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Merry Christmas and a Safe, Prosperous New Year!

Original Post: 12/29/2013

As I look back over the failures and successes of the past year, there is a lot to think about.  Some failures that were ultimately my fault, and successes that were because of others, or purely by accident. 

As with both success and failure, it pays to look at which are because of your actions, the actions of others or “dumb luck”.  And it pays to look at the lessons learned, so you don’t make the same mistakes; capitalize on what you did right; and be thankful for what others have done to help you.

With that thought in mind, look back on the year for it’s lessons, and look forward to the new year.    And just remember, not matter how bad  the year was, on January 1, 2014, you did one thing positive: you made it!  With that, you can look at the new year with hope.  With the lessons learned, you have better tools to face it.  With any losses you had, you are stronger.  And with your victories, you have more confidence.

So, I’ll stop with my preaching (mostly to myself), lets all make one resolution: to make 2014 better for ourselves, our loved ones, and anyone near us.

I hope you had a good Christmas season, and have a Safe, Prosperous New Year.




Short sweet and too the point.

Thanks to my manager at work, I learned about SSHFS a couple months or so back. So, I decided I wanted it on my “lab” machine, since I found it pretty useful. After some poking around, I found I needed to enable the EPEL repo on my CentOS machine. The write up at:, is a bit dated. I needed to use a slightly newer version of the repo. The command I used to install/enable the repo was:

rpm -Uvh

After that, it was straight forward.

  1. Install it: yum install fuse sshfs
  2. Enable it: modprobe fuse
  3. Check it was there: lsmod | grep fuse
  4. and make it permanant: echo "modprobe fuse" >> /etc/rc.local

The syntax to mount something is:

sshfs user@remotehost:/remotedirectory /localmountpoint

For example:

sshfs mascio@ /mnt/repos

If you are going to do a lot of this, I recommend setting up SSH keys so you do not need to keep entering your password. Of course, if you use no passwords on your private key, you’d better fiercely protect it!

Statistics is Hard! ?

First, full disclaimer: I am a university professor that teaches, among other things, statistics, algebra, and critical thinking. I have a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics/computer science, masters in computer science/applied mathematics, and an MBA. I have had four statistics classes, two probability classes and may other classes that could be leveraged in to solving statistics related problems.

So when I say statistics is not hard, you will say, “Yeah, right! Look at your background! Of course you can say that!”

And my response is: it really is not that difficult. Tedious, nit-picky, and time consuming, most definitely. I will get to my rationale in a moment.

So, why do people find it hard? Well, speaking as a student that once had none of those classes, I mentioned; I would say the first reason is bad P.R. (#1) How many times have you heard, “Stats was brutal!” Or “Worst class I ever took!” In addition, usually followed with “I don’t understand why stats is in my degree. I’ll never use it in the field.” (#2a) I see a lot of heads nodding in agreement out there.

And let me guess, it was brutal. I spent a lot of thought on this one, and believe the answer is a self-fulfilled prophecy. If you think it will be hard, then it probably will be.

Next up, why is it in your degree program? Well the direct answer is program accreditation. Certain things need to be in a degree program before it will be accredited and considered a viable degree. The background for this varies, but in the math world, well, we train the statisticians. In the business world, businesses have required it of business schools because they require that a businessperson be able to read a study and understand it. Not necessarily do it, but understand it. Marketing, sales, and finance all use research to try to understand and predict business trends. To understand what consumers will want and do in the present and near future.

So some old fogies who came before you decided this for you, true. Let’s then hope that they do understand what you will need, not necessarily right out of school, but in the not too distant future.

Next reason: Those damn variables! (#3) Math phoebes rejoice! It has to be hard since there are so many variables and subscripts to make a mess of things. And to make matters worse we throw in Greek letters to make it even more confusing! And if I can’t find ‘x’ how the H… am I supposed to figure out how to deal with these Greek letters? Moo? What is that? A letter or a cow? Sigma? Isn’t that a business process improvement program?

The last big reason? It is not relevant to anything in my life! (#2b) This is related to the “Why is it in my program?” After all, who does stats in day-to-day life?

Have I pretty much covered it? Do I hear an “Amen” out there?

So, we have four reasons that we think stats is hard, and we see one has nothing to do with us, but outside forces that we can’t change in the near future. Leaving us with three reasons and one excuse.

Let’s rewind the clock to the early ‘80s, to when I was in college, and the only stats I knew was some basic charting and graphing, mean (average) and median (middle number). And the only average I really cared about was my GPA.

I am a new math major, and I find out that I had not one, but two stats classes! Moreover, even the math majors I talked to said it was brutal! Shoot me now, please! Spare me this tribulation.

So, I finally take my first stats class, and guess what? It was brutal! For the first half of the semester, it kicked my proverbial butt! Then it dawned on me, it was not hard, but nit-picky! In addition, the way the calculations were demonstrated took up a lot of space, and required you to be very careful in your “book-keeping” to be sure you did not make a mistake.

From that point forward, it much of statistics got much easier. I wish I could say that this epiphany made me a stats superstar and I got the ‘A’ in the end, but I am afraid not. Because of the first half dragging me down, and taking a bit of time to figure out how to handle the “book keeping”, I would say I was mediocre by the end of the first class, but it was not brutal any more. Then it dawned on me, a difficult class was only truly difficult because of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think it will be hard, then it probably will be!

Before I move on, I have some questions for my audience: How many things can you do, that others think are difficult? If they said it was difficult, would you believe them? Why not? Isn’t that what you did about stats? Or maybe the hard part is the getting off the ground phase, but if you get that, then maybe the rest is not so bad?

So, to the students out there: Why should you believe something you do not know is difficult just because someone said it was? And why do you let it stop you? If you listened to everyone that said something was hard, you probably would not have learned to walk, ride a bike, drive, play poker, scuba dive, martial arts, or any of a million things that we all do, and enjoy. Now there is not to say there may be a bit of a challenge to learning something, but is that not half the fun? Doing something someone else looks up to you as an expert is pretty cool, ain’t it?

So why let reason #1 stop you? In anything? I do not know about you, but I am working on my last Ham Radio license. It is tough, in that, there is a lot of memorization, and I am not good at memorizing. Nevertheless, I am of the mind, come June 8th, I will have my license. I just have to put in the time and effort to study and pass. Hard? Well, if you consider making commitment to achieve a goal hard, then yes, it is. Is it hard to the point of being overly difficult and a barrier to success? No.

So reason #1 is all about not assessing for yourself, not going in with an open mind and looking at what you need to do. Better to believe others that may not be as smart, clever, or talented as you are; and use that as an excuse for not succeeding. Worse yet, using it as an excuse for being lazy. Yes, lazy. Let other think for you, and it is not your fault. I will say it now: WUSS!

Have I done so? To my chagrin, yes. There are areas of life, career, and hobbies I regret that I could have been so much further along than I am. And all I can say is: It was MY fault. I listened to others failures and assumed they would be my failures as well. Thank goodness, I have not listened in many other areas!

Let’s look at those variables, reason #3: You may say, “I had problems figuring out what to solve for and how.” On this one, I have to cry, “FOUL!”

If you looked in to things a bit, you would find that this is not algebra. There are very few cases of having to solve an equation. Most of stats is calculations not more advanced then arithmetic! Add, subtract, multiply, and divide! Repetitive? Yes. Tedious? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Algebra level math, or above? No.

And those Greek letters? Merely shorthand to communicate in a concise fashion. Does the ampersand scare you? (&) How about the octothorp? (#) No to both? Then why does mu? (µ) It is just a symbol that is a short hand for a specific purpose. If you are a programmer, you have even less excuse. You learn to use programming languages with a short hand all their own, frequently unique to that language.

Why not learn the shorthand of the language of statistics? If I can memorize a bunch of facts to answer 50 questions chosen from 702, why can’t you memorize maybe a dozen symbols?

I think we have taken another reason, and found it was merely an excuse. Now, I will agree, the math part might take a little bit, but if you can do basic algebra, that is easily overcome. With just a little practice. I would say, a few days of effort, at most, to reacquire and master those skills.

That leaves us with reason 2b. I think you can see, this is merely another excuse. Why is it relevant? Well, for not seeing this, we must lay the blame at both you and your instructor’s feet. Yes, I am letting you off the hook a little, just a little.

In your younger days, maybe your instructors could have help point the way better. Shown more of why statistics is relevant. However, if you are older than 18, you have some responsibly for either finding it, or requiring your instructor to point you in the right direction. Some would argue you really have all of the responsibility.

Marketing uses statistics in an attempt to determine market trends. Finance tries to predict financial markets, stock trends, and future yields. The airlines use it to better fill their airplanes. An empty seat is not just lost revenue, it is an expense. Psychology and medicine use it to extrapolate relationships between behaviors, illnesses, medicines and various other relationships. Manufacturing of all kinds use statistics to ensure the quality of their products. How does your field? I am sure five minutes with Google will yield several situations used in your field of question.

Lack of relevance? In this era of search engines, I would say lack of wiliness to take five minutes. How much time have you used online to search out news of you favorite sports or movie star? How much relevance did that have on your career and future? Not saying it is bad, but maybe a little bit more time in the areas, you can get leverage on a better life might not be a bad idea. Who knows, you may learn things you never thought you would learn, and actually find it interesting,

So, do we have reasons, or excuses? If you have gotten this far, and are honest, I think we both know the answer. I hope you have come to the same conclusion as I have, as an undergrad, long before the degrees and position of professor.

Finally, can a good instructor help point you in the right direction? Help with techniques that guide the non-statistician or non-mathematician? Sure, but useless if you want to fall back on the excuses and resist learning.

My epiphany? Most of statistics is process and bookkeeping. Since most of my students are business students who understand the world in this fashion, this is a natural fit. However, even for non-business students, the techniques are useful to aid in understanding and to help ensure you do not forget some of those nit-picky details.

Slowly, as time permits, I will try to document some of these techniques and processes on this website.

No excuses, let us get down to business.

Building a Virtual Sandbox (Part I)

Updated: 11/27/2013

A friend and I are working on a book on System Administration, not to mention it’s what we do for a living. In the course of these activities, a sandbox for experimenting with differing technologies is incredibly useful. The book uses CentOS/Fedora (,, but at my current job, we use Ubuntu ( And to make life more entertaining, the book and work use different technologies for monitoring, configuration management, source code control, etc.

So, in the course of my studies if all goes as planned, I’ll be presenting some How-To’s and insights for these technologies.

To start with, it is nice to have a network of virtual machines that can be standalone or have Internet connectivity, as needed. So, to start, I’ll with my run down of a great article from The Helpful Hacker website “A simple OpenBSD Router for your Virtual Machines”

You ask, “Why yet another technology?”. It’s simple. Not really, with this article, it’s really simple to get a router rolling for my purposes. I’ll be exploring router/firewalls in CentOS and Ubuntu later, but for today: OpenBSD – quick and dirty. (

And because I like to work in the living room near my beautiful wife ( and, most of this will be done in VirtualBox ( on a Windows notebook.

Some assumptions:

  1. You are familiar with VirtualBox
  2. You have some basic system administration skills

Let’s get started. Download VirtualBox and install it on your favorite workstation. Next, go to OpenBSD and download the install54.iso from one of the mirrors.

First, let’s create our internal network. Under File>Preferences>Network, add a new Host-only network. Update the settings to have the following parameters:

  1. Adaptor Tab:
    1. IPv4 Address:
    2. IPv4 Network Mask:
  2. DHCP Server
    1. Enable Server
    2. Server Address:
    3. Server Mask:
    4. Lower Address Bound:
    5. Upper Address Bound:

From here, we’ll pretty much follow The Helpful Hacker article with some minor changes, and then wrap up with some networking in preparation for our sandbox.

Create a new machine:

  1. Name: Torii
  2. Type: BSD
  3. Version: OpenBSD (64 bit)

Couple of notes here. Unless needed, I’ll be creating all my virtual machines (VMs) as 64-bit machines. Also, you’ll note that my VM hostnames will follow a martial arts theme. For particular tasks, I’ll use canonical names (CNAMES) to assign services (WWW, MAIL, IMAP, etc) to a host.

Host parameters:

  1. Memory: 64 M
  2. Disk: New VDI disk, Dynamically allocated, 20G

Leave the first network adaptor as a NAT. Add a second adaptor, enable it, and attach it to the Host-only Adaptor.

Now, attach the OpenBSD ISO to the CD/DVD Drive and start the machine.

  1. (I)nstall
  2. “default” keyboard
  3. Hostname: torii
  4. Configure em0
  5. IPv4 Address: dhcp
  6. IPv6 Address: none
  7. Choose “done” for network configuration.
  8. Choose a root password
  9. Start sshd by default: yes
  10. Start ntpd by default; yes
  11. Use default NTP server
  12. No to X windows
  13. No additional users
  14. I’m in US/Central timezone, but choose the appropriate one for you.
  15. Choose disk wd0 for the root disk
  16. Use DUIDs
  17. Use the (W)hole disk
  18. (A)uto layout
  19. Location of sets: cd
  20. Install media: cd0
  21. Pathname: 5.4/amd64
  22. Deselect the Xwindows sets: -x*
  23. Deselect the games: -g*
  24. And “done”
  25. When the sets load, choose “done”
  26. Set the time

And you are done! “Halt –p” the machine, unmount the disk, restart and log in as root.

Few more things, and we’ll be done:

  1. echo dhcp > /etc/hostname.em0
  2. echo “” > /etc/hostname.em1
  3. echo “nameserver” > /etc/resolv.conf
  4. sh /etc/netstart
  5. edit /etc/sysctl.conf, and uncomment net.inet.ip.forwarding and set to 1 (Permit forwarding of IPv4 packets)
  6. edit /etc/rc.conf and set pf=YES (enable pf firewall)
  7. edit /etc/pf.conf and add to the end: “pass out on em0 from em1:network to any nat-to (em0)”
  8. reboot

And you’re done.


If you want more details on the last steps, read the article at:

For our purposes, the first step of our sandbox is done.

Next up will be the 2 sets of VMs for us to play with: four Ubuntu systems, and four CentOS systems, with one system each with a GUI for our convenience. We’ll also add 1 Fedora system to the CentOS group.

The GUI based systems will have a dual role as our workstation and as the central server for most things. More on that as we get to them.

I Am Your Customer

I Am Your Customer

Satisfy my wants, add personal attention and a friendly touch, and I will become a walking advertisement for your products and services. Ignore my wants, show carelessness, inattention and poor manners, and I will simply cease to exist, as far as you are concerned.

I Am Sophisticated

Much more so than I was a few years ago. My needs are more complex. I have grown accustomed to better things. I have money to spend. I am an egotist. I am sensitive. I am proud. My ego needs the nourishment of a friendly, personal greeting from you. It is important to me that you appreciate my business. After all, when I buy your products and services, my money is feeding you.

I Am A Perfectionist

I want the best I can get for the money I spend. When I criticize your products or services, and I will, to anyone who will listen, when I am dissatisfied, then take heed. The source of my discontent lies in something you or the products you sell have failed to do. Find that source and eliminate it or you will lose my business and that of my friends as well.

I Am Fickle

Other business people continually beckon to me with offers of “more” for my money. To keep my business, you must offer something better than they. I am your customer now, but you must prove to me again and again that I have made a wise choice in selecting you, your products and services above all others.

– Author Unknown

Burn out

A common problem in our field. I’ve seen it chew up many good Systems Administrators over the years, and I’m sure it will take a corresponding toll on the NT SEs as well. Why?

No matter how good you are, there are always more fires, more machines to install/upgrade, more users to assist. It is the classic problem in just about any customer support position. No wonder SAs have a history of only being in the field for about 2 years, or in a company for 2 years before moving on. (I can not speak for NT SEs, but only time will tell…)

Long hours, fire fighting, unhappy users, emotional labor, and stress all add up to burn out in time. How do we avoid this?

By following the “Principle of Balance”. In the Seven Habits parlance, it is the core of “Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”. Habit 7 ties all of the habits together and builds the strength we need for our lives. It also can renew and rebuild a life that has seen a few, or too many, hard knocks.

What is Balance in our lives? Quite simply it is TAKING the time, to do all those things you need to do to balance out your life. In our careers and society, with all the demands being placed on us, there will never be enough time to “have the time to do whatever”. If we remember the first three habits:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First

They provide the foundation for self-mastery. I believe this is the key. If we have self-mastery, we take responsibility for our lives and actions (Habit 1), know what we want in life (Habit 2), know how to do (Habit 2) and are doing it (Habit 3). By taking the time to decide what we want in life, and setting out course, we will move directly in to Habit 7. If we have purpose, we can not avoid Balance. If we have Balance, we have purpose and mastery. Sound like something an old Eastern Master of Philosophy or Martial Arts would say? Well, that may be true, but it is also the same thing the Christian Bible says. As well as the Koran. And the Tao Te Ching. Not to mention more modern works as well. Why does this keep coming up? Because it works! And builds strong lives and strong people.

If you have that balance, fight to keep it. Balance is never something you “just have”, it is something you have to fight to have. But anything worth having is worth fighting for. This is actually the easy route in the long run.

If you do not have balance, this is the tougher road. It is the one I am traveling.

If you are a fellow traveler on this road, welcome. You have picked a tough one. But one with many valuable lessons and experiences. Some of them I am glad to have had, even though the better road would have been to keep the Balance and proceed forward.

It is tough to overcome imbalance in your life. The problem with imbalance, is that it is an easily self-perpetuating situation. One that can rob you of your personal power. I know, this is the second time for me. I guess I like falling off of wagons. 😉 The first time took a wake up call of Infectious Mononucleosis (mono). I recovered and rebuilt. This time, I fortunately did not need a wake up call, but saw the signs. Unfortunately, this one is tougher. The first time I was not married and a home owner with all that comes with it. Nor was I a consultant, and all that it entails.

Why am I spilling my guts to all of you? Well, I stood in front of many of you and claimed to be a “expert of sorts” on the 7 habits material. Whether or not I wanted the title, I claimed it by standing in front of you claiming to believe in the material. So I have to be honest with all of you. I’ve been out of balance for almost four years, and walking the edge of burn out the whole time. (OK, so I’m slow at waking up.)

Because of this, I am working on getting back away from the burn out stage. Not an easy road. How does one do this?

Well, by getting back to the basics. For me, that is re-immersing myself back in the 7 Habits material. (Now you understand why I am studying the material and encouraging others to do so.) Where do I go from here? For me, it is to return to my various studies, mostly philosophical and spiritual, some physical. In this way I am starting to feed 3 of the four areas we all have, the mental, spiritual, physical, and the social/emotional. The latter one is being partially filled by my wife, Charrie. It is also being partially filled by “talking” to all of you in this fashion. It enables me to give a piece of myself to others. I have a lot of work to do, but I hope this message will help some of you, as it does me. I helps me by reaffirming myself to my purpose and committing myself in front of my peers. I have a lot of work and welcome all of you to join me on my journey. All of you have a journey to travel, and I hope that your journey is filled with Balance and Purpose. (And don’t forget the fun along the way!)

Top 10 reasons for studying martial arts

10) Broken masonry makes great drainage for potted plants.

9) Get beaten up by people half your size and twice your age.

8) Never run out of kindling wood again.

7) No need to wonder what belt to wear.

6) Get to be on first name basis with the Emergency Room staff.

5) These uniforms make nice pijamas.

4) Never need to wonder why it’s hard to get up in the morning.

3) Get to appreciate the finer points of Chuck Norris’ acting.

2) Learn to count to 10 in 3 different Asian languages.

And the top reason for studying martial arts:

1) (Tie) Get to star in Ginsu commercials. /
Three words: free nose job.


No, this is not wedding announcement. But a hint of what each of us can be. Superman (and his lesser known cousin) can exist in each of us. (I’m NOT going to get into which one you want to pick. I am just NOT going to go there!)

Well, since this column is related to the Seven Habits, what do I mean? Think about it for a moment. Other then the super powers, what is the most notable characteristic of super heros?

Give up?

Try a little harder …



One word. Two syllables. Seven characters. Not much ink on a standard piece of notebook paper, even with how large _I_ write. One word, but so-o-o-o much meaning.

Purpose gives meaning to life. Purpose gives direction. Purpose provides motivation. Purpose is POWER. Think about a powerful person you know, not necessarily in a political or monitary sense. Powerful people create change in society. They are people with a personal vision and mission.

Psstt! (whispering) You want to know a secret? … Come over here…. (talking conspiratorially) We all can have it. Yep. All of us.

What does it take? Not much and a lot. The not much is what you already have: A brain, a body (healthy or not, hmm, probably could say that about the brain, too), an imagination, and dreams. The a lot is also what you already have: drive, determination, and the REST OF YOUR LIFE!

How do you get started? Easy – start dreaming. Decide what is important to you. Plan for it to come true. And execute, execute, execute!

In other words, Habit #2: Begin with the End in Mind, and Habit #3: Put First Things First.

You practiced Habit #1: Be Proactive when you decided to take that power for yourself.

Another little secret: No one has the power to take it from you!

If you decide to be a superman or superwoman, there is no Kryptonite except yourself. No one can take it from you, unless you let them. Hmm… That means … if you have a purpose in life, and you are proactive, no one CAN stop you. Unless you let them.

Guess what? You have just become an unstoppable force in the world.

Wow! We just gained a second power! Maybe invulnerablity is not to far off…

Consider the story of someone who had a major impact in my life. A man with a purpose in life, who not only make a difference in life, but make a difference in how he died.

When I first met Coach Delserone, it was in an art class. Little did I know how important this man was to become. Coach Delserone was a good sized man. He was very much like the football players he coached. Big, strong, quick on his feet. He also had a heart, a mind and a powerful mission.

Over the years, I went from Jr. High School to High School and I saw him everyday in my art classes. Im not an artist, but he never let that stop me. He encouraged the meager artistic talents I had and praised me when I was able to do something that exceeded my limits and grew, no matter how small it was.

He was the same way on the football field. He never referred to the team as “the team”, but “my boys”. He helped the football players who were in trouble. He never had an ill word for anyone. He was an inspiration to us all, in quiet ways. We celebrated with him when he had his first child. His son. You could see the family values he had for “his boys” , were there in his home life. The football team adopted Coach Delserone’s son, as if he was one of them.

Time passed, Coach Delserone’s son was two years old. We were all struck by a terrible blow – Coach Delserone was diagnosed with Lou Gering’s Disease. This is a terrible wasting disease that slowly destroys your voluntary nervous system, and continues into your involuntary system, leaving your central nervous system intact, until one day everything shuts down. Your body slowly betrays you, and you are fully aware of what is happening to you. A terrible disease.

Coach Delserone was diagnosed at having about 6 – 12 months to live. We were all in shock.

Coach Delserone always told “his boys”, his son, his friends, and his students, “Never Give Up.” That had always been his motto. This is important.

I graduated and went on to college, but I stayed in touch with another teacher who was Coach Delserone’s friend. I later learned, that he lived on for several years. Even when he was forced to live in a wheelchair, he kept coaching. Even when he did not have the strength to lift his hand to shake yours on greeting, his eyes never lost their fire. He became an inspiration to us.

In his last year of coaching, his football team played against Hubbard, our biggest rival and State Championship contender. In the week before the game, the school almost held its breath. There were no banners, there were no slogans, just one phrase was almost whispered: “Win it for _him_.” When our team entered the field, it was in almost silence. No one expected us to win.

Hubbard never knew what hit them! Because one man had a mission in life to help others, this team with no chance to win, but a meaningful purpose, literally slaughtered a team that should have run right over them.

I could go on from here, but this man, with only voluntary control of his eyelids, with the help of his wife, wrote a book.

When I got word that he had died, I cried. I still almost do, whenever I think of it. Some in sadness, because the world lost a man I would call a saint. But mostly in awe and inspiration of what can be done in life, if you never let the fire go out.

Find your purpose, and make a difference. Be “super“.

NB: Special Thanks to Carolyn Hennings for editing assistance, especially on such an emotional issue for me.


Who am I? Good question. Lots of people have been trying to figure that one out! Most people give up pretty quickly and just leave it at “John is John.” (or “mascio is mascio.”, if you consider me a virtual entity, instead of a real one.) A bit self-referental, but accurate.