April 27 – May 1, 2015

I feel like I’ve written about rioting and looting before, so I won’t rehash all of those arguments again. I’ll just say this: If you were born & raised in a prison, one you were in through no fault or action of your own, one in which the guards could beat & murder the inmates with impunity – when things finally broke & the prisoners revolted, would you not burn the whole fucking thing to the ground?

Tuesday night we saw Ex Machina, a sci-fi movie that is ostensibly about the moment of creation of a true Artificial Intelligence but which somehow still managed to mostly involve a lot of footage of two dudes sparring verbally, and a lot of female [uh, robot] nudity. The gratifyingly violent ending redeems it somewhat, but it still doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting cultural document, especially when read, as suggested by Sasha Geffen, as part of a posthuman feminist trilogy, along with Her and Under the Skin

Wednesday night I trekked to Chapel Hill to see one of my favorite bands, USX, at the Cave. It was a four-band bill because of course, and USX didn’t go on until after midnight. They played a great set, but even though I slept in a bit Thursday morning, I still felt entirely unproductive all day. Well, at least until 3pm when I made a cup of tea. I don’t generally drink any caffeine, so it doesn’t take much to thoroughly wire me.

We’ve been watching the latest season of Girls, but I’m not quite ready to stake out a position on it yet.

Friday night we were just about to settle down & watch a couple of episodes when I was notified that the web stream at WXDU was conveying nothing but a really harsh buzzing noise. So instead I drove over to check it out. Somehow the Aphex Compellor (about which I wrote so glowingly a few weeks ago) was sending garbage down its digital output, instead of digital audio.

The “fix” was as easy as unplugging the cable & plugging it back in (weirdly, this only worked at the Compellor end of the cable), but the root cause diagnosis has thus far stumped me. Lightning? Randomness? 

Or perhaps the fact that some asshole had arbitrarily twisted all the knobs on the front to new positions? Which shouldn’t have caused this particular problem, but had caused our over-the-air sound to be all fucked up for however long it had been since it happened. Why do people do that? What do they hope to accomplish?

April 27 – May 1, 2015

March 6-11, 2015

Friday night we watched North Face, the based-on-a-true-story German movie about the race to be the first to climb the north face of the Eiger. The short blurbs I had read did not prepare me for just how dire things got. It was suspenseful and great and sad, and M spent the rest of the evening reading Wikipedia articles about mountaineering in the Swiss Alps.

Saturday we attended a friend’s baby shower, which was baby showery, but with excellent brunch foods because our friends J & V are over-the-top amazing when it comes to hosting massive food-related events at their house.

Saturday evening we went to see What We Do In The Shadows, the New Zealand vampire mockumentary from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. It was OK. I don’t remember all that much about their previous film Eagle Vs Shark, which I suspect means that it was also OK. I loved Flight of the Conchords, but it becomes clearer & clearer that Jemaine without Bret is a less humorous entity. 

Monday night I stopped by the new restaurant & bar at the new 21c Hotel downtown. The hotel itself, and its accompanying contemporary art museum, aren’t open yet, but the restaurant & bar are. The space is absolutely gorgeous, with interesting art all over the place.

It was only their second night, so I won’t go into detail, particularly since I only had a couple of cocktails and a couple of dishes. The french fries with the burger were phenomenal – easily the best in town. Like scaled-up McDonald’s fries. The burger is one of those silly tall double-patty jobs, and it just tasted like underseasoned ground beef. There are plenty of other things on the menu, though, so I’m sure I’ll be back.

This week has been pretty rough, work-wise. We’re in the thicket of making offers and waiting for students to accept, and there have been a number of declines this week, which is always a bummer. By the time someone gets to the offer stage with us, we’ve interviewed them three times, and we’re pretty darn convinced that they would do well with us (and that they would enjoy the work they’d be doing). So while I don’t take declines personally, it’s still a drag.

OK I kind of take them personally when the person waits until the very instant of their deadline (or even later) to decline. I’m sure that their mental image of how we work involves us simultaneously offering to dozens of people, and building our teams from those who accept.

That’s not how it works, though. Every offer is a potential binding contract, and we have a finite number of slots, so we have to wait until one offer is declined before we can proceed with another. And because we’re an internship, we basically have to get all of this done in a fairly narrow window during the first quarter of the year.

So every day that someone stalls unnecessarily before declining is actually pretty painful. As I said, I’m sure they don’t realize this, but still.

Today I emailed a student to see if they were still available to interview, and they said that they weren’t, but some of their classmates were still looking, and they offered to forward my note to their classmates. This is what we need more of.

Today involved a huge discussion on my Facebook page about copyright. It didn’t need to go on for as long as it did (which is true of any Facebook discussion longer than 25 comments), and it mostly just cemented my opinion that the term of copyright should be recalibrated to that of patents, i.e. 20 years. If you want more details, go look at my Facebook page, I guess.

As I write this I’m also battling a DDoS attack on one of the WXDU servers. It’s not even one of the boxes that would be in the public eye – it’s a host that has a DJ-only music database on it. It doesn’t make any sense for someone to DDoS it and not, say, our actual public website. 

I don’t have a ton of experience in dealing with such attacks. This one takes the form of a flood of http requests to the IP address of the host, but requesting other random site URLs. So far I have blocked close to 2000 IP addresses. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I’m ready to try to script & automate the process – I mean, I have the blocking automated, but I’m sanity-checking the list of IPs that I block manually, because there’s some legitimate traffic in there as well.

If it goes on for significantly longer, I’ll write something that can differentiate between legitimate traffic and this bogus stuff, and just auto-block all of it.

So yeah, that’s my week in a nutshell: pointless battles against undeserved frustrating crap. 

March 6-11, 2015

January 11-13, 2015

I’ve been doing a lot of technical interviewing lately, and I have a suggestion for the nation’s universities’ Computer Science departments:

Quit making your undergraduate curricula so polyglot

I feel like a decade ago, you had a pretty good chance of talking to a Computer Science student who had at least a solid 2 years of Java or C++ under his or her belt, and at some schools more like 3 or even all 4 years.

This was of course highly problematic – it meant that you would encounter students who hadn’t the foggiest idea about web technologies, or how to use useful scripting languages. But at least they knew a pretty solid range of advanced topics in their department’s language of choice.

Lately I’ve been talking to a ton of students who had maybe two semesters taught in Java freshman year, and then perhaps a couple of classes in C, and some more advanced classes in Python, and perhaps a web class in PHP or Javascript, and then maybe some crank of a prof teaching in a functional language.

Which is neat, right? They get exposed to all of these different languages, blah blah blah. 

So they can barely remember how to write a for loop in any of them.

I would like to suggest that perhaps a minimum of four consecutive semesters or eight core CS courses should be taught in the SAME LANGUAGE, which should be enough time for the students to get past the initial learning curve, master the basics, and pick up the more advanced concepts. 

Because right now I’m talking to too many students who’ve essentially repeated the basics in three different languages & never seen advanced topics in any of them.

Anyway. I’m backlogged on writing diary entries again. Let’s see:

  • Sunday was Sunday, with the added bonus of a power outage at WXDU that resulted in no show for me. But I was able to switch our internet radio stream over to a higher-quality audio processor. I think it sounds better. You tell me
  • We watched the Golden Globes. I don’t have a lot to say about that, other than to register my annoyance that Selma didn’t win anything. I mean, I enjoyed Birdman, and I enjoyed Boyhood, but I liked Selma better. And COME ON there have already been a lot of movies about WHITE MEN.
  • Our Alien-series film festival has ground to a halt due to Having to Work At Night After Work. Yuck.
  • My nighttime work has mostly been refactoring someone else’s 10-year-old PHP code so that it doesn’t throw 10,000 errors every time a page loads now that we’re on PHP 5.x. It’s actually fairly straightforward, just gotta put EVERY SINGLE HASH KEY into single quotes instead of barewords.
  • M has had real work-work to do, which is a drag.
  • My work has been rendered far more pleasant by my incessant repeat playing of the new Sleater-Kinney. Gonna be hard to knock this one off of my #1 spot for 2015. It’s January 14th as I’m writing this. Yep.
  • I finished reading Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. What a great read. Thanks for the recommendation, zmagg! I’m kind of gobsmacked that there are more books in this series & I can read them RIGHT NOW.

January 11-13, 2015

WXDU’s Top 65 NC Releases of 2014

Based on airplay by all of our DJs during the 2-month period each album was on playlist. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had the same band back-to-back in the top 5 before.

1 – John Howie Jr & the Rosewood Bluff – Everything Except Goodbye
2 – T0W3RS – TL;DR
3 – See Gulls – 2 Songs
4 – Hiss Golden Messenger – Bad Debt
5 – Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers
6 – Reigning Sound – Shattered
7 – Dex Romweber Duo – Images 13
8 – Solar Halos – Solar Halos
9 – Various – Merge 25th Anniversary Covers EP
10 – Daniel Bachman – Orange County Serenade
11 – Lilac Shadows – No Dark / No Light
12 – Humble Tripe – The Giving
13 – Last Year’s Men – Underwhelmed
14 – Datahata – Spectral Cities
15 – Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba – The Great Peace
16 – Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
17 – Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha
18 – Silent Lunch – Late to Bloom
19 – Horizontal Hold – This is Not a Living
20 – Logical Sound Discovery – Thrill Seeker
21 – Shipwrecker – III
22 – Wesley Wolfe – Numbskull
23 – The Loudermilks – The Loudermilks
24 – The Tender Fruit – The Darkness Comes
25 – Dan Melchior und das Menace – Hunger
26 – Jenks Miller/JJ Toth – Roads to Ruin
27 – Curtis Eller’s American Circus – How To Make it in Hollywood
28 – Sagan Youth Boys – Annotated Universe
29 – Ezekiel Graves – Chthonic Journey
30 – Wood Ear – Electric Alone
31 – Secret Boyfriend – This is Always Where You’ve Lived
32 – Ashrae Fax – Never Really Been Into It
33 – Davidians – 2014 demos
34 – Flesh Wounds – Bitter Boy 7"
35 – Ama Divers – An Echo in the Sound
36 – Lud – Defenestration Boulevard
37 – Le Weekend – No Object
38 – Spider Bags – Frozen Letter
39 – VVAQRT – Detainee
40 – Backsliders – Raleighwood EP
41 – Blursome – Heavy Resting
42 – No Love – Tape #2
43 – The Tills – Howlin’
44 – Whatever Brains – SSR63/SSR64
45 – Drag Sounds – II
46 – Flesh Wounds – Flesh Wounds
47 – Chatham County Line – Tightrope
48 – Tashi Dorji – Tashi Dorji
49 – Museum Mouth – Alex I Am Nothing
50 – Solar Halos/Irata – Split 10"
51 – New Light Choir – Volume II
52 – Jack Carter & the Armory – Anthropomorphic Transfiguration
53 – Bo White – Millennial Tombs
54 – Staton Embassy – From My Head to Yours
55 – North Elementary – Honcho Poncho
56 – Malcolm Holcombe – Pitiful Blues
57 – Brain Flannel – Empty Set
58 – Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC – Hopscotch 2013-2014 Recordings
59 – Art Jackson – Tulip Tree Poplar Flower
60 – Beauty World – Beauty World
61 – Totally Slow/Black Market – split 7”
62 – Kneads – 2013 Demos
63 – King Mez – Long Live the King
64 – Kaleidoscope Death – Restofthdrumtracks/DeadDrum
65 – Alpha Cop – Cue the Cold Air

WXDU’s Top 65 NC Releases of 2014

October 30, 2014

One of those glorious days wherein I had a block of like 4 hours without meetings. So I spent the whole thing making a slide deck for a talk I’m giving next week. The event is “ignite-style” so I went ahead & did the 20 slides/5 minutes thing. Or, rather, I did the 20 slides. I actually have no idea what I’m going to say.

[Not strictly true. I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to talk about, but I haven’t written an outline or started timing stuff against the deck yet.]

Work is about the most stressful that it has ever been, and I thought I was handling it pretty well (no anxiety attacks, GERD nice & under control, not drinking that much more heavily than usual) but then I noticed a vaguely familiar itch & now I’m 70% sure I’m getting Shingles. But hey, at least nowadays I do most of my work at a standing desk, so if I need to spend the next 3 weeks standing up 24/7, I can probably handle it.

Dinner at Toast, followed by yet another unscheduled trip to WXDU to reboot a server – this time the streaming server was all zombified, sorta serving the Icecast status page, letting me move the mouse around onscreen but not actually interact with windows, etc.

Power-cycled it & then while watching the system log I remembered that I’d installed InfluxDB on it. Remembered because the log was showing InfluxDB repeatedly failing to start.

Once I figured out what was broken, I went home & actually documented the config of that server. Sort of.

At All Things Open last week, I saw a great talk about Chef, which started with the following:

The Sys Admin’s Journey

  • ssh
  • Store notes in ~/server.txt
  • Move notes to the wiki
  • Write some scripts (setup.sh, fixit.sh, etc.)
  • Golden images and snapshots
  • Policy-driven configuration management

When it comes to WXDU, at least, I’m still somewhere between the notes & the wiki stages, with occasional forays into “write some scripts.” Sigh.

October 30, 2014

October 24, 2014

Work is work. Had a good chat with a potential project sponsor, got the first (of what will be many) warning that next year could be tricky, funding-wise. One good thing about our program is that we’re a hybrid recruiting / tech incubator program, and those demand curves don’t always mirror each other, which gives us a little bit of insulation.

Between calls, I played through this great little record three or four times:


After work, ran over to the Pinhook & checked out the setup for our WXDU simulcast of Sunday’s Know Your Poll show/party. 2 – 7 p.m. – we’d rather have you there in person, but if you can’t make it: 88.7 FM in Durham, or wxdu.org everywhere.

October 24, 2014

October 22, 2014

Got up early to drive to Raleigh for day 1 of 2 of the All Things Open conference, an enterprise-oriented open-source conference. The group that runs it is based in Atlanta (where they run a similar conference in the spring), but between Red Hat, RTP and the startup scene here, there’s probably far more reason to have one here than in ATL.

I never go to conferences, so I have no real points of comparison, but: the speakers are knowledgeable and approachable, and present at varying levels of polish, from Very to Not At All. The organization is sufficient, if not especially mind-blowing (although this year’s is way better than last year’s). There are some women speakers, but not enough to make me happy.

(Two of the six talks I saw today were by women, and both rooms were packed to overflowing, so hopefully that’ll lead to even better balance next year.)

Everything I saw was pretty wonky, far too much so for a general-purpose blog, so I’ll spare you the details. Although I will say that I continue to be amazed at watching people walk in 2 minutes before their designated start time & then struggle mightily with laptop/projector issues.

Also this can serve as a reminder that Mac people still need to travel with their own fucking VGA adapters.

Anyway. Low-key nerdy fun; a nice paid vacation that includes the chance to get at least the names & urls of projects that I could probably make use of.

Made the final decision & arrangements to simulcast the Know Your Polls party on WXDU – it’s a get out the vote rally & concert at the Pinhook on Sunday afternoon from 2 to 7 pm. Lots of good bands: SOON, Daniel Bachman, Some Army, Shirlette Ammons, Hammer No More the Fingers, Midnight Plus One, and PIPE. Show up at the Pinhook if at all possible, but if you just can’t get away, tune it in at 88.7 or wxdu.org

October 22, 2014