A Cat in Time

Though I don’t quite know the exact day Luna was born, I know it was some time in late August of 1999. This means a cat I adopted shortly after I graduated from college is now 21 years old.

Baby Luna
I had just brought Luna home.

When I stop to think about it, that’s a staggeringly long time. Up until now, the oldest cat I’d ever seen was my grandma’s cat Boo-Boo, a beautiful Russian Blue she found playing in one of her wood piles one day. I fondly recall her sleeping in my lap when I visited, mainly because I was too tired to play because it was before my heart surgery.

She’s been through her own heart problems as well. Sometime in the last 7 or 8 years, she also developed some kind of seizure disorder. Each one makes me think it will be the end of her; how well can such an elderly animal survive repeated seizures, after all. But it only happens every few months, and she always recovers.

She still seeks me out and sleeps in my lap whenever she can. She still follows me to bed at night and curls up between my arms as I read before falling asleep. She still trusts me to take care of her.

Even Salem knows Luna gets top billing.

Though she’s stiff, and she can’t quite walk right anymore, she’s still somehow able to get to the top of our large cat tree. She even jumps over Salem when he’s in the platform below her, when it’s time to come down. The age charts tell me she’s about 100 years old as a human equivalent, but it’s hard to believe. Show me a 100-year-old gymnast who can still do a balance-beam performance.

Yet I see her sleeping more than usual now. I’ve seen her grow weary walking across the house, laying down to rest in the front room in what looks like a fairly awkward position. I feel like I’ve said this several times in the past, but I think she’s finally starting to wind down. I’ll be sad to see her go when it’s finally time, but she’s had a long and fruitful life.

So here’s to Luna! Long may she reign!

Long may she reign!
Long may she reign!

Forever Wandering

How often I think about all the things I want to do. The tasks I want to complete, one by one. The games I want to finish. The software I want to install on my web server and VM host. The Anime I want to catch up on. My Cayman, sitting neglected in the garage in need of having its bumper cover restored, among other bits and bobs.

Even the time I want to set aside for meditation is just another thing on the list to fit into a day where there simply isn’t enough time. And even as the world of 2020 falls down around me, slowly ebbing away at the precarious stability of our society until it reaches some impossible crescendo of plagues, social unrest, controversial politics, and other unlikely coincidences, I plod along with my usual worries and plans.

Even after four years of sleepless nights, growing steadily more exhausted and incoherent, I persist in my walks around the neighborhood. It’s how I think; how I’ve always thought. The solitary pacing I’ve done forever, which has led to many suggesting I make even them feel restless.

So much to do. So much to explore. So much to learn.

Not enough time. Never enough time.

Do my legs hurt because of my standing desk, or because of some as yet undiscovered health malady, of which I also constantly worry. I’ve long since allowed my anxiety to take over my life, and I don’t even really know when it started. When my amygdala precisely began an uncontrollable metamorphosis into disaster.

How frequently will I remember that single day in my mid 20’s where I inexplicably felt a contentment so profound, literally nothing could adversely affect my mood or outlook. I haven’t reached that point again since, but then again, have I really tried? Have I simply allowed myself to be carried along by the current of fate, given that things were basically going fairly well?

Maybe. Probably.

But I’ve abandoned so many things that I once thought defined who I was. My posts on my Blog fell to the wayside. My wildly exaggerated rants forgotten. I’ve not said anything about what some would consider major milestones. Not my move to another town. Not when I purchased a 2007 Porsche Cayman S after literally months of research and a lucky find on Facebook.

I even stopped reviewing games. Reading books.

What have I done instead? I don’t even know. I feel like my life essentially ended four years ago when I stopped sleeping well after tapering off my Lexapro. Sure, I wouldn’t have even been on that if something weren’t already deeply wrong in my life, or at least my perception of it. I’m terrified I’ll never escape the aftermath of that awful prescription, as my hormone systems continuously falter in the absence of proper chemical signaling wrought by neurons so constantly bathed in serotonin that they pruned receptors.

And I did it all to myself because this world has no instruction book, no guide except by equally confused and beleaguered brethren trying to make sense of it all. I’m even painfully aware of the subtext of pessimism and melancholy in these very words, for that is what I’ve always fostered. Of the two wolves in my mind, it is the one I’ve fed the greatest of feasts. My optimism is so withered away, starved by neglect, that I’m unaware I have any at all.

I can try, though. Coax that battered and ravenous animal from its oblivion perhaps only slightly. Toss it a scrap or two while it regains its strength. I’ve never really been one to think positively, but maybe on occasion I can break from the norm. It’s not like the constant aura of doom and gloom has done me any favors, after all.

Until Tomorrow.

America Redefined

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
― George Orwell, 1984

America is burning around us. Much of the justification is flawed, and many of the instigators are being sheltered from criticism by a litany of voices and spurious reasoning. And our institutions which are supposed to protect us from misinformation leading to this, are merely fanning the flames.

We didn’t get here by accident, or through any kind of organic movement backed by a populace in demand of change. It was something else entirely, and is still happening.

Undermining a Nation

In 1984, a KGB defector named Yuri Bezmenof outlined the process they commonly used to destabilize enemy countries. It comes in four phases:

  1. Demoralization which advocates Marxist philosophy to a generation.
  2. Destabilization where economic fundamentals are affected by the above.
  3. Crisis involves taking a real event and politicizing it against the prevailing belief system.
  4. Normalization is the final stage where true control is established.

The true insidious nature of this process is due to the first stage. Once indoctrinated children reach the age of majority, they put their beliefs into motion. They get jobs in industry and government, teach subsequent generations, and editorialize against the evils they perceive in society as cast by a Marxist lens which can do no wrong. Or, as Yuri put it:

“They are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli in a certain pattern [alluding to Pavlov]. You cannot change their mind even if you expose them to authentic information. Even if you prove that white is white and black is black, you still can not change the basic perception and the logic of behavior.”

This is actually a fairly standard exploit of cognitive dissonance when combined with early indoctrination. Is it possible that beliefs you’ve held dear for your entire life are wrong? Or is there some way confirmation bias can safely reinterpret the situation in your favor?

While not exactly a complementary evaluation of human nature, people tend to strongly adhere to their beliefs, and will espouse them to others if possible. That’s not exactly new or interesting. But this sets a precedent that can be further exploited.

Yuri believed the Demoralization phase was fantastically successful as early as the 60s. Enter phase 2: Destabilization.

Antifa Isn’t

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell

Once properly educated, the more fanatical adherents become cultural warriors. Antifa is ostensibly the name you give any reasonable person who opposes Fascism. Anti-Fa; get it? Unfortunately, the loosely organized Antifa groups follow a somewhat different set of tenets.

When most Americans see the word Fascism, they likely think of dictatorships featuring Benito Mussolini or perhaps Hitler’s Germany. However, a Marxist means something else entirely when they discuss Fascism, as suggested by a rather lengthy essay that essentially framed Fascism as a “modern world” Capitalism in 1935.

Given that Capitalism was already considered “decayed” into Fascism by Marxists way back in 1935, one must wonder what they think about it over 80 years later. The “original” Antifa, Antifaschistischer Aufbau München, put it this way:

“The fight against fascism is only won when the capitalist system has been shattered and a classless society has been achieved”

It should be noted that several false equivalences are made here:

  1. Fascism and Capitalism are synonymous.
  2. That a lack of Capitalism will necessarily result in a classless society.
  3. That a classless society is desirable.

The third point is debatable; it’s more likely that a classless society is not achievable, given this would also require defeating human selfishness itself.

Regardless, it is this kind of redefinition that garners far more support for their causes than is otherwise warranted. Antifa is “fighting the good fight” after all. Perhaps their methods leave a bit to be desired, but you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet, no?

There is a fantastic two part essay by the Gatestone Institute that really delves into their origin, beliefs, and methods:

Given the above context suggested by Yuri, Antifa themselves appear to be the result of that early work. And it’s not just Capitalism they want to dismantle, but several cornerstones of America, including its literal borders. Additionally, they continue to redefine language to fit their needs. Tweets like this are not uncommon among Antifa groups:

This is where we’re introduced to the ever-present specters of “White Supremacy” and “Patriarchy” in addition to the evils of Capitalism. It’s also where it becomes plainly evident precisely which indoctrination took hold.

Not Your Father’s White Supremacy

For those who still think White Supremacy is the belief that white people are superior, it may be time to reassess that notion. Like the concept of opposing Fascism really meaning dismantling Capitalism, the idea of White Supremacy has evolved into the concept that western nations were built for and by white people, and thus necessarily excludes anyone else.

The site Showing Up for Racial Justice puts it this way:

Cultural racism is how the dominant culture is founded upon and then shapes norms, values, ​beliefs and standards to advantage white people and oppress People of Color.

And thus the very fabric of Western societies is inherently oppressive, which requires them to be dismantled entirely. Fighting racism and hate doesn’t mean arguing with racists and trying to explain the error in their ways, but by tearing down the societies in which we live. Opposing that means opposing equality; an interesting catch-22 that makes a racist of anyone that expresses doubt against these various assertions.

Likewise, the terms Misogyny and Patriarchy have become similarly overloaded. They no longer mean hatred of women or imposition of a father figure. Now there is an underlying current of oppression, as required by Marxist ideology. There must be an oppressor and an oppressed in order for a revolution to occur.

So what exactly is supremacist about Western nations? Luckily, the Smithsonian produced a handy infographic outlining it:

White Culture in the US

The idea of a slippery slope is often discounted as scaremongering. Yet here is literal proof that the scientific method, families, and time are all considered white supremacist concepts. The irony here is that in order to presume that white people either invented or unduly benefit from these concepts that gave us the modern world, one would have to assume other races didn’t or couldn’t.

The soft bigotry of low expectations suggests this is the case. Is there anything more white supremacist than that?

But again, this is expected when trying to cause an upheaval in society. It is necessary to undermine every ideal, right down to the roots, so that it falls apart from within.

BLM Isn’t About Black Lives

As further proof of that, let’s consider the Black Lives Matter movement. The only people who believe black lives don’t matter are the tiny remaining cabal of crazy racists that will eventually die out. No country that elects a black man to the highest office in the land is fundamentally and primarily racist. Yet this somehow devolved into ongoing riots and destruction across the country.

Part of this is understandable, especially given the previous context that suggests America is racist simply by existing. From that frame of reference, “burning down the system” would be the natural response. Once again, Yuri would be proud.

Why is that? While this came to a head following the recent death of George Floyd, the movement and organization behind BLM are nothing new. Two of the founders of the BLM organization put it this way:

“We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories.”
— BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, July 22, 2015.

Perhaps even more illuminating, is that Susan Rosenberg sits on the board of Thousand Currents, which handles funding for BLM. The TL;DR here is that a convicted communist terrorist who attacked government buildings with explosives, now sits on the board that funds BLM.

BLM exists to foment revolutionary rhetoric, and so far it has been very successful. So far at least 20 people (most black) have died as a direct result of the ongoing riots.

We are now in phase 3: Crisis.

Everything Old is New Again

“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Whether or when we reach phase 4 (Normalization) is yet to be seen. However, one of the events that occurred during these riots should give one pause. Though dismantled, the Seattle CHAZ (Capital Hill Autonomous Zone) / CHOP (Capital Hill Occupied Protest) persisted for several weeks unhindered.

Though members claim it began as a kind of hippy commune, the occupation occurred despite the people who lived there, and businesses that were forced to shutter themselves. This area cordoned off several blocks of the city, resulted in severe property damage, and swiftly devolved into a dictatorship.

In what was supposed to be a cop-free zone, Raz Simone took over and began enforcing laws to keep the peace. Nobody elected him, and despite the protection he was providing, four people were murdered in Seattle in the space of 10 days. One of these was at the hands of the security force itself.

Instead of a police force which is governed by laws and is presumably accountable to the rightfully elected government, Seattle got a group of armed vigilantes accountable to none. A security force which, if the video can believed, gunned down two black teenagers, much like the much maligned law enforcement they want to abolish.

What was supposed to be a “summer of love” according to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan instead became a lawless bloodbath. The overriding issue is that CHAZ / CHOP existed at all, since it illustrates that a foothold for a persistent revolution—however tiny and ephemeral—is possible. It set a precedent that others will attempt to emulate. Unless immediately stopped, they could even succeed.

Given how brazen these attacks are becoming, can we even rule out that possibility anymore? If that ever happens, we enter phase 4.

What We End Up With

Perfect is the enemy of Good. In ruthlessly striving for perfection, we risk devolving into chaos as we destroy everything in order to reach that impossible utopia. Yuri also had an answer for what happens after that final revolution that brings down the prevailing society:

They serve purpose only at the stage of destabilization of a nation. For example, your Leftists in the United States, all these professors and all these beautiful civil rights defender, they are instrumental in the process of subversion, only to destabilize the nation. When the job is completed, they are none, they are not needed any more. They know too much. Some of them, when they see the Marxist-Leninists come to power, obviously, they get offended. They think that they will come to power. That will never happen, of course. They will be lined up against the wall and shot.

After all, as Antifa are often fond of saying, “Liberals get the bullet too.”

Either way, unless we do something to halt this slow unraveling of social norms, we will have front-row seats to the surreal real-time collapse of The West in general.

That may not have been possible in past cultural tumult, but the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has substantially weakened everything. Our resolve, international shipping lines, the economy, businesses of all description, medicine, our daily lives. We are literally on the brink of collapse, and keep experiencing further upsets to morale. All while our cities burn down around us with seemingly no end in sight.

It’s not simply that what comes after will be unlike what came before. There is real potential here for Western societies—all of them—to cease functioning entirely. If there is to be change, I’d prefer it to be gradual, lest we risk derailing the train entirely off a cliff.

But revolution makes no account for feasibility or sustainability, only action. I can only hope it went off prematurely, and it can be stopped now that it has become so blatant while there are enough dissenters.

If not, well, it was nice knowing you.

Sleepless in Everywhere

Sleep is the crank that turns the engine, and mine has long since snapped at the axle.

I don’t blog much anymore, a thing I realized once it became obvious even to me. I didn’t wax nostalgic about turning 40. I didn’t say goodbye to the home where I’d spent the last six years. I didn’t gush about the Porsche Cayman I recently purchased to fulfill an old childhood dream. No espousing about Keto, either recipes or studies. Nothing.

All events I would have gladly documented in great length—likely on multiple occasions—once upon a time. I’ve certainly rambled on about far less interesting topics. I just don’t have the energy.

I woke up at 3am this morning, mentally alert and yet completely exhausted. It’s not the same as being tired; it’s a mind that steadfastly refuses to rest. Even while nary a thought crosses through that vast rift between empty instances, it bides time watching the eons drift by.

It’s actually a feeling I’m well accustomed to. I’ve told the story before, but I’ve never taken a nap as long as I can remember. Even in preschool when the nap mats came out, I figured they just wanted us to be quiet for their own sanity. I was always polite about it, but never really understood that the other kids were actually sleeping. It was an alien concept to me then, as it is now.

One thing I could always take solace in, was that I tended to sleep deeply when I finally managed to pull it off. Multiple times, alarm clocks would fail to rouse me and instead, the infernal beeping or music would incorporate themselves into a dream, and I’d inevitably be late for school or work. It wasn’t ideal, but we work with what we have.

That changed a little over three years ago. I don’t reasonably know the cause, though I tend to speculate it has something to do with weaning myself off of an SSRI around that time. Whatever the case, my one point of solace ceased to exist. Now I can neither nap nor sleep deeply. I awaken at the slightest provocation, and if I do fall asleep again, do so restlessly. I always wake up sore, and never refreshed. I don’t even nod off in vehicles anymore, passenger or otherwise, no matter how long I’ve gone without sleep.

And in the aftermath, I am filled with a quiet desperation borne of dread unequaled by anything I’ve yet experienced. My senses are dulled, and life offers no succor. In many ways, I feel hardly alive at all. The days blend together as my memory fades with the lack of sleep. I’m too tired to do anything, and too debilitated to care. I plod along out of obligation now, rather than desire, or my old steadfast of spite.

And despite all of that, my mind remains online, ever vigilant. No pill has calmed me. A sleep psychologist says I’m doing everything right, the CBTI has run its course, and my sleep hygiene is impeccable. I’ve tried every supplement with even one clinical study that suggested sleep improvements. I adopted mindfulness meditation near the beginning, which I still practice daily. So far, nothing has really worked.

On a good night, I’ve perhaps clawed back half of what I once took for granted. How can someone remain mentally alert and yet completely spent for over three years? They can’t. So I’m left conserving what little acuity remains, each tiny erg of motivation I can muster, just to accomplish simple tasks. So gone are the ruminations, amusements, and in-depth technical pieces I used to share. They are but one of the many casualties caused by this ceaseless malady.

If my brain were a car, someone dropped a brick on the accelerator and fucked off. It desperately wants to rest, and is dragging down every aspect of my performance and enjoyment, but that contemptible brick keeps fueling it with an unholy endurance. It’s not that my mind is racing—though it clearly does that as well—it’s that it won’t shut down.

I just want to sleep again. I’ll do anything. If I had any energy to do so, I’d weep at the thought of being trapped in this hell.

But what choice do I have?

R720 or Bust

Ever since my previous foray into building a server, I’v been trolling Lab Gopher for an upgrade. My preference would have been for a Dell PowerEdge R720xd 3.5-inch format since it could hold 12 full-size hard disks. But those are relatively rare and deals were scarce.

Instead, I stumbled across a Dell PowerEdge R720 2.5-inch format with an additional drive cage. So while 2.5-inch drives were lower capacity, I could use 16 of them if necessary. Being as I still haven’t come close to filling the 2TB I currently have thanks to ZFS compression, I’m not really pressed for storage. Still, with a server in hand, it came time to plan the upgrade.

Apples to Apples

Once the server arrived, it came time to take stock. Here’s a quick comparison of the new server and the old one.

R710 R720
Processors 2x Intel X5600 2x Intel E5-2660 v2
– Cores 2×6 2×10
– Threads 24 40
– Speed 2.8GHz 2.2GHz
– Turbo 3.2GHz 3.0GHz
– Cache 12MB 25MB
Memory 64GB 128GB
Drive Capacity 8 16
RAID PERC 6/i 512MB H710 1GB
Remote iDRAC 6 Enterprise iDRAC 7 Enterprise

Basically the new server utterly annihilates the old one on pretty much every metric. That’s to be expected when moving from an 11th to 12th generation server, but it’s also slightly quieter. The only place where it loses out is single-core processor speed, which is admittedly somewhat irksome. On the other hand, I haven’t benchmarked it yet, and the single-core performance in newer architectures tends to score slightly higher.

Regardless, with that many cores, I have a bit more breathing room for my VMs. Who can argue with that?

When a Plan Comes Together

Given the hardware available, I want to squeeze as much out of it as possible without breaking the bank. That means I plan on combining these ingredients:

Wait… H310 RAID controller!? Didn’t the server arrive with a much better H710? Yes, but unlike the H310, the H710 doesn’t support drive passthrough; all drives must be assigned to a RAID set. ZFS vastly prefers having direct control over the underlying disk devices, and to facilitate that, I actually had to downgrade the integrated RAID card. On the other hand, since that’s a drop-in module, I now have a spare H710 controller with a 1GB BBU I can pawn off. Score!

The goal here is to start by mounting the two M.2 drives onto the SilverStone adapter. The R720 is too old to boot from M.2 NVMe drives, so the Samsung 970 EVO isn’t bootable. However, the ADATA is a SATA device, and the SilverStone allows it to run off the motherboard SATA header. This gives me a very solid OS boot drive along with a decoupled read / write cache layer that’s roughly 5x faster than the Samsung 860 EVO I’m currently using in the old server.

That means I install Proxmox on the ADATA drive, format 4x 1TB drives as 2x ZFS mirror sets, partition the 970 EVO, and add it as ZIL and L2 Arc devices. Once I’ve got everything configured properly, I can attach it to my network and migrate the existing configuration and data. ZFS has an extremely capable snapshot exporting system that’s orders of magnitude faster than rsync since it has immediate access to block-level deltas via COW (Copy on Write). The initial sync will take a while, but when I’m ready for the final migration, I can stop all my VMs, take a final snapshot, and initiate one last (and speedy) copy.

Now, those who are familiar with Proxmox know I could add the new server as a second Hypervisor in a fully configured cluster. In theory, that means I could use Proxmox itself to migrate everything over to the new server with almost no interruption. However, I’m using ZFS snapshots to maintain my long-term external backup device. If I migrated the VMs and LXD containers that way, I’d lose disk parity and have to overwrite my existing backups. Performing a ZFS snapshot migration lets me keep everything going as-is.

Once all of that has been running for a while and I’ve shaken out any cobwebs, I’ll swipe the drives from the R710 and finish the surgery by adding two more ZFS mirror sets. That gives me a total of 4TB of space which I’ll probably never use, no matter how many VMs and Containers I throw at the system. Even if I do, I have space for eight more drives; it’ll be a while before I need an external disk enclosure.

So Far, So Good

At this point, the server is mostly ready. I’ve swapped the H710 out for the H310, and installed the SilverStone adapter along with the 970 EVO. Thanks to not reading the fine print, I neglected to realize the Dell R720 can’t boot from an NVMe SSD, PCI adapter or not. On the one hand, that means I have to wait a bit longer to get everything going while the additional drive ships, but on the other, I can decouple the OS device from the ZFS R/W cache layers; that’s probably safer in the long-run.

Thankfully the ADATA was cheap, and the SilverStone adapter works for both NVMe and SATA M.2 devices. At worst I would have also needed another M.2 adapter, and the R720 has seven PCIe slots—so much room for activities! Maybe some day in the distant future, I’ll add some 10Gbit network cards just to fill an unused slot or two, who knows.

In any case, this makes me feel as though I tinker with and customize server hardware the same way the previous generation messed with cars. I basically did the equivalent of loading up a Corvette with a new engine and a boatload of nitrous. Now I just need another person to compare notes with for funsies.

Any takers?