Category: Alaric

The Jan Recap… (by )

It's the end of January so what has gone on in the household snell-pym in the first month of 2017?

For a start there was the end of Christmas, I am still making the last few Advent vids ready for Christmas next year. We delivered presents though sadly not all the presents so we still have a back log!

Also mine and Mary's birthdays - mine involved a coffee, meal and shopping with Al before hospital stuff but we have only just done the proper celebration with kids and friends this weekend just gone which was also Mary's birthday. There was also posh vegan/Gluten Free brunch. Mary has so far played in the Waterstones cafe with her friend Lilly as her party is going to be in two weeks time. We've planned the party and got stuff ready for it.

This includes me working out how to make upcycled unicorn head bands and tail belts and little roll and pop up horses for the kids to make.

My mother was hospitalised so there was a trip to Essex and the adventures of getting home on the train which were unexpected.

DIY wise we have fixed several toys, remounted a coat rack which had pulled off the wall, dealt with networking and upgrading Jean's computer.

We got a telescope - an amazing thing which was a pool of Christmas money instead of presents for Al and Jean and part of mine and Mary's birthdays. We've seen binary stars so far. It was an undertaking to assemble and we now need to build a storage/transport box but it is assembled and being looked through though we've only had like three clear nights!

I've had three lots of testing at the hospital which took it's toll and norovirus hit the household. I missed a theatre meeting about performing a monologue and a poetry recording evening but I am being given second chances at those so that's all good.

I also missed my Krav self defence one off class and a poetry book launch which made me sad but on the other hand I was live streamed reading poetry at Food For Thought.

Talking of poetry I have also been typing up and editing poems from the BOOKCASE (Not shelf) of notebooks I have. The shear number is insane obv. not all of it is usable but a lot is so I have been organising Turquoise Monster and have even started submitting work again (as in 2 poems so far). I've written three poems this month predictable all about Trump. Of course I am doing my poetry writing challenges so I've drafted a good few more mostly not about Trump.

Jan has also been me gearing up for the poetry writing challenge that I host over at Wopo.

I have also designed, refined and created mini poetry scrolls, story scrolls, made bookwallets etc... for blank scrolls for others to write poetry on, personalised pencils and made write your own poem kits, made and put together 100 mini zine surprise pouches, story boarded two more zines, drafted half a short story, edited a couple of flash fictions, tried to write daily on this blog and started on the mammoth task of trying to sort out the Salaric Craft blog.

Also Storystorm - what used to be Picture Book Idea Month has rebranded and moved to Jan. so I have been idea generating and expanding on those ideas for kids books.

Alaric has been making a cufflink holder for the cufflinks I made him for Advent, the girls have been making invites and decorations for Mary's party and we have all been working on the cosplay outfits for True Believers Comic Festival which is this weekend coming. This has involved sewing, sticking, painting, metal twisting, papier mache and buying new wellys.

I had to get a third print run of my colouring book Love: A Stranger Dream made and in general have been trying to sort out The WigglyPets Press.

I have been teaching myself origami and have folded lit. hundreds of things from geometric modules to make bigger things from to little stand up foxes to pretty little boxes.

We've organised things for getting back down the allotment, so just sorting out containers for soil etc...

I've knitted four hats, made an Ironman craft kit, taken the kids to two (not us) birthday parties. Three projects are still currently being designed and refined including mending a rocking horse that is older than me. I accidently made a pair of slippers from an old coat whilst trying to make a portal gun (please tell me this happens to other people!).

Alaric made my laptop usable again (for now) and we had a chicken fatality 🙁 and we had to fix the chicken run and stuff and general animal stuff to sort out. We've got our new electric car and there was pie making!

NB pie was not chicken Al is veggi!

Jean is still at Scouts, Jujitsu, and Drama and Mary is doing her Ballet, both girls are missing climbing but for one of the parties we did get to go "caving". Alaric is still doing Krav and Hackspace each week. Oh and of course we had to do my tax (sobs!).

There were also visits from and too various family.

So that was January - it snowed and it rained and there was scary fog.

Failing (by )

I've failed at morning - there is pink tooth paste on our bed and Mary only half dressed in the car for school 🙁 Still I think that is the first proper melt down we have had so far this term with getting ready in the mornings so... getting there - of course Jean has taken the bright turquoise coat to school so I am sure we will be getting a letter or she'll be getting a detention or something about that as she's only allowed black ones :/ To be fair her black one is at the school drying out from yesterday still but she was supposed to take my coat!

My chest is still bad and I've failed to finish decorating the girls rooms. I've now been ill since the 2nd of November and am BORED. Hoping it will sort itself asap.

Yesterday was a System of A Down and Cradle of Filth et al kind of day, Jean came home sans coat and bag as they were too wet and she'd been lent other things in their sted. Which was a relief as I thought she'd gone out in the torrential rain without anything!

Today I wonder if she's remembered her jujitsu bag as she's going straight from school with her friend and I forgot to remind her - I can see the bag from here but that does not mean she hasn't got the trousers and t-shirt with her - the jacket is just too bulky for her to carry in with all her school things.

Maybe I'm letting her down by not sorting it all out, by not driving etc - I hope she is just becoming independent. She's actually pretty epic at organising herself considering she is organising herself and she is mine and Al's daughter and she is only 11.

Rain like this always makes me worry - in 2007 before Gloucester but in Gloucestershire we were flooded and ended up being out of our home for about a year. Rains since have caused issues with the new houses roof etc... and though I know that means it's now a good roof... the fear is there tangled in my brain, if it rains heavy I feel I should go and just check that things aren't flooding - because you know I'd be able to do something about it if it where :/

I'm all mouth ulcery - and run down... thinking it's the aneamia, thinking it's still on running issues of having gotten low levels of gluten etc... over the summer etc... but I don't know.

There are happy things to write about just feeling a little deflated so thought I'd share what was going on. Alaric's new job is great - he's loving it but due to traffic in Cheltenham he is not getting home until gone 7 at night and because he does school run in the mornings he's gone for like 12 hours to do do his 9 hr job. This is the first time I've been on my own on my own in the house everyday since having kids... there has always been a kid about and/or a husband. It's weird because instead of the relief of them having their 2 days in nursery it's like... the house is EMPTY.

I think I'm getting less done but I also think I'm getting more done as I am doing the new rest regime from the doctor to try and get the head bang healing properly.

Tomorrow there is coffee with a friend and at some point I need to go and pick up some bits from another... I have stalls to organise for Salaric Craft and The WigglyPet Press for December and I need to decide weather to shut down my Patreon account due to the fact I think I'm going to end up triple taxed on income that otherwise would be taxed once max.

It's a shame I like the platform... :/

Anyway I will now go and up load pics so I can get back to cutsie blogging and political rants.

Steel Pan Drum Making (by )

Dear Alaric and Jean you asked for ideas for welding projects for presents for me - you know already that I would like a tank drum but I would also like what I call a Calypso Drum - these used to be used at the carnivals when I was a kid and also during the candle light parades and things. I prefer the ones without drilled holes but if they are easier to make then that is fine 🙂

This one looks like a lot of work - from having spent time round industrial workshops as a kid I kind of had it in my head you just bashed empty oil cans - the sort my bro/uncle David makes into BBQ's. And I'm sure there was a drum made from the bonnet of a car or maybe they just let me play with non-sharpe metal and stuff to keep me entertained as a kid!

Also there is this little beaut which is painted and stuff - I didn't know they came painted - it is lovely but about £80 and isn't as many notes I don't think.

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p.s. you might need to enlist the help of musicians in Cheltenham Hackspace for tuning though Jean you are always moaning at my wrong notes so you should be able to do it yourself! Remember Alaric you do have oscillerscopes!

Brexit (by )

I think the best analysis of the possible consequences, whichever way the referendum went, was this: Martin Lewis' guide to voting in the EU referendum.

In other words, nobody really had any good arguments as to which was better - in or out. The EU has costs and benefits. The problem is, the referendum wasn't about whether Britain would be better in or out; it was about whether Britain should remain or leave, which is a slightly different point. The differences is: the cost of change also enters the equation. Given that the consequences of being in or out are unclear, the question becomes: Is it worth the costs of leaving?

Personally, I don't think so: Even though the consequences either way were unclear, I suspect that the average outcomes are probably slightly better if we'd stayed in. All the talk of immigration (we still need immigration to afford to look after our ageing population), sovereignty (the British parliament is hardly more accountable to us than the European one), and £350m a week were largely red herrings, spectres summoned to try and mislead the population; the real issues were far subtler and more pedestrian.

But that difference between the best predictions of the impacts of staying or leaving on our quality of live are small compared to the cost of change. Today's drop in the value of the pound and British shares is not a measure of the predicted economic weakness of a non-EU UK; it's a measure of the uncertainty as to how effective British business will be, and how easy it will be for multinational corporations to operate in Britain. The world cannot predict how fiscal and commercial relationships with Britain will be in five years, let alone ten or more, and those are the kinds of periods over which major investments are planned; so that investment will be directed to safer places. Maybe Britain will become a new economic powerhouse without EU regulations - or maybe it will become a dingy backwater. The world doesn't know, so it's moving its money elsewhere. Funnily enough, that reduces the chances of Britain being able to become an economic powerhouse, because we're poorer to begin with.

Another effect that's far larger than any predictions of the effects of being in or out is the effect of the referendum process. We are now in a situation where half the country is furious with the other half for having ruined their country, and possibly the world. Meanwhile, that half is furious with the first half for having nearly prevented them from saving their country, and possibly the world. This is a rather toxic and explosive situation to now be attempting to plan what's going to happen over the next five years. Many decisions will be made based on personal grudges rather than rational consideration. Meanwhile, in the populace at large, a lot of resentment is simmering; if living conditions drop in ways that are attributable to our leaving Europe, the half of the population that voted for it will be considered personally responsible for ruined lives. That could get nasty.

Another effect of the Leave result that probably dwarfs the actual cost of not being in the EU is that the result has emboldened the more right-wing figures in British politics. Folks who have traditionally acted in the interests of big business and the rich, while cynically appealing to the fears of the masses in order to get their way. I'm concerned that their influence - previously more rhetorical than actual - will grow in the political changes coming, which could have negative long-term consequences.

So, I'm sad on many levels about how this referendum turned out; but I wouldn't have been very much happier if we'd voted to remain.

Towards the Family Mainframe (by )

Last September, I posted progress on the construction of our domestic mainframe. To recap, the intent is to build a dedicated home server that's as awesome as possible - meaning it's reliable, safe, and easy to maintain. That rules out "desktop tower PC in a cupboard" (accumulates dust bunnies, gets too hot, easily stolen, prone to children poking it); "put a 19" rack somewhere in your house" is better, but consumes a lot of floor footprint and doesn't fix the dust bunny problem. So I've made my own custom steel chassis; fed cold air at pressure via a filter, incorporating a dedicated battery backup system, locked and anchored to the wall, and with lots of room inside for expansion and maintenance.

Since that blog post, I've finished the metalwork, painted it with automotive paint using a spray gun (which was a massive job in itself!), fixed it to the wall, and fitted nearly all of the electronics into it.

A significant delay was caused by the motherboard not working. I sent it back to the shop, and they said it was fine; so I sent the CPU back, and they said THAT was fine; so I sent both back together and it turned out that the two of them weren't compatible in some way that was solved by the motherboard manufacturer re-flashing my BIOS. That's now up and running; I was able to use the HDMI and USB ports on the outside of the chassis to connect up and install NetBSD from a USB stick, then connected it to the network and installed Xen so I can run all my services in virtual machines. It's now running fine and everything else can be done via SSH, but the HDMI and USB ports are there so I can do console administration in future without having to open the case (unless I need to press the reset button, which is inside).

The one thing it's lacking is the management microprocessor. I've prototype this thing on a breadboard and written the software, but need to finish off the PCB and cabling: but it will have an AVR controlling three 10mm RGB LEDs on the front panel, and three temperature/humidity sensors in the inlet and outlet air (and one spare for more advanced air management in future). But the idea is that the three LEDs on the front panel will display useful system status, and the environment sensor data will be logged.

Here's what it looks like from the outside; note the air inlet hose at the top left:

Family mainframe

The socket panel on the left hand side worked out pretty well - 240v inlet at the bottom, then on the aluminium panel, three Ethernets, HDMI, and USB (my console cable is still plugged into the HDMI and USB in the photo, which won't usually be the case):

I/O sockets panel and the power inlet

And here's the inside, with lots of space for more disks or other extra hardware; the big black box at the bottom is the battery backup system:

Innards of the family mainframe

Now I have Xen installed, I'm working on a means of building VMs from scripts, so any VM's disk image can be rebuilt on demand. This will make it easy for me to upgrade; any data that needs keeping will be mounted from a separate disk partition, so the boot disk images of the VMs themselves are "disposable" and entirely created by the script (the one slightly tricky thing being the password file in /etc/). This will make upgrades safe and easy - I can tinker with a build script for a new version of a VM, testing it out and destroying the VMs when I'm done, and then when it's good, remount the live data partition onto it and then point the relevant IP address at it. If the upgrade goes bad, I can roll it back by resurrecting the old VM, which I'll only delete when I'm happy with its replacement. This is the kind of thing NixOS does; but that's for Linux rather than NetBSD, so I'm rolling my own that's a little more basic (in that it builds entire VM filesystems from a script, rather than individual packages, with all the complexities of coupling them together nicely).

I'm using NetBSD's excellent logical volume manager to make it easy to manage those partitions across the four disks. There are two volume groups, each containing two physical disks, so I can arrange for important data to be mirrored across different physical disks (not in the RAID sense, which the LVM can do for me, but in the sense of having a live nightly snapshot of things on separate disks, ready to be hot-swapped in if required). I still have SATA ports and physical bays free for more disks, and the LVM will allow me to add them to the volume groups as required, so I can expand the disk space without major downtime.

So for now it's just a matter of making VMs and migrating existing services onto them, then I can take down the noisy, struggling, cranky old servers in the lounge! This project has been a lot of work - but when I ssh into it from inside the house (over the cabling I put in between the house and the workshop) and see all that disk space free in the LVM and all the RAM waiting to be assigned to domU VMs that I can migrate my current services to, it's all worth it!

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