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Works of fire

The annual fireworks display during the last night of Princeton reunions is always a visual and aural treat. Garden State Fireworks creates quite a few custom-designed shells to launch into the air, and they choreograph the launches and bursts to music. Their ability to synchronize the explosions of multi-stage shells with musical beats is masterful.

Photographing fireworks with a point-and-shoot camera set to auto-focus can be somewhat hit or miss. You just have to take lots of pictures and toss out ninety percent. Trying to use manual focus would have been too much of a distraction from enjoying the show. I did get a few decent shots.

launching fireworks

They remind me of celestial phenomena, something that Hubble might capture…

red bursting firweworks

…or that Enterprise might fly past.

Little tiger

Princeton University had their annual reunions festivities this past weekend.

Before the always spectacular fireworks display, my class had a wine-and-cheese-type reception in one of the stadium skyboxes. Posh.

On my way over to the pre-fireworks lawn concert, I walked out onto the center of the football field and lucked upon the shot below. Kawaii desho ne?

young boy stands inside Princeton shield

Big brass ones

Today’s post features another of my favorite Princeton University sculptures, unofficially dubbed the “Chia Tigers.”

I will explain that and the title in an update to this entry in the next few days, but tonight I’m just too tired.

the Chia Tigers

Freedom fountain

James Fitzgerald’s “Fountain of Freedom” has been one of my favorite Princeton sculptures since I was a freshman (almost sixteen long years ago), and it is a frequent target of my camera lens. One of the largest bronze castings in the country, the fountain sits in front of our Politics department and our School of International Affairs.

The magnolia blossoms changed from pink to green a few weeks ago already, but I never got around to posting a picture until now.

Fountain of Freedom

Touch my Tra-la-la

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Gunther
OMFG! Famed “pleasureman” Günther came to Princeton University this past Sunday as part of Houseparties weekend (and as part of his campaign to Sexualize the World).

He was reportedly hanging around Prospect Avenue (“The Street”) with his entourage of Sunshine Girls, and then he performed an outdoor concert at one of the eating clubs (photo from The Daily Princetonian).

If only I would have known, I would have driven in.

What, you’ve never heard of Günther? Surely you have heard his world famous sexuality anthem—the “Ding Dong Song.” Warning: video not appropriate for those who cannot handle the bare ass crack of a creepy European guy with a mullet or for those who have a hard time purging a catchy song melody from your mind.

Update: Günther, of course, was a frequent topic of conversation today. His performance was lip-synched to pre-recorded music, and since his entire repertoire only includes about four songs, he sang the same songs a couple of times. Also, he only had two of his five Sunshine Girls with him. They apparently rotate out.

More than I can chew?

Being responsible for providing an enterprise-level service is a monumental undertaking. Understatement of the epoch.

That’s partly why my blog entries have slowed to one per week, and why I’ve been MIA from the blogosphere lately.

I tried so hard to take this entire week off. No luck so far. A little Red Hat Linux server box had other plans for me.

Silly me to only plan four hours this morning for the outage. Hah! After twelve hours, most of the problems were licked, but now, all foreign characters in dozens of blogs are showing up as scrambled, garbled text. Damn.

I guess that no matter how well your test environment is running, when you switch it over to production, little unforeseen problems are inevitable.

This server had really needed a rebuild, and this week turned out to be the most opportune time. The original system administrator had accidentally created a script that changed the permissions of every single file on the server to 777. If you don’t know anything about UNIX permissions, that is a very, very bad thing. So the server was partially restored and has been limping along ever since.

Now why did I volunteer to take this on again? Oh yeah, our university really did deserve to have a well-maintained weblog server. I just know that demand for this thing is really going to spike as people start to grasp this whole blog thing.

The students are already doing amazing things with their blogs. For many of the blogs, one can type in a couple of keywords into a Google search box related to the subject of a student’s online project, and that student’s site is the number one-ranked result!

Usually, when a student writes a paper, the student sees it, and the instructor sees it, and the paper gets tucked away in a forgotten file forever. Now what these undergraduates are writing is immediately published in an extremely high-profile manner. Cool, scary, and potentially ground-breaking.

I suppose things like that make it all worthwhile, but I just need a vacation so badly.

Masseusesses

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As part of a holiday morale boost slash wellness promotion thing, three masseuses were brought into our workplace.

Those who wanted massages could sign up for a fifteen-minute block.

It was nice, but I could have used an hour or two to work out the tension in my neck and upper back. I just got done with an all day Photoshop/InDesign project.

A few of my colleagues were quite amused that one of the massage therapists was named Suzy Chaos.

Super

Princeton is finally on the TOP500 supercomputer list. Old Nassau’s new 5.7 teraflop (peak) Blue Gene/L is tied for 73rd place. Yay!

The ribbon-cutting and after-party were late yesterday afternoon. All day Monday and Tuesday I helped get ready for the dog and pony show for the VIPs, which turned out satisfyingly well. The system is named Orangena because our school colors are orange and black, and its a Blue Gene, and then there’s the drink Orangina. Yup. Accordingly, they served mimosas (champagne and orange juice). Yum.

I have the power!

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I was unhappy with the level of service on our university’s Movable Type weblog server. After the chief architect of this Red Hat Linux-based MT server left our university, the server fell under the purview of a group that had a dismissive attitude about blogging and wanted to “devote as little effort as possible” to the MT server.

A dedicated, managed MT server is necessary at our university because Movable Type’s CGI dependencies will not allow individual installations to run on any of the servers available to faculty, staff, and students. (Boring technical sidenote: I am still trying to get an IIS/Berkeley DB flat file Movable Type installation to work on the Windows web server used for alumni web sites, but a necessary library (DB_File) is still missing. Sigh.)

He-Man
Anyway…the cliché “be careful what you wish for” now springs to mind because I am now the administrator of this server. Yes, I…have…the…power! Although taking on additional responsibilities when there is already a significant shortage of hours in the day may not be my smartest move.

My first task is the long overdue upgrade to Movable Type 3.2 and installation of the StyleCatcher plug-in! From there, the sky’s the limit.

I really do owe it to my university’s community to make this the best damn blogging server I possibly can. Weblog software as a personal publishing system, as a content management system, and as a social networking tool makes it an invaluable new media technology.

The New Media Consortium recognizes the importance of blogs in their 2005 Horizon Report (PDF), and print and televised media outlets are always running stories about the potentially transformative effects of blogging on journalism, academia, politics, and whatnot.

Of course, the more successful this server is, the more work it means for me. Oof. I suppose it’s a good thing that I already don’t have much of a social life… ;-)

Work stuff

I apologize for the sporadic nature of my posts lately. The first couple of weeks of classes have been utterly exhausting. Add to that the fact that I have somehow become the unofficial support person for Macromedia Dreamweaver on my campus (even though phone support isn’t really part of my job description). The productivity-sapping interruptions got so bad today, I unplugged my phone for a couple of hours just so I could get some work done and leave before 7 PM.

Add to that the trials and tribulations of coming to grips with all of the Content Management Systems that are cropping up on campus. This week alone I have dealt with a conference site running WordPress, a chemistry class whose students are using Movable Type, a couple of sites that are using Mambo, and my least favorite of the bunch—Roxen CMS, which powers our main University site and is supposed to end up powering most of the other departmental sites on campus.

Bleah.

A bit of sad news—a few days ago my department lost a third person to unexpected death within the past five months. He really wasn’t that old (62), but began his retirement just last month. He had been a popular speaker at quite a few higher ed tech conferences and a prolific contributer to a number of publications, including Campus Technology (Syllabus). I remember when he asked me to take his headshot for that column and also when he returned from a conference to find his e-mail account overflowing because one of his articles created quite a controversial stir.

It seems like only yesterday that I had worked with him to create some silly Star Wars-themed nametags for a Bring Your Child to Work Day that he had organized with his infectious enthusiasm.

It was kind of weird using Google to explore a bit of his legacy, reading some of the things he had written. I will miss you, Howard.

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