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Thu, 3 May 2007

The Red Haired Girl from the Bog

— SjG @ 7:49 pm

The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit,
Patricia Monaghan, 2004, New World Library.

I recently returned from three weeks traveling through Ireland with The Right Reverend Oakes. It was something of a whirlwind tour; we visited a lot of different places both on and off of the standard tourist track. Along the way, I finished up reading The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog, which is an interesting blend of Irish history, Irish mythology, and philosophy, along with a fair amount of rumination on the meaning of place, thoughts on personal relations, and observations on poetry, all wrapped loosely in a collection of personal anecdotes structured by regions in Ireland.

The book is not really a travelogue, per se, as it’s more concerned with mythology as it pertains to place, but it does provide counterpoint and commentary to someone traveling through the places described.

Monaghan starts the book with a not-very-mystical quest involving identity — what does Ireland tell a person about herself as a member of the Irish diaspora. It quickly goes beyond that, and shows the complex intertwining of the mythological layers in Ireland, from Pagan to early-Christian to Roman Catholic to neo-pagan. Monaghan also talks about how those beliefs may mesh and coexist in a way that is fairly alien to us Americans. The bulk of the book uses personal experiences as segues into mythology, and vice versa, in a very readable way.

Monaghan is clearly extremely well read, which allows her to bring together a broad perspective on topics, but also results in an overuse of descriptions of the form “what writer X has called ‘Y‘.” I appreciate the need for attribution, but personally find footnotes less disruptive. As someone who is at best marginally familiar with Celtic, Irish, and Christian mythology (or history, for that matter), I also found the flurry of names and references somewhat dizzying. Fortunately, if you’re as undisciplined as I, you can let the references wash over you without needing to absorb them all — Monaghan’s overall narrative is good enough that you don’t need all the specifics.

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Wed, 2 May 2007

More Avian Dogfights

— SjG @ 8:37 pm

So today, on my walk home from work, I was almost knocked off the sidewalk by a frantically swerving, low-flying crow. It was flying erratically, fast, and croaking in a tone I haven’t heard before.

Why the corvid distress? It was trying to lose a humming bird, which was tight on its tail, and bombing in like a bird on a mission (I suspect it must have seen the crow too close to a nest or something). The hummer was probably no larger than the crow’s head, but it sure had the larger bird on the run. They did some crazy swerving over the road, between some trees, and vanished among the houses across the street.

Then, upon coming home, I saw a similar scene re-enacted in the back yard. This time, the pursuer was a mocking bird.

It’s impressive just how fast and agile they are. As Elizabeth phrased it, they were “hellbent for feather.”

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Tue, 3 Apr 2007

Aphids & Immune Systems

— SjG @ 1:23 pm

The lupine in the front yard is tall and happy, with vast swaths of blue and blue-white flowers.

In one corner, however, closest to the street and driveway, a few plants have been overwhelmed by aphids. Not just your usual annoying aphids, the kinds you find attacking your roses, but massive, evil, green aphids that are larger than half the children that wander our neighborhood streets.

“So where are the aphid predators?” you may ask. Well, there are lots of ladybugs. But while they’re all hanging out in the lupine, the majority of the ladybugs seem much more interested in mating than eating.

Dr. Weil has a model for medicine and the human system, which can be summarized as

  • Our immune system keeps us healthy by keeping a homeostatic equilibrium.
  • When the immune system gets seriously overwhelmed by something, it cannot maintain equilibrium, which manifests as chronic sickness.
  • Medical intervention should attempt to mitigate whatever is overwhelming the immune system, so it can succeed in its task of maintaining equilibrium.

In other words, the medicine doesn’t cure us, it balances things to the point where we can cure ourselves.

So what does this have to do with aphids? My theory is that the garden as a whole resembles a semihomeostatic organism under attack. Or rather, that I needed to restore an equilibrium where the predators were numerous enough to fight off the aphid plague. The predators were doing the population increase part themselves. It was up to me to reduce the plague population. So it was don the gloves, and go a-squishin’.

After fifteen minutes, vast gouts of green liquid flowed down my arms. It was a bleak day in aphid-dom.

That was two days ago. Today, there are twice as many ladybugs on the lupine, and the aphid population is smaller. It remains to be seen if equilibrium has been restored.

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Mon, 2 Apr 2007

Buffalo Terastation Problems

— SjG @ 4:20 pm

I’ve written here numerous dull tirades on the subject of backups. Well, here’s more.

We had my brand new shiny backup script working on the LAN to backup all the servers to a Linux box with a 300GB hard drive. For extra security, we copied it out to a Buffalo Terastation, which also serves as our office fileserver. For that extra bit of security, the Terastation is formatted as two shares, each of 250GB (using RAID-1). One of those shares is the office fileshare, the other is for server backups.

Well, there was a slight *cough* stupid *cough* problem with one of my backup scripts over a weekend, which resulted in a recursive backup of a directory (doh!). This filled up the disk on the Linux box, but it didn’t prevent it from happily trying to copy it all to the Terastation (using lftp).

When I came in on Monday, the Terastation was not happy. It simultaneously said the drives were ~30% full, and said that it couldn’t find any disks at all. FTP connections were dropped immediately. We were able to copy a few files off of it from machines that had kept the drive mounted via SMB, but then it would disconnect and vanish from that machine’s network visibility. This was not good. At some point, we thought it might be a good idea to try enabling another protocol to access the data, which had the unfortunate side effect of switching the Teraserver admin into Japanese.

Tech support took about 20 minutes to answer the call, but they were courteous and helpful. Eventually, they concluded that the controller board was bad. To get a replacement, they charged our credit card the price of a new unit, and shipped it out, with the understanding that we’d swap the drives into the new unit, send back the old one, and get credited back the money. While this is not ideal, I can understand why they do it that way.

In any case, the new unit arrived today. I went through the effort of swapping the drives from one unit to the other (which is a lot more complicated than it should be, requiring a lot of screws). And voila! Still a Japanese admin, and no ability to access the data.

My working theory now is that the Teraserver stores configuration data on the drives, and when the one share filled up, it corrupted the config data somehow. I’ll call tech support tomorrow and see what I can learn. *sigh*


Sun, 25 Mar 2007

Backups, cont.

— SjG @ 9:50 pm

OK. I’m a bonehead. The link I provided to my backup script tarball was broken. The link is fixed.

But wait! A new version of the scripts will be posted in a few days. It’s got some bug fixes and some new features. With it, the little birds really do sing more cheerfully, and the colors really will be brighter.

(As an aside … I don’t know why none of the people who clicked on the broken link bothered to send me an email or leave a comment to tell me there was a problem. Could that all have been robot traffic?)