Thursday, December 25, 2008

What's It All About, Anyway?

I'm sure by this time of year, you've most likely heard about the "reason for the season." This now-trite phrase is used to remind us that we're not supposed to be wrapped up in the consumerism that masquerades as Christmas.

I heard an interesting bit on NPR about "personalized" Christmas cards--you know, the ones where you take the photo of your kids or your dog down to Costco and get it made into a card to show your friends and family how well everything is going for you.

Not that I'm against them. I've sent them myself--taken the picture of our kids in their festive red outfits in front of the tree nearly eclipsed by presents, rushed down to the local big-box store eight days before Christmas in the hopes that we could get new cards minted and mailed to show up on time. We've all done it, and we will all probably continue to do it.

But the next time you prepare to do it, think about this:

On your next birthday, how would you like to get a picture of me, my house, my kids, my kids' pets, my family on vacation, or my deck?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gin Rickey

After bustling around a bit today, I was tired and needed a cool, refreshing drink. Yes, I said cool, refreshing drink in December.

The Gin Rickey is that drink. It is the most refreshing drink on the planet, next to water. Its a very simple drink, and one that can be made in just a few moments.

Gin Rickey
1 1/2 oz Gin
1/2 Lime
1 tsp suguar
Club Soda

In a highball glass, drop in a few ice cubes. Squeeze in one half a lime, and drop the squeezed lime rind in. Add the sugar and Gin, and fill the glass to the top with club soda. Umbrellas optional.

Good to go.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A New Beer

For the ritual beer tasting Thursday this past week, I purchased a six-pack of Budweiser American Ale. After a refund program left me with 108 bottles of various Budweiser beers, I was pretty sure I'd never touch another Budweiser product for the rest of my life. Granted, Budweiser Select isn't too bad, but it's not usually in my top five choices when drinking out.

My opinion of Budweiser has changed after tasing Budweiser American Ale. I'll admit it--maybe I was marketed upon. The label is very rugged-looking, definitely a throw-back to more classic styling. It immediately resurrected feelings of nostalgia, and for some reason, with a bald eagle on the label, I felt almost patriotic purchasing it.

But, what's inside is even more important. It's very rich tasting, definitely a full-bodied flavor. Just hoppy enough, not a bitter aftertaste. It's like a microbrew. It smells like beer should, and dammit, I think it tastes like beer should.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Does Our Economy Suck Right Now?

Unless you've had your head in the sand or been under a rock for the last year, you know our economy has been in a downward spiral. The release of the official word on December 1 by the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed what we've all known--we're in a recession.

So, how did we get here? Listening to all of the talk of securitized loans and collatoralized debt obligations (CDOs), it may be easy to think that the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and subsequent beginning of deregulation of the banks by Clinton with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is to blame. Maybe partially so. Allowing investment banks to act as commercial banks (and vice-versa) definitely opened the door to these "complex financial instruments," as they've been called.

Some of these "complex financial instruments" include the securitizing of mortgages. What that means is mortgagors divide up their mortgages into tradeable securities and then sell them on the market. The idea is supposed to be that they're less risky because slices of so many different mortgages go into each security. Maybe they are--as long as the mortgagees are paying.

If you're a pro-business kind of person, then you'll probably see the hobbling of businesses (particularly auto makers) by unions as the cause. Yes, American car makers sell vehicles that cost more to produce, acquire, and maintain, and which also suffer quicker depreciation than their foreign counterparts. Union officials claim that they only account for about 10% of the cost of a vehicle; other sources say that number is as high as 25-30%. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

If you're more populist, you might think that the relaxed lending guidlelines from banks and the high-pressure tactics employed by mortgagors is to blame. Traditional guidelines said that you shouldn't buy a house that cost more than three times your annual income. With the takeoff of the CDOs, we quickly reached a point where everyone who wanted a home and qualified for a conforming loan had a mortgage.

To feed the beast, banks started offering "no verification" loans of all sorts, including "no document" and "stated income." These "creative" financing options allowed borrowers to merely tell the mortgagor how much money they made and the mortgagor would take it at face value. The inevitable happened--banks started lending money to people who had no way to pay the debt.

Adding insult to injury, a whole host of new loan options became popular, including interest-only and ARMs with ridiculous terms, designed to draw borrowers in on the promise of a low rate. The idea is that with a housing market rising at double-digit rates every year, you could continue to bank on your "investment" and just refinance (with cash out, of course) every so often to make sure you took advantage of your home's fake equity.

For example, a friend of mine recently related a story of when he was purchasing a home about 18 months ago. He makes a pretty good salary--about $70,0000 a year. He filled out the loan paperwork, and his mortgage broker told him that he qualified for a $600,000 mortgage. That's $3,000 a month for only the interest. Not to mention the taxes (most places in Michigan, that would be about $8-12,000 yearly) and insurnace (around $1,000 yearly). All of the sudden, you end up with a $4,000 per month commitment to your house; not too good when your take home is only about $4,100 after taxes and health care. Fortunately, he heeded Dirty Harry's advice, and knew his limitations.

But, for someone who wasn't as aware of what that would do to their finances (aka, no business getting a mortgage) or who was overpowered by the allure of an envy-causing house, it's the path to financial ruin.

People watching this happening from the outside would have called this "abso-f'ing ridiculous."

While all of these are definitely contributors, I'm going throw in the last piece of the perfect storm. Folks teetering on the edge of their financial demise were OK until the incredible rise in oil prices. All of the sudden, something that used to cost $2.00 per gallon doubled in the space of a few months.

The oil industry holds some blame, I think--they claim that percentage-wise, their margins never changed. That may be true, but it was obvious what the effect on the consumer was. 7% of $4bn per month is a lot different that 7% of $1bn per month or whatever it was. While they were recording month-over-month record profits, they were also setting the stage for the collapse of the entire world economy.

Suddenly, people had to choose between paying on their massive credit card bills, paying on their overpriced mortgage, paying on their gas-guzzling SUV, putting gas in their gas-guzzing SUV, or putting food on the table. Most people chose food. Food prices rose somewhat (mainly due to fuel surcharges), but stayed relatively flat when compared to the precipitous fall of home and car prices.

As people spent more that the pump, they started defaulting on their mortgages. People defaulting on their mortgages led to companies like AIG collapsing, due to having to pay unprecedented insurance claims to banks (AIG was one of the biggest players in the mortgage private insurance market--the folks you pay your PMI to when your house is at more than 80% LTV). With defaults and foreclosures flooding the housing market, prices plummeted. With all of the collatoralized debt obligations based on the fact that people pay their mortgages, securities started falling apart, leading to financial institution bailouts (Bear-Stearns, AIG), takeovers (Wachovia) or collapses (Lehman Brothers).

Demand for oil plummeted as well--since you no longer have a job or a house, you certainly can't afford to be driving anywhere. While oil is still almost double the 2004 OPEC target price of $29/barrel, pump prices are the lowest they've been in almost a decade.

With the impending passage of the bailout for the Big 3 and subsequent appointment of a Car Czar, one can't help but wonder if it's going to do any good. After all, we have also had government oversight in banking (Senate Banking Committee) and financial trading (Security and Exchange Commission), and that hasn't helped out a whole lot.

All I can really say is that there's no time like the present to analyze your spending and debts and figure out how to live within your means instead of leveraging assets with declining values (such as your home) to fund your future.

Friday, December 5, 2008


This is a very tasty treat, great for summer evenings out on the deck.

1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
2 oz Hennessey VS Cognac
1 oz Cointreau orange liqueur
1 12-oz can of frozen orange juice concentrate and 6-10 oz water -or-
24 oz orange juice
1 1/2 C sugar
2 apples (I use Gala), peeled, cored, and sliced into wheels
2 oranges, sliced into wheels
1 lemon, sliced into wheels
1 C sliced strawberries

The Pampered Chef Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer is great for taking care of the apples. My good friend Becky Zale can hook you up if you need one.

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or punch bowl and refrigerate overnight, stirring occassionally. If you're like me, you'll find an excuse to sample it every time you stir. :-)

Ladle into red wine glasses, including fruit. Serve with spoon.

Hot Buttered Rum

As the cold sets in here in Michigan, it's increasingly important to stay warm. How better to do it than with a great hot drink? This is great to share among your Euchre-playing friends on a cold night.

Hot Buttered Rum
1 Stick of Butter
2 C Brown Sugar
16oz dark rum
8 Cinnamon sticks
Boiling water
Cream or milk
8 mugs
Whole cloves (optional)

Place 1 Tbsp of butter and 1/4C (4 Tbsp) of brown sugar in each mug. Pour in a little boiling water to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. Pour 2oz of dark rum into each mug, and fill each mug with boiling water, leaving a little room at the top. Top each drink with a splash of cream or milk and drop in a cinnamon stick and and a single clove (optional).

Some folks add a sprinkle of nutmeg to the top. For the proper pronunciation, ask the Target Lady.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Frozen Strawberry Margarita

I am at long last sharing my famous strawberry margarita recipe. I've been perfecting it for almost two years, and am confident enough that I can share it freely.

Frozen Strawberry Margarita
6 oz 100 Años Blanco Tequila
4 oz Cointreau orange liqueur
10 oz frozen limeade
2 C crushed ice
2 1/2 C frozen strawberries
1 slice frozen peach
splash of DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps

Combine all in a kickass blender. I use a VitaMix 5000, which does a bang-up job. Makes 4-6 servings.

Note: 100 Años is a relatively soft tequila. If you use a sharper tequila, you may need to adjust it with more strawberries or ice.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Real" Italian

So for the past two nights, I've stayed at the quaint Ardmore House Hotel in lovely St. Albans, UK. The hotel is situated in a residential area along Lemsford Road in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK. I've got an "upgraded" room, complete with 13" color television and 4-poster bed. It looks nice, though the bed's comfort leaves something to be desired. My room has built-in wardrobes on one wall, bookending a large window with gold curtains, and a private bathroom.

Tonight, I dined for the second time at the Belvedere, the posh Italian restaurant attached to the Ardmore House Hotel.

While the atmosphere is beautiful--everything you'd expect from a fancy restaurant (see the picture of my table next to the piano)--the food isn't as good. Last night, I ordered an appetizer of Tricolore, which was supposed to be slices of avocado, tomato, and cheese drizzled with olive oil. The cheese ended up being an unfortunate clump of gooey goat's milk cheese--nasty to both look at and taste. I didn't fare much better with the rocket ensalada--it's a collection of spicy spring greens in an old-tasting olive oil dressing. My main course, Spezzatino di Pollo con Crema e Funghi, however, was very good. It was sliced chicken breast in a brandy cream sauce with fresh mushrooms and rice. Delicious. The house red wine that accompanied it burned like a cheap box wine, but there was nothing cheap about the price--$16 for a half glass.

I decided to go for a dessert, hoping I could depend on the classic Tiramisu; it was nothing more than dry white cake with layered with whipped cream, drizzed in Hershey's syrup and topped with Swiss Miss hot cocoa powder. Very disappointing. At least the Bailey's, Cointreau, and Cream I ordered was good.

Tonight's meal was equally unbalanced in quality. I started off with a delicious minestrone soup, followed by another cold appetizer. This time I tried Carpaccio of Beef. Never having had it before, I had no idea what to expect. The description on the menu is "Slices of Fillet Steak Marinated in Olive Oil & Lemon;" the word ommitted here is raw. I was starving, so I ate the entire thing--about 4 ounces in all. It tasted fine; the texture was a little unnerving, and the olive oil drizzled on it had the same old taste as the night before. My stomach is not entirely happy with me right now.

For dinner, I ordered something that I figured would be "safe"--Spaghetti v Napoli. It was okay; it had a meat sauce quite reminiscent of "Chef Boyardee." But, at least it was cooked. I finished it off with a Tia Maria-liquered coffee topped with cream, which at $12, cost as much as my main course and was twice as good.

All-in-all, the miss-and-occasionally-hit Belvedere restaurant gets an "A" for looks, but a solid "C" for food quality.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

History of Active Directory

Great little blurb, for those of you interested in how it all began.

This post features several snippets of email from a newsgroup. The best comments come from one of the integral parts of the DS team, Don Hacherl.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Funky Chips

So, this week, I'm in the UK doing some work, and I stumble across an entire array of weirdly-flavored chips. On my travels over the last few years, I've endured curry fries, steak tar-tar, thick worchestershire sauce, bone-in-scale-on-ungutted-salmon, unsalted and runny ketchup, pickled ham, and fish jello--a wretched (supposedly epicurean) blend of fish bits in clarified lard. I've had oily Guiness, soupy cucumbers, way-too-heady Beck's, and extraordinarily bitter coffee.

But today, in a lonely datacenter just outside of Leeds, UK, I experienced potato chips. Not that I haven't had chips before--I rather love them. However, it seems that these crazy Brits will put any flavor on a chip. Take my two examples from today: Roast Chicken and Roast Ox.

Who would think that meat-flavored chips would take off?

Me: "Hi, honey, when's dinner?"
The Mrs.: "Well, the chicken isn't done yet. But we do have the green beans and potatoes."
Me: "No worries. [Pulls out bag of Walkers Roast Chicken Potato Chips] I've got it under control!"

Actually, they did taste pretty good. The aroma of Chicken smote me as I opened the bag of Roast Chicken chips, but the taste was more like a normal, unflavored potato chip. Still, pretty good.

The flavor of the Roast Ox chips was, well, not as oxeny as I imagined they would be. Of course, never having eaten an ox, I probably wouldn't be able to pick the flavor from among any other beef-like flavors. The taste of these chips could be, in my mind, be described as extra-smokey barbecue. Quite salty, quite good.

So there you have it. Two foods from the UK this week that don't suck. But they are weird.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Perception is Reality

Though a lot of people disqualify it as a trite, modernist phrase, I think it's more true than not.

As Henry Ford said, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." If you hold the view that you can't accomplish anything, you'll rise to meet that.

Along that same vein, Henry Ford also said, "I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can't be done."

Looking at the problems that plague our nation (the worst financial crisis since the Depression, rampant home foreclosures, radical climate change, a world that disdains just about everything we do), it's easy to succumb to the perception that it's not going to get better anytime soon.

And, while it will take a while to dig out of the messes (especially ones as big as ours), I think back to the day after the Election, hearing the reports of spontaneous cheering throughout the world (developed and undeveloped) about Obama's victory. While he certainly can't fix everything overnight, the perception that the rest of the world has is that we've elected someone willing to listen to the people and the international community. That shift in perception gives us a lot of goodwill from the international community and can definitely have a positive impact on Obama's honeymoon period as President. There's a decided difference in perception on the world stage between a country that's gone amok with a leader who is too stubborn to listen to any contrary opinions and a country that's gone amok with a leader who wants to implement the will of the people.

I was reading an interview with Obama in last week's Rolling Stone that had some very poignant thoughts. In talking about McCain's erratic behavior and response to crises:

RS: What makes you better prepared than John McCain to handle a crisis--whether it's a terrorist attack, a financial meltdown or a natural disaster?

BO: We've had two significant moments where the judgment of a commander in chief would have to be applied in a very deliberate fashion. One is the war in Iraq, and the other is what's happened just over the last three and a half weeks on Wall Street. In both instances, what you've seen is John McCain being impulsive, not getting all the information that he needs, surrounding himself with people who are predisposed to agreeing with him. And as a consequence, I think he's made bad judgments.

To me, it's a very similar M.O. to that of George Bush. GWB brought in the good ol' boys from his father's administration, who were the good ol' boys from Reagan, who were the good ol' boys from Nixon. Most of the advisers in the Bush White House have been around in Washington for 30 or 40 years.

While Obama will most likely bring in many from the Clinton era, I think you're also going to see a raft of prestigious scholars and professors in diplomatic and fiscal advisory roles. There is a multitude of wisdom in many counselors, and knowing what you don't know is really one of the first steps to being successful. It's important to have opinions and principles, but it's also important to be willing to be wrong and listen people who have more knowledge and experience than you do.

The comment about listening to people predisposed to agreeing with you is of preeminent importance to me, both in this discussion and in general life discussions. Frequently (especially as Christians), we surround ourselves with so many people that are like-minded that we lock out other points of view. It's great to build a camaraderie based on people with a similar vision and purpose, but if you all share the exact same ideas, what happens when that one idea is wrong?

It's kind of like watching the news channels. Republicans tend to watch Fox News while Democrats tend to watch CNN. Not because the news is better on either station, but the slant is decidedly more conservative or liberal. People don't watch news stations like Fox or CNN for information on issues, they watch news stations like Fox or CNN for affirmation that their belief structure is correct or acceptable or right.

I think it shows great wisdom, integrity, and maturity if you're willing to take advice from wise people--not just people who agree with you. Because every now and then, you're wrong.

So, back to perception is reality. Can Obama change the world? Maybe, maybe not. But what he's already changed is the perception of America, which may give him (and us, collectively), time to change the reality.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

VHDMount for Hyper-V

Even though Microsoft has been my bread and butter for the last 12 years, I can't help but think so many of the things they do aren't fully thought through from the end user perspective.

Take this one, for example. In Virtual Server 2005 R2, Microsoft included an incredible tool called VHDMount.exe. The end result--you can mount a VHD as a volume, and read/write against it. A few quick reg edits (or the reg script provided by the Virtual PC guy) and you could get context mount/dismount from within Windows Explorer. Sweet, right?

One would think that such a useful utility would have followed on to Windows 2008 and Hyper-V, where the hypervisor is built into the OS, right? One would think so, but then they'd apparently be the only one. Yes, this feature is gone. How could it happen?

So, I stumbled upon a couple of scripts that invoke the Hyper-V tools to do just that. Please give some mad props to Ravi Chaganti, who figured it out. - Right click to Mount & Dismount Hyper-V VHD - Script Update: Right click to Mount & Dismount Hyper-V VHD

You'll want to visit both blog posts. The first post has a ZIP that includes a REG file for exposing a context menu in Windows Explorer for mounting/dismounting. The second post has an update to the script.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


After a long day, a good drink is a great way to unwind. Traditional Cosmos are pretty stout drinks. I'm more of a lover of flavor over potency, so I make mine a smidgen different, but it results in a much more palatable drink that you can sip all night long.

Classy Cosmopolitan
1 oz Cointreau orange liqueur
1 oz Belvedere vodka
1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lime
2 oz cranberry juice

Combine all ingredients with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass.

For those of you looking for a more "standard" or "traditional" cosmopolitian, here's a good recipe. A cosmopolitian is actually a pink-ish drink. Less red means more alcohol, so a real cosmopolitian will sit you down in a hurry.

3 oz Absolut Citron
1 oz Cointreau orange liqueur
1 oz cranberry juice
Splash of lime juice

Combine all ingredients with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass.

Make it "your own" by adding or subtracting ingredients. As always, let me know what you've tried and how it's worked.

Another long night ...

So ... I've spent the last 24 hours shuffling VHDs around because we ran into a problem a few weeks ago where the VHD expanded larger than the physical drive. Ooops. That's what happens when you configure a dynamically expanding VHD to be 350GB and drop it onto a 300GB drive. No advanced math degree required here.

So, to fix the problem, I've had to move the data from one spot to another, replace the drives in the servers, and then move the data back. Fun times. It's about 1.2TB of data that I have to move twice.

Windows 2008 includes the demonic "Scalable Networking Pack" components that caused so much grief in Windows 2003 SP2. Word to the wise--if you haven't tested everything out, TURN OFF RECEIVE SIDE SCALING when trying to transfer files. If for some reason the RSS handshake doesnt' happen properly, you data barely goes anywhere.

To fix it, go to you Network Connections, click Manage connections, and then select an adapter. Right-click > Properties, and then click Configure next to the adapter. On the Advanced tab, select Receive Side Scaling and set it to "disabled." Do this on all servers. Reboot.

Watch everything go much faster.

Cheers everyone.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I posted this a while ago on FB, but I decided to repost it here--mainly so I have an easy place to find it when I want it.

I conjured this up while I was watching an SNL from a few weeks ago, and had a hankering for something orange. I came up with this mellow orange dessert cocktail:

1 part Bailey's Irish Cream
1 part Cointreau orange liquer
1 part cream or whole milk
2-3 ice cubes

Drop the ice cubes into an old-fashioned glass, and then add the Baileys and Cointreau. Add the milk or cream and stir gently.

Error c00706ba when adding an Exchange RUS for a child domain

This is one of those problems that can leave you banging your head against the wall. Say you have a multiple domain forest and have Exchange 2003 installed in the parent domain. Then, say you want to give Exchange mailboxes to users in one of the child domains. Shoudl be as easy as running setup /domainprep in the child domain and then creating the new RUS through ESM?

If only.

There's an error that plagues every Exchange admin who tries this task. You go through the steps creating the RUS, choosing the Exchange Server you want to host the RUS and the domain controller in the child domain. You have everything selected, click Finish, and then, after what seems like an unusually long pause (the kind that lets you know it's not going to work), you get this message:

The RPC server is unavailable.
Facility: Win32
ID no: c00706ba

RPC errors. Great. You check firewalls on both sides--wide open. You ping the target DC's FQDN, which resolves. Retry the procedure, but it's really about as effective as slamming your hand in a car door repeatedly.

The solution is ridiculously simple, and makes sense in Exchange 2003 world. Exchange 2003 still has a lot of dependencies on NetBIOS name resolution. There are several alternatives:

1. Add a static WINS entry for the domain controller in the child domain.
2. Configure WINS replication between child and parent domains.
3. Add the hostname (not FQDN) to the hosts file in %windir%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts on the Exchange Server where you are trying to add the RUS.
4. On the network adapter properties of your Exchange server, add DNS and WINS servers for the child domain.

The problem is that the RUS wizard is looking for the NetBIOS name of the DC that's going to be used in the child domain. Unless you're replicating WINS between parent and child or pointing to a remote WINS/DNS server that has the target domain controller that you've specified for the RUS, you won't be able to resolve the short name of a domain controller in the child domain. Yes, it sucks. Even though the Exchange server is looking for a NetBIOS name, putting the short name of the DC the hosts file works due to the name resolution lookup process. If you had put the FQDN of the target DC in the hosts file, you'd still have the problem--remember, you can already ping the FQDN, so putting it in a local hosts file isn't going to fix your problem.

The real tricky part of figuring this out is that during the RUS creation process, the wizard tells you the FQDN of the target domain controller in the child domain, yet it attempts to contact only the NetBIOS name of the DC.

You may also want to check to make sure that the Exchange Domain Servers and Exchange Enterprise servers groups have been created (should have been done through the Exchange setup /domainprep command) and are in the default Users container.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

It's still pretty amazing. From out out of obscurity, a dark horse candidate rose to become the most powerful man in the world. A lawyer who came from a humble background built his campaign on bridging divides and challenging Americans to dig deep and think about the promise of the future. A nation sharply polarized on key issues--racial equality, rights, taxation, education. He had incredibly well-written speeches that could turn a crowd silent.

You might think I was talking about the 2008 election. But I could just as easily have been talking about the election of 1860 that put Abraham Lincoln into office.

A backwoods boy who taught himself law, Lincoln struggled through failures and backbiting in his own party to become one of the most influential and greatest presidents in our history. Might we see the same from Barack Obama, whose dad left when he was two and was raised by his mother and grandmother?

As I said in a post yesterday, I've heard several historians talk about shifts that happen over time in party issues. They start off very polarized, work their way towards their middle, and gradually, switch sides. And on other issues, they start off polarized, and one party moves closer to the other party, so that there isn't really any distinction between them. "Climate change" is a good example of this phenomenon. 15 years ago, you'd never hear a Republican say anything about the environment, except that there were some tree-huggers getting in the way of business. Now, it seems like they're at least conscious of the issue. I expect that by the next election cycle, Democrats and Republicans will be trying to out-green each other.

Something that immediately impressed me was the language that Obama uses to talk about the country. He doesn't talk about "us and them," but just "us." Leaders give us a vision. Good leaders instill the vision in us. Great leaders inspire us to accomplish the vision.

I was working last night while watching his speech. At one point, I had to actually typing and pay attention:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

A tear trickled down my face. If you are not moved by the magnitude of that thought, you might want to make sure you are alive.

I was reading the Facebook comments of a lot of my friends last night and this morning. People expressing disgust and fear, calling us foolish for believing a smooth talker, buying into this liberal idealism.

To those people, I ask:

What if it's not as bad as you think?
What if Obama is this generation's Abraham Lincoln?
What if everything you thought was wrong?
Are you willing to let down your wall and listen?

God gave us one mouth and two ears; besides being more aesthetically pleasing, I think there's something implied there: listen twice as much as you speak.

Not to get all Biblical on you, but James says:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Give the man a chance. He has earned it. Whether you voted for him or not, he is your president. Lest you forget, the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.

Deal accordingly.

Maybe that's what we need--a little idealism. A little optimism that we can make a difference. That if we work together, we can build something great.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Yes we can.

America Made The Right Choice

I just finished listening to Obama's acceptance speech. It was absolutely incredible. I'm sitting here in my cubicle tonight working on projects and have a CNN window up watching the election coverage.

As my wife will attest, I don't get emotional or riled up about much. While she says my even keel is something she loves, it also is something she hates because I don't get very emotional. Tonight, watching him and listening to him speak, I felt something different.

Like America has a chance.

I'm proud of my vote. Proud that as one out of 135 million registered voters, I made the choice to change the course of history.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So I Voted.

I've been struggling with this for months, but this morning, a few minutes after 9:00, I colored in the last circle on my ballot. For Barack Obama.

I'm more than your typical political junkie. I've read everything about every presidential and vice presidential candidate. I know (or think I know) how each would vote in a particular situation. I know about John McCain's adopted children, Sarah Palin's pregnant-out-of-wedlock-daughter, Joe Biden's family tragedy when he was newly elected, and Barack Obama's grandmother who worked at a bank.

I know John McCain comes from a long line of those serving in the military, that Sarah Palin couldn't tell you a newspaper she reads, that Barack Obama taught at the University of Chicago, and that Joe Biden himself said he didn't want to be a candidate.

Sarah Palin is our generation's Dan Quayle. Joe Biden is an older, more refined, Dan Quayle.

I think on about 80% of the issues, you couldn't identify one presidential candidate from the other. Who supports putting the missle defense shield in Poland against Russia's grumbling? If you said John McCain, you'd be wrong. Who thinks that more offshore drilling is part of the short-term answer to our energy crisis? Barack Obama and John McCain both support it. The list goes on.

I've always thought of myself as a Republican. My mom tells a story about me when I was two years old, running around the Whitewater Armory polling location in 1980, shouting "Ronald Regan is a great man!" And he was. "The Great Communicator" is what they called him. But we're far and away from Reaganomics.

I got out my Social Security statement a while ago and was looking at the amount of income that was recorded for each of the last 11 years I've been working full time. The most interesting part? 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 were the years I've made the most money. Who was President? William Jefferson Clinton.

While I've always been a subscriber to the thought "the president doesn't have much to do with the economy" or "any changes a president makes aren't seen in his term," the tax returns show I made the most money during his second term in office. I've seen a steady increase in my taxes in the 2000s (one year, we jointly paid over $45,000 in taxes) and not a whole lot of benefit.

Historians say that political parties start out on the extremes, work their way towards the middle, and then after about 50 years of moving toward the middle, flip sides. I think that might explain part of where we are.

Traditional Democratic stronghold issues of global warming, green technology, and the like seem to find an audience on both sides, which I'm very happy to see. I don't understand why being a Republican meant that you had to be big-business and anti-environment. I heard a minister a while ago on the radio make a comment about this to the effect of, "God created the world and us; as Christians, we're entrusted with taking care of it--it shouldn't be the domain of tree huggers." I totally agree.

So last night, my wife and I sat down with the candidates and asked the tough questions. Well, I actually printed out a matrix of 75 questions from and the candidates' positions on them. I put a check mark under each column where we agreed. At the end, I tallied them up.

Out of 75 questions, both candidates had clear answers for 52, or about 70% of them. Offshore drilling. Abortion, gun control, stem cell research. Medicinal marijuana. Global warming. Russia, China, Korea, and Sudan. Israel. Fuel economy standards, fiscal policy, constitutional law. Iraq, Iran. Corporate taxes, illegal immigrants. On and on.

I learned something about myself. I don't think like my parents did. While both candidates play to the middle, I found that I had 40 check marks in the Obama column, and 35 in the John McCain column.

I was shocked.

We discussed Michigan Proposals 1 and 2. Proposal one was to allow the use and cultivation of medicinal marijuana. My wife was instantly against it, because we're supposed to be anti-drug, right?

But what makes marijuana any less of a drug than Vicodin? The fact that Vicodin comes from your pharmacist in a bottle? I started talking out loud about the last few months of my father's life--he had some very odd blood disorder that caused clots in his muscles. Every time he stood up, the clots would move around and cut off blood flow or pinch other things, causing the physically and emotionally strongest person I knew to break down and cry because of the pain. While my dad was staunchly anti-drug, he was popping 30-40 Vicodin a day to deal with the pain. Can that be any better for you than marijuana?

Checkmark in the Yes column for Proposal 1.

Proposal 2 was about embryonic stem cell research. They look like they may have the best prospects for discovering cures for things like leukemia, parkinson's, and hodgkin's. Proposal 2 was to allow the use of embryos that were leftover from fertility treatments that were going to be thrown away. Of course, Christian advocates call it abortion; is it any more abortion than if the embryos get taken off ice and thrown in the trash can? If Christians were *really* concerned with what happened to embryos left over from fertility treatments, they wouldn't go through procedures like IVF so there wouldn't be the potential to create life that might not get a chance. How does IVF jive with the "God chooses" mentality? "God chooses" as long as you keep trying through every medical means available? Hmm. If we're going to destroy life either way, we might as well reap some potential benefit.

Put a check mark in the Yes column for Proposal 2.

So, at the end of it all, I learned that while I'm for generally lower taxes, I also want to help ensure that my aging mother working a minimum wage job has the opportunity for lower health care costs. I don't want us destroy our planet before my kids grow up by dumping chemicals in rivers or letting factories billow mercury into the air. I don't want to go bombing countries we don't agree with; I think that careful diplomacy should be exercised before a gun ever comes out of a holster. I don't think the United States' sole purpose is to "spread democracy." Some people don't want it. Deal accordingly.

I don't want the fox guarding the hen house in the financial sector. Banks should be responsible with their customers' money, You shouldn't be able to trade stocks you don't have (naked short selling), and you should verify that the people you lend money to have more than a snowballs' chance in hell of paying it back (sub-prime mortgage mess). The ability to leverage $1bn 100:1 only ends up in sadness for someone--to date, the taxpayer has been singing the blues.

I want accountability from my stockbroker. How did we end up paying for AIG and Lehman Brothers' executives to get lucrative pay packages while the entire global economy slipped into recession?

I want to reward business for doing the right thing. I don't want to bail them out for making bad choices.

I'm a little less country, a little more rock and roll. And maybe a little bit more Democrat.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Whisky or Whiskey?

This evening, while I was settling down to write a document on our handoff of a WSUS 3.0 environment to the proud, new parents, I decided that I needed a little something to get past any possible writer's block. So, out came the Maker's Mark Bourbon Whisky and shaker.

If you're really interested in the Whiskey versus Whisky debate, I suggest further reading somewhere else. Perhaps the community-controlled source of half-truth known as Wikipedia?

As far as I understand it, the Scots supposedly have claim to "Whisky," and all other distilleries supposedly use "Whiskey." Perhaps it's the "copy" versus "Xerox" debate--with much fame, your brand name is bound to get diluted. Maker's Mark claims to have Scottish heritage in their Bourbon, hence the "whisky" spelling.

But I digress.

A typical whiskey sour is a pretty simple concoction of whiskey or bourbon, fresh squeezed lemon, and sugar, such as this:

Classic Whiskey Sour
2 oz bourbon or whiskey
2/3 oz fresh squeezed lemon
1 tsp fine granulated sugar

However, I am a perpetual tinkerer. While I enjoy the purist's point of view, I also enjoy seeing if there's a way to make a good thing even better. While the main flavors are intact, I have made some modifications as to the source of the flavors.

Now, before you laugh me off the internet, I know what you're going to say about Southern Comfort. Just trust me on this one.

Fancy Whiskey Sour
1 1/2 oz bourbon or whiskey (I like Maker's Mark)
1/2 oz Southern Comfort 100
1/2 oz Caravella Limoncello
1 fresh-squeezed Mexican lime
1/2 tsp fine granulated sugar
1 splash of water

Shake vigorously with ice, and then strain into an old-fashioned or rocks glass with ice.

The Southern Comfort is a bourbon liqueur, so it pulls double duty as a bourbon and sugar, which results in the smaller portion of sugar required. I've found this recipe garners excellent reviews from everyone who has tasted it. However, your palate and friends palates may differ.

Southern Comfort 100 is a 100-proof liqueur, so it's a little more potent than the 80-proof whiskey traditionally used. If it tastes a bit harsh, you can try the standard Southern Comfort (70 proof) instead or another splash of water. You can tinker as well with the ratio of Southern Comfort, whiskey/bourbon, and sugar.

And, if you're really into a more sweet and sour drink, you can try this:

New Orleans Sour, otherwise known as "Soco and Lime"
2 oz Southern Comfort
1 fresh-squeezed Mexican Lime
splash of water

While I do appreciate the classic recipes and know them by heart, I also appreciate a new take on an old favorite. Let me know if you like it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

y2k, where art thou?

Almost 10 years ago, I was a consultant for a health care consulting company. This particular company was prettymuch feeding off the paranoia. I mean, what hospital would want machines double-injecting patients with morphine at midnight? Or not at all? What bank would want ATMs to stop working--or better yet, chucking out yuppie coupons like a drunk 50cent at da club? No one. No one in deed.

So many people at the church we were going to thought the world was going to end. That's the thing about Christians. Not only are we single-issue voters, but we're also looking for the doomsday in everything. y2k was the best thing to happen to churchgoers in ages--spread a bunch of fear that the end of the world was upon us.

As a computer guy, I knew it wasn't the case from the technological perspective. I mean, it wasn't going to be "Rise of the Machines" any more than it was going to be the end of electricity, but a lot of my friends got roped into it. But then again, how could you be exactly sure?

I digress. I'm kinda sad that I didn't party like it was 1999. I hadn't yet discovered the joy of the margarita, or the simple pleasure of a quality scotch.

But now I have.

A lot of people think this election cycle is going to be the next end of the world. I'm not exactly sure. Maybe soon I'll have a post on it. Hopefully soon, because it's in like 4 days or something.

I think I'm voting for Obama. While John McCain does have the oldness, I'm not exactly thrilled with the tone of his campaign. W campaigned on the "Compassionate Conservatism" theme; McCain is more of a "kill 'em all and let God sort them out--and oh, yeah, I'm pro-life" kind of guy.

Again with Christians and the single-issue voting. Yes, I know that a candidate's stance on this issue supposedly will color his decisions on everything; but seriously, what side of the fence does being Pro-Life put you on when it comes to welfare reform? Medicare/medicaid? 401K and IRA contribution limits? Tax abatements for businesses? Gun control? Illegal aliens and undocumented immigrants? Seriously.

According to Consumer Reports, I'll benefit more under Obama's tax plan, but McCain's health care plan works out better for me. Thanks for making it clear as mud. I'm sort of a pocketbook voter, like a lot of people. I look in there and see how full it is compared to this time 4 and 8 years ago. We're doing OK personally, but I see a lot of folks going jobless and the unemployment rate in Michigan is reaching 10%. Wow.

Anyway, it's time to flip off the puter and go watch The Office. I'm feeling old, tired, and maybe like I need another beer.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Too Early

Got paged this morning. Someone ran out of disk space. They're manipulating a 30GB database file; how can you run out of space on a VM with 300GB of space? Infuriating to say the least. I'm called out of bed for THIS?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My New Hobby

So, this past weekend, my father-in-law, a friend, and I went to my mom's house to get her appliances out so I could sell them for her. And a note about friends--you really know who your true friends are when they volunteer to move your mom's stuff.

Anyway, back to craigslist. I posted a fridge, dishwasher, range, and microwave around 11:30 or so, and by 1am I had offers coming out my ears. I talked to a few folks who wanted all items, and tonight at 9:00pm, I was watching these appliances get loaded into a trailer.


I just wish I had more cool stuff to sell.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Seriously, Guys

According to the "World's Smallest Political Quiz," I'm a Libertarian. I like to think of myself as a center-leaning Republican. My personal views are more socially moderate-to-liberal, with a more conservative stance on economic and fiscal issues. Which, I guess, is why I end up as Libertarian according to WSPQ.

I think government should stay out of my personal life and not waste my money. Whatever that makes me, that's it.

I've voted in three elections so far, and I've always voted Republican, because I was pretty sure that that party mostly reflected my personal ideology. So for those of you doing the math, I voted for Dole, W, and W. I used to think that I really believed a lot of those things, but now I'm not exactly sure.

I mean, Republicans have always been "shrink the government, tax cut" kind of people, right? Totally opposite of those "tax and spend" liberals, right? Christian conservatives, aka, "the moral majority" align themselves with the Republican party because of the litmus test issue of abortion?

At first I thought Palin was a good political strategy move for McCain. Fresh? Check. Young? Check. Kinda hot? Check. Washington outsider? Hold on.

So I stumbled across this article, "Palin demands $15m to search her own emails," on a tech blog, The article describes the political runaround that Palin is giving people who want to search her supposedly public emails. Alaska, like many states, stipulates that emails be public records. So, while Palin isn't saying that journalists and the like *can't* get her email, her accountants have said that it will cost approximately $960 per state employee to turn all email over. The real kicker? Nothing will be available until November 17--two weeks after the election.

Maverick, indeed.

Spooky Days

So ... Our kids are in a "spooky" phase. All of the programs they watch are starting to have some Halloween themes, and they want everything "spooky." Right now, Hudson is stomping around the house like Frankenstein, growling at Glory.

Last night, when Karen and I were at dinner, I decided that I needed to go find a big ol' roll of cobwebs and drape it throughout the house for the kids. Anyone know where I can get some?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beer Tasting Thursday is here again

It's that time of the week. The time when, after the kids are asleep (usually around 9:00pm, no matter how early I start), I mosey on over to Allen's to try this week's beer. We take turns buying different brews, pour them into pilsner glasses, and toast another week almost being done.

A few hours after my day had bottomed out, I received this text:

> Got 5 different beers 2 try 2 night

Makes me smile, indeed.

On top of that, we're having a new couple over for dinner. I hear he's had another case of the Mondays. BTT might just need to start sooner.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Ultimate Margarita

Few things are better than a good margarita. Even fewer things are better than a great margarita. The foundation for any good margarita is in the flavor of a tequila. People constantly argue blanco versus añejo versus reposado). For my particular taste, I've found that I like blanco (silver) or reposado (rested) the best. Your mileage may vary.

However, much care needs to be taken as well to select the appropriate orange liquer. Using French orange liquers (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau) is seen by some purists as diminishing the "authenticity" of the margarita (and even more forums will debate the true origin of the drink itself). I like the complexity of the Grand Marnier intermingled with the sweetness of the Cointreau. I think any margarita can benefit from a careful mixing of the orange liquers.

Traditional margarita recipes vary, but are usually a 3:2:1 or 3:1:1 of tequila, lime, and orange flavors. For most people, this results in a very strong margarita, which is why so many people get them frozen (yet another line of debate opens as to the "authenticity" of serving this drink frozen).

This recipe doesn't keep the traditional ratios intact. Instead, I use 4:3:2:1 for tequila, orange liquer, lime juice, and lemon liquer, and cut it with 3 parts of water and 2 parts sugar. If Mexican limes are used, you can lighten up on the sugar, since Mexican limes are sweeter than other limes.

Without further ado...

Aaron's Ultimate Margarita
16 oz ice cubes
8 oz silver tequila (100 Años Silver is what I use)
2 oz Grand Marnier orange liqueur
4 oz Cointreau orange liqueur
8 oz simple syrup (I make mine as 1:1 water/sugar)
2 oz water
2 oz Caravella Limoncello
4 oz fresh sqeezed lime juice (preferably from Mexican limes)
Pinch of salt

Combine in a pitcher. Garnish drinks with a lime wedge. This makes about half a pitcher, which is great for company.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Port 25 is for Sissies!

Interesting problem today. Bunch of users couldn't send mail to what seemed to be random domains. A little basic investigating showed that they were all hosted on a particular Network Solutions mail server. Seems as though NetSol had a series DoS attacks against them back in August and had blocked entire IP ranges. I could get to the NetSol server from some locations, but not others.

My first call to Network Solutions was fruitless. I spent a great deal of time explaining to the poor tech on the other end that I was not a NetSol customer but someone trying to email a NetSol customer. After great lengths, I was told to configure my Outlook client to use ports 110 and 2525 for communicating. Umm. No.

The second call was much better. I landed at a tech who understood what it meant when I said I could't telnet to this particular mailserver from my netblock. Ticket opened, but I'm sure it will be promptly dropped in the bit bucket.