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Tech in the Trenches Posts

Backups will save you

It’s true what they say. Backups are important!
 
Today was the perfect storm of why backups are important. Last night, I violated my own rule of working on projects after midnight. I thought it would be a good idea to update PHP on the server where my Nextcloud installation lives. The place where I keep and sync my files for work and I setup for my wife so she could stop paying for Dropbox.
 
I wanted to upgrade PHP so I could move to the newer versions of Nextcloud. Then, I decided to upgrade Nextcloud. So I updated PHP and Nextcloud itself. After midnight. A sure recipe for success!
 
Logging back into Nextcloud told me, This directory is unavailable, please check the logs or contact the administrator. Well, I am the administrator so that option’s out. I asked him. He’s clueless. So I went looking at the logs and they were full of errors I didn’t understand. Not enough to craft the search term that might lead to help. After a brief trip through github issues and forum posts, I gave up. I had to roll back the server to the last backup.
 
The latest one was from two nights ago. So I started the restore and went to sleep.
 
The next morning, I checked on Proxmox and after about 5 hours, the data restore completed. I took a deep breath and logged into the server.
 
No errors.
 
Files were all there.
 
Things looked good.
 
Until later that morning when my wife made sounds of distress, which I feared was my doing. Sure enough, there was a directory missing from her files. One she needed for work today. In about 30 minutes.
 
I had forgotten to mention what happened to her in the morning. She was mad. She was right.
 
I took my second deep breath of the day, asked for her laptop and the name of the folder and about where it was in her folders. (There are SO. MANY. FOLDERS.)
 
I opened Time Machine and hope the NAS downstairs had done its job. I’d had such a hard time getting the Mac mini on her desk remaining connected to the NAS to back itself up. I had setup oour laptops to backup on the same day. My laptop had not complained. So I was hopeful I my planning would pay off.
 
I was not. Time Machine did its job. I was able to locate and recover the directory and all its contents from a backup from yesterday evening.
 
Let my near-fatal errors be a lesson to you!
 
(I’m not sure my wife would have spared me and no jury would have convicted her.)
 
Backup your data.
 
For Proxmox, where I’m running Nextcloud and Plex and some other toys, it has an option to back itself up. Turn It On!
 
You know, that laptop you carry around? The one lucky enough to not have a drink spilled into it. The computer that occaional flies off desks and sofas, back it up.
 
On the Mac, it’s as easy and low tech as plugging in an external hard drive. Telling Time Machine to use that drive, and walking away. Plug that drive in as often as you like and let it handle the rest.
 
 
On any platform, you can use a service like Backblaze to send your data to the cloud. But please, whatever you do, learn from my mistakes. Whether it’s a stupid thing you do, or an accident you didn’t cause, you will lose data.
 
A backup wil save you.
 
And before you think you’re safe because you use Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud, I ask you. Do you sync those files? Sync is Not Backup. Replace Nextcloud in my story with any of the alternatives and you get to the same place. On the next sync, those files in the cloud are gone.
 
And for the server savvy who think you’re safe because your data is in a RAID, Raid is not backup!

“good” reads

Books are amazing, but the options we have to buy books and track our reading are terrible. A lot of us are locked into the Amazon ecosystem – buying books on Amazon.com, reading them on Kindles. Sites like AbeBooks and Goodreads were quietly acquired by Amazon. Even LibraryThing is now part-owned by Amazon.

The new reading stack – macwright.com

raises hand I am deep in that life. I have a Kindle, subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and use that alongside the Libby app from my library.

The company started with books because they made business sense, and they acquired Goodreads for the reading data, and are now killing its ecosystem out of boredom or malice. Amazon has never cared about books.

I recently removed everyone but my wife from Goodreads and took the account private. Mostly because I wasn’t using (and never used) any of the social features on the site. I wanted a place to track what I read, when I started, and when I finished.

That’s it.

But it did such a poor job of that I’ve given up on the site.

Despite reading books from Amazon on a Kindle. It couldn’t even get that part right. Sometimes I’d had a start date from when I opened and synced the book and told Goodreads I was reading it. Other times I’d look back at the end of the year and half the books I’d read wouldn’t show up because they had no dates at all on them.

Amazon has all the data on every sync. But instead of using it for me, I’m sure it went into their recommendations for what to read next or how to sell me something else on Amazon.

I’ll keep an eye on the list that Tom lists this post, but I’m not sure any social reading thing will be easier than picking a text file to record what I read and move on with life.

Carlo

Carl: I’ve reported this to Carlo since it seems like the Webex recorder is connected. but… not… recording.

Alison: I think it’s hilarious that the person you report to is your name plus an O like it is your alter ego

Carl: YES! LOL

Alison: like when I have a problem that needs more help I’d just be like oh let me take that up with Alisono and just put on sunglasses and start working on it.

Carl:

Snapshots from solo pandemic life

Anne Helen Petersen‘s collection of stories from those riding out the pandemic solo is equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming. I find myself quoting “a closed door is a happy door” often. As it sums up my general need for solitude and my low-risk pandemic outlook. I refer to going out into the world like walking through a zombie outbreak. Only you don’t know which people are the infected and which are harmless.

There’s honesty in solitude and honesty in the stories shared.

what it means to pandemic, solo

But I love that literally nobody sees what I do with my days. If I want to wear the same sweatpants for a week and not bathe — fine! If I want to sing made up songs about the nephritic vs. nephrotic syndromes in a fake opera singer voice while I study — it’s fine! At one point when I was really isolated I was wearing a lot of costumey thrift store finds, like fake fur vests and rose gold sequin hot pants, usually paired with t shirts or scrubs or something because fuck it, why not, and the pandemic has really let me be my weirdest, most authentic, and sometimes most joyful self.

The intensity of my isolation has made me really re-think what I want out of life, especially as I plan to graduate from med school in a year and a half and have make some life-altering decisions about residency programs. In the beginning of the pandemic, I started doing regular zoom calls with a very close group of friends I’ve had for a long time, and those weekly calls have been the biggest thing getting me through these times: close, reliable friendships are hard to come by in your 30s, and they’re such a lifeline for single people. My goal is to only apply for residency programs in areas where I already have at least one good local friend, even if it means not applying to programs that are otherwise prestigious/interesting/good fits. I just don’t want to take my friendships for granted anymore, and assume that I can move to a new city and some kind of a community will just quickly fall into place?


I have always thought fondly of the times that I had lived alone and remembered them as fun times where I got to be completely in control of my life. I didn’t have to consider anyone else’s feelings about any choices I made in my home. Back in the good old days when I didn’t have to put up my boyfriend’s custom Star Wars art or find a way to artfully display his Funko Pop collection. And I could sit around watching TV all day without someone asking me what I want to do today (This, man! This is what I want to do today!)

I am too scared of COVID to start dating yet, because I am just too paranoid about sharing space with someone new. I am no longer able to work remotely, so I feel like the risk I put myself in just going to work is enough for me right now. The thing I didn’t really expect was how much I miss being touched, and not even in a sexual way. I am not lonely, per se. I don’t need someone around me all the time, but I miss just getting hugs from my sister, my niece, my friends, even my crazy mom. I miss being able to see my friends and hang out with them, and I hate that I can’t go out and try to make new friends yet.

But more and more people are coming to the realization that living alone doesn’t mean that you’re lonely. Living with someone and being unhappy is a much worse kind of loneliness than living alone.


I hug trees–full on squeeze for at least five seconds HUG. The lack of physical contact is devastating, especially as someone who was nicknamed “the velcro baby” growing up due to my love of hugs. There’s also this looming sense that I’m royally screwed if I get seriously sick.

I see this time as an edge case of the soul. I had a sabbatical from work last year where I was able to fully immerse myself in who I was without work and now I feel like I’m having a forced sabbatical from other parts of my soul. Who am I when I’m not productive? How do I love people when I can’t see them?

I have been able to embrace rest and boredom in a way I never have and want to see that integrated into my existence. Prior to this, I was already in the process of creating “little homes” on my nomading adventures in various spots across the country. More than anything, though, I truly hope this collective trauma wakes others up to the importance of community building especially when it’s messy, hard, and inconvenient. Trauma in my life taught me that everything can change in an instant, and my hope is that more people will carry that nugget of truth into our future. The key is letting yourself be changed and in discerning what needs to be done differently going forward: trauma informed vs trauma driven.

I worry the magic and momentum coming out of this period of suffering can be lost in our desperate desire to return to a normalcy that was a delusion anyway. Perhaps this shared trauma point can be used as a connection point, too — and I hope more people join in on doing the hard work, opting for messy humanity over virtual echo chambers.


I did notice some Sunday evenings I would feel sad and at loose ends, I ascribed that to "oh the workweek is beginning" but it might also have been a loneliness thing? I just really miss the casual interactions. Someone who wrote an essay about being introvert in the pandemic noted that for a lot of us, the little interactions — like talking to someone working the counter at the bookstore, or chatting with the barista in the coffeeshop — were far more important to us than we realized, and wow, do I ever feel that right now. I miss talking with a student in the hall, and going to the quilt shop and hanging out and talking with people there. A woman I had only known online through Ravelry started up a Zoom knitting group where we can drop in and talk and knit, and it’s been a lifesaver for me, and something that would probably not have occurred to any of us otherwise.

But I don’t have anyone to bounce thoughts off of so they loom larger and worse in my head.

We are not "all in this together." I have seen references, not blatant but still I picked up on it, that "the nuclear family you are part of is all you need and forget those other people.” While I’ve always felt a bit on the “outside looking in” in my life, it’s gotten worse. I’ve lost more than a few people during this time: people who died, but also some I just had to break contact with because of their attitudes about various things, especially the virus. I’m fearful that after the pandemic is over I won’t be able to cobble a support net back together — that people will close down and not want to admit others.

I also want to feel more free to just go and do things. Less tied to my job, less "you must get ALL your work done before you can have fun.” I didn’t take advantages of opportunities to enjoy life in the past, and after a year locked in my house thinking about the people I loved who died — well, I’ve stared into that abyss enough.


There’s so much that I miss! I miss flirting with bartenders! I miss watching football at my friend’s house. The last time I touched another human was a somewhat ill-advised birthday hug with a friend in late May. Literally, that was it. I haven’t so much as brushed someone else’s hand since then. The complete lack of human contact is …depressing.

But there’s nobody to get on my nerves, nobody to get sick of. I have so many friends who have vented about how stressful quarantine has been on their relationships. My best friend also lives alone, and we have discussed, more than once, how very happy and lucky we feel to be living alone right now. I’ve also been fortunate enough to keep my job and now I’m able to do it from home. I’ve always wanted to work from home, and do not take for granted that I am getting so much quality time with my very old dog in his last stage of life.

When this is all over, I’m definitely never taking a hug for granted again.

December Movie Marathon

I would make a terrible movie critic because I enjoy most movies. I’m very forgiving in my ratings. If it’s a movie my wife hated, I’ll give it 3 stars because it is the movie it promised. Maybe it wasn’t good, but it was exactly what I had expected so I give it credit for that. There’s always more credit awarded for offering something beyond expectation.

I’m on Letterboxd as peroty. Let’s be friends! I’m enjoying the “what your friends are watching” list to see what other people are watching. There’s so many places to watch movies and TV these days. My wife and I joke our favorite thing to watch is “trying to decide what to watch.”

Since the pandemic started, I have time off work so it’s time to light a fire, break out the whiskey and settle into a movie marathon. Over the past two days we’ve watched a pile of movies. I enjoy movies. My motto for 2020 has been “I miss going to the movies.” There is nothing better than getting a treat and escaping the world into the land someone else has created for me.

Snow White and the Huntsman ⭐⭐

Synopsis: After the Evil Queen marries the King, she performs a violent coup in which the King is murdered and his daughter, Snow White, is taken captive. Almost a decade later, a grown Snow White is still in the clutches of the Queen. In order to obtain immortality, The Evil Queen needs the heart of Snow White. After Snow escapes the castle, the Queen sends the Huntsman to find her in the Dark Forest.

This was a beautiful movie. The cinematography was breath-taking and the sets were gorgeous. The acting and story left much to be desired. Before we started it, I looked it up on Letterboxd to see what the overall rating was. It was a 2.5 and this bit of information paid off.

white horse shows up at the perfect time  “Oh. Right. 2.5”

girl screams at troll and stops it from attacking another charaters “2.5”

“I guess the 2.5 is for the cinematography. It is a beautiful movie.”

A Nasty Piece of Work ⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A mid-level corporate employee finds out he’s not getting the Christmas bonus he was expecting, but his boss invites him to earn a promotion by beating his professional rival in a violent competition.

This movie was a Blumhouse film. Their general movie theory is “make a lot of films. They won’t all be hits, but enough of them will do well to pay for the others.” And this one is a lot of fun. It’s been awhile since I saw a good use of title cards between scenes. I enjoyed them and this film.

Anna and the Apocalypse ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.

Move over Elf! Out of the way Kevin! There’s a new queen of Christmas movies. Ella Hunt sings and smashes her way through this film. This movie had:

  • Unecessarily sexy Christmas school song

  • Rap song about fish

  • Zombies

  • The saddest “Merry Christmas” ever captured.

  • Candy cane melee weapon

I absolutely loved it and would rewatch it every year. The film feels authentic. Each one of the characters were an archetype I could place from my high school. They’re making decisions I would make. They’re not heroes. They’re impulsive and live the day one moment at a time.

The songs are fun and catchy. This one has been stuck in my head.

(•_•)
<) )╯ WHEN IT COMES TO KILLING ZOMBIES
/ \

\(•_•)
( (> I'M THE TOP OF MY CLASS 
/ \

(•_•).   WHILE YOU’VE BEEN HIDING
<) )>   I’VE BEEN KICKIN SOME ASS
/ \

Happiest Season ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A young woman’s plans to propose to her girlfriend while at her family’s annual holiday party are upended when she discovers her partner hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents.

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie David (took my while to place her from Halt and Catch Fire) are the focus while Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie are relegated to minor characters. It was a romantic comedy with an excellent cast. Dan Levy is the friend we all hope we have when we need them most. Maybe without the tracking.

“Any luck on getting a man’s permission to take ownership of an adult female woman?” – John (Dan Levy)

Black Christmas (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A sorority house is terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break.

The algorithm kept pushing the 2019 remake of this film that wasn’t well-reviewed. However, the 1974 film has excellent reviews and was the first(?) slasher movie.

The plot partially centers around a series of obscene phone calls and boy are they. It also gives us the spectacular line:

No, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir calling with their annual obscene phone call.

This fits the category of “horror movies that could have ended very quickly with competence.” Every character is unique. There’s no interchageable pieces. This entire film is a mood. It perfectly embodies the loneliness of being alone at Christmas (a theme that runs through every holiday film we watched.) I’m curious to watch the remake now to see how they handle certain parts and how sensibilities have changed between 1974 and 2019. Those are some obscene phone calls.

Surviving Christmas ⭐⭐

Synopsis: Drew Latham is an executive leading an empty, shallow life with only wealth on his side. Facing another lonely Christmas ahead, he revisit his old childhood home in the hope of reliving some old holiday memories – but he finds that the house in which he was raised is no longer the home in which he grew up.

Ever been so lonely on Christmas you paid the family who lives in your childhood home a quarter of a million dollars to spend a few days with them?

What about if that family was James Gandolfini and Catherine O’Hara? They amost make the film watchable. Almost.

Ben Affleck is so unhinged and manic throughout. I saw this review and thought about it. A lot.

It was never quite clear if Affleck’s character was meant to be mentally challenged. – Review by fizzybenilyn

It’s hard to know where being an absolute dick ends and mental issues may begin.

Into the Woods (2014) ⭐⭐

Synopsis: In a woods filled with magic and fairy tale characters, a baker and his wife set out to end the curse put on them by their neighbor, a spiteful witch.

This movie may have had potential. But it just kept going…

This is a pretty good 90 minute movie. Unfortunately it was 125 minutes.

When Rapunzel and her prince leave, you should too. The first hour or so is solid and enjoyable. But then it just keeps going to the point we groaned at every new song. And when we thought it must be nearly over, there were 45 minutes left!