Thank God for Mental Illness

While I could talk at length about long travel stints away from home and mental illness, I’ll spare you those details. Rather, the misleading title of this post refers to Reclaim Hosting‘s latest shared hosting server named after the 1990s musical collective The Brian Jonestown Massacre.* Ever since watching the 2004 documentary Dig! last year I have been binging on their music, particularly the My Bloody Valentine-inspired shoe gaze during the early 90s (the album Methodrone is amazing) into their psychedelic 60s exploration in the mid-90s. In fact, in 1996 they self-produced 3 albums in that year alone, all of which I have been listening to non-stop for over a month. And beyond that there is still a ton of music I have yet to hear given they’re still recording new music with 18 albums to their credit and counting. One thing that has struck me listening to their music so far is not just how prolific they are, but also how amazing their musical range is—traversing and experimenting with instruments and genres like few other bands I’ve heard.

Brian Jonestown Massacre (often abbreviated to BJM) is my new obsession, and if naming a Reclaim server after them can get just one other person to explore them than my job is done here. Below are a few excerpts from their Wikipedia article focusing on the 3 albums they recorded in 1996, the third of which (Thank God for Mental Illness) was reportedly recorded for $17.36.† 

Over the next couple of years the band shifted its sound from their more shoegaze, goth, and dream pop influences of the 80’s and 90’s into a 60’s retro-futurist aesthetic. As lineup changes persisted, the band continued to record and in 1996 released three full-length studio albums. The first of these, Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request reflects a pastiche of 1960s psychedelia. The album also includes vast experimentation with a variety of different instrumentation including Indian drones, sitarsMellotronsfarfisasdidgeridoostablascongas, and glockenspiels.[10] The title of the album is a play on words of the Rolling Stones’ 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request.[11]

The band’s second album released in 1996, Take It from the Man!, is rooted heavily in the maximum rhythm and blues aesthetic of the 1960s British Invasion.[12] The album includes the song “Straight Up and Down”, which was later used as theme music for the HBO television drama series Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014), and was engineered by Larry Thrasher of the influential group Psychic TV.

The third and final album released that year was Thank God for Mental Illness, a more stripped-down effort. Since the band did not have a drummer at the time, Newcombe took the opportunity to showcase more of his acoustic songwriting. The album explores more in-depth genres such as country and folk.[13] At the end of the album Newcombe included an entire EP called “Sound of Confusion”, compiled largely from earlier BJM recordings. “Sound of Confusion” features both regular songs and more abstract sound collages.

The cool thing is that this collective (it’s more than a band 🙂 ) has been going strong for almost 30 years, and while the documentary Dig! focuses on the erratic, drug-addled misadventures of the band (in particular the leading man Anton Newcombe, which admittedly makes for fun viewing), there is something to be said for sticking around long enough and continuing to do the work—or make the music, as it were. So, our latest server, bjm.reclaimhosting.com, is dedicated to all those folks in education who have stuck around and continue to try and make the music despite all the noise, noise, noise. 


*I know there are some who have taken issue with our server names suggesting that when taken out of context they could be considered offensive. All I can say to that is taken out of context most things can be. What’s more, we refuse to give up self-expression through the various cultural touchstones that ground the work we do in exchange for some soulless pursuit of a homogenized business identity.

†See, not all independent music acts are caught up in the music industry game as some (who have left our game) have argued when trying to poke holes in the Indie EdTech analogy floated several years back.

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Alta Via 2 Post Mortem

Right before New Year’s I pushed myself to finally organize and publish the images from the hike Antonella and I took through the Dolomiti mountains this August. I actually wrote 3 posts while in the clutches of the hike—one for each of the first 3 days—and a fragment on the fourth. But time and energy quickly caught up with me and I only got one post up during the trip. The other 2 and a fraction posts sat in my blog queue for months, and I gave myself the hard deadline of New Year’s to get them posted. But, as I was working on them I realized just how terribly slow my site was so I took the left at Albuquerque and decided to move the bava to a VPS on Digital Ocean.

Once that was done, I was able to get all the posts from the trip published, replete with images and commentary. You can find Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, and Day 5 here. I cheated on these posts a bit. Only Day 1 was posted in a timely fashion, and while Day 2 and Day 3 were written during the hike, they were not posted until last week (I back-dated all the posts), and Day 4 and Day 5 were written from memory this week. So, it’s all over the place. But for me the most important thing was to get them out with the images. I’ve said this already in the Day 5 post, but doing the hike was a major highlight of my time in Italy. I’ve been working towards it for a couple of years, and it felt damn good. 

Anyway, in this post mortem I want to do two things: 1) capture the stats for each day and 2) share my favorite image (or two) from each day with a brief explanation. I’m a terrible judge of my own photography, but I love the idea of trying to whittle down the 500-600 images I took over the trip to a handful of representative images. So, here it goes…  

Day 1: August 4th was the beginning of the trip tat brought us from Plose to val di Funnes, we covered 10.3 miles …

… and hiked up the equivalent of 140 flights of stairs.

This day was tough for me, it was hotter than the others, and we did a lot of up and down and I by the last pass of the day I was shot. Given how bad I felt finishing, I was worried  I had bitten off more than I could chew. Yet, once we made the last climb one of my favorite shots of he trip greeted me:

But it was the shot I caught at the end of the day right outside rifugio Genoa that might be my favorite of the entire trip:

Alta Via 2, Day 1

You can see the entire album of Day 1 here.

Day 2:  The morning of day 2 had us moving through familiar territory, namely val di Funnes. Antonella and I have been there many times before, and it never gets old. We covered the same mileage as the day before, 10.3 miles, and about 30 flights more, or 172.

The images of Funnes are ones I have taken a bunch of times before, so like the day before the most stunning images for me were once we got up the pass leading from Funnes to val Gardena, the vistas were pretty awesome:

Alta Via 2, Day 2

You can see all the images from Day 2 here.

Day 3: This sojourn was a bit lighter than the those the previous two days, but all in preparation for the hell day to follow. We moved from val Gardena to val Badia, which I had not seen before and it was also nice and will suffice.We climbed 148 flights and trekked for 9.7 miles. This was the first day we hit a ferrata, and luckily it was easy.

I liked seeing the backside of the Puez-Odle group of the Dolomiti mountains, so this image of them from val Gardena is a favorite of mine, I also like that the young hikers in the bottom-left give it some scale and the shadows highlight the dynamism of the weather we were up against much of the trip:

Leaving Rock River

I also like this one of Antonella and I; joy is good:

Smiley Happy People Laughing

You can see all the images from Day 4 here.

Day 4: This was the killer, and while we only hiked a couple of more miles than the previous days, most of them were straight up. We climbed three separate passes for a total of 11.1 miles and 280 flights of stairs. Ouch!

In terms of images from this day, I am enamored of this image that captured the alpine maniacs free climbing a peak as we descended back into val Gardena:

Next year

But there were a bunch of good shots from day 4, so the pain was not all in vain. You can see them all here.

Day 5: The end of the line, by comparison to the day before his was a cake walk. We travelled 11.5 miles, bu with just 124 flights it felt like we wee n Nebraska. We moved from the Trentino-Alto Adige region into Veneto on the last day, which highlighted just how much distance we bought behind us over the previous 4 days.

The trail on day 5 was pretty miraculous, we spent much of day 2 looking and the mother of all Dolomiti mountains: Marmolada.

Marmolada and Lago de Fedaia Pano

But it was the morning of day 5 where I probably caught the best shot of the entire trip right outside our rifugio at 2760 meters. The sun was rising and the clouds lay at our feet like a shag carpet in the valley below. It was surreal:

Alta Via 2, Day 5

You can see all the photos from Day 5 here, there were a few good ones.

And with that I can put this trip to rest on the blog after having travelled 52.9 miles while climbing 864 flights of stairs,. Now time to get in shape for another leg of the Alta Via come next summer. #NOBODY!

Posted in fun, hiking, Reclaim Italy, travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Partying Like it’s 2009

I’ve been on a bit of a mission to try and get my digital house in order. I’ve been catching up on uploading and organizing photos on Flickr and I’ve been blogging like its my job. That feels good, but two additional piece that have me pretty excited are a return to a bookmarking service. I’ve been storing my bookmarks in text files since del.icio.us jumped the shark. That has not gone so well, as you can imagine.

So, the other day I finally signed up for Pinboard. I know, I know, I am quite late to the party, but for a while there I had been burned by more than a few social networks, so I kept things closer to home. The good folks at Pinboard don’t need me to sing their praises, but I will. Their purchase of del.icio.us was not only a valiant effort to help archive the web, but it is also a brilliant long-term business move from the perspective of long-time del.icio.us users like me. After signing-up I was able to seamlessly import 4000+ links from 2006-2012. Feels good to be back in the game!

The other development, which is long overdue, I dusted off the RSS reader in hopes of returning to a more methodical method of filtering and reading the web. I use Tiny Tiny RSS, but we’ll see how that goes, I am not averse to shopping around for something a bit slicker, but I do like that it is free and easy as  RSS Readers go, but I am open to any and all recommendations.

Well, that’s it, just partying like it’s 2009 over here. 

Posted in bavatuesdays, fun, rss | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Reclaim Roadshow Headed for Philly in May

poster for Relcaim Roadshow
It seems like just yesterday we were in Los Angeles with an awesome crew of folks talking all things Domains, but time flies when you are reclaiming the web one site at a time! We are really excited to announce our Spring roadshow that will take place May 7th and 8th at Bryn Mawr College. You can find out more and/or sign-up for a spot over on the Roadshow website. We even have a draft of the two-day schedule up for your perusal. Keep in mind day 1 is geared toward Domain of One’s Own admins and costs $450 to attend,  while day 2 is free and open to  folks who want to share the work happening at their school, or even learn more about this whole Domains thing. Day 2 is organized so that everyone can both share and learn from other DoOO schools, and generally explore the limits and possibilities on and across campuses.

I’ll be spending my down time haunting this place…that and eating cheese steaks!

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Migration Policy Update: No Free Lunch, Hippies!

NB: A cross-posted policy update for migrations at Reclaim Hosting.

Image credit: Hippies de Valdivia (Chile) leo.prie.to

In an effort to make our support as sustainable as possible we will only provide free migrations for students and faculty that move to Reclaim Hosting’s shared services from a current university-based Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) account. All other migrations to our shared hosting service will start at $25 per site.

Screenshot of Migration Assitance Page
Click on image for the Migration Assistance Page

Given our growth over the last few years we have found migrations demand more and more of our resources given the significant time commitment they require.  As a result we needed to re-visit our current free migrations policy for new accounts as it’s become increasingly untenable. And while we will continue to provide free migrations for clients migrating from DoOO schools, we have decided to charge a reasonable fee for all other new clients in order to balance the workload to ensure we can continue to deliver the world-class support that folks have come to expect.

Additionally, if we believe a migration will take an inordinate amount of time, we will provide a detailed estimate of anticipated time/costs for the work before proceeding.

Thanks for your both your continued support and understanding.

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Lifebits, the Next Corner of Cyberspace?

Net artist Olia Lialina will be presenting at the Transmedial conference later this month and she reached out in preparation for her talk with a question for me and other folks who run similar projects to Reclaim, such as Neocities, tilde club, and superglue.it.

Do you still see need or potential for your project in 2020? are people keen to build their “corner of cyberspace”?

This was a bit of an honor for me cause I am a big fan of Olia’s work, her detailed work on the early aesthetic of the web is brilliant. Her discussion of the Prof Dr. Style websites from the 90s remains a real inspiration for me—I’ve referenced it in talk after talk I have given. 

Her ideas of this moment of the web when “user was equal to developer” has transported me back to more than a few HTML workshops I ran in the mid-90s for faculty. It is a powerful reminder that what we were asking folks to do then seems insane to us today: write markup language, grok file structure, FTP files, check file permissions, and make sure links are relative, etc. It’s a fundamentals course that has aged pretty well, particularly over the past 5 years or so as we are seeing a move away from database-driven CMSs in favor of static web sites for a variety of reasons: security, forward compatibility, speed, and ease of archiving. Turns out what was old could be new again 🙂 

In fact, while most of us were still under the spell of Web 2.0, Olia was scouring through the Geocities wreckage in order to salvage and re-publish the single biggest repository of the Web 1.0 aesthetic. But the revival of static sites doesn’t necessarily answer the question of whether or not web building services that enable folks to create their own “corner of cyberspace” are still relevant. I see proprietary web building services like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly as a sign that there’s still a desire amongst some to create a personal site, and there’s also significant financial value to making that process as easy as possible.*  People are creating those sites for a variety of reasons. But if our experience at Reclaim Hosting is at all representative, it often starts as a means to create a resume-like site. Which, ironically, is not unlike those Prof Dr. sites from the mid 90s Olia wrote so much about. Yet, while that might be where it begins and ends for some, we have literally thousands of faculty and students that are using web services to create and publish information outside the siloed industry of social media for a variety of reasons.

Given we are an education-focused company, our focus has always been first and foremost on a sense of web literacy. For most of our users, the value of exploring applications like WordPress under the hood in order to understand basic HTML or how scripted code interacts with a database or thinking through file structure remains foundational for understanding how the web works. What’s more, often-times educators are faced with real limitations from templated social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. For one, these services are often predicated on convenience, which comes at the cost of preventing users from accessing the underlying technology.  The inability for faculty and students to build custom experiences leads to their need of adding functionality, integrating other web services, and/or providing a simple means to extract their data—all of which can lead them towards open source applications like WordPress, Omeka, Drupal, etc.

But, at least in my mind (and this may be moving into the aspirational part of my answer), I want to believe that these personal spaces as a reflection of identity on the web remains important. The notion that there is a certain amount of pride of ownership in having your own space on the web. But, truth be told, social media silos like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook can at times shake my confidence on this front a bit. But I think the question of digital identity in this regard is more complex, and increasingly it has as much to do with where and how your data lives. For almost two decades we have been comfortable off-loading our thoughts, images, and videos (what Jon Udell calls our hosted lifebits) to various third party services at little or no ostensible cost (if you are not counting your data), and with equally little guarantee of permanence (Geocities anyone?). That is not to say these lifebits won’t be around, but there is a larger sense of these pieces of our personal histories being strewn around the web with little or no cohesion. So, this is where the idea of one’s “corner of cyberspace” might be understood a bit differently than it was during Web 1.0. Rather than a Geocities site or an HTML page hosted by one’s university, what if a personal site was a robust series of connections to the various services and networks wherein we share these personal lifebits via syndication, yet our personal sites aggregate, and by extension archive, these various web-based shards of our online identity.

And what if the personal site’s functionality was not limited to our personal online effects like images, videos, and text? (though I believe it must start there) -what if we can have more control over the data points the various people, services, and institutions we interact with have access to about us? So, rather than simply providing our personal info on myriad commercial sites again and again, what if we provide them a link that connects back to our authoritative personal information on our corner of cyberspace that we control. Which means, at some point in the future, we can just as easily revoke those connections. This is akin to a model that the MyData organization frames as  a”human-centered data economy,” and for me the idea of a site and its relationship to our online identity has far more depth of possibility than ever before, which makes me think the concept of having one’s own site online might never be more relevant given how “homeless” our digital presence is online currently. 


*A convenience folks will pay a whole lot for if the monthly cost of Squarespace is any indicator.

Posted in digital identity, Domain of One's Own, identity | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Reclaim Arcade in the Free-Lance Star

The robot really slims me!

I just wanted to take a second and thank Cathy Jett for her awesome write-up of Reclaim Arcade in the Free-Lance Star. I love that we have the potential to be a local phenomenon with the arcade, and I hope Fredericksburg digs it. If you’re currently, like me, in Europe you may have a hard time accessing the article in the wake of GDPR, so the following link will get you a PDF copy (forgive the formatting): Free-Lance Star Article about Reclaim Arcade. It’s exciting to be starting a local venture with a predominantly physical footprint given how different it is than anything we have done before, and if nothing else Reclaim Hosting will have the coolest office in the world!

Things have been gaining momentum on the Reclaim Arcade front, and all the details will require a longer post. But, in the meantime here’s some quick highlights: we have started to acquire pinballs machines, which are very beautiful. And they are appropriately 80s themed, and we have one more secret pinball machine we can not yet disclose—like and subscribe for more 🙂 This week we are hunting for 80s themed furniture for the living room, which we hope to have on display at the Frosty Brew Thru in Fredericksburg on January 25th. We’ll be brining along some pinball machines and video game cabinets for the folks attending, and I am very much looking forward to the response! Reclaim is #4life!

Update: Thanks to the ever awesome Anna Rinko, I know have an image of the actual article: 

Image of Reclaim Arcade article in Free-Lance Star

Image of Reclaim Arcade article in Free-Lance Star

Posted in Reclaim Arcade | Tagged | 2 Comments

The bava an A-Lister at Long Lost

Looks like the bava has finally gotten the a-listing it has long deserved!* Well, at least its SSL certificate did, alas the bava is still but a “b” blog.  So, another note for the bavaserver series is that SSL certificates have ratings, and by default the SSL certificate I installed was rated B, rather than A. This is not unlike the restaurant rating system in cities around the USA, when did we become some scared of the joy of sleazy? I mean who wants to eat at a b-rated restaurant anymore, especially when you can eat at an A-lister. By that logic I ‘m doing no favors for this blog content, but at least you can enjoy the guilty pleasure with the peace of mind that our SSL certificate is A-rated! You can test your certificate here: https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html

The idea is to  create “a strong Diffie-Hellman group, which is used in negotiating Perfect Forward Secrecy with clients.” Quote from this guide at DO.

You do this by with the following command:

This takes a bit, but when it’s done you will have a strong DH group at /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem that is used in your Nginx configuration. On the other hand, I believe the Certbot brought to you by the fine folks at the EFF does this by default, so that is probably the better route.

One more thing, when reviewing this I figured out how to force my blog to load over HTTPs. I’ll just copy over my comment to myself on the previous post:

Looks like I figured out how to force SSL on bavatuesdays, I created /etc/nginx/conf.d/ssl-redirect.conf

And added the following configuration:

server {
listen 80;
server_name bavatuesdays.com;
return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
}

Here were the resources I found for this:
https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-create-a-self-signed-ssl-certificate-for-nginx-on-centos-7
https://stackoverflow.com/questions/34341782/nginx-server-directive-is-not-allowed-here


*Do you remember when blogging was a thing and there were A-lister bloggers? I hated them all.

Posted in bavatuesdays, sysadmin | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

bavaserver To-do List

Posted in bavatuesdays, sysadmin | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Reclaim Arcade: the Email Game

Things are getting serious, I now have my official Reclaim Arcade email address: jim@reclaimarcade.com. That makes 5 email addresses!

The way I run my email is foward my various email addresses from  Reclaim Hosting, Rockaway, and Reclaim Arcade’s Google Suite accounts all into jimgroom@gmail.com. This becomes the catch-all, and I remain a dedicated browser-based email user. No client can contain my multitudes!

Forwarding from one Google account to another is dead simple, the trick is being able to reply from the jimgroom@gmail.com account as jim@reclaimarcade.com. How will I ever figure this out? Oh wait, I blogged it! And the last sentence in that post says it all:

And it seems so clear right now, but two years later when this all goes to hell I will have forgotten everything I thought I know, hence the blog!

And, as it happens, my playing with Mailgun recently for the bavaserver has paid immediate dividends given I need to use Mailgun as a transactional service for sending my reclaimarcade.com emails through my jimgroom@gmail.com account. Why? Seems when you are sending emails using a Google address that is forwarded from another Google Suite address the Google SMTP servers don’t like it. Something about crossing the streams. So, in the end, it is easier and cleaner to use a service like Mailgun.

Posted in Reclaim Arcade, sysadmin | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment