Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in Arlington

It's 6pm on Christmas eve, and I'm sitting in the den of the Arlington house, happy to be warm.  We woke up this morning to a dead furnace, and it took all day to get hold of the tradesman that works on it for us.  He got here around 4:30, and had it working in under an hour. One of the good things about living in a rural area is that this repair on Christmas Eve cost us under $200 part and labor, and the repair was done by the man who installed the furnace, and is familiar with everything about it.  In Memphis, assuming I could have found somebody to come out, it would have cost at least $500 for the same repair, and would have been a stroke of luck if they had the part available.

I've scheduled the best local plumber to come in early next week to get started on fixing the mess that my father in law managed to create when adding a new bathroom/laudery room.  The drains are slow, and we get sewer gas back into the house every time a toilet is flushed. I'm hoping that this guy, who comes very well recommended, can get everything working for not too much, and in not too much time. We also have some other things we need done, and he should be able to get it all knocked out at the same time.

This house is in need a a lot of work.  We need a new roof, and we really need to replace the old fuse panels with breakers. Actually, we can probably get all the work we want done to this house done for under $20k. So, I'll be planning on getting the quotes and getting a home equity loan for the work, and with any luck we'll have it all done by the end of summer. We'll also be painting the inside of the house, to get rid of all the pink walls that still make me cringe when I see them, and removing the matching pink (or salmon, if you're a designer) carpets that are covering quite lovely hardwood floors.

Happy holidays, and best wishes for the new year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

twas the Monday before Solstice, and all through the house....

I spent the weekend in Arlington with Gayle and Lola, which actually went pretty well.  I think my mother in law is slowly getting used to me being around, or at least not in mortal terror of me.  I even made her laugh by telling the cat there that she was going to kick his ass.

This cat was Gayle's fathers cat.  Supposedly it was a domesticated kitten, but I think that it was a feral barn kitten that someone gave him. This cat is scared of his own shadow, and flinches at any movement. He actually reminds me of a cat I got as a kid.  We brought it home from my grandmothers in a large cardboard box, and he didn't make a sound the entire 60 mile drive. We got to the house, I opened the box and was greeted by "claws of fury" as the cat made his escape. By the time I'd scabbed over pretty well, he'd let me get close, but not touch.  I never did figure out why he hung around the house there at the beginning, as I expected him to be long gone when he got out of the box.  Instead, he grew to be the best cat of my childhood, a large orange tabby tomcat that kicked the ass of ANY dog stupid enough to come into our yard, and was content to put up with me for petting and play.

All that being said, I think that there may be hope for Stupid...maybe he'll quit flinching and get used to being around people.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The "On Call" ball and chain

This is my week to be on call at the clinic. Due to an overdeveloped work ethic, I actually take this seriously.  That means that I cannot be more than an hour away from the clinic, in order to respond should anything go wrong. Now, since I'm the systems admin, this generally means that I respond to major systems outages anyway, but when on call I try to schedule tasks that have to be done during the off hours. So, today I got to go to our Collierville office to swap out a dead printer.  To me, this is what a career in IT means...  unconventional hours, being the only person in a huge office building, and the satisfaction of doing a good job. The boys I work with look at it from a different perspective. The last 2 weeks saw the one on call at least 200 miles away from the clinic, and very dependent on the generosity of their coworkers should anything have gone wrong. Bad examples from their parents, or just a product of their generation? Also, as far as I know neither has ever intentionally scheduled work for themselves for the weekend that wasn't specifically requested by the boss. Yeah, I know...pretty big talk for a baby boomer, the generation not known for their work ethic.

Well, I think that the beginning of the new year will change these attitudes, as we'll now be getting $150 for each week we're on call. Will cash work when everything else has failed? Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Long December....

Just read Gayle's blog, with the picture of the snow they got this week. I just hope this isn't a preview of how this winter is going to go. While I think snow is lovely to look at, there's way too many people who have zero idea of how to drive in it. With my plans to be in Kentucky most weekends, that'll definitely be a consideration.

I woke up the morning after getting back from the holiday/funeral in Arlington with a scratchy throat. It's progressed from that to a full on cold, with coughing, runny nose, etc. Gayle says that everyone up there is perfectly healthy, so I guess I'll either have to blame the girl that served me food at the drive through on the way home, or my pet sitter that I get to watch the boys when I'm going to be gone for more than a weekend.

I'll be starting to pack up the apartment this weekend, and will hopefully get the upstairs pretty well done.  I'll need to see how Gayle want's me to handle her clothes closet...which will probably be me hauling the contents up to her in Arlington the next time I head up.  This won't be til Christmas, as the weekends before that will be taken up by company holiday party, an on-call weekend, and my family's get together in Oak Ridge on the 17th. I get the Friday before Christmas and the Monday after off, so that'll be a nice long visit. After Christmas I'll be in Kentucky pretty much every weekend that I'm not on call at the clinic.  The boys I work with might not take that very seriously, but the IT manager and I both do.

Along with her clothes, I figure I'll get at least one of Gayle's spinning wheels up to her. She always does best when she's got busy hands, and spinning will be better than PC solitaire!

Both cats have been sleeping with me for months now.  The biggest problem with that is that Mikey will plop down on my left side, and stretch out trying to see if he can get all of his back from tail tip to head touching me. Then Jules will do the same on my right side, except he prefers to lead with his rump. This pretty well leaves me  a body width area to sleep in, when I should be having the majority of a queen size bed to toss and turn on. Since switching to my winter sheets and comforter (t-shirt material sheets, and a heavy comforter over that) this is entirely unacceptable.  So, I spend the first hour of the night saying no, and shoving cats away. Eventually, I get to sleep, only to wake up to plaster cat on the left, butt-print cat on the right, and me unable to move. This results in cats being banned from the bed, at least until I'm back asleep.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the funeral...

Joe was buried yesterday in a picture perfect was raining, cool and blustery, just like Joe! The preacher was brief (even with the obligatory come to Jesus message), a lady who both knew and liked Joe told a short tale of Joe in WWII, and then it was over. We went to local church for a meal (Baptists always cook when somebody dies) and had some of the best home cooking, semi-southern style that I've had since the last funeral I went to.

My mother-in-law didn't go to any of this.  Her memory is so gone that she couldn't remember that Joe had died for more than a couple of hours at a time, and so it was like learning for the first time all over again every time we told her.  So, we've stopped telling her, figuring that this is the kindest thing we could do. Surprisingly enough, everyone involved agreed, and didn't think that we were being weird or cruel by withholding the information.

I have finally met a lot of the people that Gayle has told me about, both relatives and just locals that she knows. Of course, there's not a chance I'll actually remember everyone's name, but at least I'll remember their faces. This is a good thing, as I'll be coming up here a lot more.  Since Joe died before Medicaid getting involved, they've no claim to his estate.  Gayle's mom is a lot easier to care for, so we'll be keeping her at the house for the foreseeable future. This means we'll get to keep the house to retire to, which also means that we'll be getting all of the busted things fixed...the roof and all of the plumbing that Joe did will be first on the list.  Bless his heart, he had great ideas...all very logical. Unfortunately, logic fails when you see the wildly convoluted piping he put in place to add a 2nd bathroom/laundry room in what was a bedroom.  The venting for all this is actually below the level of the fixtures, which I really don't think is a good thing.  Anyway, I happen to know my limitations, and will be getting a licensed, well referenced plumber in to take care of all this.  The same with the'll be a company that can pony up some references, show me their license and insurance limits before I sign a damn thing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Death in the family

Gayle's father Joe just died. He was 90 years old, a veteran of WWII, and worked most of his life at the Department of Energy plant in Paducah, KY.  He was opinionated, contrary, and proud of it.  I'll be heading up tomorrow to be with Gayle, and to help her with the arrangements. He'll be buried in the local cemetery that holds his and my mother in laws family.

RIP, Joseph Lindsey

For the few that actually read this blog, send your best thoughts Gayle's way...I'm sure she'll appreciate it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

tempus fugit

And not just when you're having fun.

I was just looking at Gayle's blog, and saw that her last post had her suffering from a massive case of the "don't want to's". This condition seems to be continuing, as she's not posted anything since. I can relate, though not quite to her level of infection.  I've tons of stuff I should be doing, such as packing up the shop upstairs, and starting on my stuff.  But every time I walk up those stairs and look at ALL THAT STUFF, I just can't bring myself to start putting it in boxes.  Well, I'm on call this weekend, and have a partially planned out Saturday of work, so maybe I'll just give it up and get to it.  I could probably get the majority of the stuff boxed up in a day, if I just kept too it.

Of course, I've been saying that for a few months now....

I think one of the underlying causes of this for both of us is the sheer uncertainty of our current existence.  We live hours apart, and don't have any way to plan for the next six months, let alone anything past that. We're both of an age when we should be able to do things, like vacations, or spur of the moment weekends at the beach.  Instead, we sit in our respective houses, just existing day to day, waiting for this purgatory to finally end.

On that depressing note, I'll shut the hell up and get back to existing. Mikey has just jumped up to remind me that cats are masters at the living day to day, and that they pretty well prefer it that way, assuming that food, water, belly rubs and the occasional treat are in good supply.

Monday, November 7, 2011

late night conversations

I was rudely awakened last night by Mikey jumping up on the bed, walking up to my head and howling in the weird, stupidly loud fashion he has when he's upset or just wanting to make his opinion know.  So, I whacked him on the head and advised him that shutting the f**k up would greatly increase the odds of his continued survival. He the plonked down next to me (when this cat lays down by you, he pretty well stretches from knees to chest) and went to sleep.  Of course, it took me about 10 minutes to get back to sleep, and I still have no idea what that was all about.

The joys of feline ownership. Go figure.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Damn, but I'm out of shape!

I'm sitting here enjoying the end to a nice weekend, and pondering just how badly out of shape I am.

I went to Arlington on Friday night, which was interesting...I kept thinking I'd taken a wrong turn. I hadn't, but the thought stayed with me most of the trip.  More on this later...

I got up early on Saturday, but really didn't get moving much past a shower and making coffee, due to a slight over indulgence in strong drink the night before.  This of course made the work I had planned for Saturday much more interesting than anticipated, but I still got most of the things I'd planned on done.  This was mainly hacking back a huge holly bush, and trimming all of the trees around the house that actually touch the roof, in an attempt to keep the critters out.  The hacking went fine, but the dragging the huge tarp full of trimmings liked to have killed me.  Of course, it didn't help that my right ankle is still playing traitor, and causing massive pain every time I move it wrong. Anyway, I got everything dragged back to the burn pile area, huffing, puffing and sweating like a pig in the 60 degree weather. I've absolutely got to drop this weight, and get back to some semblance of shape.  Granted, I don't expect to be 30 again, but damned if I'll behave as if I'm 70, either!

The visit itself was fun, as it's good to actually be able to spend time with Gayle.  She did go out for about an hour or so on Saturday afternoon, and I think that her mom spent the whole time in terror of this unknown person in her house. I spoke to her every time I came back in from doing the tree thing, and reminded her who I was, but I don't think that she really understood who I was and what I was doing there.  I'll be going  back up for Thanksgiving, and will try to make sure I sit down with her at least a couple of times a day, so that maybe my visits won't be quite so tramatizing. This may be futile, as I'm really not sure just how much of what goes on now actually stays in her memory.  For the most part, I think she's retreated to a time when she was young, capable, and strong.  In other words, anything but the elderly, weak and near helpless woman that she's become. I can't say as I blame her, either.

The drive home was fun...though I did kinda get lost this time, and in broad daylight!  I changed my usual route as I needed gas and breakfast, which was easy to find.  What wasn't was the way back to US 45E, the road I normally travel.  I only added about 45 minutes and associated milage to my and learn, eh?

Anyway, I've got veggies and round steak in the oven, with about another 40 minutes to cook.  It's already smelling way too good (drool, drool).  Don't you just wish you were here to help eat it?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Samhain!

My most favorite holiday of the year.  I must admit that it's not been as fun since moving here to the apartment complex as it was back in East Tennessee.  There's I'd decorate and we'd have quite a few kids show up.   Here, not so much.  But, it's the spirit of the thing, so I've gotten some candy (just in case) and have my most evil laugh queued up for anyone who's brave enough to knock on my door.  Trick or treat?  You tell me....


I'll be heading to Arlington on Friday this week, so that I'll have all of Saturday to get some things done in the yard, and maybe start in on getting Joe's workshop organized enough to know what to keep and what to just throw away. Then back early on Sunday, to get laundry and housekeeping done (plus a little NFL action, maybe).  Then, back to the grind.

The Pacs upgrade went fairly smoothly, and most of our docs are working in it just fine. There's still the daily calls for reminders of how to do specific tasks, which we expected. I'm working now on getting all of our residents (we're a teaching clinic, and have about 40 residents and 6 specialty Fellows working with our docs) onto the new system when they remote in.  I'll probably have to disable their access to get the off the old system and onto the new, but we'll see.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend in Arlington

I just got back from spending the weekend with Gayle and her mom in Arlington.  Now that her dad is in a home, I can visit.  It's been somewhere around 6 years since I've been, and this was probably the first time ever that I've actually enjoyed being there.

Gayle's mom either sleeps, or sits in a rocker in the living room, watching Turner Classic Movies. She responded when I talked to her, but wouldn't even look at me when I walked through to the kitchen if I didn't speak to her first. As much as I've always said I'd like to live to be 100, I wouldn't want it to be like what either of my in-laws are living through.  My father in law had to be placed in a nursing home with a lock down ward, as he kept trying to escape from the more open facilities, and my mother in law's entire world moves between 3 rooms in a house she never leaves. Dying at 80 with most of my faculties in place would be wildly preferable to that.

I'm planning on going to Arlington at lease 2 weekend a month, to help with things that need to be done (like cuttting back the holly bush that is now over the roofline and blocking a couple of windows).  That also should make things easier on Gayle staying there, which she doesn't like doing. Sitting the elderly is much worse than baby sitting an infant...a baby you can plonk into a car seat and take with you, even it it's just a drive to get out of the house. The elderly can't and/or won't go, which effectively ties you to the house.  At least the mother in law is pretty sedentary, and can be left alone for an hour or so, if necessary.

I'll also be going through the piles of stuff that Gayle's father has managed to collect over the years.  He has a woodworking shop that is amazing...if you can figure out which of the 4 cordless drills work, or what is worth keeping in the many drawers and cabinets. I figure that the woodworking shop will be a major attraction when we hold the eventual estate sale.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

weddings, strokes and anniverseries

My son got married on the 30th of September.  Gayle and i went to Frankfort for the celebration,and it was a good trip all around.  The weather didn't cooperate fully, but at least it didn't rain.  This was an outdoor wedding, and so of course it was cloudy, very windy and cool.  None of that really mattered, as the ceremony was beautiful ( the bride is an antropology major, and included a handfasting ceremony into the standard wedding vows) and everything came off without a hitch.

Here's a picture of Josh and Maurya, presented as Mister and Ms Allen:

The groom and attendants wore UT orange, and the bride and attendants wore UK Blue.  All in all, a wonderful event. Congrats and best wishes always, kids.

Gayle's dad was scheduled to be evaluated by a new nursing home on Friday morning.  Instead, he was found on the toilet having had a minor stroke.  So, he's in the hospital again. On top of that, we had to give up his bed at his current nursing home due to them wanting $250 + per day to hold it.  We think that he'll be accepted at one with a medicare/medicaid ward, but we just have to wait and see.  He's already been turned down by the Tennessee Veterans Home as too combative, and the same at 3 other nursing homes.  We suspect that the stroke will do away with a lot of the combativeness, at least we hope so.

The end of September brought the 1 year anniversary of my mom's death.  RIP, June.  At least, don't actively haunt any of were contrary enough during life.

Monday, September 26, 2011


It's been a busy month so far.  A big project going on at work, and major changes in the in-law arena.

In-laws first.

My father in law went from being a contrary, way too ambulatory pain in my wife's ass to a vaguely responsive nursing home resident that spends his days in a wheelchair.  This is not really unexpected, as he has finally had a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimers, but this all happened in the space of 10 days.  Gayle had to call an ambulance for him, as he'd fallen multiple times in one day, and was slurring his words, and she was afraid he'd had a stroke. He was in the hospital for about 5 days, then was placed in a nursing home in Paducah.  We're trying to get him a bed in the western Tennessee Veterans Home, which is a VA approved nursing facility, and only about an hour and a half away from Memphis.  We're hoping to get this done before medicaid kicks in, and they put a lien against all of the family assets, as the mother in law will still need resources to live, etc.

At work we're to the point of pushing the new Pacs client out to the xray techs to start getting used to.  As I've written before, Pacs is the generic term for xray/mri/ct/etc image storage and manipulation.  We're full on nearing the go-live portion of a project that has us moving images from 2 older systems to the new, and redirecting all of our xray/mri/ct/etc devices to store their images to the new servers.  All in all, it's been actually fun.  This is the part of IT that I really enjoy, so its been fun no matter the frustrations.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Well grounded cat

Ok, I really try not to fill this blog with pictures, especially of the boys.  But this one was just too good to pass up:

this is Mikey hanging on to a PC grounding strap that is actually clipped onto the metal fireplace insert.  I use it during the winter, as my cloth covered recliner builds up enough static electricity to stop your heart if you're not careful.  I guess it just makes him feel safe and secure from static buildup!

How old?

This past Wednesday was my 55th birthday.


My drivers license picture was taken on September 11th, 2001. In the 10 years since, I've gone from weighing 175 pounds and having brown hair with a touch of gray to 195 and a touch of brown in the dull gray.  Obviously, I'll be getting a new picture this year.  At least it'll match my carry permit picture.

Such birthdays tend to have you turn a bit in introspective, and so I've started writing up  a kind of profit and loss sheet on where I am in my life.  That being said, there's not a chance in hell of me allowing anyone to ever see that particular document. Such things are, while inevitable, something that should be only for the writer and maybe their therapist.  If you're honest in such a document it'd be an exercise in sadism to allow anyone to read it.  Maybe there's someone on this planet that are 100% satisfied with the decisions and random chance that has brought them to where they are in life, but I've never known them. On top of that, this sort of balance sheet is by definition the author's opinion, which may or may not have that much connection with reality.

I'll finish this post by saying that while birthdays are a good time to review where you've been, make sure that it's equally a good time to review where you're going. The time to admit that you are finally old and should pack it in is when only the past holds your interest, and the future is just something to endure.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Oh, yeah....tropical storms

My travels to and from Dragon*Con took me from Memphis to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, then to Atlanta.  The return trip was the same in reverse...all to pick up my sister in east Tennessee. The trip back took me into tropical storm Lee about the time I hit Nashville heading west. Heavy rain and wind wasn't helped by heavy traffic.

I bought a pair of clip on sunglasses a while back that are yellow tinted and mainly used on the shooting range.  Well, I'm here to tell you that they work just fine to see through the spray and haze of heavy rain on the interstate. Even with their help, I probably had a good 15 mph cut off my average travel speed.  However, as the rain was needed in most places, I can't really complain, especially since I made it home safely.

Dragon Con, Tendonitis and Tropical Storms

I went to Dragon*Con with my sister Lynn this weekend. Mother of all the gods, what a madhouse! From what I've been told, this was one of the best run Cons ever. That being said, if that was well run, I'd rather run naked through cactus than go to a poorly ran con.

Actually, it wasn't that bad...just huge crowds, the occasional rude behavior, and a lot of drunken behavior as the evening wore on.  The costumes were amazing (including an Elvis Sith Lord!), and the panels I went to were entertaining.  I sat in on panels with Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter), the cast of the webcast "the Guild", the cast of SyFy's version of "Being Human", all of which were fun.  I hadn't been familiar with "the Guild", which is the brainchild of Felicia Day.  I guess now I've got to start watching.

I also watched a performance of the Atlanta Radio Theater Company doing old fashioned radio shows.  I really enjoyed this (all comedies, of course), and it reminded me of the comedy troupe that I used to love to listen to...The Firesign Theater.  They did the same type thing, with maybe just a touch more professionalism in the writing. I highly recommend their work.

I'm really not that much of a squealing fan type person, but here's a partial list of celebrities that I saw...
James Edward Olmos, Wil Wheaton, Nana Visitor, Nicole de Boer, Lance Hendrickson, Brent Spiner, Nicholas Brendan, Christopher Lloyd, Carrie Fisher, and a bunch more that were sitting around the celebrity room.

The only real downside to this weekend was that I had flair ups of both  my tendonitis and sciatica, mainly Saturday morning during the DragonCon parade. I then discovered that I was on the wrong side of the street during the parade, and couldn't get to the main Con hotels.  This was very annoying, and I'm sorry to say I kinda took some of it out on my poor sister.  However, since this is the first Con she's been to where she got to go to all of the things on her "must do" list, she took it well. Once I was able to get off my feet for a while I got better, and finished the con on an upbeat note.

Without further ado, here's some pictures of the Con...

Sister Lynn as random Elf

Sister Lynn as Professor Trelawney (Harry Potter movies)

Darth Vol

Sister Lynn in Prof. Trelawny costume walking in the parade next to Voldemort

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lethargy, sweet lethargy

It's 1:30 on a wonderful Saturday afternoon, and I'm partially drowsing to a Sci Channel show "What the Ancients Knew", featuring the Greeks.  They're talking about the tricks used by the architects of the Parthenon to make it "look" like it's perfect.  I wonder if they used the same tricks in the replica in Nashville. Even if you've been to the original, the replica is well worth going to.  The huge gilded statue of the goddess in the middle is worth the trip, even if you don't go through the art gallery that the building houses.

The physical therapy session I had yesterday was interesting.  I'd ran out of the pain patch, so the therapist plopped a cortisone patch on, which had to be held in place with tape.  Today I've not had but maybe one litttle twinge in my tendon, which is very promising. I'll be seeing him daily beginning Monday, so that he can work on it a little bit more before I leave for Atlanta Wednesday afternoon. I'm really hoping that this makes DragonCon more enjoyable, and pain free.

The concert Thursday evening was wonderful.  We had excellent seats and really enjoyed the performance. The musicianship was amazing, and the harmonies were exactly what you expect from Allison and the band. We ate at a "gastro-pub" called South of Beale a few blocks from the Orpheum Theater where the show was.  The food was good, the service almost intrusive, but pleasant until I remembered that I'd left the tickets at home.  So, we run for the car (which I'd already paid $15 to park) and rush home to get them, then back downtown.  We got back in plenty of time for the show, and Gayle got to rag me about always rushing around and forgetting something important.

The cats are always bewildered when Gayle comes home.  It takes them a few hours to remember that she's someone who belongs here. The best thing for me is that if i want to sleep in, like I did this morning (I didn't get up til 10am!) they split their time between trying to make me get up and bugging her to do the same.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comfort is relative

Gayle's coming in for her monthly break today.  This trip is early, as her birthday was Sunday, and our anniversary is Sunday, and I got us tickets to the Allison Krauss and Union Station concert tomorrow at the Orpheum. This means that we actually have the chance to eat downtown, as I get off work at 4, and the concert isn't until 8. So, we have a much larger range of possibilities of dining choices as opposed to usual.

Gayle has gotten acclimated to a much warmer environment since she's been living with her folks than what we used to maintain. I've upped the thermostat to 78 during the day, and 74 in the evening, and she'll still put on a sweater when she's here. Now, when she's not here, I jack the temp up to 82 during the day, and 73 in the evening, figuring that the cats don't pay rent, so they get no say in the temperature control.  This has ensured that my electric bill has only been over $200 bucks once this summer.

Late on the 14th my achilles tendon decided to misbehave.  The last time this happened I had 6 weeks of hell in a cast.  This time I limped around, and finally even bought a cane to help walk (which help a great deal...even if it did elicit rude comments about old men and staying off lawns at work).  I got in to see our leading foot doc at the clinic this past Monday, and got a pain patch which works, as opposed to ibuprophen which doesn't, and scheduled for physical therapy, starting Friday. That, along with a night splint to sleep in, beats a cast any time. This sort of service is a wonderful benefit of working at the clinic, especially since it seem that the older I get, the more I tend to break.

Next week I make my first trip to DragonCon in Atlanta.  My sister, who is a regular attendee, is the reason for this.  It seems like every year, she takes someone who has zero interest in SciFi or Fantasy, and that definately doesn't like to participate in the activities that are the reasons for going to such things. Well, when the lady that was going with her had to cancel, and I got invited, I figured I owed it to her to go and see if I couldn't make this one a DragonCon that she doesn't have regrets over. I do draw the line at paying large green for autographs, but I'll wait in line with her if that's what pops her cork.  Since she already knows I'm a cheapskate, this will come as no surprise.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Editing is a pain in the butt

I got a IM from Gayle, telling me that I'd duplicated my last post. So, instead of actually looking at the posts, I just deleted one of them.  Of course, I deleted the wrong one.  Oh, well, such is life.

I got going early this moring, heading out to Walmart and Kroger for some things.  Sundays are always my laundry day, and this is sheet and bedspread day, along with being dusting and vacuuming day.  So far, I've only the bedspread left to wash, and I still need to run the vacuum.  Then I'm going to sit on my butt and do nothing!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It pays to practice

I decided that a trip to the shooting range was just the ticket this morning. 100 rounds of .45 acp, from 5 to 20 yards. The largest miss was 6" off my aim point at 20 yards, with most shots being in 3" groups. I shoot a Beretta PX4, and it's one of the easiest pistols to shoot that I've ever experienced. Recoil is next to nothing, and the sights are very easy to pick up, making multiple shots to the same point almost effortless.

Friday, August 12, 2011


The end of one hell of a week, and I couldn't be happier.  After that last post, I went into the office for what I thought was going to be an hour or two.  Four + hours later, and I called it a day, planning to rest and get back to it on Sunday.  After about 4 hours on Sunday, I had finally gotten all of my users home folders moved, the Citrix users back functioning the way they were supposed to be ( I got blind-sided by a few undocumented settings ) except for their autocorrects, which was finally working again around 9am Monday morning.  I had to completely rebuild both of my vCenter servers, as the P2V failed, then (hmmm...think this might have something to do with the vm failing?) the physical server crashed. So, by then a rebuild was just easier than scratchin' my head for hours to find the error, and I rebuilt my 2nd vCenter server just 'cause I was on a roll.

The workweek was busy as hell, but nothing major...just a lot of small things, and users suffering from summertime stupidosis. For some reason this didn't really bother me as much as it usually does.  I guess I'm finally getting accepting of the fact that a sizable percentage of my users will never learn anything more about how their computers work than "I click the same link on the screen, and then do the same thing that I always do." And the Gods help us all if ANYTHING is different, because they just can't comprehend that there's always multiple ways of getting to something on a computer.

Matter of fact, I had a harder time with coworkers than users this week, and that just 'cause I can get crabby at times.

The cats are both still breathing, which was a near thing a couple of times this week. Whenever you're wore out, and keep getting woken up by one or the other of these oblivious animals (oblivious to how close they are to sudden death, that is), it's hard to stay calm and understanding.  Mikey howls, and Julian drive-by sneezes, seemingly in a coordinated attack.  Maybe I've been watch too much Military Channel?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saturday in the Park

Having typed that title, now I've got the Chicago song stuck in my head. Oh, well, I really liked early Chicago.

Gayle was here this week, which is always fun.  She spent her entire time at home in the kitchen, canning pickles and taco meat.  I managed to keep some of the pickles, but the taco meat all ended up in Arlington. Given my druthers, it'd have been the other way around. But, she'll be back in 3 weeks for the birthday/anniversary visit, and so hopefully she'll bring some back then.

The temperature in Memphis this week has been about what you expect and dread for August...actual highs over 100 (that's over 38 to fans of the metric system), with humidity to match.  We finally got a good thunderstorm out of it yesterday, which brought the temps down into the upper 70's, but with near 100% humidity that wasn't really much of a relief.

Work was busy this week, with the beginning of the PACs migration having begun. Since this is my on-call week, I've got a nice stack of work to do later today, mainly converting a physical server to virtual, and changing the location of all of my users home directories.  No sweat, right?

My sister has talked me into going to DragonCon with her in Atlanta this year.  This is a scifi / fantasy convention that she goes to every year.  It seems like every year she takes someone with her who'd rather be eating bark than having gone to the con, which usually makes it not as fun as it should be for Lynn. Well, I like scifi and fantasy, will put up with the lines (tho don't expect me to pony up cash for autographs...I'm of the opinion that the actors and such should be paying me for being such a fan!) and will do my damndest to make sure that she has the time of her life. After all, what are brothers for?

I'll obviously be giving the full rundown on the Con when I get back, and will even get Gayle to show me how to post pictures on the @#$#$#@ blog!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

9:20 Sunday morning

It's a beautiful day in Memphis, assuming that you don't have to be outside. I know that much of people's bitching about the heat ( or cold, for that matter ) is from not being acclimated to it.  I endured the heat and humidity when I was growing up, and managed to survive. I've upped the thermostat in the apartment to 80 during the day when I'm not here, and no lower than 75 for when I am here. I was trying to cut Gayle some slack when she's here by lowering it even more, but she wears a sweater here, so I guess I should stop. Anyway, I know I should get out of the house more, if for no other reason to up my ability to do so.  I have to admit that I do let the temperature keep me from doing things outdoors, and that's just wrong.

Sundays are my cleaning day.  Oh, I pick up around the house through the week, but this is the day when I do laundry/dust/vacuum/mop/clean bathroom. Ok, maybe not mop, but I have good intentions. With Gayle being here this week, I'd like it to be at least tolerably clean.  I also have to go to the store, for the stuff that Gayle eats and I don't.  Not much, just things like white bread and decaf Coke.

The boys came within a gnat's whisker of dying this morning. Mikey howling and trying to tear the blinds off the window in the bedroom, and Julian trying to set the record for number of times he sneezed in my face, after pawing me to get my attention.  I finally got up and fed them, just to get some peace!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, and alls hell

I slept in this morning, which has come to be somewhere around 8:30 on a weekend. Mikey was frantic to get in the frakin' bathtub to get a drink of water ( he likes to drink from the faucet, with the water trickling), so I let him have at it while I put down their food. He came into the kitchen where I feed them and promptly yacked up all the water he'd just drank.  I think that he sheds so much that he really can't get rid of fur balls without the aid of H2O.  All I really know if that it's one hell of a mess, and not something for a person with delicate sensibilities to have to deal with this early in the day.

I was going to drive up to Kentucky to mow the in-laws yard, as Gayle doesn't do well in the heat.  However, we figured out that one of the ladies that sits her parents when she's needing a break will mow it for about 1/2 of what it costs for me to drive up there.  So, I told Gayle to get Sandy to mow it, and to give her a big tip from me. I actually don't mind mowing anymore ( as a kid I despised mowing as it was a required chore and we had a huge  yard to do, using a cheap K-Mart push mower ) but doing their yard would entail getting up, drive about 2 hours to west Kentucky, mowing for a couple of hours, then driving back. Senile as her dad is, I'm sure he'd eventually remember that he wishes that I'd die in a fire. I'm not senile yet, and don't have to wait for my opinion of him to make itself known.  I like Gayle's mom, but if I were a believer, I'd be hitting the knees nightly praying for that miserable old shit to die in a quick, horrendous fashion.

This might make me look to some to be a bad person, wishing for a 90 year old man to suffer.  Well, if you knew this man, you'd be wishing it too.  When Gayle and I got together, I was excited to have more family (mine being large, but fairly insane...and I don't mean that metaphorically). We made the horrendous mistake of moving in  together before we got married, and her dad cut off all ties while we were living in sin. I wrote a formal letter to him, introducing myself and pretty well doing the old fashion asking for his daughters hand.  3 years later, during a visit to Kentucky, he and I were out on the usual round of places that he took me every time we visited. He asked if I remembered the letter I had sent him.  I answered that of course I remembered it.  He said "I didn't answer it because I just didn't want to." For him, that was reason enough, and I guess it was reason enough for me, too.  I kept trying, and he kept doing his damnedest to make me go away.  He finally got his wish, as I'll next be under his roof when he's in a casket.  I was raised to not task a person in their own home, and to respect my elders.  The only way for me to do this now, even with him senile, is to avoid being withing 20 miles of him.  May he rest in peace, and that, soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Editing? We don' need no stinking editing!

Just read my last post, and it reminded me of why I should always edit, and preview prior to clicking "post". Only a few mistakes, but one one them probably gave you the idea that I'd had a stroke in mid-sentence. If you didn't happen to read it prior to editing, then use your imagination to fill in any errors that you prefer.

I despair of every acclimating to the temperatures here. I remember camping during mid-summer back in East Tennessee, and it always got down into the 60's at night, even if the daytime highs were in the 90's. It was 78 and 90% humidity when I left for work this morning...kinda like walking out into an exceptionally large kitchen sponge.

As always, after an extended hiatus between posts, I'll probably drive everyone to distraction with too damn many posts.

Suck it up, and deal with it. Some things brook no modifications.

Tonight, I tackle the mysteries of cooking beef ribs. With my shield, or on it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So, I've been busy. No, really!

Since we last visited, I've been lurking on various tech blogs.  I've come to the considered opinion that this one is never going to be a deep level technical blog.  After all, I'd rather just blather, than having to make sure that every single detail of every post is dead-on accurate. That being said, on with the blather.

We're dead on in the middle of Memphis summer, and while I normally don't put much stock in wind chill and heat index nonsense, when the temp and the humidity are both in the 90's, it's flat out miserable. And this from a man who grew up without air conditioning in East Tennessee. And  no, it's not the age, or the mileage!

At work we're getting ready to replace our digital xray storage system with a new one, and that means that I've been putting in the hours building a test environment to (well, duh) test this stuff.  It consists of one Equallogic SAN, one D-Link SAN, one ESXi 4.1 host, 2 pizza box servers acting as the vCenter server and the DC for the test domain, 2 cisco switches and an exceptionally old cisco 2600 router. During the process of getting all of this cabled up and configured, I proved the the definition of insanity...doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. The servers, SANs and switches were a breeze.  The @#$#@$$@#$#@# router wouldn't let me configure the sub-interfaces so that I could route between VLANs. The final solution (just to get the tests going...I refuse to give up anything to an uppity piece of crap router) was to build the network flat...a class C subnet, single vlan with connections between the switches via dot1q trunk ports. Success!  Tomorrow is the main test day, to make sure that I've gotten everything ready for the migration, but I'm reasonably sure that it'll all work out.

I'm going to get a recorder out so that the next time Mikey comes howling though the apartment I can record it.  I've had a lot of cats, and have know a lot more, and have never heard anything like the noises that comes out of that boy's mouth. Julian of course tries to ignore anything Mikey does, unless it has to to with food.

Ok, you can plan on more posts, more often. Consider yourself warned!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

FedEx St. Jude Classic golf tournament

If you've watched any professional golf on TV, you'll have noticed people standing around in the crowd, holding up signs that read "QUIET" when the players are taking shots.  In Memphis, these signs say "Hush, Ya'll". Gotta love it!

Live, from the land of Mickey and the Fark "Florida" tag

The flight from Memphis to Orlando took just over and hour and a half, and was as near to perfect as any flight I've ever been on. Which was a good thing, given that the day started out with me leaving my cell phone at home. I discovered this when going through security at the airport, which of course meant that it was way too late to go back and get it. Rather than wasting money on getting our pet sitter to ship it to me, I went ahead and upgraded to a new phone from Verizon. I've already got the shipment notice, so hopefully I'll have it here tomorrow. Gayle will get the Droid I left at home, and hopefully I can switch the data plan from the USB modem I got her when she was first going to Kentucky.

 (pause 6 days )

And, welcome back to Memphis!

I kept looking at the first paragraph, thinking that I really needed to finish the post.  However, I'd said that I'd detail a single host/single san ESX to ESXi upgrade, and frankly I just didn't want to. Strangely enough, I still don't, but I'll do it tomorrow regardless of "want to" status.  For now, I'm going to talk about the forum.

If you ever want a huge ego boost, be a presenter at a large technical forum.  I was the "token customer experience" portion of a combo Dell/VMware "the future today" type presentation.  I evidently did well, as right after the presentation and several times in the next few days I was told just that, from both customers like myself and from channel partners.  The next day the clinic and I were mentioned by name again in a different presentation, and so of course I had to put in my 2 cents worth in that one, too.  All in all, I had a wornderful time, and learned a good bit to help enhance our current setup. I met a lot of interesting people, including some of the product directors at Dell.  While a lot of forums like this are more marketing efforts, with salespeople everywhere, Dell's storage forum was officially a "no sales" zone, where the sessions actually taught you something, with most of the things discussed have already been released, and not merely vaporware, to maybe be released at some date in the far future.  They had a hands-on lab, which while slow was very well implemented, and easy to use. But mainly, there were Dell staffers everywhere, all willing and for the most part able to answer any question you might have.

So, bottom line: if you're a Dell storage customer, or if you're thinking about becoming one, you owe it to yourself to go to next years forum.  You'll not be disappointed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Thursday before the storm

We got our new employee settled in, and he's started to take support calls.  Still a little hesitant, but he'll get over that pretty quick, with the volume of calls we get.

I fly to Orlando on Sunday for the Dell Storage Forum, and can hardly wait.  Of course, not having known when I'd be doing my presentation, I had already scheduled out all the presentations I wanted to hear.  Fortunately, I'm not missing too much during my Tuesday morning spot.  Sheesh, what'll I do if nobody shows up for my part?

My wife posted a picture of her father (90 years old, infirm, shaky grasp of reality) mowing the yard with a push mower.  She's had fits with him insisting that the grass be kept at 1/2" it seems, and that he be the one to do the mowing.  I had the brilliant idea...get him one of those Fisher Price toy mowers that they make for kids.  I wonder if they make them in a senior citizen edition?

Ok, so how do you begin a migration from VMware ESX 4.0 to ESXi 4.1?  Document EVERYTHING about your current environment.  I took screen shots of all the networking configurations, the storage setup, the storage adapters, the licensing, you name it.  If you can see it in vCenter, make sure you have a record of it.  This will make your job so much easier.

After documentation is complete the next thing to do is to schedule the upgrade.  If you're upgrading an existing cluster, you can (if you're brave) upgrade during normal hours.  I did ours on the weekend, with notice to the few that work weekends that outages are possible. If you're upgrading a single host setup, you've no choice but to schedule the work for the off hours, as everything will be down.

Next time...upgrading single host locations.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And the Oscar goes to...

HR made a job offer to the candidate we interviewed last Friday.  He seems to be a good kid, well motivated and with a reasonable skill set for what we want him to do. If he accepts and all goes well (drug testing, that sort of thing) he'll start on the 31st. That'll give us 4 days to work with him before I go to the forum, and he's tossed to the lions.

I'm not overly concerned about that...we have most of our systems and procedures well documented in a wiki, so he'll have a good resource to fall back on. He'll just have to remember to search the entire wiki, and not expect things to be under logical headings.

I really look forward to him starting, as it'll take a lot of the load off me when it comes to end user support, and give me the time I need to complete my current projects, which include migrating to Exchange 2010 and finishing up my project to upgrade our AD infrastructure to 2008R2.  I've only one DC left to go on that, and if things are quiet this week, I may be able to get it done before he starts.

When next we meet, I'll be starting the narrative describing our migration from VMware ESX 4.0 to ESXi 4.1. Spoiler alert for those expecting trials, travails and's actually pretty easy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time flies when you're too busy to blink

It's probably a character flaw, but I enjoy being on the cusp of being overwhelmed at work. Since we're shorthanded, that's a daily occurrence. We've been interviewing candidates, and I must admit I like the way we're doing it.  We're asking the normal questions, getting their background, then we give them a synopsis of our infrastructure.  After they look it over, we give them a series of troubleshooting scenarios.  So far, 2 candidates totally freaked, and couldn't solve any of the situations.  One got them all (he want's waaay too much money), and the one yesterday did pretty good. Hopefully we can get through this and make an offer before too long. So many of the tasks that our dearly departed co-worker (no, not dead, just gone) had on his plate are coming home to roost, and I think that we can cover them well, if we can get help on the phones.

Two weeks from tomorrow I fly to Orlando for the Dell/Equallogic storage forum, where I'm going to be one of the speakers. I just realized that I'm going to have to get a sitter for the boys...I don't think I could safely leave them by themselves from Sunday to Friday evening.  Fortunately, I've a service I've used before, and they've always done a good job. Given that they spend so much of their time sleeping, I don't really expect them to miss long as they don't get their nose out of joint and do rude things to my belongings. These haven't so far, but I've had cats in the past that were vengeful creatures, and would crap in your shoes or pee all over the closet in retribution for real or imagined slights.  Probably why I like cats...they don't hold back.

As to the forum, I've been going over my spiel in my head for days now.  I've always enjoyed public speaking, and this is a topic I'm a believer in. Chortle, chortle...I really love talking about subjects that I'm invested in. Probably the egotist in me, but I dare anyone out there to say that they don't enjoy being the center of least if you know what you're talking about, and you're speaking to a sympathetic crowd. I've thought more than once that being a trainer or a speaker at tech forums would be a wonderful way to spend retirement, once I finally get to that point.

The casinos in Tunica were re-opening this weekend.  I almost feel like I should go down and lose some money, just to tell them "welcome back, glad you're not in New Orleans!".

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring makes a second appearance, and ain't it great!

It's been getting up into the upper 80's around here, with the lows in the 70's.  So, when the high today is only in the mid-60's and it's going to get down into the 40's at night, I'm just loving it. Now, if I were still on the east side of the state, we'd be calling this Blackberry Winter, referring to a cold snap that happens when the blackberrys are in bloom.  Here, the only thing I know is that the apartment benefits from being aired out, and my checking account benefits from having the HVAC shut down.

I've managed to poke fun at Memphis's nickname "the bluff city" quite a few times since moving here, but the flood has made a believer out of me.  The Mississippi is normally about a 1/2 mile wide at Memphis, and when it crested here it was over 3 miles wide.  However, the overflow was almost all on the Arkansas side, with massive flooding there. Here, only some very low-lying trailer parks and a few houses got flooded,  I guess that means that bluffs are in the eye of the beholder, and if the elevation of the city is enough to keep the river at bay, who am I to argue.  Go, Bluff City!

The Grizzlies managed to tie up the second round of the NBA playoffs, 3 games each in their series with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  I didn't watch, as requested by some of my co-workers, as I am the biggest jinx on the planet when it comes to watching/listening to teams I like play.  So, since I didn't even check the score last night while the game was going on, I take full credit for the win.

We interviewed 3 people yesterday for the opening we have at the clinic.  The first 2 had less basic computer skills than my wife, and should go back to school if they actually plan on a career in IT.  The third had good skills, but want's way more than we're willing to pay.  If anyone out there knows of someone just graduating from technincal school, having studied IT, have 'em contact me.  We're really looking for a recent graduate, and someone with less than a year of experience.  In other words, the kind of entry level job people claim you can't find, as most companies insist on at least some actual experience.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

And then there were two

The co-worker finished out his last day, and so now there's only two of us to handle the on-call rotation. So, a dark lining to every silver cloud.

The geek in me is in hog heaven...SyFi is marathoning Eureka and Warehouse 13 today.  So, I'm a man of low tastes...I know that these series are both campy and tacky.  Of course, that's why I like them so much.

The original inspiration for this blog was my wife's blog...she started out being a multi topic blogger, but it's quickly become (with notable exceptions) a journal of her travails in taking care of her exceptionally geriatric parents. That's what you get for having a naturally long life expectancy ( her parents are 90 and 89 respectively, and her grandparents lasted into their 90's).  Now my family tends to check out no later than their mid 70's, barring massive coronaries, so my boy will only have to deal with his aged mother, not me.  Strange, I think that's the first time I've been able to put a positive spin on having slim chance of making it to 100!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How high's the water, papa?

Major flood stage for the Mississippi at Memphis is 46 feet. Last night we were at 44.57 feet, and not expecting to crest until next week, probably around 48 feet. Not having been raised around here, I'm both horrified and fascinated.

Work is still a thrill...the departing co-worker's last day is tomorrow, and he has to leave early today and come in late tomorrow due to doctor appointments. Ah, we didn't really need the info that he hadn't gotten around to documenting in our wiki...we can always wing it!

Actually, things seem to be going pretty well, professionally any way. Gayle's still stuck in Kentucky most of the time, which sucks for both of us. I still need to lose about 40 pounds, which really sucks for me. However, I know what I need to do to loose the weight. It's just a matter of getting off my ever increasing large butt and doing it!

Ps. It's supposed to be beautiful this weekend, so back to wasting film...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Water, Water, everywhere!

The Wolf river has crested, and returned to it's banks.  The same cannot be said of the Mississippi, which is busily trying to wash out downtown Memphis. From Paducah on the Ohio and all points south, this is being described as bigger than the flood of '37. As that one took out most towns on the Ohio and the Mississippi, we'll see.  We'll also see if the USACE has learned anything since then about minimizing the damage from such a volume of water.

I'm spending this rainy Sunday upgrading my last 3 ESX hosts to ESXi 4.1, Update 1. I managed to leave the disk that I used to upgrade my remote sites at the apartment, and so far haven't been able to get a good copy burned to use here.  I really don't want to have to go back home and get the one I know works, but somehow I wouldn't be surprised if that turns out to be the case. I consider myself a rational individual, not prone to superstitions, but damned if it doesn't seem like no upgrade can be complete without at least one thing going wrong.  As I've planned this upgrade out pretty well, and have all the documentation of how I need to configure the hosts, it would have to be something silly like a disk not working. Ah, well, so much from rationality.

The Beale Street Music Festival is in full swing, and is getting it's usual monsoon-like rains, just to keep things traditional. The Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA won a first round playoff series for the first time in their existence, beating the San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs were the top seed, the Grizzlies made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.  Go figure.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The calm after...

In our last episode, I was whanging on about the frequency of tornado alarms. After the devastation in Alabama and Georgia, I retract evything I said. Much better to be warned and it blow over, than to not be warned and have the worst happen.

The storms might be over here in the mod-south, but the floods are just getting going. One of my coworkers is currently evacuating the apartment he moved into last weekend, due to the Wolf river knocking on his door. I took some pictures this morning on the way in to work, and I'll post them once I get 'em developed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wolf! Wolf!

Shelby county has a wonderful tornado alert system, with sirens that cover the whole county.  The only problem is, whenever theres a tornado warning anywhere in the county, they ALL go off.  So, the actual inclement weather could be at the far end of the county from where I happen to be at the time, and to paraphrase a line from the movie Armegeddon, it's a big ass county. Also, in stark contrast to the years that go by without a tornado warning in the east side of the state, Memphis is in Tennessee's version of tornado alley, with at least 4 alarms in the last 5 days.  As a result, I've gotten not just blase, but downright dismissive of the alarms.  Not that I don't check the radar, but since I've started this post, we've had 2 different for the northern county, and one for the extreme southeast part of the county.  Here in the middle, it's just been a bit of wind and a lot of rain.  I only wish that we could get a bit more specific in the areas of the county where the alarms are going off...but that would entail that the county's emergency management team be fully staffed and competent.

While on this subject, I'm gonna again harp on the local broadcasters.  Granted, when the weather service puts out the tornado warnings, they have to report them.  And given how freakin' big the viewing area is here (flat, remember?) a warning 3 - 4 counties away justifies breaking into regularly scheduled programming to spread the word. But do they have to sound like their covering the end of the world?

And, for something completely different...

One of my co-workers turned in his 2 week notice yesterday.  Anyone know of a good IT support tech looking for work?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Memphis in May

Every year, the city of Memphis puts on a month-long celebration during May.  It's starts with a 3 day music festival (which coincides with monsoon like rains every year), and goes on from there.  There's a bar-b-que competition that gets a lot of coverage on the Food Network, and it all wraps up with a symphony concert on the riverfront.

I avoid the music festival (even though there's always somebody playing that I'd love to see...I'm just getting too damned old to put up with huge crowds and rain), and the bbq competition is a tease...unless you get tickets to the tasting booths, you don't get any food.  However, I love the very concept of a city with the problems that Memphis has being able to take a month to tell the world how proud they are of this place, and how much they want to share it with everyone.

This comment will probably shock the hell out of a lot of people who know me.  I wasn't thrilled with the thought of moving here.  I prefer to live where there's at least big hills, if not mountains, and I've yet to find the bluff that provides the city's nickname. Four years ago Memphis seemed like a war zone, with a heinous murder and violent crime rates. The public schools were failing, with a huge drop-out rate. The mayor at the time was a joke, who used race as the main reason to be re-elected and over-paid cronies to supposedly run the city. But, I figured that I could put up with anything for a while, and this is where the jobs were.

Fast forward to today.  The crime rate is down, and Mayor Willie is just a bad memory. Memphis weathered the recession/depression better than most cities, and now we even have new businesses moving in, providing good jobs. The clinic I work for grows on you, and I've been fortunate to have been able to increase my skills and experience with new systems and technology. The schools still are terrible, but they're working on consolidating the city schools with the county, hoping that will help.  It's still Kansas like in geography, but you tend to not notice too much when the trees are leafed out.

Maybe this isn't such a bad place, after all....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The devilish details...

Ok, so yesterday we left our intrepid band with an empty data store at one location, and a bit better than a 1/2 TB data store just aching to be copied at the other.  Now, I might have a boatload of bandwidth between offices, but it's occasionally nice to leave room for other, internet access, other applications.  You know the stuff that pays the bills.  So, how did I get the data copied, you ask?

At this point I could regale you with tales of black magic...summoned storage demons (or is that daemons?), pentagrams on the floor of the server room, and the obligatory critter sacrifice.  Instead, I'll talk of something even more mysterious, and rare.  A freakin' vendor app that works exactly as promised.

The SAN manufacturer (there was originally a cutsie, insider description of this manufacturer in this parenthetical aside.  Bag that, it's Dell EqualLogic) has a replication utility built into their iSCSI SANs.  You set up the 2 devices (one with the data, the other the target), and tell it to replicate once.  You can throttle the bandwidth usage down, so it leaves enough room for other apps, and it merrily goes about it's business.  I started this replication yesterday at around 1pm, and it wrapped up today at 8am.  I promoted the replica to a volume, and connected the vm to it via a software initiator. A touch of work by the PAC vendor, and we were back in business. Voila! As nifty a piece of magic as any seen in any grimoire, and a lot less messy than offering up the goat.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good job, kid! Don't get cocky!

Having been in IT for as long as I have, you'd have thought that I'd known better to mention hubris, good jobs, and things turning out ok in public.  The gods do love a proud man...the better to grind him down.  First the good least my attendance at the storage forum will be covered by the company putting it on.  With that, I'll go if I have to cover the rest on my dime.  After all, it's only a 13 hour drive!

And then the other shoe fell.

The company I work for is like any for-profit organization...if money can be saved by cutting corners, then of course you cut them.  When we virtualized our 3 remote clinics, we set them up with a single ESX host, and a local SAN.  The SANs that we installed were designed to be fully redundant.  In other words, dual controllers, power supplies, etc.  Ok, we got the dual power supplies but went with only one controller.  After all, we were only 1/2 filling the drive bay, so one should be fine, right?

I'm sure those of you in the know are cringing by now, because of course one of the remote clinic's SAN lost it's controller last Thursday night. Now, normally you'd think that if you could get a replacement (I had a spare installed at one of the remote sites), and you can move the flash memory card to said replacement, you should be able to power everything back up and be right back in business. At least, that's what we were thinking when I headed out Friday morning to get the spare and install it in the failed SAN.

Ok, so the spare is installed, and the SAN restarted.  Oops, no LAN links on the controller.  So, lets find a serial cable and hope the serial port on the non-ESX server in the rack works.  The cable was easy, the serial port decided that whatever program had control of it, it wasn't willing to share.  So, grab a pc and get connected via Putty.  By now, I'm with a level 2 tech, who gets in and drops bombshell number one of the day (at least from tech support)...any time that a single controller SAN fails, it REQUIRES L2 support to get it back on line.  Then, bombshell number 2...the read/write cache is unrecoverable, so any read/writes that didn't make it to the SAN when the crash happened is lost.  Telling me that the only way to get the controller on-line is to dump the cache, he then requested that I ok the dump.  Kinda like the commander of the firing squad requesting that you give the order to fire, eh?

Never one to hesitate when confronted with recalcitrant hardware, I had 'em pull the trigger, dump the cache and glory be, we were back on line, with LAN connections and all. The VMs mounted up, and everything was just peachy.  Oh, except for the corrupt 1/2 terrabyte of storage on our XRay image store VM.  Thus begins the tech support shuffle, with the SAN techs suggesting one thing, and the PACs (thats xray software, to you non-healthcare techies) techs wanting to go the checkdisk path.

No joy on any suggestions from the SAN techs, and chkdsk failed miserably. Those of you wondering whyinhell we weren't backing up this data, the original design was to replicate every image to an archive server, which we'd been assured that we could recover a site from with not too much problem.  So, lets get the xray machines aimed at a different server (we have 100mbps connections between our offices...gotta love a metro fibre ring!), and then restore the data that got trashed..  Now, this little redirect chore requires that the company that supports the xray equipment make the networking change, on site and in person, using a hardware security dongle, and they assure us that there would be a tech on-site first thing Monday morning.

Monday morning, and no tech.  A quick call to the xray company, and we get forwarded to the tech, who was just leaving St. Louis, with an expected ETA  of mid-afternoon. So, the boss borrows a security dongle from the IT director at another orthopaedic clinic in town who uses the same company (they paid large green for the training and the dongle) and a coworker went down and redirected the machines to send their images to our main office, which got our doctors at that location back in business.  Hurrah for us!

For about 45 minutes, that is.  That's how long of a reprise we had bfore getting a call that another site had it's PACs software stop working altogether.  So, all afternoon was spent troubleshooting that issue(me working on the hardware, and interfacing with the PACs techs).  We had docs at that site calling the CEO, wanting to know what IT was doing, and why wasn't it fixed yet, dammit!

I found zero wrong with the server/SAN/network/workstations.  That's what the PACs techs said about their software.  So, they fell back to the (usually right) IT solution...reboot everything.  The server, the ESXi host, the SAN. I grouse, but agree, and plan on doing that at 9pm last night.  Finally, I leave the day from hell behind me, and head for home, for a brief respite before the massive reboot.

At about 5:30, I get an email from work.  I call to get details, and it seems that I don't have to reboot a damn thing.  Since we still have the PACs security dongle, the co-worker who had redirected the images from the SAN failure site had decided to do the same at the site of the new failure.  Once there, he discovered that during the full upgrade on that system a month or so ago, the company that did the upgrade had ignored the IP addresses they'd been given for that site, and had instead directed the images to the only other site that hasn't had any major problems during all of this Charlie-Fox.  He directed the images to the correct server, and strangely enough, everything started working. Unrelated work by our PACs company had actually turned off the failed sites ability to pull images from their server.  That's what triggered the afternoon outage.

So, how was YOUR Monday?

Still wondering about the large data recovery?  Tune in tomorrow....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hubris, anyone?

Ok, so there is a downside to the old self horn-tooting. No, nothing bad happened to my ESXi installs.  As a matter of fact, the auto-update configuration I set up is working wonderfully.  I hope to have our main office updated this coming weekend.  I may even upgrade during the week...something that I can do, as we have a 3 host HA setup, and so I have enough server power to keep us up and working  while upgrading each server.  No, I instead refer to the presentation opportunity at the storage forum in June.  The guy at VMware still wants me to present , but pretty well cut me loose on getting the trip covered by either them or the storage manufacturer.  Of course, since he'd included 2 contacts at the storage company in all of his email, I just hit them up to at least cover the forum for me.  I would think that getting that done shouldn't be a problem, as it's not like they'd be out that much income from allowing me to attend for free.  The rub is getting the invitation, then being told that it'd all be on my dime, if I can't get any slack from the hosting company.  This is the professional equivalent of having to work on the computers of friends and relatives for free...after all, I'm in computers, I should be glad to have the opportunity.

I've decided to modify the name of this blog, and add "and computers" to the title.  After all, cats are supposed to have been considered the familiars of witches, and I've always claimed that computers only work due to demonic influence.  Anyone who has spent an all-nighter trying to figure out why a server upgrade hasn't worked, only to have it miraculously (and seemingly on it's own) start working just as the sun is coming up, and you were about to restore the original configuration knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

When you're good, you're good

I managed to get 3 VMware ESX 4.0 servers upgraded to ESXi 4.1, update 1, and all VMs back on-line in 6 hours today.  Of course about an hour and a half of that was driving between sites, so it was really only 4.5 hours.  For those of you in the biz, I was upgrading IBM 3650 M2 servers which take for EVER to reboot, so I think that I did pretty good.  Occasionally ya gotta toot your own horn...otherwise it never gets tooted.

For the last 3 weeks, I've been smelling what seemed to be hot antifreeze when I got out of my car.  I looked, but I never really saw any leaks.  Today, the car made a damned good attempt to overheat.  Fortunately, I was only a few miles from one of the offices I was upgrading, so I managed to limp in without actually overheating.  I let it cool off for about an hour, then added about a gallon or so of water, both in the radiator and the overflow tank.  I guess this means that it's time to again try out the extended warranty I purchased when I bought my car.

I've decided that some of the posts to this blog might end up a bit technical, and will not be coming with explanations of the processes and procedures, except to the level that an IT pro will understand. This is for a number of reasons. One, it's nice to be able to talk the talk without having to provide a layman's level explanation, and two, I might be able to help one of my peers with issues that they may be having.

All that being said, I did get a bit of good news this week.  I've worked with some of the VMWare engineers directly, as my company was the SMB beta tester for VSphere 4. This has led to me being asked to do part of a presentation at Dell EqualLogic's forum in June. This in turn might lead to a repeat at VMWorld in August, which would be just fantastic. Who knew that being egotistical, argumentative, and talkative could be good things?

Friday, April 8, 2011

April in Memphis

A week ago the weather in Memphis was perfect...lows in the mid-40's, highs in the 60's and low humidity.  A few days ago it got down into the 30's at night, and I actually had the heat on for a bit.  Today it hit 82, with the humidity pushing 60%, and is supposed to be 88 tomorrow. I guess it's a good thing that I plan on working most of the day...our offices are cooled (or heated, as needed) on the weekends, and that means I can stay comfortable on the companies dime, not mine.  The cats can find comfort where they can...for all that they're stuck in a fur coat, I'v not seen that they suffer too badly, and will even hang out in a handy  patch of sun when I'm in shorts and sitting in front of a fan.

I think the thing that really gets me is that early April is supposed to be when you can open up the house, and be comfortable, maybe even be thinking of putting a bit of glass back in those holes.  Instead, I'm not only thinking of closing everything back up, but turning the AC on.  It's times like this that I really do miss the pacific northwest.  Nah....I just be bitching about the rain if I was there!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Midweek Doldrums

I've worked in IT on and off for pushing 3 decades.  The first 15 years was usually as a side thought...most of the companies I worked for had only a few desktop PCs, and no need for a full time IT staff.  So, like a lot of us, I made my bones a bit at a time. However, even back then it was always assumed that any work that required a computer to be off line would be done off hours. After finally giving up the day job for full time IT work, this expectation of working nights, weekends and holidays only got more entrenched.

What brought on this train of thought is that for most folks, Wednesday is the halfway point in their week.  For most of us in IT, it's the day that we'd better have whatever we've got to do over the weekend planned out, so that we get as much free time as possible. When you work for a large company, you have all sorts of change management processes that ensure that any and all after hours work is well planned out, with failback plans, and full testing procedures. When it's a smaller company, not so much. Any change management process is, for the most part, self imposed and self regulated.  I try to make sure that I have all of my ducks in a row, but sometimes shit happens.  I was in the office last weekend preparing to upgrade some servers, when I discovered that the test machines I had used to verify the process lacked one piece of hardware that the production servers have...mainly a dedicated card to connect to our storage array. So, back to the drawing board, and another weekend (this one coming up, in fact) where I get to see more of our server room than I might have wished.

The storm that blew through on Monday missed both the clinic and my apartment, but wreaked havoc on a lot of other places here.  The usual housed with trees in the living room, busted windows, and one car that an uprooted tree had pancaked.  I think the best was a house that was pretty much destroyed by a tree falling into it, that had a "for sale - foreclosure" sign in front.  Just hope they'd kept up their homeowners insurance!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lunching to to sounds of tornado sirens

Today we had a massive cold front come through Memphis, which gave our local tv stations the opportunity to cover the accompanying thunderstorms as if they were the apocalypse. Granted, we had a tornado warning in place for a while, which means we were all grouped together in the back hallway of the clinic, waiting for the all clear.  But I've never seen such ludicrous, overblown behavior by meteorologists in my life.  I'll be very surprised if they don't preempt all regularly schedule programming tonight, just so that they can say that they were protecting the residents of their viewing area.

I was worried about the effect the deluge was going to have on the tomatoes I planted this past weekend.  I seem to remember that last year the planter I used had a bad habit of just filling up with water, and not really draining.  But, when I finally got home from work, everything looked fine.  Go figure.

Ever since moving here, I've noticed that every time it rains with a little more intensity than a mist, most of the traffic lights on the only direct route between work and home go out.  Now we're talking about a divided 4 lane highway that carries a ton of traffic, it being the only major north/south route for at least 5 miles .  So, when the traffic lights are out, it's easier going the 5+ miles out of the way to get home. I've always been able to cope with long drives much better than long waits in traffic.

The boys were unimpressed with the storm, or at least didn't bother to tell me if they had any issues with it.  Seeing how storms don't normally keep food from the bowls, the cats tend to consider them entertainment, once they decide the loud noises can't get them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday morning

Most Sunday mornings start fairly late for me...especially if I indulged in a wee dram or two the previous evening. As time has progressed, however, I'm finding that I begrudge the restful, wasted time spent lounging in bed. Especially given that this time is also spent warding off the cats, both of whom are reminding me that the food doesn't pour itself into the bowl. Mikey is usually content to thump down beside me, using my back to ricochet into a comfortable position, there to wait for me to get up. Julian, however,believes in a much more "paws on" type of approach. His favorite method of getting your attention is the tried and true "cat snot sneeze to the face", which is just as disgusting as it sounds. He is the only cat I know that can sneeze on demand.  If that fails, he thinks that a whack in the face with a (sometimes) soft paw will do the trick. This might work on Gayle, but the only result he gets from this is an attempt at reminding him which of us is at the top of the food chain around here.

This morning I poured a cup of coffee, and decided that a taste of the home cured bacon Gayle brought down from Kentucky would be just the thing.  I had set it out to thaw, it having been in the freezer.  So I opened the ziplock bag, and discovered that it really was slab bacon...a chunk about 3 inches thick.  No worries, I whipped out a knife and start cutting some rashers.  The first one was even, not too thick, and looked like something any store would have been proud to display.  By the time I got to number 4, it was looking like something that came out on the losing side of a bar room knife fight.  How in the hell did Gayle get the last batch cut so well?

Anyway, into the electric skillet they went.  I busied myself frying up a couple of eggs to go with, and a slice of toast (can't let any of the good stuff get just gotta sop it up!).  The bacon's frying, the cats are creeping into the kitchen like ninjas, hoping a: I don't see them, and b: I drop something for them to eat. I cloud up and rain all over these plans as I detect them, as cats underfoot don't go well with hot skillets, in my opinion. Finally, the bacon's out of the pan, the eggs are done (with just a touch of lace...damn griddle got too hot), and I'm plopping down at the table to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  The cats are lined up, strategically placed to catch anything that might hit the floor, and I tuck in.

When dealing with homemade, salt cured bacon, a word of advice.  Rinse the salt off the bacon prior to cooking.  If you don't, then what you have is the seasoning and flavoring ingredient for about 10 pots of green beans.  This morning's delicious looking breakfast treat was the salt equivalent of the first time I ever made salsa, and didn't know that you were supposed to remove the seeds from the hot peppers prior to dumping them into the sauce. Ah, well, I'm sure that Gayle had told me about this...who knew I was supposed to listen and remember?

I gamely plowed my way through two slices before giving it up.  Both the boys indicated that they would be more than happy to take the remainder off my hands, but I don't think that it would be any better for them than it was for me. so they're off sulking right now.  Me, I'm getting ready to do some laundry, waiting for my blood pressure to subside a bit prior to heading out to update the servers at a couple of our clinics.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Will the ghosts of dead plants ever seek revenge?

For the first time in my adult life, I went out and bought a couple of tomato plants, and plopped them into the planter on the patio. Now, the deathwatch begins.

The surprising part of all this is that it's normally Gayle who has such good intentions in the spring, spending hours of time readying the planters, picking out just the correct plants (or seeds, as she did this year in Kentucky) and tending them with loving care.

Life being what it is, this loving care normally lasts for the first 2 weeks.  After that, the poor plants are left on their own, to survive or not as weather and roaming critters dictate.  Much the same can be said about indoor plants. t's not that Gayle is irresponsible, but rather that something else always seems to come up.  I've notice that this is evidently something taught to artists and crafters, in that there's always something else that comes up.   Now, I'm just as guilty of foliage homicide as Gayle, when it comes to the indoor plants.  In this, Mikey and I are in agreement...if the plant wants water, it can go to the sink and get it itself.  Of course, Mikey is a full accomplice in planticide...he has yet to meet one that he doesn't think is delicious.  He'll go to any extreme to get to a plant to nibble on, especially if the plant in question is fresh cut flowers. When I object to this behavior, I get the "but...they're FLOWERS!  Of course I'm gonna eat 'em!" argument, which is actually what Mikey considers an exceptionally well thought out argument. He's a pretty big cat, but I aways hear the voice of the yeti from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons riffing on Lenny.."duh, gee George.  Which way did the little bunny rabbit go, George?"

Jules, the more intellegent of the two, is fully cognizant of the fact that he's a carnivore, and much prefers raw meat to any plant.  He's pretty damned smug about it, too.

From all this, I'm sure you've figured out that, for plants, our door should have "abandon all hope, ye who enter here". So, back to the original thought...what would a haunting by a plant be like?  Hmm...maybe that explains the horrendous mildew on my shower curtain!

Taking the plunge

I decided to start a blog in response to my wifes having moved to Kentucky to take care of her elderly parents. This means that I'm living solo in Memphis, with 2 cats for company. I dont get out much, not really having integrated into Memphis society. As a result, and being afflicted with a genetic predisposition to talk a lot, I find myself having detailed interactions with the feline roommates. Now, anyone who has ever lived with a cat knows that they have the uncanny ability to look like they are not only listening, but understand every nuance of the conversation. Unfortunately, they also don't look like they they think much of what I have to say. If you follow along for this ride, you'll get to know both Julian and Mikey all too well.

This morning I got up bright and early and went to a large urban park here in Memphis called Shelby Farms. A few months ago I bought a used 35mm camera, and I wanted to go try it out. Having walked way too far, given my abysmal physical condition, i managed to get some pretty good shots (for a total neophyte, that is) including some pretty good ones of the buffalo herd at the park.

I also ended up with a swollen left foot, which I'm treating with generic ibuprofen and a heating pad. Both of the cats have both expressed a complete lack of sympathy, simultaneous with requests to share the heating pad. I say, sympathy first, sharing therapeutic devices second. They, as usual, replied with their usual snide comments, which I ignored with dignity.