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Sadao Watanabe at Blue Note

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Last night we saw Sadao Watanabe (one of the world’s great Saxophone players) and his band at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC. I’ve been a huge fan of his forever (owned many of his LPs before I bought my first CD). I’ve never seen him in concert.

The band came on the stage at exactly 8pm. I was surprised to see that all but one member of the band was Japanese (not that I had any idea what the band makeup would be). Then Sadao explained that the Japanese airline ANA sponsored this tour, and for the first time, he was able to bring his own band members from Japan with him for a US tour. Previously, he picked up local professional session musicians to accompany him.

Already it promised to be a cool show. While he didn’t tell the following story until the middle of the show, it’s more appropriate at this point in my narrative. The lone non-Japanese person was the percussionist (separate from the drummer). Sadao met him eight years ago in Senegal. He then met and married a Japanese woman and moved to Yokohama. Aside from also having two children now, he was able to join Sadao’s permanent band.

Here’s a photo of Sadao Watanabe speaking to the audience:

Sadao Watanabe Talking

Sadao Watanabe Talking

To summarize, the show was fantastic. The selection was incredible (Sadao has something like 69 albums, so choosing what to play is not a simple matter!). His playing was crisp, fast and fabulous. The few stories he told were touching, amusing and heartwarming. He’s as lovely in person as he is a great musician.

Here are two more shots of him. The first is of him playing the sax. The second shows him playing the flute, which he did on one song only last night:

Sadao Watanabe Sax

Sadao Watanabe Sax

Sadao Watanabe Flute

Sadao Watanabe Flute

From left-to-right appearing on the stage with Sadao (he was in the center) were:

Akira Onozuka on electric keyboards and grand piano. Sadao mentioned that he’s also a great percussionist, but the budget didn’t allow for them to bring his set along. 😉 While there aren’t a ton of real pianos in the shows we frequent, there are many electric keyboards. Akira played roughly five songs on the electric stuff, but the majority of the show was on the grand piano.

Akira Onozuka

Akira Onozuka

I’d be hard pressed to say that I ever heard a better pianist live, including David Benoit (who blew Lois away when we saw him), Bruce Hornsby, Bob James, etc. He was both flawless and fascinating, on every single note. He could play the slowest, softest ballads (on one number, he was the only one accompanying Sadao) as well as rock out to hard-driving funk jazz numbers. He took long, detailed, mesmerizing solos. Let me not slight his electric keyboards work, it was unbelievably good as well!

Jun Kajiwara on electric guitar. In a word, wow. The first thing Lois said when we left the club was “Don’t you think he’s better than XXX?” (I don’t want to offend fans of XXX, so I won’t repeat the name. 😉 Seriously, this guy is awesome. He was highlighted early on, and late in the show again, and blew the crowd away every time. Harder for me to peg him above my favorites, because I listen to so much more guitar work (live and on the iPod) than to piano, and those all get the spotlight in every song. In any case, Jun is fantastic.

Jun Kajiwara

Jun Kajiwara

Kichiro Komobuchi on electric bass. He’s likely the youngest (and perhaps newest) member of the band. He played an excellent bass line the entire night. On one number, Sadao let him loose for an extremely long and detailed lead (the others accompanied him, so it wasn’t a solo). He was amazing.

Kichiro Komobuchi

Kichiro Komobuchi

Masaharu Ishikawa on drums. Very solid. One long solo, and another highlight with the percussionist.

Masaharu Ishikawa

Masaharu Ishikawa

N’diasse Niang on percussion. I’ve seen a number of percussionists over the past few years, but never one who plays quite like this. Most play entirely with their bare hands. N’diasse has some kind of ball taped to his index and middle fingers on each hand, so that he can achieve more impact (and therefore also various tones) if he strikes the bongos (I’m sure they are fancier than that) with those fingers, other fingers, palms, etc. He electrified the crowd the entire night.

Apologies for the horrible quality on this photo. N’diasse was sitting perpendicular to the rest of the group (facing Sadao), at the corner of the stage, so the lights weren’t on him at all, and the stage is relatively dark to begin with.

N'diasse Niang

N'diasse Niang

Just to repeat, in addition to being superb musicians in their own right, the six of them were tight and fantastic as a group all night long. They played for 85 minutes. The crowd roared after every lead, and literally worshipped Sadao himself.

We got to the club at 6:06pm. While we were happy with out seats, it was somewhat surprising that in the six minutes that the doors were open, many better seats were already taken. Yet, there was no line outside when we got there, so a bunch of people were seated within the first five minutes, or they opened the doors a bit early (not so likely).

Jazz draws quite diverse crowds in our experiene. That includes Japanese people, no matter who the artist is. That said, last night was one of the more unique experiences we’ve had in the US. The club was jammed, but there were perhaps 10% (20% max) non-Japanese. The overwhelming majority of patrons were Japanese. I mentioned above that they worshiped Sadao. It had to be an even bigger treat for them that the rest of the band all came over from Japan.

I said “non-Japanese” rather than US residents. That’s because it turned out there were a number of Europeans, and two women who came from Brazil just to see this show! They introduced themselves to Sadao before the show, and he dedicated a song to them right near the end of the show. Pretty cool.

I had my usual (at least my recent usual) marinated skirt steak. It was excellent, but seemed to be twice as large as usual. I didn’t have any trouble finishing it, but it was one of the longer dining experiences I’ve had in a while (I eat way too fast, always).

Sadao, thanks for making this very special one-night-stand in NYC (it felt like he could sell out the Blue Note for an entire week!), and more importantly, for arranging to share your truly amazing band with us! 🙂

Kaki King at Turning Point Cafe

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Last night we saw Kaki King at Turning Point Cafe in Piermont, NY.

On October 24, 2007, we saw Kathy Mattea at Joe’s Pub in NYC. Accompanying her that night on guitar, as he has been for roughly 18 years, was Bill Cooley. When I reviewed that show I stated that I thought Bill Cooley was possibly the best acoustic guitarist I had seen.

My friend Eric Sink commented that he thought Phil Keaggy was probably the best he’d seen, but he mentioned some others, including Kaki King, who he practically dared me to listen to. 😉 Here’s his exact quote (in a comment to a different post I made about Phil Keaggy):

Or if you’re quite daring, have you listened to any of Kaki King’s stuff?

So, given that I respect Eric so much on every level, I had to check her out (and Michael Hedges, whom he recommended as well). I liked Kaki King alot, though there’s little doubt that she’s not a mainstream artist on any level.

Last night was the first opportunity I had to see her live, and I jumped at the chance. I had never been to Turning Point Cafe, but I knew it was a small place. In fact, it seats roughly 63 people. We had awesome seats and were roughly eight feet from Kaki, dead center.

From the many YouTube videos that I’ve watched of her (and the two CDs that I own), I knew that she plays with a full band (and plays multiple instruments herself) as well as just solo guitar (her forte). I figured that in a club this small, she was likely to play solo, and indeed, that’s what she did.

She announced at the beginning that she was experimenting with getting back to her roots of solo guitar, without any vocal accompaniment either! She was hitting up a number of clubs that booked her back in the early days, in order to share the intimacy of that experience with the people who were fans of that style of music.

Here’s a photo to show you how good our seats were, and how intimate the entire experience was:

Kaki King

Kaki King

She didn’t disappoint whatsoever. Aside from being quieter than usual (at least according to her) 😉 she is a lovely, thoughtful person. Her guitar virtuosity is exemplary, but her selection can be quite brooding, even angry at times. Like I mentioned above, and like Eric hinted at, this music is not for everyone.

We invited good friends to join us, even though I knew that neither they, nor Lois, would find this kind of music entertaining. That said, seeing Kaki King perform (and you can get a really good sense if you watch her YouTube videos) is as much a wonderful performance art experience, as it is a musical one. She’s a wizard on the guitar.

Here’s a photo of her using both hands on the frets. She creates some incredible sounds when she does this, and both sets of fingers seem to fly independently (but in sonic coordination!). In addition, it’s special for both of us, because we’re Wicked and Wizard of Oz freaks, and she’s obviously wearing the Ruby Red Slippers, so she’s Dorothy to us. 😉

Kaki King Wizardry

Kaki King Wizardry

We live 20 minutes from Piermont (on the other side of the Hudson River). Our friends live in Northvale, NJ, 10 minutes from Piermont (further from us). We went for an early dinner at their house, and then we followed them to Piermont. We arrived at around 6:15pm (doors open at 6pm) and ordered some drinks. The show was called for 7pm, but Kaki came out at exactly 7:15pm.

She played straight through to 8:35pm, with the only pauses being tuning. She (and many other current guitar masters) use a variety of non-standard (perhaps they are standard now!) tunings, and they switch them often for different songs. Here’s a fuzzy picture (sorry) that shows her tuning, but also shows one of her original guitars, that she recorded her first CD on (she closed the show with the last cut from that CD):

Kaki King Tuning

Kaki King Tuning

As I suspected, none of the three people that came with me (Lois included) were enamored of the particular selection or style of music (though each found at least one song that resonated with them). That said, I hope they all had a nice time nonetheless, and appreciated how talented this woman is. I think they did. 🙂

I would definitely go see her again live, with or without a full band, but I would likely only bring along Lois next time. 🙂

Last night was the first of four concerts in a row for us. So, when we got home (around 9pm), we packed up the car and headed to the city (the next three shows are all in NYC). Expect updates on each one over the next three days.

Reinstalling Windows XP

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I spend a fair amount of my time helping many people with their personal computers (mostly laptops, but desktops as well). A friend of ours noted that I had my own Computer Ministry a while ago. Lois liked the term and printed T-Shirts labeled Pastor Pedhazur, with the names of many in my flock. 🙂

Among the many people I help are our cul-de-sac neighbors (I support the mom, dad and teenage daughter) with whom we’ve been good friends for 18+ years.

The Dad’s current laptop is a Dell E1405. It’s a nice small-to-midsize laptop running XP. When he bought it, it came with 1GB of RAM (two 512MB sticks) and an 80GB disk (with only 55GB of usable space, we’ll get to why in a bit).

It ran well for a while, but started giving him a bunch of trouble when his teenage daughter used it a few times (possibly before she got her own Dell for Christmas, or possibly because it was simply more convenient one day for whatever reason). Being a teenager, she visited sites she shouldn’t have, installed stuff (wittingly or otherwise), and the machine was infected with a number of viruses and spyware programs.

I used to fix their machines in their house, and chat with them while I was working away. There were many days (mostly on weekends) where I’d be there for upwards of five hours. I didn’t mind, because (like I said above), we’re good friends. But, I tend to play poker mostly on weekends now, so when they have a problem, I tend to pick up their machines (or they drop them off) and I work on them in my house.

So, a month ago I picked up his machine and spent the day cleaning off all of the viruses. That went reasonably smoothly. I also deleted the daughter’s account (with their permission), now that she definitely has her own full-time laptop (yes, I previously had to clean hers as well, but she’s kept it pretty clean since then).

Even though the cleansing went well, I noticed the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) a number of times. In fact, I could provoke it at will (if waiting a full hour each time counts as at will). It felt like a bad memory chip, since it failed in the same way every time, but I couldn’t be sure.

I have a dozen or so utility CDs which I can boot off that have various tools on them to help me with my ministry. I pulled out one that had a variety of memory tests, booted from it, and let it run for a few hours. No joy, I couldn’t provoke any failures. Then I pulled one of the RAM chips out, and ran the one-hour program, and indeed, it still failed.

I then swapped the memory chips, and reran the program, and it ran to completion. I also moved that chip to the secondary slot, and it continued to work, so it appeared that neither slot was bad either! Aha, had to be a bad RAM chip, right? Perhaps, we’ll find out in a minute or two… 😉

As an aside, Dell puts the second slot under the keyboard, and the machinations you have to go through to get to that slot are nerve-wracking and unwieldy. Of course, now that I’ve swapped chips for him numerous times, I’m a daredevil at doing it and can swap the chips in my sleep… 🙂

He could have run on 512MB, but that’s not a lot of headroom for Windows XP. Instead, the next day, we ordered two 1GB modules. The following weekend I took the machine again, and put in the memory modules. I reran the long program, and it failed at the one hour mark, again… 🙁

I pulled one chip, reran the program, and it worked, so it appeared that perhaps one of the slots was bad (or flaky), but at least he was back to 1GB of memory, not a total loss. I returned the machine to him.

A week later, I called to ask how it was running. Sheepishly, he admitted that it was crashing a ton, but that it came back each time (in fact, it auto-rebooted), and he was limping along, able to check his email, etc., but not really use the machine for extended periods. Clearly, he felt badly imposing, but I felt badly that he didn’t!

We were leaving for VA that day, so I told him I’d check it out when we returned, which was a few days ago.

My plan was to reinstall Windows XP from scratch to be sure that it wasn’t a deep software corruption on his system. If a fresh install still showed regular crashes, then he had to have some kind of hardware problem.

I picked up the machine on Friday morning. I have a number of ways that I back machines up (mine and others) depending on the situation. For ultra-safety and complete backups, I tend to use a commercial program called EZ Gig II (it’s a custom Linux distro with some sort of packaging of a dd-like program, though not exactly that). The program came with an external disk drive kit that I bought a while ago, and I’ve been very satisfied with it. There are many free programs that accomplish the same thing.

However, I didn’t want to use that program for this task, because it creates a blob that can’t access individual files. You can restore the entire disk to another partition, but not copy over one file that you just forgot you’d need, etc. Still, I wanted a full backup, and I didn’t want to just copy all of the files.

I pulled out another of my trusty utility disks. This one is the BartPE CD, an excellent collection of Windows utilities on a bootable CD. The advantage of this over a Linux bootable CD is that you are really running Windows, so all disk activity is virtually guaranteed to work with NTFS filesystems, including writing. Don’t flame me, Linux has gotten really good at this too (with NTFS-3g in particular), and I do use it, reliably, but BartPE comes with a specific utility which I really wanted to use for this specific task!

That utility is DriveImage XML. This is very cool software, that works exactly as advertised. There are two reasons why I use EZ Gig II more frequently than this. EZ Gig is way faster and EZ Gig will allow me to store multiple images of the same drive on the same target (backup) drive. DriveImage XML is slower, and doesn’t let me name the backups, so it’s less flexible.

That said, it has a feature that makes it way better than EZ Gig for the task I needed, which is that it stores a map of the data it backed up in a separate XML file, and every file (or directory, etc.) can be restored (or rather extracted) separately.

So, I booted the Bart PE CD and ran DriveImage XML and backed up the drive to an external hard drive. I was now ready to reinstall Windows XP. For years, no one has been better than these folks at keeping every bit of stuff that came with any PC they purchased. It took them 30 seconds to find the original CDs and manual.

But, I mentioned above that the disk had 55 usable GB on it. That’s because it had a hidden restore partition on it as well. I found the key combination to boot off of it from the manual (actually, the online manual at Dell’s site, since it was easier to search that). When I booted the machine, I pressed Ctrl-F11 and was presented with the Recovery Menu.

I chose a full reinstall. The machine chugged along, and a litte bit later, it was like new from the factory (bloatware too), including Microsoft Office which they had paid for separately. Cool.

I immediately deleted all of the bloatware and proceeded to bring the system back up-to-date with Windows Update. Here, I made a very critical error! Early on, I allowed Windows XP SP3 to be installed by Windows Update. While it completed correctly, after it was installed, other critical updates could not proceed (including updates to IE 7). I’m guessing that the system was simply in an inconsistent state.

I was tempted to start all over, and reinstall XP from the recovery partition again. Then I decided to try something I’ve been aware of, but have never attempted. I picked a Restore Point from the Help and Support menu in Windows, and picked the restore point that was automatically set before SP3 was installed. In effect, I was rolling back the SP3 install.

That worked, and I was left with only one program that I had previously deleted to delete again. I then forced a new save, so that I could roll back again (without needing to delete this extra program), just in case.

I then performed all of the updates in XP, each time skipping SP3. Only when SP3 was the only update left did I allow it to install. Perfect. I then ran the program that always provoked the memory error (this time with 2GB of RAM back in the sytem!). It ran flawlessly. I did a bunch of other things, and never got the BSOD! Joy!

So, it turns out that it was indeed a deep software problem, and reinstalling Windows fixed it. He’s now got a very nice sytem, with a nice memory upgrade, clean of anyone elses stuff (family and malware included).

After getting it running, I put in the Bart PE CD again (this time not booting from it, just inserting it while logged in), and ran DriveImage XML again. I was able to pull over all of his files (Documents, Settings, etc.) and check what programs were installed as well.

He’s up and running now and I returned the machine to him yesterday afternoon. I had the machine in my possession for roughly 26 hours, but it was side-by-side with mine, and I worked on Friday, played poker on Saturday, etc., without losing a beat on my own stuff. Pretty good result all around! 🙂

Incontrovertible Logic

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In my last post, I said that tomorrow I would take apart the Sally Quinn article line by line. It turns out that tomorrow has come a little early today. 🙂

Instead of literally line-by-line, I’ll quote her a paragraph at a time, to make my cut-and-paste work slightly less tedious.

Palin’s Pregnancy Problem

That’s the title folks. OK, Quinn has framed the entire discussion of whether she’s fit to be the VP in terms of her teen-age daughter’s pregnancy. No hyperbole here.

My first reaction was shock. Then anger. John McCain chose a running mate simply because she is a woman and one who appealed to the Republican’s conservative evangelical base. Now, with news that Palin’s 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant, McCain’s pick may not even find support among “family values” voters.

OK, Quinn professes to know exactly why McCain picked Palin. After all, to quote her directly, it was simply because she is a woman. I’ll give her one piece of big credit, at least she didn’t say that he picked her simply because she is a woman, and would therefore win him the Clinton Democrats…

But, uh oh, he screwed it up, because evangelicals will punish Palin (and by extension, McCain) for being a real person, with real-life issues to deal with. Just because you believe in “family values”, doesn’t mean you believe you can (or want to!) control every aspect of your children’s lives. Show me an evangelical with children, and we won’t have to argue that point.

As an aside, one would hope (and should assume) that when evangelicals come to know Palin, even if they honestly believe that she personally erred in how she raised her children, they would forgive her her sins, for everything else that she believes in, which they do as well. Forgiveness is a pretty fundamental tenet, no?

It has happened before, of course. Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1984 because she was a woman, but that was 24 years ago. I thought we were past this. Apparently not. McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate is a cynical and calculated move. It is a choice made to try to win an election. It is a political gimmick. And it’s very high risk. I find it insulting to women, to the Republican party, and to the country.

Well, I don’t have anything new to say here. Clearly, she knows exactly why McCain chose Palin. No wiggle room here. It’s a gimmick. That said, why would he take such a risk on a gimmick? Why would he do it knowing the pregnancy issue would come out a few days later? Why would he do it when it might enrage pro-choice women? Why pick someone who would both turn off the base and the supposedly available Clinton women at the same time?

Answer, he wouldn’t. It’s a big risk, Quinn is certainly right about that, but she’s wrong about the reasons for the choice, or the risk. When Obama picked Biden, McCain no longer had to take any risks. He could have done one of two things, easily:

  1. Choose someone with tremendous credentials in the financial world (Mitt Romney comes to mind), mirroring his supposed weakness on the economy with Obama’s on foreign policy
  2. Pick someone who directly (and uncontroversially) plays to the base (perhaps Huckabee, but there are likely less controversial choices)

He couldn’t have been attacked for being weak in making an economic choice, or the argument would boomerang on Obama for needing Biden.

And yet, he chose boldly. Quinn disguises her contempt for Palin as a candidate by claiming that McCain was pandering to evangelicals, rather than to women (or more specifically, Clinton women!). And yet, the disguise is thinly veiled, as she leads the last sentence above with I find it insulting to women.

This is nothing against Palin. From what little we know about her, she seems to be a bright, attractive, impressive person. She certainly has been successful in her 44 years. But is she ready to be president?

Huh? Wait! Thankfully, it’s nothing against Palin. Whew. For a minute there, I thought Quinn had an axe to grind. Nope. Instead, there are only two things at play here:

  1. Quinn knows exactly why McCain picked Palin, and she doesn’t like the reason. It doesn’t matter whether he picked the right person for the wrong reason. If he had the wrong reason (and there’s no doubt in Quinn’s mind that McCain is nefarious in his choice), then it simply doesn’t matter whether she would be a good choice or not.
  2. But is she ready to be president? Whoa. What? Quinn isn’t as cock-sure that Palin isn’t ready to president? No need to slow down the attack until we at least have some evidence that she isn’t. Of course, there’s no doubt that Obama is ready. After all, he’s a man!

And now we learn the 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. She and the father of the child plan to marry. This may be a hard one for the Republican conservative family-values crowd to swallow. Of course, this can happen in any family. But it must certainly raise the question among the evangelical base about whether Sarah Palin has been enough of a hands-on mother.

Thankfully, she softened this horror of a situation, with Of course, this can happen in any family. Whew. For a second, I thought it could only happen in Alaska. It’s pretty cold up there in the winter, so there’s not much else to do ya know. A more vigilant mother would have nipped that in the bud, and evangelicals won’t let her get away with that kind of parenting. No need to check her credentials on how she’s governed, just see whether she’s turned out a bad apple or not.

It’s certainly good for Democrats that Presidents aren’t judged on how their brothers turn out, right? 😉

Sheesh. Is she running for mother-of-the-year or VP? Oh wait, Quinn thinks evangelicals can’t tell the difference. Dogma is dogma. Perhaps, if we whip them up a bit more, we can get them to burn Palin at the stake. What do you think? Are you with me?

McCain claims he knew about the pregnancy, and was not at all concerned. Why not? Not only do we have a woman with five children, including an infant with special needs, but a woman whose 17-year-old child will need her even more in the coming months. Not to mention the grandchild. This would inevitably be an enormous distraction for a new vice president (or president) in a time of global turmoil. Not only in terms of her job, but from a media standpoint as well.

Wow. This would be better broken up into sentences, but let’s just go for the whole chunk. First, obviously, McCain is lying (he’s a well-known liar!). Using loaded words like claims he knew don’t even pretend to allow for the fact that, indeed, he knew.

One of her children is a special needs child. Can you believe that Trig survived the entire evening without his mother holding him? It was appalling that he was left alone in the corner all night, with no one to love him, but hey, McCain needs to win an election, and by golly, Palin will sacrifice Trig to the cause.

But wait, soon her 17-year-old daughter will need her even more. I wonder what her soon-to-be husband’s view of that will be? Everyone loves an in-your-face mother-in-law, no? You single moms out there without a support system, unable to count on your mother for full-time nurturing, better give up now. You simply can’t make it. Quinn has spoken!

Of course, under any circumstances, Sarah Palin needs to take direct day-to-day responsibility for raising the coming grandchild. What grandmother doesn’t have that responsibility?

Still, none of the above really matters. Quinn nails the real problem when she correctly notes that the media runs the country. After all, it will be an enormous distractionfrom a media standpoint as well. Well, we certainly wouldn’t want that!

Quinn is certainly correct in one assumption. If Palin were to indeed become the VP, the elite media in this country would be more interested in asking her work-life balance questions, and how it is that she can live with herself being a derelict mom, rather than discussing all the global turmoil.

McCain’s cynical choice has created a dilemma for many women. For still-angry Hillary Clinton voters, they will have to decide if they want to vote against their concscience and political interests by voting to elect a Republican woman who’s even more conservative than McCain.

This is simply laugh-out-loud funny. First, he chose her to appeal to the evangelicals, but, he’s so cynical that he simultaneously chose her to appeal to still-angy Hillary Clinton voters. The answer is simple. They won’t, and McCain never thought they would. If his target audience was still-angy Clinton voters, he would have been better off choosing Lieberman. Who cares if his base would have stayed home. He’s cynical enough not to care…

Evangelical women also will have to decide if they will vote against their conscience by voting to put the mother of young children in a job outside the home that will demand so much of her time and energy.

This is the first point that isn’t completely nonsensical. It’s possible that some evangelicals (not just women) will prefer not to see a woman as VP. What is unlikely to matter is whether her daughter is pregnant or not, or whether she has a special needs child. Quinn purposely muddies the water with that argument. Still, it’s true that there are those (including a number of evangelicals) who simply believe a woman’s place is in the home, not at work, VP or otherwise. One has to wonder whether Quinn is among those people, given all of her arguments in support of Palin being a poor choice…

Southern Baptist leaders like Richard Land and Al Mohler have praised McCain’s choice. But these are the same men who support this statement from the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message:

“A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

Sorry for the two paragraph quote, they are obviously connected. This is a continuation of the previous point, and is not necessarily off base. That said, it’s wildly disingenuous of her to claim that Palin could have been a great choice to evangelicals, but for the pregnant daughter, and then trot out the above dogma, which would disqualify her whether her daughter was pregnant or not.

I’m agreeing that some evangelicals will have trouble voting for her (even though she’s not the top of the ticket), but Quinn frames it in a particularly egregious and disingenuous way, trying to inflame, not inform. I’d go so far as to say that her target for that quote is Independents, who she wants to scare by sharing the Southern Baptist dogma!

Palin’s lack of experience and her family situation are both valid and vital considerations here, especially when she will be running with a 72-year-old presidential candidate who has suffered four bouts of a deadly cancer.

Her family situation is now a vital consideration. If she were to become President, there’s little doubt that she would ignore the country’s immediate needs to wipe up that spill on the kitchen floor. Seriously, how would she choose between them?

I truly hate to stoop to the moral relativism that is the norm in today’s politics, so I use this as an example, not to equate the two, but wasn’t the country a little more at risk when Bill Clinton was playing hanky panky in the oval office? Perhaps that wasn’t a distraction. It certainly wasn’t vital.

And by the way, how can McCain call Barack Obama unqualified, inexperienced, not ready from Day One, not able to be commander in chief, and then put someone like Palin in a position that is a heartbeat away from the pesidency?

So, Obama is the President on day one, but she’s a hearbeat away, and it’s exactly the same thing. Still, since Quinn also said she doesn’t believe Palin is ready to be president (she doesn’t capitalize it, so I’ll respect her choice), does she therefore agree with McCain that Obama isn’t either?

Where would you rather have the inexperience in the ticket, on top, or bottom? At least Palin would have a heartbeat of time to learn on the job, without the arrogance of being the man (both literally, and figuratively) in the relationship between the Prez and the Veep.

I don’t blame Palin for accepting the position. How could she or anyone turn down such an opportunity? I was once in a similar position. After four years of reporting at the Washington Post, I was chosen by CBS to be the first network anchorwoman in America, to co-anchor their Morning News. I had never been on TV a day in my life. I was 32. There were women at CBS who were much more qualified than I was and certainly other men. They chose me because they wanted a woman. I didn’t even want the job, but I didn’t feel I could turn it down. Of course it was a disaster. I lasted four months. I wasn’t ready for Network TV. Palin isn’t ready to be leader of the free world.

Finally, the Truth. First, the lesser of the two. Up front, Quinn asks whether Palin is ready. Thankfully, by this point, she’s convinced herself that Palin isn’t ready to lead the free world. At least we don’t have to worry about that dilemma any longer.

What does this boil down to? Quinn failed miserably when she was called to higher service, and therefore, Palin (and quite possibly no other woman either) will ever be able to achieve more as a result. Poor little Quinn knew in heart that she wasn’t up to the task, but just couldn’t resist the fruit of the forbidden tree. She paid the penalty, and by golly, so will Palin.

Still, her logic defies reason. They wanted a woman, but there were women at CBS who were much more qualified than I was. So, once again, some cynical man at CBS had a nefarious reason for picking the underqualified Quinn to support his evil mission to achieve higher ratings. Why oh why, would they pass over a more qualified woman to snag Sally Quinn? I’m sincerely hoping that it wasn’t McCain who was running the News division at CBS at the time, or Quinn may indeed be correct about his judgment…

The calculation on the part of the McCain people is clear. Palin’s candidacy could draw some of the 18-million Hillary Clinton voters who are not happy she lost and who want to vote for a woman on a national ticket. Palin is not of Washington and that will be appealing to some. Most importantly for McCain, Palin is decidedly anti-abortion and that will keep the Republican base under control and appeal to some evangelicals who might be considering Obama. She has a son who is headed to Iraq.

Wow, the kitchen sink. Again mixing how she is the perfect person to appeal to everyone. Now Quinn takes it a step further. Palin will keep the Replublican base under control. Cool, Palin must indeed be super woman (small caps). She better start cracking the whip now. Oh yeah, she has a son headed to Iraq, pick her, quick, pick her, before he goes.

The fact that McCain served isn’t enough for him, he needs to lean on the fact that her son enlisted. But wait! You say that McCain himself has a son that served in Iraq, so he definitely doesn’t need Palin’s creds there, right? Apparently not. We need to sympathize that a mommy is worrying about her son in Iraq, to truly understand how committed these war mongers are…

Those are positives for a McCain-Palin ticket, but what about the negatives?

Haha. With positives like that, who needs negatives? I guess Quinn does, just for balance… 😉

She has no national political experience, especially in the area of foreign policy. That fact that she is not of Washington also will be difficult for her. Barbara Bush once told me that her husband had been a congressman, UN ambassador, ambassador to China, and head of the CIA and they thought they were prepared for the vice presidency (under President Reagan). But she said nothing can prepare you for the criticism and scrutiny of being in the White House. Sarah Palin is not prepared for that.

Yes, she seemed completely unprepared last night for all the criticism that’s being leveled against her…

Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job? She is the mother of five children, one of them a four-month-old with Down Syndrome. Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make? I’m the mother of only one child, a special needs child who is grown now. I know how much of my time and energy I devoted to his care. He always had to be my first priority. Of course women can be good mothers and have careers at the same time. I’ve done both. Yes, other women in public office have children. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has five children, but she didn’t get heavily involved in politics until they were older. A mother’s role is different from a father’s.

I dealt with this issue squarely in my previous post. I’ll just repeat that it’s so nice that Quinn puts everyone else in her own shoes. She seems incapable of putting herself in others’ shoes. No wonder she didn’t last in her big break on TV… No one else gets credit for anything that Quinn couldn’t accomplish on her own.

Additionally, she closes the above with A mother’s role is different from a father’s. Indeed. However, what happens when there isn’t a mother in the picture? Joe Biden lived through a tragic ordeal when his wife and daughter died in a car accident. As a single parent, was he irresponsible for continuing his political career? Obviously not! I wonder whether Quinn understands that…

These are dangerous and trying times for the entire world. This is no time to to play gender politics. The stakes are too high. And given McCain’s age and history of health issues, the stakes for choosing a qualified vice presidential candidate have never been higher.

Agreed. So, stop playing gender politics. All of Quinn’s reasons (except for the experience one, which is a red herring because of Obama’s lack of experience) have to do with the fact that Palin is a woman. Don’t blame McCain for seeing beyond Palin’s gender, when Quinn, a woman, can’t, due to her own past failings…

Maybe this will work. Maybe McCain will win with Sarah Palin as his running mate. But if he does, it will be for all the wrong reasons.

And, let’s not forget, it won’t mean that his judgment was good. He will have gotten lucky. I predict that Sally Quinn will become the number one poker player in the world, since she can see into the mind and soul of men, and know exactly what they are thinking and why. It’s a very special talent, that could be better put to use at the poker tables, than in a respected newspaper…

Monkey Tail Politics

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I haven’t been posting too actively lately. Not because I haven’t had anything to say, and not because I haven’t had the time to say it. Mostly, it’s been because I’ve had a ton to say, and whenever I waited (for whatever reason) a bit to say it, it felt too trivial to post after the fact.

Next week, we have four concerts on consecutive nights, so there will be steady blogging, for sure. Therefore, I’ll take this opportunity (hopefully, in a timely fashion), to share a few thoughts on Sarah Palin as John McCain’s choice for VP.

I could likely type for the next few hours (literally) and not scratch the surface of all the thoughts I have on everything that’s swirling around this choice. I’ll try really hard to boil it down to a few points. For your sake, I hope I achieve that goal. 😉

If you know me, then you know that I’m still a 6-year-old at heart (seriously). So, I’ll start by summarizing what this pick has done to many (dare I say most?) Democrats:

Oh the monkey wrapped his tail around the flagpole, to see his…

The alternative image I have is that of a Whirling Dervish, but I really didn’t want to insult Whirling Dervishes the world over.

Basically, many Democrats/Liberals (and some Republicans/Conservatives) have fallen into a number of obvious traps in their responses to the announcement of Sarah Palin (that’s Governor Palin to you!) as the Republican nominee for VP.

She’s been attacked so many times (in so few days) on so many issues, it would take me the aforementioned hours just to document the various attacks, let alone analyze the meaningful ones. So, I’ll restrict myself to a very few broad categories of attacks.

  1. McCain picked her only because she’s a woman, thinking he can pick up disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters
  2. She should have declined, because she won’t be able to be a good mother and good VP at the same time
  3. She has no foreign policy experience (some knock all of her experience) and McCain is not likely to make it through to the end of his term

To reiterate, many more attacks on many more levels, but for this post, we’ll stick to the above.

Starting with #1 above. Because there was/is a perception out there that some meaningful number of disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters might be in play, McCain pandered (that’s the essence of the charge) to them (all women?) by hurriedly, foolishly, unvettingly (sorry, I know that’s not a word) and irresponsibly picking Sarah Palin.

The irresponsible part comes in under the guise of questioning McCain’s judgment, in the first crucial decision that he’s had to make in this race. How do they weasel out of that charge if/when she acquits herself? Will they be forced to recognize his bold/visionary choice, or is that simply impossible, even though they were obviously caught by surprise and reacted before they knew much about her…

Let’s analyze this a bit. There were 18 million Clinton supporters. They weren’t all women, and they weren’t all located together, in one giant swing state. Most polls show that the majority of them have strongly committed to Obama (is anyone surprised?). Those numbers have (and should have!) swelled after both Clinton’s spoke at last week’s DNC. The catharsis was complete.

For one minor example, Hillary Clinton carried NY State in the primary. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that some reasonable number of the 18 million supporters are in this very large state. Does anyone think McCain has the slightest shot of carrying NY come November? Even if a goodly number of Clinton’s supporters vote for him? I don’t think so either…

Next, for some people (not just women), the right to choose is so critical (no, I’m not suggesting they don’t care about other issues) that they would never consider voting for anyone who is staunchly pro-life. Presumably, a reasonable percentage of Clinton’s supporters fall into this camp (also probably more heavily weighted toward her female backers). So, when McCain chooses a staunch pro-life advocate, do his critics really believe he is stupid enough to believe that a pro-choice woman will vote for him just because he picked a woman, especially one who is so outspoken on the issue?

Believing that is insulting all around. It insults McCain’s intelligence (specifically, my point above). It insults his integrity (implying that he would be willing to endanger the country and sell his principles, for the hope that women would be fooled into voting for him just because he selected a woman). It insults Palin, because it requires the assumption that she is a bad pick, without any facts (at the time that the accusations started rolling).

It also insults the insulters, because it makes otherwise (often) intelligent people make very stupid statements (and assumptions), in a rush to be on the record, and to sway the electorate toward their candidate. The fact that many of these insulters are theoretically journalists, and quite a number of them prominent women (Sally Quinn, Maureen Dowd, Campbell Brown), just demeans them all the more…

#2 will be quicker. I’ll give one example for now. Sally Quinn wrote a lengthy, and nearly 100% nonsensical article. I would enjoy taking it apart, line by line, but I will save that for tomorrow (hopefully), just for my own personal enjoyment. It’s hard to choose one specific line, but for now, I’ll stick with this one:

Her first priority has to be her children.

Wow, really? I saw Sally Quinn interviewed last night on TV. Clearly, she wanted to make sure that this line wasn’t taken out of context (heaven forbid!). So, she wanted to make it clear that she fully supports working mothers (how wonderful). She even said she’s friends with many of them (how quaint, to associate yourself with real working moms…).

However, she draws the line at VP. You can’t effectively raise your family and take care of the nation’s business. Period. One rung below (one additional heartbeat from the Presidency) is fine (since she specifically calls out Nancy Pelosi as having five children as well). Thankfully, Nancy had the good sense to wait before entering politics. If Nancy got a call at 3am from one of her children or grandchildren (who cares how old they are?), she could obviously ignore them for the benefit of country. Hoo rah!

Is this really a position that prominent women want to espouse publicly? I’ll have more to say on this a little later on.

#3, she’s inexperienced, in particular when it comes to foreign policy. Another silly trap. Do they really want to get into an argument on this, when their candidate’s leading personal weakness is lack of experience, in particular on foreign policy? They think that they can Jujitsu the matter, by claiming that McCain ceded his lead on this issue by picking Palin. So, are they admitting that McCain is eminently more qualified to lead us internationally, but that’s he introduced a potential risk shoud he pass on prematurely?

OK, I’ve gone on long enough. Let’s take each of these issue and deal with them from a realistic point of view, not the insulting one.

#1 is easy, and obvious. McCain had much bigger problems with the Republican Base than worrying about picking off a handful of Clinton supporters. It’s well known that many people in the Republican party don’t think he’s conservative enough. Would a meaningful number of them vote for Obama? Not a chance (just like a meaningful number of Clinton supporters won’t vote for McCain!). But, would a meaningful number of them stay home on election day? Perhaps. It’s happened before.

So, he picked Sarah Palin to appeal to the base. She has a proven record on many of the issues dear to conservatives. I find it ironic that the other obvious choices (all men) would not have bolstered the support of the base as completely as Palin has and will. It has little to do with the fact that she’s a woman, and everything to do with her beliefs and accomplishments to date.

#2 is easy as well. It’s not only ironic, but actually moronic (is that more irony?) 😉 that women who feel that choice is the defining issue of our time (at least with regard to women’s rights), are thrilled to be on the record as claiming that Palin doesn’t have the choice to be VP when she has children to attend to.

Where to begin? Does she have the choice to be a bad mother if she wants to? Is it possible that her husband is a great father who can devote himself to the children, so that even if she chooses to be more of a VP than a mom, the kids won’t suffer? Is it possible that they have an additional support structure (paid for, or supplemented with relatives and friends) who could/would pitch in and help with the family?

No, it’s simply not possible. It’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to choose to kill her unborn child, purely for the purpose of pursuing a career (come now, don’t say that’s never the reason for an abortion!), but it’s an outrage for her to want to serve her country, at the highest level, if other women deem that she’s not capable of handling her motherly duties at the same time.

Man (or should that be Woman), this is one of the biggest loser arguments in the history of arguments…

#3 is no slam dunk, on either side of the argument. The fact that it’s murky should have Democrats avoiding it, but dive in they must. So, Obama claims to want to avoid all politics as usual, and wants to bring populism back to Washington. He disclaims the old guard. That is, until he realizes that he’s being effectively pegged as a foreign policy neophyte.

At that point, he actually does a mature thing, and appoints a Washington insider to the ticket. That insider brings with him a wealth of foreign policy experience. Good for Obama. It’s hardly what he was selling up front, but I applaud his ability to recognize a weakness, and correct it.

That said, it’s a direct admission that he indeed does lack the foreign policy credentials to have chosen a fresher face as his running mate. While we can all be glad that he will enjoy Biden’s counsel, in the end, it is Obama who would be the President, and we have no guarantees that once elected, he will accept Biden’s advice. After all, Biden voted for the war that Obama claims he never would have. What if Biden advises him that a future war is in our best interests?

More importantly, Palin is being knocked on foreign policy because she might become President (after all, people might disagree with McCain’s stances on the issues, but they’re not going to successfully argue that he’s ill-prepared from an experience point of view). If that’s a reasonable argument, then shouldn’t we be looking at Biden from the perspective of what if Obama passes away prematurely, and Biden ascends to the Presidency?

In that case, exactly what kind of change will Biden bring to Washington? After all, Obama is being swept in on the basis of one word, change, and whatever it means to each person who hears it! Obama can’t (and won’t, and would be foolish to) define it. Change, for the sake of change, isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Attacking Sarah Palin on the issues would have been the correct strategy on the part of her detractors. She stands in stark contrast to their beliefs, so basing the bashing on the issues should have been trivially easy (and the smart ones, like Biden himself, are doing just that). Picking on the themes that have been the highlight of this post was incredibly stupid. It accomlished exactly one thing, to galvanize the base even further in support of McCain/Palin. If you didn’t notice that at the RNC last night, you didn’t watch…

August 2008 Poker

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Well, another month with a fair amount of poker frustration. That said, it was also a very good month on some other levels, including eeking out a small profit.

Without further ado, let’s get the economics out of the way: +$140.46.

Hardly earthshaking. In fact, as reported numerous times now, since I don’t play as much, and I tend to pay full freight in the bigger tourneys, my volatility is high. It takes big wins to cover the losing entry fees. This past month saw two nice wins on consecutive Saturdays, in the weekly big Omaha Hi/Lo tourney.

Last Saturday (the 23rd) I placed 6th, and received $1,050.00 for my $162 entry fee. Then yesterday, I played in the same tourney (the only one I played in yesterday) and finished 4th, receiving $1,500.00 for my $162. So, you’d think that I would be up a ton this month with those two scores, but, you already know that this wasn’t the case…

Tonight, in my last tourney of the month, I paid full freight for the weekly big Hold’Em tourney ($215). Because of the holiday weekend, there were only 758 entrants, so the top 80 got paid. Normally, the top 100 get paid. I was low on chips, but possibly had enough to slip into the money (not all that likely). So, I shoved UTG with 77. Only the big blind called. He had AKo. An A came on the flop, and I was out in 92nd, missing the money by 12 spots…

Oh well, clearly, the two big finishes in Omaha were extremely satisfying. Finishing close in the bigger weekly Hold’Em tourneys (I came reasonably close another time this month aside from tonight) is both frustrating and enjoyable, at the same time.

At least the account can handle another month of playing. 🙂

Home Depot Customer Service

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There are many ways to tell this story, and I’m sure that I’ll pick the wrong one…

Before I start railing, let me state that for the most part, Lois and I like Home Depot, and the majority of our in-store experiences have been very positive.

On to our tale of woe. We have outdoor space in the city that had an old (but very nice) wooden table on it when we moved in. There were benches on either side, and a chair at both heads, for a 6-person seating area. It could still be used, but it has required some quickie repairs the past few years, and it’s clearly headed south.

Last summer we seriously shopped (entirely online) for a new patio set. They ain’t cheap, by any measure. We almost pulled the trigger, but thankfully, something took hold as my index finger was hovering over the submit button, and we decided to hold off for another season.

I say thankfully, because shortly thereafter, we lost all use of our deck for a year, when our building was required to make repairs according to Local Law 11. Our furniture got beaten up a ton more as it got moved back-and-forth by the workers, and if that had been new stuff, we wouldn’t have been too pleased…

While the table had some issues, it was really the benches that bugged Lois. A month ago, we found ourselves in a Home Depot near our house, explicitly for the benefit of Laura and Chris who were picking up stuff to get their apartment spruced up. While they were shopping, Lois spotted two wrought iron benches (that even swung a bit). They were on end-of-season super sale. We decided to buy them, even though they might look a bit odd with the wooden table.

After loading them up on a cart, Chris pointed out that since we hadn’t measured, it’s possible that they simply wouldn’t work with the existing table. That was a good point, so we aborted.

A week later, Laura called me from a Home Depot in Richmond, VA, and told me that the last of the patio furniture was still out and on sale, and that we should probably check it out when we got to Fredericksburg (scheduled for a few days later).

We did. We ended up buying an oval wrought iron table and six wrought iron chairs (that rock gently on springs). It’s the same set that the benches belong to, but we much preferred the chairs, and with the matching table, all of our measuring problems (and matching looks problems) were solved.

Lois waited at the Home Depot while I drove the table and two chairs to the office. I returned and loaded up the remaining four chairs and drove them back to the office with Lois. A few hours later, we decided that the sale was very good, so we drove back and bought two more chairs.

A week later, we drove the table and six chairs back to NYC (it was quite a feat fitting them all in to the SUV), leaving two chairs for this next trip. We set the table and chairs up on the deck, and they were perfect. In the past two weeks of nearly perfect NYC weather, we’ve had quite a few meals on the new furtniture, and have enjoyed every single one.

Temporary switching of gears…

We had another (very old) table on the deck that seats six people. Two years ago, Lois spray painted it grey (it was white). Now, inspired by the new wrought iron stuff, she painted it (by hand, very messily) black. It looks reasonably good, but she’s not satisfied (at all). In addition, we have plastic chairs (blue and white, plenty of both colors) that we use around that table. She hates the mish-mash of color and texture between the chairs and table.

So, earlier this week, she had me look online, at homedepot.com, to see how much it would cost to buy more of the same chairs that we hauled up for our new table. For the eight chairs that we bought on sale at the store, we paid $79 per pair (plus tax), so just under $40 per chair. Online, they were $110/pair, but I believe that included shipping (tax would still be separate). Not an outrageous markup, but slightly annoying that it was more expensive.

We decided to hold off and check the local store again. Two days later, we visited the original store (where we saw the matching benches) and they were completely out of this particular set (tables and chairs). When we got home, I went online again, willing to pay the $110. Amazingly, it was now $199/pair. This was just two days later. That was more than I was willing to pay, so we decided to forget the idea.

Now the real part of the story begins, with humble apologies for the length of the intro

Lois decided to call around to some other nearby Home Depots, to see if they had any chairs in stock. We had the SKU (both from the online system, and from the receipt from the Fredericksburg store). She called at least five different Home Depots, all within an hour’s drive of the house, and only one claimed to have any in stock.

OK, it’s in stock, so Lois tells the guy who answered the phone that we’re on the way up. He tells her not to come, because they are not for sale! What? You have something in stock that you refuse to sell? Lois asks him if she can speak to a manager. After a minute, the manager gets on the phone. He tells Lois that indeed the system shows the chairs in stock, but without a visual inspection, he wouldn’t be comfortable telling us to make the drive.

He takes our number and says he’ll call back. We wait quite a while, with no callback. Lois calls again, gets the same original person. Again, he’s as nice as can be, even though he told her the chairs weren’t for sale. This time, he connects her with someone in the Garden department. The woman seemed to be aware of the search, so the manager likely asked her to do it.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t yet confirm that the chairs were there, and she too said she would call back.

In the meantime, we continued calling around. I found a store in NJ that claimed to have 16 boxes of the pair of chairs in stock. We decided to take the shot and head straight there. When we were driving up the lane in our development (just a minute from the house), Lois got a call from the first store (the woman in Gardens) who said she had eight chairs there. That store was supposedly 15 minutes closer, and the woman visually confirmed the chairs, so we headed there.

Sure enough, they had them. After struggling with the decision, instead of buying four chairs (which is what our plan was), we decided to take six. While we knew for sure that six chairs would fit in the SUV, having done it already, this time, four of the chairs were still in the two large boxes, so we didn’t know if we’d have to unpack them before getting them in the car. Luckily, it all fit in (barely) without needing to open the boxes.

One of the reasons we bought six chairs was the price. They were reduced again, to $66/pair in the store. So, online they cost $199/pair, and in the store, $66. That’s just nuts…

OK, so all’s well that ends well, right? Wrong…

Once we got home, Lois started conjecturing that they also carried a round table (44″) in this style, and that given the magnitude of the sale, we would be better off buying it and throwing out the one she just painted this past weekend!

I looked online, and the table had doubled in price (just like the chairs did) to a whopping $239! We called back the store we had just visited, and they had none. The in-store price, if they had it in stock, was down to $45. That’s practically a $200 savings, again, nuts! Now the saga really begins…

Lois asked the woman if any other area stores showed the table in stock. Indeed, a store roughly an hour from us showed two in stock. Lois called. They confirmed that the computer showed two in stock. Having learned the lesson earlier that a visual check is a good thing to ask for, Lois aked. They put her on hold, came back a few minutes later, and said that there were none in stock. 🙁

Lois asked if they could check if any other stores in their area had any. They checked, and yes, another store (also an hour from us) had six in stock. Lois called. They performed a visual check, and none were in stock. No one had a plausible explanation for how the computer showed so many in stock, but none were actually there.

Between last night and this morning, Lois called at least a dozen (yes, I’m not exaggerating!) Home Depot’s, all within an hour’s drive of our house (across three states!). None had the table in stock. 1/2 of them didn’t have it in the computer, but the other 1/2 all showed some in stock (with one store showing nine!), but none of those passed a visual check.

All-in-all, Lois was on the phone for roughly two hours, with tons of frustration along the way. Most (the majority) of the people she spoke to were very nice. A few weren’t. In the end, nice didn’t matter anyway. It was better to have two hours of phone frustration than two hours of round-trip driving to discover that the computer was wrong, but still, it was no fun.

So, what are our beefs?

First and foremost, get the darn inventory correct. If the computer shows the item (or nine items!) to be in stock, it should be in stock!

Second, visual checks shouldn’t take so long either. There are many people in the store, and someone is usually near the Garden section, so a quick two-way radio check should be able to get a definitive answer.

Third, if you solve the first problem, then make sure that I, as a consumer, can see the inventory via the web, and don’t have to waste my time, and the store personnel’s time, with a phone call to check what the computer obviously knows!

Moreover (still on point #3), I should be able to type a SKU and ask for all stores within some radius that have it in stock. I should be able to trust the answer. I should be able to buy it on the spot, and have it pulled and waiting for me to pick it up. Many other retailers provide such a service, or will have the item sent to the store of your choice for pickup.

To summarize:

  • We love this particular style of patio furniture (Napa Plantation Patterns), which appears to be available only at Home Depot (kudos to the buyers at Home Depot for picking this out and for scoring an exclusive)
  • We love the end-of-season sale
  • We hate that it’s way more expensive online than the remainders that are in the stores
  • We hate that we can’t see what’s in stock in a specific store
  • We hate that we can’t ask which stores have it in stock, online
  • We can’t fathom how so many appear in stock, but none actually are
  • Most people in the stores are wonderful and truly helpful
  • Most people on the phone try to be helpful, but the process is so awkward as to rarely end up achieving that goal

We now have plenty of chairs, and a new main table that will give us years of enjoyment. Perhaps next season, we will pick up the round table, without paying an arm and a leg, when the season is 1/2 over. 😉

Lucky 8 Wedding

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We have great friends who have two wonderful sons. Last year, the younger son married a terrific woman. We were invited and acknowledged that we would attend. A few weeks later, we were invited to another wedding on the same date. We knew that bride from her birth (25 years!), and ended up going to that wedding instead. We can’t begin to describe how badly we felt missing one wedding for another, but life often presents dilemmas.

We knew a year ago that the older son was marrying an equally terrific woman on 08/08/08. We promised that only the wedding of one of our godchildren would keep us from attending. Ironically, in a surprise, our goddaughter got married on July 5th. Thankfully, she didn’t pick 08/08/08. 🙂

The Chinese consider the number eight to be very lucky. Many couples picked that date with a number of interesting news articles written about the various events surrounding those weddings.

We checked Google Maps and saw that the drive from NYC to the Church (St. Mary’s By The Sea in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ) normally takes under 90 minutes. Given weekend beach traffic, we added an hour, believing we left plenty of time. We couldn’t have been more wrong. 🙁

It took us over an hour just to get to the Lincoln Tunnel, a trip that normally takes 10 minutes! So, we blew our cushion before the trip really started. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better after that. We sat for a while on the NJ Turnpike, and then again on the Garden State, and finally, the streets were very slow in Point Pleasant Beach itself. We were sure that we would miss the entire ceremony.

Somehow, miraculously, we arrived only 30 minutes late. I’m sure we missed some moving words, but we got there in time to hear the vows that the couple wrote for each other, and to witness the actual marriage. Whew! Here’s the proof. 🙂

The Marriage

The Marriage

The Church is beautiful and the ceremony was warm and inviting. The Priest (Father Jerry) from the groom’s Church in Northern, NJ and Father C. John Thompson-Quartey, the Saint Mary’s By The Sea cleric, jointly officiated. That was an extremely nice touch as well. Here’s a photo of both of them, along with a very touching moment as the Groom and Best Man held hands across the aisle in prayer:

Hand Holding Prayer

Hand Holding Prayer

In addition to seeing the actual marriage, the ceremony lasted an additional 45 minutes after we arrived, so even though we missed the beginning, we felt lucky and blessed to experience as much as we did.

Instead of throwing rice, everyone blew bubbles toward the couple as they came back up the center aisle. They couldn’t stop laughing, partially because one person had a high-speed bubble gun, and was able to shower them with bubbles. It was great fun! This picture is way too blurry. I shouldn’t even post it, but at least you can see the bubble gun on the right side:

Bubble Gun

Bubble Gun

Another lucky thing that day was the weather. August can be particularly brutal in this part of the country. Amazingly, the high for the day was roughly 83 degrees. There was a pleasant breeze as well. The only (bad) break in that weather occurred seconds after the ceremony was over (unfortunately). As the bridal party was heading to the limo, the heavens opened up in a downpour. In a coincidence (or was it?), there was a tremendous downpour after our goddaughter’s ceremony as well, though it held off for 20 minutes that day.

Thankfully, it turned out to be a passing storm, and within 15 minutes, the skies were blue and the weather was perfect again. We waited in the Church until the storm passed before heading to the reception.

The reception was held at the Waterview Pavillion in Belmar, NJ. This is a gorgeous facility across the highway from the marina in Belmar. The setup was clever in addition to being beautiful. The main reception hall was set up with tables surrounding the dance floor. The ceiling is two stories tall, and the second floor is a wrap-around balcony (all four sides) looking down on the dance floor. We were all guided upstairs for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The spread was wonderful, with lots of choices.

I hate to single anything out (because it was all really good), but the Jumbo Shrimp and Lobster Pastries deserve a mention. 😉

Lois and I were among the first handful of people to arrive, so we ended up sitting alone at a round table. After a while, we were joined by people we hadn’t met previously, the cousin of the bride’s grandmother and her husband. We couldn’t have asked for two lovelier people to spend time with and get to know. A bit later, we were joined by friends of the groom’s parents who we met once before. They too are wonderful people who we would enjoy spending more time with than we have gotten to in the past.

Here is the couple we first met. We made sure to get her email address so I could share this link with her. Thanks for a lovely visit Joyce and John:

John Joyce

John Joyce

While we were enjoying ourselves upstairs, setup continued in the main hall. The tables were all set previously, but the appetizers (fresh strawberries) and rolls were being put out, and the DJ and Band were doing some sound checks. The band deserves a special mention, but I’ll defer that for a minute.

I mentioned earlier that the setup was clever. Here’s why. While the main hall had the tables surrounding the dance floor on three sides, not every seat has a great view of the entire dance floor. In other halls, the dance floor is at the head of the seating area, obscured from view of the majority of the tables. Because we were all upstairs, they were able to give us a very special perspective on a part of the reception that every wedding includes.

We were all asked to get up and stand at the railings on the second floor looking down on the dance floor as the wedding party was announced. First the Parents of the Bride. Then the Parents of the Groom. Then the groomsmen and bridesmaids (in pairs). Finally, the Bride and the Groom (now officially Mr. and Mrs.). Every one of us had a great view of the entire procession. Excellent!

Here are two photos of that (hopefully, you’ll get a good picture of what we all experienced). The first shows the procession all lined up making a bridge for the Bride and Groom to pass through. The second is after the Bride and Groom passed through, waving to everyone:

Awaiting the Bride and Groom

Awaiting the Bride and Groom

Welcoming the Bride and Groom

Welcoming the Bride and Groom

More special, the traditional first dances (Bride and Groom, then Father and Daughter and finally Mother and Son) were all the more special since 100% of the focus and attention was on them, with no conversation and eating going on in the hall itself. Like I said, beautiful and clever at the same time!

Immediately thereafter, we were all invited to take our seats downstairs in the main hall. At each seat, there was a half-glass of champagne already poured. There were three toasts. The first was from the Father of the Bride. Next came the best man, a Major in the Army and best friend (for roughly 20 years!) of the groom. Both were moving (and funny) speeches. Then the DJ asked us to stop for a second for a special toast from the Bride and Groom. At that moment, it was exactly 8:08pm, on 08/08/08. Another clever touch! 🙂

There were different sized tables around the hall. We were at a table for eight. All four couples were long-time friends of the parents of the groom. Lois had met one of the women last year at the shower for the younger son’s wife, but otherwise, we didn’t know the other couples. Given how much we love our friends, it was no surprise that their friends were great as well, making for a joyous and interesting evening. Without a doubt, it can be said that the friend of my friend is my friend. 🙂

One of the men at the table was 73 years old. He could definitely have passed for 58 (I certainly wouldn’t have questioned it if he was introduced as such). When we left, I shook his hand and told him that I could only hope to be just like him when I turn 73! Here’s a photo of him, along with the Major and the Father of the Groom:

The Boys

The Boys

Since we were both extremely impressed with the Major, in every respect, Lois snapped lots of photos of him. In fairness to the one above, with the Groom’s Father, here’s one with the Groom’s extremely lovely Mother:

Marybeth and the Major

Marybeth and the Major

As with our goddaughter’s wedding, the food was served buffet style, with individual tables being called up one at a time. Even though we were seated very close to the buffet, we were one of the last tables to be called up (perhaps the last). No worries, the food was still hot and plentiful, so we didn’t miss out on that either. 😉

Back to the basics, the reason we were all together to begin with! We’ve known the groom for many years. I wish I had captured the best man’s toast verbatim, because it truly captured the spirit of this fine young man. Aside from being an all-around good guy, he’s never had trouble with the ladies.

When we first met the bride-to-be, a couple of years ago, we knew instantly that he would be a fool if he ever let her slip away. Clearly, he’s no fool! 😉

She is as lovely a person as you could ever want to meet. Smart, funny, fun-loving, sensitive, and, did I mention, gorgeous? If I didn’t mention it, let me say it now, she’s a knock-out. One of the many wonderful things about her is her 24×7 smile, that lights up any room she’s in. Of course, looks don’t matter whatsoever (really!), and she’s got everything else that does matter, in spades. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the looks too. 😉

Here are the two very happy couples (the newlyweds and us!):

Two Happy Couples

Two Happy Couples

She’s also statuesque (code word for really tall). In fact, she played basketball for Northeastern University. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise (and yet, it did!), that there were more statuesque women at the reception than I’ve ever been around in my life. I was mildly surprised that a pick-up game didn’t break out on the dance floor. 😉

To make the point, here is the Bride, dancing with the shortest person in the wedding party:

Tall Short Dancing

Tall Short Dancing

Both bride and groom had a ton of friends at the wedding. It was heartwarming to see them all have so much fun together, and share their common love for the newlyweds. The dance floor was buzzing all night. Here is a nice photo of a group of lovely ladies:

Lovely Ladies

Lovely Ladies

That brings me to something I deferred earlier on. The band. Perhaps that’s a slight misnomer. The live music was provided by Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band. From the website, I can see that they can provide a full range of musicians and band configurations. At this wedding, two of them were there, I believe John Hilton and Monica Moore. All I can say is that we loved every second that they played. The DJ played some background beats for them, but they supplied the calypso-style sound, perfectly. It was a light and uplifting sound throughout the evening.

Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band

Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band

When the dancing took center stage, they left, and the DJ (who performed double-duty as a superb emcee the entire night!) took over. He was great, both in personality and in his choice of music to play throughout the evening. While we could always stand (personally) to have the music be a little softer than it ever is, he was not over-the-top in volume, which was also a blessing.

Just like at our goddaughter’s wedding, we got up to dance exactly once, when they invited only the married couples onto the dance floor. Exactly as it was then, the point was to discover the couple who was married the longest. At our goddaughter’s wedding, the magic number was 46. Last night, there were two couples left on the floor after the rest of us lost. The winners were 54 and 55 years of marriage. Here is a photo of the winning couples:

Longest Married

Longest Married

The DJ asked if they had any words of wisdom for the newest couple. One of the couples offered the following:

Drink good wine, and learn to have a lot of patience

Sounds like sage advice to me! 🙂

We were driving all the way back to the house (90-120 minutes) after the wedding, so other than the sip of champagne for the toast, I didn’t drink any alcohol at all. I also wasn’t willing to leave until I had some of the wedding cake. I had two fabulous cups of coffee and a slice of the delicious cake, plus a few specialty desserts that were on a platter on each table. After that, we made our rounds of hugs, kisses and goodbyes, and drove home. It took 100 minutes (not bad at all) and we walked in the door at 12:30am.

Speaking of the cake, here it is being cut:

Cutting Cake

Cutting Cake

The happy couple is on their way (today) to Hawaii. Another sign that this marriage will last. The groom badly wanted to honeymoon in Alaska. They are both outdoors types, so the bride would normally enjoy roughing it in Alaska as well. Still, she had the sensibility of wanting a more relaxing honeymoon, and her brand-new husband appropriately compromised (by doing exactly what she wanted). 😉

Since I mentioned how badly we felt missing the other wedding last year, the least I can do is show you what a great looking couple they are as well. 🙂

Patrick Casey

Patrick Casey

I’ve mentioned my goddaughter’s wedding a number of times here. Here’s one last mention. Two weeks ago, we packed up my suit and other accessories and brought them from the house to the apartment. When I was getting dressed on Friday afternoon, I asked Lois to bring out the ties (I gave her three ties to pack so I could choose one at the last minute). Somehow, none of the ties got packed. Oh oh.

Lois called our goddaughter (who lives in the same building we do), and asked whether she could loan me one of her husband’s ties (he was at work, but she doesn’t start for another two weeks, thankfully!). She brought one up a minute later, saying “See, it was good that I got married, or I wouldn’t have had a tie in my closet!”. Amen to that! 🙂

The Tie

The Tie

Earl Klugh at Blue Note

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Last night we saw Earl Klugh perform at the Blue Note in NYC. There is a good back-story to this, but in deference to Lois’ tastes, I’ll leave it for the end. I encourage you to read all the way through, especially if you know us personally. 😉

A few weeks back we went to the Blue Note to see Chuck Mangione with Laura and Chris. We sat right up against the stage, dead center, and we really liked the seats. I wanted to get the same seats last night, and we did.

I’ve been a huge fan for very long (I’ll prove it in the back-story) but haven’t seen Earl in concert for quite a while. Suffice it to say I was very excited.

For the majority of the evening, there were five other people on the stage with Earl. Left-to-right, they were:

(apologies for the quality of all of the photos, and for the complete lack of a photo of Ron Otis. The Blue Note is very dark, and they don’t permit flash photography during the show…)

Al Duncan on keyboards. Sorry, I can’t find a good link directly to him… He’s been with Earl for a long time (over 10 years) and plays solidly. He was featured on two numbers early on, and played beautifully.

Al Duncan

Al Duncan

Lenny Price on Sax, Clarinet (or something that looked like a square clarinet!) and Wind Synthesizer (a great sound, from an instrument I’ve never seen before). He was amazing all night long. At the end of the evening, he played both the Sax and Clarinet at the same time. The audience went wild!

Lenny Price

Lenny Price

Lenny Price Playing Two Instruments

Lenny Price Playing Two Instruments

Earl Klugh was in the middle. I’ll come back to him after I say a few words about the rest of the band.

Earl Klugh

Earl Klugh

Al Turner played bass (both electric and a funky upright bass on a few tunes as well). He is an incredible musician. Lois and I had the double pleasure of sitting directly in front of him (1-2 feet away!) so we really got to see him cook. One of the songs they played last night, was the title cut from his new CD Movin‘. It features Al playing a smoking bass throughout the song. Excellent!

Al Turner

Al Turner

David Lee on keyboards. David was great all night as well. Al Duncan (above) was featured in the early numbers, and David was featured on the later ones. In the fantastic Earl Klugh and Bob James number, Kari, David played the part of Bob James.

David Lee

David Lee

Ron Otis on drums (tucked away in the far right corner of the stage). I couldn’t find a good link for him either, but on this page, there is a good photo of Ron and Al Turner as well, about 3/4’s of the way down. Just search for Otis and/or Turner. Ron is a great drummer who kept us all tapping, swaying, bobbing and grooving all night. He kept the band tight and clean the entire show.

I really didn’t want to include this next photo, since it’s so out of focus, but Lois insisted that I put at least one in with both Earl and me, and I relented, only so that you could see how close we were:

Hadar and Earl Klugh

Hadar and Earl Klugh

All of the above have played on so many albums, with so many greats, you should take the time to read each of their discographies, etc.

Now the great man himself, Earl Klugh. To begin with, I’ve been a fan forever. I just checked my iTunes/iPod and I have 17 of his CDs on there (yes, including the latest, The Spice of Life). I also have Cool by Bob James and Earl Klugh on there. I know that I own both of the other Bob James and Earl Klugh CDs, One on One and Two of a Kind, so now I realize I need to rip them this weekend when I’m back at the house. I might even have some additional vinyl albums of Earl’s, or some CDs that are hidden in the house and never got ripped. Suffice it to say, I’ve been in love with his music forever.

He’s a fantastic guitarist by any measure. But, he’s also a fantastic songwriter. His music is so soulful (like much of Acoustic Alchemy). As I’ve said to Lois (and even Laura) many times, even though they’re mostly instrumental (with a few exceptions), I hear words in my head when I listen to his music. His melodies and leads are so evocative emotionally, that ideas and thoughts spring into your head when you listen closely (which I always do).

He was great last night, but I do have a tiny complaint. The volume on his guitar was just a tad too soft. In fact, thankfully, they/he raised it a drop after the first song, when it was barely audible. That said, I sat between 2-3 feet away from him, with the neck of his guitar pointing in my direction. I also know every note of his songs by heart (I had never heard Movin’ before, because it’s an Al Turner song). So, even on the first number, Slow Boat to Rio (on the Sudden Burst of Energy CD), I could follow his fingers with the melody in my head, even though I could barely hear the guitar.

He was awesome nonetheless. It made me want to see him live again, as soon as possible. 🙂

I can’t describe how many Earl Klugh songs I count as favorites. It’s silly to even use the word favorite, when there are so many. So, seeing him live is also an adventure in finding out which of my favorites he will play. In addition to Movin’ (by Al Turner) and two songs from the new CD, he played a very tasty selection, including Living Inside Your Love, Dr. Macumba, Vonetta, Twinkle (where Al Turner rocked the house as well!), etc. A fanstastic set list. So fantastic, that we (and others!) swiped a Set List from the stage when they were done. Another advantage of sitting up against the stage. 😉

OK, finally, the back-story I’ve teased you about…

Lois and I met on the job in October 1981. I took an instant shine to her. She, not-as-much to me. At the time, Earl Klugh was my favorite musician. I listened to his records (yes, vinyl only at the time), non-stop. Even though I was as poor as dirt then, I bought two tickets to see Earl perform that November at Carnegie Hall. It was a birthday present from me, to me.

Lois and I lived 10 blocks apart, and we were hanging out some after work (mostly at her apartment). Again, to reiterate this very important point, she had little interest in me other than as a friend. Got it? Good!

But, I decided to take a shot anyway. My first attempt to formally ask Lois out was to invite her to join me for the Earl Klugh concert. She indeed said “No”. She told me that she was attending a wedding of her friends in Rochester, NY. I only found out later that this was a little white lie. Her friends (now my very good friends as well) were indeed getting married in Rochester that weekend, but Lois wasn’t going. She just wasn’t interested in dating me, and the fact that this was a big thing for me (birthday, expensive for me, etc.) freaked her out a bit as well.

In other words, she didn’t want to give me the wrong message, but she didn’t want to be explicit either. 😉

So, I took an ex-girlfriend instead, and had a great time. Speaking of ex-girlfriends, one last digression to explain how I discovered Earl Klugh to begin with.

A friend of mine set me up on a blind date (either in 1979 or 1980, I can’t recall). We double-dated once, then I took her out perhaps three or four times after that. On our first alone date, she suggested we go to a bar in midtown, where they had live jazz. It ended up costing me a bit more than I could afford, but we had a nice time. When I took her back to her apartment, she put on Heart String (that link is to the LP, obviously, the CD is available as well).

I was instantly mesmerized, and the next day went out and bought everything of his that I could find, and I’ve kept up with every new album ever since. So, even though the relationship didn’t work out, she gave me a great gift nonetheless!

So, it was not without a little nervousness, that I asked Lois whether she would go with me to see Earl Klugh this time around. Thankfully, this time, she said “Yes”. 😉

I got tied up with something in the middle of the afternoon, and we left a little later than we had hoped. It worked out fine as we still got the exact two seats we were shooting for. But, instead of taking the bus, I knew we would need to take a cab.

I flagged down a cab that had the off-duty sign (but still available). He pulled over to the curb 30 feet away from us, so I wasn’t sure he was responding to my hail. After a minute of staring at him, he waved for me to come over. I had to tell him through the passenger window where we were going. He didn’t know where it was (including not really being sure where Washington Square Park was). Uh oh.

He then said “If you can tell me how to get there, I’ll take you”. Deal! 😉

So, we hopped in. It turns out that this was his very first day driving a cab in NYC. Wow. Amazing that he passed the test, given that he doesn’t know where anything is. At least he followed my directions well, and got us there in reasonable time (of course, he wasn’t aggressive like most cab drivers, which was likely a good thing…).

In a full-circle, small-world happening, we drove right in front of the apartment of the ex-girlfriend who introduced me to Earl Klugh way back when. I found it at least a tad ironic…

I had the same dinner that I had when we were there a few weeks ago for Chuck Mangione. A perfectly cooked Marinated Skirt Steak. Yummy.

Anyway, a great night all around. If you aren’t familiar with Earl Klugh, and you like Smooth Jazz, you must buy some of his stuff. If you visit EarlKlugh.com, it will instantly start streaming some of his hits, so you can get a sense right away, or click on his MySpace page to hear some others.

Recovering From a Server Disk Crash

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The machine that is delivering this blog to you is a standalone Dell server, running CentOS 5.2. It resides in a data center managed by Zope Corporation (ZC) Systems Administrators (SAs). I perform the majority of the software administration and maintenance myself, and they maintain all of the hardware along with some of the software.

The single most important software maintenance that they are responsible for is backing up the system. We’ll get to that in a minute.

This past Sunday, we were in our usual hotel room. I was logged on for roughly eight straight hours, and all was well on this server. I shut my laptop off at around 10:15pm. When we woke up in the morning, Lois checked her email on her Treo. It kept hanging. We thought it was a Treo/Sprint problem, but even rebooting the Treo didn’t correct the hang.

When we got into the office (at around 7am), our laptops couldn’t retrieve mail from the server either. Pinging the server worked, but I couldn’t SSH on to it. In fact, most services delivered by this server were gone (including this blog, which was unreachable). The only service (aside from ping/ICMP) that was obviously up was Zope! If you just wanted to visit our corporate site, and learn about our VC business (all of which is handled by Zope), that was running fine!

The head of the SA group at ZC was also in that early (thankfully!). After poking around a bit, I encouraged him to power off the machine remotely, and them power it back up remotely. He did. Unfortunately, the machine didn’t come back up (or at least it wasn’t responding to pings any longer, so something was wrong).

Another SA was called and directed to go to the data center rather than the office. When he got there, and hooked up a console to the server, he saw that the disk was failing. Attempts to get it started (running fsck, etc.) proved fruitless. It decided to die completely that morning.

Yet another SA was dispatched (from the office) to the data center with a fresh disk (he had other work to perform at the data center, or I would have delivered the disk myself, happily!). We knew in advance that this disk might be slightly problematic, as it had CentOS 4.6 installed on it.

When the disk was inserted into the machine, it booted up immediately. I was able to successfully SSH to the machine, but of course, nothing of mine was on there. That’s when the original SA (who also happens to be our expert in backups) started restoring the machine from our backups.

For a long time, we used to run the Amanda backup program at ZC. I don’t know why, but our experience with Amanda was never good. I am not suggesting that others don’t find it to be a perfectly acceptable solution, but for us, for whatever reasons, it wasn’t good enough.

After searching and evaluating a number of alternatives, the ZC SAs selected Bacula. We’ve been using that for a reasonable period of time now. The Bacula restore of my machine didn’t take all that long, and every file that I wanted/needed was successfully and correctly restored. In fact, the nightly incremental backup had run successfully before the disk decided to die (how polite), so even some non-critical files that I touched on Sunday were successfully restored! Whew!

That said, it was hardly a trip to the candy store. All of the applications that I compiled myself (more than you’d think, I’m a geek at heart!), didn’t work because of the OS (operating system) mismatch. My programs required newer versions of various libraries (possibly even the kernel itself in some cases), so starting from a 4.6 machine and restoring files that required 5.2 wasn’t as clever as we’d hoped.

Still, with some pain, theoretically, one can ugrade a 4.6 machine to 5.2 over the network. That was my plan… Well, the best laid plans, as they say…

I released the SA from the task of baby-sitting my machine, because I knew that a network upgrade would take a while, at best. After doing some network magic, the machine was in a little bit of a funky state, but there was a chance that a reboot would bring the machine up in a 5.x state, making the rest of the upgrade fairly straightforward.

Unfortunately, when I rebooted, the machine hung (wouldn’t actually go away, still pingable, but otherwise non-responsive). Again I asked the head of the SA group to remotely power down/up. Again, it powered down properly, but didn’t come back up.

In fact, it likely did come up, but because of the funky state that I left the machine in, it couldn’t be seen publicly due to network configuration issues. This time, we decided to take a more conservative approach, because opticality.com was down for at least 8 hours already (not a happy situation for either Lois or me).

The original SA went back down to the data center. This time, he burned a CD with a network install ISO of CentOS 5.2. After installing the correct OS onto the machine, he again restored the disk with Bacula. This time, everything matched. Still, there were problems…

The biggest issue (by far!) was foolishness on my part in mapping out what I wanted backed up on the machine to begin with. Sparing you the gory details, I ended up restoring the Yum database from my backup over the actual Yum database from the installation, so the system didn’t really know what was installed and what wasn’t. Not a good thing.

I only really cared about email to begin with. I built a few things (pretty quickly) by hand, and got email running. Then I got the web stuff up pretty quickly too. Finally, IM. Those are my big three hot buttons, everything else could be dealt with later on.

I didn’t want the SA to leave until we could prove that the machine could be booted correctly remotely. That took some time as well, as a number of the services that are started automatically weren’t installed on the machine (though RPM/YUM thought they were!). We (or rather he, at the console) disabled them one by one, until the machine came up.

After I restored the more critical ones, we tested a reboot again, and it came up fine. Whew. I released him again, this time for the last time.

I cleaned up a few more things and went to bed reasonably happy (it was now close to 10pm on Monday night). Over the next two days, I spent a few hours cleaning up more things. Yesterday, I completed the cleanup.

A series of shell scripts and filters, doing things like the following:

yum list | grep installed | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 1 > /tmp/installed

Then running the resulting packages (the ones the system thought were installed!) through:

rpm -V package-name

Filtering that output for lines starting with the word “missing”. Then removing those packages (they weren’t there anyway, so it was a database cleanup activity) and then installing them via Yum again. It wasn’t actually as painful as it sounds, but it wasn’t pain free either.

The biggest headache occurred when removing a non-existent package also moved a config file (that was being used by a package I built separately, so Yum was unaware of it). At one point yesterday, without realizing it, I killed our SMTP (email) server. Oops. We were down for about 10 minutes, before I realized it, and got it back up and running.

At this point, all is back to normal, and Yum correctly knows what’s on the system.

Here are the lessons:

  1. Back Up Regularly
  2. Have a great group of dedicated SAs behind you
  3. Have some spare parts close by
  4. Think hard before taking some stupid actions (all my fault!)

I’m truly amazed, pleased, impressed, etc. that we lost nothing. Of course, we were down for 12 hours, but Internet email is a truly resilient thing. All mail that wanted to be sent to us was deferred when our SMTP server didn’t answer the call. When we came back up, mail started to be delivered nearly instantaneously, and by morning, all mail had been correctly delivered.

Here’s hoping I don’t go through this experience again, and here’s hoping that if you do, this post might help a bit… 🙂