2010 Journey East: Here I am, I guess

Well, I'm sitting here in our house in Woods Hole, sipping a beer, reading an interesting physics paper about the holographic principle, and I thought that it might be good to take a few moments to update you all on the past few days.

Having left Matt's place in Atlanta on Friday morning, I journeyed up through the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and into Connecticut on Friday. Baldr and I slept at a rest area in the back of my car in Connecticut and then went on to my parents' place in Concord, MA on Saturday. Saturday evening, after dinner, I finished the journey down to Woods Hole, MA so as to avoid any morning traffic on Sunday (the 4th).

In the process, I managed to finish Cloud Atlas and I am pleased to report that it was, in fact, quite good.

Anyway, leaving Atlanta, and driving through Georgia for a while, I ended up in South Carolina. Driving through South Carolina on an interstate, one sees quite a few signs advertising the sale of fireworks. Initially, my reaction was mostly a ho-hum, fireworks are kind of fun but do I really care enough to stop and buy some. Thankfully, after passing a dozen or so advertisements on the road, I came to my senses and realized that, of course, I want fireworks, big awesome fireworks. Coming to my senses, and stopping at the next place I could find, I proceeded to buy a bit over a hundred dollars worth of fireworks--primarily mortars and bottle rockets as those are my preference. We went through about half of the fireworks yesterday while we watched the Falmouth fireworks from Fay Beach. A number of youths (youngsters, teenagers, hooligans, whatever you want to call them) clustered around us and we were nice enough to share my fireworks with them. It was rather pleasant to share fireworks with a younger generation and I certainly know that I would have appreciated it had someone done so with my when I was that age; I couldn't help but also feel good about possibly instilling some tiny amount of respect for the proper operation of things that have labels like, "Warning: Shoots Flaming Balls". Subsequently, Dave, Paul, and I played a rousing game of Power Grid, which is an excellent board game.

That's most of what I have to report of the past few days; it's nice to be here after so long away. I should be here for about the next three weeks so it'll be interesting to see how things play out.

2010 Journey East: Days 4&5: Atlanta via Louisiana

It's Thursday night--technically Friday--and I'm sitting in JamesMatt's living room, chatting with his roommate. It's pleasant here but perhaps I should back up.

Wednesday (Day 4), around noon, I packed up and left Austin. It was a little later than I had intended but being well rested was a pleasant outcome to achieve. Anyway, setting off from Austin, I set my GPS for Venice, LA and set out. To be wholly honest, driving through Texas really isn't all that interesting, especially eastern Texas. I don't really have any complaints though; I'm really enjoying the road, especially the decent speed limits down here in the South (usually 70mph, sometimes 80mph). I've started listening, at Grace's suggestion, to an audiobook version of the novel Cloud Atlas. Cloud Atlas is incredibly engrossing and, because of the narrative structure, at times rather infuriating; this infuriation later enhancing the satisfaction it provides but I am not yet done so it is perhaps best to wait a bit before further reviewing.

After eventually leaving Texas, I entered Louisiana, which is so very full of swampland as to be quite impressive. I first drove across properly immense swamplands during my 2005 trip to Florida and those swamps had nothing on Louisiana. The amount of water is both beautiful and staggering. Anyway, working my way across Louisiana, I eventually hit New Orleans. I drove through New Orleans and made my way for the tip of the Mississippi delta, the afore-programmed Venice, LA. I made it pretty far out that little strip of land before flooding halted my progress; so it goes.

It's worth mentioning that I'm not really so much making a slow trip across the country to see the sights; that is a thing to do and it might be fun but it is not what I am doing; I am driving from San Francisco to Woods Hole and dilly-dallying just a little bit along the way. As such, I didn't spend much time in New Orleans as Atlanta was my next destination.

Proceeding through Mississippi, getting a bit tired, I started contemplating sleep. Eventually, I attempted to settle down at a rest area in the back of my car, with Baldr, for some sleep. Unfortunately, the rest area's light and Baldr's heat-induced heavy breathing made that a non-viable plan.

Slamming a 5 Hour Power and getting back on the road, I forged on. Finishing off Mississippi and pushing through Alabama, I made it to Georgia in the wee hours of last night--Thursday (Day 5) morning. Pushing on, continuing to listen to Cloud Atlas, I hit Atlanta at about 7am; finding JamesMatt awake, we got some breakfast, chatted a bit, and then he went to work. Not having slept, I of course slept during the day. Matt returned in the early evening; we and his roommates spent a while hanging-out; and now, everyone else having gone to bed, I write this before following.

Tomorrow, we make for Massachusetts, likely pausing (very briefly) in New York along the way.

2010 Journey East: Day 3: Austin

Although exceedingly warm by my standards, Austin is not an unpleasant place. The primary events of the 3rd day of my journey were lunch with Gautham and Ariel; the acquisition of nearly sufficient wardrobe items as will serve most of my needs for the summer; a rather substantial nap; and dinner with Riad, Gautham, Cyrus, and Riad's lady-friend.

Baldr has been having a good time hanging out with Nico and Shockley, as well as, generally, not being in the car. Baldr mostly sits, stands, lies down, or naps in the car, which, practically speaking, is not altogether dissimilar from what he does during the vast majority of other times.

Also, I finished Moby Dick and it was awesome. Moby Dick is, truly, a leviathan of literature in every possible sense.

Austin is serving as a nice part-way spot to rest and, if it were the weekend, it might be pleasant to stay a little longer. In order to cover distance, rather than wait while people work, Day 4 will, hopefully, see the Louisiana shore and the city of New Orleans.

2010 Journey East: Day 2: In brief summary

It's 3AM Central Time and I arrived at Riad's place in Austin, TX somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes ago.

It being 3AM, I shall keep this brief and, perhaps, go into greater detail tomorrow.

There were a few notable things that occurred during the day:

There was a US Border Patrol inspection point on I-10E an hour or so East of El Paso, TX whereat I was first asked if I was a US citizen, then asked where I was from, where I was going, and what the purpose of my trip was. My car was visually inspected from the outside and sniffed by a dog. I was asked Baldr's age and I was sent on my way. The line of cars waiting to be inspected, the time spent per car, and the interruption to my cruising speed probably cost me a half hour or so. I'm not sure whether this is an indication that the terrorists or the anti-immigration crack-pots have won.

Somewhere in the midst of Texas, among the scrubland and the mesas, in the mid-afternoon, I hit boredom for the first time; it was an odd, unpleasant feeling that I haven't felt in a very long time but its exploration and coming through the other side are chief elements of this vacation. After hitting that point, I drove in my boredom with the music and audiobooks off for a time before the boredom passed and Moby Dick resumed. Speaking of Moby Dick; I am on the 18th or 18 discs, nearing the final chapters and absolutely riveted.

Sometime shortly after my boredom passed I encountered a rain of insects. Droplets, or what seemed to be droplets, began hitting my windshield at the rate of a mild shower but, some moments later, when I decided to use my wipers to remove the droplets, they merely smeared across the windshield. This horrid rain persisted for a good fifteen to thirty minutes, eventually leaving my windshield with substantially diminished clarity, in spite of many applications of windshield wipers with fluid.

Due to my own laziness and my cars extreme economy, those insects remained on my windshield through nightfall, on into the night, and only finally were extricated by an actual rainfall about a hundred miles out from Austin. I say a hundred miles out because that is where the rain began; it was not, however, very localized. For the last hundred miles of the drive, the weather vacillated wildly between mild mist and rains so torrential that I haven't seen their likes since last I saw the outer fringes of hurricanes in New England. I have heard that there is a tropical storm off the coast now and this truly felt like its outer edges.

There were plenty of other sights and events during the day but, as I said before, the time is late and I must sleep.

2010 Journey East: Day 1 addendum: Nope

That I am in the Buckeye Motor Hotel in Buckeye, AZ should answer the question of whether or not I succeeded in sleeping in the 90°F weather present at that rest area.

Overall, $55 ($45+$10/pet) isn't a bad price to pay for a room with air conditioning. Given my current needs, I probably would have paid $55 for a 6.5'x6.5' closet with air conditioning; I'd be griping about it in this post but I probably would have done it. I guess, alternatively, I could have left the engine idling and the air conditioning on in my car; the fuel probably would have lasted the night and on to the nearest gas station but the maintenance costs down the line would not have been worth it.

I've been taking I-10E since LA, which passes straight through Phoenix. Since I'll be driving in the morning, I have no desire to hit traffic, and Buckeye's half-way between I-10 and I-8, I think that I'll divert myself around Phoenix on I-8E so as to meet back up with I-10 south of Phoenix.

Ok, the air conditioning seems to have cooled the room sufficiently that I can get some sleep.

With luck, my next post will be from Riad's place in Austin.

2010 Journey East: Day 1: I suck at remembering stuff

Right now, I sit in my car, typing to you on my work laptop over my phone's Internet, in a rest area where I plan to sleep, approximately 50 miles east of Phoenix, AZ, having driven 703 miles in just shy of 10.5 hours, having used less than two tanks of fuel.

So far, barring two issues, it's been an altogether pleasant trip. Due to tardiness in packing and cleaning, I set out around noon-thirty, which was about three hours later than I had intended but there isn't really any time criticality to my journey, so it's not a big deal. A couple hours into the journey, when I set about getting breakfast, lunch, my first meal of the day, or whatever you want to call it, that I had forgotten to bring Baldr's leash and pinch collar; as a result, Baldr's short walks during the trip have been either off-leash or using a bungee-cord as an improvised leash; I will have to buy a new leash and pinch collar sometime tomorrow; so it goes. We encountered hints of traffic near LA but nothing too bothersome and, otherwise, have had smooth and fast paced travel.

I have been listening to Moby Dick on audiobook and am currently on disc 8 of 18. I must, truly and honestly, say that this work of prose is an amazing thing. Moby Dick is, at times, for that matter, most times, rather slow paced, such that I expect I wouldn't be able to manage this degree of devotion were I not a captive audience with a great deal of monotony on my side. However, seeing as I am a captive audience, I have been greatly enjoying the work for its variety, depth, descriptiveness, philosophy, and sheer gravitas. At this rate, I should have finished this monstrous epic well before I make Austin.

Sometime, approximately two hours ago, I was thinking about whether or not I would change my clothes while on the road when it occurred to me that I had no recollection of loading my suitcase into my car. On further inspection, I can, in fact, confirm that I also forgot to put my suitcase in my car. Man, do I feel like an idiot. Thankfully, my suitcase contains only clothes and toiletries, which are relatively easily replaceable for the purposes of such a journey; though it is supremely bothersome to have to do so unintentionally. My laptop, chargers, and everything else are thankfully in my messenger bag, which leaves me still able to perform the various tasks that I intend to perform and, to be entirely honest, I was thinking, just yesterday, that it was about time for me to buy some new clothes; call it unfortunate providence, I guess.

I wonder what else I will come to discover that I have forgotten.

Anyway, now it's time to see if I can get any sleep in this abominable 90°F Arizona night; hopefully it won't distress Baldr too much either.

Asceticism post-mortem

My month of asceticism having passed, and having had some time to relapse as the mood strikes me, I am able to draw some conclusions from the experience.

Caffeine - My relationship with caffeine has changed quite substantially as a result of my ascetic endeavor. I suffered pretty bad migraines for a day or so within a few days of giving up caffeine. The migraines subsided a couple days later and I was left heavily craving caffeine for about two weeks. By this point, more than a month after giving up caffeine, I still have some desire for caffeine but I feel as though I wouldn't have any trouble continuing indefinitely without caffeine.

That I could continue indefinitely without caffeine doesn't mean I plan to. I have no plans to relapse to my prior levels (2-5 units per day) of caffeine usage but caffeine can be quite useful so neither do I intend to swear off caffeine. My plan is to go without caffeine in general but turn to it at times when I find myself desiring of more wakefulness or other stimulants.

Caffeine only for a purpose, not out of habit.

High fructose corn-syrup - Adding high fructose corn-syrup to my ascetic month was a very good choice on my part. I have decided to entirely give up high fructose corn-syrup and I'm not looking back. Mostly, all of the things that I have to give up to avoid high fructose corn-syrup are not things that I mind giving up. I kind of miss soda a little bit but only just barely.

It takes a little bit of awareness and vigilance but I feel that it's worth the effort to go without high fructose corn-syrup.

Alcohol - Nothing much learned here. I still enjoy the flavor and side-effects of alcoholic beverages. Having had a month without alcohol has left me with a somewhat decreased tolerance, which has its pluses and minuses but that's about all that I've gotten from this month as regards alcohol.

I guess the fact that I drink alcohol because I enjoy it and not out of habit might be a valuable thing to have learned.

Drugs - Giving something up that you weren't going to have been doing isn't really giving something up.

Conclusion: Giving stuff up for a while can give you a new perspective or appreciation for the things that you give up. Sometimes that new perspective is that old habits aren't worth keeping.

Safe offline ext2/ext3/ext4 defragmentation

I have a very large RAID6 array (11TB) with an ext4 partition that, due to particular use cases, has become disgustingly fragmented (~40% non-contiguous according to fsck). Sadly, as much as ext4 is designed to resist fragmentation issues, my partition has been having substantial performance issues.

The ext4 defrag program e4defrag would be an ideal solution to my problems but it is not yet stable enough for production use.

Putting some thought into the matter, I have came up with a technique for defragmenting my partition using only stable tools. My process is very slow and requires substantial periods of downtime but preliminary results are good.

At present, I have 2TB of free space, which means that I can copy files off my fragmented partition and then copy them back to decrease the fragmentation of individual files; alternatively, the application shake can be used to accomplish a similar result. However, the copy/recopy solution will only work if the free space on my partition is not fragmented. Running e2freefrag I found that the free space on my partition is monstrously fragmented.

However, clever use of resize2fs can almost completely defragment the free space of a partition. If you unmount the partition, shrink it to a minimum size and the expand it, the vast majority of the free space will be moved to a contiguous region at the end of the partition.

If the partition is /dev/md1 and is mounted at /mnt/fragmented, your file system can be defragmented with the following set of commands:

$ umount /mnt/fragmented
$ fsck -f /dev/md1
$ resize2fs -M -p /dev/md1
$ resize2fs -p /dev/md1
$ mount /dev/md1 /mnt/fragmented
$ shake -o 0 -S 0 /mnt/fragmented

This will result in some defragmentation of your partition but it is likely that the process will need to be repeated multiple times to achieve a substantial degree of defragmentation.

It's 5:30 and there's monkey bread in the oven

Sometime round abouts 3, I found myself in the living room, bored, and with my laptop. One thing led to another, and there was Google, font of random knowledge. Typing random word combinations into Google, I discovered (much as ol' Christopher Columbus did the new world) that there is a foodstuff by the name of monkey bread.

Being the me that I happen to be, specifically, the me that you likely know to be me, I could not help but attempt to construct this amazingly named baked good. Googling about the Internets, I decided upon a recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks due to a combination of general recipe consensus and a fondness for the tone of the author's writing.

Having chosen a recipe and (mostly) followed it, here I sit, typing while I wait on the oven. The monkey bread, which I cannot imagine being anything less than 4 Billion % (YouTube) awesome, will be done cooking around 6. I'll probably wait around until the monkey bread is ready to remove from its cake mold womb, pop it out, and leave it for my various roommates to discover come tomorrow.

Tasting reports may, perhaps, follow, though given my posting track record, I would not hold out high hopes.