December 9, 2011

There's a little more blood on my knuckles.

 I've been busy at work and home.

 Last Friday I completed a production Lion Server with Profile Manager as a Mobile Device Management server. It pulls users from Active Directory and allows enrolling iOS devices and downloading of configuration files.  I will be speaking at NERCOMP in the Spring about the experience and process. After that seminar I will try to publish my guide here for other folks trying to do the same thing.

These are the most boring teaser pictures, I think.  The least glamorous display of 10 iPads and the other picture is $20,000 of them.  Now when snarky students ask "Is this what my tuition is paying for?" I can say it's for iPads.

Today I passed the CCENT. This is the first step in realizing the CCNA, a certification I started but never finished 10 years ago in Blacksburg. The test was brutal and I'm not proud of my score, but if they want me to wear 25 pieces of flair then they should make the minimum 25 pieces of flair.

I could not have done it without my friend Greg who also earned his CCENT a week ago.  In a couple of weeks we'll start the INCD2 books and work toward the CCNA together.  This has been a really beautiful chapter of our friendship.

October 22, 2011

Happy couple

We found these two running through traffic outside of KTA. They'd been running around for over an hour and no one had done anything.  It took a while, but we eventually got them into the car and drove them to the Humane Society. The boy in the back with me and the girl up front.
Both were completely friendly, fed and well loved. Neither had collars or micro chips. They both shed and drooled everywhere.  Fortunately they were picked up the same day.

The boy would get very nervous being away from the girl and clearly let her call the shots. I am the same.

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Moku Ola

Coconut island is where I sliced my toe. It was the day before I left. I took Ulu and Ian and they took me jumping. I felt a little old and fat trying to climb to the high platform, but I still did it.

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September 27, 2011


My life long friend whom is completely dependent on me is now a slight inconvenience. Instead of making other arrangements I'd like to pay someone to murder her..

September 21, 2011

Emphasis on the wrong syllable

In New England people use contractions:
Can't, shouldn't, didn't.

This can make it difficult to interpret when any other obstacle is present like an accent, over a radio and muffling.  A lot of times my conversations will happen like this:

Me: Did you take care of that thing?
Them: I didn't.
Me: You said you did or did not?
Them: I didn't

They emphasize in the unhelpful part of the word. So I sometimes think they in fact did take care of that thing when they have not.

Also people refuse to learn a phonetic alphabet. Especially in the IT dept you should already know the similar sounding letters and understand the need to be clear.  It doesn't even need to be the NATO phonetic alphabet, just something that separates D from C, E, P and T. Once when reading out PPB, I said "Ponies, Ponies, Bravo!" Silly, but I was understood.

September 12, 2011

Windows Deployment Services

Here is my response to a colleague when he asked about our imaging procedure:

   We use Windows Deployment Services. It's a role in Windows Server. Using the Windows Automated Installation Kit, you create an answer file which allows an unattended install. Our procedure is based on this guide.  We also include scripts to install Sophos Antivirus and the Deepfreeze seed.  Neither can be included in the base image because each instance needs to be unique for communicating to their respective consoles. 
   A driver pool is necessary. This is a collection of all relevant drivers from each model of PC you are deploying to. 

Features I like:

It is hardware independent which allows us to only maintain a few images for many different hardware types.

Deploying the image automatically joins it to the domain

If you use a Virtual Machine to create the deployment image it's easy to update with any changes in the future.

Features I do not like:

Cannot automatically deploy to a computer lab.  There may be a way to do this, but we have not looked into it yet. We have to boot each PC from the network and choose the correct deployment image. 

Sometimes a new model of PC will have a new NIC or disk controller whose driver is not included in the boot image. Isolating the correct driver and inserting it into the boot image can be difficult and tedious. As long as you make a backup of the boot image before making any changes you leave yourself a safety net and it's not too bad.

Some hardware requires more than just a driver to work. Finger print readers on Thinkpads have given us this trouble. You either need to include the software suite in the deployment image which goes to all machines, install it manually on each Thinkpad or not install it at all.

I think WDS is an excellent solution for Faculty / Staff PCs and situation where you do not need to update large quantities of PCs at once. For a classroom or lab Ghost or other static image management might work better.

August 23, 2011

In middle-school I was into Led Zepplin, high-school was Nine Inch Nails, 'college' I found hip hop. Now I can't stop listening to dubstep.  What's next?

I'm also studying for the CCENT and then the CCNA. $25 for two text books and I'm off and reading. A friend is also studying for his, we Skype on Sundays and review our reading. It keeps me honest and motivated. Study buddies are the best.

Jessie has been feeding me salads for lunch and al fresco for dinner. It's amazing.

Last night we canned blueberries with our friend. We made 4 jars and they're beautiful black gold.  A coworker was really blown away, when he realized what he was looking at I could see memories flooding his brain as he talked about canning with his grandmother as a child. He looked and me and said "this is an lost art!"

That's my life right now.

August 3, 2011

Preaching to the soap box.

So you've been robbed. In this instance let's say your car. In the trunk was your laptop and external drive.
The laptop was pretty new and the external had your backup from your old computer.  Assuming you've been on a trip and it's been 7 days since you've been home, what have you lost?

I'll guess:
  • Your laptop. With all your banking, email, social networking and personal photos from at least the last 7 days. If you're lazy maybe it auto logs in on boot, and if you're really lazy maybe you can connect to your work VPN automatically. Your banking may require a password or username both of which can easily either be guessed or reset using vitae accessible via your email or social network. You've possibly exposed:
    • your identity
    • financial information. 
    • your immediate friends and their vitae in your social networks
  • Your external drive, which is probably the only copy of the data from your last computer. It probably has years of photos and music, not only lost but exposed.
What should you have lost given proper and (significant) initial configuration and (insignificant) routine maintenance before any major trip:
  • your laptop
  • your external drive.
  • 7 days worth of photos
What you should have exposed:
    • nothing.
Your laptop should have full disk encryption. This way if it ever gets stolen the only thing that someone can do with it is format the drive and reinstall, exposing no personal data. If they don't know how to do that, well then they have a dead laptop. The external drive is not a backup if it's the only copy. If you carry if with you for any reason it should also be encrypted.
You should have an offsite backup. Carrying the external drive in the same bag with your laptop provides a single point of failure. 2TB drives are selling for $60.  Anyone with a laptop can afford a backup solution. 

Backup your data at home before the trip. Encrypt the laptop drive. Nothing exposed.

July 14, 2011

Server upgrade pt 3

Found more RAM that the server likes. 8gb total.

Turns out the NIC driver for my EP45-DS3R is not friends with 2008R2. After installing that driver update, it hangs on classpnp.sys.  I tried renaming it, deleting it and chkdsk but with no success. Chkdsk wouldn't run because the volume was locked? Thanks for helping me sort that one out, MS.
Ninja edit. the NIC driver is not hte only incompatible with R2.  The intial 80+ updates apply successfuly, the second round of 5 updates do not.  I have'nt been able to roll back, so it's a fresh install each time. Slow going.

Lots of Dell Poweredge server on eBay for reasonable prices, usually missing one piece of the puzzel i need. What I want in a server:
x64 bit CPU
CPU with Virtualization
at least DDR2 RAM.
SAS compatibility so I dont have to purchase SCSI drives. SCSI drives are high performance, low capacity, which is is great for a large number of users with small amounts of data. I have a small number of users and a large amount of data. I want large capacity and low performance (thinking of WD Green drives).

I've seen a Poweredge 2950 for $90 on eBay which lacks the CPU with Virtualization which I can over come with new CPUs but it only support SCSI, so no dice using preexisting drives. My search continues for a reasonably priced Poweredge.

July 6, 2011

Server upgrade pt 2

I got all my data backed up to a few external drives to reconfigure the data array.

Installed 2008R2, but when I went to add the HyperV role I get an error saying my CPU doesn't support hardware assisted vitalization. Sadministrator. This is a hard stop for this project. It is not possible to get creative for a work around.

My options are to either not run any VMs, and install everything locally on one server or to buy a new server. The goal of having the VMs was to learn, to have a practice environment not in production. I can't test in a production environment.

Now I'm waiting for a Poweredge on sale. They used to have a entry level servers for $200, so that's what I'm looking for now. I'll run the server and when another machine comes along it'll be a good time to learn server migration.


July 1, 2011

Server upgrade pt 1

Before putting the 6 year old RAID controller into production I had to update the firmware. I downloaded the driver, update tool and firmware. Everything sorted and organized for future upgrades. Updating through CLI is fun, most days it's done through an executable from Dell.

I finally convinced the server to take 2 x 2 GB of ram.

Organized in a spreadsheet how I will backup the data from the 3 x 1TB drives onto spare 750 and 2 x 320GB drives while I rebuild the array.

I think by the time I need to expand storage I will be ready for a new server.

End goal:
OS drive: RAID 1 onboard controller
Data drive: RAID 5 controller card.

HyperV server hosting at least 2 servers: production and test.
Keeping my eye out for a cheap Dell rack mounted server that I can put into a lack rack.

June 30, 2011


Wife received her Master's this week (I feel a sense of accomplishment too!). I tried to convince her to stay in bed, have me bring her Bueno Y Sano all week and not leave the house. She said no.

Did you make another appointment for tomorrow or Friday?
Tomorrow is Friday

Close enough

June 26, 2011

My server only likes one stick of ram. A specific one. I've tried five other sticks and it won't POST with them.

The stick in question is a 2GB 6400 DDR2 FATAL1TY brand RAM I got with a year of NOD32 for $10 about 3 years ago.

Samsung, Hynix and Nanya brands, like my motherboard does not. The goal is to get 4GB of RAM to comfortably install a Hyper V server and one or two virtual servers to start learning at home all the things I want to do at work.

Main goal is to provide roaming profiles for our accounts. I want Jessie to log into any machine and have the same experience, this does make it difficult when she stores DVD rips to the desktop, but she probably just needs training.

Other goals include File server, Group Policy, Printer Server, DHCP, DNS and Windows Deployment Services. These are pretty standard things, but I need to understand them thoroughly.

I'm planning on RAID 1 boot drives, 3 x 1TB RAID 5 file server. I have a 640GB for backups, I will need to expand that. Currently I have 2 x 1TB WD Green & 1 x 1 TB WD Black. for the RAID 5 I want matching drives and I'm OK with using Green for the array, I'm don't need a lot of performance.  It does seem like a waste to use a Black drive only for backups though. And purchasing 1TB drives now is not very cost effective, but purchasing 3 x 2TB drives is not in my budget.

I wish work would shed a few drives my way.

What  I really want is a new server, but that's certainly not in my budget. A nice little Poweredge would do me just fine.

June 24, 2011

Baccalaureate day three

Folded two worm bins into one
Work. Built new machine with 12GB of RAM
Girls generation? Not sure what to think.
New TF2 patch, downloaded 1.5 hrs, played .5 hrs
Archer with Merlot and Honey B til pau

June 23, 2011

Baccalaureate day two

Woke up, a little hungover.
Walked dog, returned home to realize my zipper had been down
dentist cleaning
Walk through of potential house. (am I embedding myself in New England?)
bought bagels from Bagel Shop
Get asked to work the next two Fridays (my days off)
Pull worms from under porch, they've been getting wet all day and now they reek but I can't identify of what
Submit Technology Proposal to charter school
Finish Louie

June 21, 2011

Baccalaureate day one

Wife finished final day of field work last Friday. Friend came to visit for the weekend. Monday they left. Tuesday alone. It consisted of:

Morning walk with dog
While getting attacked by bugs, say goodbye to crossing guard; her final day.
no breakfast but not hungry? 2 cups of coffee.
get to work 15 minutes late but no one notices
come home to walk dog and pick up present*
dinner with co workers at Olive Garden.
give *bucket of dirt to friend
purchase 2 growlers of BBC
   Give gentleman $2
   Walk dog around store
Play TF2
This inspiring blogpost

June 7, 2011

Nice one, Disney.

I had a dream. I was in a cave, dying, and it was my last opportunity to sum up my experience. I had one last chance to describe everything on the wall.

I wrote:

Seal Team Six©

June 4, 2011

This week in New England.

I had trouble sleeping all week, I couldn't get to sleep and I'd wake up early. Today, Saturday, I slept for 10 hours and it was awesome.

My sauer-kraut finished this week. It's really salty. I try to have some every day. It's been a long time since I've fermented anything, and I'm glad it was a success.

We had dinner with some friends last night in their garden. We ordered sushi take-away and ate with gentle music, home made mojitos, and good friends. It was a fantastic night.

I've been in New England for about 1.5 yrs now. I'm finally settling into a community. I found hackerspace to do projects, I have a few great friends, I'm successful at work. We don't like the apartment we're in but that's a fairly easy change.

Jessie is about to graduate and I don't know what that will mean for where we will be. She's really enjoying her time at the VA in Northampton and would love to be hired full time but they may not be hiring additional OT's right now.

The future, as always, remains uncertain.

Also, there was a tornado this week. It touched down in Springfield about 1 mile from our house. Everything in its path was devastated. Everything outside of it's path got a little wet. It's such a stark difference, there's almost no middle ground. Some areas were without power for a day or two but that was about it. I recorded a few clips of the rain with my fancy iDevice

May 31, 2011


I finally made it to a hackerspace tonight.  An old factory, repurposed as artists spaces, it provides the perfect atmosphere for a workshop.  After meeting a few electrical and mechanical engineers and a lady building an LED guitar I thought to myself: "I only know computers :("
When I told the leader, he said he did not know about computers and boy would they love some help with all the computers!  Hooray!
  I spent my first project on a hacking out a DDWRT firmware on a WRT54GS v7. It's always a little dicey hacking someone else's gear on the first day.  It was a success though and I was able to get ht right firmware on it.  The goal was to use it as a WiFi bridge with a neighbor's wifi, to and then create a more stable signal in our workshop.

I followed all the directions to make it a WiFi bridge, but could not find success. They seemed happy enough to see different firmware on it. I'll try again next week.

I untangled a mess of wires and coiled up accessories neatly (thanks mom) while they showed me all the fancy things they toys they'd built, Van de Graaff generator, egg bot, and an LED lighted guitar using an Arduino.

It will be a good space to bring my infinity mirror.

May 25, 2011

iPhoning it in

My dad gave me his 3gs. I told him he should not ship me the SIM and he should wipe it completely for security purposes. He kept the SIM but did not wipe it.  While walking to the car after picking it up, I wiped it, wanting a clean slate to have my adventures.

Wiping it means it needs to be activated. Hoping to bypass this I jailbroke it using Greenpois0n. Easy enough to do but that didn't activate it. So I had to create an iTunes account, install iTunes and connect the device.  iTunes now wants a SIM. I ordered an AT&T from eBay for $3, then iTunes shot me this note:

It needs to be a SIM from Movistar. Thanks a lot, Apple, for imposing this restriction. Why not unlock previous generation phones?

I've tried uploading a firmware I found on the Pirate Bay using Redsn0w but with no success, I'm not even sure it took and there doesn't seem to be a way to gather any of this information while it's unactivated.

What I find most frustrating is the lack of clear information and terminology. What is a baseband and how does it relate to firmware? Cydia, Jailbreaking, unlocking, hackivating, tethered?  All of these by themselves, I understand. But combined with no centralized structure, a lack of correct spelling, a commitment to acronyms and when the names of the apps are called greenpois0n, Redsn0w, ultrasn0w and Pwnage Tool it's just difficult to tell where I stand.

May 21, 2011

Honey B

A couple of months ago he had a swollen spot on his ear. The vet said the capilaries had burst from him shaking his head and blood was pooling between the two layers of cartilege. They drained the blood and buttoned up his ear to keep pressure while it heald, so if it continued to bleed it would be forced out of the ear instead of accumulating. He looked like this for about 2 weeks. He's all better now.

I sat on the front porch with him today and read, he seemed content enough to sniff the air and regard each passerby. When I was finished he looked a little wanting, so we walked down to a field where he can run without a leash. Almost no one uses this space despite being across the street from an apartment complex.

An aside here, this space is a field according to Google's satellite imagery, but the Street View shows a complex there, which is just wild to see.

As soon as he is off leash he sprints off, smelling and dancing and running and is as happy as can be. He's an excellent sprinter and found his way to the other side of the field where I could see him snort something and then roll. I yelled for him to stop and he started runnig back to me, caught another scent and rolled in something else. I caved and stopped yelling at him and he found a third place to roll. He was as happy as a pig in poop.

When we got home I gave him a bath put his face still smells bad.
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May 16, 2011

Commercial success

A: did you see that commercial it was awesome
B:  I have a DVR, so I skipp commercials
C: I don't have a TV

A: Well it was on the radio too.
B: I have XM, I don't have any commericals
C: My radio is broken.

Every now and then I catch a spot of TV, daytime programming, commercials and all. Often 25% is commercials. If you watch commercials on a cable channel, then they get you coming and going.

April 30, 2011

Cabin Air Filter

Cabin air filter change involved removing the glove box, unsnapping the old one and inserting the new. One of hte easier jobs to do. The photo illustrates the difference, but in normal daylight the old filter did not look too bad.

A soft tipped philip's head driver can prevent scratches on the screw heads, that's all you need.  I purchased my filter from eBay Motors for about $10. You can probably use an HVAC filter if you want a more DIY solutoin.

Come on, bro.

A director level position has just opened up. The person holding this position quit with about 9 days notice. The week before finals. To take a consulting position. With a week's vacation before starting.
Our employer paid for his training. He used our network to test in a production environment.

Now it's easy for me to judge because I worked with him. He said he had better things to do than have dinner with his coworkers. He usually trained us about 80% of the way, enough to feel responsible, enough to be dangerous, but not enough to troubleshoot, be proactive or to create reliable systems. The off hours guys received no direct training.

When I started, there was almost zero documentation.  What little notes we had was split between our ticketing systems' knowledge base and Google Docs. Usually one person in the dept knew each system. So, if the IT staff was out that day there was no support for that system. Very few things evolved through team work and there was no cross training.

I've documented every tech responsibility I have in a Google Doc. Sometimes my notes aren't %100 clear, but most of them are really great. They're shared with everyone in the team. Not everyone is expected to perform everything, but if the sysadmin is out then at least we have something to go on, plus the off hours guys have somewhere to start. They may not have big picture perspective but they have an idea of the procedure.

You're welcome, work.

April 23, 2011

Battery care

We got a new battery on our trip down south last December. The installer did not apply any insulating dielectric grease, so I bought some from Amazon and a battery terminal brush from Sears.

I cleaned the contacts and the leads with the brush and blew away the shavings. Then using a cotton-tipped aplicator I applied a liberal amount of dielectric grease to the terminals. The internet gave me some direction:
 At the high points they touch, and at the low points there are gaps. Dielectric grease will get smooshed in to the gaps, keeping out moisture and electrolytes. 
I applied way too much, but no matter.

Subaru's battery compartment comes with an insulator, so I did not install any additional cold weather gear.

It's been a long time

If you play Portal, near the end while walking around the Aperture Laboratories offices you can see a slide show presentation.  I recreated it and have made it available. Some of the items are funny or non existent in Google Docs so I recommend downloading it if you're really interested.

Dollar$ and SENSE

Edit: Fixed sharing permissions. Everyone can see it now.

March 31, 2011

Network upgrade pt 2

My brother gave me a C2 Q8200 cpu around Thanksgiving. I'm interested in pushing more services onto my server box and thought that CPU would be a fine upgrade to handle the extra load.

While trying to get the 640AAKS drive added to the storage pool I had to restart the server. After the reboot the heatsink fan had trouble starting up.

So, after before backing up my data I decided to go ahead with the CPU, heatsink and fan upgrade. Of course it would not boot after the upgrade, it would freeze during the POST. I had two RAM stick installed. Thankfully they were the same speed, but were unfortunately different brands and CAS speeds. Removing one of them allowed the machine to boot.

Data is backing up now. 425GB of data, leaves about 150GB for growth.

Network upgrade pt 1

My desktop was running on a 640aaks. It has been fine. The drive was supposed to compare to raptor drives and it provided enough space to keep lots of stuff on the desktop. Having access to a matching pair of Velociraptor drives I decided to take a stab at RAID 0 with them and pull some extra performance out of my desktop.

Performance about doubled. Totally worth it.  It does introduce another layer of complexity and another point of failure, now if either of the two drives fail then I lose the array but my home server is still providing nightly backups so I'm not really worried about that.

I lose a significant capacity of local storage, but as I'm trying to pull all my data on the server I think this will not hurt me too much. I was able migrate all of Wife's account using Migwiz, which was great; the transition was pretty easy for her. Migwiz does not transfer apps or app settings such as her Chrome profile, but I was able to manually copy that over.

The old 640aaks is now my WHS backup drive which has the capacity to hold all the backups. As today is World Backup Day, that is exactly what I will be doing to my WHS.

March 17, 2011

I am the adult I want to become

When you're a hammer, every problem is a nail.
You draw from your knowledge and experience to find a solution.

I guess the idea is that you strive to be not only a hammer.

I recently learned sinnets, and thus I've put them into every dangling cord I come across at work. I coiled the power cord for the demo Xoom at work. The head of the dept, once he overcame his shock of a seemingly tangled power cord, said: "he has too much time on his hands" and shook his head wistfully.

I was a little embarrassed at first. Now I think he should have been; you want to surround yourself with people that know other things than you, you want your staff to be diverse. This means we're not all hammers and not every problem becomes a nail.

February 28, 2011

Thing a Day pau

All photos (and many more) are available in .NEF format. I started this project with 12 ideas on my calendar. I managed a few new ones during the first two weeks but every day afterwards I was struggling to come up with someone. I highly recommend a couple of weeks to plan, or at least define the scope of what you want to do.  For me blogging and photography were the project. I generated a lot of content and of that I am proud of.

Making fudge was a first for me and I talked to my brother about it which led me to an epiphany of a desert my mom made years ago but never taught me how to make. Making lebne is a family tradition that I am able to continue.

All of the food projects were great because I got a direct return on them. Wife really enjoyed the fudge and so it'll become a frequent occurrence.

Changing the differential oil was something I'd been waiting to do since before Xmas. Combined with an oil change the car runs like it's brand new. I really enjoy working on my car because it's the most dangerous thing I expose myself to, and keeping it running well lowers the risk.

This was a really fun project. It forced me to blog and photograph almost every day. I discovered new settings on my camera. I cleaned a lot of stuff. I changed my routine and created a new one.

I'm glad this is over.


We have a copy of the C&H Tenth Anniversary Book that we've been reading the last few weeks. I really identify with Hobbes more than Calvin, who strikes me as spoiled and kind of a jerk. Hobbes makes the most sense to me, as someone who's always down for whatever and is pretty forgiving.
Bill Waterson is the real hero of the comic, never merchandising or selling the rights. How great. I'm sure he was often offered a lot of money to sell out and he managed not to. 

This is great Sunday morning activity with someone you love. You have an activity, you create something beautiful and create a shared memory.

February 26, 2011

Removing wallpaper pt 2

Being useful
My fancy services were called in again for additional application. This time we cleaned up the remaining areas, thin strips between the door and the wall. Then we used a strange detergent to remove any adhesive, wallpaper and dirt, followed by a rinse with warm water.  Finally, we emptied all of the cabinets in preparation for their replacement.


 I came across a Rage comic the other day which was actually a recipe for making fudge. So I did. I don't like that alcohol is a staple ingredient in vanilla extract so I found some that is alcohol free and I couldn't tell the difference. I'm not sure about the benefits of organic sweetened condensed milk but I'll take it anyway. I forgot nuts, nuts! I considered granola but did not want to get too fancy on my first time out on the fudge train.

February 24, 2011

Folder redirection

The battle continues about how to manage data on my network. I recently had to format my HTPC and I used that as an opportunity to enable folder redirection for Wife's desktop and docs. One goal was to allow Wife's data to be centralized, when she's on the netbook she'll have the same stuff as on the desktop.  I think Roaming Profiles might be a better choice.
Every night SyncCenter has errors, usually regarding .tmp files and it's pretty annoying. Otherwise it works alright. These errors might be related to how WHS duplicates data. I'm not sure and I don't know how to find out. I enabled redirection on my account on my desktop and it also had with errors, I save stuff and it doesn't match what's on the server for some reason.  This is stupid, there should be a straight forward solution for this

Pic unrelated. It's where I work, Deepwood. you can see where every generation built an addtion. I work in the basement, with no windows or heat.

February 23, 2011

Camera stabilizer

There's a pretty straight forward tutorial on how and why to make this. Despite being an Eagle Scout, he still doesn't understand the value of a good coil before putting in his pocket.

A coworker moonlights at a hardware store and she picked up the parts for <$2. I assembled it after coffee break and before lunch. Ideally the parts would be brass for aesthetics and because it doesn't rust.

February 21, 2011

A bird heard I had a beard.

Perhaps that last note was a little violent, here's how I actually marked the tumble into the new decade.

Operation: Dinner Out

My IT dept has been struggling with team building and social activities since I started.
We've had Silly Hat Day, NDCHGaRC, pizza party for a birthday, on Friday we celebrated my birthday. Everybody gave me very thoughtful gifts and I ate way too much meat.

A note about turning 30:
Having shed the yoke of youth, I am now poised to own the future. I have the path for victory in front of me, and like the Romans, whatever I cannot dominate I will destroy.

Rain X

Sunday I applied Rain X to the windows and side view mirrors of the Forester. I highly recommend it. It took me 30-45 minutes to wash & dry the windows and then apply and buff the Rain X.

I found these little bootsies at the thrift store. They don't smell like rain.

February 18, 2011

Worms eat my garbage

Vermiculture allows active and aggressive composting and most importantly in a small space.
I think about 50% of my waste is organic and goes to the worms. We generate so much organic waste that I can't generate enough shred to compensate. Last fall I subsidized with leaves and pine needles. I just enlisted a friend's help and am now receiving his shredded paper. It makes all the difference. I have two bins now and I think I could handle a third.

There is a 3:1 ratio of paper shred to organic waste this helps keep the moisture level down as that makes it stinky. Bins need ventilation holes to breathe; we drilled a connect-the-dots picture of a giraffe wearing a sombrero. This spring I will harvest the castings and give my aunt the richest soil around for her garden. She grows garlic which she gifts to us, we eat it and the shells will go back into the bin.

There is a nice lady in my office. We were talking about trash and said she generates very little, only 2 bags / week. Wife and I empty one bag about every 3 weeks and that's generally more because of smell than filling to capacity. A good recycling program and vermiculture allows us to generate 1/6 of the waste that a single person does. I think that's pretty great.

Worms are pretty great. They don't complain, they dance, they eat my trash.

February 16, 2011


Overhead kitchen halogen
I made a simple, but delicious dinner tonight. I marinaded a salmon steak in a sweet & sour and shoyu. I baked for 10 minutes on 250F then broiled for 5.  I also included rice made with shrimp broth and chopped up lettuce.

"Long" exposure in the kitchen

Making Yogurt

Yogurt making is easy:

  • Warm milk
  • add starter
  • let sit for 12 hours
  • ????
  • profit!
Wearing a hat

tl;dr - I have a lebneh starter from my aunt. I warm 1/2 gal. of whole milk in a pan until I can't keep my pinky in the milk for more than 10 seconds. Then I add the starter, cover it with a blue cloth and let it sit on my stove. My stove has gas pilot lights that keep the temp a little warmer than the rest of the house. I leave it for about 12 hours and then strain it using a reusable coffee filter my grandmother picked up in Sweden. A lot of whey is produced which I often try to find other uses for, usually mixing a little bit with my eggs in the morning.

February 14, 2011

Snow Cones

New England Snow Cones:
  • Snow
  • Maple Syrup

I'm saving these for a friend in NC. She'll be back in about a month. Maybe it'll still be snow.

Snow walk

Sunday night I walked in the snow and ice barefoot. Just for the experience. I've always been warm blooded and loved to frolic in the cold weather but since moving to New England I've been very cold. I just wanted to see if I could.

February 13, 2011

Removing wallpaper

My Aunt's kitchen is being redone. I went with some friend and we spent the afternoon scraping it away. She has an old house in New England, the walls are plaster and haven't been touched since she moved in over 10 years ago.
We brought scrapers, vinegar and professoinal stuff called DIF Wallpaper Remover. The vinegar was much more effective than the DIF. We scored the paper using a special tool, then sprayed on vinegar and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  The vinegar wasn't perfect but it did a decent job of dissolving the adhesive.

February 11, 2011

Shoe maintenance

I tossed my slippers in the rubbish bin in the airport as I left Hilo. Work only asked that I have foot wear, I wore sandals. Mainland work asks that I look professional despite crawling under desks and around filthy wiring cabinets.

Wife forced me to purchase these shoes last summer, I resisted but she found some nice shoes. I wanted something that I could be very comfortable in. A lot of dress shoes lack functionality and I hate them. 

I wiped off the dirt with a wet cloth, then rubbed in Lexol that I got from my leather guy.  This will keep them strong like bull for a while longer.


February 10, 2011

Shrimp broth

When we eat shrimp I save the shells. When we eat fish with bones, I save the bones too. When I have enough I:
  1. add them to a pot
  2. add water
  3. boil for 10 hrs.
Today I made it in the crock pot, I put it on low before I left for work, when I came home I added water and put it on high. When we were sick of the smell I put it in a pot on the stove and boiled it on high for 20 minutes.

It smells a little unpleasant, but I get shrimp gold as you can see. It's a little weird saving chitin for months in the freezer but also a little macabre in a fun-house kind of way. I hope the shrimp appreciate that I am getting as much nutrition from them as possible and wasting as little as possible. I sub the broth for 25-50% of the water in recipes. It definitely gives rice a nice flavor and some variety because I still am having trouble making nice coconut rice.

Getting rid of clutter

Just over a year ago when I was leaving HI, I was packing all my possessions and I got rid of everything I could.

Aside from clothes my largest group of personal things were computer gear. I reduced two large boxes down to two smaller flat rate boxes and sent them off.

I kept obscure cables that I rarely used but were so difficult to find that I felt value in holding on to them.  I kept everything I thought I'd find a use for.  Here I am a year later and I've taken another stab at those parts. I kept the obscurest of the obscure: the USB male A to male A and the USB to proprietary connector for an old phone. I got rid of the useless: compact flash with 128mb storage and WiFi.

I'm now down to one small flat rate box. Some things were difficult to get rid of, but if I haven't used it in over a year then it's becoming more a burden than buying it again if I ever need it will be.

I also organized my Dremel bits into one container, put all my tools into the general tool boxes even if they were generally used for tech.

When I opened my tool box I realized I had way too many tools. My tool box had a funny smell to it; I've smelled it in other toolboxes before and now I know what it is: mold. A few of my screw drivers had mold all over the handles. No thank you. They're gone.

Everything is organized and I'm getting rid of enough to feel accomplished.




February 9, 2011

Wrote a letter

To someone else this time!  No photo. Does this mean it's a failure? Only we can decide

February 7, 2011

Cast iron griddle

I seasoned these cast iron pans recently.
I cook breakfast every morning in the little skillet, quesadillas on the flat pan, and spaghetti sauce in the large skillet. The griddle was intimidating. It sits on two stove eyes, it's the heaviest of all my pieces, I'd never cooked on it before.

I put both eyes on super low and let it sit for about 10 minutes to make sure everything was warmed up evenly. Then I put on the carrots and tofu and cooked until the carrots softened and the tofu firmed. I put the fish on its own side at the same time adding onions and the frozen broccoli to the veggie side.

The griddle has a rough texture which is noisy against the spatchula, otherwise it worked well; nothing stuck to the pan it was pretty great. A bed of rice with furikake, slamin salmon Alaskin sockeye and mixed veggies. You're welcome, Wife.

Cooking noms

Completed noms

February 6, 2011

Differential Oil

I have 2006 Subaru Forester X. It has 47.5k miles. It has AWD with two differentials. Today I changed the rear differential oil and the front differential oil / manual transmission oil.

Magnets holding on to shards
The rear oil is a pretty simple process, you can access the differential case without using ramps. Make sure the car is level and the parking break is engaged. It uses a 13mm socket which is .512". Most ratchets are .5". You probably don't need to purchase the 13mm socket.Tools needed:
  • 5" ratchet.
  • oil pan
  • differential oil. My Subaru takes about .8 of a quart.
Begin with warm oil. To change the oil, remove the top (fill) plug to relieve pressure, then remove the bottom (drain) plug. Let it drain. Examine the drain plug, it has a magnet on it that catches pieces of the differential gears. If you see large chunks then you may need to have it checked out by a pro, though changing the oil might be the preventative maintenance needed. Clean the plug and, once it is drained, screw it back in. Pour the new oil into the fill hole on the top.

This can be tricky because there is not a lot of vertical room in which to pour down. Some quarts have a mechanism to squeeze it out, others don't. It is full when the oil starts to spill out of the top fill plug, now screw in the top plug. Tighten both the top and bottom plug as tight as you can.

The front differential oil is shared with the manual transmission. If you have an automatic transmission it will have its own oil and you should not mix them. Tools you'll need:
  • .5" ratchet.
  • T70 Torx bit
  • oil pan
  • differential oil. My Subaru takes about 3.8 quarts
  • tube and funnel
  • clean cloth to wipe the dip stick

The front drain plug does not use the same 13mm socket, it uses a T70 Torx bit. I found mine at Advance, most auto shoppes carry them, it was $6. To drain, unscrew the T70 bit. This case has about 4 quarts of oil so be prepared for such a large amount of fluid. Be sure to check the plug for shards again and clean off the plug before replacing it. Once it is drained, screw it back in. 
The fill plug is on the top side of the same case, accessed through the hood.  It is in the center of the engine compartment all the way back against the firewall. It is a bit tricky to find it, but it has a yellow handle and is pretty deep in the back.  I have a very poor picture here, with the firewall to the left.
I recommend a tube and funnel, make sure the tube is all the way in the fill hole to so you won't spill any, differential oil is stinky. Fill it up, when you've emptied 3 quarts, begin fill slowly and stop to check the dip stick frequently. Differentials do not like being too full or too empty.

My thoughts on which kind of differential fluid: do not use a fluid marked for Limited Slip or LS. The additives in LS oil does not work well with the synchronizers in the Subaru manual transmissions. Many Subaru fora recommend a mix of Motul 300 and Redline oils. I don't like the idea of mixing oils as they will separate over night and they'll have to remix every time you start driving the car. YMMV but I feel find putting just the high end Motul in. Motul is difficult to find locally, I ordered mine from Annapolis Subaru, a vendor on I got a slight discount. The range of prices for the dealership to change differential fluid is between $200 and $300. If I'm already doing this work myself then I can justify spending more on high end fluid. Especially for such a vital part of my car.

This maintenance greatly improves shifting. Shifting is smooth an much easier to get in to gear. Motul is rated for low temperatures so I'm hoping to glean that benefit on the -9F mornings here in Mass.

Doing my own car maintenance is very satisfying. It saves some money but I mostly enjoy having a deeper understanding of my car and how cars work in general. 

February 5, 2011

Outlet insulators

Insulation is my favorite!

  • you only have to do it once
  • it's always on
  • it's good for heat and cold

This pack I think came from my dad, I put it to use.I made sure to apply them to all the exterior walls first. This house is pretty old and drafty, this may help but I doubt I'll notice it in temperature nor in the heating bill.
It was a fun project and I got to work with my hands.

February 4, 2011

Writing a letter

I wrote a letter to my aunt and uncle.
I had a root canal today, so today's TaD has to be simple. This is my cat, Merlot:

She desperately wants to eat but her dinner isn't until for another 1.5 hrs.  She also woke me up early this morning and I'm upset with her about that so I don't feel bad putting this unflattering picture of her on Internet.

February 3, 2011

Season the cast iron

This took about 45 minutes.
The larger rimmed skillet is the first cast iron that I bought, about a year ago from Target with a gift card left over from our wedding. I had been looking for some at the thrift stores but realized I'd never find a pan season for my vegetarian. There's nothing romantic about Target but it was cheap. The smaller rimmed skillet is a gift from my aunt for my vegetarian who has hard time lifting the larger heavy pan.
The other two are from a friend. For these I used the salt and oil method to clean them up again. I heated all the pans individually and rubbed them down with olive oil, heated them up even higher and coated them again. Then fancy photography.