for me to start dating other operating systems. Our on-again-off-again affair had run its full course.

So reading that Oracle is tossing in the metaphoric towel on Solaris (and presumably the hardware line too) is like seeing an obituary notice in the newspaper for an old boyfriend. It's a sad thing and I'll remember the good times, but I let go along time ago.

May 2017

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