Paddle

I hate Facebook as much as I hate many aspects of and activities in my life.

The first step would be liberating myself from Facebook, but I still need it. You know, just in case I miss something.

It’s the same reason why I keep going to the same coffee shop every goddamn day (sometimes twice or thrice). You know, just in case I miss something.

There’s just that random chance of a benefit that keeps me on the hook for more. I guess B.F. Skinner’s theories on operant conditioning are correct after all; the rat will keep pressing the paddle in the Skinner box with more predictability if you give it a randomized chance of getting a food pellet. If you give a pellet on every press, it will get bored and do something else, safe with the knowledge that it can always get a food pellet when it wants.

And it is with this knowledge that habits are encouraged to form. That piece of my soul that hopes for something that is just outside my grasp goes all the way back to childhood and youth. It’s a part of me that sees a beneficial change and actually believes it’s the hopeful prayer to an intercessory god that caused it. Random chance, coincidence, keep praying, keep attending, keep believing, keep visiting, keep clicking, keep dreaming, because something is just around the corner. I can just feel it. Keep believing!

That’s a part of me I want to kill sometimes. That kind of hope is an addiction. An addiction! There are better ways to live, more certain ways to live. More deterministic. More certain.

First Listen with KD5RCA

This weekend, I had my first experience with a VHF repeater. Looked up the repeater operated by the Four States Amateur Radio Club in Texarkana at 146.620 MHz. Didn’t make any contacts (because I don’t have a license, obviously), but I did get to hear some actual chatter and get a better sense for the protocol of on-air contacts. Even managed to listen in on their club meeting held on-air — a total happenstance discovery, but there’s no reason why radio clubs shouldn’t have their meetings on-air. Neato!

Aside from the club meeting on Thanksgiving night (I assume that’s because it’s a Thursday), there was a little bit of chatter during the day and early evening, but after night-night time for these old grempers, the repeater’s pretty quiet except for the automated Morse and voice announcements.

I hope the radio clubs in Austin are a little more…active.

Cymbalism

Everything is a symbol
Everything means something
Everything is a reaction to that which was a reaction immediately before.

And here I am, flying in my porcelain teapot over the fields of Orion.

From a distance o’er your red grass where you’re
Reading holy scripture from your matchbook turned to page 12
Stoking your love, Stroking your hate.

Mouths empty within the deafening roar of eyes and tears cryin’.

Distended throats and extended fingers
And stented hearts bleeding sick from time
And indelicate frontal lobotomies.

And we, drooling away memories over empty plates and static TV fashion.

Your palpable taste for noise
Distraction from common cause, common pain
He said, she said, we said, you said, nothing said.

Marching bands fighting to the death, their brass cymbals crashin’.

5232 Bad Sectors

On 10/27 at 2:30am, just 30 minutes before I needed to dial in to work to do an important maintenance, my personal computer did the worst thing possible: the hard disk shat its bed and died. Completely gone. Blindingly unreadable. I was sunk. All my data! This machine is mission-control for what I do in my hobbies and my life. If it’s gone, my life is interrupted. It’s critical.

I had no choice but to break out my work laptop and try to continue on a single tiny screen (as opposed to two big ones).

I keep backups on an external drive about once a month (usually before I leave town for a weekend), which is fine, mostly. But I use a tool called BackInTime (a FOSS clone of Apple’s Time Capsule) to keep daily snapshots. I had the sick feeling that I only backed up my home folder. Luckily, Drunk Sysadmin struck again a year ago and changed the backup policy to include the whole system instead of just my home folder.

So, along with all the stress of my job and the knowledge that the machine that I rely on is dead, remembering that I had whole-system backups, including all of the config files for the apps and services that I rely on with my desktop, made it a little easier to deal with.

After scrambling around for a fresh hard disk, I reinstalled with the latest Ubuntu LTS, created a temporary account, installed BackInTime, installed NFS so I could get back to my backup fileserver, and restored my entire home folder. Unfortunately, the policy doesn’t include my music or videos, but the external backup drive had all that, plus it was mostly already on my fileserver. So, after cobbling all the configs and files from scattered sources, it’s all back together.

46 hours after kernel panic due to failure to read the swap device, I have a functional desktop again. I’m back in business.

Kernel Panic shows failure to read swap device - dead drive

Kernel Panic shows failure to read swap device – dead drive

20161029-recovery

Everything’s there, and it looks just like before the crash.

Like I said, BackInTime saved my ass. You have nooo idea.

Hemisphere

There is still magic in the air. One must be a receiver to pick up on it. Right?

Shortwave Radio tuned to 6060KHz

Shortwave Radio

For what it’s worth, 6060KHz is also known as Radio Habana Cuba.

The magic of shortwave radio is that its broadcasts carry a long, long way. I’m able to hear broadcasts that happen in certain spots in this hemisphere. IN. THIS. HEMISPHERE. MAGICAL. So, yeah, I’ve always wanted a world radio, and now I have one. Okeechobee, FL, I got ya. Nashville, TN? Listening. North Carolina? Sure, talk to me about your god. Argentina? Yo no comprendo, pero yo escucho.

What’s interesting to note is that commercial shortwave radio in the USA is kinda boring. It’s mostly beacons and religious programming. How unfortunate! But hey, at least I can listen to WWV and get the exact time in places where my devices can’t pick up NTP (in this era of widespread cellular coverage, is that really a concern?).

Be that as it may, even if it’s boring here, I can take this radio into most countries and pick up something. Heck, the other night I picked up Radio NHK Japan, which was being simulcast from France. That’s a helluva DX, right? France!

If anything, I think buying this shortwave radio has ignited my latent desire to get a ham license. Who knows what the future holds? It’s not like I need a new hobby, but novelty is sorely missing from my life sometimes, right? Maybe I’ll find a new passion in the 2meter band.

Protip: WWV broadcasts on 2.5Mhz, 5MHz, 10MHz, 15MHz, 20MHz, and sometimes on 25MHz. I’ve successfully picked up 2.5, 5, 10, and 15 on Mount Bonnell in Austin. 20 is always fuzzy, if even detectable, and 25 is completely out on this radio set. It’s just not sensitive enough on the shorter wavelength bands.

Protip: Mount Bonnell isn’t the greatest vantage point for picking up SW broadcasts. Sure, it’s one of the highest elevations in Austin, but it’s in direct line of sight of the nearby radio tower range in Westlake where the local AM channels broadcast, so their signals interfere and bleed into SW broadcasts. Ah well.