Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I was going to say something funny about Roman Polanski...

...But then I remembered that there is nothing funny about a 44 year old man drugging and anally raping a 13 year old girl; and I thought better of it.

NCIS Los Angeles

So far. the pilot (which was shown last season) pretty good.

The first episode (from tonight), really, really, really bad...

Also VERY different from the pilot in general, and from NCIS; which is at least in part, why it's really, really, really bad.


The characters in the pilot: Interesting, great potential.

The character in the first episode: Completely different, one dimensional, ridiculous, just very very bad.

The writing in the pilot: Intriguing, and challenging. Like NCIS, but with a twist.

The writing in the first episode: Ever see the Vin Diesel movie "A Man Apart"? Yeah, it was better than this. So was the '84-'85 season of Saturday Night Live.

At least they avoided the CSI:Miami style pseudo science glitz they were playing with in the pilot.

...Although, seriously, Linda hunt? I mean, I love the woman. She's a great actress, and always interesting to watch... but what the hell is she doing in a show about naval criminal investigations?

I'mna give it a couple more weeks, see if it gets any better. I'm not hopeful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It seems that this isn't a political posture; they seem to actually believe it:

More fools they.

A Voice Made For Radio

You might have noted that some folks in the gun community, and more broadly in the community of people online (and in person for that matter) are quiet polarizing.

Apparently, I'm one of them, lord knows why.

Another is a man I consider my good friend, and who I have missed terribly these past two years since I saw him last, or the nearly a year since he last wrote on his own site.

I'm speaking of course of Kim Du Toit.

I won't rehash all that has gone before. Dramatic writing, and stupid drama are behind us.

Something about Kim that people who only know him by his writing: All of his friends have been saying for years, that he has the kind of voice, both literally and rhetorically, made for radio.

Well, it seems that he's finally decided we were right. Kim and his beloved wife Connie have decided to start an internet radio show.

The Kim and Connie Show
1910 People in a 2010 World

We chat about everyday life, especially politics and values. Our politics are strictly conservative, our social values very conservative, and our views on manners and morality carved-in-granite conservative.

We are staunch believers in the U.S. Constitution, as written with its original intent.

We are not: racists, homophobes, misogynists, religious intolerants, conspiracy theorists or any of that nonsense—although, in these oh-so politically-correct times, the Perpetually Sensitive may occasionally be mistaken for thinking so.

We welcome callers to the show, with this request: please be polite and rational.
Live Internet Talk-Radio Schedule

Broadcasting live every Every Saturday & Sunday beginning October 3, 2009:

* 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm (Eastern)
* 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm (Central)
* 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm (Mount.)
* 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Pacific)

Click to listen/talk on or...

Not near a computer? Call in to listen or participate: 1 (347) 855-8684 (Toll charges may apply. Check with your local carrier for rates.)

Sample Show

Show Listings

By the by, even if you disagree with Kim and Connie politicially (and god knows we have as many points of disagreement as agreement) they are hilariously funny people, and great conversationalists. This should be very fun.

I wish them the best of luck in this, and I know I plan on listening.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ok, now THAT is a cause I can get behind

I normally don't join those facebook or other online "causes", but for this one, I make an exception:

Why this man is a Democrat, I'll never understand

Better than Jib-Jab, seriously.

TOBY KEITH - American Ride

Winter gettin' colder, summer gettin' warmer.
Tidal wave comin' cross the Mexican border.
Why buy a gallon, when its cheaper by the barrel.
Just don't be busted singin' Christmas carols.

That's us, That's right
Gotta love this American ride.
Both ends of the ozone burnin'.
Funny how the world keeps turnin'.
Look ma, no hands.
I love this American ride.
Gotta love this American ride.

Momma gets her rocks off watchin' Desperate Housewives.
Daddy works his can off payin' for the good life.
Kids on the YouTube learnin' how to be cool.
Livin' in a cruel world, pays to be a mean girl.

That's us, That's right
Gotta love this American ride.
Both ends of the ozone burnin'.
Funny how the world keeps turnin'.
Look ma, no hands.
I love this American ride.
Gotta love this American ride.

Poor little infamous America's town.
She gained five pounds and lost her crown.
Quick fix plastic surgical antidote.
Got herself a record deal, can't even sing a note.

Plasma gettin bigger, Jesus gettin smaller.
Spill a cup of coffee, make a million dollars.
Customs caught a thug with an aerosol can.
If the shoe don't fit, the fits gonna hit the shan.

That's us, That's right
Gotta love this American ride.
Both ends of the ozone burnin'.
Funny how the world keeps turnin'.
Hot dog, Hot damn.
I love this American ride.
Gotta love this American ride.
Oh yeah,
na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na........... nanannaaa

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In a two day training session

Posting will obviously be light to non-existent.

At least it's an actual useful class; and hopefully the software we're being trained on will actually make out job easier and results better.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

20 Years... Damn...

And still... perhaps more than ever... relevant today.

Last night Living Colour were on Jimmy Kimmel live plaing a cut from their new album.

As a special bonus, they also plaid their biggest his, "Cult of Personality"; which came out 20 years ago this past April.

After 26 years of making great music (the band were founded in 1983 - well... minus a 5 year break from '95 to 2000) it amazes me that Corey Glover and Vernon Reid are not household names.

Anthropogenic Global Warming is a Politically Motivated Scam

Which engenders an evil delusion in many of its adherents.

The result of this is hysteria, anti-scientific dogma and rhetoric, and witch hunt like behavior as related in the closing paragraphs of this tremendous blog post laying out the rationalist objection to the AGW premise:

There is another very serious unintended consequence that I would like to raise here; one that concerns me very deeply.

When I listen to the public AGW debate I hear very high profile politicians and prominent public figures calling for people who openly disagree with AGW to be put on trial for treason. I hear many cases of people losing their jobs because of voicing sceptical opinions. I hear prominent global warming advocates refusing to enter into debates or trying to avoid debates by claiming the science is settled, and by claiming we do not have time, we have only weeks to act. I hear AGW advocates resorting to personal attacks against people who disagree rather than addressing the technical issues they raise.

I hear AGW proponents claiming to be the under funded underdogs, fighting to protect the planet against greedy capitalists, yet the reality is their funding is at least 1000 times greater than the sceptics funding. I see many reports of scientists refusing to release their workings, thus preventing review of their methodology, despite the fact that their work was funded by public money.

I see how the established media abandons balance in reporting by strongly favouring proponents of AGW, ignoring or denigrating sceptics and forcing most onto blog sites like this one. I hear some environmental groups and activists publicly claim that its OK and even necessary to exaggerate the threat so as to get the public to engage. I see the courts condoning acts of vandalism and even violence against essential public infrastructure. I see high profile public figures supporting such acts and claiming them to be reasonable and justified.

In short I see our society abandoning some of our most vital democratic freedoms over this hysteria: Free speech, impartial enforcement of the law, balance in reporting, freedom of information. These are freedoms our forebears gave their lives to bequeath to us, they are our most valuable inheritance and we seem to be throwing them away over an unproven hysterical hypothesis.

More recently I have read articles from England advocating individual ration cards for petrol, heating oil, gas, electricity. Is water and food next? War time austerity as an ongoing future way of life? A return to the agrarian poverty of the middle ages? I note the new film “Not evil just wrong” has had to be distributed via the internet rather than traditional media. One step from distribution through an underground network? Will that apply to all future sceptical writing? What about other writing contrary to the popular opinion of the day?

These are the issues that differentiate between a free democracy and a totalitarian regime and the further one goes down this path the harder it is to pull back. History has shown us that the disease is far easier to acquire than to get rid of.

To those of you who still cling to the AGW scam, look at the behaviors and attitudes it has engendered, and ask yourself: If this was for a cause you didn't like or support, wouldn't you be condemning this behavior and denouncing it at?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Morons Make My Life More Difficult

Well, in general, they make everyones life more difficult, but I'm referring to something specific.

So, my ATV has had a fuel leak for a while; and I just managed to get the time today to get around to fixing it.

Or rather, them.

I got the tank off, filled it with water, and discovered five separate leaks.

Oh joy.

There was a leak at the petcock, and a leak under each mounting bracket; and I'm pretty sure I know why.

Whatever genius assembled this thing, used an impact wrench to do so. I know this, because it took an impact wrench to get the damn things off. Some of the threaded brass inserts were turning in their holes. One of them under each bracket, and the petcock also had cracks leading from them.

Remember, we're talking about steel bolts into rubber mounts, and brass inserts into plastic. you should NEVER use an impact wrench on these things... Or you get stripping and cracking.

Long term, it needs a new tank (about $80); but my friend Jim wants to go riding tomorrow, so I figured, might as well try and do a temp fix.

So what I did was I took a ballcutter on the dremel and I routed out all the cracks, and all around the brass thread inserts. Then I used plastic welding epoxy to fill in the troughs I made.

I waited till the epoxy cured, then I spread a flexible fuelproof sealer around the bosses and cracks, and used gorilla tape to make a soft adhesive gasket (with more sealer against the metal) under each of the brackets and the petcock.

I filled the nut bosses with the sealer, tightened them down, and then bedded the brackets in more sealer.

Theoretically, this stuff should be soft, goopy, and flexible enough, that the little hairline cracks (which are hopefully repaired with the epoxy anyway) wont leak even if they open up again.

Not so sure about that, but we'll see.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

On this day, in 1947, the United States Air force was chartered under the national security act:
  • to preserve the peace and security, and provide for the defense, of the United States, the Territories, Commonwealths, and possessions, and any areas occupied by the United States;

  • to support national policy;

  • to implement national objectives;

  • to overcome any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.

In general the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces both combat and service not otherwise assigned. It shall be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air Force shall be responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war.

In the air, on the ground, and in space


Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one hell of a roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew!
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

Here's a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!

Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you'd live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue!
Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

* I HATE the AIDS ribbon logo. What was wrong with the great seal logo above? Nothing. Another Merrill McPrick POS.

Yes I know, it didn't debut until 2000, but it was McPrick who started the whole modernization kick, and decided we needed a new one. It just took them 8 years to decide to replace the hap wings and the great seal. Idiots.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We Report, You Decide

Albino Gorilla...

Or Brian Dennehey after a bad night...

Hmmm... Interesting...

I wonder if this design will scale up well....

As it is, it's a bit small; though it seems a much better solution for a small multi-turbine array than most other small systems. Certainly much more efficient.

The list price for the "system" is $6k, but that includes interconnect, panel, inverter, wiring etc... which I wouldn't be using in my installation. All that would be handled at the central powerhouse, to match the solar, and backup generators into the battery bank, and grid tie.

According to Popular Mechanics, the turbine and mounting hardware only price, is $4500. That's something less than half what I was looking at for considerably larger conventional turbines of a similar capacity; and I'm guessing from the construction that they'll handle overspeed wind a lot better (no gear train to damage). Also, most conventional turbines have a startup speed of 6-9mph, and a cut off around 20-25mph of wind, this one has a 2mph startup, and cuts off at 42mph.

That's a hell of a lot more useful capacity on the average day. I just wish it was a bit higher capacity overall. In a class four wind region, more than 60% of the average day is spent at between 6 and 14mph windspeed; at which these turbines generate between 40 and 250 watts.

Even at 250 watts, that's only about 5% of our peak hour load (and a lot less than peak instantaneous, which may reach as high as 14kw when multiple AC units and refrigerators are kicking on). Of course we DO live in Arizona, in a poorly insulated house.

Long term, we're looking at living in a class 4 wind region (possibly a class 5 depending on the exact home site), and building towers above the treeline. Under those conditions, a turbine like that one would only realistically generate something like 2000-3000kwh per year; or an average of 160-240kwh per month (Honeywell says that in a class 3 zone it can do 2000kwh per year mounted on a house roof - about 75% less output than a class 4 above the treeline installation - so I figure my estimate is pretty realistic).

Although, we are looking at living in a net metering sellback region with a 100% tax credit after the federal 30% credit (capped at $20,000 total after federal). With that incentive program we could buy seven of them and the things could pay for themselves immediately; but it really would take something like seven of them, or more, to meet our power needs.

The average household in the U.S. currently consumes something like 12,000kwh per year; but about half that is the utilization of air conditioning in the sun belt states, or electric heat in the cold states. Outside the hot zone, and for households with gas or oil heat, the national average is more like 6000kwh.

Right now, living in Arizona, we use about three times the national average (or about six times the average someone in say, New Hampshire would use). We run from around 1500kwh in January to 5500kwh in August; and total around 35,000kwh per year, for which we pay almost $4000.

We once used 6500kwh in a single month (for which we were charged over $800), but that was with our pre-replacement 30 year old primary AC unit, plus a messed up air handler and heat exchanger, and running two large supplemental AC units 24x7 that entire month (not coincidentally, the month before the old unit died horribly).

We have what they call a "smart meter", which lets us see our spot utilization day by day, and hour by hour. Just for fun, we looked up how much power the house was using when we weren't even in it, for our vacation this past few weeks.

With us out of the house, the AC and all the lights and computers off, we used about 30kwh per day, just keeping the fridges and freezers cold etc...

Uhhh... that's almost the national average for people who are actually, you know, using their houses and AC and heat and computers and TVs etc... WTF?

For a little more masochistic fun with the smart meter, we averaged 50kwh per day in January, one of only two months this year when we didn't run the AC at all.

So... even on our best day, we're using about 1.5 times the national average juice, and about 3 times the average for a cold state; however, we are only using 20kwh more per day to run all our stuff than the house is using all by itself...

Ok that's screwed up right there.

Anyway, back to the cool stuff.

When we move, since we're planning on moving to a colder state, and not using electric heat; we expect to cut that excessive "3 times average" utilization down a lot, because of the dramatically reduced AC requirement. That still gives us a baseline of something like 12,000kwh per year however.

Any savings we make using hyperinsulation, and efficient lighting and appliances, we expect to more than offset with greater use of tools and power equipment (welders alone... oy).

Ideally, I'd like something that could generate more like 3 times that 2000-3000kwh per year, per turbine; and build an array of say, four of them, for total spot capacity, and for redundancy.

...But even as it is, with seven of them paid for entirely by tax credits (not including installation, and the towers of course) we could likely generate 14,000-21,000kwh per year...

That's pretty decent. Even when you account for losses in the storage battery system and inverters, that's probably most of the household power requirements at any given time (not include surge power when the welders are running, or the AC and fridges start up at the same time of course).

That would of course be in addition to solar, and micro-hydro if the property is capable of it; and back up diesel or propane generation for full capacity. Then of course there's all the storage batteries.... ooooh boy those are gonna cost.

Anyway, at that cost per turbine, if you've got enough land to set up six or seven of them (and we will) it's viable. Importantly, it's a LOT cheaper than an equivalent solar setup.

A solar system in the same region, with the same capacity, would cost about $120k. Of course you'd still get the 30% federal credit plus $20k from the state, for a $64k total cost to us, vs. a near zero cost to us (again, not including installation costs, just to keep it apples to apples).

Of course, as I said, we plan on having wind, solar, and generators (and would really love a property with micro-hydro capability) anyway. Ideally, we want to have a diversity of power sources, AND enough power even on cloudy days, or wind free days, to run whatever we need (again, short of the welders at full duty cycle etc...).

The great thing about combining wind and solar, is that when solar tends to be performing poorly, wind tends to be performing well; and vice verse.

Now if they would just get those cheap, relatively efficient, printable solar panels to market, we could do BOTH relatively cheaply.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Politicians, judges, and the rest of us caught in the middle

This past holiday weekend, one of my cousins was pulled over in a drunk driving checkpoint in Florida. Not being an idiot, he was of course sober; and there was no probable cause for pulling him over, questioning him, or performing a field sobriety test.

The courts, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that this is not a violation of ones fundamental rights.

They are wrong; but they have been so wrong, so often, that this is frankly unremarkable.

A discussion about his being stopped started on his wifes facebook page, as she vented her frustration at the unjust stupidity that is represented by checkpoints.

A friend of theirs who is a cop chimed in, and the discussion got interesting (the names have been modified to protect the guilty, spelling and netspeek have been corrected, and irrelevant comments to the core conversation have been snipped):

Cousins Wife: my poor baby got stuck in a dui check point on the way home from a long day at work! =( stupid cops!

Officer Tom: I hate those pigs...always ruining everyone's fun...

Cousins Wife: Well of course not you Officer Tom

Officer Tom: The cops don't set up roadblocks unless politicians tell them to by the way. Its all good, our roadblock didn't go through.

Minarchist Chris: Yep, it's more like "stupid, constitution abusing, nonrights respecting public servants with delusions of being public masters", not "stupid cops".

Officer Tom: You've had a bad experience with a cop or two so all of them must be assholes...brilliant!

Minarchist Chris: Actually no, I generally love cops. I'm Boston Irish, and I've got literally dozens of cops in my family. I'm also a former law enforcement trainer.

I wasn't talking about cops. better than 90% of all cops are genuinely driven by their desire to serve the public, or at worst are just doing their jobs.

I was speaking of the politicians, in uniform and out, who believe that they are a separate, privileged class, and that peoples rights don't count when it comes to their desires, their need for control, or their convenience.

Those, and the small percentage of cops who have a militant "the public is the enemy" mindset (unfortunately, in my experience that mindset is growing, and current training regimes and institutional culture are reinforcing it) who enable them to become oppressive so easily.

Officer Tom: My bad... I meant "right on!

(my aside: Cops are so unused to having non-cops on their side in this sort of argument that they often get reflexively defensive)

Minarchist Chris: It doesn't matter why you become a cop. If two years on nights (or a month of court duty) doesn't cure you of whatever idealism you had, there's something wrong with you.

What matters, is why you stay a cop...

There are three reasons to stay a cop; one good, one bad, and one indifferent:
  1. The pay and benefits don't suck if you know how to work the system, and your department is good about overtime.

    That's the indifferent. Some days it's all that puts feet on the street though, and that's important.

  2. You get great satisfaction in helping people who need help, and in doing bad things to bad guys.

    That's the good. The one that keeps you REALLY showing up, not just retiring in place.

  3. You get off on exercising power over others, and the "perks" of the blue wall.

    That's the bad. That's how cops become criminals.
Every cop who stays a cop, has some measure of all three motivations in them. You need it to keep going, doing that hard a job, taking those risks. Otherwise, like I said, you quit, burn out, or you just retire in place and serve out your time until you get your pensions.

The problem is when they get out of balance, and when politicians take advantage of that imbalance to further pit the police and the non-sworn public against each other for their own benefit.

Meanwhile the judges stand by, effectively making and changing law as they see fit... how are cops, or everyone else for that matter supposed to keep up?

The answer of course is, they're not. That's the way "the system" works, or rather doesn't work. That way everyone is guilty, and everyone can be controlled (Ayn Rand had a point there).

The more cops are isolated, separated, and alienated from the non-sworn public; the easier it is for politicians to get them to enforce bad laws, which give the politicians (again, in uniform and out) greater power and control over EVERYONE.

Officer Tom: Damn... I hate cops too, I swear.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Abomination Before God and Man...

... It's a frikken MetroSexual CANTEEN!

It's even got a frikken purse.

And it's $60, for JUST THE DAMN CANTEEN, never mind the $100 purse.

Yaknow how much a U.S. canteen costs? About $2 surplus at retail.

If you can stomach it, look at the user pictures. Ferchrissakes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Barbecue Bellwethers

The Atomic Nerds Stingray and Lab Rat ask:
"When you walk into a barbecue joint you’ve never tried before, and are seeking to gauge the quality of the ‘cue, what is the must-order to benchmark the place: beef brisket, ribs, or pulled pork? Or, for that matter, other?

If you think it’s chicken or sausage I think you’re a freak, but I still want the data point. If you’re asking yourself why a restaurant for meat grilled outdoors would exist, we’re speaking two different languages."
Ahhh, now here's a question I can (pardon the pun) sink my teeth into.

First things first, what exactly is barbecue?

Technically, barbecue is any meat roasted over a fire using either direct or indirect heat and smoke, outdoors.

There are any number of styles of barbecue, including Caribbean, Argentine, Peruvian, Korean, Mongolian, Japanese; and in America alone, Santa Maria, Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, Chicago, and Texas style, as well as plain old American style charcoal grilling (which yes, can technically barbecue by the strict definition).

Each style has its own traditional meats, seasonings, sauces (or lack thereof) and exact details of cooking methods; and each is good in its own way.

In America, "real barbecue" , as opposed to grilling, means meat roasted with indirect heat and smoke. The differences then are primarily regional, and involve sauces, seasonings, and choices of meat.

In most of the southeast, BBQ is primarily pulled pork, in vinegar based sauces, often flavored with mustard.

In Memphis, pork ribs are king, with a dry rub. They may or may not be wet mopped with a tomato and vinegar based sauce (which may or may not contain mustard) while they are being smoked. They may, or may not be served with two sauces, one a very sweet molasses or brown sugar and tomato based sauce, the other a thing vinegar, tomato, and mustard sauce.

In the midwest and southwest, BBQ can include pulled pork and pork ribs; but is primarily cuts of beef, including beef brisket, tri tip, rump roast, flank steak, beef ribs, and both beef and pork sausages.

In Chicago, its all ribs, all the time, in a sweet slightly spicy, tomato based sauce with lots of brown sugar; and there may or may not be a rub involved.

In Kansas city it's ribs, tri tip, and brisket, with a similar but even sweeter sauce; and a sweet and only slightly spicy rub.

In Texas, and the southwest, there may or may not be vinegar, tomato, or molasses bases sauces involved; but you'll always have at least brisket and sausage.

In California, they have their own native Santa Maria style, which involves smoking above a hot fire, essentially smoking and grilling simultaneously. They use more tender cuts of beef than slow smoking styles, favoring steaks, and tri tip; and the sauce is based on beef stock, and herbs.

If you go to an all round barbecue joint outside of any of the major BBQ regions, you're likely to get some mix of all of the above; though it's rare for any particular place to do both beef and pork ribs, unless they are specifically a rib joint.

Obviously, if we're going to do some comparisons, we need to lay out at the very least, an inclusive definition of what we consider barbecue for the purposes of this test.

If we accept the proposition that proper barbecue involves hot smoked meat; and is not limited to pork (and I do), then we have a first principal to work from, and therefore can answer the question usefully.

The common barbecue dishes out there, that most places outside of an area that specializes in a particular style (i.e. Chicago specializes in ribs, South Carolina in pulled pork) are likely to have, are probably (in order of commonality):

1. Pork ribs
2. Sliced Brisket
3. Pulled pork
4. Sausage
5. Chicken (whole or parts)
6. Chicken (pulled)
7. Chopped or pulled beef (usually brisket or tri-tip)
8. Chopped or sliced pork
9. Beef ribs
10. Sliced tri-tip

If we accept those 10 as a common set of menu items for possible comparison, and that most places will have at least the top five available; the bellwether meat in that list has to be SLICED brisket.

Honestly, anyone competent can do a good pulled pork (which is probably why Carolinians insist it is the ONLY form of BBQ); and ribs aren’t significantly more difficult.

Pulling or chopping meat, and slathering it with sauce, hides a multitude of sins.

Sausage, by definition, is already pulled and chopped; and if you can't smoke a sausage properly you have no business preparing food at all.

Chicken? Seriously? You might as well just judge a place by the quality of their water. Or what ketchup they serve.

Just about every BBQ place serves chicken, because it's what people who don't like BBQ eat when they're stuck at a BBQ place... Or what a guy eats when his wife reminds him the cardiologist put him on lipitor.

Now, getting brisket just right on the other hand, requires some real work, and not inconsiderable talent.

First you have to get the right fat content. Then you need to trim both lean and fat to the required thickness. You’re dealing with a piece of meat that can very in thickness from less than half an inch up to 4″ with a fat cap of nothing to over an inch. Do you butterfly? Cut and trim? Split the brisket into more consistently sized pieces? Do you want burnt ends or not?

Then there’s your rub. Just how much sugar, salt, and spice are going to be involved; and that plays back into the fat question, as well as the strength, heat, and length of smoke.

Are you brining? Are you going to mustard or vinegar rub it first, then dry rub? or dry rub alone? or wet mop alone? or dry rub then wet mop? What about sauce glazing?

Finally, there’s the smoke itself. What wood or woods? How hot? How long? Do you smoke for half the time, then foil wrap and finish in the smoker, foil wrap and finish in the oven, or no wrap at all and smoke from raw til done???

If you’re just going to pull pork, none of that really matters; and ribs and chicken are far more forgiving of anything but overcooking and drying them out, especially when slathered with sticky sweet sauce, as most people like them.

No, brisket is really the indicator meat.

Of course, that doesn't mean you should just limit yourself to the brisket when you go to a new place; or that you should avoid it until you know that place is good. That's why they have combo plates after all.

When I check out a new place, I go for the three meat combo: Brisket, pulled pork, and sausage.

I don’t order ribs anywhere unless I already know it’s a good BBQ place; not because I think ribs are an indicator of good BBQ, but because I don’t particularly like ribs unless they are world class.

Importantly, I don’t like heavy sauce on any meat, let alone ribs. If the place is great, they don’t need to heavily sauce their ribs, and they’ll still be moist, tender, and tasty.

Unfortunately, that’s not a good indicator , because even great places frequently slather their ribs in wet, sticky, sweet sauce; because that’s how the majority of the public seem to want it.

It would be nice if you could then say “Ok, if they offer their ribs dry, it must mean they’re good” but I’ve had too much 'Q in Texas (where traditionally, ribs are dry; though not so much anymore) where dry ribs didn’t necessarily mean good ribs.

Also, having good ribs is really no indication that anything else is good. There are lots of places with fantastic ribs, but mediocre brisket and pulled pork. I have never found that to be true about brisket. If the brisket is great, everything else is generally great.

Now if you happen to be in one of the few places that put them on the menu, and want to really judge the quality of the pitmaster on duty at that moment; order smoked shrimp, or smoked fresh fish.

Both are prepared from fresh and take less than 20 minutes in a hot smoker, both are EXTREMELY difficult to get right, and both are COMPLETELY inedible when done wrong.

Of course the problem there is, if the place isn't great, and the pitmaster isn't on his game, you're going to have a bad meal. With beef and pork, even if the place isn't that great, mediocre smoked meat is still half decent with a little sauce and some bread, french fries, and a cold beer or three.

Personally, I'd play it safe and order the brisket first, and only once you know they're damn good, try seafood.

A semi-random series of absurd notes and words

"Field Commander Cohen"
--Leonard Cohen

Field Commander Cohen, he was our most important spy.
Wounded in the line of duty,
parachuting acid into diplomatic cocktail parties,
urging Fidel Castro to abandon fields and castles.

Leave it all and like a man,
come back to nothing special,
such as waiting rooms and ticket lines,
silver bullet suicides,
and messianic ocean tides,
and racial roller-coaster rides
and other forms of boredom advertised as poetry.

I know you need your sleep now,
I know your life's been hard.
But many men are falling,
where you promised to stand guard.

I never asked but I heard you cast your lot along with the poor.
But then I overheard your prayer,
that you be this and nothing more
than just some grateful faithful woman's favourite singing millionaire,
the patron Saint of envy and the grocer of despair,
working for the Yankee Dollar.

I know you need your sleep now ...

Ah, lover come and lie with me, if my lover is who you are,
and be your sweetest self awhile until I ask for more, my child.
Then let the other selves be wrong, yeah, let them manifest and come
till every taste is on the tongue,
till love is pierced and love is hung,
and every kind of freedom done, then oh,
oh my love, oh my love, oh my love,
oh my love, oh my love, oh my love.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Speed Run

We left the parking garage at the Silver legacy in Reno at 1:27am this morning. We arrived in or driveway in Scottsdale at 1:47pm.

That's a distance of 800 miles, in 12:20, including 60 minutes of fuel and food stops; for a gross average of 65mph, and a net average of 71mph.

Not bad. Beats our time last year by several hours.

Vacation is over, with another day off for recovery. Time to collapse now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 years

September 11, 2001, 8:46am Eastern Daylight Time:

2922 days, 8182 dead,
and we will continue
until the mission is complete

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more. -- John F. Kennedy

We Will Never forgive

We Will Never Forget

We Will Never Stop

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The best 24 hours I've had in at least 10 years

The past 24 hours have been that is.

They began with my wife and I waking up from a nap; and to be completely blunt, making love; undisturbed by children, dogs, work, or any other distractions of life.

We had a lovely light meal at the cabin, watched a good movie ("Taken", extended cut, on DVD. No TV yet on this vacation), and finished the night listening to our audio books (the S.M. Stirling "change" series at the moment. I've read them, but Mel hasn't).

After a full nights sleep we got an early start on the morning, and went out to the marina for an off season early bird speed boat rental. With discounts, a Sea Ray 22, with a 300hp (6.2mpi dual prop bravo 3) Mercruiser, was only $80 an hour.

Yeah the thought of $80 an hour baing "only" is a bit odd, but it's better than the $120 to $140 that is normally the case these days (or $190 in some of the marinas on the California side... insurance and taxes).

We cruised around the lake at about 3/4 throttle for a while; during which time Mel discovered that she too thinks powerboats are fun for an hour or two, but get boring after a while.

Even WOT in a lightly laden and overpowered boat (300hp is a lot of power for a 22ft boat) wasn't all that interesting to her, and she thought her time at the helm was less interesting than driving fast in a car.

What was nice, was getting out there and shutting down in the middle of the lake, when there was NO-ONE in sight. Three days ago that would have been impossible; but at 10am on the Wednesday after labor day, we were in absolute silence, and complete solitude in the center of the lake.

We just sat there and enjoyed it for about 10 minutes, before moving on.

We were going to do the full circle, but up around Carnelian bay the engine started running a bit rough; so we headed straight back to the marina across the lake.

Honestly, I didn't want a refund or anything. We got a good 90 minutes out of the boat, and we were really ready to come home anyway; but they insisted that we only had to pay for gas.

By the by, good people at the Zephyr Cove Marina.

We had a decent lunch at the marinas out door restaurant... Which makes it sound like more than it really is. I think everyone who has ever spent a summer on a lake knows the kind of place I'm talking about.. two windows where you can order beach and diner style food and soft serve ice cream, and a bunch of benches? That kind of place.

I LOVE that kind of place. That's the kind of place I grew up with.

Even better, we were able to find the repair supplies I needed for the sailboat; so after lunch we went out to the mooring. It was the work of half an hour to re-slug the sail, rebend it on the mast, and tape the torn leech seam; and then we were off sailing again.

This time, Mel spent most of her time at the helm, and I mostly worked the sheets; and she discovered something: She really truly loves sailing, whether she's at the helm, on the lines, or just laying on the deck, she loves it.

She insists that we need a sailboat (and preferably a bigger one than the 30 footer we'd been sailing) as soon as is reasonably possible.

Have I mentioned recently how lucky a man I am?

We had about four hours out on the most gorgeous possible day; 5-7 knot winds letting us make around 3-4 knots, as we chose. Not quite as quiet as earlier in the day, but still on a completely uncrowded lake.

We sailed up to a bit north of cave rock, out over to the state line, then down the line to elk point, and back to the marina.

It was picking up a bit as we were sailing back in, and I was able to make five knots on the final reach up to Zephyr Cove; but we'd already been out for four hours, and there was no need to stretch it out any more.

I was happy to note, though I'm a few years out of practice, I still know how to maneuver a sailboat with an inboard motor (outboards are WAY easier in tight spaces) into a tight, restricted depth dock (6 foot keel, 7 foot depth), and out to a tight mooring thankyouverymuch.

We were pretty well exhausted by then (sailing, even in light weather, is not exactly sedentary), so we went home for another nap, and ...enjoyed each others company undisturbed once again.

Finally, we're about to head out for a nice casual meal at a local microbrewery, that the wife picked out, specifically for the quality of their beer, and the inventiveness they show in using that beer in their food.

Yet again let me say, I'm the luckiest man on earth.

Oh and we figured out what we're going to name our first sailboat together.


You should be forced to eat nothing but tofurkey for life

Just for asking this question:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The only luxury that really matters

The most important thing I have ever learned, is that the most valuable commodity in this world or any other, is time.

Time is the one thing you can't make, or buy, or steal more of. You only get so much, and that's it. So, you learn as you go, that anything that saves more time for you to be with your thoughts, or with your loved ones, is worth more than just dollars and cents.

It's the only luxury that really matters.

I've spent the last five whole days with my wife, doing nothing in particular. We drove, at whatever pace we chose, up to Tahoe, stopped overnight in a place that seemed nice (it was), and then relaxed our way across the next three and a half days.

We haven't watched a TV or listened to any radio other than satellite music. No commercials, no news broadcasts, no screaming and shouting dire warnings...

I have found that sitting with my wife on the couch, a cool nights lake breeze blowing through the open windows, listening to an audio book we both enjoy, is possibly the most wonderful experience in the world.

She had lots of plans, reservations, ideas, about what we were going to do when we got up here.

We canceled most of them.

Sunday, we went out on the boat. It was a bit windy, with a bit of a swell. Not the best time to introduce her to sailing; but I wanted to check things out so that we'd be good to go for the next few days.

We motored out at a sedate 4 knots, into the 3 foot swells; and much to my wifes shock and surprise, she actually LIKES a little bit of rough weather boating.

The wind calmed a bit, still in the 10-15 knot range; but it's a solid, deep keeled 30 footer with plenty of ballast, so I decided to run up the rig, just for a test.

She sailed fine, though in the fresh wind and swells, it got a little exciting. The best thing we found out though, is that Mel really likes sailing, and she likes it brisk as much as I do.

...Oh and that Mel wants a sailboat as much as I do, and that a little bit bigger boat than a 30 footer would be nice (more cabin room, more stability, more speed)...

We sailed for about an hour or so, before the breeze started to freshen too much (over 20kts) again; then dropped sail and motored back in to the mooring

We had intended on being out an hour or two, and ended up being out for five hours; most of that time just hanging out on the boat.

Unfortunately, rather than taking the dinghy out to the mooring (about 1/4 mile off and 1/4 mile down shore, and I didn't feel like rowing an 8 foot dinghy 1/2 mile in 3 foot swells) we had taken the marina water taxi. While we were out, things had slowed down so much that the marina decided to send everyone home and close up early.

So there we were, stuck out on the boat... 65 degree water, 65 degree day, and a 15-20 knot wind (a little bit of windchill to a soaked body).

It was stay the night on the boat, or swim for it. Really it was a tossup, because we'd brought enough food, water, supplies etc... (you know me, I believe in being prepared); but what the hell... we swam for it.

Honestly, the water wasn't so bad once we got used to it. It was only a few hundred yards in till we could touch bottom, and then a quarter mile down the beach to get back to the marina.

It was an adventure; and it never would have happened if we had been paying attention to the time.

We got home and had LOOOOONG hot showers, before heading out for a nice and low key dinner at a french place (Mirabelle, on the 207 just uphill of the 50, in Stateline).

No, that is not an oxymoron. It was quiet, and comfortable, and not in any way pretentious; while at the same time having a wonderful menu and wine list.

We had beautiful sauted crispy sweetbreads, bacon wrapped roast stuffed pheasant, and a wild game mixed grill; all with a nice bottle of Steele Point, and a couple of simple desserts.

Yesterday, we pretty much relaxed the whole day away. We were going to go sailing, but when we hauled down on Sunday, we found that three of the mainsail slides were broken, and there was a torn seam in the mainsail luff. That meant no more sailing until we could find some spare parts.

Unfortunately, none of the local marine supply places were open labor day; but that didn't much bother us. I got up early to call around in the morning, found out no-one was open, and then went back to bed, pulling the covers up over us.

We slept real late, made lunch at home, went to the movies (Inglorious Basterds, which was odd, but good) and drove 3/4 the way around the lake, stopping to get out and admire the view a couple times; before heading back to the cabin to relax for a while.

Finally we went out late to a local bar that everybody told us had great burgers.

If you ever need a place to hang out around the south end of Tahoe, Sams Tavern in Zephyr Cove is a good start. Great people, and good food, cheap.

Todays plan was again to sail; but as it happens nobody within 50 miles of here seems to have the stuff we need in stock.

The irritating bit is, it's jsut a couple of 3/4" sail slides ($0.65 a piece), some 3" Dacron sail tape ($15 a roll), a bit of waxed dacron thread, and a sailmakers palm. You'd think that around the biggest boating lake in the western united states, there would be somebody who had them in stock, but nope.

Actually, there is one place that several people recommended would have them in stock, but they haven't answered their phone in two days, so... The nearest place I can confirm has them is the West Marine up in Reno (a 3 hour round trip).

As much as I want to sail some more this week, I'm not willing to waste that time I could be enjoying with my wife. If the local place answers the phone tomorrow, we'll head down there and get another day of sailing in before we leave. If not, oh well.

Five days down, five more to go; and every one of them enjoyed to the last minute.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Trip So Far

Well, the ortho trip took a bit longer than we though it would, and we didn't end up leaving 'till 11:30.

However, we managed to make up a hell of a lot of time on the road; and we didn't hit any real traffic 'til Palm Springs, a little more in Redlands, a bunch coming out of Burdoo, and ; and then a bit more on the 395 a couple times between Hesperia and Kramer Junction.

We lost about an hour to lunch at Silly Als pizza in Quartzite; which had surpringly good pizza. Great crust, decent cheese, but it was kinda let down but supersweet canned sauce. Unless you like Bonta Super Dolce, or sweeter (worse than pizza hut sweet, not as bad as papajohns sweet), I'd order it "light on the sauce".

We also grabbed fuel in quartzite, since it was $2.59 for diesel, and stations in CA were up to as high as $3.59 (most were lower, around $3.20).

We lost about another hour and a half to traffic (I was surprised at how little) according to the GPS, and another 20 minutes to a biobreak at a Pilot in Kramer Junction (I recommend avoiding that place in future).

The ride up from Kramer Junction to Bishop was quick and smooth. Unfortunately most of it was too dark to see much once we hit the mountains (great shieldwall formation by the way); but what we could see looked like pretty, old California, and the real rural California that everyone seems to forget about these days... including other Californians.

You know what the difference is between Kern County CA and Gila County Arizona? Kern county has higher taxes, and the idiots in Sacramento pushing them down even further. They're both just as rural west as you can get.

We finally pulled in to Bishop just about 9:30. A logged trip distance of 596 miles, for a total time en route of 10 hours, and a gross average of just under 60 miles per hour. Not bad given traffic and stops. The net total drive time was 7:40 for an average speed of 78mph actual; and a logged fuel economy of 21mpg.

God I love my truck.

Bishop is a lovely little town, though like every tourist town on the planet, overbuilt on the main drag.

Let me STRONGLY recommend Whiskey Creek restaurant, and Erik Schats' Bakkery (some of the best baked goods we've ever had in our lives. We stocked up for the week).

Let me strongly discommend the Best Western "Holiday Spa". The people were nice enough, and the room clean; but the showerhead broke off in my hand, and the bed was one of the worst I've ever slept on; and that includes in the Air Force. It was like trying to sleep on a bouncy castle.

Oh and there was one little mishap. Mel wasn't paying attention to her parking, and hit a post, busting in a corner of out rear bumper.

Pics of that later. For now, it's three hours up to Tahoe.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Departure Imminent

Soon we will be heading here:

Which is across the private road from where we'll be sleeping, here:

And we'll be sailing this:


So, in about 8 hours, we'll be on the road for lovely Zephyr Cove Nevada, on the southeastern shore of lake Tahoe. We managed to get a smokin deal on a cabin and a boat for most of a week, and we're going to take our first real vacation since we've been together... and in fact my fist vacation in a lot longer than that.

We're going to take it easy, stop in the California mountains the first night (Bishop), and then make the short run up to Tahoe on Saturday. From there we've got most of a week, before we head out to Reno on Thursday for the gunblogger rendezvous.

We'll be posting on occasion, but hopefully not much.

Have fun while we're gone, but try not to break anything.

A little conversation with family

From my cousin:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, no one should go broke because they get sick, and no one should be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. (But I also believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions especially from personal experience. And I won't urge you repost this for the rest of the day. :-p I also hope that we can develop a system that truly works.)
My Response:

And we should all have unlimited money, and free ponies. And everyone should have free food and houses and college and... and... and...

There's no such thing as free. Do you have the right to hold a gun to my head, steal my money, and use it to pay for someone else's healthcare?

If you personally don't, then why does the government have the right to do it on your behalf?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Great News on My Health

Well, crappy news, but much better than we feared.

So, my final tests came back, and we went over them with the doctor today.

First, the unreservedly good news. He had an ortho consult, and he thinks we can save my knees. I may not need a knee replacement, if I can lose all the weight, do physical therapy, and take the right anti-inflammatories.

I'm going to the ortho specialist on Friday to get cortisone in my knees to get me through the vacation; then we're going to get serious about treating the knees non-surgically.

Second, the "better than we thought" news.

It turns out my thyroid is a LITTLE bit low, but not low enough to need thyroxine. Also my cholesterol is low, but a tiny bit higher than he'd like; and my HDL/LDL balance isnt where he'd like it to be. My blood glucose is a little bit higher than he'd like but well within normal ranges... and all of these can be attributed to one thing:

My testosterone levels are less than half what they should be at minimum (I'm down around 150, and normal is 300-1000), and my total estrogens are about TWICE what they should be.

This explains why I kept gaining weight and losing muscle even with diet and exercise, and why my gynocomastia got worse.

So he put me on 7.5mg of testosterone gel daily, and I'm going back in two weeks to see how it's improved my levels. If the gel doesn't do the job (for some men it doesn't absorb well, and for some it only improves levels minimally) then we'll go to weekly injections.

If I can get my testosterone back up into the high normal range, I should be able to lose weight and fat, and gain muscle, much much faster; and just feel better in general.

The only downside is the cost. I don't know what my insurance contracted price is going to be, but the retail cost of the stuff runs about $400 a month at that dosage ($280 for every 150 grams).

Say it aint so Stan!

Disney to acquire Marvel for $4 billion

Aug 31 09:10 AM US/Eastern

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Walt Disney Co. says it is acquiring Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4 billion in cash and stock, bringing characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man into the Disney family.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of 5,000 Marvel characters.

Disney said Monday that Marvel shareholders will receive $30 per share in cash plus 0.745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own.

It said the boards of Disney and Marvel have both approved the transaction, but it requires an antitrust review and the approval of Marvel shareholders.

I can't imagine any circumstance where this will not end badly for any real Marvel, real comic, or real superhero fan.

The mere thought of Disney owning say, the silver surfer... There's a puker right there.

Let's just say I forsee a lot more "Howard the Duck", and a lot less Deadpool.

Oh and for you anal comic books guy types: yes, I know, I could have been even more quote appropriate, since Joe Quesada is the actual Editor in Chief at Marvel; but most people associate Stan Lee with Marvel.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wasted Hours, Hidden Costs, and Perverse Incentives

I didn't get to save the company $15 million dollars today; and I'm a little upset about it.

So for the last five months I've been working on a major project; taking up about 1/3 of my work hours.

We've got a building, which isn't supposed to be used as a datacenter, but which has sort of organically grown into one. Right now there are over 1000 lab and dev servers in there, and even a few production server (which is a BIG no-no).

We've decided not to renew the lease on this building, and now we've got to have everything out of there before the end of first quarter 2010 or we face a $1 million a month penalty.

If you've ever moved a datacenter (and unfortunately I have) you know that seven months is basically NO time to do the job; especially when those months are split across two budgeting years.

Well, let me tell you a very long and very irritating story... or more accurately, let me bitch for a few minutes.

Ok, before we go on, this middle section here is going to be large enterprise IT geekish, with a lot of rather boring numbers, unless you're in the business. Y'all may just want to skip down a bit.

On the other hand if you ARE in the biz; or if perhaps you are an accountant, or just want to see how ridiculous large corporations can be; this may be interesting to you.

Actually, yaknow what? I'mna just cut a bit portion of the numbers bit out entirely, and put it into a separate post from my bitching.

Ok, moving on... Sorry, bad and unintentional pun...

As part of the move, we've been trying to get rid of a bunch of old servers that are beyond end of life (some of them as much as 9 years old). Especially since a lot of the older models are rather large and rather power inefficient; and all of them are long out of software support, and security patching etc...

Really, they're a big security risk; and they're just slow and underpowered as hell, while using up way too much juice, and putting out way too much heat.

Then there's the facilities charges (the actual cost of sitting in a space in the datacenter). They run about $85 per rack unit per month in the enterprise datacenters, and $185 per rack unit per month in the high cost (downtown in a major city) datacenters we're dealing with for this project (and the average server in question is 4 rack units).

Now, I don't know if you've ever moved a datacenter, but for secure moves (we are a financial institution after all. When we move boxes we need to either destroy the hard drives, securely wipe them, or move them under bonded physical security) the cost per box runs from $1500 to $2500 a piece, not including end user labor (getting the applications ready for a move, moving over to the business continuity site, testing the box when it comes back up in the new site etc...)

That sounds like an awful lot of money for just moving a box; but again, that's taking into account ALL the costs. You have to power the thing down, unrack it and uncable it, rack it, power it, and cable it at the other end (which takes a quantity of, rather expensive, labor; that can be surprising to the uninitiated), plus wiping the drives and moving the box by freight, or moving the boxes "securely"; and finally you have to test the boxes in their new location for power and proper network and application connectivity (before you hand it back to the end users for their testing).

Frankly, it just isn't cheap.

I tell you this so you understand, just MOVING 600 boxes, without otherwise touching them or changing anything, will run between $900,000 and $1.5 million.

By decomissioning everything we can, consolidating a bunch of what's left into a lower number of more powerful machines, then virtualizing everything we can, we managed to bring the numbers down from 1100 to 600.

We figured on an average cost to reprovision in the standard enterprise process (explained in another post) of about $19,000 per system to cover the entire 4 year extended cost (that's hardware, support, maintenance etc... for 4 years. The actual hardware cost is between 10% and 25% of that number). We only needed to budget for the upfront costs, because the extended costs get covered on the annual run rate budgets.

We run everything on a 49 month total cost accounting cost basis. That means we try to account for every cost associated with a system that we can; we take the acquisition cost, and first year of support and maintenace, plus labor and install fees, and pay that as "upfront", and the rest comes out as monthly "maintenance" charges over 49 months.

There is one significant element not included in that per system charge though, and that's the $85 to $185 cost per rack unit per month, for the facilities.

Through virtualization, consolidation, decommissioning and repurposing, we managed to cut the host count down from over 1080, to about 600 total (including virtuals), about 200 of which are going to go into other less expensive and better served locations.

The virtual count though...

We actually started off with the directive to virtualize everything that couldn't be decommissioned, except the systems that absolutely couldn't be virtualized (with approved business case and exception required). That was a tall order.

After months of interviews and discovery sessions with server and application end users, I managed to put 300 additional systems on the de-com list; intending to either eliminate them entirely, or consolidate their function with another box. I also manged to come up with a list of 600 potential virtualization candidates. The remaining 180 or so were just going to have to move, but not necessarily to the expensive location.

So, that's what we asked for as budget for the 600, up front $4.1 million; which would cover virtualization, plus the moving for whatever ones we couldn't virtualize.

That is what we honestly needed to do that many systems. It wasn't a blue sky "nice to have" number, it was the real number.

That's not what we got.

They gave us $1.8 million for upfront.

Not 1.8 million for virtualization, 1.8 million.


Including all the moves, and anything going into the enterprise solution.

Oh crap...

Ok... so, there was no way we were going to be able to do that using the standard enterprise methodologies. It just wasn't going to happen.

I said flat out, "at that budget, using standard enterprise costings, this project cannot be completed".

I was actually putting my neck on the line by saying that, but it was the truth, and it had to be said...


I had an idea.

So I said to the CIO, and the head of the "steering committee": "Ok... let us get creative here, and I think we can do it. We're going to need to throw the rules out the window, but I have an idea, and I know who to work with and how to get it done... If we have a free hand, we can do it."

He told me to run with it.

So, we went back to all our end users, and pared down even more, consolidated even more, convinced them we were going to do something really cool but they'd have to take the risk with us...

And after about a month of non stop effort, we whittled the "must move" list to about 240, 120 of which were going to go to cheaper facilities where there was more space. We found a few more decoms through creative consolidation, and moving more functions into virtual environments. We got the virtualization list down to about 290, with about 50 where they would be in the standard enterprise virtual farms, and the other 240 on the new "creative" solution.

Then I went heads down with some of the lead architects at VMWare, HP, Sun, and IBM for an entire month; and we came up with something.

We used new products, new technologies, and new ways of putting things together, to come up with a certified and supportable software stack that could be virtualized at less than half the cost we had before.

I even got them all to give us SERIOUSLY special pricing, and agree to only charge us 25% up front, with the remainder payable as we filled up the virtual farms, in a capacity on demand model.

These are lab machines. They don't need the kind of support, or the kind of overhead, that running in the enterprise farms entails. They also don't need the high cost ultra reliable high performance storage, or the high cost ultra reliable everything else that goes with it.

All of those coasts add up.

Like I've said several times above, it isn't the hardware that makes up most of the cost. In the enterprise farms, a single virtual machines share of the hardware cost is less than $2000, including all the storage, etc... It's all the support, and supporting infrastructure.

By getting creative, we were able to cut the average 49 month cost per virtual machine down to about $5,000.

Of course, we still have to account for the staffing to support these NEW virtual farms; at 4 employees, 50% time for 4 years, at an average of about $70 an hour (the "standard rate" we use for internal chargeback of mid level sysadmins and system engineers). Basically 4160 hours per year, for about $300,000 a year over 4 years.

Total solution cost worked out to about $2.7 million, with $1.8 million in up front costs (not exactly the typical ratio, because we weren't doing things the typical way):

New virtual farms: $1.2 million with $700,000 up front (that's TCA not just hardware)
Staff: $1.2 million, with $300,000 up front
Moves: $600,000 (just in case, we used the $2500 estimate)
Enterprise VMs: $600,000 with $200,000 up front

If it came down to it, we could probably trim out another $240k on the upfronts by using the lower moving estimate, to get down to $1.56 million.

Now remember, when we started, it looked like we were going to have to move 1100 servers, at a total cost of almost $2.8 million just for moving, and a cumulative cost to the company of $814,000 per month in facilities fees; for a 49 month total cost of about $40 million dollars.

We're talking about going from $40 million, down to $2.7 million, with only $1.8 million up front.

We went back before the steering committee, presented the new solution along with the planning and the end users signoffs that they were good to go...

And they cut our budget again...

To 1.1 million...

Including the moves, and the stuff going into the enterprise...

Now, you can't even MOVE 530 boxes for $1.1 million; at least not without hitting the bottom end of projections. Not only that, but without doing the creative solution thing, we weren't going to be able to cut the numbers so far. We'd be back to 600 boxes.

Thing is though, we were the victim of our own success.

If we'd have had to move the original 1100 boxes, or even virtualize more than a couple hundred, there's no way they could have contemplated doing anything other than our new solution. The costs would have just been too high.

But we'd managed to cut that number down so far, and to split the moves up into several different locations so the new building (which only had capacity for 400 of those 1100) wouldn't take the full load; that they were able to contemplate just moving everything.

If you add up the totals... $2.7 million total and $1.8 million up front to implement the technically correct, and better for the business solution; vs. the cost of moving 600 boxes, with a low end estimate of $1500 a pop for a total of $900,000...

Of course that discounts the facilities costs, but apparently that's how they want to account for it.

I should say, there IS a valid reason for it.

The moving expenses can be written down as a one time structural charge related to our recent big mergers and acquisitions (like every surviving major bank, we ate another bank whole last year).

The ongoing floorspace charges on the other hand are already sunk into the buildings fixtures and facilities budgets (and reported as such); so by breaking them out into a cross charge, we actually disadvantage ourselves for earnings purposes.

This is completely honest by the way, all costs are being accounted for; it just skews the real cost of IT, by pushing some of that cost out onto facilities.

So, this morning I reported to the committee, the CIO and everyone else, that with the newly revised budget, and the numbers we managed to cut down to, and how they wanted to account for costs... that just moving all of the boxes, was the "right" solution.

Actually, I put it differently. I said that it was technically the wrong thing to do, but for accounting reasons, it was the right thing to do.

I did make clear I thought that long term, the new solution was better both technically and financially; and in prioritizing the upfront costs we were going to miss a potential savings of well over $15 million over four years

But that's over four years, vs the $900,000 today... Who was going to provide those staff members. where would we get clearance to hire them. Whose books would they be carried. Who was going to cover all that maintenance when the lab machines weren't seeing any maintenance charges now, and the end users didn't want to assume those charges in 12 months...

What I didn't mention, was that we had just flushed two and a third full time senior staff members labor (a full time senior technical project manage, a full time senior finance manager, and me, a 1/3 time chief architect) for 5 months as well, at $120 an hour (the internal chargeback rate for senior staff).

There's another $250k wasted.

Nor did I mention how great wasting those hours made us all feel.

Oh and now, we're going to have to go back to all those end users we convinced to come try something new with us, and we're going to have to get them to sign off on a straight move.

It's going to take us at least six weeks, by which time we're only going to have 5 months left to get everything moved, one month of which will be taken up by our mid December to mid January change freeze for end of year.

That means everything is going to have to be on an emergency escalated basis, and will take longer and cost more, and mistakes will be made...

The wasted political capital, wasted good will, lost trust, and wasted energy... They dwarf the wasted $250k... in fact they probably dwarf the wasted $15 million in the log run, because they make us all less effective at our jobs.

All because people don't want to think beyond the first 12 months... or the next 90 days for that matter. 4 years isn't even long term, but it's not THIS year, and THIS earnings period, and THIS bonus check...

What's scary, is that we're actually BETTER about this than almost every large company I've worked with. In fact, I've worked with every other major bank in the U.S. and many of them in Europe; and we're the best of all of them when it comes to being efficient, and adopting good solutions etc...

Yes, seriously. Everyone else is even more convoluted with more perverse incentives than we are.

The one good spot is that I think I've convinced the management who counts, that we can use the new architecture we developed for our datacenter reclamation efforts next year, as we try to take 25% of all our servers off the floor, while still expanding our capacity by 40%.

By the by, when I say reducing footprint by 25%, that's from about 50,000 servers. About half of those are development and testing systems that don't need all that overhead associated with production systems.

By going that way, we could save some serious money. Enough to make that $15 million we didn't save today, look like nothing (maybe $200 million); and the $250k we spent developing the solution as less than nothing.

If they let us do it.

There are days I love my job. When I'm allowed to do it, it's great.

Then there are days like today.