Monday, January 26, 2009

If You're Going To Do It.....

Do it right!

I've been tossing around the idea of implementing a semi-intelligent network architecture in my apartment. At the moment my network, like most home networks is a router, and a bunch of machines plugged into it.

This works, and it works quite well. However if I want to do anything other then basic networking I run into some problems. So I've been tossing around the following ideas.

Phase 1:
I want to procure a white box, an old tower with low power requirements, preferably no more then a 150 watts. Now, this will be my gateway, it will be the machine connected directly to the outside network. It will function as my web server, most likely Apache, a file server, Samba?, as well as any other hosting and server tasks.

This machine will run a flavor of Linux. (Ubuntu Server) As I don't plan on ever connecting this machine to a monitor I'll most likely run either a strictly command line interface or run some sort of X-Windows environment that I can remotely connect to.

This machine will start inside my router, as part of my current setup. Once I am comfortable with Linux, and have a firewall and other server applications installed I will move it to the outside of my router and connect my router to the gateway machine.

Phase 2:
Once the gateway is up and working well I plan on Wiresharking all of the incoming traffic and evaluating my configuration for holes. Once I am satisfied with the security of the gateway I will procure more network cards and turn the gateway into a router/switch. This will remove the wireless router from needing to act as a DNS and it can now be used strictly to broadcast wireless.

Phase 3:
Once the above phases have been completed I hope t move away from Windows on my laptop and run a Linux environment (Xubuntu?) there as well. My desktop will remain a Windows box for gaming and C# development.

All in all I figure several weeks of work. Here's to crazy schemes!

Legislated Atheism

It sounds idiotic just reading it, doesn't it?

I had a debate with a friend of mine the other day. He's a good guy, we just don't agree on some things. We were discussing the inauguration as I'm sure were a lot of people. Yet what we disagreed on was not the President, the policies, the future by the Pastor.

Now, for those of you who did not watch the inauguration a Pastor spoke, evoking the usually symbols of God and Jesus while leading the assembled masses in prayer.

Now, when asked what religion I follow I usually answer Unitarian Universalist, though I don't necessarily approve of the way the faith as a whole behaves. But that's for another time. I also identify as Agnostic, sometimes Atheist, and generally disregard religion as a whole.

Now what my friend and I were arguing was whether or not it is appropriate to have prayer in our official ceremonies. My point was this: We live in a country with no official religion, a firm stance on the separation of church and state and yet we have a Christian prayer at our Inauguration. I went on further to argue that seeing as we have a wide array of faiths represented in the American public why not have a varied prayer, if a prayer at all? Why do we consistently evoke the same Christian imagery?

I see it as unofficially endorsing a Christian faith through the evocation of that faiths symbols and norms. I went on to say as we are unable to accurately represent every faith, why represent any at all? Why not just do away with prayer in official ceremonies?

His response was that to do that would be legislating atheism.

I honestly did not know what to say.

Atheism, is the lack of a belief in a deity. Legislating something like that would be so ridiculously unenforceable to be laughable. Not to mention my point was to remove prayer, not religion. I don't care if you believe in God. It simply does not matter to me. Yet why do I, as a person who does not believe in God, have to constantly encounter the symbols, and icons of religion? It seems to fly in the face of our constitutional mandate of a separation of church and state, but what do I know. I'm just legislating Atheism.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We did this 43 times already.....

So, I watched the inauguration of the 44rth President of the United States today.

I must admit watching the man that everyone has so much hope on completely flub the oath of office was worth the wait. His speech was even better.

He delivered an impressive talk, full of imagery and sweeping words, a course set for "Change" yet it is change that is nebulous at best. He is faced by a list of challenged that seems nigh insurmountable yet as he stood on the Washington Mall I believed on some level he might have a prayer of doing some good.... maybe.

I'm not one of his rabid supporters, I worry that with the image that has been built up around him he is doomed to fail. I can't help but feel as a Libertarian that he could be a great help, or a hindrance to the freedoms of this nation.

A lot remains to be seen.

Though I doubt he will ever read this, good luck Mr. President. You're going to need it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cause I Can

This post brought to you be the following Idiocy.

I'm not one for causes. I don't jump on the petitioning bandwagon, and if the Democratic National Committee would stop sending me e-mail I wouldn't mind. Yet there are several organizations I do think have a point, and an aim that I can agree with. First, is Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, their website is located here. It's circa 1995 GeoCities but it works.

Simply put they believe that students should have the right to keep and bear arms on college campuses, specifically concealed handguns. Those allowed to carry would have had to have a concealed carry permit already, and be in a state that already allows concealed carry. Their thought process is simple. Students on campuses without the ability to protect themselves are sheep. Gunmen know this, and advertising a weapons free campus is at least not deterring violence, if at worst, encouraging it. History shows us that schools are not safe from the threat of violence, so why would we not allow our students and teachers the tools to defend themselves?

Second is the Pink Pistols. A group dedicated to fostering gun ownership and firearm self defense for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered population. They seek to inform, and teach a high risk population. A population all too often targeted for acts of violence.

I just figured I would give them both a nod. Take a look if you like, if not, that's fine too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Support Us!

I've been on Engineering Support for just under four weeks. Engineering Support is a task in which regular Engineers, like me, get rotated into a triage type position. usually for one or two weeks at a time.

I've been here a month.

Now, it is partially my fault. As last year wound down I volunteered for a support rotation, I was running out of work and feeling underutilized and was looking for anything I could do. So, I went on a two week support rotation. What I didn't know is that I had been scheduled for Support the first two weeks of January. Not that it would have changed my decision but it would have been nice to know.

Now, three and a half weeks in I'm seriously beginning to doubt my sanity. Bug report numbers blur, customer complaints begin to ring hollow like gnats buzzing in my ears and the stupidity, the death of brain cells I have suffered should net me some sort of compensation, most likely in the thousands of dollars range....

At least I'm getting paid.

Three and a half more days.... 29 hours... then I can go back to being just another Engineer in a cube, anonymity is a good thing I guess.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shopping List....

I've always been fascinated by cars. I like the complexity, the parts, the bits. I always wanted to learn how to maintain, tune, rebuild a car from the frame up. However other pursuits and a general lack of tools, a car to work on, time, and a teacher all kept me from perusing a desire to learn. However, these past few months I resolved to begin learning and I have learned, I've done my brakes, front and back, my exhaust, oil changes, and a variety of other odds and ends. However, until very recently I still had no tools. So I asked for them for Christmas.

I got some of what I asked for.

I figured I would make do, that I would add to my collection as I found holes and would eventually have everything I would need. So, here's a rough list of things I want, or need, and why.

16mm Socket.

Why? Because the oil pan plug on both a '96 Honda Civic and a '99 Subaru is a 16mm bolt. What does my set NOT have? a 16mm Socket. It has a 15mm, it has a 17mm but no 16mm.

Floor Jack, Jack Stands and Creeper

Why? Because it's cold and I dislike laying on the dirty garage floor, and I dislike using the piddly tire change jack to do anything useful and I fear for my life when crawling under my vehicle if it isn't on jack stands. An alternative of course would be a set of ramps. Either would work.

Lastly, a shop light.

Why? Because it get's dark under a Civic. My garage has no lights, and it's usually dark by the time I get home.

That's more or less it right now. I know it's just a start but it's what I need right now. Everything else is a luxury and can wait. I guess I'm going shopping tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why, What, and Belief

Years ago i went through the Coming of Age process at my church. It's a Unitarian equivalent of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or First Communion. It's a marker that defines the transition from youth to adult in the UU church. One of the pieces of this process is the writing of a credo. This is often not given the due diligence it deserves.

I held then, and still hold now, the belief that your credo should be both a living document and as complete as possible. This belief upset some of my fellow youth who felt that I was unduly questioning their beliefs. Eventually I stopped asking yet the reason I was asking was important and I still feel is important.

Most religions have a creed, their practitioners are told not only what to believe but more importantly why they believe it. It is the why that most UU's don't get. We know what we believe, in fact if you ask almost anyone I'm certain they can tell you what they believe yet the ability to articulate why they hold their beliefs is much rarer.

If Unitarian Universalism is ever going to be anything other then a niche religion it's practitioners need to be able to not only say what they believe in but why they believe, and what is more the why needs to be air tight.

Now this is no small task and I know this, a creed is a living document, it is expected to grow and change as the person who wrote it grows and changes. I'm sure my creed if I were to write it today would differ greatly from the one I wrote all those years ago in Coming of Age. Yet I had inadvertently begun a quest to add the why to the what and it's only now that I've begun to formalize that and begun to realize the importance of why as well as what.

How to write a creed:
1) Determine what you believe.
2) Talk to someone who disagrees with your beliefs. Defend yours and challenge theirs. Do this as often as necessary till your certain in what you believe.
3) Determine why you believe what you believe.
4) Talk to someone who disagrees with your beliefs. Defend yours and challenge theirs. Do this as often as necessary till your certain your reasoning is both valid and sound.

Let's see if it actually works.

Monday, January 5, 2009

So a Mennonite is lost in the woods....

I went to RAMF yesterday. RAMF being the Rochester Area Mennonite Fellowship. It's a small Mennonite congregation located with biking distance of the house. The Missus had been looking into them for a few weeks and we decided to finally attend a service.

The church itself is small, just over a year old and still smells faintly of new paint and drywall. We arrived a few minutes before the service was supposed to begin and found the chapel empty with the exception of a gentlemen in his mid-thirties strumming a guitar. My bemused look must have been move visible then I had thought as he stopped playing and stepped into the narthex and said hello. We chatted for a moment then the Missus and I entered the chapel proper and found a seat. The chapel itself sits roughly sixty and by the time service started most seats were filled. Both the Missus and myself were greeted warmly by a fair number of he parishioners. I considered it to be a warm and welcoming atmosphere, the chapel itself was decorated, or more accurately, not decorated the walls were whitewashed drywall with light colored wood accents. No obvious iconography, Christian or otherwise, and I found it to be a very inviting space.

The service was lay led as are all their services. While some Mennonite churches have a full or part time minister RAMF is wholly lay led. This past Sundays speaker spoke on the Welcoming Face of God. It was a rather tame service, while there was some biblical references, no actual quoted scripture, I found the references unnecessary in terms of the message being conveyed. The sermon boiled down to a look at the home Jesus was raised in, and the advantages that lifestyle, the label of carpenter must have been in helping him connect with people. I found it an interesting take on the subject, I found the delivery to be average to good, and the singing quite good.

All in all I found the service itself to be a very comfortable. The Missus expressed a desire to return and I think I will as well. While I do not feel I'll ever self identify as a Mennonite I find them to be an interesting and wholly welcoming people.