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Upgrade to Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

A few days ago, I was poking about “micro”, the AWS EC2 server behind this site. I noticed that a new LTS release of Ubuntu was out so I decided to upgrade.

Unfortunately, I got distracted amid the upgrade and forgot about it, and then it took my brother to inform me that things had gone awry: every page load was returning “502/Bad Gateway”. So, just like last time, I had to dig in to figure out what was going wrong. I started looking into it and the problem ended up being multi-faceted.

First, I needed to finish off the install which I had rudely interrupted by rebooting the server while the do-release-upgrade was stuck at a prompt. Whoops! Fortunately, apt-get is nice enough these days to tell you the invocation you need to resume the upgrade — something like dpkg -a. Regardless, I got that resumed and finished up, then I set about seeing if everything was working.

Well, of course it wasn’t! First of all, nginx was set to work with php5-fpm, but this new release ships with php7, which has been put under the more generic name php (which seems like a good move, even if it’s backwards incompatible, because it allows for compatibility going forward, whereas the old method did not).

The first step was to update the nginx configs so that it would talk to the right unix domain socket to communicate with the upgraded php-fpm package. Once that was done, however, the pages started showing up blank, but with HTTP/200 responses, as if everything was working fine. Some searching led me to the regular place where all sysadmin questions go to be answered: serverfault.

Sure enough, this was exactly the issue I had, and adding that line to my nginx config made the websites start loading again.

Now, I just have to figure out the email situation again…

First Risotto Success!

While I’ve enjoyed it a number of times, I’ve never made Risotto myself. I recently felt inspired to try doing it and found to be to fairly easy but also extremely delicious! This will definitely join my toolbelt of wonderful foods that are also fun to cook.

I used the directions on the back of the Waitrose Arborio rice package I bought with minor modifications:

  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 845 ml water + 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-ish tbsp olive oil
  • 77g pancetta (or more!)
  • Butter, to serve
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve

I diced the onion and crushed the garlic, then brought the olive oil to a shimmer in a large sauce pan. I added the onions and garlic and stirred to coat them with oil and cooked until things got clear but before they carmelized. Then I added the rice to the mixture and stirred continuously until everything was well mixed.

Then, cup by cup, I added the broth to the rice, stirring until the liquid was absorbed, and repeating until all of the broth was consumed. Meanwhile, I got the pancetta cooking in a small pan. Once the risotto had absorbed the liquid, I added the pancetta to it with a slotted spoon and stirred. I served with a bit of butter and as much parmesan cheese as I felt like, which means a lot.

In the future, I’d probably use vegetable broth for a more neutral taste if I wanted to combine the risotto with a seafood, but this was good for a rich taste.

Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup

I recently had a hankering for some lentils, and I found a recipe for Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup.

It was spectacularly good. I took a few creative liberties with the recipe:

  • I replaced the chicken stock with vegetable stock
  • I used both Plain Yogurt and Sour Cream (one dollop of each on top!)
  • I used up all the chorizo on about half the soup, so more Chorizo is definitely desirable
  • I used more generous helpings of the olive oil, spices, and garlic
  • I used ground cumin rather than cumin seeds
  • I avoided the sugar
  • I didn’t blend it at the end at all

This recipe is relatively easy and absolutely fantastic. It’s definitely joining my regular repertoire!

To preserve it for posterity in case the BBC changes its links or whatever else might happen, the recipe is copied below:

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 200g cooking chorizo, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • pinch of cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
  • small splash red wine vinegar
  • 250g red lentil
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomato
  • 850ml vegetable stock
  • plain yogurt and/or sour cream, to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chorizo and cook until crisp and it has released its oils. Remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Fry the onion, carrots and cumin seeds for 10 mins until soft and glistening, then add the garlic and fry for 1 min more. Scatter over the paprika and cook for 1 min, then splash in the vinegar. Simmer for a moment, then stir in the lentils, and pour over the tomatoes and vegetable stock.
  2. Give it a good stir, then simmer for 30 mins or until the lentils are tender. Can be made several days ahead or frozen for 6 months at this point. Serve in bowls, drizzled with yogurt and olive oil, scattered with the chorizo and a sprinkling of paprika.
  3. Nom nom nom

Ski Trip to Val Thorens, Les Trois Vallees

I just returned Saturday night from an amazing trip to the French Alps with frisbee team friends. It was both my first time skiing in the Alps and my first week-long ski trip. I hope to do both again (I actually have another ski trip to the Alps planned already, but it’s only for an extended weekend).

The weather gave us a little bit of everything, including a three days of glorious sunshine, a few days of snow, some crazy wind, and combinations of the above, especially on the last day.

Overall a great experience.

America The Beautiful

I think this song should be the national anthem rather than the wartime drivel that we currently have, but that’s a topic for another time.

Today, we need to listen to the lyrics of this great poem and song more closely than ever (emphasis mine):

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

2017 New Year’s Resolutions

  • Commute at least half the time via bike
  • Journal or blog at least once per week
  • Travel to 12 countries

Academic vs Practical

June 5, 1953

Important decisions about the future development of atomic power must frequently be made by people who do not necessarily have an intimate knowledge of the technical aspects of reactors. These people are, nonetheless, interested in what a reactor plant will do, how much it will cost, how long it will take to build and how long and how well it will operate. When they attempt to learn these things, they become aware of confusion existing in the reactor business. There appears to be unresolved conflict on almost every issue that arises.

I believe that this confusion stems from a failure to distinguish between the academic and the practical. These apparent conflicts can usually be explained only when the various aspects of the issue are resolved into their academic and practical components. To aid in this resolution, it is possible to define in a general way those characteristics which distinguish the one from the other.

An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose (“omnibus reactor”). (7) Very little development is required. It will use mostly “off-the-shelf” components. (8) The reactor is in the study phases. It is not being built now.

On the other hand, a practical reactor plant can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It is requiring an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. Corrosion, in particular, is a problem. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of the engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.

The tools of the academic-reactor designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone can see it.

The academic-reactor designer is a dilettante. He has not had to assume any real responsibility in connection with his projects. He is free to luxuriate in the elegant ideas, the practical shortcomings of which can be relegated to the category of “mere technical details.” The practical-reactor designer must live with these same technical details. Although recalcitrant and awkward, they must be solved and cannot be put off until tomorrow. Their solutions require manpower, time and money.

Unfortunately for those who must make far-reaching decisions without the benefit of an intimate knowledge of reactor technology and unfortunately for the interested public, it is much easier to get the academic side of an issue than the practical side. For a large part those involved with the academic reactors have more inclination and time to present their ideas in reports and orally to those who will listen. Since they are innocently unaware of the real but hidden difficulties of their plans, [t]hey speak with great facility and confidence. Those involved with practical reactors, humbled by their experiences, speak less and worry more.

Yet it is incumbent on those in high places to make wise decisions, and it is reasonable and important that the public be correctly informed. It is consequently incumbent on all of us to state the facts as forthrightly as possible. Although it is probably impossible to have reactor ideas labelled as “practical” or “academic” by the authors, it is worthwhile for both the authors and the audience to bear in mind this distinction and to be guided thereby.

Yours faithfully,

H. G. Rickover
Naval Reactors Branch
Division of Reactor Development
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

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