First Impressions of Trust Issues by The PDX Broadsides

At the time that I’m writing this, I’ve had Trust Issues for a few days. I signed up for the Kickstarter campaign after The Doubleclicks mentioned them. I then went to the PDX Broadsides’ bandcamp page and ended up buying the entire back catalog.

After having heard the album a few times, here are my first impressions:

  • Favorite Song: Robot vs Boy – although it seems like it should be the first track to a concept album and leaves me wanting to know more about the story
  • Most beautiful song: Dolores – about HBO’s Westworld
  • Most fun song: Tiny Little Octopus

Now, track-by-track:

  1. The Weather – I love the vocalizing on this track, but I have no idea what it’s about and why it goes from an ominous song to talking about the weather. So I enjoy listening, but will probably enjoy more when I know what it’s about.
  2. Rocket Science – a song I’d play to kids 7 or 8 and up about how treating others by the golden rule isn’t Rocket Science
  3. Acoustic Kitty – pretty funny premise, but one of the ones I currently like least
  4. Tiny Little Octopus – see above
  5. I’ll Eat You Last – this is a nerd version of the song my brother danced for his first dance. I don’t know what the song is, but it was a young Christipher Walken singing it and somewhat insulting the other person, but still being about love
  6. Noncompliant – a good feminist song
  7. Nerd Love Song – what it says on the tin.
  8. On the case – About Where’s Waldo? Probably the song I like the least
  9. Delta You Delta Me – a song about growing apart. I like how the chorus/bridge go
  10. We Want Rey – a great, fun song about how representation in media is a good first start, but what about representation in merchandising? Also has a part near the end reminiscent of the main verses in We Didn’t Start the Fire
  11. I Go Both Ways – a very fun song about not falling prey to flame wars/culture wars and just enjoying what you enjoy – even if it comes from rival companies. I didn’t get the line about the snails, though…
  12. Dolores – see above
  13. Robot vs Boy – see above
  14. Sign off – a whispered message that freaked out my 5 year old when it played because she didn’t expect someone to be whispering in the speakers.

Stratis or BTRFS?

It’s been a while since btrfs was first introduced to me via a Fedora version that had it as the default filesystem. At the time, it was especially brittle when it came to power outages. I ended up losing a system to one such use case. But a few years ago, I started using btrfs on my home directory. And even developed a program to manage snapshots. My two favorite features of btrfs are that Copy on Write (COW) allows me to make snapshots that only take up space when the file that was snapshot changes and the ability to dynamically set up and grow RAID levels. I was able to use this recently to get my photo hard drive on RAID1 without having to have an extra hard drive (because most RAID solutions destroy what’s on the drive).

However, btrfs has been plagued with some important issues – for example RAID5/6 is unstable, not recommended, and after many years still hasn’t solved the write hole. (Something the very similar ZFS has had solved for years) Look online and you’ll find scores of tales of people who have suffered unrecoverable data loss from btrfs.

A few years ago Red Hat deprecated btrfs on RHEL6. That makes sense given the long support times of the RHEL releases. The team at Red Hat has to backport kernel fixes and that gets complicated as time goes by. btrfs has grown by leaps and bounds since RHEL6. But a couple days ago (when I write this – 10 days before the blog post is going to appear), Red Hat announced it was getting deprecated on RHEL7. There was lots of speculation on the net and someone who used to hack on btrfs for RHEL mentioned that since he left, no one at Red Hat worked on it. Suse is the distro that employes btrfs hackers at this point. Then, yesterday, Stratis was announced. From the Phoronix article I read about Stratis in:

First a quote from the announcement of Stratis:

Stratis is a new tool that meets the needs of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) users calling for an easily configured, tightly integrated solution for storage that works within the existing Red Hat storage management stack. To achieve this, Stratis prioritizes a straightforward command-line experience, a rich API, and a fully automated, externally-opaque approach to storage management. It builds upon elements of the existing storage stack as much as possible, to enable delivery within 1-2 years. Specifically, Stratis initially plans to use device-mapper and the XFS filesystem. Extending or building on SSM 2.1.1 or LVM 2.1.2 was carefully considered. SSM did not meet the design requirements, but building upon LVM may be possible with some development effort.

From the Wikipage describing that it’s going to land in Fedora 28:

a local storage system akin to Btrfs, ZFS, and LVM. Its goal is to enable easier setup and management of disks and SSDs, as well as enabling the use of advanced storage features — such as thin provisioning, snapshots, integrity, and a cache tier — without requiring expert-level storage administration knowledge. Furthermore, Stratis includes monitoring and repair capabilities, and a programmatic API, for better integration with higher levels of system management software.

Then from the author of the Phoronix article:

For Stratis 1.0 they hope to support snapshot management, file-system maintenance, and more. With Stratis 2.0 is where they plan to deal with RAID, write-through caching, quotas, etc. With Stratis 3.0 is where it should get interesting as they hope for “rough ZFS feature parity” and support send/receive, integrity checking, RAID scrubbing, compression, encryption, deduplication, and more. Only in the first half of 2018 is when they expect to reach Stratis 1.0. No word on when they anticipate getting to Stratis 3.0 with ZFS feature parity.

Interesting. I led me on a path of exploration of LVM and other tech. First of all, I don’t imagine btrfs is going to sit still, unworked on, while this happens. Maybe it finally reaches its stability goals. Maybe the threat of Stratis attracts more hackers to btrfs. Or, maybe Stratis catches up with, and surpasses, btrfs. I think if they can make the dynamic RAID work, and can get stability up to ZFS levels, I could move over to Stratis. If not, I’m still thinking about LVM and XFS or ext4 for my home-built NAS rather than btrfs (or together with btrfs if it doesn’t get too complex for snapshotting purposes) because that would (potentially) let me grow directories indefinitely in a way that works as my backup needs grow. This will require more knowledge and planning, though. I’ll keep documenting my research here.

BBQ Danielle’s Marinade Chicken

A week or so after the smoked chicken, Danielle did her marinade on a whole chicken we’d cleaved in half. I cooked it on the Weber Kettle at an average of 350 F and it came out GREAT! I did a 2 zone setup with the dark meat facing towards the fire. I took it out when the breasts were 160 (which was approximately 180 for the dark meat – which is the temp most people like dark meat). Look at how juicy that came out!

Chicken BBQ'd on the Weber Kettle
Chicken BBQ’d on the Weber Kettle

Smoked Chicken

Do you know why a lot of people don’t BBQ that often? Because they always make the same thing and that’s boring. So I’ve been going through all the recipes in Meathead’s book (and other sources) to see if anything else is tasty to my palette. This time it was smoked chicken. I cut the chicken in half.

I took the skin off because Danielle was going to take off the skin anyway and since this was a rub-based recipe, that would remove all the flavor as well.

Meathead's Memphis Rub on chicken
Meathead’s Memphis Rub on chicken

This time instead of Simon and Garfunkel rub, it was Meathead’s Memphis dust. I threw it on the smoker with the skin on the side to crisp it up, but I didn’t realize I was supposed to stretch it out, so I just ended up throwing it out after the smoke.

chicken smoking on the Weber Smokey Mountain
chicken smoking on the Weber Smokey Mountain

When it was done, I had a smoked chicken sandwhich. It was OK. Danielle definitely does not want this recipe again. She said it doesn’t break up the taste of the ribs and/or pork shoulder since it’s all the same rub. I do agree with her on that front. If I made this chicken, it wouldn’t be as part of a meal with Meathead’s Last Meal Ribs or a pork shoulder with his Memphis Dust.

Smoked Chicken Sandwhich
Smoked Chicken Sandwhich

Cooking Kansas City BBQ Sauce

I’d tackled all the major BBQ meats. It was time to try and make my own sauce. So I assembled all my ingredients and followed Meathead’s recipe. It’s supposed to be like KC Classic, which I’ve never had. I also went with the secret optional ingredient of Tamarind paste.

Tamarind Paste for the BBQ Sauce

Then I finished cooking

Cooking up the Kansas City BBQ Sauce
Cooking up the Kansas City BBQ Sauce

And canned it while it was still hot:

Kansas City BBQ Sauce completed
Kansas City BBQ Sauce completed

So what was the verdict? Again, I’ve never had KC Classic. My favorite commercial BBQ sauce is Trader Joe’s Kansas City sauce and that’s nice and sweat. This sauce was very tangy. While it has grown on me over the past couple months, it’s definitely not my favorite and my wife doesn’t like it at all. I want to try one more time, this time tweaking it to be a sweeter sauce. Also, I want to see how it changes when caramelized, something I haven’t had a chance to do yet. Still, it was fun to make my own and add it to my other BBQ/smoke creations.

Review: Warbreaker, Part 3 of 3

Warbreaker, Part 3 of 3Warbreaker, Part 3 of 3 by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First of all, let me say that the voice acting and foley/music is so great in this series. In this third installment as characters reveal their true natures we end up with different voice performances from the actors. Very good job.

That out of the way, onto the review. It’s possible if I were more familiar with fantasy tropes I might have seen the twists coming, but I was caught completely by surprise as more and more of the story unspooled. In the best cases, I was only one step ahead of Sanderson while I’m often able to spot all the Checkov’s Guns (or wands) in literature, TV, and movies. As is always the method of a good writer, it was all there. Even the prologue gives a hint as to who Vasher is.

The key to making the story work, especially this third part, is that this is where all the characters grow up. While Vivena spent the entire book being confronted by the truth that the Hollandrens are not as evil and different as she’d been taught post-schism, this is the section where she grew as a person. She learns not to be quick to judge others. She learns a lesson that we could all learn about how poverty isn’t always a choice and how morals can quickly erode when you need to evade starvation. She basically learns that you shouldn’t judge until you can see through the life of another.

Light Song also levels up in this section of the story as his investigations have awakened a purpose inside of him. He starts taking things seriously. He also has another growth moment after he finally learns of his previous life and how Laramar knew him before he was returned. Interestingly, in his section we learn something about the returned and why they come back that isn’t shared with others, including Vasher.

Vasher didn’t grow much, but it wasn’t his story. He’s integral….especially so in this section of the book, but it’s not his story. We’re really seeing just a chunk of a very long journey for him. However, though him we get the remaining information we need on how Awakening works and Nightblade’s history. Nightblade’s sections here were the best in the book and I LOVE the voice they gave him in the GraphicAudio narration.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the book, even if it came up quite a while ago. But I’ll definitely say that I didn’t see it coming on who was the true employer of certain characters as well as who was orchestrating the things that set the plot of the book in motion. I will say that I loved the title drop at the end. (So rare for it to be so late in a book) It really did bring a lot of meaning to a certain character. Sanderson then TOTALLY leaves it open for a sequel. But then he went to work on some of his more famous works. I think I’d love to see a sequel following the two characters at the end of the book. I’m not sure how that would work in the meta-context of storytelling since they may not have much more growth left as characters, but this book definitely did leave me wanting more.

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Review: Uncanny Magazine Issue 1: November/December 2014

Uncanny Magazine Issue 1: November/December 2014Uncanny Magazine Issue 1: November/December 2014 by Lynne M. Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yet another demonstration of authors who are doing great things with the short story format. I’ll definitely be buying other issues. As usual for magazines and anthologies, a collection of my status updates.

“The Uncanny Valley” – An intro and the the mission statement of the magazine.

“If You Were …. White” – About Jungleland and a premise not unlike Roger Rabbit (the movie, not the book) where all the animal actors in movies were sentient.

“Presence” – Sad tale about caring for a parent in hospice care via a robot

“Late Nights at the Cape and Cane” – A perfect use of the short story form to tell the story of some super villains at a super villain bar.

“Celia and the Conservation of Entropy” – A precocious high school girl goes back in time to visit her grandfather. The story is fun as written, especially Celia’s mindset. But it all comes together in the final page (as is often the case with mysterious short stories)

“Migration” – About a world in which birds carry souls.

“The Boy Who Grew Up” – A teenager meets Peter Pan (who’s now also a teenager) and gains some perspective on his situation. It was sad, but perhaps a bit hopeful at the end.

“Her Fingers like Whips, Her Eyes Like Razors” – what I find annoying about many stories of the fey is that they seem cryptic to a fault. You never quite know WTF is happening and that’s annoying. It’s not a trope I enjoy. That said, the story overall was good and was successful in conveying the emotions it wanted to.

“Mars..Attacks!” – This article, like other similar ones, made me both happy and sad at once. And, considering it was written 3 years ago, almost sunk me into depression. It’s about how geek women are constantly attacked, especially online. (Something I just learned about in the past 2-3 years) It’s also about hope with all the female geek cultures. But to see where we are in 2017….ooh boy.

“Worldcon Roundtable” – a roundtable panel conducted via email about Worldcon. Made me more interested in trying to attend a WorldCon. There’s a lot of drama around it and that was even present in the roundtable. But fan comes from fanatic, so I’m not surprised people are extremely passionate about it. The important thing is everyone remaining respectful and polite.

“Does Sex…Soft?” – Shout out to God’s War,which I read last year! I have a hard time understanding the mindset of the people she’s criticizing. Sex, love, & romance are a part of the human condition.While I understand if a story ignores it because it takes away from the narrative (books don’t mention every character’s bathroom use), don’t think any story is poorer for including.

I skipped over the shorts article.

“Kissing Song” – a poem

“The New Ways” – a poem

“The Whalemaid, Singing” – a poem

“Interview: Headley” – So much of the tiger story is based in reality, it blows my mind. Also great to see her thought process.

“Interview: Beth Meacham” – Neat talk about how she worked with Jay

“Interview: Christopher Barzak” – A discussion about his short story in the magazine as well as his career.

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Review: Put this in your brain

Put this in your brainPut this in your brain by Stu Norvath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As usual, a collection of my status updates. Overall a good set of essays. Some deeper than others.

Intro – Neat intro by a member of MCR about the role that games play in our lives

“Backward Flow” – About Dune the game and book that I wouldn’t have understood a couple years ago. “As an upper-class white man,

Paul isn’t just better at being civilized; he is better at being uncivilized.”

“Rapture” – Comparing a Lovecraftian game and the Ukraine Crimea thing

“Safe Space” – comparing games to dealing with anxiety.

“I shot the Centurion” – a look at what it means for a game to truly give the user choice. A fun read as I’ve come to see what a lie the choices in games like Mass Effect can be.

“Mission: Unclear” – Interesting essay compares how both elections and the stories told in FPSs fail due to the paradox of choice. People are paralyzed by knowing too much about the candidates. In games,preference for widest market eliminates choice.

“The Myth of Choice” -Loved Choose your own Adventure. This essay gives a history lesson and makes some interesting points on what those books tell us about ourselves.

“Interactive Thingers” – Most personal one so far explores how games have changed through the decades and how that has changed the gamers. Very neat.

“Notes on Luftrausers” – When the author calls out Tim Rogers in opening line I know this is going to be a good essay. Rogers completely changed the way I view games – gave me a vocabulary for what I loved most in them. The author also has an Opening quote in paragraph #4 from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Overall great meditation on what makes great games great.”

“Depth of Field” – explores the grammar of the FPS game and how it requires learning to read with that grammar.”

“Death and Form” – Kane and Lynch as an exploration of Surrealism. Very interesting way of exploring hyper-gruesome games.

“Definite about its Purpose” – Never thought about how much death isn’t explored in video games. It really could move beyond the current role of fail state in many games.

“We All Become” – Reading this, I’m sad I never played Transistor. I really enjoyed Bastion. Perhaps I’ll eventually get to it.

“From a Great Height” – The Fall sounds like the type of game I’d really enjoy playing. I enjoy stories of apparent AI paradox – like the I, Robot short stories.

“We Don’t Talk Anymore” – Interesting conversation about a game betraying you via the ending. This is about Prince of Persia, but could just as easily have been about Mass Effect 3.

“Catching ‘Em All” – I never got into the Pokemon games – I was way older when it came out. But I can see how playing while OCD could be dangerous.

“Dance, Dance, Dance” – An essay that views player controls as body metaphor. It’s one of those things where you usually want the control to be flawless, but some neat exploration can come from making it as cumbersome as reality is or can be.

“The First Step” – An Alaskan native tribe creates a video game to help pass on their values to the next generation.

“Netrunner and my Kid” – About playing board games with his kid.

“Teacher’s Challenge” – teacher tries to use video games to teach and keeps failing to get the students engaged despite a number of them identifying as gamers.

“Burning the Library” – A look at assassin’s creed and what it is choosing to convey about history; despite a facade of complexity, it’s an overly simplistic view of various sides of conflicts throughout history.

“The Many Lives of Edward Thatch” – Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag as an excuse to revisit pirate lore. Neat treatise on Blackbeard.

“Contest of Attrition” – About Banner Saga and how you’re just trying to survive, not defeat the Big Bad. It’s a reminder that games can be about different aspects of the human condition.

“Marjorie” – An exploration of how Pinball machines are art and what they convey to us. Also a look at how copmlexity is both good and bad for the game.

“Finding Cullen” – An article on why Cullen from Dragon Age became an Ascended Extra.

“Who Watches the Watchers” – The role Clementine plays in The Walking Dead S1 and S2. Rings quite true as Clementine is what I thought made TWD worth playing.

“Neverending Horror” – When horror can succeed in video games and how it fails (when you gain power)

“Through the Fog-Choked Streets” – A different look at where horror succeeds in video games by comparing to books and movies

“Alone in a Dark Room” – A simple game can still have multitudes hidden within.

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Review: Warbreaker, Part 2 of 3

Warbreaker, Part 2 of 3Warbreaker, Part 2 of 3 by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sanderson continues to weave together 3 narratives in a way that makes me really invested in each one. Well, to be fair, for most of this part of the book I viewed Vivena’s sections with resignation. Interestingly, both sisters are naive in their own ways. Vivena is naive through an overly focused education and a position of privilege. Siri is naive from always blowing off her education and those around her having a vested interest in keeping her in the dark. The difference is that Vivena comes off as a stuck up snob for most of her character arc in this part, although things rally near the end when she finally starts to accept her status as a blasphemer and tries to use it for good.

Over with Siri we have her evolving relationship with the God-King. I can’t remember if it was part 1 or this part, but her subplot about faking not just orgasms, but the entire sexual act was pure comedy. When the God-King looked at her puzzled, I had a feeling his story was going to revolve around being too cloistered. And it’s true – they have cloistered him. They’ve also cut his tongue in order to control him (in a move that I’ve seen in other fictional stories). I think this makes his evolution with Siri very interesting because he’s got a bit of a Stockholm thing going on and I think he might end up screwing up Siri’s plans out of too much trustworthiness with his priests. I’ve also enjoyed Siri’s leveling up on court intrigue and dealing.

Light Song was my favorite from the beginning. I’ve always enjoyed sardonic characters and he’s no exception. That said, it’s been fun to see him move from pure comic relief to starting to investigate Vasha’s actions. I also positively love the way he rejects Blushweaver. Also poo on Blush Weaver for slut-shaming Siri. I know she thinks Siri is a traitor there to destroy the kingdom, but it just sucks her way of attacking Siri is to attack her sexuality (and with a false claim, at that).

And speaking of comic relief as well as circling back to the beginning, the face-heel turn at the end is awesome for the same reason that Littlefinger’s Face-Heel turn is awesome. Both in the book and in the TV show my favorite LF moment is when he tells Ned “I told you not to trust me.” There’s a certain boldness in an author to tell you not only that a twist is going to happen, but to tell you the twist to your face and then write in a way so that you don’t believe him. (or her)

Top priority when I get home is loading part 3 onto my phone.

Oh yeah, and someone I wanted to bring up from my status comments: my favorite Light Song moments are when Laramar (his high priest) exasperatedly reminds him that he can’t get drunk or get headaches.

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