– the blog –

Server Environments - PuPHPet 23 November 2015

For the past few months I have been exclusively using Laravel Homestead for all of my personal and professional development, mostly because when combined with Forge it greatly reduces my need to focus on server setup and deployment. Honestly, considering how much I have to keep in my head for web development, it is nice when I can simplify and reduce what I need to know for getting a site up and working. And, let's be honest, even with Homebrew setting up even anything more than a basic web development environment on a Mac was never the most relaxing task.

I recently took on a project that already had its own development setup using PuPHPet, which uses Puppet and Vagrant to create the development environment. While I have had to play with the nginx configuration and add a few items to my deploy scripts, I have not had to tinker too deeply with Homestead. It just works. Well...for the most part. I doubt there will ever be a piece of technology that does not give me a bit of lip service, from time to time.

Now with PuPHPet, I have had to actually learn how Vagrant works in a bit more detail. Having two different VMs running has caused issues with port forwarding, for example. Accessing MySQL through an SSH tunnel required understanding that PuPHPet was creating a new SSH key each time the machine was created. And, if trying to log into MySQL via an SSH tunnel, you logged into SSH via the Local VM IP Address (not with localhost and the VM forwarded port). The article that pointed out that last tidbit of information was from 2014 and half of its information was already out of date. A very common occurrence in this line of work.

It's weird. Maybe it is old(er) age but I am slightly nostalgic for the days when development felt a bit simpler. I spend so much time doing research and figuring things out now. Make an image into a vector so I can export it as an SVG to upload it to an icon creator to have a font library so all of the icons can be colored, styled, and animated using CSS. Use an MVC Javascript Framework that requires gulp, elixir, underscore, dotenv, etc. to build a Single Page Application using individual components that all need to be browserify'ed into a single JS file with an automatically versioned file. Let's not forget that RESTful API on the backend that has access via OAuth2, outputs via JSON (or is that JSONP?), and has auto discovery thanks to it following HATEOAS.

Aside: I'd like to take a moment to point out that OS X's autocorrect gave me hell writing that last paragraph. So many unfamiliar words!

As usual, no real conclusion just a contemplation about how this increase in complexity may actually be a drain on the web. My vendor directories are rarely under 35MB. It is a rare modern website that has a page under 1.5MB in files. And it takes a team of JS engineers, PHP wizards, and server gurus to build a web application. Has it all been worth it?

The Syrian Refugee Debate: A Closer Look - Late Night with Seth Meyers 20 November 2015

Link. Half of the state governors and pretty much every GOP Presidential candidate wants to either block or greatly restrict the number of Syrian Refugees entering the United States. Seth Meyers provides a nice introduction into why this is just stupid. Amazing how the GOP seems to be the least "Christian" of the two parties.

Syrian Refugees, Those in Need 17 November 2015

More than half of the governors in the United States support refusing entry of Syrian refugees into the United States. These are people who are desperate to escape their war torn country and the very real threat of ISIS. GOP members of Congress and Presidential candidates are calling for similar restrictions. The Washington Post puts it pretty damn well:

It is undeniable that the huge numbers of refugees and migrants reaching Europe do represent some kind of security threat — anything involving that many people arriving in such chaotic situations would. However, it is not only deeply unfair to paint all of those arriving with the same brush — it is also self-defeating.
The very same refugees entering Europe are often the very same civilians who face the indiscriminate violence and cruel injustice in lands controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (though, it should be noted, many in Syria are also threatened by the brutal actions of the Syrian government). Globally, studies have shown that Muslims tend to make up the largest proportion of terror victims, with countries such as Syria and Iraq registering the highest toll
What seems almost certain is that the Islamic State wants you to equate refugees with terrorists. In turn, it wants refugees to equate the West with prejudice against Muslims and foreigners

Terrorists are cowards and assholes who indiscriminately punish anyone who is not like them. We do not defeat them by being cowards and assholes ourselves, but by helping these refugees in their time of need and bringing them to a place where they can live in peace without threat of violence.

The Most Misread Poem in America 16 November 2015

Link. "The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism; it’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives."

The Return of the Reedmaniac Blog 11 November 2015

Welcome back to! It has been gone for years! It went off exploring the world and trying to find itself. Naturally, that did not work out and only resulted in a few odd quirks in personality and a nasty infection in a place we refuse to talk about publicly.

No, no, that's all a lie. After my little three and a half month sabbatical, I needed to present myself to the world in a slightly more professional capacity. While I found job hunting to have been a tedious, laborious, and ultimately unfulfilling way to spend my time, I understand that presentation is important. So, pulled out the old code editor and whipped up a site using Bootstrap and Laravel. The Laravel part is a bit overkill as I am only using it for the Contact Form, but honestly I cannot remember the last time I built just a Contact Form. Novelty and all.

And the blog is back too! Hellooooo! was a fine domain but after my little journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, I was updating on average once a month. It was always so serious too. Something about my multiple year pause in blogging and the rise of Twitter and Facebook had sucked a great deal of the spontaneity and fun out of blogging itself. Given my disdain of Facebook's Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions, I felt I really needed to start owning my content again.

Also, I went on and started reading my old entries from back when was on ExpressionEngine and before that pMachine Pro and even before that on Blogger. Hard to believe I have lived through four blogging platforms. Cannot wait to tell the grandkids. "Ack, ye wee buggers, ye do not know how we suffered! Templates edited in the browser! Updating software by uploading via FTP!" I had a great deal more fun blogging back then. Random links with snide comments. Blog entries that had internal monologues buried throughout. Just wacky shit. I miss that blogger. He was so much more fun.

We're going to try and get back to that. Going to be hard. Been buried in this terrible, awful, downright distasteful overly processed Paul who was always trying to be well thought out. That is not who I am. That is likely not who you are either. Why are we pretending? Why can we not admit the truth to each other? After all these years, isn't it time?! I love Nutty Bars and I love being the Paul who is willing to bellow that from the rooftops!

Welcome back.

How Doth the Little Busy Bee 1 October 2015

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

-Isaac Watts

SE Alaska Trip Report, Better Late than Never. 20 September 2015

So, I went to SE Alaska for two weeks and it was amazing! Took the Alaska Marine Highway up to Ketchikan and saw gorgeous scenic beauty with multiple sightings of whales–or at least their spouts and a bit of sun glinting off their backs. Camping on the deck worked reasonably well for the first night but then the continuous dampness and wind loosened the duct tape a bit too much and nearly everyone moved inside the solariums. Saved us from hearing the ship's fog horn early in the mornings too.

Golden Clouds

Ketchikan lived up to its reputation of the First City [that cruise lines stop at] and being one of the rainiest cities in America. Did all the general touristy things from visiting the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center to watching the salmon spawn up near Creek Street to seeing Totem Bite State Park. Went for a VERY wet hike up Deer Mountain and visited its wondrously well-maintained shelter where I spent a solid 15 minutes simply wringing out my clothes.

Not Sure Which I Like Better

Discovered that Wrangell is one of the least talked about gems of the Inside Passage. Extremely few tourists but my visit there contained my two favorite excursions, the Anan Bear Observatory and LeConte Glacier. Both were run by Alaska Waters, which I cannot recommend highly enough for their friendliness and good humor in accommodating a traveler who showed up with no plans, only hopes. And, let's not forget my little hike up to the top of Mt. Dewey, where John Muir had his infamous fire that frightened both the natives and townsfolk of Wrangell back in 1869. It was his book after all that led me to take this SE Alaska sojourn in the first place.

Going Under the Observatory

The weather report indicated that in two days a lengthy bit of rainy weather was scheduled to hit SE Alaska, so instead of waiting a day for the ferry and then spending a day on it getting to Juneau, I took a flight from Wrangell to Juneau and skipped the entire boat trip. The flight stopped in Petersburg, which was only about 12 minutes away by plane. A quick up and then immediately back down. Another 35 minutes in the air and then I was in Juneau.

On the flight to Juneau, the right side of the plane had a jaw dropping view of the Juneau Icefield. Thanks to a conversation on the plane, I shared a cab into downtown with a pilot for one of the cruise lines. Since the hostel did not open its doors until 5pm, I walked over took the Mount Roberts Tramway 1,800 feet up to the Mountain House and did a quick 45 minute hike up for a scenic view of Juneau and the all-too-rare sunny afternoon.

The Juneau Hostel is a bit of a wonder. Only $12 a night + one chore. There is a five night limit though, otherwise it would likely be overloaded by people staying the entire season for such a cheap rate.

Panorama of Mendenhall Glacier

My next stop in Juneau was a trip to Mendenhall Glacier the next morning. I foolishly grabbed one of the tourist buses there for $10 as I did not realize it only went to the Visitor Center and the Mendenhall Lake Campground was on the other side of the lake, over an hour's walk away. While walking down the road a cab came near and I hailed it down. For $12, I skipped a 90 minute walk and was dropped off right at the West Glacier Trail trailhead. The hike up was relatively easy and at 3.4 miles a quick scramble brought you to a nice overlook where I got a few beautiful panoramas. Hiking back down, I took an unmaintained, mildly rugged offshoot trail and headed down to the foot of the glacier to view the moraine and peek into a few ice caves. The day was warm and the there was a decent amount of water flowing from the caves, so I decided to play it safe and not go further in. The weather and glacier were superb and I felt incredibly lucky to have an entire day of clear weather to explore it.

That evening one of the hostel guests showed me photos from her whale watching tour that day. A group of humpbacks had been bubble net feeding in the area for days and it was truly a sight to behold. Unfortunately, the next morning I discovered the whale tour I had wanted to get on had been canceled because of cruise ships leaving early and changing their tour schedules. Since backpackers are a very very small minority of the visitors in SE Alaska, the cruise ships and their schedules really do run the show. With no other plans, I consulted my handy Lonely Planet guide and discovered the Taku Glacier and Taku Lodge seaplane tour. Within an hour I was in the copilots seat on a plane and flying towards Taku Glacier for a scenic tour of the nearby icefield and a king salmon dinner at the lodge. It just so happened that a black bear showed up to clear the drippings off of the grill while we ate. While the tour was definitely a bit pricey, I have never had such amazing views of a glacier from the air and the meal was exceptionally delicious.

Decisions, Decisions

The next day I finally got on the humpback tour but had two hours until it started. Naturally, I went for a hike. Went back up the Mount Roberts Tramway and hiked at full speed towards Mount Roberts. After an hour, I had made it up to a point where the trail was mostly slick rock interspersed with slippery mud and the wind/rain was blowing at me in a positively abusive manner. Even with full rain gear all zipped up, the water found its way inside along my face and neckline. Turned around and showed up for the whale tour looking a bit damp. The whale tour was another trip where it magically exceeded expectations. Over an hour of humpback whales bubble feeding, diving with flukes in the air, and even one whale breaching. There are videos on my Flickr page but they really do not do the experience justice.

Damp, Damp, Damp

Thanks to a ferry breaking down, another ferry not running because of severe weather, and an overcrowded hostel I bailed on Juneau a day early and took a flight to Sitka the next morning. Numerous people had expounded upon the beauty of Sitka and I felt it was worth a visit. A raging storm had hit Sitka that morning and dumped 2.5 inches of rain in six hours, triggering numerous landslides including one that took out a new house with three people inside. When I arrived it was thankfully just a drizzle so I walked the mile into down and had a late breakfast at the Larkspur Cafe. A very Portland vibe hit me there with its hippy atmosphere; the effect made even more powerful by the "Free" box on the porch containing a VHS set of the first five original Star Trek movies. On the way to the hostel I passed a community library built to resemble a TARDIS too.

The hostel did not open until 6pm, so I walked over to the Alaska Raptor Center, which provides medical treatment to injured birds and teaches the public about Alaska's raptor population. Another one of those gems of Alaska that is relatively cheap and well worth a visit. The entrance had two owls greeting visitors and then you tour through both indoor and outdoor enclosures full of bald eagles and other birds, like a Great Horned Owl. All the birds have names and classrooms around the world can "adopt" a bird and receive materials and lessons to learn more about raptors and conservation. I wandered around for an hour absorbing and admiring it all.

Gavan Hill Trail - Landslide Closure

The next day I had planned on going for a hike up behind Sitka to the summit of Gavan Hill. However, when I reached the trailhead (after going out of my way to fetch a bit of bear spray since I was hiking solo), I discovered the Sitka Fire Department had closed it because of landslide danger. Phooey! Considering how much damage I had seen already on the new and well maintained Cross Trail, it was not too surprisingly that the higher, steeper slopes were dangerous with all the recent rain. Meeting another hosteler, I instead headed up the Indian River trail with him. The trail was in reasonably good condition, if you did not mind dead salmon being littered about. Seems the rains had so swollen the river that the salmon had been able to swim up onto the trail itself and even into the forest. When the water receded, they then became trapped and died. And thanks to the ichthyoid corpses, the forest was gorgeous and full of life. The smell of a healthy, thriving forest is not to be beat. And even miles up the trail, we saw salmon in the river still heading up to spawn. Pretty darn incredible.

By the end of that hike though, I definitely needed to do a bit of laundry and I finally decided that my current shoes had to go. They had been well used for trail running before the trip and the combination of rain, mud, salt water, and dead salmon had made them so unpleasantly ripe that even I was finding them too much. An outfitter in town serendipitously had a nice pair of Brooks in my size for 40% off too. Travel magic, for the win.

Sitka Marina

The next day Sitka decided to bring out the pretty. There was a bit of rain in the morning but then sunny the rest of the day. I grabbed my book and made the most of the day by simply lounging around town. My tendency to go full bore meant I had not taken a single day off for the entire trip just to relax and enjoy the scenery. Remedied that. Saw quite a bit of wildlife too, including two sea lions having dinner in the marina.

That night I reviewed my credit card balance and decided that after an intense two week whirlwind through SE Alaska that it was time to head back south and start thinking about finding employment once more. A truly amazing trip, highly recommended.

Where Do We Go From Here? 3 August 2015

Been an interesting few days here at the Lohrenz Shelter for Displaced Persons - Anacortes branch. Ideas are being discussed, links shared, and decisions slowly being made. Now, plans are slowly being mapped out.

One of the pillars on which my long-term friendship with Amelia is based is the mutual persistence of the "What am I doing here?" question. There is a very real and powerful part of our minds that are always evaluating the present situation and prepared to leave. We know how disquieting this can be for employers and potential partners alike, but at this point it is etched into our beings. Not that we vamoose whenever the urge takes us, mind you. Typically there is a long runway of thought and consultation prior to moving on; and any delay may have a deeper cause than the ostensible reason too.

On my side, in the past few years, despite considerable expenditures of time and energy towards "productive" goals, I ebbed towards a severe disappointment regarding the stereotypically American adulthood habits. To take the metaphor too far: I found myself with the tide out, stuck in muck, and slightly offended by the smell. Sure, I could attribute this attitude about the state of my life, the nation, and the world to my perfectionist, idealistic, perhaps overly educated, hoytie toytie views about reality...but come on...really?

I could probably list off a few of the major things bugging me (today) like the the cost of medical school (and high student loan rates and debt), how it took a billionaire to get sensical birth control funded, that Congress is so incompetent that we cannot get infrastructure funded, that our entire National Park system is likely to be gutted yet again by Congress right before its centennial, and the sin-against-common-decency known as auto-play videos.

I toil exceptionally hard to learn, work, stay informed, pay taxes, communicate with my Representatives, and be a fair minded person about other viewpoints. And then, at the end of the day, only the bare minimal of what I believe should happen actually happens. It is very discouraging.

Part of me wants to do the stomping around routine and shout "HOW IS THIS OK?!" Another part reminds me that I have known for quite a while that money and power are where real influence is and I have the abilities to acquire both. And then, well, then part of me just wants to escape. The human adult world is not meeting my expectations. It's fired.

So, I think I am taking a trip to Alaska next.