Kernel Panic

I’ve been thinking for over two years about how to talk about this, how to talk about the day I couldn’t process anymore. The day where my bullshit buffers overflowed. The day of my internal kernel panic. When starved for resources, my brain finally threw up a PSOD, and quit.

vmstan 1.0 build 11091983
PCPU 0 locked up. Failed to ack.
frame=4C lbs=E1 age=21
VMK uptime: 9:15:33:45.014
No coredump target configured

If there were some predictive analytics running on me back then, it would have been evident that this was coming for a long time. Unbeknownst to anyone else, I knew that I couldn’t keep up and that I couldn’t go on forever in my degraded state. The warning signs were all there, but no one was reading the logs.

The root cause analysis would tell you: lousy code embedded on possibly flawed hardware. No permanent fix, but mitigations are available.

Continue reading Kernel Panic

Shine On

Once upon a time there was a meeting of minds,
The sun and the moon made a deal with the sky,
One would take the morning and the other the night,
Together they would blanket the world with light,
But the moon had a shadow, he felt like a liar,
The sun was the only one who carried the fire,
The sun saw this, she kept on glowing,
Bound to the moon, never saying, “you owe me”
She said “I’ll shine on you.” Jason Mraz

Who will you shine on today?

Neowin Retrospective

Most of the people who know and interact with me professionally, or on social media know me as “vmstan” — and if you asked most of those people they’d tell you I only pay attention to two things when it comes to technology: VMware and Apple.

They’d be mostly right.

But there was a time before that, where I was “Marshalus” — and if you asked most of the people who knew what he paid attention to it was one thing: Microsoft. Specifically, covering Microsoft at Neowin.

That’d have been mostly right, too.

Continue reading Neowin Retrospective

Neil McNeill

Neil McNeill was the most interesting man in my world.

Neil knew something about everything and had an opinion to share on all of it. Not in a way that made you feel inferior or insignificant, but in a way that kept you wanting to hear more. It wasn’t hard to spend hours in his living room engaged in conversation.

He could discuss corporate taxation, or international affairs, and then a few minutes later explain how to avoid overcharging a lithium battery.

He was born in Kansas. He worked in the Pentagon, lived in Japan and served in Vietnam.

He flew planes both big and small. He retired from the Navy, but didn’t want to be called Captain. He had a PhD from Harvard, was an accounting professor, but hated to be called Doctor.

He was a husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Those titles he didn’t mind.

He owned one of the very first telephone answering machines. He sniped eBay auctions for radio control airplane parts. He complained about PayPal, a lot. His house had a gadget, part or widget for doing just about anything.

He was a geek.

In 2013, doctors told him he had just a few months to live. He lasted almost two more years. Even as cancer gripped tighter on his liver, lungs and heart, even as radiation and other treatments abused his body, he always had just enough energy to light up and entertain us all.

Neil’s dad had lived to be 102, but Neil was only 83. He had too much life to live for. This man wouldn’t go down without a fight. Even towards the end, hospice would say he had only had a few days left, and weeks would go by. When they said it was a matter of hours, no one believed them.

They obviously had no scale to properly measure Neil McNeill.

Neil was my wife’s grandfather and since both of mine had passed away years before I was even born, over the the 12 years I knew him, he became mine too. He was the most interesting man in my world, and he will be forever missed.

Peace out, Gramps.

Rash Judgement

A couple of months ago I noticed a rash on my wrist, under my Apple Watch. I didn’t put a lot of thought into it at first, made sure to clean the strap and back of the watch. Figured it was just from lack of skin breathing under the sport band, on a hot day, after a workout.

But the rash didn’t go away, it actually got worse, and it seemed to be localized to one spot on the back of my wrist, right where the metal clasp of the sports band rubbed by arm.

And it was getting painful.

My wife was the first to suggest that it looked like a nickel allergy. At first this seemed strange, why would Apple put nickel in the band? Everyone knows that can cause issues. So I did a little research.

The stainless steel in the Apple Watch and in the bands, is grade 316L, per Apple’s own site. It’s incredibly common in jewelry, medical implants, and other places where contact with the human body is a thing. It’s also easier to machine than other grades of stainless steel. But it has nickel in it. According to AZO Materials, about 10–14% of the composite is within spec for 316L.

Still, I’ve worn watches forever, and ever since I was a teenager they’ve all been watches with metal bands. Apple Watch was the first watch in probably 18 years that had a band made out of plastic. (Sorry, fluoroelastomer.) I started thinking back, and when I was about 15, I had a similar reaction on the top of my wrist that a doctor told me was because of the nickel in the back of a cheap watch, but I ditched the watch and it was never an issue again.

My wife suggested that I apply some nail polish to the back of the watch clasp to create a barrier between my skin and the watch. This didn’t last very long, within a day the polish had separated from the metal and stuck to my skin. I started to wear a bandage with some hydrocortisone cream on the irritation, under my watch. But this all seemed silly.

So, I called Apple.

The first person I spoke with instantly transferred me to a specialist the second I mentioned a rash and Apple Watch. They weren’t going to mess around. Tom took my case, and started to ask me a lot of questions about my usage of the watch, how often I wear it, what bands I use, if I shower with it, work out with it, how often do I clean it, etc. Then he started to ask medical questions like if I had asthma, allergies, other issues with jewelry, rashes on other areas, etc. And then questions about the rash specifically, what I was doing about it, what it looked like, did it hurt, was it raised, when did it appear.

The initial call took about an hour, and at the end he had me send 8 pictures of my wrist. Four with the watch on from all angles, and four without the watch on, including a closeup of the rash. Eventually he let me know that this would have to be escalated to engineering and that he’d give me a call once he heard back. It was the Saturday before the big fall announcement, so I didn’t expect anything back for a while. I was told to stop wearing the watch to see if the rash cleared up. Eventually I put the watch back on with a barrier and continued my hydrocortisone treatments. The rash went away.

That Thursday, Tom called, and after discussing the current status of the rash, advised me to try wearing the watch again to see if it returned. So I did, and it did.

Tom called back a few days later, and I let him know the rash had returned. He asked for more pictures, the same as before, which I sent over, and he said he’d call back in a couple of days once the case had been reviewed again.

Eventually, Tom called back and said that after reviewing the case Apple had determined that it was indeed a nickel allergy, and they’d be willing to process a return for the Watch. He also suggested trying an alternative band. I quickly told him I wasn’t interested in returning the watch, because despite the fact it’s slowly trying to kill me, I love it. I asked if under the circumstances I could get a discount or trade-in on another band, he said he’d find out and called back a little later with another woman from the customer support team.

She asked me what band I would be interested in, color, size, and then asked for my shipping address. She initially said she would call back the next day with more information but then about an hour later I got an email from Apple that they were sending me out a new medium black Leather Loop, at a $0 charge.

It arrives today.

For those of you who keep track, I’ve actually had the leather loop before, for about 18 hours. I bought it on an impulse. Twice, actually. The first time I ordered it with the watch before it shipped, but then cancelled it to give the sports band a proper evaluation. The second time, was in the store, but I had buyers remorse at the $150 price tag. (More accurately, I decided it wasn’t worth trying to justify to the wife.)

For now, I’m still sporting bandages under my watch, to clear up the second coming of the rash. My next problem is figuring out what to do about the fact that the leather band isn’t appropriate for working out in.

My other issue is that a week before I learned all this, I backed a Kickstarter for a stainless steel band to match the space grey aluminum watch. It’s made of 316L.

Blog Engineering

I spend a considerable amount of time and effort considering the infrastructure and engine that powers this blog, far more than I’ve ever spent contributing actual content.

Recently I’ve been considering a move from Ghost to GitHub Pages. It’s the hip thing to do these days. Scott Lowe moved his over last month, Jay Cuthrell moved his earlier last year. I’m sure there have been plenty more.

I’ve been playing with it for the last 24 hours or so. I can’t seem to decide if going to all the effort is worth it. I rather like what I’m using now (Ghost), it’s pretty simple, but with just enough features to do what I really need it to do. It seems like spending time moving away from it, for me, is sort of a solution in search of a problem. I already write in Markdown inside Ghost (required) and was doing so on previous platforms for this site including Octopress and Second Crack.

Might just stick with what works, and find more stuff to write about…

Bird Bath

This is the turkey brine receipe I’ve been using, adapted from this one by Traeger. The first time I used it, it was identical to their instructions but I’ve since boiled it down to what I consider the basics.

  • 20 cups of water AKA 5 quarts
  • 1–1/2 cups of kosher salt
  • 2 cups of bourbon
  • 2 cups of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
  • 6–8 cracked up bay leaves

Mix everything in a big pot. I start with the water and salt on high heat to get it broken down and then add the other stuff. Heat until just shy of a roaring boil. Let it cool off, you can add ice if you want to speed up the process, keep in mind it dilutes the brine.

Submerge and refrigerate for between 12 and 24 hours. (Don’t forget to remove the neck and gibblets from inside the turkey!)

When ready to cook, remove and rinse. Discard the brine since it’s a giant biohazard from having a dead animal float around in it for a day.

Slice up oranges and onions and insert them into the belly of the beast. Salt and pepper the exterior.

I smoke the turkey for 2 hours on the Traeger, and then cook at 350F for about 3 hours. Traeger has you use melted butter over the bird during cooking but I have realatives with milk allergies so that doesn’t happen. Make sure the thickest part of the bird reaches 165F with your meat thermometer. (Don’t rely on the little plastic popper.)

Remove from heat and let it rest for an hour before you do anything with it. When ready, remove the stuffing and discard, then slice and dice. Try not to eat all of it before you serve it to your guests.

Happy turkey day.

Fearful Coaching

Something stood out from an article on the Birth Without Fear site that Sadie sent me earlier tonight:

I have watched her move on past the trauma and postpartum depression by herself. I was there, but I am not a trained counselor or therapist. There’s only so much emotional support I can offer because I have never experienced it first hand.
But what about me? What about the husbands reading this or the husbands of the women reading this? What happens to them when they see their wife’s plans go up in smoke, when the hospital staff mistreats or violates their wife, when these supposed childbirth care providers instill their ignorant fears and hospital protocol on humans in a one-size-fits-all manner? What happens when we are there to support our wives through the thick and thin, but can’t because only she can birth her baby?
I was there to support Mrs. BWF, but I never realized I needed someone there to support me.

Sadie has covered in detail the events of Pearson’s birth, and how its effected her. When it comes to moms recovering from traumatic deliveries, there is an abundance of literature, support mechanisms, and well wishers out there. There were many people who were looking out for postpartum depression in her.

But did anyone ever stop to ask how it effected me?

I was there through the entire pregnancy (from the start, technically) and attended every prenatal appointment and test. I was there to research and interview all the midwives and doulas we considered. From the moment Sadie went into labor, I was there for the long haul. That is, up until the very end, when we were forcibly removed from each other.

At the point during the delivery where it became apparent that our natural birth plan wasn’t going to happen, I had been mentally preparing myself for what I thought would happen next. We knew Sadie would be put under because it was past the point of doing anything else. The nurses handed me my scrubs and told me to suit up. Unbeknown to me, there was some controversy as to where I’d be during this process. I assumed it would be right by her side. Sadie was wheeled down to the OR to be prepared for surgery, and I put on my uniform. I was nervous but excited that my son would soon be here. The nurse came back to the room and we started walking down the hall. That’s when she dropped the bomb:

You’ll need to say goodbye to her, and then we’ll come back down and get you.


By the time I got into the OR, Sadie already knew. I started to cry, and then we were separated. At first I thought I’d watch from behind the operating room windows, but then they shuffled me out and then I was back in the original delivery room.

Saying I had trouble breathing would be a massive understatement. It was as if suddenly, there wasn’t enough oxygen on the planet to sustain me.

I sad on the edge of the birthing tub, and I waited. Crying. Terrified. Furious. The entire pregnancy I’d focused on the process of eventually getting my son out. I was the coach. Through the labor I was the one my wife leaned on through the contractions. I was prepared to be there at that moment, to fight our midwife to catch that kid when he came sliding out. It was my job to be in that room at that moment he emerged, regardless of how… and I wasn’t.

At that moment, it was as if I had my identity ripped from me. What I’d setup to define that moment, and myself as a man, vanished.

Eventually a nurse came past the room to announce that they’d pulled a crying baby boy out of my wife. Eventually I got back down to the operating room and saw Sadie’s insides outside of her, and looked over as they were cleaning off a screaming Pearson. There, in that panic, is a moment I will never forget where I spoke to my son and he stopped crying to turn to look at me. It was awesome.

Awesome is a word that gets misused and abused. That was an awesome moment. For me, it was the moment he was born.

But even as I stood there in that moment, I was still furious. I’d missed something, something that would have been just as awesome. I’d missed the moment I’d waited for, that we’d planned for. I missed something I will never have a chance to experience again. The moment our first child came into the world.

Even as my parents and in-laws arrived at the hospital, in the joyous moment of them meeting their grandson, I was angry.

Everything had come down around us. The entire plan was destroyed. And destroyed not just in a way that we didn’t get exactly what we wanted. In a way that neither of us got to experience the most important part of the entire process. We’d both been cheated out of it. Her, by virtue of the decisions we’d made through the process to do a fully natural delivery, but me… by the decision of the anesthesiologist.

You see, there was no other reason why I was to be excluded from this moment, except for the arbitrary decision of one man.

For the rest of the time in the hospital, my wife and son were very well cared for. But no one really was watching out for me. I was physically exhausted, but more importantly, I was mentally exhausted. Everyone paid close attention to my wife and her care, but no one really stopped to find out how I was doing.

As I sat there on the horribly uncomfortable Dad’s Bed in the hospital room, I contemplated the events of the last 36 hours. At that moment, I wanted to find the man responsible for my pain and beat him to a lifeless pulp. It’s fair to say I probably wanted to kill that anesthesiologist.

I realize he doesn’t feel like he did anything wrong. It was just another day at the office for him. He probably never had a second thought about his decision. He came to work that day, put my wife under, had lunch, and then made similar decisions the rest of the day. He probably washed up, went home and ate dinner and had no problem sleeping. Not me. Here I was living on the flip side of his decision.

Living with the pain.

Sure people made the obligatory “how are you holding up, dad?” (usually followed by a big smile.) But no health care professional, family member, or friend ever pulled me aside and said “Are you OK?” They all made a point of making sure I monitored my wife for signs of trouble. But who was monitoring me?

No doubt that the trauma that Sadie endured was significant. And don’t for a moment let me make you think that mine is as significant. I also realize that there are dads and families that have had far more significant trauma. Pearson is healthy. That’s important, but it’s not the only important thing. The pain, the emptiness, the darkness, from those memories, are still there. I live with PTSD.

There is no support group for dads, like there is for moms. We’re expected to man up and move on. But what if you can’t? How do you deal with that?

What if the thought of your wife being put back into that situation, of having to deal with that pain again, is so much that you don’t even want to consider the thought of getting pregnant again? On January 18, 2012, I wasn’t afraid of becoming a dad, of birth, I was excited. I welcomed it. That’s not the case since January 19.

I had no fear. Now, I have nothing but fear.