August 1st, 2015

I just realized that I have never introduced ya’ll to Snowden. Here he is!


Rain and Snowden


Ever since Rain was about 6 months old, I knew I was going to get another dog. I wanted to wait until she was about 3 years old. I subscribed to the Save a Heeler page on Facebook and would glance at the pound puppies who were up for adoption in many of the towns we visited. Rain’s third birthday came and went. No second pup.

Rain is half BC and half Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler), but she is a BC in personality. I was pretty sure that I was looking for another Border Collie. Then, in September of 2013, I ran across these photos.


I told Johnny that I was going into town to see this dog, and he should probably come with me or else I might bring him home. We went to the pound. While there, we interacted with and treated all of the dogs. While all of the dogs were barking, jumping, and pawing at their cages, Rowen, as he was known at the time, just quietly watched us. Not a peep out of him.




He was allowed out of the cage at our request. He was sweet and calm. Loving. We took him outside and played. Upon introduction, he and Rain got along. They played well. They lady working there said he’s never been that open with anyone else. That, he acted like he was abused. She said he obviously picked us. I figured she was giving us her usual spiel. Either way, Rowen knew how to do all the right things to be adopted. We signed the papers. Johnny didn’t even try to talk me out of it. I am soooo glad he didn’t.


Snowden on top


Rowen had to go get snipped. While he was at the vet, they told me that he was a bit older than I was led to believe. He was going to be a small dog. I was hoping for a dog Rain’s size (55#s). I also wasn’t sure if he was going to adapt to our lifestyle. I considered myself a foster for a while and put the word out about him. That’s when Johnny came up with the name Snowden. A character from Catch 22 that wasn’t around long.


Snowden's Behind


I couldn’t understand why anyone would drop such a loving, smart, and fun dog like him off at the pound. After we got Snowden home, we got our first clue.


Baby Snowden


He had zero control of his little, tiny bladder. He wasn’t house trained. He would pee if you tried to pet him from above. He would pee as he came to you. Sometimes, he would roll over on his back and pee. That’s was the best.

For the first two weeks, I stopped his bedtime water intake and took him outside to pee every two hours. I knew there was no way he was ready to live with anyone else as long as he had this issue. He would end up right back in the pound. So, he was with us until we worked it through.


Hiking Snowden


Snowden had a big mouth. He would bark at everyone. He would bark when he was excited. He would bark when he was scared. He would bark during play. He would run up to people, barking at them. They would lean over to pet him, and he would pee on their feet.


Snowden has a big mouth


He was a bit of a squealer. Sometimes, he would squeal with the lightest touch. He and Rain played a lot and there were always plenty of squeals.




After a couple of months, he almost had complete control of his bladder and was ready for a new home. By that time, I had already fallen in love with him. He had no problem adjusting to our lifestyle. I didn’t care if he was going to be a tiny dog. He was staying with us. Because he was still a bit of a leaker, had a big mouth, and squealed a lot, the name stuck. A hero’s name for a fantastic dog.


Snowden's Stance




July 31st, 2015

So the last 48 hours have been pretty interesting. We got to hangout with some great friends whom we haven’t seen since we were in Colorado in 2011. They took time out of their vacation to chill with us in Montrose. Very cool of them. Love you guys, hope to see you in a few weeks/months.

Afterwards, we went back to an area we had found and camped at the day before, though in a different campsite. It’s a neat area. There are campsites on the cliff of a mesa, 400ft above the valley below. The views area vast. At night, the distant lights of Montrose shine bright and beautiful. We had planned to stay there for a few days and take care of some business. That is until it was time to go to bed.

Our free campsite outside of Montrose, Colorado

Snowden couldn’t get into the van on his own. He had a big day of hiking and playing with our friends at the park. I figured he was just stiff, so I picked him up and put him inside. Then, he acted as though his legs didn’t work and was collapsing. I put him in bed.

Being me, I thought the worst. I checked him for a snake bite. When I put him into a sit position to check the rest of him, his body swayed so much that he almost fell over. I laid him back down and tried to give him liquids. He acted like it was fire, flinching erratically. That’s when I freaked and called the after hours, emergency vet.

It was near midnight and the vet talked me out of bringing him in. We went over the symptoms. He said that it didn’t seem life threatening. I thought otherwise but the vet’s calm, gentle voice won me over.

Alarm set, so I could check on him every two hours, everyone went to bed. Not much sleep happened. Snowden sat up and looked so sad and pathetic. Eventually, I went and held him. Later, my love took the helm.

In the morning, he was better but still in a very bad way. We decided to leave the campsite. If there was something there that made him sick, we didn’t want Rain to get into it too.

Since we were going past the vet I had called anyway, we stopped in. They checked him out and did a test for toxins. They found something. THC!

The little dog must have found a discarded edible and was stoned out of his mind! It took 12hrs for him to return from his dream world enough to drink water, but he still wasn’t walking. It was 20hrs before he would eat.

Little stoner totally freaked me out. Snowden was Stoned’n. He was on a vision quest.

He’s completely back to normal now. No damage. Thankfully, the ordeal only cost $100 and one night’s sleep. We had to move before we had planned, but our new campsite has even better views and stellar cellular connectivity. It’s all good.

Our free campsite gunnison national forest

Camping at Oak Ridge Equestrian Area SWFWMD

July 24th, 2015

This is one of many vehicle accessible, free campgrounds that are maintained by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. While there are no fees to camp here, you must obtain a reservation. The camping area is behind a locked gate. When your reservation is confirmed, you will be granted entry. It’s only a minor inconvenience considering what you are getting, free camping in Florida.

The camping area in on high ground and dappled with scrub pine shade.  There is plenty of room for several groups

 swfwmd oakridge equestrian camping area  swfwmd oakridge equestrian camping area our free campsite

There’s picnic tables, fire rings, a little shelter, portable toilet and water via hand pump

 swfwmd oakridge equestrian camping area road  swfwmd oakridge equestrian camping area

 swfwmd oakridge equestrian camping area bushcraft arrows on the ground florida swfwmd oakridge camping area

It was just us and the tent. We’d see people on horses once in a while. I never saw anyone in the tent, but they had obviously taken over the shelter, and were into bushcraft, as we found items such as this bow made from a windshield wiper all throughout it.. As we were leaving we passed a snake venom guy, presumably out trying to catch some rattlers.

For more reservation info, maps, reviews and pictures of this free Florida campground, please visit

Overland Expo West 2015

May 21st, 2015

We went to the Overland Expo with our friends from Two Complete Spirits, Kyndal and James.

az_overlandexpo-XP01   az_overlandexpo-GX01

It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, a bunch of overlanders sitting around bonding, telling stories, and planning future endeavors. But, it was exactly what I was expecting, a ton of cool rigs and accessories. I posted a whole lot of photos over on Free Campsites:
Our friends posted videos of the event over here:

Virtual This and That. This and That!

May 11th, 2015

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks neck deep in new technology. That’s always awesome. The end result is that a couple of our humble projects are going to be running on a considerably more robust platform than the one we administered professionally for a regional telco a decade ago. Also, I spent about $10 learning. Ouch!

As a telco, we ran a very large file server that handled all of our users web sites in one central location. It was nice because we could scale out to multiple web servers for redundancy and scalability. However, when the NFS server went down, the ENTIRE cluster had to be massaged in the right order to bring it back online. Talk about your nightmare scenario: send a new tech over to trace cables and just wait for the network wide outage to occur.

Our new infrastructure is a much smaller filesystem – we only have a couple of websites on it. However, we have three (3!!!) servers acting as redundant file servers. As they are all mirrors and geographically separated from each other, we can lose two entire regions before we have a real problem.

MySQL has been the defacto standard for sql servers on a budget for years. We ran this in an ISP environment and had the forethought to have a master-slave setup. In the budget telco world of a decade past, when we lost a SQL server, everything crapped out until someone manually logged into the slave server and told it to become master. Yay… we didn’t lose everything. Boo, it was still an outage.

Our new infrastructure has clustered master-master sql servers. I can bring a new one online without even telling the existing servers about it! We also have three of these running in different geographical areas. We can lose an entire region and keep chugging along. If we lose two regions, someone has to login and tell the remaining server that it’s ok to think for yourself. It’s quite an upgrade from the old days, but not quite as nice as the fileserver.

Then there’s the whole web server thing. It needs to talk to the sql server and file server. Thanks to modern magic, it can seamlessly talk to either service even if it’s own closest server crashes. It would be hard to mention all the differences in our new implementation versus the old way of doing things, but our new web server software is a) f*cking fast as sh!t. b) has built in caching to reduce the overall work load c) is really good on memory usage.

Back in the telco days, budget was always a thing. We simply couldn’t get the money for load balancing hardware and didn’t have the people/time to do it properly in software. Today, that’s not even a concern. I can get multi-region load balancing that let’s me put all of the above infrastructure in 4 different data centers for less than the cost of a 12 pack of microbrew once a month. Compare that to round robin DNS – where an outage means that users can keep hitting ‘reload’ and get a working server if they are persistent. I’ll take dirt cheap load balancing over DNS hackery!

Want to know the best part? All of this costs about half as much as we’ve been paying every month to run a single server at our current hosting provider. That’s right.. one big server, with no redundancy, a broken serial console and backups that don’t even boot if we have an outage. I’m TERRIFIED of rebooting our server because the console doesn’t work, our backups don’t boot and tech support says ‘pay for OS support and buy more capacity’ any time I mention that their services don’t actually work.

Meanwhile, I’ve intentionally rebooted 1-2 servers on the new system in the middle of SQL imports and filesystem modifications without a hiccup. Everything just works. Better yet.. I can add systems to the cluster if we need the capacity or upgrade the existing servers to larger systems anytime I want. We can literally get 3x the redundancy and twice the capacity for the same price. Yet, I only need half the capacity we currently pay for.

We also have to ability to add auto-scaling. That means we’d boot servers that contact our sql/file server and just serve web pages. And we could do it magically as needed and only pay for it while they were needed. Fancy.

Currently, I think or backend cluster has the extra capacity to handle our web services as well. But, if we need it in the future, we can boot thin web servers on-demand and kill them overnight to avoid unnecessary charges, Talk about the icing on your chocolate covered doughnut,

Want to be like the cool kids?

Things to avoid: master/slave mysql architecture, nfs and other single points of failure, mod_php and rackspace.

Things to consider: percona for elastic master/master sql or mariadb for configurable master/master, glusterfs (not elastic yet, but with hackery, it seems almost there), nginx webserver (with caching!), lighttpd webserver, varnish caching web proxy, fast-cgi+php-fpm, google compute engine and amazon web services.

FYI, google is offering a $300/2 month credit on compute engine. Don’t be like me and sign up before heading to Baja – losing your credit!

UPDATE (8:30am, 5.5 hours after cutover completion):

Cutover went well this morning… there’s nothing like a 1am maintenance window to remind me why I don’t want to work for the telcos again.

However, I had to scale up our servers in the middle of watching a movie as they were starting to lag a bit. 20 minutes of rebooting servers, without even a blip of an outage, and we’ve scaled our capacity vertically 4-fold.

Sadly, this raises costs. Now, our hosting costs are closer to 3/5 of what they were prior to cutover. Still, a nice savings. Did you see the part where I took the fileservers and sql servers offline and replaced them each in under 5 minutes with bigger servers and couldn’t even tell anything was happening from the client side? That’s pretty fancy for a couple of home-brewed websites about camping in the woods and where to dump poop.

After looking at the costs of inter-zone bandwidth and just how much of it we were using, I got to thinking about how to lower that cost. A little filesystem hackery was enough to drop our inter-zone bandwidth to 1/3 or less and reduce the CPU overhead enough that we could scale servers back DOWN! Who’d think the lowly symlink would be capable of saving 2/3 of our server costs as well as 2/3 of our bandwidth costs. Crazy!

I’m learning that the real power in cloud computing is in getting the smallest building blocks you can and using them as efficiently as possible.

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