www.neil.blog memo to myself. do the dumb things i gotta do. touch the puppet head.

May 27, 2020

Chocolate banana cake with banana cream cheese frosting

Filed under: Uncategorized — npd @ 5:26 pm

Having an abundance of milk, eggs and bananas this weekend, I decided to bake a cake and make some ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever baked a cake before (other than angel food cake, but there’s not much to that). I looked up a couple recipes and tried to tweak them them to my tastes, which is towards things that aren’t too sweet, no hard frosting, and a dense cake rather than light and fluffy.

For the cake I used this recipe from Joy of Baking (coffee instead of water) and skipped the ganache. I only used 1 cup of sugar. I baked for 40 minutes at 350f as directed but the inside was still not baked, so I did another 10 minutes at 400 and it set perfectly.

For the frosting I referred to this recipe from Taste of Home with the following changes:

  • 3 cups of sugar instead of 4
  • I didn’t have confectioners’ sugar, so I put 3 cups of granulated sugar and 3 teaspoons of corn starch in the food processor for a minute. Best I could do.
  • 1 cup of mashed banana (about 1.5 large ripe bananas)
  • Put it all in the blender until smooth
  • Once the cake was cool, pour on top and let it drip down the sides

The result was a not-too-sweet, moist dense cake with strong but not overpowering banana flavor.

November 6, 2019

Photo galleries

Filed under: Uncategorized — npd @ 9:18 pm

Working on uploading a backlog of photos. I’d been holding off until I got a proper negative scanner, but once I’d set it up it I realized I don’t have time to deal with the hassle. So I’m throwing 6 prints at a time on the glass, rotating and cropping and uploading them as quickly as possible.


I used to have the patience to do this for hours, spending as much time as possible in Photoshop doing touch-ups, cleaning dust, getting the light just right on faces, trying to treat the scanner and computer as a digital darkroom. Now I don’t have time for that. Maybe it’s Instagram making everything disposable; maybe it’s being jaded at my favorite photo gallery sites disappearing. Or maybe it’s just that I’m too busy. Whatever it is, I’m making an effort to share what I have, and do it in a way that doesn’t tie me further into the Facebook ecosystem (or Flickr, Picasa, Google Photos, LJPics, or some other service that will harvest my data and then shut down eventually.

So I’m experimenting with a self-hosted photo gallery from Lychee, which is here. So far so good. Missing editing features but it’s working to share a gallery of photos from a camping trip this summer, and many more to come. At the very least I’ve got control of my data.

August 21, 2019

Pond 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — npd @ 9:30 pm

March 8, 2019

before the snow

Filed under: Uncategorized — npd @ 9:17 am

Jan 5, 2019.

Meg shot this photo of Kit and I at the highest point at the back of the farm. In a few months this will be covered in waist-high hay ready for cutting and baling, put up for storage for the next winter. For now it’s covered in snow and too cold to trek up there, but soon.

February 6, 2019

If you’re not paying, you’re the product, unless you’re not productizable

Filed under: Uncategorized — npd @ 8:07 am

There have been a few notable fates of the web 2.0 social networks:

  • failed to monetize us and died (myspace)
  • acquired by companies that didn’t know how to run them or understand them, and died (livejournal, delicious, flickr)
  • figured out that the most efficient way to monetize users was with relentless tracking, monitoring, and profiling (facebook)

There are other, dumber, outcomes for some of the sites that promised to help us share, connect, and make sense of the cybersprawl of the “old web.” The shims that sat in between original content authors and the social networking we craved in the last decade, notably Google Reader, died a merciless death when it was spun it down in their push for Google+ adoption, arguably killing RSS with it (incidentally the same drive that killed their chat products after crushing all their competitors). What can we do but resent our overlords and go along with their misdeeds and mismanagement wherever they may bring us, at least until they decide they are done with us and our free content submissions.

As Flickr’s new owners start the process of deleting photos from accounts with too many uploads this week; as Zuck announces the melding of iInstagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook is in progress; as the platform where I blogged for the better part of a decade slides further into decay on its new Russian servers (evidently a move made partly to silence political dissidents); it becomes increasingly clear that we need to start owning our content again, and controlling our own outcomes on the net again. This means hosting our own photo galleries, blogs, fansites.

Using Greg Stoll’s LJ to WordPress backup and conversion scripts I was able to dump about 650 posts and 6,000 comments into my own database, most of which remain protected for my own sanity, and yours. I’m experimenting with photo galleries in Lychee and have a small demo set up, and hope to find a way to populate it with my exported Flickr data.

I’m putting a marker in the ground now to mark my prediction that these cycles will go around again and allow Slack, which is working on killing IRC, to die; Github, Reddit, all will pivot or turn down in favor or something more profitable or more creepy.

December 12, 2018

Cisco Catalyst not passing traffic after upgrade

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — npd @ 8:37 am

I typically go onsite for switch software updates. They’re just about the only thing that I don’t have a good failback mechanism for in most of the networking stacks that I support. If a host server update fails, I can reset it through iLO or iDRAC. If a firewall update fails, I mostly have High Availability configurations so a single failure won’t ruin my night. However, I always am present for Cisco Catalyst updates. The failure scenarios are too many, and my recovery options too few. 

This past Friday I was doing a simple update, from 15.1 to 15.2.4(E6) on a pair of non-stacked Catalyst 2960X’s. I’d done two previous updates on this environment without issue, and after my onsite maintenance windows had been delayed a few times, I had to just schedule it to be done remotely. What could go wrong?

I backed up all my configurations and downloaded the latest Cisco-recommended software on my switch, set it to /overwrite and /reload. I watched the upgrade status proceeding normally, remembering that there is often a long period where the switch is unresponsive due to console display errors during upgrades. Then I saw it start to reboot. And I waited.

After 20 minutes my remote session didn’t come back up. I connected to the VPN and found that I could ping and ssh to the switch, but couldn’t ping any connected network devices. Logging in to the switch and running terminal monitor I started looking for what the problem could be. show ver shows me that the upgrade was successful. I can ping other switches and servers from inside this switch. So what’s wrong?

After a few minutes, the following message comes up in the terminal:

%ILET-1-DEVICE_AUTHENTICATION_FAIL: The FlexStack Module inserted in 
this switch may not have been manufactured by Cisco or with Cisco's
authorization. If your use of this product is the cause of a support
issue, Cisco may deny operation of the product, support under your
warranty or under a Cisco technical support program such as
Smartnet. Please contact Cisco's Technical Assistance Center for
more information.

But I’m not using any FlexStack modules, and all my hardware is legitimate. What’s going on? I search this message in Cisco support forums and find the link to Bug ID CSCur56395. Which states:

If this issue is seen AFTER UPGRADE, then hard power-cycle is required


You can try a reload but this won’t work. You can try a downgrade back to the previous version, but I don’t know if this will work (let me know if it does). Seemed too risky to me, and I’ve never done it, hope to try it in the lab if I can recreate the issue. In my case I had to call a coworker who lives nearby to go onsite and power the switch down. 

Sorry if you read this far hoping for a quick solution to this problem. Time to call your datacenter smart hands, or lace up your boots and head onsite yourself. If you are lucky, you are onsite already, laptop balanced on top of the KVM, reading this post, in which case you are very lucky! Just unplug the switch for 5 minutes, do some stretches, plug it back in, and all will be well again.

Postmortem notes for next time:

  • My hosts should be balanced between switches. Fix that next time I’m onsite. This outage wouldn’t have required repair at 11pm on a Friday if the host had just failed over to the other switch.
  • UPS should have had a network card in it. Not sure I would have done it in this scenario, but in some cases it would be helpful to be able to reset one of the power banks in the UPS using telnet from inside the failed switch. In this case there was no management card in the switch, and I would rather not risk a dirty shutdown of Exchange. But had I been prepared for this, I could arrange servers and switches accordingly into each of the APC’s power banks to minimize unsafe shutdowns while still allowing remote reboots.

November 29, 2018

Gang Gang Dance – Kazuashita

Filed under: Uncategorized — npd @ 9:19 pm

Gang Gang Dance are back after a long break following the release of Eye Contact, one of my favorite albums of 2011 and still in regular rotation for me. I haven’t been able to see them live since that year at a live show that blew me away. Their new record Kazuashita picks up where you’d hope they’d be after 7 years: shows growth, but dials the intensity back and feels to me a little more introspective and serious. From the first few mourning lines on album opener J-TREE (“I’m not ready / I’m not ready to go”) set to familiar pulsing rhythms, the vocal samples and chanting evolved to clips of protestors at the Dakota Pipeline, moving the listener from soaring Dakota plains and beyond into outer space.. man.

September 6, 2018

Two Signholders, NYC, Summer 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — npd @ 8:18 pm

Maybe the Ayn Rand Walking Tour is a Looney Tunes-style trick, into the side of a wall painted to look like a tunnel, or over the edge of a cliff.

February 28, 2017

Cisco Catalyst switch software upgrade hangs at Extracting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — npd @ 11:03 am

While upgrading the software from 12 to 15 last week on a Catalyst 2960-X over TFTP, I noticed that the upgrade hung at “Extracting” for a very long time. I had just finished a similar update on a 2960S that was a few years older and did not notice a similar delay. 5 minutes passed and I started to get nervous. 10 minutes later I started Googling to see if this is normal. I didn’t find anything and wondered if something had gone wrong.

Of course, the prior action on the screen was this:

Old image for switch 2: flash:/c2960x-universalk9-mz.120-2.EX5
  Old image will be deleted before download.

Deleting `flash:/c2960x-universalk9-mz.120-2.EX5' to create required space
Extracting images from archive into flash...

So I was very nervous that any attempt to kick this thing back into action would leave me with no image on the switch. It’s 9pm on Friday night and I’d like to go home! After about 15 minutes of waiting, the rest of the process finally kicked back into action and showed this message on screen. Would have been helpful if it had come up when it was actually relevant!

Warning: Unable to allocate memory to display the tar extraction of files, however upgrade process is still continuing. If you would like to see the tar extraction output, try upgrading one switch at a time.
Installing (renaming): `flash:update/c2960x-universalk9-mz.152-2.E6' ->
New software image installed in flash:/c2960x-universalk9-mz.152-2.E6

In conclusion: don’t sweat it! It is normal for the Catalyst upgrade process to hang at Extracting.

June 23, 2014

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Filed under: Uncategorized — lj @ 8:14 am

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