Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

So today's the big day... The Navigator of the Seas floats in to port and 3000 or so patrons will sashay down the the gangplank and set off for a lovely day of sightseeing, playing with stingrays, watching the turtles at the new Turtle Farm, snorkelling the barrier reef, drinking beer, fruity umbrella drinks, shopping in the duty free stores, taking pictures with Big Black Dick the pirate and leaving again late this afternoon taking with them a day of wonderful memories and a few gigabyts of digital photos.

SO what's the big deal then? Why does this particular boat get more attention than any of the other hundred or so ships that come into port here each month? Get this... it's because it's a Gay & Lesbian charter!

NO! SAY IT AINT SO! NOT IN CAYMAN! Isn't that the country who turned away a ship full of 'em back in 1998? Yup. Same place. There was another one that was supposed to dock here last year January, but the numbers weren't high enough and the charter fell through, so Cayman was “spared” having to go through it again. Not that it stopped the usual suspects from writing letters to the editors of the two local papers and sparking a shitstorm of debate for a week or two, until it was forgotten and they moved on to something else to complain about.

In 2001, the Gov't passed a non-discrimination law, so that when this came around again, there was nothing to stop it. Gays & lesbians are officially welcome in the Cayman Islands. ACTUALLY welcome is another story though. There's been MASSIVE debate and front page headlines for the last week or so, and the radio call-in show(s) have been flooded with calls. A few 21st century, open-minded people in support of it, but mostly people calling in to voice their displeasure about it. There were even a couple letters in Monday's papers saying that they planned to protest with placards and things like that.

With that in mind, I left for work a few minutes early this morning, and planned to scoot downtown and maybe get a picture or two of the protestors to post up here with this story (with their faces blurred out in photoshop, since I doubt anyone would be in a mood to read & sign a standard waiver/release) :) but NO SUCH LUCK! Between 8:00 and 8:30 there was nothing out of the ordinary downtown. No protests, no angry mobs, nothing! There seemed to be more traffic than usual, but that was about it. I'll try again at lunch time and if I get anything, I'll post an update this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 6:10:02 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Misc#
Friday, January 27, 2006
Last Monday, which was a holiday here in the Cayman Islands, I went out with Off The Wall divers for a little 2-tank dive in the afternoon. It was a bit windy and bumpy, but it all went fine. We scooted up around the corner and did a deep dive at Hepp's Wall out in front of the Turtle Farm. As we were cruising along around 80 feet or so, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see this whitish stingray-lookin thing swimming just above the reef.

It took me a minute to recognize it but the 'scalloped' leading edge, which looked like uncooked pizza dough, piqued something in my memory. I had SEEN one of these things before, years ago when I worked at Soto's. I had been doing a dive on the west side, and the videographer, Elspeth, called me back down rather frantically to see something, so I sunk down there and saw this weird looking ray. I aimed my camera at it, tripped the shutter and... the battery died. D'OH!

This time, I was ready. I took a few shots of him swimming around, and then got this shot as he landed on a ledge of coral. Shortly after this shot, he fluttered is fins to push him further into the reef and out of the light, and did a good job of stirring up the bottom making it difficult to take pictures.

When I got home, I pulled out Paul Humann's Reef Fish book and flipped to the section on rays. I found a picture that looked just like this one, and read/remembered then that it was called a torpedo ray.

There isn't a lot known about Torpedo Rays, they have been known to deliver an electric shock as a defense mechanism, and they're rarely spotted. The field guide said they were rare in the northeastern Caribbean, and not known/spotted elsewhere. Ironically the photo he had of the Torpedo Ray in his book was taken here in Grand Cayman, back in the day by Wayne Hasson, who's the owner of the Aggressor Fleet.

Unlike any other blurbs/writeups in the book, this one had a note attached to it that the author is very interested in finding out more about these guys and their sightings and whatnot, so after I finish moving this weekend and unpack some books, I'll see if there's any contact info in the back of the book.
Friday, January 27, 2006 7:33:38 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Cayman | Pictures | Underwater#
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pucker factor: 9

We got eight new computers at work, all identical Dell Optiplexes that are going to one department. Generally what happens in situations like this is that one machine is opened up, started up, configured & apps installed and then I take a Ghost snapshot of the hard drive, and push that image out to the other machines using Ghostcast Server. That way we end up with 8 identical machines, and then Scripts and Group Policy futher refine the settings and restrictions on those machines based upon where they are going and who is going to be using them.

Since these ones are going to be going into a controlled environment where we want to absolutely minimize any downtime caused by people surfing the net on them and putting them at risk to drive-by downloads and other forms of crapware, we lock them down pretty tight.

On that note, I've been playing with the Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit and it's pretty cool. You can lock down a machine so tight that it squeaks when it tries to fart. It's also geared towards computers that are operating alone, and not part of a domain. There's a whole chapter related to using the MSCT in a domain environment and I read over that this morning. Basically what you need to do is set the initial security settings on the machine (or the machine prior to imaging it in this case) and then use the included Administrative Template for Group Policy rather than the Shared Computer Toolkit interface.

So after talking it over with the other network admins this morning, I created a new Group Policy on our domain and called it “%machinename% Experimental Group Policy” and applied it to the machine name that I was working with. That way the changes and restrictions and lockdowns that I was experimenting with would ONLY be applied to that computer. That's where I made the fatal error.

In Windows 2003 Server SP1 and the 'new' Group Policy Management Console SP1, when you create a new policy, it defaults to the Authenticaed Users group (practically everyone). In this case, the ACL said Authenticated Users and machinename-01. I went about locking down machine-01 and testing it, not realizing that the changes I was making were affecting the entire domain, in every country we operate in. Bad. Very bad.

I realized that it was locked down too tight for one of our critical applications to work, so I backed off, and then backed off some more, testing each step to make sure it worked. After a few rounds of that, I noticed it was getting late and went for lunch. Second fatal error. By the time I got back from lunch, the changes had replicated to all the other servers and were trickling down to client machines.

I got an email from a user asking why their homepage had changed in Internet Explorer, but I was just getting back from lunch and ready to crack back into the testing of this new machine and didn't really clue in. I hit the Windows key on my keyboard to bring up the Start Menu... and it was blank. I had my last few programs opened, Internet Explorer and Outlook up at the top where they belong, but the only thing on the right-hand pane of the start menu was Administrative Tools. No Control Panel, no My Computer, no My Documents, no nothing. I thought to myself “that's weird, I don't remember making any changes to MY machine... and even went so far as to ask the other admins who was pulling my leg. No one fessed up, so I tried to open Group Policy Management Console to check it and change it back when I got a Windows Critical Error and the message “Access to the Microsoft Management Console has been disabled. Please see your Network Administrator”. Not good, I AM the network administrator, don't tell me to go ask myself! OK, well I'll VNC the console of the PDC... Log in there, hit Start Button... and it's empty.. To quote $imdb(Ralphie Parker) “Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!”

That's when the email about the changed homepage popped back into my mind, and a frenzied attempt to get into GPMC via any DC in the datacenter and a phone call from another admin who had gone offsite about 20 mins before all happened at once. He was not amused when i told him what happened. We hit up Google with a passion, looking for a way to “un-fuck” ourselves. We found a couple things: registry keys, some obscure MS command-line tools, and ultimately, the same situation we found ourselves in and what saved our (mine especially) bacon in a newsgroup post. Someone had done exactly the same thing as me. His solution? He was lucky. As was I. The offsite location that the other admin was at had not been updated yet due to a slow WAN link. Getting in there and making the change to the GPO and saving it caused it to have a newer timestamp, and therefore it replicated ITSELF back to the network here rather than be overwritten itself by the “bad” GPO. If that had not happened, I would probably be on the phone with Microsoft for most of the night while the rest of the guys made plans to roll back the entire AD to a previous state.

We waited five minutes and then I got antsy so I did a gpupdate /force on my machine, and once it was refreshed, I hit the start button and everything was back to normal on my machine. After that I relaxed a little, and was still searching for a solution in case it ever happened again (not bloody likely) or it happened to someone else and asked me for help.

I found a message thread in Usenet/Google Groups about the same thing that I did. The solution that he found was the same thing that saved my ass: one of the other domain controllers hadn't updated yet. If it did, he would have been screwed. (as would I)

This could have been one of those COLOSSAL fuckups that define a career (or at least the downward trajectory of one) had it not been for a slow WAN link. It's one of those mistakes you only make once, as the fear of it actualy happening again/for real is SO MUCH that it will make you pause and check the settings every friggin time you go into Group Policy Management Console for the rest of your life.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 1:26:20 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Microsoft#
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Stupid Plaxo.
Thursday, January 19, 2006 11:27:17 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Misc#
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I rode my Vespa in the rain today, more or less for the first time. I rode once before in wet weather, with a rain jacket on and got my pants wet, but today was definately what's reffered to as “rain”. Tropical rains at that. I'm not talking the slow, misty, last-all-goddamn-winter-long, embarrasing-West-Coast-wetness that you see in Vancouver. I'm talkin HOLLYWOOD rain. The kind of rain that hammers down and makes a lot of noise on things like roofs and hoods of cars and bounces six inches back up when it hits the road. The kind of rain that soaks you to the bone running from the car to the big, dark, scary house when you have a flat tire...

I was sitting upstairs in my “office” (which is STILL 'temporary accomodations', 16 months after Hurricane Ivan) which has no windows when someone else came up and said “Man it's POURING out there.”

“Great,” I thought. Riding in the rain. I packed up my things, put my laptop into the giant Ziploc bag that I carry around in my laptop bag and got my stuff ready to go. I went downstairs and left my backpack and helmet at reception and went outside to get my rain gear out from underneath the seat. It HAD rained hard, but was just lightly sprinkling at the moment. I went back inside and pulled on my rain pants, zipped up my DiveTech rain jacket that I got for xmas, slipped on my non-tinted glasses, pulled on my helmet and steeled myself for “Teh Suck”.

I hopped on the scooter and made my way out of the carpark to the road. At that point, the rain started coming down harder. And harder. And even harder still. We were approaching tropical monsoon rains, and as I turned into traffic, I put the rain at my back. No big whoop, but I was a little concerned about my laptop and other electronic bits in my backpack (digital camera, 4G iPod Photo, PSP and a few cables and adapters). I was tempted to ride down the middle and get out of the stopped traffic, but North Sound Road is quite narrow, and pretty extensively damaged by so much traffic and heavy trucks travelling it over the past 16 months. The intersection at AL Thompson's is probably one of the scariest intersections on the island, too. All things considered, I sat there in the rain inching forward. I got past the intersection and stopped again at the big roundabout. I noticed that I had gotten ahead of the big rain cloud, but as I sat there, it caught up to me again.

At this point, I realized that when I lifted my foot up onto the running boards, my rain pants came up over the tops of my boots, and the water was just running down my pants and into my boots, making my socks wet. I got through the roundabout and onto the “highway” and accelerated ahead of the rain cloud again. The lighter rain, at 40mph managed to push it's way through the teeth of the zipper on my rain jacket and soak through my shirt and my undershirt, just in the front.

Traffic was backed up along the bypass, and when I got to that part of the bypass, I did ride up the side of the traffic most of the way. One lady saw me coming in her mirror and edged over to block me from passing. Thanks a lot, you douche bag! When she saw me move over to the other side of the road, she actually tried to get back across to block me there, too but didn't have enough space to move forward and do it. So long, sucker! After that it was a quick five miles in light rain up Seven Mile Beach into West Bay, and home. I got in the door and called to Seb “Well that was The Suck” and he started laughing at me. By the time I peeled off the wet rain gear, took off my shoes and hung stuff up to dry, the rain cloud caught up with me and started hammering on the tin roof.

It only lasted a few minutes, but Im glad I didn't stop anywhere on the way home. If I have to go out anywhere tonight, I'll make sure and take the Jeep, which should be dry, even though my back flap was open and facing south (the direction the wind & rain came from).

As much as it sucked, it really wasn't that bad of a commute. I was more worried about people seeing me in the limited visibility than I was anything else. I'm glad I keep rain gear under the seat, and the ziploc bag in my backpack. I don't think I'd CHOOSE to go riding in this kind of weather for fun, but such as it was, it still beat sitting in traffic.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 3:43:27 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Cayman | Scooter#
Monday, January 2, 2006
The latest(final) chapter of my apartment
Monday, January 2, 2006 10:42:38 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Misc#
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