30 September, 2007

The U.S. vs. John Lennon



I you haven't watched this movie, you should do so ASAP.

Also, G. Gordon Liddy is a douchebag.

wtf?



I didn't know the Pentagon hired trans-genders. Maybe I've been wrong all along about the administration.

Oh, wait.. "I hate all Iranians." Looks matches the ideology.

28 September, 2007

Datacenter Confidential #8

Vindication!

What is this?
INFO   | jvm 1    | 2007/09/28 02:20:33 | 2:20:33> |||| [inprogress/] S! 
[clown]/1/gg_cars-com.product.spd5//-1/1{t:119 c:gg-cw01.dev.COMPANY
p:100.30 ems:3839652 qms:28414413
I'll tell you what that is.. that's Java running our application on Free-fucking-BSD, that's what..

How you like them apples, Product Manager?

23 September, 2007

Iran..

Wondering where to find resources online to help in the struggle to defend the sovereignty of Iran against criminal mad-men Bush and Cheney?

Look no further: http://www.iransolidarity.endofempire.org/

If you live in New York, or you simply love the first amendment, please let this scumbag know:
As the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, prepares to address Columbia University today amid a storm of student protest, state and city lawmakers say they are considering withholding public funds from the school to protest its decision to invite the leader to campus.

In an interview with The New York Sun, the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, said lawmakers, outraged over Columbia's insistence on allowing the Iranian president to speak at its World Leaders Forum, would consider reducing capital aid and other financial assistance to the school.
Regarding the World Trade Center debacle, in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wanted to place a wreath of mourning from the Iranian People on Ground Zero, well, why not? I think that's nice. Iranians held vigils after 9/11/2001 for the victims, and offered material and "spiritual" support.

The only real problem we have ever had with Iran is conflicting views of who should control what oil interests in the region. This is why we backed the Shah's illegal coup against a democratically elected government in 1953. This is why in 1979 when the public resentment for the brutal lawless leadership of the corrupt, US-backed Shah government reached a boiling point, US government officials and citizens were captured.

To say that Iran is the enemy of the US is backward, the US is the enemy of Iran. That we continue to bait and taunt them, to drum up our war rhetoric against them, is further proof that foreign policy in this country is off the rails. Statecraft no longer embraces a philosophy of valuing democracy, freedom, human rights and the betterment of all mankind but focuses on the allocation and distribution of wealth and resources, and being the biggest gorilla on the top of the mound.

KBR and Halliburton are considered by our corrupt government as having more rights than a human being. How more obvious can this be? Look at this Blackwater business. Bush claims to believe in a religiously revealed Truth of the Culture of Life, yet he holds back a helping hand when real, living people needed it in New Orleans and he attacks and kills with the other hand in the Middle East in a war of choice for control of oil and a support of the Biblical prophecies regarding the fictional battle of Armaggeddon.

So why wouldn't we let one fanatical, religiously aligned leader speak in New York city when we allow criminals like Bush to do the same there all the time? Why don't we ban Bush from using Ground Zero as a bully pulpit if we won't allow a world leader to make a gesture of mourning and solidarity there?

ETA - of course, as Fmr Ambassador Peter Galbraith will tell you, the Iran situation is complicated.

21 September, 2007

Datacenter Confidential #7

As if I needed more evidence that the Project Manager title was a secret cabal intent on interfering the the affairs of operations personnel I give you the following example:

This morning the same project manager described in Datacenter Confidential #6 sent an email to my boss complaining about, well, let's put it in his own words:
We’re running short on PROJECTNAME grid machines. I wonder if we have a status on PROJECTGRIDWORKER, which went down few weeks ago. Also, is it possible to run Linux on PROJECTMYSQLSERVER? It appears that in order to run our java programs on it, we have to modify/port the underlying scripts. We’re really have no time to do such a thing. It will be much easier if all grid machines are consistent and run on standard operating system. I’d strongly recommend we standardize on Linux for all of our production and development grid/non grid, as it is consistent and seems to be the industry standard.

We need a couple of machines to be configured for golden gate grid with sufficient memory and horse power ASAP. Can you please help us?
Regarding the shortage of grid machines, well, we have an RMA out to the vendor on the missing worker. Regarding resources, we can and will order extra RAM for all the machines. Regarding running Linux of PROJECTMYSQLSERVER, the answer is a resounding NO.

This is a development environment, and there were 6 machines purchased for it. The specifications for the hardware were clear, three of these machines would have RAID storage built in, and three would serve as JVM "workers", or dumb machines running java processes which would populate the various MySQL databases on the other three large storage servers.

These machines were purchased months ago, and per the production standards, the JVM "workers" run Debian GNU/Linux and the MySQL servers run FreeBSD 6.2.

The Project Manager is raising a stink because he wants to run a JVM on the FreeBSD machines. Luckily, I have solved this problem, and in fact run JVMs on FreeBSD machines in production. I have even gone through the trouble of changing the startup scripts for the wrapper utility we use to control JVM processes to play nice with either BSD or Linux. I have even checked this code into the source revision control system, Perforce, for the exact reason of avoiding such petty OS related debates.

Yet the Project Manager wants to "standardize" to Linux.

I for one am all for homogeny. I truly am. But I will be damned if I let some Project Manager tell me what I am and am not going to run on the machines I am responsible for maintaining. So I sent this to my boss:
my boss Ahh, if only it was so simple. I will be meeting with PROJECT MANAGER. Maybe you want to join.
Not really. If a someone above me wants to tell me what OS to run, they will be receiving my badge, keys and laptop. It is absolutely a waste of time for E-staff to even be discussing this, and if PROJECT MANAGER is not satisfied with what I tell him my operating environment is then that is cause for me to officially complain about cross-departmental interference or obstructionism. My word on this is the law, and if E-staff does not agree, they are free to remedy that however they can. I cannot be any more clear or unequivocal about it. PROJECT MANAGER needs to stop wasting my time, your time and THE CTO's time. Moreover, I will not tolerate E-staff second guessing trivial details such as this: that is the very definition of micro-management, and I will not be micro-managed. Feel free to convey my feelings on this matter however you deem appropriate.
Once I had a few hours to cool off, I drafted this response and sent it to my boss:
There are a number of OS choices available to technology companies running a Java Development Platform, ranging from MS Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Solaris, FreeBSD 5.4, FreeBSD 6.2, Linux 2.4 Kernel, Linux 2.6 Kernel as well as platform choices like Intel X86 32-bit, AMD X86 64-bit, SPARC or even IA64 (Tru-64).

More confounding, Linux offers literally scores of distribution choices, the most popular of which range from fully-commercial, for-pay distributions like Red Hat and Novell SuSE, or free varieties like Gentoo, Fedora-Core, Debian and Ubuntu.

Unfortunately, choosing one distribution over another, or even Linux over BSD in many case, is not as simple as making an arbitrary choice for an overall common operating environment unless you are not vendor agnostic; moreover licensing, and therefore budget concerns play a role in the choice. For the latter reason we have shied away from embracing Red Hat, SuSE or Solaris X86 due to the cost of licensing the number of CPUs we use.

What is also oftentimes the case is that new hardware, or varying system hardware configurations do not allow all distributions or operating environments to even install or run correctly: in many cases, we had to make distribution choices based on what would run on a system at the time the machine was needed rather than what we would have preferred.

One thing is true in the arguments for BSD versus Linux, and that is that in the majority of cases, CPUs, boards and peripheral support is more mature and support is more universal and standardized in the BSD kernel than in Linux, meaning that often newer hardware will not even run Linux. This has been the case in production nearly half a dozen times. For instance, the Sun AMD Opteron servers officially supported Red Hat and SuSE originally, we have three unlicensed SuSE servers and one FreeBSD server on the X4200 platform. By the time we acquired the X4100 and X2100 servers, Sun had added support for Ubuntu, which is based on the Debian distribution and packaging system, and is ostensibly free. The Dell 2950 servers, which are Intel 64-bit platform, would not, at the time we purchased them, run any current, non-beta or non-development Linux distribution freely available: not debian, not Fedora, not Gentoo, not Ubuntu, etc. As a result, those machines are all FreeBSD. Which is good, because the stated purpose of those machines are to run MySQL, and MySQL always runs on FreeBSD because that is the industry standard, and more subjectively but just as significantly, that is our standard. FREEBSDSERVER1, a content window, is a SuperMicro Intel-based 64-bit server and also would not run any Linux, so it too runs FreeBSD. I am sure there are more modern Linux distributions that would run on these machines if we installed them today, but that would not change the environment for the Dells and we are not going to take down a content window to satisfy a Linux-leaning operating environment preference.

A note about Debian Linux: newer machines and newer Linux distributions mesh better, which is why we run Debian on LINUXSERVER1 and LINUXSERVER2, and Ubuntu on LINUXSERVER3, LINUXSERVER4 and LINUXWORKER1, LINUXWORKER2, LINUXWORKER3 and LINUXWORKER4 (because these are Sun systems and they do not support Debian). Debian is a natural choice over Red Hat (commercial, bloated) and SuSE (ditto), as well as Fedora Core (bloated) or some lesser distribution such as Gentoo, etc, because Debian has better package management, and the package maintainers are more responsive. That we continue to run Red Hat and Fedora Core in production is only a function of legacy, and as always as machines running FC or RH are aged out, they will be replaced with either Debian or Ubuntu Linux, or FreeBSD.

In fact, there are few or any arguments not to run a uniformly FreeBSD environment except for legacy binary issues such as SVM, i18n, Chasen, Sleepycat and so on. One of the arguments in favor of Linux touches the UFS/FFS versus ext3 or ReiserFS debate. It is true, ext3 is somewhat faster than UFS/FFS, but ext3 is also less stable and therefore more dangerous than UFS/FFS, more so with ReiserFS. The choice, then, is clear when data-protection is made a priority, as it is in our architecture. ReiserFS is something we have used to side-step the need for an inode table for filesystems, allowing a filesystem to grow to hundreds of millions of objects in some cases. More recently, however, we have made a decision to move away from this model for several reasons: loss of objects is a very real threat with ReiserFS, filesystems with that many objects are hard to manage (move, transfer, archive) and filesystems over a certain number of gigabytes are undesirable for this same reason, not to mention Lucene has a limit of X number of objects and Y number of gigabytes it can reasonably be expected to manage per index. And, obviously, Lucene is effectively agnostic about UFS/FFS versus ext3 because the indeces are held in large files where platter RPM is as much a factor as the relative speed of the filesystem for I/O, and Lucene's "MAILDIR" type object store format allows fast-traversal of actual objects (eg, files). I'm fairly certain that if we tested a UFS Lucene index versus an ext3 index, the speeds would be marginally different, or at least within acceptable parameters.

So, in fact, the question of what the standard is can be answered succinctly enough for the sanity of upper management and project managers: if the platform allows, the OS will be one of Debian Linux or Ubuntu Linux, except for MySQL servers, which will run FreeBSD. All other machines will run FreeBSD, unless there is a package dependency that requires a Microsoft platform; however the onus is on project management to remove all Microsoft dependencies and that objective has been in place since 2005. All other distributions and platforms are supported as legacy platforms to be aged out and replaced with one of the above stated platforms.

Hopefully I have made myself clear on this issue and we can put this to rest. Thank you and have a good weekend.
Hopefully this will shut down the Project Manager interference into my fiefdom. Or, you will see me soon blogging about job hunting in the Bay Area.

For the Record

If you are a "pro-blogger" you are a columnist.

Saying "pro-blogger" is like saying "professional amateur."

goofballs has spoken!

(Watch this come back to bite me later.)

19 September, 2007

START THE RIOT


Here is a link to an interview with Reverend Lennox Yearwood, the man illegally battered and politically imprisoned by fascists in the video above. Government should fear the people not the other way around. Revolution now.

Vodka, again

Apparently (and it comes as no surprise, again), I can list as an intellectual ally one Anthony Bourdain:
Chocolate martini: Both chocolate and liquor are good in bars, but ordering them together announces that you don't like or appreciate either. Anyone who requests this drink should also get a T-shirt that says "I am an asshole, please take my money."
Chef Bourdain has been known to guest blog over at Michael Ruhlman's site, who is a fellow Clevelander. And of course the Bourdain quote is a direct ideological validation of my previously stated thoughts regarding the state of the modern cocktail in general and "status" vodkas in particular.

18 September, 2007

Goofballs Music Reviews #2

Here is the playlist and text of the "liner-notes" I am sending to my Aunt and Uncle in upstate New York. Briefly, on background, I used to send them tapes when I was much younger. My Aunt, who was then a school teacher for troubled children, would play my mixes and discuss them with her students. My Aunt, my Father's Sister, has always demonstrated a greater appreciation for music I deemed "cool" or "relevant" than my actual parents, probably as a result of dealing with a large number of individuals in my age group.

---
JANE & TED'S EXCELLENT MIXTAPE (AHEM, CD) 2007 EDITION

PROGRAMME A:

01) The District Sleeps Alone Tonight / The Postal Service / "GIVE UP" 04:44
02) Easy On Yourself / The Drive-by Truckers / "A BLESSING AND A CURSE" 03:28
03) Don't Leave the Light on Baby / Belle and Sebastian / "FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT"
04:28
04) Between The Bars / Elliott Smith / "EITHER/OR" 02:21
05) Just Like Anyone / Aimee Mann / "BACHELOR NO. 2" 01:21
06) Arabian Knights / Siouxsie & the Banshees / "JUJU" 03:07
07) Misery is a Butterfly / Blonde Redhead, "MISERY IS A BUTTERFLY" 05:08
08) Family Tree / Belle and Sebastian / "FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT"
04:04

PROGRAMME B:

09) Feb 14 / The Drive-by Truckers / "A BLESSING AND A CURSE" 03:41
10) Crooked Teeth / Death Cab for Cutie / "PLANS" 03:25
11) Spellbound / Siouxsie & the Banshees / "JUJU" 03:17
12) Angeles / Elliott Smith / "EITHER/OR" 02:57
13) Faded From Winter / Iron and Wine / "THE CREEK DRANK THE CRADLE" 03:18
14) Two of Us / Aimee Mann / "I AM SAM SOUNDTRACK" 03:32
15) Waiting for the Moon to Rise / Belle and Sebastian / "FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT"
03:12
16) Each Coming Night / Iron and Wine / "OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS" 03:28
17) Rose Parade / Elliott Smith / "EITHER/OR" 03:28

It seems like 20 years since I have done a mix tape for you guys, and I'm pretty sure that's not too far of an
exaggeration. So it is approriate, then, that this compilation comprise of three decades of music from the 1980s
to today, to quote just about every generic Clear Channel owned "Lite Rock / Less Talk" venue in a city near you.

The mix begins with the opening track to 2003's "GIVE UP" by The Postal Service, a side-project of Death Cab for
Cutie vocalist Ben Gibbard and producer Jimmy Tamborello. "GIVE UP" features tightly crafted pop melodies over
obsessively tweaked pops and beeps of modern electronica. The LP features the ubiquituous single "Such Great Heights"
which is featured in a number of television advertisements, including the introductory "thrive" campaign of
Kaiser-Permanente, and has been covered far and wide, most noteably by Iron and Wine, whose acoustic version is
featured on the "Garden State Soundtrack".

We move on to Athens, Georgia rockers "The Drive-by Truckers" with their song "Easy on Yourself" from 2006's
"A BLESSING AND A CURSE". The band is lead by Patterson Hood, son of a Muscle Schoals studio player, and was
founded in 1996. The band has been cranking out one superb record after another of pitch-perfect Southern-
rock and country influenced music ever since. Their "SOUTHERN ROCK OPERA" 2-CD set is an essential for any
serious Y'allternative (alt country) fan.

"FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK LIKE A PEASANT" marks the return-to-form of "chamber pop" mavens
Belle and Sebastian, and "Don't Leave the Light on Baby" is probably as close to personal band
leader Stuart Murdoch tends to get in terms of songwriting, following his breakup with former bandmate,
cellist and vocalist Isobel Campbell (who has since enjoyed a successful solo career).

The next song is the cellphone ringtone for someone very special to me. Honest. Isn't technology great?

Aimee Mann is an indie heroine, former leader of 80s pop group "Till Tuesday", who saved up enough money to buy
back her back-catalog from Geffen later in her career and maintains sole rights on all of her music to this
day. She is married to composer and pop artist Michael Penn, brother to Sean and the late Chris Penn. Mann
gained a recent bump in popularity with the 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson film "Magnolia" by scoring the entire
soundtrack. Anderson and Penn had previously worked together on "Boogie Nights," and Mann had worked with
Anderson's then-girlfriend Fiona Apple.

Siouxsie and the Banshees was a post-Punk art-rock band popular in the 1980s lead by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux,
and was formed in 1976 as a last-minute fill-in for a UK punk rock festival. The band has (some say unjustifiably)
been given the post-hoc genre designation of "goth" (although old coots like me still refer to that genre as
"death rock"), along with other post-punk icons such as The Cure and Bauhaus. The "goth" designation emphasised
style often over substance, two qualities that are not at all lacking in the music and stage presence of
Siouxsie and the Banshees.

A more modern version of the highly stylized music of Siouxsie and the Banshees might be the art-rock trio
Blonde Redhead comprised of members Simone and Amedeo Pace and Kazu Makino. Their first album was produced by
Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. Sonic Youth is the famed New York City punk, post-punk outfit comprised
also of bassist and vocalist Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. As in the 1960s with the Velevet Underground,
Sonic Youth is both a cool-barometer and a cool-magnet.

Death Cab for Cutie lead by frontman Ben Gibbard has been recording for a decade and shot to "post-indie"
superstardom with the inclusion of several of their songs on the popular television drama (dramedy? trageo-comi-
drama? soap opera for teenagers?) "The O. C.", a show about a bunch of dumb, rich white kids getting into
fistfights and car crashes with sexy results. Regardless, the pop stylings of Gibbard and company are
unassailable, and they deserve all that fame and fortune.

Iron and Wine is singer/songwriter Sam Beam. A native of South Carolina, Beam plays guitar, banjo, slide
guitar, piano, mouth-harp, and an attick full of other strange and magical instruments, and tours with a
full band of sometimes more than half a dozen players including family members and friends. Beam is a
graduate Florida State University Film school (go Gators!) and writes introspective and folk-inspired
songs. Ironically, he rose to prominence after covering a Postal Service song for "The Garden State
Soundtrack" as previously mentioned.

The mix ends with "Rose Parade" off "EITHER/OR" by Elliott Smith. Born Steven Paul Smith on August 6th, 1969,
Elliott thought his name made him sound too much like a "jock". He showed signs of musical talent early on,
composing songs in Sunday school, and putting on talent shows. His mother, a caberet singer, divorced Elliott's
father when Elliott was young and moved the family to Texas, where Elliott stayed briefly before moving in
with his father instead. His mother had remarried, and there was a great deal of tension between Elliott and his
step-father, who he considered to be abusive. Elliott's estrangement from his mother is a common theme in
many of his songs. His solo career began in 1996 after leaving the Portland, Oregon band Heatmiser. Elliott
shot into the public eye after being nominated for a "Best Song" Oscar for "Miss Misery", a song from the
"Good Will Hunting Soundtrack", a film directed by friend and fellow Portlander Gus Van Sant. Elliott battled
drug addiction throughout his career and tragically ended his life on October 21st, 2003. It's too bad, because
he really was probably the best songwriter of my generation.



17 September, 2007

Monday Mid-afternoon Miscelany

A few items (possible future blog topics):

  • watching a short promo for a KQED program entitled "immigration in-focus" i looked up to notice that they were subtitling the, in english, words spoken by an indian woman with a slight accent. i was having no trouble understanding what she was saying until my brain was suddenly saddled with reading and listening (at the same time! omg hard). are americans really that dumb? of course we are, and, in fact, i often wish there were subtitles in real life when some of them speak (and i'm not just talking about the president).
  • allen greenspan insinuated that the war in iraq is about oil, but then insinuated that is wasn't. we report, you decide.
  • meta. let's talk about meta-blogs. you know, blogs about blogs. worse, blogs about writing better blogs. almost without exception, a blog written about writing a better blog is not worth reading. moreover, the raison d'etre of writing a (boring) blog about how to write blogs is slanted in the direction of writing better blogs to attract eyeballs to your blog, which inherently is meta-ironic, since these blogs SUCK to begin with; to-wit, if you sit down and write a blog giving advice to others how to write better blogs, with the intention of, ultimately, sucking of the teat of ad-revenue or attracting eyeballs, you have already lost entirely the whole point of blog writing in the first place. in fact, i'm sick of myself for even talking about it at all.
  • "I CAN HAS" grammar -- just really awesome or also a great way to attract attention to your new blog?

    xoxo, dr von drinkensnorten
  • 15 September, 2007

    14 September, 2007

    Idiots, Redux #1

    Folks, let's talk about a menace creeping across the nation. It may already be in your town or province. You may know someone who has succumbed. You may have already fallen victim.

    I am talking, of course, of "premium vodkas."

    What is vodka? Well, vodka is a grain alcohol and it can be made with wheat or potatoes, or in a pinch, rice. Here's how wikipedia defines it:

    Vodka is one of the world's most popular distilled beverages. It is a liquid containing water, ethanol purified by distillation from a fermented substance such as grain or molasses, and an insignificant amount of other substances: impurities and possibly flavorings. Except for various types of flavorings, vodka is a colorless liquid.

    Vodka usually has an alcohol content of 35% to 50% by volume. The classic Russian and Polish vodka is 40% (USA 80 proof). This can be attributed to the Russian standards for vodka production introduced in 1894 by Alexander III from research undertaken by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. According to the Vodka Museum in Moscow, Mendeleev found the perfect percentage to be 38. However, since spirits in his time were taxed on their strength, the percentage was rounded up to 40 to simplify the tax computation. At strengths less than this, vodka drunk neat (not mixed with other liquids) can taste "watery": above this strength, the taste of vodka can have more "burn". Some governments set a minimum alcohol content for a spirit to be called "vodka". For example, the European Union sets a minimum of 37.5% alcohol by volume.[1]

    Although vodka is traditionally drunk neat in Eastern European and Scandinavian countries of the "vodka belt", its popularity elsewhere owes much to its usefulness in cocktails and other mixed drinks, such as the Bloody Mary, the Screwdriver, the vodka tonic, and the vodka martini.
    First of all, the term "vodka martini" will make any purist shudder, since a Capitol M Martini is made with Gin; I suppose this may be where the slippery slope begins, and the humble grain alcohol of Eastern Europe can be manipulated into a "status beverage."

    In 2005, the New York Times Dining & Wine section reviewed several unflavored vodkas. Their conclusion?
    After the 21 vodkas were sipped and the results compiled, the Smirnoff was our hands-down favorite.
    Smirnoff.

    Let me put it in perspective: a fifth (750ml) of Smirnoff retails for $17 at the local bodega. The same amount, by volume, of Stolichnaya retails for about $20. Grey Goose, Ketel One and Belvedere can fetch in the high $20s, low $30s. It bears repeating that the winner of a blind and supposedly fair tasting by the food snobs at the New York "Paper of Record" Times picked fucking Smirnoff.

    Good old handy, dependable Smirnoff. Of course, I have long been a fan of Smirnoff, and so it came as no surprise to me that it beat higher-priced status vodkas handily.

    In poker, players with experience develop a keen sense of their opponent's intentions by reading what is called a "tell." This person is bluffing. This person is holding a good hand. This person has a playable hand but can be faked out into folding.

    The same principal can be applied to real-life situations, or, if not quite "real life", the zoo that is the modern bar scene. It is easy to read, for instance, a drinker who goes up to a bartender and orders a popular mixed drink, such as a cosmopolitan, vodka and Red Bull or kamikaze or some other such aberration and then makes a point of calling out a top shelf vodka.

    "I'll have a Grey-goose Cosmo, please."

    Really? Well, that will be $10, jackhole.

    What this is "telling" me is that this person is a moron.

    Invariably, these are the same animals who tip $1 on a drink you had to stop everything else you were doing and make. A cosmo is not a hard cocktail to make, and it follows a simple ratio that every bartender on the planet is well familiar with called "the margarita formula": 4 parts base liquor, 2 parts flavoring liquor and 1 part juice. Add or subtract a splash of this or that and you have 90% of all the cocktails anyone will order in any given bar. The cosmopolitan is Vodka, triple-sec, cranberry juicy, perhaps a splash of Rose's Lime and a lime wedge, traditionally served up. It is standard practice to chill the cocktail glass (aka, martini glass) before straining the meticulously mixed and shaken cocktail into the glass. All this takes some time and skill, especially maneuvering around behind a busy bar with perhaps another bartender or a bar-back, while taking other orders or dodging customers.

    It's not rocket science, but it does take some effort. In the end, you will get the same result ordering a beer and a shot, and in the process ingratiate yourself to the bartender.

    Because people order these concoctions, some genius invented a device used in every bar known as "the speed well" or just "the well" for short. In the well you will find various cordials used in common cocktails like the cosmo or the margarita or martini, plus lime syrup, grenadine, bitters and the 5 common liquors: gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila.

    "Well" liquors are usually bargain generic varieties such as Vat-69, Powers, Kamchatka, Two-Fingers and Gordon's. Consumed in large quantities, these cheap libations will contribute greatly to a bad hangover. But poor taste in liquor alone is not the only factor in having a terrible morning-after.

    Sugar.

    To be specific, our favorite villain, high-fructose corn syrup. The darling of well mixers and cordials. Let's return to our example of the premium cosmo for a moment.

    "Grey-goose cosmo, please."

    The bartender reaches for a cocktail shaker, strainer, pint-glass and cocktail-glass. She fills the cocktail glass with ice and a spritz of soda from the gun (soda gun), fills the pint glass with ice and reaches to the top shelf for your precious Grey Goose. In goes a four count of vodka (two ounces as the crow flies), a two counts of the cheapest, shittiest Triple-sec money can buy from the well, a one count of cranberry juice in a speed-pourer equipped bottle in the well or more commonly from the gun, also the cheapest cranberry juice money can buy and a splash of lime syrup, Rose's if you are lucky. All told, about 3 tablespoons of corn syrup just went into the pint glass with your vodka, which gets a shake, the cocktail glass is dumped into the service sink and you get a nice pink cosmo for the bargain price of $8 or $10.

    Putting it into perspective, imagine searing off a slice of foie gras, and putting it on a McDonald's Big Mac. If spending the extra money on premium vodkas wasn't a waste of money in the first place, it certainly is now that you have added the equivalent of Coney Island cheese sauce to your cocktail.

    There is a proper way to make a cosmo, and I will get to that at the end of this post. But first, let's explore the vodka hall of shame..

    If Little Lord Fontleroy drank vodka, surely it would be this one:
    Clear. Verbena, coriander, cinnamon bark and cream aromas. A soft entry leads to a glycerous, dryish medium body of sweet cream, powdered sugar, lemon verbena, and peppery cinnamon flavors. Finishes with a long warming fade of sweet cream, confectioner's sugar, and peppery spice. Very refreshing and palate cleansing.
    Say what? That doesn't sound like vodka, that sounds like some kind of Republican bath-house fantasy. No thanks, and not for $100 a bottle.

    Speaking of "gold", what the fuck is this?:
    Gold flakes in liquor is not new (Goldschlager anyone?) but this is the first time I have seen it in vodka. The Gold Flakes Supreme vodka is made with 24-karat gold flakes. The vodka is quadruple distilled and uses underground spring water (the press release doesn't specify what the base ingredients are). No word on when it will be distributed yet either but it will sell for $60 and will be distributed by Shaw-Ross importers.
    Oh yes, a whole $0.001 worth of gold in each bottle! Nothing says "I'm a nuveau riche douchebag" like willingly drinking a potentially poisonous heavy metal! Pass.

    Speaking of lethal, here's a vodka I can get behind:
    The brand probably started out as moonshine. A clear, potent drink developed in 1906 by a family called Sigurdsson, the spirit got its moniker from the local Icelandic, “Svarta Daudi,” or “Black Death.” One surmises this name must be the outcome of the pre-distinguish “describe” phase. For the next 80 years, Black Death would stay largely out of the spotlight.
    Yeah, there's truth in advertising! It's made from beets and its cheap, this is a real man's vodka.

    And speaking of real man's drinks, here's a decent cosmo for you:

    Hardware --
    1 stainless steel cocktail shaker
    1 stainless steel cocktail strainer
    1 pint glass
    1 8 ounce tumbler or cocktail glass (pro tip! real drunks don't mess with stemware, it breaks)

    Software --
    2 ounces of Smirnoff
    1 ounce of Grand Marnier orange liquore
    1/2 ounce premium, organic cranberry juice
    2 teaspoons of home made lime syrup (recipe follows)
    enough crushed ice to fill the tumbler and pint glass, about a 1 1/4 cup
    1/8 of a key lime, cut into a wedge shape

    Fill tumbler and pint glass with ice, and top off tumbler with water from the tap.

    Pour vodka, Grand Marnier, cranberry juice and lime syrup into pint glass, cover tightly with cocktail shaker and give no more than three vigorous shakes, upend so that the ice and liquor are in the shaker, remove pint glass and dump the ice and water from the tumbler. Strain mixture into tumbler and garnish with lime.

    Syrup:

    Bring 1 cup of cold (preferably filtered) water to a simmer on the stove over medium heat in a sauce pan, reduce heat to low, add 1/3 cup of table sugar, 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice and two tablespoons of fresh grated lime peel and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar is melted. Strain into a bottle and refrigerate.

    Na Zdrovya!

    13 September, 2007

    Datacenter Confidential #6

    While the average systems administrator harbors disdain for a large number of professionals, including but not limited to marketing and/or public relations, sales, middle and senior management, she or he reserves a special kind of burning hatred for those freeloaders who call themselves "project managers."

    The "project manager" is a dangerous beast, and it is incumbent on the systems administrator to deflect, devalue or otherwise avoid the project manager altogether.

    Project managers are the natural enemy of systems administrators because they are skilled hucksters, con-men and women, do-nothing hangers-on sucking gleefully on the teate of the tech industry. What differentiates them from the other freeloaders, opportunists and ne'er-do-wells who are attracted to that good start-up dollar is that they get in the way of the well-established sysadmin racket.

    Let me explain.

    For a long time I struggled to come up with a succinct definition of what my job entailed until my hero and mentor, one chris f, spelled it out thusly:
    Systems administration is nothing more than a protection racket, basically. The reason you got hired, the reason I hired you, was because you are a general Unix and networking handyman. Your primary function is to unfuck things when machines or routers or switches or firewalls crap out -- and they will. And when you set up a network or servers, you do so with the laziest, easiest fixes in mind. If you do it right, and you have enough money, then there is not much work for you to do. But the company continues to pay you because (1) no one else knows just how to fix everything and (2) they call on you at all hours, night or day, week or weekend, to fix things
    Personally, I've always found this adage useful: programmers are too lazy to sysadmin, and sysadmins are too lazy to program.

    Enter the "project manager". Here is a person that neither administers systems nor programs.

    Let's use a recent work event to illustrate the uselessness of the average project manager:

    Our developers, and to some extent operations (meaning, basically, me) use a source code revision control system called "Perforce." Our perforce server was running on an MS Windows 2003 machine, a desktop computer with a couple of stand-alone disk-drives, a slow CPU and a meager compliment of RAM. The version of Perforce it was running was about 5 years old. I had mentioned to a number of people between the Fall of 2005 until I had given up in the Spring of 2007 that we might want to upgrade this, perhaps budget some money to find a better machine to replace the Windows desktop it was running on, etc.

    My pleas and warnings were ignored until this Summer, when the fancy Project Manager suggested that we upgrade Perforce so we could use some Cool New Features. All of the sudden, upgrading Perforce became a Priority.

    Alas, the upgrade was not so high a priority that there was a budget attached, and so the project waited until I was able to decommission a machine out of production from our datacenter and retro-fit it. This would have taken longer had the desktop running Perforce not started crashing at random intervals.

    Soon, the project went from high to urgent priority. This happened conveniently a week before my short Labor-Day Vacation.

    In a perfect world, a sysdamin has plenty of time to sit around, read Usenet (or, these days, salon.com and myspace.com), disparage her or his coworkers and still have time to turn the occasional adversary's home phone into a payphone.

    In my world, I was being hit with customer case work, training my subordinates (or, the IT guy and my boss -- every sysadmin knows that a good boss is also a subordinate), new machine installs (many riddled with odd problems) and a larder of personal real-life issues that would make for a good TV drama.

    In the fray, I think I agreed to upgrade Perforce the weekend after my return from a much-needed vacation in New York. I may have said that, but it came as a surprise to me when, on my return, my boss reminded me of it.

    And pushing for this upgrade, making sure to CC the CTO on all his requests, was this fucking Project Manager.

    I, of course, pushed back.

    Normally my boss, the Director of Operations, would dutifully acquiesce to my request for more time. But this time there was a "my job is on the line with this one" tone to his voice and I knew I had to bite the bullet and "get it done."

    As it turns out, my request for more time would have been the right move -- as easy as Perforce upgrades generally are, when you skip ahead 5 years and move from Windows to FreeBSD, several things pop up to bite you in the ass.

    And ahead I went, there but for the grace of Perforce, upgrade woes be damned. As soon as things started to break, the delicate waltz of blame deflection began. Ultimately, the question of blame is very simple: a project manager insisted on a rushed upgrade, and, without ample time to regression test, I moved ahead on the upgrade under pressure from senior management. The myriad problems that resulted in this action were not a result of my lack of foresight, but the Project Manager's lack of foresight and the pressure on my boss from the CTO who was bedazzled by the Project Manager selling this project without fully considering the possible impact.

    The problems with the upgrade were largely minor or cosmetic, yet, and here's another reason why I hate Project Managers, the onus was on me to fix these problems, and the perception was that I was at fault. In the end, two people fixed all of the known problems: me and a former developer (who fixed a bug in a java API that interfaced with Perforce).

    I don't want a pity party, or a cake, or an award. I just want to be able to fuck off for a couple of weeks without too much being asked of me.

    That is, afterall, how the racket goes.

    12 September, 2007

    Suck it, Jesus

    Right on, Kathy.

    First, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences snubs the finest TV show ever made, The Wire. Then, they censor Kathy Griffin for her comments accepting an Emmy.

    Fuck. The. Emmy's.

    As usual, the same cadre of fat-headed, misogynistic, intolerant Cathlo-fascist creeps are up in arms: Bill Donahue, Pat Robertson, the idiots on Faux News. Does no one see the irony, no, the hypocrisy of the same group of people decrying censorship of Mohamed cartoons and calling for the censorship of statements made against their religion? Well, anyone besides Glenn Greenwald, that is.

    This all goes to show that the Right is nothing more than a bunch of thin-skinned, alarmist, scared shitless pansies who can't take a joke and feel so insecure in their faith and sexuality as to have to take it out on everyone else (normal, sane people).

    Fuck YOU Bill Donahue,

    Fuck YOU Jesus,

    Fuck YOU Mohamed,

    and

    Fuck YOU Emmy's.