Getting Into Muppets

Emily is big into Muppets this month. I introduced her to The Muppet Show a couple of years ago, but I guess she was too young. I tried again last month and she’s hooked! She’s watching the Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, drawing all of the characters, singing the songs, and is absolutely fascinated with puppeteering. I even managed to find some copies of the records I used to listen to when I was her age and put the MP3s on her player. Pretty awesome.

In putting her to bed last night, we had this conversation:

Emily: Who invented The Muppets?

Me: A man named Jim Henson.

Emily: Is he still alive?

Me: No, he’s not.

Emily: Did he die because he had a bad cough?

Me: (amazed) Yes! How did you know that??

Emily: Mummy told me.

Me: Oh.

Emily: A cough isn’t that bad. How did he really die?

Me: Well, you see, he got very sick and didn’t go to the doctor. So he didn’t get better and his cough turned into a bad sickness and he died.

Emily: Why didn’t he go to the doctor?

Me: I don’t know.

Emily: (thinks for a while) Jim Henson may have been a great actor but he wasn’t very clever.

Atheros AR8161 Ethernet Controller Drivers

Don’t you just hate it when you buy a new motherboard and the onboard Ethernet controller isn’t natively supported by your Linux distribution? Tell me about it!

I recently scored myself a shiny new Gigabyte H77M-D3H motherboard for my new rig (photos to come!) and, as you probably know, it sports the very new AR8161 Gigabit Ethernet controller. Schwing! How do I know that’s what I’ve got?

$ lspci | grep Ethernet
03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR8161 Gigabit Ethernet (rev 10)

And I’m currently running Linux Mint 14 Nadia on a Linux 3.5.0-17-generic (x86_64) kernel. As far as I know, this distro doesn’t come with native drivers for this controller. What does that mean? No Internet. Quick, to the Googles!

Apparently, the AR8161 is a very new combined Ethernet/Bluetooth controller and its driver – alx – is still in the testing/QA process, so it’s not in the kernel yet. Great. So what’s a guy to do? Download it, install build dependencies, select the AR8161 module alx, build and install it!

First things first. Go to the official Linux Wireless wiki and download the latest linux-stable compat-drivers release (formerly “compat-wireless”).

“Wait a minute. I just told you I can’t connect to the Internet! How the heck am I supposed to download a driver?” Use a different computer and a USB stick. Or do like I did and use your phone to give your lame computer Internet access via USB tethering. Now stop whining and keep reading.

The compat-drivers release provides kernel backport support for all supported Linux kernel releases and includes the alx driver we’re looking for. At the moment, the most recent version available is v3.9-rc4. But when I navigated to this folder on the Linux Wireless site, I found three different versions: the vanilla version, the -s version (get and apply pending-stable/ from linux-next.git), and the -su version (apply the patches on the unified-drivers/ directory). I tried them all but only the -su version actually had the /drivers/net/ethernet/atheros/alx subdirectory that I was looking for. The others had folders like atlx, atl1e, or atl1c. What the heck are those? I have no idea. So I downloaded the “compat-drivers-3.9-rc4-2-su.tar.bz2” (yes, you want the tar.bz2 tarball).

Next, open a Terminal window (Alt+Ctrl+T) and navigate to the folder where you downloaded the compat-drivers tarball and enter the following lines one-by-one (without the $, Einstein):
$ sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-generic linux-headers-`uname -r`
$ tar -xvfj compat-drivers-3.9-rc4-2-su.tar.bz2
$ cd compat-drivers-3.9-rc4-2-su
$ ./scripts/driver-select alx
$ make
$ sudo make install

You can then reboot, or manually load the driver with:
$ sudo modprobe alx

Et voilà!

Let There Be Snow

Easter holidays are upon us, so we packed up the kids and flew to England for a few days to see grandma and granddad. Barcelona before we left was a wonderfully spring-like 17C (63F). England when we arrived was an inappropriately winter-like 2C (36F). In fact, just as the plane touched down at Stansted Airport, a very light dusting of snow began to fall. Jan and I were in shock. The kids were ecstatic.

It continued to snow gently throughout the night. When we awoke the next morning it was still snowing but none had stuck to the ground. So it continued to snow. Sometime around lunch we noticed the ground outside getting whiter. And it continued to snow. Just before dinner, about 24 hours after we had landed in England, there was about an inch of delicate snow covering the Fens. The kids were in heaven.

We rushed out into the back yard and the kids and I inaugurated spring with an all-out snowball fight. It was their first snowball fight ever. They were mad with delight. Then I nailed them in the head with a snowball. They were still happy.

It wasn’t the first time they had seen snow. Both Emily and Sebastian have been skiing in the Pyrenees, but the snow was never right for packing. So this was monumental. A trip they will not forget for a long time.

And speaking of skiing, here’s a video from our last ski trip where Emily explains how Sebastian didn’t really enjoy his first ski lesson, demonstrates her understanding of ironic timing, and then skis off without a second thought.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Tucking Emily into bed, her little eyes starting to roll back in her head:

Emily: Who is the oldest Zamrycki?

Me: That would be Grandpapa. And Sebastian is the youngest.

Emily: Was there anyone before Grandpapa?

Me: Oh yes. Lots. But that was a long time ago.

Emily: Who were they?

Me: I don’t really know. But I know they lived in Poland and their name was a little different. It was Zambrzycki back then.

Emily: Oh. Who was the first person ever? And where did they live? And where did they come from?

Me: Oh boy. That’s a tough one.

Emily: OK, what was the first animal ever?

Me: I don’t know. But I’m going to guess it was the amoeba.

Emily: What’s that?

Me: Uh… it’s very small.

Emily: And then what?

Me: Maybe fish. Or turtles. Or crocodiles? I don’t know.

Emily: But then the dinosaurs came.

Me: That’s right.

Emily: And then monkeys. And then people. No! Then came scientists. And then real people.

Josh’s 2013 Birthday Lipdub

This is how I decided to celebrate my birthday this year:

It was a very good day. But it didn’t start out that way.

We had done something similar two years prior. I would have done it again last year but I was in the middle of producing a full-scale musical and couldn’t spare the time or energy. But having done it once before, I didn’t freak out as much during the preparation for this one. At least not until the day of. I had set up a Facebook event and more than 50 people confirmed that they would participate. Score! There was a palpable buzz. This was going to be amazing. I went to the park and scouted out the location and jotted down a provisional route. Tons of potential. I tried to set up a brain storming session to crowdsource some creativity, but couldn’t get people to volunteer. That’s OK, I’ll do it myself!

Then the day of the event arrived. Maybe 50 people had agreed to participate, but it felt like 100 people messaged me before I left the house saying they wouldn’t make it. Bad cold. Bad weather. Bad hangover. Other random bad excuses. So I left the house in a very foul mood. How can you execute a lipdub if nobody comes?! And when I got to the park, there were exactly three people there. But I was a bit early. So I waited. And four more people arrived. And so did a whole new bunch of cancellation messages. So I walked through the provisional route. There was no way in hell it would work. The maze was too damn big! And there were too many tourists to navigate around! And we didn’t even have a radio to play the song with! Back to the drawing board. But a few more people had showed up by now. We were maybe 15 people after the first half hour. Not great, but definitely enough to do something with.

So I banged my head against a wall for an hour, trying different combinations/routes/choreographies. It wasn’t coming together. And I was getting stressed. So we stopped for lunch. And it started to rain.

But then, amongst the raindrops and sandwiches and spreadsheets and scrawled-out maps, inspiration latched on and a plan started to take form in my mind. And more people started arriving! I started delegating lines to people and it all began to take shape. I was infused with optimism and we headed back to the maze to try this again. And it stopped raining.

We spent the next hour slowly walking through the new route and filling in the gaps with the gorgeous creativity and enthusiasm of my very dear friends. They are truly amazing. And at the end of that hour we were ready to try recording a rehearsal. And a radio showed up! And the sun came out! And the route started flowing and people stepped up and shined like the stars they are. We recorded one more rehearsal before we went for the good one. And it was good. But we wanted a great one. So we recorded another. And it was great.

I think I managed to hide my frustration and stress enough to achieve my one and only goal of the day: for my friends to have a good time.

So thank you to everyone who showed up and sang, danced, cartwheeled, jumped, rocked, flew, grinded, tripped, bathed, posed, gurned, and laughed with me on my birthday. Until next year! Unless I’m working on another musical 🙂

Josh’s 2013 Birthday Lipdub Results

Hello, rock stars!

Thank you, everyone, for voting! The polls are now closed and we have our winners. This Sunday, February 17, we will be singing Love Shack by The B-52’s in the Parc del Laberint d’Horta (Labyrinth Park)!!

Love Shack won convincingly, but The Labyrinth Park just managed to eek out the victory. A crack crew actually went up to the park yesterday to scope out the location and we should have an interesting route to follow for the video (if we can squeek past all the tourists). The park has free admittance on Sundays (score!) but there is no food allowed inside. There is, however, a small picnic area just outside the park, complete with little sandwich shack, so this is how the day’s gonna go down:

I’ll be there at 11:30am. Please join me. We’ll start rehearsing at 12:00 (noon) sharp! Then we can stop for lunch at about 1pm and then head back for the final rehearsals and shooting sometime after 2pm. The park closes its gates at 5pm, but it’ll actually start getting dark at that time so I’d like to have the whole thing in the can by 4. Optimistic much? We’ll see.

In the meantime, you might as well start to familiarize yourself with the song. Here are the song and the lyrics. But don’t worry about memorizing the whole thing. We’ll each only have a very small portion in the final video and I don’t want anyone to get sick of the song before Sunday.

Let me know if you’d like to feature in a close-up (or if you really wouldn’t!) and I’ll start working on the planning. Maybe We can meet for a coffee sometime this week and brainstorm.

Also, please let me know if you’ve got an awesome camera we can use! Or if you’d like to volunteer to be the camera operator! Kind of important details.

I’m very happy that so many people are excited about this little experiment of mine. I really hope it turns out well and, more importantly, that we have fun doing it! The truth is, I have no idea what’s going to happen 🙂