Mini-Me Mario Kart

August 15, 2019 9:15pm
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Today ended up turning into kind of a disappointing day, so instead of writing about that I thought I’d share something a little more fun…

The last couple of nights I’ve been playing Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U with David & Christopher to entertain them while Matthew has his therapy, and they’re not quite there yet, but it’s still surprisingly fun!

I’ve found that I have to take all of the controllers while we’re getting the game setup because otherwise they’ll push random buttons and back us out of whatever I just finished doing, and occasionally both of them will still get caught up with pressing the Home button that interrupts the game when they start getting bored.

But they really enjoy choosing characters because they get to pick whoever they want – even if they both end up wanting the same one, which is super helpful! Christopher has been playing Mario a lot, though he switched to Princess Peach (and knew her by name?!), while David primarily enjoys being “the monster” (Bowser) and thinks it’s hilarious to see such a huge character riding a motorcycle with a parachute that looks like himself!

I think one place where this game has really shined – on both the Wii and the Wii U – is that it looks beautiful with tons of detail in the background, so when I noticed on multiple occasions as we raced one of the beach tracks that they weren’t actually going anywhere and asked if everything was ok, I got the response, “We’re watching the fish swim by!” which was pretty cool to hear how amused they were by something as simple as the background art!

Truth be told, neither of them ends up getting very far around the track, and when Christopher finally complete a few laps the other night it was because he kept getting “rockets” (Bullet Bill items) to move him ahead, but for 15-20 minutes at a time they seem to really enjoy it, and I can get them to get along by choosing which tracks we’re going to do together, and overall they’re relatively quiet which is about the best that I’ve come to expect for a house with three boys and an obnoxious dog. 😉

I need to go back through my collection to see what others we could branch out into next.

What would you tell your past self???

July 17, 2019 1:31am
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I had kind of an interesting dream last night…

I had met up with my scout troop in the middle of an outing, and randomly I asked them how they fared enduring the hurricane! This was somewhat shocking to them because as we talked, we quickly came to realize that the terrible storm that I was asking about … hadn’t actually happened yet.

I woke up shortly after that, so I didn’t really get to see how this new knowledge of the future would actually play out, but it got me thinking while I was laying there trying to fall back asleep – if I was able to tell myself something at a specific point in my past, what would I say?

“I know that you feel broken and alone and hopeless right now, and I’d be lying if I said that you weren’t going to feel this way for a while, but eventually it will pass and you’ll meet someone who completes you in ways that you can’t even fathom right now, and everything is going to be ok.”

“I know that having kids is the last thing on your mind right now, but someday you’re going to be a Dad. It’s going to be a very hard road to get there and you’re going to spend a lot of money and relationships with the people around you will change, but everything is going to be ok.”

“I know that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to postpone moving across the country for just one more year, but there’s so much more out there for you than this little town has to offer and you really need to spread your wings and explore and be around a diverse populace. Take the leap – everything is going to be ok.”

I found it intriguing that regardless of the scenario that I considered, I didn’t really have much in terms of new advice to tell myself for the past. The best that I could do was offer that hint of reassurance that despite how terrible struggles like heartbreak and infertility and moving away from home seemed at the time, somehow in hindsight everything had its way of working out ok.

One of my favorite quotes along these lines right now goes something like this…

“Never forget that so far you’ve survived 100% of the worst days of your life that you’ve ever had.”

It’s still hard to think about in the moment, though, so maybe we need to get to work on figuring out time travel just the same. 😉

So to any sysadmins who do this kind of stuff on a daily basis, this is going to seem way obvious, but for somebody who doesn’t and has been struggling with this literally for months … let’s just say I’m pretty happy to finally have figured this out!

Also, this post is mostly for documentation’s sake so that I have a place to look back to when I need to do it again sometime many moons into the future…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year already since I migrated my Plex server off of my old desktop hardware over to a proper rackmount server. Or at least Plex itself migrated, while the bevy of hard drives that 50+ TB of media lives on still resides in that aged and ever-waning PC.

Anyways, last June when I made the big leap to server-grade hardware, I only had a single hard drive to run VMs from for the new machine. For simplicity’s sake, I set it up as a RAID 0, single disk array, with the understanding that I could “easily” add more disks a few months later and re-configure that array into a more resilient RAID 5.

In fact, according to Amazon I did buy two more drives to use for said purpose in September 2018.

And just yesterday I finally got them working!

You see, it was probably too easy for me to setup that initial RAID 0 array via the new server’s BIOS. At the time, it seemed simple enough to add more drives to the pool and then reconfigure the array itself.

But one thing I’ve learned somewhat painfully since I first set this server up is that everything is more picky than that. Versions have to line up with the hardware, and older versions lack features supported by newer versions, even while they’re all being supported by the companies in parallel. This isn’t really news to me, but it’s certainly something that I never had to scrutinize to this extent.

With my old desktop server…

  1. Connect new hard drive.
  2. Find it in the CentOS Disks GUI, quick format it, and mount it.

With my new server…

  1. Connect new hard drive.
  2. Try to add it to my RAID pool via the RAID controller, but you can’t.
  3. Try to add it via ESXi, but you can’t.
  4. Try to connect via Dell OpenManage, but I didn’t install the server-side software in ESXi right because Dell’s support page for this server only goes up to ESXi 6.0 even though I’m running 6.5 and then I finally find the right software on a support doc found via Google.
  5. Try to connect via Dell OpenManage, but they only make a Windows client so I have to find a laptop to do that.
  6. Try to connect via Dell OpenManage, but the server doesn’t have a certificate and the login failure doesn’t mention that this is a big deal, so you just guess until you see a checkbox mentioning ignoring that and finally it works!
  7. Add new disks to RAID pool and reconfigure from RAID 0 to RAID 5 … and wait a very long time.
  8. Worry that I didn’t make backups of my VMs because I couldn’t figure out how to do it precisely the entire time.
  9. Try to expand virtual disk via ESXi now that the extra space is available, but it still doesn’t see it.
  10. Confirm via Dell OpenManage that the reconfigure is definitely done now and showing the extra space as available.
  11. Wait until 1:30am when nobody is using Plex and just reboot the whole thing, just in case.
  12. Try to expand virtual disk via ESXi, and now it sees it!
  13. Allocate additional space to new VM and reboot that VM, but it does nothing.
  14. Spend an hour Googling for instructions about how to allocate the new space inside of the guest OS until I finally found this random support post that ends up working not unlike magic!
  15. Verify that the new disk space is finally ready to use in the VM, and then debate whether it’s going to be enough or if I should’ve bought yet another disk just in case…

I mean, looking back logically it does make sense – first add the physical drives, then add them to the RAID pool, then rebuild the RAID array, then add new space to the Virtual Disk, then allocate the new space to a specific VM, then update the VM to recognize its new resources … maybe I was just hoping it would be slightly more seamless, even if only in parts! 😛

If anything, I guess it should be a tad easier the next time around, and now that I’ve gotten the bugs worked out of OpenManage, that alone is one less headache to worry about.

That said, I don’t want to rely on my work laptop for managing this server (and others down the road) indefinitely, so it also means I need to put together some sort of Windows box to sit in the corner and collect dust until it’s needed once in a blue moon…

Still, my Plex environment … minus the media itself … now lives on a cushy, new RAID 5 array that could sustain a single disk failure without missing a beat, plus I’ve got some extra cushion for downloading new stuff to boot.

Not too shabby for only ten months worth of work!

FML – Gardening Edition

July 15, 2019 2:35am
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Have I mentioned that I hate working on my yard???

So we got a letter or two from our HOA earlier this year about the garden in front of our house being unkempt, and so like any other parent of three working two jobs with barely any free time to catch my breath, I put it off as long as humanly possible until I finally got that last letter which basically says, “Come on, buddy – you don’t want to know what happens next if you keep ignoring us…”

And so back in March or April or something, I busted my butt sweating it out in temperatures that were only a fraction of the fiery ones we’re seeing now. I probably raked up three or four bags of leaves and acorns and old mulch (?) from that stupid garden, only to then spend another sweaty afternoon spreading ten or so bags of mulch across the reasonably barren garden that I’m forced to keep on my tiny, suburban plot.

It sucked, but once it was behind me I didn’t think much of it until a couple of weeks ago when I got not one, but two copies of the same letter from the HOA’s attorney!

WHA???

This pissed me off because as far as I knew, we were done back in April when I spent more physical activity than I put in all year long slaving away in that garden, yet here was the same complaint as before – only now with the added fun of legal damages, should the HOA choose to either have someone do the work for me (I wish!) or just take me to court for further scolding and to threaten to put a lien on my house over some fucking weeds in the fucking garden.

You see, the sneaky thing about weeds is that they’re plants, so even when you do pull them, they have a tendency to just grow right back!

So to speed this story along so that I can go to bed, I’ve been fighting with this stupid garden some more in whatever hours I can find, which are pretty limited between jobs and kids and the heat and the rain and nighttime. I actually went back out tonight because it had just been too damn hot when I tried earlier, and I thought I was making some progress as I was digging a whole for one of the miscellaneous shrubberies to go into when after fighting with a root for far too long, I took a closer inspection in said dark and instead came to find out…

I CUT THE SPRINKLER LINE WITH MY SHOVEL.

Tomorrow I have a call with this lawyer to answer the questions I have about this boilerplate legal threat that they sent on behalf of my HOA.

really hope that he’s nice. Or at least that he knows a thing or two about how to repair a broken sprinkler pipe.

An Emotional Day

June 19, 2019 12:11pm
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I know that I haven’t really blogged in a while, but yesterday was kind of crazy in a number of unexpected ways that really shook me, so I thought I’d take a minute to get a few things out of my head and off into the world…

The Ever-Rising Cost of Magic
First and foremost, yesterday Disney raised their prices for annual passes at Disney World. Again. Like clockwork.

This is after another 10% raise in the fall, so in less than 12 months the cost of our passes is going up 25%.

And that, coupled with the fact that this fall David and Matthew will turn three and also need passes, has been really concerned and sad that I’m not sure if we can afford to go to Disney World anymore. 

This is a subject that I’ve written about before, ironically from a previous rate hike that we were able to endure, however our financial situation has gotten tighter with autism therapies for two of the kids and just rising costs of everything, and where I stand right now, it just seems financially irresponsible to spend $5,000/year on theme park tickets when we’ve got so many other bills stacking up. Even with a monthly payment plan, that’s over $400/month … which is basically like a car payment!

And of course, that doesn’t even cover everything once we get in the door – snacks are more expensive, meals for five are more expensive than meals were for two … Disney becomes a much different world when you transition from Dual Income, No Kids to 1.3 Income, Several Kids!

It breaks my heart, and also somewhat enrages me, to see Disney making billions in profit off of their family theme parks each year while they continue to make it more difficult for families to enjoy them. And yet being so overcrowded, they’re actually hoping some guests like me will back off and go less to ease up on crowds for everyone else!

In part, this is a sliver of a much bigger issue as we come to terms with how expensive it is to raise kids with special needs, but for right now the whole thing just makes me really, really sad.

The Head Dickhead Comes to Town
This one is funny because he wasn’t even in my town, but I kind of look at Orlando as a second hometown and I love how socially progressive they are over there … so it was surprisingly bothering to know that Trump was in Orlando last night, spewing his lies and disgusting rhetoric and getting his base all riled up with absolute nonsense.

As I looked at the coverage from the Orlando Sentinel, I think a big part of what bothered me about it was seeing all of those people en masse who are willing to look past all of the terrible things he’s done to our country in favor of a more crude reality with occasionally better financial performance. For some.

It’s like seeing the country still struggling with things like race and gender and sexual identity, only to elect the guy who spent three years accusing the black president of being a Muslim, and now his last three years trying to ban Muslims, and continuing to make light of sexual assault, and moving the needle backwards in terms of LGBTQ acceptance … it’s hard enough seeing the guy at the top preaching so much hatred and bigotry, but to then pan back and see all of his followers who still agree with those toxic views.

I already have concerns that we might see this douche elected to another term, so to see his people rallying and cheering their own hatred for anyone different than themselves on just makes my skin crawl.

Artistic Beauty
At around 1:30am, after all of that, I was reminded of this new video on The Try Guys channel that I wanted to watch about Try Guy Eugene Lee Yang coming out to the world…

I’ll be completely honest that I felt like there was a lot that went over my head the first time that I watched it, but I knew that it was something special so I wanted to know more. And this behind the scenes video that they did really brought things into focus, both in showing more of the passion behind the project itself as well as helping to spell out the artistic vision for each of the scenes to really show the growth, and the pain, and the beauty in the process of coming out as a queer person.

At one point, someone is quoted as saying that it’s more of an ongoing process than an event, which makes a lot of sense and left me feeling even more sympathetic for the ordeal.

Later I watched a video of a gay man reacting to Eugene’s video – in tears most of the time – and it hit home the gravity of why the video has been so well received after only a few days.

This year I’ve found myself more tuned in to Pride Month than I have in the past, and I think a lot of it is out of an unspoken obligation to stand on the right side of this divide in this moment in time. I don’t necessary know how to do more, but I feel like I need to do something because I’m absolutely repulsed by how the LGBTQ community is looked down on by people, and the whole “straight pride” counter movement, and how we still have so many people around us who consider LGBTQ folks to be lesser people than they are.

And a lot of them don’t even realize it.

Comments like “I’m fine with the gays, but they don’t need to rub it in our faces…” and beliefs that equal rights for LGBTQ means more rights than they have themselves. We have elected officials who openly campaign on the ideals of religious freedoms that almost always mean undermining the rights of this group to exist in the community. They make themselves the victims because they’re afraid of people who are different from them … and I just don’t have any tolerance for that in my life anymore.

I think that’s a big part about why I was so offended by Trump’s rally because it’s like getting together tens of thousands of these terrible people who think that they’re incredible patriots for standing with the president, yet the disregard that they have for their fellow Americans is anything but patriotic.

Anyways, watching Eugene’s amazing video was breathtaking and inspiring and beautiful, and it also served as a reminder that we still have a long ways to go.

Which at the moment is exhausting.

Dream Journal : Passholder Kerfuffle

March 21, 2019 9:47am
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Last night I dreamed that I was trying to renew my Disney World Annual Pass, but the girl at the counter couldn’t figure out how to ring it up and thought that I was making up the name of what I wanted and was generally just being a pest.

After four or five different cast members tried to help, with the line growing larger and larger behind us … consisting mostly of strollers, a manager wanted us to just charge it to our room to get the transaction over with.

Which wouldn’t work because I explained that I wanted monthly payments and I wasn’t planning on staying at the resort for the next 12 months… 😛

We finally gave up and walked away, shortly thereafter realizing that we’d left one of the kids sleeping in his stroller under the Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom and had to go find him!

So how was your February?

February 28, 2019 2:12pm
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I feel like this month went by really fast.

And I’m honestly not sure how much I can say that I actually got accomplished, but for what it’s worth, the last handful of days have felt a little less stressful.

Not significantly less, but maybe from an 8 down to a 6? I’ll take it.

I’m looking forward to a couple of big things coming up in March, and also hoping that they don’t kick my stress level back up into overdrive! I already started making some changes in my diet, and I’ve been getting to bed a little earlier than usual, so my real goal is to continue with that stuff while also getting a bit more work done than I did for February.

Plus, March is Christopher’s birthday month, and we’re working on throwing him a monorail birthday, so I think that’s going to be super fun to plan for the end of the month!

It’s really weird – parts of my life are still running fast and others have slowed down … trying to make some sense of it and if anything, shift more parts into that slow column as we move forward. I think it’s gotten to the point where I’ve been living this high stress life for so long that now it feels bizarre when I’m idle. To that extent, I’m trying to rely on my to-do list more and keep it to a limited number of things each day so that I have realistic goals to shoot for.

I could sit here and psychoanalyze it ’til the cows come home … in February money wasn’t as tight thanks to our tax refund, I’ve spent more time doing fun stuff, I even did a little physical activity earlier this week raking leaves … but at the end of the day I just want to try to find a better balance where I can say I did some good work, I got some good family time in, I took care of myself, and I did some stuff just because I enjoy it.

I need to go find me some tea so I can wrap up this last day of February and get to work at making March great…

Funko Mania!

February 26, 2019 11:37am
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I just realized how many pre-orders I have right now for upcoming Funko Pops … this is getting kind of ridiculous!

Come on, Honeywell…

February 25, 2019 2:39am
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So you may have heard that recently I had to blow a bunch of money on a new air conditioner.

One of the very small silver linings that I was looking forward to, or so I thought, was the idea that with my entire system being replaced, I could finally get one of those cool smart thermostats that you can control from your phone and whatnot. I talked about it with the people who replaced my AC and although apparently they’re not big fans of the super-popular Nest thermostat, they instead had a Honeywell model that was said to have most of the same features and was a little bit cheaper to boot…

I say that with some frustration because two weeks later, I can’t actually use any of the smart features of my new smart thermostat.

Why?

Because Honeywell opted to not follow the security standards for connecting their thermostats to wifi!

More specifically, the thermostat uses WPA2 encryption … the most common form of wifi encryption in use right now … except that whereas normally WPA2 allows for a passphrase of 64 characters, Honeywell for some reason limits WPA2 passphrases in their thermostats to only 32 characters.

And guess whose wifi password is 58 characters long?! Mine!

So I reached out to Honeywell via their website, thinking that either A) maybe there was a firmware update that I could apply to fix this … though not sure how I would download it, or more likely B) maybe this was just a problem with older models of their thermostats and they could recommend a different one that my guy could swap this one out for…

No. Such. Luck.

It kind of shocks me that a company as big as Honeywell would take such a lackadaisical approach towards security. I mean, as the Internet of Things (I still hate that name!) grows by leaps and bounds, we’re always hearing of new compromises where thousands of devices at a time get added to gigantic botnets. And really, it’s a standard … so why would they expect users to just make shorter passwords because they didn’t feel like following it???

I suppose the easy solution would be for me to follow the rep above’s instructions and shorten my wifi password, but I’m not going to do that. For starters, it would be a huge pain in the ass to update the passwords for every device around the house connected to my wifi, and also, I shouldn’t have to do that to add a new IOT device that’s supposed to be making my life easier!

I guess I could also go back to my AC installer and try to explain to him why his preferred thermostat doesn’t work for me, and when I contacted Honeywell that was actually going to be my plan, but unfortunately knowing that this is an issue that plagues every thermostat that Honeywell makes, I know that he’s not going to have anything to change it out with anyways, and he hates Nest so if I twist his arm to give me one of those, it’s just going to make troubleshooting issues down the road a nightmare.

Ultimately I think what I’ve decided to do is just leave unconnected thermostats lie for the time being.

Eventually I want to upgrade the wifi in our house to a Ubiquiti router and access points, and from what I can tell those support setting up multiple SSIDs … at that point, I can actually make a completely separate VLAN just for IOT devices to keep them away from my servers and everything else … so I suppose my plan will be to do that, and just for this stupid Honeywell thermostat, I’ll create one SSID with a less secure passphrase that’s only 32 characters long so that the thermostat can actually use it.

Until then, I’ve got this swell red alert light that won’t turn off unless I disable it altogether to remind me that my new smart thermostat isn’t nearly as smart as it claims to be… 🙁

If anyone is curious for reference, the thermostat I have is a Honeywell Wi-Fi VisionPRO 8000 – part #TH8321WF1001.

And if anyone from Honeywell happens to stumble across this blog post, please for the love of god ask your developers why they aren’t following security standards for something as simple as this! If I were you, it’d make me wonder what other corners they’ve been cutting, too… 😯

pet peeves – Top Posts vs Recent Posts

February 24, 2019 1:30pm
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I’m getting really tired of algorithms deciding what they think I want to see on social media.

LinkedIn is the worst because it’s literally still showing me posts that I’ve seen a dozen times from 3 – 4 weeks ago. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t have enough content to push me … this honestly wouldn’t surprise me because I’ve also noticed that LinkedIn in particular has lots of pre-written posts that it suggests for telling people congratulations and whatnot, which to me just seems lazy.

Twitter has had this problem for a while, but at least the volumes there are so much higher that it’s a lot less frequent.

As for Facebook, I honestly can’t say how much of a problem it is there … advertising is more my frustration on Facebook because I swear I just think of something and five minutes later they’re serving me ads about it.

At the end of the day, all of these behaviors just remind me that these sites exist primarily to make money off of their users, with actual interaction between users being a distant second … or maybe even third?

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