Going Virtual

I have always wanted to play with Linux, so I decided to take the plunge and get into it. I definitely want to play on a system, but I know futzing about inside important files can occasionally cause crashes and damage. What do?

Enter the Virtual box. I’m sure many of you who have grown up in the sysadmin life have known about it for awhile. I have known about it, have downloaded it in the past and tried playing with it, but unfortunately I didn’t know what I was doing. Now I am trying again with slightly more knowledge, and lots more determination.
I downloaded Oracle’s VM Virtualbox, and immediately had to choose what OS I was going to be runnig on. I chose Debian, on a whim.
Step two was to download an image file of the OS. Here is where I ran into my first speedbump: To download the appropriate image file (an .ISO file), I had to determine my processor architecture. So to the googles I went. My particular processor on the machine is an intel i7. Apparently that falls under the category of AMD64 type architecture, so off I go to download that particular image file. In this case, the complete .ISOs are broken up into 3 DVD images, stored as torrents. (Torrents are a very unique type of information storage. I need to research them more.)

***Important: While I waited for these torrents to download, I read some of the instruction manuals for Virtualbox and Debian. I used to read instruction manuals all the time, but when I turned about 14, I stopped doing it. This seems to be around the time I started failing at learning at high speed. Your mileage may vary, but I think this helps.***

After torrenting was complete, I decided to go for the full monty: all drivers, full install, disk partition and encryption, etc. I chose LILO as my boot manager, because I am a total newb and I read online that it is more user friendly than GRUB. I checked off a few more settings, then finalized the install. Suddendly I am left with a command prompt and not much else. This intimidates me, as I don’t know if I successfully installed the OS or not. I know few console commands right now, and fewer in Linux (sudosudosudosudosudo!?)
Ok, round two? Clear that VM, and then reinstall, except this time choose Graphical Install. This one looks more friendly, but is taking a lot longer.
Speedbump number two: during software installation, I am asked to swap out discs to DVD number two, but when I try to load the next ISO I recieve an error message saying the media is locked. I can try to “force unmount” the ISO and the second one tries to load, but then the installer freaks out and asks me to replace the previous disc. This is irritating; why would you ask me to do something, then tell me to undo the action?
Intuition tells me that the problem is somewhere in the Virtualbox. I’m not doing something right, so time to reference back to the instruction manual…While I am searching I’ll try finalizing and rebooting anyway.

Wait, what?! It actually booted up anyway. I am first presented with a command line interface again, asking for the disk encryption password, which I provide. Then the disk decrypts, and lo and behold! I am presented with a GUI login. I jump right in, and a…strange…desktop loads. I am not used to this. Things are similar to a standard windows GUI, but things are also slightly off. I am afraid of change. I go for it anyway. Many programs and packages are loaded already. Excitement builds. I have to find out what these things do. I also need to access the internet THROUGH my VM!! Without that it is worthless. I look for a web browser and find “konquerer”. After reading the tips and tricks splash page, I route to google.com. Success! Through the magic of…something, I can access the web immediately with no modifications.

Now things are getting interesting.

I immediately download some penetration software (John the Ripper, Kali, and search around for more interesting items) and basic stuff for my desktop…and I run out of disk space in a hurry. Guess I gotta upgrade the VM’s virtual disk size, since I am so data hungry.
I’m going to go play now. I’ll let you know what happens.
Thanks for reading!

Review- Extended Stay America

Dear Cthulhu who sleeps R’lyeh, never stay at this place.

I was sent to Richmond to do a job for a month. My company paid for me to stay at the Extended Stay America Hotel North Chesterfield – Arboretum, in Richmond, VA. I arrived around midnight after a long day’s work, and a long night of driving. I held no illusions about the place I was going to be staying at; the hotel had been negotiated down to a corporate rate of 39 dollars per night. I was expecting to turn in for the night on a moderately comfortable bed, in a reasonably hygenic room.
What I got was far from that.

The first thing I noticed upon walking into the hotel was how…stale it smelled. the walls had a strange patina of yellow film that seemed to coat everything, even the counter and advertisments. The reception desk staff were nice enough and the elevator up was conveniently placed. I checked in, and entered the elevator. Someone had drawn a van dyke beard on one of the advertisements. Amusing, but not harmful.
The elevator shuddered to life, and I ascended to the second floor of the building. Upon exiting, the stale smell grew stronger, and I was also made acutely aware of fighting families, crying babies, and cooking food.
“Well, what does one expect from an extended stay facility?” I thought. “These people are either down on their luck, or are here because their job placed them here. Something else to just ignore.”
I trundled down to my room: 241. I attempted to activate the keycard lock for the door, with no success. Okay, maybe the key is faulty. I tried the second one…nope.
Why is there a dude in a wifebeater and boxers staring at me, and my luggage, intently in the hallway?

I lug my things back to the elevator, get my keycards reprogrammed at the front desk, and return to my expected place of rest. A green light shines. Success! I step through the portal into my new home for the rest of the month…and I am immediately greeted with the stench of old cigarette smoke.  Joy.
The hue on the walls has darkened to an orange tint in my room, reflecting the chronic staining of chain-smoked nicotine. My allergies are enthusiastic about an opportunity to react.

This revelation makes me suspect about the room’s cleanliness, and I feel as if something is off about this place. I set my things down on the tile floor, and begin an inspection. The kitchenette looked fine, a small, circular burn mark on the counter where a fresh-off-the-stove pot had been placed. Normal mistake, could happen to anyone, and too expensive to bother with for a hotel to fix. I understand that.
I moved to the main attraction of the room: the bed. I laid down on it, tested its firmness and give. It wasn’t very comfortable, but a place to lay one’s head is better than in one’s car. I look around the bed for an outlet for my phone charger…oh hello.

Ew. Grody.
At least someone was using protection.

Okay, now we’re finding things I don’t want to find. Sure, a slice of a condom wrapper isn’t that unhygenic; however it’s not something that you want in a “clean” hotel room.
So I found this, and now I’m on alert. What else will I find? I look at the headboard and examine.

Ew. 2 Grody.
You’re not supposed to get it in her hair, so…

The headboard was stained with some sort of fluid, but given my previous discovery I could only assume that condom didn’t stay on for the whole ride. Now I’m concerned. This place is starting to become gross, and my skin is beginning to crawl just being in here. Plus my lungs are tightening from the nicotine on the walls.

“Hey, what else can we find?!” I wondered. If these gems were discovered in the first few minutes of walking into the room, there’s bound to be some fun hidden under the covers! Cue inspection of the bed.
I have read a thing or two about where certain things like to hide, and how they function. I pulled up the skirt of the bed (which was difficult mind you…that sucker was tucked and stapled in tight). What did I find?

3 grody 5 me.
The last thing a hotel wants mentioned in their Yelp review.

For those of you who can’t quite make that out, that is the corpse of a fully gravid bedbug, along with odd stains.
Houston, we have a problem.
I went into full teardown mode; I searched every drawer, power outlet, nook and cranny trying to find these little bastards. I pulled up the skirt, pulled up the sheets-

Grody 4 ever.
Did Vlad the Impaler have sex here? Also, pube.

and flipped over the (stained with…blood? mold? I dunno.) mattress:

5 is right out grody.
Found ya.

In the top corner of the matress, that’s where I found where the majority of the bedbugs had been hiding; exoskeleton remnants, digested blood, and other bits of bug detritus.
Needless to stay, I was done. I was too tired to deal with this, and I wasn’t about to stay in such a gross room. I didn’t even want to have the front desk re-room me, because if one room is this bad, others would also be bad. I didn’t like the idea of spending a month in a place with a grody factor 5.
It took me until 3:30 AM to arrange a check in, and I was VERY tired for my next day at work, but I managed to find much better lodgings elsewhere. I returned the following day to tell the manager what I found, who shrugged it off with a “whatever” sort of attitude. I will NEVER stay in an Extended Stay America thanks to this experience. They’ve gotta step their game up.

Hope you enjoyed the review. This is one that I would have preferred never to have to write.

Today I learned- Basic comment Security

comment number

Oh Hey! Someone commented on my blog that’s coo….wait, what? Four thousand?!! How in the blue blazes did I get 4000+ comments on something?!

This scouter is useless.
This scouter is useless.

So today I learned that leaving comment security completely open is bad, and a spammer can decide to fill my queue with two tons of meaningless text. I’m sorry if you commented in the past few days, I’m not going to see it, because it’s stuck in the middle of four thousands spam messages, and ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

So, how does one screen out this spammy stuff on WordPress? After some reading, it seems I don’t have any plugins on my blog active, and there is a nice little one called “Akismet”. This little gem comes with your basic wordpess install, and it was off when I started things up around here. It’s basic function is to shunt comments to spam that seem spammy. To activate it, you go to Plugins on your side bar, find “Akismet” and click activate. You’ll be taken to a page where you can sign up for an API key, and register for an account. Register, log-in, select the plan you want, and voila, spam is somewhat filtered.
I signed up for a free account, so they will screen 50,000 spam comments per month. Other plans, which cost money, will screen out more. There are other plugins out there as well that can add catchpas to the comment section, attach cookies to comment URLs and delete them if they don’t match up, all sorts of odd things to prevent spammers. I honestly don’t even know how they found this little blog so quickly.
I’m not sure if 50,000 comments per month will be enough unfortunately. The floodgates opened 1/8/16, and it was literally 1000 comments per day. Thankfully I was able to select most of them in bulk and dump quickly. I guess this is part of the fun of running a website and blog. Let the internet arms race begin!

So that’s one of the things I learned today! Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you learned something too.

Today I learned: MRSA and The D-Test

Bacterial resistance is a scary thought. As we go forward through time, more and more bacteria are learning how to adapt against the microbial therapies we have developed to save lives. One of the nasty bugs that’s out there, pretty much everywhere on all of us, is Staphylcoccus aureus. No doubt by now you’ve heard of MRSA, or “Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus”. It’s found in hospitals an communities worldwide now.

The reason why it’s called “methicillin resistant” can be a bit confusing. Methicillin is an older antibiotic of the penicillin family (beta-lactam antibiotics), and is no longer used due to some poor side effects and useability. However it was fairly potent because it was not inactivated by a chemical produced by many bacteria called “Beta-lactamase”. (Language hint: whenever you see the suffix “-ase”, this usually denotes an enzyme that cuts, destroys, or otherwise acts on something.) Penicillins generally have a ring shaped molecular structure, and beta-lactamase is an enzyme that is capable of popping open that ring structure and inactivating the antibiotic. Methicillin resists this inactivation action due to the ring structure being protected from attack by another chemical group. This fact made methicillin and its other related antibiotics highly desireable in treating many infections.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end. MRSA acquired a gene that allows it to produce its protective cell wall despite the presence of certain antibiotics, including penicillins and most cephalosporins. This changed the game for what you can use to kill it; some were still susceptible to sulfa drugs, and you could occasionally use tetracyclines to slow them down. One of the choices that was often used was Clindamycin, especially in cases of osteomyelitis (bone infection). Clindamycin is a cheap, long used antibiotic of the Macrolide class that helps slow down a staph infection (inhibits replication) and allows the immune system to fight it off. For some time, it was considered an alternative for treating staph infections, especially in people with sulfa allergies. Many types of staph were shown to be sensitive to clindamycin.

However, something wierd was noticed as time went on: When staph cultures were tested for what antibiotics they were sensitive to, clindamycin was often very strong against them on the plate. Unfortunately it would only work for a short time before the patient took a turn for the worse! This was vexing, because it challenged what we knew about how antibiotics work.
As it turns out Staph, and by extension MRSA, is capable of “inducible resistance to clindamycin”. Sometimes there are portions of the bacterial population that carry a gene that promotes resistance to macrolides, similar to how MRSA is capable of ignoring methicillin and its cousins. They will appear sensitive on a growth plate out of the body, but once they are in live tissue the presence of clindamycin will cause the gene to activate, and the bacteria will suddenly become resistant in a few generations.
A clever test was designed to detect on a susceptibility plate whether or not a bacteria is truly weak against clindamycin: the D test. The D test functions thusly-
1. A pellet of clindamycin is placed on a sugar gel that is inoculated with the bacteria of choice.
2. 10-15 millimeters away, place a pellet of erythromycin.
3. There will be a clearing around the clindamycin pellet.

A positive D test
A positive D test: the shape of the clearing in the positive test is why it has its name.

There may or may not be a clearing around the erythromycin.
4. If there is bacterial growth in the area of overlap between the clindamycin and the erythromycin, or the clindamycin clearing is not circular, then it has the resistance gene.

If you are checking susceptibilities, always keep this in the back of your mind. You usually have to request a D-test to be performed, it is not part of a normal panel.

If your bug is resistant to clinda, it’s probably a good idea to break out the big guns, like vancomycin. There is starting to be agreement now that in MRSA infections, vancomycin will be the treatment of choice. That’s a glycopeptide antibiotic, and quite strong; unfortunately it can only be given intravenously for a staph infection.

So that’s what I learned about the D-test! Thanks for taking the time to read. I hope you learned something too.

Today I learned- Failure to Thrive

Today’s learning topic is Failure to Thrive in an infant. This is a baby that won’t put on weight, despite assurances that the baby is taking in adequate formula.

The most important thing to determ ine is whether the parents are mixing formula properly. A “Cost saving” measure (because formula is expensive) is parents will occasionally mix in more water with the formula. This leads to the infant taking in enough volume, but nowhere near the correct amount of calories. This leads to poor weight gain or weight loss, and can even cause severe low sodium and brain swelling. It can kill the child if unrecognized for long enough. The ratio is ALWAYS 1 scoop formula, 2 scoops water. Doesn’t matter what kind of formula you use.

So you’ve determined that the parents are mixing the formula properly, but the child is still losing weight…what now?
The most important two things to evaluate are whether or not the child has a heart function problem, or has a genetic disorder. The two most important genetic disorders are Cystic Fibrosis, and Prader-Willi syndrome.
With congenital heart failure, usually caused by a valvular malformation or defect in the wall of the heart (septal defect), the infant’s body will do what’s called “third-space” fluid. This will cause fluid from the blood vessels to weep out into surrounding tissues where gravity allows it to collect, or in areas where blood capillaries are particularly permeable. The area that usually gets hit the hardest in infants is the lungs. Since they’re new, they don’t have much water in their bodies, but they also are very sensitive to changes. They might not be gasping for air, turning blue around the mouth, or coughing up frothy fluid from their lungs, but they may look like they’re “pulling” for air, and their rib muscles will retract, and they won’t gain weight. Why?
They won’t gain weight because of increased metabolic demand; the body is putting so much effort and energy into trying to get enough oxygen, they are burning up all available calories and thensome. This is also true of babies with cystic fibrosis; their mucus is too thick to mobilize properly, and they have to work harder to breathe. They also may have issues with producing the proper enzymes for digestion, due to the pancreas also being affected by the disorder.
Now, Prader-Willi kids can trick you. The common idea of a prader-willi child is obese with compulsion to eat, developmentally delayed both mentally and physically. However, Prader-willi babies will usually be small and suffer from failure to thrive. This is due to hypotonia (muscle weakness) and poor coordination of the sucking reflex. If you’re studying for a medical board exam, especially pediatrics or family medicine, that is definitely a pearl to remember.

So what do you do to fix the patient?
In these cases, the most sensible thing to do is to increase the calories available, and treat the underlying cause. This is easier to do with congenital heart disease; you either fix the leak, repair/replace the valve, or replace the heart. In the meantime, you can use low, weight dosed medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and others to help medically treat the heart failure.
With Cystic fibrosis kids, the number one most important thing is to help break up the large amount of thick mucus in the lungs. Highly concentrated salt water that is nebulized for inhalation (hypertonic saline neb) is the goto treatment of choice for CF patients, along with chest physiotherapy. Evaluation by a pediatric dietician is a must. A dietician can help determine just how many calories a CF baby needs, and enzymes can be supplemented if needed.
Finally in those who suffer from Prader-Willi syndrome, speech and occupational therapy can be utilized to increase muscle coordination and strength to provide a better suckle, and nasogastric tubes can be utilized for feedings until that is accomplished. Again, evaluation by a pediatric dietitian will be helpful.

Keep in mind, there are many other causes of failure to thrive. This is just some of the highlights, and specific things that I learned today.

So, that’s what I learned today! I hope this helped you learn something too.


So I have begun setting up a server, not on easy mode for a first timer. My benefactor, AmazonV, acquired domains from one hosting service, and had available cloudserver space on another service. Right from the getgo, I’m a little confused.

I looked on the cloudserver site’s sidebar to determine how to configure things. As it turns out, first I had to change the Nameservers on the hosting site, from the ones that were pre-filled to the ones that I was instructed to use by the Cloudserver’s sidebar. That was the easy part. Next came configuring the DNS on the hosting site. For some reason, there’s a prefilled “zone 1 public” DNS server setting that can’t be changed, so I had to clone it, and edit the new, renamed copy.

Configuring the DNS server seemed straightforward initially, but again there’s a lot I have to learn. First up was the A record: This was the main IP address that the domain is supposed to point to; in this case, my cloud server. Didn’t fiddle with Time to live settings, because not really worth it right now. Next up was an MX record: I had no idea what I was doing here. Neither the hosting site nor the cloudserver had something that was like “Mail goes here” for the domain of the mail server. At the moment, I’m running purely on assumption; I put the domain of the mail server as my domain, jetshadow.com, set the priority to 0, and added the MX record to the DNS zone. I am assuming this creates a mailserver from the ether, and once the cloud server is live and I can access my admin tools, it will be available to fiddle with. Updates on that as it occurs.

At this point, I thought the DNS record is complete, but apparently this still does not “unpark” the webpage, and I’m fairly stumped about what to do next. I also have been unable to communicate with the cloudserver itself aside from a simple login to root via PuTTY. I’m sure if I knew more about available linux commands I could make I do more things, but I was under the impression that the majority of interaction with the server was going to be via web browser interface with some sort of wordpress admin gate.

I wish they had taught this stuff in high school.

UPDATE: As you can probably tell at this point, since this site is up and running, it works now… IF you type in the IP address of the server.  I’ll have to determine what else is required to point the IP towards the site’s domain.  However, things are moving forward, thanks to a little help from AmazonV.

Black Mocha Stout by Highland Brewing Company- Asheville, NC

As this is my first beer review, and first review of things in general, I hope this will not be too disappointing.

The initial taste is smooth, and sits well on the tongue. There’s a bit of soft carbonation.
The “black mocha” portion of the stout shines mid aftertaste, where one can detect a nice mid-intensity flavor of black coffee and a hint of cream on the palate and back of the tongue.

The beer has a good consistency, not as thick as most stouts, and easily swallowed. You *could* chug it, but you shouldn’t.

The con of this beverage is or is an occasional coppery taste at the end of a drink. It’s not enough to severely impact the beer, but it is occasionally unpleasant.
All in all, a good entry-level stout.

Beginnings- How This site came to be.

I am a late 20s guy, who initially was pretty computer savvy when I was young (ages 6-11). I could troubleshoot basic problems, I could build a PC, and I knew how to get online, chat with friends. I was very interested in the concept of “progs”, which were programs one could download from less than reputable websites that gave the user (in my mind) “special powers”.

This was the era of AOL online, and instant messaging software; as I was a pretty nerdy and sickly kid, I didn’t have the ability to socially interact with people well unless I was separated by a screen, and I wanted to be able to be “master of my domain”. When I discovered progs, and their ability to enhance my messages with crazy colors, custom characters, and even impersonate others or Control their computers (re: spin their A: drive or eject their D: drive), I thought it was cool as can be.  I wanted to learn how to do more.
However, The Internet was in it’s infancy, and Google didn’t exist yet. I only knew what I could find on chat rooms, and that wasn’t much; most of the people in AOL chatrooms were as clueless as I was when it came to how progs were made, or how websites were born.
Around the time I turned 12, internet 1.0 started becoming a big deal. Everyone and their brother was building a GeoCities, Angelfire, or other free-hosted website. from what I gathered, you had two options available to you: writing the website in HTML yourself, or using a program like Trellix (essentially the microsoft word of web publishing) to do the coding for you, and you just place pictures around text blocks.
I built my own GeoCities site at one point, with Trellix. It was fun, but never came out looking quite right. I had friends who would code in HTML, and their sites always looked much more amazing. I never spent much time on it; coding wasn’t something that I grasped intuitively, which was frustrating for me. I figured I could always come back and learn this basic HTML stuff later when I wasn’t so busy reading medical journals.  That was when I felt I started slipping behind the curve with tech prowess and web/coding skill.
How wrong I was.

Now I realize, thanks to discussing with many IT minded folks, just how far behind I was even back then. I wish I had learned the existence of IRC back in those days, spoke with the hackers and the technophiles of the day. It would have been a great boon to have someone take me under their wing, show me the ropes while my neurons were young and flexible. However, there’s no time like the present to get started.

The mission of this blog is threefold:
1. To motivate me and encourage me to stick to a task. This is not my strong suit, so it’s going to take extra determination to not just give up.
2. To document my successes and failures, and maybe help someone else in my position gain understanding from them without as many mistakes.
3. To reach a wide enough audience so that perhaps I might reach someone who would be willing to give me pointers, critique my work, and help me become the best I can be.
4. Share fun and amusing things.

Everything here is going to be a work in progress, but every time I make progress, I’ll try to post an update.  Every time I hit a wall, I’ll post an update, and eventually explain how I worked around it. Sometimes it might not be about coding, sometimes it might be about medicine, or guns or something else. I don’t know. I just want to keep learning.

Thanks for taking the time to read.