Blog Fiasco

March 25, 2009

NCAA tournament — week 2

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — bcotton @ 6:30 pm

As awesome as March Madness is, it is even more fun when you have a horse in the race.  For all the crap the Big Ten has had to put up with this year, it did pretty well this weekend.  The only major upset was (5)Illinois, and given the history of the 5-12 matchup, that’s almost expected.  (8)Ohio State’s 2OT loss to Siena wasn’t their best effort, but 9 beating 8 is generally not too uncommon.  (I’d like to pause here to point out that even though my blog post from last week picked tOSU, my bracket actually has Sienna making it to the second round.)  Overall, the Big Ten went 3-3 against higher seeded teams and 3-2 against lower-seeded teams.  Let’s put this another way:  10.9% of the field of 64 hailed from the Big 10.  In the second round and Sweet 16, the Big Ten represents 12.5% of the field.  Not exactly dominant, but certainly respectable.  Those who have been drinking the haterade can be silent now.

(2)Michigan State faces (3)Kansas.  I’m not quite sure what to make of this game, since I picked (14)NDSU to get the upset in the first round.  My bracket has (6)West Virginia getting the upset here, but (11)Dayton killed that for me.  (3)Kansas has done much better than expected, considering how much talent they lost last year.  The real question is will they be able to sustain their run?  On the other hand, I’ve never quite bought in to Michigan State.  They’re good, but I don’t think they’re Elite 8 good.  Kansas will carry on, my wayward son.

(5)Purdue has made a habit of getting out to an early lead only to let off the gas (offensively, at least) in the second half.  This game will come down to Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson vs (1)Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet.  Thabeet has a 5-inch advantage on Johnson, and will keep the Boilermakers from getting too many rebounds, but Johnson’s 15-foot jump shot will prove tough to defend (it will also open up Robbie Hummel to get a few offensive boards).  If Purdue can avoid the second-half slumpsies, I say there are even odds.  Past performance dictates there’s a 70% chance UConn will be 1337.

March 24, 2009

Dying on the Internet

Filed under: The Internet — Tags: , — bcotton @ 7:15 pm

At age 26, I’m hopefully quite a long way from my inevitable demise, but you never know when something tragic might happen.  As a sysadmin, I’m expected to plan for contingencies, including the good ol’ “hit by a bus” scenario.  That responsibility extends to life outside of work, too.  I keep financial documents, both electronic and dead tree, in a place where my wife can find them if she needs to, and I have life and personal accident insurance policies.  The big problem in my planning is: what happens to my online accounts if I were to die or be seriously injured?

If my accounts on Facebook, LinuxForums.com, etc. are left adrift, that’s not a problem.  If my web hosting account gets left in the dust, that’s a slightly bigger deal.  If nobody can get into my TIAA-CREF account, that becomes a much larger problem.

My options seemed fairly limited.  I could keep all that stuff in an encrypted file on my computer, but that leaves me open to loss or theft.  A written notebook suffers from different forms of the same problems.  I could put the notebook in a safe deposit box at the bank, but that’s rather inconvenient to make updates to (because I always change my passwords on a regular basis *wink*), and it costs money.

Alan Reiter had an interesting article on Internet Evolution today that suggested another option.  There’s a new service called Legacy Locker.  The service is so new, in fact, that you can’t even sign up for it until next month.  Legacy Locker is basically the digital equivalent of a safe deposit box.  You put your account information in there and for each account you can name a beneficiary who can access the information in the case of your death.  Two “verifiers” and a copy of the physical death certificate are required to pass your information to your beneficiaries, so in theory at least, it’s pretty secure.

As the middle-aged businessman has told us, the Internet is serious business.  Until now, the matters of death have been left in the brick-and-mortar world, and I’m interested to see how well this service plays out.  Frankly, I don’t have a great deal of confidence in this service.  Let’s face it:  I hope to live another 50-60 years.  Considering how much the technology has changed even in the last decade, I can’t be sure that this service will still exist when it comes time for me (my survivors, really) to make use of it.  Will I sign up?  Most likely not, but it marks an interesting step forward for the digital world.

March 21, 2009

The inevitable burnout

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 11:05 pm

It seems to me that most sysadmins who have a lot of customer interaction tend to burn out quickly.  Some people are great at working with people, some with technology, and it seems like rarely do the two meet.  Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being social.  I like making friends and hanging out with them, but that doesn’t mean I like supporting users.  I did that for 5 years at McDonald’s, I’d like to think I’ve served my time.

Of course, it isn’t just users that can lead to burn out.  Management and co-workers can contribute their own share.  I’ve found my other full-time colleague to be professionally uninquisitive and I feel like I can’t discuss technical matters with the people I work with because I have to explain too much to them so that they understand what it is that we’re even discussing.  I think my wife has a better technical grasp of what I do than the people I work with and for, and that is not a good thing.

Ever since our Computer Support Manager left and I became the de facto manager, the Department Head has had little interaction with me.  On the whole, I take it as a good sign.  If I’m not getting feedback, that generally means people are happy.  Still, some interaction from time-to-time would be helpful, and for a young and growing sysadmin such as myself, it is vital.

And so we come to the crux of the matter.  I feel my growth is being stunted.  When I took my job two and a half years ago, I had no sysadmin experience.  I didn’t even have a lot of Linux experience, but I had worked in the department on our weather data server, and I knew the science that the faculty worked on, so the thought was that I could learn the technical skills that I needed.  I’d like to think I’ve learned them pretty well.  I feel confident enough to make my own decisions and know that they are sound.  I’ve made improvements to the way things are done to make them more reliable, more complainey when they fail, and more flexible for future use.  Oh yeah, and I’ve written and overseen untold pages of documentation, which was nearly unheard of when I came onboard.

So here I am 30 months later and I’ve reached the limits of my position.  There is no path for advancement within my department, since I became the lead after less than a year on the job.  The training funds are hard to come by because the economy stinks.  I’ve mastered the services that we provide, and other groups provide the rest so I’m limited in the new services I can add.  I’m in a very small box and I’ve grown to fit it.

Someone posted this blog entry to the Sysadmin sub-Reddit the other day (I think it was Matt), and it really spoke to me.  Now the author of that post has a lot more experience than I do, but he was also in a bigger box.  There’s a difference too, in the type of burnout.  He wants out of sysadminning, and I want more into it.  I’d be much happier in a role where I played with servers and let others handle the customer-level interaction.  At least I think I’d be happier in that kind of job.  There’s only one way to find out.

As much as I love being the big boss man, I think I need more time at the low end of the totem pole.  Not so much because my leadership skills aren’t up to snuff (I like to pretend that I’m a pretty damn good leader), but because my technical skills need to be developed, and it’s hard to do that when you’re at the top of the pyramid.  I’m trying to re-learn the C that I learned well enough to pass my programming class 5 years ago.  I’m also hoping to pick up some MySQL and PHP so that I can at least have enough skill to include it on my resume.  And I’m looking for jobs where I can be exposed to more things so that I can figure out where I want to head.  For now, that’s to bed.

Nugget Night update

Filed under: Funnel Fiasco — Tags: — bcotton @ 5:23 pm

An early trip tonight to make sure I got home in time to watch the Purdue game.  Boiler up!

http://www.funnelfiasco.com/ben/cfa.html

March 18, 2009

Into the NCAA tournament

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — bcotton @ 6:03 pm

Boy, what fun the Big Ten Tournament turned out to be!  Of course, there are several teams who probably wished it had gone differently.  Beating Purdue on Friday night instead of getting pummeled (Hummeled?) might have been enough to get Penn State into the Big Dance.  Winning the tournament might have given Michigan State a #1 seed, since everyone else in the country insisted on losing.  Purdue even perhaps regret that their first tournament championship is rewarded by a trip to Portland, Oregon while the runner-up Buckeyes get to travel all the way to…..Dayton.

I don’t really care to go through the entire bracket and talk about my picks in each place.  Instead, let’s look at the Big Ten teams in the first and second round.

(2) Michigan State heads to Minneapolis to face Robert Morris.  While the second seed has lost the opener in the past, it’s a pretty rare occurence, and the Spartans will survive to face the winner of USC/BC.  I’ve picked both teams in different brackets, but I don’t think either of them will be able to stop Michigan State from making it to the Sweet 16.

(5) Purdue finally seems to have gotten in rhythm, but the question is how consistent will they be?  With Robbie Hummel healthy and back in shape, Northern Iowa will be one-and-done.  On Saturday, the Boilermakers will get the winner of Washington/Mississippi State.  Mississippi State is riding high after their improbable win in the SEC tourney, but Washington is playing much closer to home.  Having not seein either team, I’ll have to say that Washington will be the team that gets to lose to Purdue.

(5) Illinois fans are complaining that they got seeded too low.  What they should be complaining about is the fact that Chester Frazier appears to be out for at least the first round, which could be a problem.  The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have a descent basketball heritage, and I like them to get the upset.  Even if they don’t, President Obama says the Illini don’t survive this weekend.

(8) The Ohio State University won’t even need to bring luggage as they travel the 70 miles to Dayton.  They’ll get to face Siena, at team I like for an upset.  However, when you consider the fact that Evan Turner and BJ Mullens are likely auditioning for the NBA draft, it seems reasonable that tOSU will win.  Even so, they won’t be able to overcome Big East powerhouse Louisville.

(10) Michigan has the potential to upset Clemson, especially if Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are having a good night.  However, after Harris broke Chris Kramer’s nose, I swore myself to not endorse the Wolverines for the rest of the season.  I might end up being wrong, but I’ll knock Michigan out in the first round.

(10) Minnesota should have been left out in favor of Penn State.  I know the Gophers look better from an objective standpoint, but the simple fact is that they’ve looked like crap lately.  That’s why I think they won’t be able to beat the Longhorns.

(12) Wisconsin is lucky to be here after the start they had to the conference season.  Florida State is lucky to draw the Badgers, since that gets them into the second round.

So where does that leave us?  Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois are one-and-done.  tOSU is gone after the second round.  Purdue and Michigan we’ll see next week.  That doesn’t do much for a conference trying to silence critics.

March 14, 2009

What a day! Also, the Dell Mini 9

Filed under: Linux — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 9:47 pm

March 14th is quite a day.  It’s Albert Einstein’s birthday, it’s Pi Day, it’s another holiday that perhaps you should just search Urban Dictionary for, and it’s the 15th anniversary of the 1.0 release of the Linux kernel.

Speaking of Linux, it’s been months since we basically got rid of Windows in my  house.  We still have a Windows XP computer, but it hasn’t been booted in months.  On Wednesday, we added another Linux machine to the mix.  We bought a Dell Mini 9 for my wife.  The Mini was on sale one-day for $200 base, so we decided to snap one up.  The cheapest model ships with Ubuntu 8.04.  I’m used to RedHat/Fedora, so I was a little concerned that the setup would be a bit of a curve, but other than configuring the wireless network, Angie was able to get it as set up as she needed by the time I got home.

So what do I think of the Mini?  It seems to be a pretty solid little netbook.  I don’t feel like I’m going to break it every time I touch it, which I was a bit concerned about.  The keyboard is, understandably, really tiny.  I’m a clumsy typist anyway, so I had some problems, but it seems like Angie has gotten used to it.

The Mini uses a custom repository, probably to keep the disk footprint to a minimum (the base hard drive is a 8GB solid-state drive), but also because the processor isn’t an i386.  uname identifies the Intel Atom processor as ‘lpia’.  This means that pre-built binary packages won’t work by default.  If you use the “–force-architecture” argument to dpkg, it should install.  That worked for Skype, at least, although I’m told that you won’t be able to do an automated uninstall later.  The built-in webcam, speakers, and microphone all worked well.

So after 4 days, the Mini has been a worthy investment so far.  I just wish we had purchased a second one for me to play with. :)

March 11, 2009

Big Ten Tournament predictions

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 9:13 pm

The Big Ten men’s basketball tournament begins in less than 15 hours.  This has been a very unpredictable season, but that’s what makes predicting the tournament so much fun.  Here are my predictions, with less commentary than is necessary.  I’ve tried to be neutral, and I’m probably completely wrong.  But if I’m right, I could win $250 from the local newspaper!

First round

Minnesota vs Northwestern — The last time these two teams faced off, Northwestern got spanked.  So despite the fact that the Wildcats won the first meeting, they’ll be angry when they face the Gophers.  Not to mention the fact that Northwestern has a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.  Winner: Northwestern

Michigan vs Iowa — Despite a surprise defeat of Penn State last weekend, Iowa is still legitimately the 10th best team in the conference.  Michigan has beaten #2 and #3, and they’re in a much happier place.  Winner: Michigan

Penn State vs Indiana — Indiana has shown considerable improvement and I thought they’d win their first round game.  Then the brackets came out.  If Indiana wins, I’ll post a picture of myself wearing an IU sweatshirt.  Right side out, even.  Winner: Penn State

Quarterfinals

Michigan State vs Northwestern — Of all the lower seeds, Northwestern has the best chance of making a deep run.  Wins at Michigan State and at Purdue should give the Spartans a cause for concern too.  But can they handle playing two days in a row?  Michigan State will be rested, and one would expect ready to play. Hopefully a quarterfinal appearance will be enough to get Northwestern into the NCAA tourney.  Winner: Michigan State

Wisconsin vs Ohio State — It took a little while, but Wisconsin finally figured out what winning is.  The only time these teams met, it was a 5-point victory for the Badgers in Madison.  tOSU travels well, so Indianapolis may be like a home game for them.  This will be a close call, but I think Wisconsin will have a slight edge.  Winner: Wisconsin

Illinois vs Michigan — Illinois and Michigan split the series, each team winning at home.  Michigan may have beaten Duke and Purdue, but they’ll not be able to get a second win over Illinois this year.  Winner: Illinois

Purdue vs Penn State – Purdue has been very erratic this year, even with a healthy Robbie Hummel.  They’ll either win the tournament or lose their first game.  Penn State has been hot lately, but Indiana will wear them down more than they expect.  If the Boilers can shut down Taylor Battle again, it will be a relatively easy win.  Winner: Purdue

Semifinals

Michigan State vs Wisconsin — This is where Michigan State gets cocky.  Wisconsin will be tired, but determined.  It’s no fun to have the #1 seed win out, anyway. Winner: Wisconsin

Illinois vs Purdue — It’s hard to beat a team three times in one year.  The way Purdue sees it, they owe Illinois a drubbing.  On a home-ish court, and with all players healthy, the Boilermakers will get their revenge.  Winner: Purdue

Finals

Wisconsin vs Purdue — Remember what I said about it being hard to beat a team three times in a year?  That’s not always true.  This will be Wisconsin’s fourth game in as many days, and they’re simply not as good as Purdue.  If Purdue makes it this far (and that’s a big “if”), they’ll be able to put this one away by halftime.  Winner: Purdue

March 10, 2009

Another round of severe weather

Filed under: Weather — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 8:05 am

After an EF3 tornado struck just west of Bedford over the weekend, another round of severe weather appears likely for today.  Once again, as is normally the case in March, the dynamics are favorable, but the thermodynamics aren’t.  The instability seems even worse than what was available on Sunday, and the wind fields are slightly less favorable.  Unless some significant heating (and moistening) can occur this morning to early afternoon, the tornado threat will be minimal.  However, the mid-level winds are very strong, and the cold front is sharp, which could lead to strong winds and medium-sized hail this afternoon.

At this time, it appears that there will be two rounds of storms this afternoon.  The first will be in the early afternoon and the second will be this evening as the cold front moves through.  Due to the stronger forcing from the cold front, the most likely time for severe weather will be from 5-10PM.

In addition to the severe threat, a flood warning remains in effect for the Wabash River until further notice.  At 2AM, the river was at 19.25 feet with a crest of 21.3 feet forecast to occur on Thursday morning.  At 21 feet, Shamrock Park floods. Residents begin to move out. The following areas in Lafayette flood include Edgelea, Tecumseh, and Southlea additions and the area bounded by US 52 bypass, North 9th St, and Schuyler Avenue.

March 9, 2009

My own Big Ten basketball awards

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , — bcotton @ 9:49 am

Now that the regular season has drawn to a close, it is time to recognize those who have made the season special.  My awards are voted on by me, the blogger, and carry no cash award or amazing prizes.  Maybe if I’m really lucky, I’ll get a mention by Pat Forde in a few years.

Big Ten All-Goon Squad

  • Devan Dumes – Indiana: I get it.  There has probably never been a more frustrating year to wear the striped pants.  Indiana has been flat awful through much of the season, and being down by 27 with 2:11 left to play doesn’t make it any easier.  That doesn’t make this elbow — or any of the several before it — justified.  Coach Crean was wise to suspend Dumes, and the lesson seems to have been learned.
  • Joe Krabbengoon – Wisconsin: Krabbengoon isn’t out to knock people over whenever he can, yet he’s still such a goon that I can not bring myself to refer to him by his legal name.  Poor little Lewis Jackson never expected to get bowled over by a cheap screen in the backcourt.  Jackson ended up with a concussion that kept him out of the next game.  Krabbengoon?  Not whistled at all.  I’m biased, but that was a horrible no-call.
  • Matt Gatens – Iowa: Much like Dumes, Gatens plays on a frustratingly bad team.  The freshman could end up being one of the star players in the conference, but only if he can avoid giving forearms to people like Marcus Landry.
  • Manny Harris – Michigan: Nobody is saying that Manny Harris broke Chris Kramer’s nose on purpose.  Still, a hit that hard is excessive and I think it was appropriate to eject him.  If nothing else, the referees probably used it as a way to make up for the no-call when Robbie Hummel got tackled at mid-court and the subsequent technical on Matt Painter when he complained.
  • Zack Novak – Michigan: In the game before Harris got ejected, Novack got himself tossed for an elbow to tOSU’s P.J. Hill.  Coach John Beilein suspended Novak for a game, but after two consecutive games with an ejection, maybe Beilein should have suspended himself.

All-Awful Refree Team

This team is not just a hypothetical.  The unholy trinity of “Technical Ted” Valentine, Ed Hightower, and Jim Burr officiated Indiana at Purdue, where they had surprisingly little effect on the game.  It’s not that these guys have it out for “my team,” they’re just awful all around.  Hightower and Valentine especially seem to look for ways to get the camera on them.  In fairness though, watching yesterday’s Purdue at Michigan State game, I was finally able to see Jim Burr make a good call.  There is hope.

Player of the Year

This is a tough category to pick from.  The pre-season pick, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, would likely be the leading contender had it not been for a back injury that plagued him most of the season.  So that leaves the field open for:

  • Taylor Battle – Penn State: Taylor Battle has lead Penn State into a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten.  With a season that includes a win at conference champion Michigan State, and a sweep of second-place Illinois, Penn State looks ready to make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament, and possibly into the second round of the NCAA tourney.  None of this would be possible without Battles 37 minutes per game, in which he scores a conference-high 17.3 points.
  • Evan Turner – Ohio State: Turner’s 16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game have helped the Buckeyes become the fourth-highest scoring team in the conference.  Throw in 78% free throw shooting and 3.82 assists per game and you’ve got a player that can really make things happen.  1.71 steals per game is just icing on the cake.
  • Kalin Lucas – Michigan State: Kalin Lucas is 6th in the conference in points per game, at 14.6, but the stats don’t necessarily tell the tale.  At 2.44, his assist-to-turnover ratio is second only to teammate Travis Walton.  With Lucas, it isn’t so much about the points he scores, but the way his team plays when he’s on the court.  Michigan State is a different team in those eight minutes a game when Kalin Lucas is on the bench.
  • Chester Frazier – Illinois: The lone senior on my list, Frazier has been absolutely crucial to the success of the Illini this year.  With a conference-leading 5.29 assists per game, it’s no wonder he only averages 4.3 field goal attempts.  His senior leadership shows, though, for an average of 33 minutes.

Some have suggested that a fourth sophomore, Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, should be on the list as well.  I disagree.  The 6’10” Johnson is being outrebounded by his chronically-crippled teammate Robbie Hummel.    The only statistical category in which Johnson really shines is blocks, where he leads with 2.2.  He’s a good player, but he’s not ready for PoY honors yet.  My pick?  Taylor Battle.

Defensive Player of the Year

  • Chris Kramer – Purdue: Kramer was named DPoY last year, after racking up 2.3 steals per game.  This year, he’s down to a mere 2.11, to lead the conference by .07.  In addition to his 62 steals, he also has 70 defensive rebounds.  This is also the second consecutive season where he’s had more personal fouls than steals, a sign of agressive plays.  With the facemask he had to wear after Manny Harris broke his nose, Kramer has become the most intimidating defender in the conference, perhaps in the country.  Really, there’s no other choice.

Coach of the Year

  • Tom Crean – Indiana: It might be a little hard to accept that a coach with a 1-17 record (6-24) overall could even be considered for Coach of the Year, but I think it makes sense in this case.  A year after the misdeeds of Kelvin Sampson left the Hoosiers with 1.8 total ppg returning, Crean has done more with the little talent available than anyone could have expected.  Indiana can claim several moral victories and could win their first game in the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Ed DeChellis – Penn State: A year ago, Penn State was the laughingstock of the conference.  This year, they’re ready to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament, and for the first time in his career, Ed DeChellis is in the upper half of the conference standings.  The team has gotten so good that the sheets used to hide parts of the area have been removed for some games.  The Lions might only get 8200 people in the seats, but it’s a step in the right direction.

My pick?  Ed DeChellis.

That’s all the awards I have to hand out right now.  Later this week, I’ll give a rundown of the Big Ten Tournament and offer my predictions for each game.

March 8, 2009

Severe weather possible today

Filed under: Weather — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 9:32 am

I was bored this morning and thought I’d post a discussion of today’s weather to provide a heads up to ARES members…

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma has forecast a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms over portions of Central Indiana today.  The Lafayette area is under a slight risk for severe weather.  The severe probabilities are 5% tornado, 30% hail, 30% wind.  These percentages are the probability of the stated event occurring within 25 miles of a point.  For more information see http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/outlook/day1otlk.html

A strong low-level jet ahead of an approaching cold front will provide for a probability of strong-to-severe thunderstorms this afternoon.  The threat will be mitigated by a lack of surface heating (due to cloud cover) and shallow lapse rates.  This combined with low surface dew points/high LCLs should preclude widespread tornadic activity.  However, small, brief tornadoes cannot be ruled out given the high ambient storm-relative helicity.

Low freezing levels and strong mid-level winds (87 knt at 500mb) will provide for the possibility of hail and damaging winds with storms that approach along and ahead of the cold front.  Given the weak instability, very large hail (greater than 2″) is not expected, and wind gusts will likely not exceed 75 mph.

It appears the most likely time for severe weather in Tippecanoe County will be the early afternoon, specifically from 2pm until 6pm.  Non-severe thunderstorms will likely occur prior to this time frame, but all storms should have passed by sundown.

In addition to the severe weather threat today, flooding will be a concern over the next several days.  The forecast for the Wabash River at Lafayette is that flood stage (11.0 feet) will be reached late tonight.  The crest is forecast to be 18.4 feet Tuesday morning.  At 18 feet, extensive flooding is in progress. Flooding covers many acres of agricultural land. River cabins become isolated. Indiana 225 closed by high water. River Road, the western approach to Granville Bridge and higher county roads begin to flood. High water affects river cabins near Fort Ouiatenon area. County Road 775 East near Americus in Northeast Tippecanoe County begins to flood. All parks in the West Lafayette and Lafayette areas are flooded. McAllister Park Golf Course begins to flood.

Note that the flood forecast is based on current and expected conditions at Lafayette and upstream.  Heavier rain than expected could amplify and/or extend the duration of the flood.

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