Friday, April 30, 2010

RIP Donkey

So I'm sitting here this evening eating some dinner and catching up on some stuff on the 'net.  When I hear something upstairs, kind of a loud popping or crunching sound.  Didn't think much of it the first time, but then whatever it was, it did it a few more times.  So I figure I should go upstairs and see what is going on.

As soon as I reach the top of the steps I notice it is extremely warm - almost hot.  Check the bonus room, nothing there looks out of place.  Start down the hallway and start to detect the odor of burning electronics.  Stop at the thermostat and note that the temp is 81 degrees even though the A/C is on and set for 72.  That's not a good sign.

Get down to my office and the smell of burning electrical components is really strong.  Clearly something in the office.  Modem, routers, printer all look good and are powered up.  Then I spot it.

My server is not on.  I check it and it is very hot to the touch.  Clearly this is the source of the burning odor.  I get it unplugged.  But already, I know (and you the reader know) how this is going to turn out.  To be safe I check the rest of the upstairs.  Check the circuit breakers in the garage.  Check the outside unit.  Go up in the attic and check things, reset the breaker on the HVAC unit.  By now the odor is already starting to dissipate.  Alas, I still cannot seem to get the A/C to blow cold air (it finally did start back up about 15 minutes later).

So yes, the server is toast.  It's network name was Donkey as in "the Donkey server".  I plugged it back in just to verify and could not get it to power up at all.  It has served well.  Started out as a desktop PC back in the late 90's.  Was briefly relegated to testbed status as I started dabbling with Linux and it had been replaced by a better gaming PC.  When I started up my business I went ahead at that point and converted it into a server.  Mainly served as a file server, but I ran some local web services on it and used it for testing stuff I was thinking of deploying in live environments.  That was back around 2004.

Haven't looked it up, but at one point it ran for something like 283 days straight and only had to be taken down due to a planned power outage at our old house.  Not bad for equipment that was close to a decade old.

So Donkey, RIP.  You served admirably, well beyond your designed life.

The big question now will be whether I can save the data off the hard drives.  Hopefully they didn't get toasted in the process.  I have some older snapshots of the data and I don't think there is anything critical on the hard drives, but it would still be a loss if I can't access them.  Can only blame myself for that (being lazy about backups).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book review: Raising A Modern-Day Knight

A few out there may be aware, but a few weeks ago we (as in my wife and I) started to have some behavior problems with our son.  Nothing nearly as bad or dramatic as what some people have to deal with.  But, still troubling to us.

In an effort to address his behavior and actions and try to get him back on a good path, I did some searching for some materials that I could use to improve my own parenting skills and pick up some ideas on how to deal with the situation.  One thing I was hoping to find was something that was, if not Biblically based, somewhat connected to our faith.  One of the books I picked up was Raising A Modern-Day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood by Robert Lewis.  I suppose the premise is figuring out a way to move a son from childhood to manhood as expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:11 -
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

The book starts out with a couple chapters on some of the challenges that sons face in our world.  Especially in terms  of fathers who are not there for them whether through the challenges of a family that has split up for some reason or just because the father is focused on other activities (e.g. a workaholic) or has his own problems (e.g. alcoholism).

In response to this, Lewis proposes that we could tap a model from the past - the Knight - as a way to get our sons (and perhaps ourselves as fathers) back on track.  As he explains it, a knight had a code of conduct that could be summarized (as was done by Tennyson) as:
Live pure;

Speak true;

Right wrong;

Follow the King.

Hopefully readers can see how that can pretty easily be grafted onto and supported by principles and concepts in the Bible and in what Jesus taught us.

Lewis goes on to lay some groundwork for what it means to be a Knight.  This includes having a Vision for Manhood, a Code of Conduct, and a Transcendent Cause.  In all of the chapters explaining this, I think Lewis does a good job of connecting the ideas and concepts to points in the Bible.

The second half of the book starts to get into how to translate this into action.  The "how to" focuses on ceremonies as a boy moves through different stages.  Using the knight paradigm, Lewis has noted that knights became knights first by becoming a page, then a squire, and finally a knight.  During each of these stages, the knight-to-be focused on learning different things and upon achieving success, was promoted to the next level.

Overall, I liked the book.  I thought it presented some good concepts and a nice framework for a path to manhood.  One thing I really liked about it were the numerous connections to the Bible and the path Jesus has set before us.  It does get weak in the second half with the how-to portion.  Lewis does a good job of describing the framework, but I would have preferred some more practical application information.  Maybe that is in the six-part DVD series?

Bottom line on the book, I'd recommend it.

Now, translating all that into helping my son has been another story.  The first challenge is the fact that he is not into knights.  So I've been struggling to find an alternate model, preferably one that my son helps select as I think he will be more invested in it that way.  I know he really likes Walker, Texas Ranger, so I've thought about maybe using Texas Rangers as a model for manhood.  He is also into all things military, so perhaps some elite special forces model?  Another interest of his is hunting and outdoors type activities, so I've been trying to think of some group along the lines of Danial Boone or possibly some of the survivor guys with shows on TV.  Interestingly, other than Chuck Norris, another person who cropped up in my son's opinion as a "man" was Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I'm not sure what to do with that.  It has been enlightening (and perhaps a bit discouraging realizing how far he needs to go) to watch him struggle with some of the questions I've posed to him on what it means to be a man.  I think one good thing though is that he himself has also realized that maybe he didn't know everything like he thought he did.

I have worked with him on examining and trying to identify what a definition of manhood would be (this is part of the vision of manhood).  We've worked through some Bible passages on the Biblical ideals of manhood which start to lay the groundwork for a code of conduct, including:
Loyalty (Hosea 6:6)

Servant-Leadership (Matthew 20:26-27)

Kindness (Proverbs 19:22)

Humility (Philippians 2:3)

Purity (1 Timothy 4:12)

Honesty (Ephesians 4:25)

Self-discipline (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Excellence (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Integrity (Proverbs 10:9)

Perseverance (Galatians 6:9)

At this point we are still early in the process and trying to do some basic defining.  I did pick up a few tips from the book on some little things to do to help my son understand that I love him and will help him with this journey.  I think I've already seen some change in him.

If you are struggling with some behavior issues in a son (or even if not and would just like to get a little better idea of some Biblically based manhood concepts), I recommend Raising A Modern-Day Knight.

Friday, April 16, 2010

THMMC Covered Bridge Run 2010 Recap

Gathering at Pilot Mountain
Yes, yes, yes, it has taken me almost a week.  And I have lots of other blog entries on my list of things to do (those would be GTD Next Actions).  But for now, I just want to see if I can crank out an update of the Covered Bridge Run that was held last Saturday by the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club.  This was a run that I led as a follow-up to the 2009 Covered Bridge Run.

In 2009 we stayed in the central part of NC visiting the Pisgah Covered Bridge after a route that took in a couple Scenic Byways including the Flint Hill Ramble (really nice twisty stretch there).  For 2010 I set my sights a little farther north - Virginia to be more specific.  There are actually a few covered bridges in the southwest area of Virginia (also home to one of our THMMC chapters).  Getting up to them though proved to be a routing challenge as it was quite a bit of ground to cover.  I also wanted to avoid Floyd County after the whole Turkey Trot Incident (no, I will not go into details).  And on the way back I wanted to avoid Hwy 66 since I knew we'd be doing that as part of the Bullfrog Run.

MINIs on Squirrel Spur Road
So, I decided to start us off at the top of Pilot Mountain.  Those who live in the area and have been up Hwy 52 have seen Pilot Mountain several times.  I had to do a bit of research and figured out there is a State park there and it had a nice, large parking lot close to the summit.  Perfect for a gathering of MINIs.  Our plans almost derailed when we learned on Friday that a marathon was being run on Pilot Mountain.  Fortunately it started out at the base and no runners had made it to the summit while we were there.  Although a couple llamas or alpacas or something were up there as we were leaving.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Great Fixes in IT Land

Was recently logging into one of the systems that I use on my job.  When you logon, it takes you to a splash screen with various bits of information.  This time, I was presented with the following information (identifying information removed to protect the guilty even if they are the Federal government):
System performance issues have been identified with xxxxxxxxxxxxx. Specifically, double clicking the mouse button during a page SAVE for the unaudited and audited financial submission process may lead to an error message identified as "Sql Map Client, error code [1427]".

xxxxxxxxx has identified a temporary solution that will avoid this system error. When submitting your financial statement, DO NOT double-click on the SAVE button. Click only once and wait for the system to complete the initial SAVE operation.

The emphasis was in the original.  Unless I'm mistaken, it looks like the "temporary solution" that has been identified is basically - "Don't do that!"  Gee, thanks.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Devil and our Friends - We Win!!!

On this Good Friday, I had a bit of an unusual situation to come up.  I got the day off from work.  However, due to snow days, the teacher workday scheduled for today became a make-up day, so the kids are in school.  And, my wife ended up subbing today.  So, I'm on my own for a bit today - at least until school let's out.

Decided to use the morning for a little scouting work for a MINI drive idea I have in my head.  I suppose it is building upon the Howl at the Moon run I did last fall.  But this time, with haunted locations!  The first step was to identify some haunted locations that might be fun to get to (i.e. there are twisty roads leading there).  Not the easiest task.

I've identified four potential locations that are generally in the area.  There are lots more in the Triad/Triangle areas, but who wants to visit a college dorm?  Of course, the first candidate I visited today was close to that - Gimghoul Castle in Chapel Hill.  I vaguely remembering visiting the castle either during high school or college with some friends.  And yes, today's mission meant riding through campus in the MINI WUF to get there.  No evidence of parties from last night's NIT appearance.  No students at all really - guess class was out.  Anyway, there is a gravel circle that looks like it might be open to the public so we could circle right by the castle.  Not sure if it just happened to be open today or not.  If not, we should be able to get close enough on the surface street to be a worthwhile stop.

From there, I headed southwest for some country roads.  This took me through downtown Pittsboro, where I got to see the recently burned down Chatham County Courthouse when I went through the traffic circle.  The next target was in the country - the Devil's Tramping Ground.  I remember hearing the tale of the DTG growing up.  In my research, I had found a blog post that provided some GPS coordinates.  Upon arriving there, I was presented with a dirt road leading down into some woods.  Definitely not MINI country judging by the "lake" that had formed in a dip in the path.  But, it was also heavily marked with No Trespassing signs.  Just judging by sight, it didn't look like the right place.  However, about 2/10ths of a mile back up the road was a small pull off with a path that led to a small circular-ish area littered with the remnants of partiers.  This looked much more like the photos I have found on-line describing the DTG.  Right in the middle were the remains of a fire.  Today, laying on top, were some "things" - sorry, no idea what they might be - that looked to be made out of some kind of hair (maybe some horse mane hair?).  Maybe 16 inches long, mostly white with some black, and they had some kind of handles at one end.  Whoever had been using them for whatever had thrown them on the remains of the logs, but they had not burned up.  This may be do-able.  Not great parking and who knows what kind of crowd we might stumble upon if I ever do this.

So those were the two locations I visited this morning.  fwiw, I may also look at throwing in the Pisgah Covered Bridge (found a tale about the  apparition of a hanged woman that appears in the bridge), Lydia's Bridge (great story in the vanishing hitchhiker vein), and/or the Cabe's Land Cemetary.  All  of those would probably be too long for one drive.  Hmm - a series of haunted MINI runs?

With all that said, what is this bit about our Friends in the title of this post?  After visiting the DTG, I had plotted a route up through Siler City and then some back roads of Alamance County to get back home.  I didn't even realize it, but it took me right by the Rocky River Friends Meeting.  That was notable as just last weekend they were having a revival at the meeting.  I didn't get down to it, but it had been in our bulletin at church.  It was a nice large facility with lots of playground equipment (a good sign).  I guess looks can be deceiving, but it appeared to be a nice vibrant church.  And, it has been around since 1753 - so long, it has its own historical marker.

This means that in my journey I got to contrast the DTG with the Rocky River Friends Meeting.  The first is a patch of dirt off the side of a country road that has been overtaken by partygoers and is largely unimpressive.  But the Friends Meeting is alive and well - no trouble finding it and no threat for now of it fading from memory or existence.  So, imo, the Friends are winning!!!