casual_friday2 { Still Angry

I wish I had a metal heart...

casual_friday { Nothing casual about it today

Time for a Revolution.

Support the troops and respect their sacrifice. Bring them home.

Stop the corruption of our government, Impeach Bush.

Stop the greed.

Stop wasting time.

Stop wasting Earth.

Stop the insanity.



books { 'The World Without Us'

I just finished reading a new book that has been gathering praise and provoking discussion, and for good reason. The book, The World
Without Us
by Alan Weisman, is a grand thought experiment. Weisman takes the premise that 'what if, one day, humans just vanished from the Earth - poof, gone. What happens next?' Without the human species, what does the Earth look like? What happens to our things, our houses, our cities, our manufactured goods? What changes rapidly? What lasts nearly forever? How do animal populations change? What animals largely vanish or go extinct in short order, and what would thrive without us? What happens to the atmosphere, the oceans, the entire ecosystem, without the pervasive input from humankind.

Suffice to say it was a fascinating read. It was equally uplifting and disturbing, uplifting in knowing that the world and life on it will recover and adapt nicely in the absence human 'stewardship' (assuming we have not pumped so much fossil carbon into the atmosphere that we have set us down an unstoppable positive-feedback loop toward transforming the Earth into a greenhouse oven like Venus). Nature works just fine without us and our meddling. On the other hand, the book is also quite dark in many areas in the sense that we will leave certain legacies behind long after us - things like plastics, carbon pollution in the atmosphere, dioxins, heavy metals, and radioactivity, in addition to more benign things like bronze statues and Mount Rushmore.

This is a well researched multidisciplinary narrative about a world as it would look without our input, our industry, our sheer power to change the world in ways that no other known species could dream of. The pictures Weisman paints are equally comforting and unnerving, but certainly compelling. Well worth a read.

politics { Questioning the sanity of the DNC

I meant to post this yesterday when I read about Walz's support of the procedural vote to condemn MoveOn.org for their full page ad in the New Times questioning General Petraeus. Mr. Walz this is another, in my opinion, kow-tow of the Republican rhetoric. MoveOn had every right to take out that ad. I didn't see any condemnations against the Swift Boat Veterans. I didn't see any condemnations against the ads that used Osama Bin Laden to instill fear last election. Why them? Why now? Mr. Walz you are starting to look and smell like a Republican in Liberal clothing.

That aside, what made me question the DNC's sanity was there punishment of Florida and Michigan for moving up their primaries. Why punish these states? Florida's State Legislature is Republican controlled and they are the ones who mandated the earlier primary. Why pull their delegates? You had the Presidential candidates take oaths that they would not campaign in those states, yet you're still letting them fund raise. That is fucked up.


musings { How time changes us?

I'm not sure why in the article 'Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome: 10 Worst Moments' caused me to suddenly think of this, but I guess my mind works in mysterious ways.

I remember when I was younger, we're talking under 10 here, and I would watch TV shows like 'Seasame Street', '3-2-1 Contact!', 'Electric Company', 'Newton's Apple' and 'Nova' among others, I would see places and people. Whenever I saw a city, I would think that happened in the Twin Cities, as because up to that point, the only city I had ever seen was St Paul, when I would go to visit Grandma. I would stare in wonder at all the amazing things the kids with puppets were doing and believe that 'Seasame Street' must be somewhere near Como Park. As we would drive around the city I would look for it. I never found it and many years later did I realize that was New York and everything was fictional.

Now as I'm older I see things in the paper and watch things on TV and think 'that never happens here.'

Somehow I feel I've lost something.


pimp { Pimp that Shit!

Get your Pimp name bitches!

Back in the day I rolled as 'Golden Brown S-G', these days my bitches know me as 'Bishop Don S. Large', as in "No Bishop Don S. Large! Please don't beat me down Bishop Don S. Large! I left my money in my other pants Bishop Don S. Large!"



philosophy { What do we have that mice don't?

Who or what are we? What do we have the mice don't? What is consciousness? What is sentience? Are we blank slates or preprogrammed automatons following a complex instruction set? What separates us from animals? What sets us apart? Is my experience of reality the same as yours?

All I could come up with is Art. Everything else is just extended tool use development or organism hierarchy. Even though mice are not tool users, other animals definitely are quite crafty users.


Your search - "what do we have that mice don't?" - did not match any documents.

work/musings { Of Enterprise and Workgroup - Meetings

Meetings, a necessity or waste of time? Its a hard question to answer. Modern business cannot seem to function without meetings.

Many meetings are wastes of time.

But meetings are necessary. Too often things are miscommunicated when not discussed face to face. The subtlety of body language is lost. Too much room for error via the impersonal mediums of teleconferences, conference calls, or the worst, email.

The meetings I've been in that have been wastes of time are usually because they could not stay on focus. They were ruined because the moderator, or person who called them, couldn't or didn't establish an agenda. Allowed others to dominate discussion.

In my experience most one hour meetings could be done in 30 minutes. Most 30 minute meetings only needed 15 and some five minute meetings needed 90.

The worst meetings where meeting discussion creep seems to happen are project meetings. The project manager should step up and except for the initial kick-off meeting, we should be merely going through the project milestones and giving on/off track brief status updates. But usually they devolve into discussion on technical minutiae where 95% of the people present could care less. Of course this requires good project management, a topic I will save for a later discussion.

Overall meetings are a necessary evil. Often in a five minute face to face meeting, weeks of angry email and missed deadlines can be avoided.


work/musings { Of Enterprise and Workgroup

Long have I pondered the differences of the quality of those who take up the command line and delve into the depths of Systems Administration. They are a varied lot, while not exclusively male, this is the majority, and one I'm happy to see it changing, if albeit slowly. The spectrum of personality types, ability levels and discipline are included under the label.

Many are called, few should stay.

First a clarification of the term 'Systems Administration'. It is 'Systems' with an 's' at the end because the profession is, not as popular opinion seems to hold, about management of complex systems of interconnected entities. Not merely management of one technology type. I have found in my journeys that too many junior, and often many senior, Admins confuse this fact. Technologies come and go, tech companies rise and fall, but through this all, the basics of the profession remain the same.

1. Its about people as much as it is about technology. For without customers we would not have jobs.
2. Simple is better. More with less.
3. Documentation will save you.
4. You are always learning.

Really that's pretty much it. While many SAs like to view themselves as Wizards (myself included) weaving mystic incantations of digital power (which is cool imagery and I am a D&D nerd), in reality we are simply mechanics and custodians. Architects and builders. Systems Administration is not something that can truly be taught. You can go to school to get theories and basics of computer science, but like most professions, you learn the most on the job. I've met a few in my career who are incredibly smart, good with computer science, but don't have the chops to be a SA. Some of the best SAs I know never went to college. Its more than being able to code a program. Its more than being able to troubleshoot a problem. It requires attention to detail. The ability to take requirements and meet deadlines. It requires sacrifice, for you will be salaried and will be called to work long hours. There are rewards and accolade, but mostly your work will go unnoticed, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as if you do your job right things go smoothly and is transparent. However this transparency comes with a down side, the ones who control the money assume that things running smoothly means we as an institution can do more with less. That technology budgets can be cut and skimped. So in this respect a SA must be part cheerleader, promoting the environment. Providing uptime metrics, upgrade and technology refresh schedules. Budgeting quotes. You must be able to talk with others outside your group in terms that people not familiar with the field can understand. Accountants, upper management, and sometimes lawyers.

In my travels I've also realized that we can be broken down into three categories. Well four, as there is also the 'Contractor', but I will not get into the life of a digital mercenary, and really what they do is fill in one of the categories below for short-term or per project. Now within each category there are levels of experience from Junior Admin to Senior+ (I use these because the job title and ranks are different from institution to institution, there is no commonality. In some places the SA is a Systems Engineer, in others a Technical Analyst, in a few older shops they still carry the title Systems Programmer, in a few newer places Systems Administrator, I even had one that was Systems Administrator/Engineer/Architect Lvl 4).

The first category is Desktop Support Admins. These are the people interface with customers the most directly. They go desk to desk fixing workstations and installing new ones. They can manage as few as one desktop or in some of the largest places 30,000+. Their world seems strange and hectic to me as my whole career I've been primarily on the server support side, which I will break up into the last two categories.

The next category is Workgroup Support Admins. Workgroups are generally smaller units or departments within an institution, or in smaller companies could be the whole IT department. I categorize this group as a place with less than 10 servers. These Admins often spend their time spread around among a variety of tasks, providing support for almost everything from the desktops to the places backup and recover system. They are often alone or on a very small team. Often they are on call all the time and can have either a lot of time to work on the future of the environment, or they can be hopelessly behind and struggling to keep the environment running, let alone stable. Documentation is vital. I've never been a Workgroup Admin, but many of my friends and colleagues in the IT world are or have been.

The last category is the Enterprise Support Admins. This is what I've been for the last 11 years. The Enterprise I classify is really anytime you get more than 25 servers and usually have a dedicated data center, raised floor, cooling, special power setup and functionality of the mechanics of running the environment (such as the network, backup/recovery, storage, etc.) are separated out into their own team. Sometimes Admins service multiple teams for example my last job the UNIX team was also the Storage Team and the Backup Team. The economies of scale start to really be felt here. Generally effort to support systems is a logarithmic curve, not a geometric one with a plateau. Its multi-variable. The steepness of the curve depends not only on number of servers but also number of admins, quality of process, ability of support/peer services, and so on. If you have well documented processes and procedures, an orderly way to get problems into and out of the team, and an enforced change management process, four SAs can manage and support 30 times their number in systems. My old job after much toil, we created an environment where four admins on the Solaris sub-team (we broke UNIX support down by OS specialties to handle the workload) supported 150 OS instances. I've not yet worked in an environment of less than 300 OS instances (by instance I mean both an OS running on a single piece of physical hardware and one running as a virtual instance in a logical OS space). Generally you're dealing with millions of dollars in institutional assets.

At all levels you have to deal with politics. Intra-team and inter-team. Between managers and colleagues. Some managers jealously carve out their own empire and defend the borders (and budget) of it against all comers. Some place their people up on pedestals and treat them like divas. Some exert authoritarian control and micro-manage them with an iron fist. Others are ineffectual or try to be everyone's friend. Some styles work, some don't. SAs have a reputation of being as easy to manage as a 'herd of cats.' But this could almost be said of any profession. Hell the waiters at the food service job I had one summer in high school were the same way.

As everyone is different, some people do well in the Enterprise where you must work efficiently with others and have procedures that move like clockwork or else drown in a sea of work. Others prefer the often wild west one sheriff in town life of Workgroup support. And yet others like the customer focus of Desktop Support.

However my experience has been there are few good Systems Administrators. I will go on explain some of the common problems I see. I know I fall into one of them. Against nothing surprising, these types can exist in any profession.

1. Shiny Object Syndrome - this is what I call a phenomena I see where an Admin is distracted and unfocused because he/she wants to work on the latest technology, or the latest project, or the latest high profile problem, often to the detriment of their assigned project load. They are a load on their team because that project work has to be done and often management, when its reached a critical point, shifts it to another admin.

2. Negative Nelly - nothing will ever be good. No technology does everything you want it to or was designed by a 'pack of retarded apes' (I've actually heard that phrase used). These admins throw up a sphere of negativity that makes others seek out an alternative place to get their support. They are a load on their team because their sour mood is often infectious and it can sink morale.

3. Someone Else's Problem/The Teflon Admin - these Admins find ways to shift any problem and any project on to others. In some cases they shift the work, but then take credit (like some bad managers do) for the work of others.

4. The Burnout - these Admins fried themselves. Either working too much, caring too much, or letting it too personal. They have now become a load on their team because they are depressed or frozen into inaction.

5. The Know It All - really, no one likes a know it all.

6. Lost in the Past aka The Historian - these admins are stuck in the past. Everything is compared to some, usually archaic, technology that is long gone. Or they never change because 'this is how we've always done it' or 'I've done this once and it didn't work/it hurt me so we should never try again.' Paying homage to the past as a point of reference or a place to learn from mistakes is fine, but dwelling there is detrimental.

7. The Family Guy - no not the hilarious cartoon. This is the Admin that is 'family focused'. They work a set amount of hours in order to 'go pick the kids up' or 'spend time with the family'. How is this bad on the team? At my last job we had a 'Family Guy'. When he was on call, he would often redirect a support call to another Admin, who was not on call, because he was at some kind of church function, at the movies with the kids, etc. In short their work doesn't get done or gets shifted to other Admins. I've also known many Admins who have managed to balance work and family and not shift their work load to others. I used to think making a commitment to be family focused was a good thing, I didn't (and still don't) have kids and thought it was important, and first didn't mind picking up the extra work so someone could see their kids. This ended when I became a Lead, and saw the stress it put on the rest of the team. Many of whom also had families but would have to help pick up the slack.

I could go on, but as I've stated, these are personality types common in most professions. Or at least I believe so, but I'll admit, my job experience has been limited to mostly IT centric.

One last topic, the differences between Junior and Senior Admins, as I've noticed many do not seem to know the difference. Too often advanced knowledge of technology is prized over other soft skills that are needed to be a good Senior Admin. Junior Admins have the luxury of focus. They are generally given tasks or small scope projects and that is their focus to completion. They at this level need to focus on the technology, learning how it works, supporting it. Whereas Senior Admins are responsible for more complex in scope projects as well as multiple projects. Seniors need to be able to effectively project manage the projects they are working on as well as overseeing the work of JSAs. At the senior level a tipping point occurs. As a Junior >50% of your time is dealing directly with machines. As a Senior >50% of your time is spent dealing with people. You're also expected to keep up on technology, as you're a Subject Matter Expert, or you should know who to go to if you need SME input. You have to put on the tie and go before meetings either to request budgetary funds or to present an upgrades or changes to the environment that can affect the institution. Its the bigger picture.

On a closing note I will pass on some wisdom once imparted to me by a trusted and valued mentor. Over lunch one day he asked me what I wanted to do in the future. I said 'I want to do systems administration until I retire.' He nodded, then asked 'Do you want to be on call for the rest of your life?' He gave some time for that to sink in. He then asked 'What if UNIX isn't around in 10 years?' Wow, I never thought about that. I assumed it would be, but UNIX is 30 years old, it could go away. He then went on 'You won't be a junior Admin for the rest of your life. When you get promoted you'll have to do more non-technical things [ed. he's right you know] and you can only go so far as a SA.' That lunch stuck with me as you can tell from my previous comments. I'm at that point now in my career where I really don't want to be on call for the rest of my life. I've been thinking a lot lately about what to do besides UNIX. Some of it is job dissatisfaction, unlike farmers or carpernters, its hard to step back and see the fruit of my labor. I've also realized that while I've expanded my soft skills (communication, time management, etc.) I'm really narrowly focused with my hard skills. I need to expand my abilities.

Plus I think it is time for a change. To quote Duke Leto from Frank Herbert's work Dune 'Without change, something sleeps inside us...The sleeper must awaken.'

work { I walk the maze of moments but everywhere I turn to begins a new beginning and never finds a finish...

'Anywhere Is' by Enya

casual_friday { I hear the drums echo into night...

'Africa' by Toto


casual_friday { Chanson D'amour

war { Iraq on the Installment Plan

So, Bush gave his speech to sign off on the policy he wrote for the General.

Iraq, indefinite occupation then? We're policing a civil war that we instigated.

Makes perfect sense given the real policy goals of Iraq, which was to seize and control the access to the last places on Earth where cheap and somewhat reliable fossil fuel energy are located, and to force an oil law on Iraq that only really benefits American oil cartels. That wasn't what was sold to the American people, but then Realpolitik was always about making up some shit and lying to the citizens, all while keeping the real reasons a secret.

This is Nixon repeating.

This is Vietnam repeating.

This is a permanent occupation.

Congress, he's made it clear he's not going to change. He's going to go on lying, evading, and doing whatever he wants, and men and women die so we might have perhaps another year or two of cheap easy fill-ups at the gas station before the civilization shattering reality of peak oil coupled with the ecosystem shattering reality of global climate change finally force us to start acting responsibly and with an eye to future generations instead of just the current fiscal quarter.

You're going to have to grow a pair and cut off funding. Not one penny for the military except to fuel the planes bringing the troops home. He won't stop. He'll just go on. He'll bomb Iran. He'll use the thugs of corporate media to build his case. He might even approve a false-flag op and blame it on Iran. The mission will 'evolve'. He'll push us back again and again, 'just another six months', until finally, it becomes someone else's problem.

This is our problem. This President is America's problem.

Stop enabling this war criminal and his psychotic, antidemocratic fascist administration. End the war. Bring the troops home. Stop funding for the war. The American people are ready for it to end. The troops are ready for it to end. The world is ready for it to end.


politics { Election Primaries early...

...or FUCK YOU Iowa and New Hampshire. Sorry, but I had to say it.

Seriously. All this talk and action of moving up the election primaries in order for states to be relevant is bullshit. Here's an idea, why not set the primaries to be a consistent date, say mid-March or April, for every state? I know the ability to set primary dates are part of the state and local prerogative, but in an upcoming election year, where obscene amounts of money are going to be spent, and talk of moving primaries into 2007 (Iowa I'm looking at you) is running rampant it feels absurdest.

Perhaps I'm bitter because in honesty the upcoming 2008 election feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic after it has hit the iceberg. Neither side is giving me candidates I can get excited about. They're all monied. They feel cookie-cutter. It also feels a bit like 2000 and 2004 again because a good number of the candidates have run before. Congress feels corrupt at worst and ineffectual at best. The people we've elected to help enact change have looked more to re-election possibilities than to what is actually good for the people (Walz/Klobuchar I'm not going to forget your vote on FISA and it WILL hurt you in 2008 Walz and 2012 Klobuchar). Also the candidates and political parties, lobbies, ass grabbers, palm greasers, backroom dealers, grass roots, and every and anyone involved in the process will spend more this election than EVER before in history (and don't give me that adjusted dollars bullshit). Couple this with the spending of $10B/month on a war in a place we should never have gone to in the first place, and you have what I think amounts to moral corruption. Where else could that money be better spent? Idiot-savants, minus the savant part (FOX) have spun lies into reality, jingoism into patriotism and the average god damned American can't see it. All they want is to stroke their SUV and watch 'information' be spoon fed to them on their HD-TV or watch the latest 'reality' TV show.

Even the Franken/Coleman showdown, while guaranteed to be entertaining doesn't excite me. I'll vote for almost whatever DFL candidate gets to the general election mostly because Coleman is bad for me, was bad for St Paul and is bad for Minnesota and the country. I hold little hope anymore that the 2008 election will be nothing more than an exercise in excess and futility. We're an Imperial State. Chancellor Palpatine...I mean President BushCheney has streamlined the country into the First Galactic Empire...I mean consolidated emergency powers of law enforcement to 'secure' our country (torture, FISA, blah, blah, blah, all the shit that makes it so we can now no longer claim anyone else has committed human rights violations). How is this shit gonna be fixed if even Congress can't tell how bad its been broke? Where vocal nutjob minorities and corporate lobbies wield more power than the common voter. The general election is an illusion of choice.

There is no motherfucking spoon bitches.

casual_friady { Casual Friday very late...

Star Wars R-A-P yo!

(NSFW - New Star Wars Gangsta Rap)

Another Star Wars Gangsta Rap


philosophy { Vernon vs Dawkins

I'm still only halfway through the book. From what I've read I agree with some of it, and in other parts think Dawkins is missing something. I'm not the only one, Mark Vernon also feels the same, and goes on to explain in an interesting piece. Philosophers have the best arguments (and criticisms of each other). Grab some popcorn and read.

There is, I think, one good thing about The God Delusion. Read as a catalogue of religious excess and abuse and pulling no punches, it serves a purpose. Too often today, religionists of various persuasions get away with advocating everything from a literal six days of creation to violence against gay women and men. However, any good Dawkins’ reportage might have done is massively eclipsed by a book that is ultimately as blinkered, biased and, yes, deluded as the targets of his ire.

It can be said that he commits all seven of the deadly sins – and it is right to call them deadly. Originally these sins were to be feared because perpetrators risked being separated eternally from the source of all truth. In the same way, this book appears to separate Dawkins from the scientific approach he has at other times so brilliantly espoused.

Various members of the nerdpod (myself, Mr. Patient, Knight of Nothing, and JGW) once took part in what I feel was an epic discussion of the topic of religion and its place, what sparked this was a clip of the movie 'Jesus Camp'. Sadly they all finished the book before I did (I'm a slow reader) but our discussion wasn't on the book, it was on the topic. I'm not a christian, if pressed I would say I'm agnostic. I started reading the book mainly because many of my friends had read Dawkins and I saw them consumed with the same kind of zeal before I had only seen in those ultra-evangelical. Which is one of my main beefs with Dawkins. He instills a furor and following as fanatical as those he seeks to counter. How can this be productive? How can this polarization make us better? How can this open the door to discussion and help us seek the truth? On a side topic I think this is a failure of our modern society, we no longer (or never had?) have the ability to engage in debate, smack down, hardcore debate, where at the end people can agree to disagree and still live with each other respecting, not hating, their differences. In this arguement I see two sides who tolerate no one in the middle. On one side you have the evangelicals who feel the need to save you and convert you. On the other you have the atheists who condemn anyone with any amount of faith or even spirituality of any kind. In the middle exists an infinite degree of in between.

Intellectual humility matters in our society because we’re at risk of suffering much from those who adopt extremes. The debate about science and religion is a particularly important focus for this since it commands popular attention and is fired by effective polemicists, of whom Dawkins is only one. However, if we let the polemicists set the turns of the debate for too long, our intellectual and political well-being is threatened. As Daniel J. Boorstin, another agnostic, put it: “It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress.” The revival of a committed, passionate, but balanced and reasonable agnosticism is crucial in our day: without it religion will become more extreme and science more frighteningly utopian.