Tag Archives: asbury-college

Narnia Night

We just got back from attending Narnia Night at Asbury College where, among other things, we saw the world premiere of the 9-minute preview of the Narnia movie.

It was simply breathtaking.

We also saw 4 or 5 short pieces about the making of the movie. Apparently WETA, ILM, and Sony were all three involved in the visual effects of the movie, using Massive, as well as a variety of other amazing things, to produce these effects.

I am *so* looking forward to this movie.

After the video presentations, authors from the college signed their books (this one and this one) about Narnia, and there was hot chocolate and turkish delight.

Sarah loved the movie previews, but she was getting rather tired and grumpy by the end of it all.

Unfortunately, I’ll be travelling on the 9th. Maybe I can persuade some folks to go see it with me Friday night at Apachecon. (Just one week ’til Apachecon!)

Pumpkin Day

Another Pumpkin Day has come and gone, and it was a huge amount of fun, as usual. It was very well attended, and there seemed to be dozens and dozens of kids, all of whom were yelling at any given time. The photos are here. I think that this year I got photos of most of the pumpkins that got completed, but I’m not certain of that.

Redundant Array of Independent Coffee Machines (RAICM)

After long, arduous hours of research:”(Which is to say, I came in a half-hour early on Friday)”: the crack:”(Or, possibly, on crack)”: research team at the Asbury College office of Information Services has assembled a fully funcioning Redundant Array of Independent Coffee Machines (RAICM).

[Complete photo gallery here]

Constructed of 6 coffee machines, and one emergency backup unit, the RAICM array is able to churn out more than 50 gallons of coffee an hour. The machines are interconnected via CAT5 (CAT stands for Columbia, Antigua, Tanzania), through a 10/100 MBPS switch, communicating by RCP (Remote Coffee Protocol). Each coffee machine was retrofited with one PCI (Percolation Control Interface) slot into which we could wedge an ethernet card for this purpose. The smallest coffee maker was too small to get the PCI card into it, so it was forced to communicate over PCP (Parallel Coffee Protocol).

On the cluster there is also a wireless access point, so that coffee may be obtained wirelessly. We recommend the use of SCP (Secure Coffee Protocol) for this type of access, to prevent injection attacks, which the FDA may well consider illegal.

Controlling the entire array is the CPU (Central Percolation Unit) which was constructed from a very elderly Toshiba Satellite laptop, sporting a 386 processor and a whopping 4MB of RAM. From this unit, the coffee pots can be monitored, coordinated, and scheduled. Alas, for our demo, we had a hard drive failure, and the CPU wouldn’t boot. We suspect that it had consumed Juan cup of coffee too many. After all, it was, by then, pretty latte in the morning.

However, we can let you in on a few little secrets about the CPU and how it works. All of the controlling software is, of course, written in Java. The scheduling engine, rather than using cron, is done via a Java Script. And communication between the CPU and the various members of the array is done exclusively via Net Beans. The user interface that was designed relies heavily on the CSS standard (Cream, Sugar, Stir).

Several of the units, as you can see in the pictures, had updated processors installed for this experiment. And we even installed two hard drives on the array, so that it can store preferences for each coffee maker. These drives are, of course, IDE drives (If Decaf, Eject). We did experiment briefly with a CD drive (Caffienated/Decaffienated) but found that most of our engineers were so hopped up that they were spinning faster than the disks. Note also that several of our colleagues experimented with DASD (Decaf And Semi-Decaf) but we think that’s just silly.

Several of the coffee makers are directly interconnected to provide full failover in the event that someone discovers one of the coffee makers to have run out before they get their third cup.

The conclusions of our experiments are as follows:

1) Geeks with too much time on their hands are likely to spend it doing very silly things.
2) Certain persons should not be entrusted with delicate equipment
3) When something stops working, you probably should go ahead and throw it away, even though, to quote one of our esteemed colleagues, “We might could fix it some day!”
4) No matter how fine the equipment is that you give people, some folks will still insist on drinking bad coffee.

Other gratuitous remarks

* It is important that you have good filters in place.
* Notice that the CPU has a cereal interface
* This picture illustrates the cafe press
* Always choose the right tools when performing case modifications
* This series of pictures illustrates the well-known “blinking 12” problem
* Always wear appropriate safety gear
* This picture shows two of the non-volatile off-site backup storage units.

The week in review

It’s been a whirlwind of a week in the last 4 days. Two conferences and about 600 miles.

On Wednesday evening, we (Paul, Bert, Brett, Rick and me) drove up to Cincy for the Kentucky Higher Education Computing Conference. Good stuff there, as recorded on the KHECC blog.

On Friday afternoon, we drove back home. I got home, unpacked, packed, and left for Ohio LinuxFest. It’s the third year they’ve done it, and it was twice the size of last year. There were just over 700 people there, and some fantastic presentations. My talk on mod_rewrite was very well attended and well received. I was pleased with how it went, and now have yet more incentive to finally finish writing my book.

I stayed with Skippy, which was in itself a great experience. His kids are delightful, his house charming, and his wife wonderful and hospitable. Thank you so much for opening your home to me. I especially enjoyed jumping on the trampoline with the girls, and Skippy has promised to post photos somewhere. 🙂

On Saturday morning, we loaded up some PCs and monitors, and took them to the conference facility. These were from FreeGeek Columbus, which recycles used PCs and other hardware.

Novell had a big presence, giving a significant number of the talks, and were also a major sponsor. Thanks, Novell.

At lunch, we went to Bucco di Beppo. I’ll post photos later today or tomorrow, once I get some other stuff dune. There were perhaps 16 people there, and it was a lot of fun, although not as rowdy as last year. We had the pope room, which is quite an experience.

I stayed another night at Skippy’s house and had breakfast with the family in the morning at a area restaurant, which was positively wonderful, although their pancakes were the size of garbage can lids, and I wasn’t able to finish the second one.

We just arrived back home a little while ago, and I haven’t yet unpacked. I have a lot of writing I need to catch up on, but I’d really much rather take a nap.


Just in case I haven’t mentioned it before, I love my job. The fact that I get to do what I do, and get paid for it, is a source of constant amazement to me. Not since I worked at DataBeam did I so look forward to going to work.

Another source of constant amazement to me is meetings. I mean, you know the litany, right?

I must not attend meetings. Meetings are the mind killer. Meetings are the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my meeting. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the wasted time has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

(With apologies to #perl and Frank Herbert)

The last several jobs I’ve been at, meetings were just that — an utter waste of the time of almost everyone there. Usually, the primary purpose of the meeting was the aggrandizement of the person who called the meeting.

Obviously, that isn’t always the case, since something usually got accomplished, however small and unimportant. But typically a meeting was a way to say in 2 hours what could have been said in a 2-line email message.

And so it is with great trepidation that I attended (I think) 4 meetings yesterday.

But the bizarro-world thing is that meetings at Asbury seem to actually accomplish something, and not to be 90% fluff. In fact, they seem to approach 0% fluff, and people seem to actually want to get stuff accomplished and then go away. So, in each case, we sat down, exchanged brief pleasantries, and then we made actual progress. Made decisions. Changed our little part of the world.

Now, I have to wonder, is this merely meetings that I go to, or is this something that is consistent across the organization, or is it simply unique to my little department, due to our fantastic management team? But it seems pretty consistent in meetings that I go to in all different departments, and all the way up and down the org chart. People seem genuinely interested in actually reaching consensus, and then moving on to something else. And not at all in the “oh, all right, let’s just get this over with” kind of way, but really reaching consensus.

I am, as I’m sure most of you are, very hesitant to write anything about work. The reasons for this are likely obvious. But I think it’s probably ok to make these brief observations without fear. It’s ok to say *good* things about your job, right Heather?

Digital natives

There were many memorable things about the conference I just attended. If I had to pick just one, it would be the “Aha!” moment when Wednesday’s keynote speaker referenced Marc Prensky’s paper about digital immigrants and digital natives. To grossly oversimplify, he equates the new generation – perhaps those of college age and younger – to native speakers, while the rest of us are immigrants – in the digital world. (See also Part II.)

Those that are immigrants “speak with an accent”, consisting of things like the “Did you get my email” phone call, or even printing out email messages and responding to them in writing before typing the response back. (Interestingly, when our of our colleagues emailed us the URL for this document, one of us immediately loaded it on his palm, while another printed it out. I’ll leave it to your imagination who’s who.)

The natives, on the other hand, are going to spend their entire lives wondering why the rest of us are so stupid.

My daughter goes to Google when she has a question about something. The notion of going to the library to do research has never crossed her mind, and likely never will. The library is for story books. When she wants to find out what the weather will be like, she asks me to look for the weather on the computer, not on the TV. And she is as comfortable with a mouse as with a pencil.

Now, most of my readers consider themselves natives, I’m sure. But most of you remember when you didn’t have a computer. You remember your first computer, and it was probably a Vic20 or a TRS80 or perhaps an Apple IIe. In the same way that our parents remember not having televisions. However, I think that this is a somewhat arbitrary border-line. Those of us who were aware of the internet, and certainly the WWW, from the very first days, probably have a headstart over many of our colleagues. But certainly many people my age find websites perplexing, attend classes on how to use Google, and print out their email messages.

I’ve found myself using this terminology since that keynote, when thinking about the ways in which I need to explain certain things to certain people, and the frustration I get when they don’t grasp why it matters. Of course it’s obvious to me, but it’s just as important to grasp why it’s not obvious to them.

CCCU Conference

In March of 2000, I spoke at ApacheCon 2000 in Orlando. Since that time, I have not attended a conference without being one of the speakers. So, to me, conferences tend to involve a lot of preparation work, and a considerable amount of stress.

Also, for a considerable number of those, I was a member of the planning committee, which increased the work and stress just a scootch.

Tomorrow, I am going to the CCCU Conference on Technology, at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. I am not speaking. Presumably, I’m actually going to attend talks and learn things. And indeed there are some very interesting talks scheduled. But it will be quite a break from my usual pace of conference attending.

Oh, yeah, and we’re leaving at 5:30am, so I have to be ready to leave home at roughly 4:10am. Yikes.

Intertwingly problems

Today has been enormously frustrating, fighting a laundry list of intertwingled, although sort of unrelated, problems. The goal, this morning, was to import some stuff into svn, and then get a checkout of it on a Windows server. Sounds simple, right?

Tortoise SVN would not install, due to a missing/outdated file on the Windows machine. So I ran Windows Update. It hung, consuming 100% of the CPU, for the entire morning. I’ve seen these updates take a long time, so I just left it. When I came back after lunch, and it was still running, I killed it, and tried to take another approach.

Plan B – Mount the drive via samba over to the Linux machine on which svn is hosted, and perform the svn checkout “locally” to that mounted drive. This should work just fine, right? Well, I kept getting Input/Output errors, dropped connections. Had to delete files, run svn cleanup, and then try to update again. This went on until about 5:30, when I finally opened a ssh tunnel home, so that I could come home and connect back out.

I got home, but when I connected back out, everything was painfully sluggish, and, eventually, all the connections locked up, and I could not open a new shell. I had almost decided to go back to the office, when I got a shell, and discovered that the load was at 24. Oy.

It seems, after much poking about, that I’m tickling a known, but unresolved, bug in Samba, discussed here, as well as possibly here, among other places. So, for once, it’s actually not Window’s fault at all. Well, not directly, at least. If they didn’t have such a broken network file system in the first place, this would likely not be an issue at all.

The symptoms also seemed to include, at least once, smbiod consuming all the CPU, as well as a huge amount of RAM. But that didn’t happen again, so that could have been a fluke.


Every year in Wilmore, the Ichthus music festival brings 15-20,000 kids to town. This has been going on since 1970. I’ve been in town since 1989, and have never been to one.

One year, I rode my bike through the campgrounds, using my wrist band from a recent hospital visit as a pass. But it was just while they were setting up, and hardly anybody was there yet, so that doesn’t really count.

Lisa gave me a pass to the festival, so that I could go out there to talk with Jason about getting the photos up on the website.

I went out around lunchtime just to look around, and then a little later to take Jason the detailed instructions for getting the photos up there when the festival is over. I’m reasonably sure I was the only person on the campground wearing a tie.

Towards the end of the work day, I went back out to see how things were going, and to look around a little more. This time I changed so that I wasn’t so conspicuous, and got some interesting pictures.

I went to hear some strange band on the third stage, whose music consisted primarily of the lead “singer” screaming at the top of his lungs. When he took a break in the middle of the song to play the trumpet, it turned out that he was rather talented. Unfortunately, then he went back to screaming.

As evening wore on, I listened to a band called “Kids in the way”, and they made up my mind to call it a day and go home. They had a lot of energy, but very little talent. This would have been a mistake, because I would have missed the real experience. As I was about to leave, I saw Paul, who was taking pictures with his fancy camera. He offered to meet me by the backstage entrance and show me around. Woah!

So I stuck around a little bit, and a little later, we went backstage, and then went across in front of the stage, close enough to feel the sweat, to listen to Relient K. They were really good. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. And, despite the earplugs, they were really really loud. Paul’s pictures are better than mine, because he has a real camera, but I had a lot of fun.

At the end of their set, the MC announced that there was a tornado coming in, and that we should take shelter. After a few minutes, he came back on and said, I really mean it. Take shelter. Now.

Then the wind started. People started taking it seriously. We went backstage. A bunch of people were under the stage. I was a little more out in the open, but still behind a lot of concrete. It rained for about an hour, harder than I’ve seen rain here for some time. The lightning was very impressive. Ichthus is known for being muddy – we used to call it Mudthus, in college. And the rain made up for the two sunny days.

So, I’ve experienced Ichthus, at least a little bit. Sarah wants ot go out there today, but I don’t know for sure if we’ll actually get to go. We’ll have to see. We’re doing the “Reforest the Bluegrass” project today, if I can find where they are doing it.