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Entries posted in October 2021

Finally, a blog.

16 October 2021 12:28

I've set up and maintained a few blogs over time. I was even a part of a planet at one time. Remember those? Aggregators of multiple blogs in one. I had one for my teenager-focused online Linux User's Group. Maybe I'll sit down and write a memoir about that sometime.

It's been a while since I've felt the need to update nobody in particular about my life and thoughts and feelings. A lot has happened. I've launched a fairly successful career, got married to a wonderful man named Patrick, and with him, I have a mini Italian Greyhound named Violet.

I've had friends, fallings-out, hobbies, abandoned projects, weird encounters, new habits (some good, some bad, some eradicated), and I talked to a well-known conspiracy theorist at a Chinese restaurant with a mouth full of Mu Shu vegetables.

And you, internet, missed all of it. I'm so sorry. I'll start catching you up.

So my last name is Williamson now...

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CGI, and Other Bad Words

16 October 2021 19:28

In my professional life, I make websites performant and reliable. It's in the job title -- Site Reliability Engineer. I do this using Content Delivery Networks, load balancers, stateless infrastructure, layers of caching, and container orchestration technology. I could think of a few other buzzwords to throw in there, and it probably sounds real impressive to a lay person.

Of course, all that is managed. I abstract myself from managing all of that stuff with just a few text files. Of course, it took significant professional experience to know what I'm doing with those text files, and to be able to arrange these components into a stable infrastructure. And I derive great satisfaction from being able to help create something awesome. And I'm pretty good at what I do, according to my boss and our uptime graphs. I'm not at liberty to share such data so broadly, but I can illustrate this roughly in a graph...

Lower is better.

So naturally, since my day to day is spent in the public cloud, using all these wonderful things that have enabled small-time companies with limited upfront budgets to build ultra-reliable, globally distributed websites and services with just a few text files, my personal infrastructure should be built the same way, right? I should be using the trendiest web frameworks, JAM stack, serverless, Cloudflare, all managed using the latest Hashicorp offerings.

Nah.

You're getting this page from an old-fashioned Apache httpd instance (of course, a reasonably up-to-date one). I have one CGI script (in Perl). No CDN, because I don't think I need one. It's my personal website, so I want to be in control of how it's served. And no Javascript. In layperson's terms, I'm kicking it old-school.

I suppose this is my way of maintaining work-life balance, while still exercising some of my skills that I use in a professional setting. I find it relaxing to shift paradigms. I love my job and my work, but I can't really decompress if I just go from writing YAML files at work to writing YAML files at home.

Likewise, I'm never going to roll into work one morning and say "hey y'all, let's ditch this microservices thing and write a bunch of Perl CGI scripts!"

...I just thought of a really funny April Fools prank.

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Gratitude: Open Source Frontend

17 October 2021 09:32

Today, I want to express gratitude towards people who do my personal least favorite type of software development for free. I'm referring to open source frontend developers.

My career path keeps me a respectable distance from getting in the weeds with frontend code. I never have to do deal with HTML and CSS, and very rarely do I have to deal with Javascript code. If I do, it's usually in passing -- to understand enough of it that I can create a DevOps solution to remove blockers.

However, I am forced to deal with these things when I'm working on personal websites on projects, like this blog you're reading and my 8mm digitizing business. I have to be my own full-stack developer!

So, to Steve Kemp, who created the static blog generator I use here, I say, thank you! Simon Bengtsson, creator of the notrack theme I use for DFW8mm.com, thank you! And whoever spun out the HTML used for the website of the Dillo web browser, which I shamelessly ripped off for my personal landing page, thank you!

Each of these people created something that was 90% of what I wanted to accomplish. It's through their generosity and skill that I'm able to express myself in the way I see fit. And the icing on the cake is that their designs are fast, compatible with all browsers, and require no nasty Javascript to work!

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Tuesday Sockspiration

19 October 2021 08:38

I woke up this morning and stepped out to walk the dog, and I found that permeating the air was the unmistakable scent of chicken and waffles. Not a particularly unusual smell for the area in which we live -- an entertainment district in North Texas. However, I've never encountered that particular smell permeating the air in a wide, open area with such pungence. And at 8 in the morning. People around here start seeking spirit-sopping sustenance closer to 2.

It's not a bad scent by any means. Quite pleasant, even in the strange context in which I found it. So today, I let 8 A.M. chicken and waffle smell of unknown origin be my inspiration, and my sock theme. If anyone notices that I'm a little extra jovial today, let it be known that it's because this morning, I smelled chicken and waffles while my dog pooped.

Chicken and Waffle socks

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Dog Balls for Human Ears

20 October 2021 10:30

So here's something, you can get prosthetic testes for your male dog after having him snipped. They're called Neuticles, and they appear to be more or less the same thing that human males get when they have to have a similar operation done.

I suppose I'm not against that, if it truly helps the dog. The worst outcome may be having to explain to somebody that, as a matter of fact, your dog is fixed, but you opted for him to receive an additional cosmetic procedure to boost his ego a little bit. I'm sure this kind of thing that comes up at dog parks a lot.

Neuticals has merch. You can get a Neuticles T-shirt, a Neuticles Frisbee, and regular old stuff like Neuticles earrings.

If I did drag, I could rock these. I would call myself "Testarossa Snips" and dance around the stage with a large pair of bolt cutters, lipsyncing to songs such as Whitney Houston's All the Man That I Need or Can't Take That Away by Mariah Carey. Maybe I could get my husband to dress up as a sexy version of Bob Barker.

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Taiwan is a country

22 October 2021 16:08

And a really neat-looking one. I'd really like to go some day.

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Starting a New Garden

23 October 2021 10:50

My husband and I are accomplished gardeners. Our old apartment in Austin had a large balcony that we absolutely filled with potted plants. We grew a few different kinds of mint, parsley, cilantro, all kinds of peppers, and different herbs that I would use for truly homemade herbal tea. We grew both Italian sweet basil and tulsi, or Indian holy basil. The bees that made the commute up to our third story balcony blessed us with a new hybrid between the two.

Our garden was so overactive that you could see it from the street, and currently persists in the promotional photos for the building.

A few green thumbs up there in 302

Our new place in Dallas has no balcony or yard, so we were unable to take our plants with us. They are in the care of various other residents at that building. I hope they're doing well.

What better opportunity to start anew? We signed up for a local community garden here in town. We got a 4x4 plot, well enough for a few good-size plants. We started with some okra seeds, because we just happened to have some when we toured the garden for the first time together.

Sproing! Okra coming up fast

We completely forgot about the seeds for a good few weeks. We had a couple of downpoors in the mean time, and by the time we got back to plant more things, we had a couple healthy-looking okra sprouts!

We gave the okra guys a ladder to climb and got to work with the rest of the plot. We selected a few things that we think would survive an October sowing in North Texas, divided the plot into nine segments, and planted seeds in the configuration recommended by the packet.

A chart of our sub-plots. The notebook is a Delfonics Rollbahn Mini

We planted a week ago and watered sporadically since then. I dropped by this morning to check on how things were doing. A few sprouts here and there, I'm most impressed by the arugula.

It's a VEGETABLE.

I shouldn't be suprised. Arugula is a weed. We'll have to watch it to make sure it doesn't take over the whole community garden.

I took a few extra moments to take in the rest of the place. It's a very beautiful, peaceful place. The garden is situated under a few highway overpasses, but situated such that all the plots get plenty of sun throughout the day. Both water and power run to the plot, so it's just about perfect for a community garden. There is considerable highway noise, but it's elevated and obstructed, so it filters down to the garden as nearly indistiguishable white noise. It's a great setting in which to meditate.

The other plots offer inspiration for things to plant, as well as general gardening tips. We have some very resourceful neighbors.

These plants drink better than I do!

Depleted wine and liquor bottles are used in place of Aqua globes, if the plot owner is unable to water for a certain interval of time.

Not particularly effective as fish fertilizer

These are cocktail stirrers from a nearby seafood bar and grill where the community has their happy hours. Here, they are used as plant markers.

Work smarter, not harder!

The water faucets are communal, installed on each row of plots. Here we have somebody who put a Y-valve on one, and installed a water timer on one of the outlets. Very clever, I'll consider a similar setup if watering becomes too much of a hassle or we go on vacation.

There are a couple of community-maintained plots, for pollination and herbs. It's a lot easier and cheaper to go down to the community garden when I need some parsley for a recipe than go to the store. It almost seems to taste better, too.

Little gnome tending to the community oregano

I was not alone in the garden this morning. A squirrel was darting up and down the tree in the middle of the garden and between all the planter boxes. He performed some impressive acrobatics. He was clearly busy with something.

I got low and crept behind him, camera at the level. It's hard to get a good shot of a squirrel who's moving with purpose. Frankly, I'm not satisfied with any of the shots I got of him. Here's about as close as I got:

Little furry earth-mover

It seems that he was hard at work harvesting nuts from the tree and burying them in the planter boxes. I guess I'll know the reaon why if one day our plot has an oak tree hanging out of it.

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No Time to Die, Brought to You by Nokia: a Review

23 October 2021 22:24

We decided on a whim to watch the latest James Bond adventure, and I have a few thoughts about the film. This review will contain no spoilers, at least not any very good ones.

First, and foremost, the martinis at the Richardson Alamo Draft House were on point. I gave my specifications and the bartender delivered to great effect. The execution on my libation preferences was the highlight of the whole experience. And they were very kind not to detract from that experience by only presenting the hefty price tag for a martini with Ford's gin at the tense climax of the film.

So the movie started with a flashback involving a man with a vz. 58 assault rifle fitted with a polymer magazine. Suspending my disbelief just as the bartender delicately suspended a lemon twist with no pith in my martini, I powered through the scene as the cruel filmmakers saw fit to sear the image of a starving Tamagatchi into our eyes.

Later, the sad lady from that last film shows up with a white Nokia 225 4G. She has trouble operating it because she's sad. Bond has better luck with it, but still opts to upgrade to the Nokia G300 with its triple-lens camera and OZO audio. He seems satisfied with it, and he can even send and receive MMS messages while on a phone call.

It is in this film that we learn that Bond is one of those people who uses speaker phone in inappropriate situations.

The movie had a happy ending.

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Gratitude: Creative Enablers

24 October 2021 09:09

I'm a creative person. Sometimes I feel like an artist who hasn't found his medium, so I use everything I do as a creative outlet. The way I talk to my friends, how I accomplish things at work, writing a blog that nobody reads but Chinese robots looking for outdated Wordpress installations to hack.

(Sorry, all static. But here's something for you.)

So today I want to express gratitude for the people in my life who embrace my quirks. My husband most of all, who married me in our apartment full of hobbies and diversions, in an 80s/90s themed ceremony officiated by my brother, who was ordained to do so by me.

But also, my family and friends, my boss, coworkers, the lady at the Build-A-Bear that one time who told me about the pizza scent, all the cool people I surround myself with who embrace my creative expression. Thank you for your critiques, reactions, and genuine, thoughtful compliments. Anything but a dismissive nod and smile is a blessing to me.

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