Archive for August, 2006

Well, that sucked.

Posted by Nate in Work.
Friday, August 4th, 2006 at 7:37 pm

I once read that some solar storms are powerful enough to introduce errors into computers’ CPUs, usually small enough to avoid detecting but sometimes causing incredibly weird errors. The article failed to mention them being strong enough to corrupt hard drives and fry electronics, or else I’d have a good explanation for the last three weeks. Excerpts from my Sent Mail folder:

7/13: Hyde’s [that's the name of a server] dropped off the radar tonight – I can ping it, but can’t connect via ssh or to the real server or anything else. [ . . . ]

7/17: So our AC went out Saturday evening (of course) and I spent most of yesterday sweating, reading up on things, and debugging parts of the compressor.

7/18: [Lobby Kiosks] Got a call from VS saying they tried to reboot them and they’re coming up with a grey screen with a question mark folder flashing… That doesn’t sound good.

7/19: [Hyde] Both install CDs I’ve been trying to use had errors. One burned badly and would fail in a different place every time (so I suspected the hard drive), and the second had a corrupt ISO image to begin with.

7/19: [Hyde] Ok, so that wasn’t it. I think now there’s something bad with the motherboard, hopefully just an IDE controller or something I can work around.

7/20: [Hyde] I came in to pick up what I need for an attempt to rebuild the existing server on site at Onvoy, so I’m heading out there. [ see above: I cut a huge chunk of my finger on the stamped metal in the server while swapping drives]

7/21: [Hyde] I finished restoring the streaming media server yesterday and uploaded the archived version of Tuesday’s webcast.

8/1: [Dialog Table] Peter called me this morning after Dialog 2 started acting funny – it shut itself down and seemed to be having power-supply issues . . . I suspect the motherboard and power supply, and am currently trying to locate a replacement that will allow us to reuse as many components as possible.

8/3, 6:05 pm: The hard drive on mnartists has just failed. I was able to log on just long enough to see that it was showing uncorrected read error, now the machine appears offline.

8/4, 3:37 am: [mnartists] … and we’re back. That was probably a lot more difficult than it had to be, but on the other hand I learned a lot and will hopefully have fewer problems next time.

8/4, 2:01 pm: [Dialog Table] … and we’re back. Ended up having to replace the memory as well, it was causing the random hard crashes.

Luckily, I’m about to cook some corn for dinner, relax on the deck, call Karen, and drink a big bottle of Chimay Red. Looks like life evens out… :)

Cool things I saw today

Posted by Karen in Work.
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006 at 10:30 pm

The aftermath of yesterday’s storm. Trees were down everywhere, and huge patches of corn in all of the fields were just flattened.

  Pygmy goats!

The coolest caterpillar I have ever seen. Sorry for the crappy photo, I don’t know how to or if I can take close-ups on my camera. It had a red spike on its butt. And the extra weird thing was that it was eating leafy spurge, which is toxic to most things that eat it. Curious.  Cows passing through our plot as we were working. The first few in line sniffed our flags, then the next ones started to get more and more scared of the flags until they were running and jumping over them. Silly cows.

Adventures in Prairielands

Posted by Karen in Work.
Tuesday, August 1st, 2006 at 9:22 pm

I arrived last night in Sioux City, Iowa, not to be confused with Sioux Falls, SD, which we did, resulting in a 30-40 mile detour. Today was our first day of field work at the first of four sites we will be working in, Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve.

The project we are working on is looking at the effects of a biological control for leafy spurge. Leafy spurge is a non-native invasive species in tall grass prairies, very bad for many reasons. Herbicide used to be the main way of combating leafy spurge, but those chemicals have some pretty serious environmental ramifications. Many places are now using beetles that eat leafy spurge as a control method. This project is trying to find out how effective the beetles have been in reducing the amounts of leafy spurge, and how the rest of the plant community is responding.

In a nutshell, we have to locate the plots, measure out 6 radii from the center point at 60 degree intervals, and then find 3 rectangular quadrats along each one. Then I count all the leafy spurge plants in each quadrat, and Lane, the super smart botanist heading up this project, identifies all of the plants in each quadrat.

I had been told how it was going to be unbelievably hot and dry the entire time, and most likely even worse than usual because the whole region is in a serious drought. So imagine our surprise when we had sporadic rain showers this morning! It did get a little toasty after that, but then the clouds started to return. Lane finished her part of the last plot of the day, and I was trying hard to finish my part when I noticed a pretty big, pretty dark, and pretty weird looking cloud mass approaching. I kept pressing on, but Lane suddenly called to me and said we should probably head for the car. No sooner had she finished her sentence than rain started coming down.

We got everything loaded and got in, debating whether we should wait it out. And then the wind, thunder and lightning started. We decided that being on top of a ridge was probably not the best place to be, so we headed for lower ground. The wind got crazier and crazier, trees were getting whipped around, and we were afraid we were either going to get hit by one or that the van we were in would get blown over. There was no good place for us to be in the van, and all signs were pointing to tornado, so we bailed and ran for the ditch. Rain was pelting down and the wind was whipping from all directions. We crawled sideways through the ditch until we got to a position that was further from both the van and the trees, laid flat and held on to whatever grass and shrubs we could. It. was. crazy. We could just barely hear a siren going off somewhere in the distance. We waited there, shivering hard in the pouring rain, for what seemed like a long freaking time. Finally the lightning seemed to be getting a little further away and the wind died down a little, so we crawled out of the ditch and were sooo happy to see the van still there!

We got back to our hotel and tried to turn the heat on, but it smelled like burning and set the fire alarm off. Luckily, hot showers and pizza did the trick. Now we just finished watching "Storm Stories" on the Weather Channel, and we suddenly feel like maybe our little adventure wasn’t so bad. Still, as far as first days go it was kind of a doozy!