The Exodus Part 3 – Rebuilding

“The Exodus Part 2 – The Death” can be found here

The task is laborious and delicate, and relies heavily on an element of luck; a low-level recovery essentially requires you to virtually rebuild the drive and excise each file (in most cases) one at a time from the rubble and ruins. Before this could begin, however, I would need to buy a new boot drive, and a new destination drive to act as a triage for the recovered files. “Easy enough” I mused to myself; I have a couple of dollars spare from the move, and nothing but time on my hands until I can find a temporary job over here. This was a mistake.

Loki, the trickster god of mischief, must have heard my musings and taken in upon himself to rub fistfuls of salt into my emotional wounds. He did this in most crippling way he knew how; by destroying my motherboard’s power regulator. Who else but Loki could have cause almost every single component in my computer to die at once, with the final blow being the most expensive to recover from; a new motherboard means choosing between a new CPU or trawling the Internet to find a legacy motherboard that is compatible with my current out-of-date components. This brings the tally up to one motherboard, three RAM DIMMs, three hard drives and a grand total of 5TB of lost data, and a new CPU as a corollary requirement. It is all well and good to parrot my own advice about backups back at me, but the sad truth of the matter is that it is gets very expensive to start backing up huge swaths of data, and my machine carried a grand total of 8.25TB of hard drive capacity, all of which was full.

Here, we have two options:

  1. I could wallow in my own self pity, moping through my daily life and extolling my bad fortune to each and every uninterested passer-by;
    or
  2. I could move on, rebuild, and use it as an opportunity to learn and improve – both the computer and myself.

To be painfully honest with you and myself, a couple of years back I probably would have taken the first option. I mean, it is easier, right? The problem is, it also doesn’t go anywhere, and while I admit that is seems strange to have all these revelations come from a broken computer, I feel like this is reinforces my latest attempts at being a better person in general.

So here is to rebuilding our lives, and to upgrading our broken pasts into powerful new futures.

 

Just in case anyone is interested, here are the specs of my new machine:

  • Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H rev 1.0
  • Intel i7 3770K @ 4.2GHz  (watercooled w/ Corsair H70)
  • 16GB Corsair DDR3 @ 1600MHz
  • Corsair Force 3 240GB SSD
  • nVidia GTX680 Gainward Phantom OC edition
  • Corsair Graphite 600T Special Edition case

The Exodus Part 2 – The Death

Three days and four thousand kilometres of constant driving, and here I am in my new home; Sydney. All that was left was to unpack what meagre belongings I had managed to stuff into my tiny car and begin to set up life anew. One thing I have always taken solace in when performing moves of a smaller scale was my computer. I know this sounds silly and stereotypically geeky, but the fact is that my computer has always been a cornerstone, a rock that is reliably familiar when things around me might be changing. I derive a genuine calming sensation from seeing my meticulously ordered folder structures, my desktop wallpapers, and my opened tabs from the previous session I was running in Google Chrome.

When I turned my computer on, however, my calm was shattered by this:

Memory, all alone in the moonlight

A dreaded memory failure. I had four 2GB DIMMs and at least one of them had died, and finding out which one requires taking them all out of the motherboard and testing them one by one. It is a hastle, but it is easy enough, and RAM is as cheap as chips these days, so no big problem.

As it turned out, three out of the four DIMMs were at fault; something that is statistically unlikely but not unheard of. Oh well, a bit of bad luck, nevermind. Buy some new memory, use it as an excuse to upgrade to 16GB, and we can return to our regular scheduled programming, right?

I took this photo seconds before everything went to hell.

What fresh hell is this! A hard drive failure right after a memory failure? It certainly is not my lucky week. Hard drive failures are no mystery to me, and I have had my fair share of critical failures at the most inopportune times. The fortunate thing about this is that I know my way around disk recovery better than most; I remember one particular night in undergrad, spent with a friend in the nanochemistry building’s computational labs, frantically performing low-level rebuilds of his hard drive containing nothing less than his entire honours thesis. We didn’t sleep for almost two days, but we recovered enough of his work to submit it in time, and we learned a valuable lesson in backing up things that are valuable.

The CHKDSK finished piecing “C: Shepard” back together (yes, all my drives are named after characters from Mass Effect, this should not be a surprise) and I restarted the system.

I remember the time I knew what happiness was

Wait, what?! NO!

Not “F: Tali-Zora” too! How could three DIMMs and two hard drives all die at once? “C: Shepard” was my boot sector, and I don’t store anything there, but “F: Tali-Zora” is a full 2TB of data. To make matters worse, while Shepard ended up with some bad sectors that could be recovered, Tali-Zora was suffering from a complete breakdown of the Master File Table (MFT). The big difference here, is that losing the MFT renders the entire disk unreadable, as the MFT stores all the information on how to read the rest of the data; it is kind of like a really important table of contents that also stops the pages in your book from being cut into pieces and then shuffled, and then translated into a different language that no one in the world knows. This is a disaster, but surely things cannot get worse.

Right?

Let the memory live again

Wrong!

GARRUS! NOOOOOO!!!

Just like “F: Tali-Zora”, the next boot cycle showed that “E: Garrus” had suffered the same fate. I don’t know if it was the compounded stress of moving and then losing my cornerstone, or the fact that I had managed to personify my hard drives to the point where I had developed emotional attachments to them, but this was the last straw. I curled up in my chair and waited to die. About half an hour later I realised that it could be a really long wait, and I was hungry, so I decided to make lunch instead.

Over the course of the next five weeks, as my new house mate looking on in a mixed state of horror and empathy, I began to piece together what little fragments were left of my hard drives.

The final chapter of The Exodus coming soon! “Part 3 – Rebuilding”

The Exodus Part 1 – The Desert

I am not going to lie, it has been a while since I updated this site. I know this, and I am more than happy to own my mistakes, but let me explain.

It had been a long time coming, and a lot of my friends and family have known this; I myself had been mentally procrastinating, never fully committing to the idea that the time was rapidly approaching for me to leave. Time, however, has this funny way of moving inexorably forward at a constant rate (usually one second per second), and so it came to pass that I had to spread my wings and fly, leaving my home town behind and travelling across the country to Sydney. Of course, this is possibly the worst metaphor I could have used, as instead of flying I decided to drive the four thousand kilometres from one end of my barren country to the other, carrying as much of my life with me as I could fit in my car.

A 1997 Mazda 323 Astina.

My little blue hawk :3

For such a tiny car, it did surprisingly well holding all the necessary things I need to live on my own in a new city, thousands of kilometres from home. You know, things like my computers and my Dungeons and Dragons book. Also a couple of items of clothing. And a towel; the cardinal rule. It is at this point that I would like to reaffirm just how far apart Perth (my home town) and Sydney are from one another, and what exactly is between them.

The Exodus

4000km sounds like a lot, because it is, but it is also predominantly a barren and lifeless desert called the Nullarbor. Quite literally translating to “No Trees” (Null + Arbor) the Nullarbor is also famous for having the longest straight stretch of road in the world. Driving across this straight, barren, featureless expanse is about as much fun as it sounds; however there are some sights that make this trip worthwhile.

The Longest Straight Stretch

This is not my first time crossing the Nullarbor by car, or even the second or third, so I am well acquainted with the few stops there are along the way. The first is a little mining town called Norseman; founded during Western Australia’s first gold rush, the town is a beautiful mix of colonial Australia and country town. In fact, on a previous trans-Australian trek, Norseman was the first place that we ever attempted what would eventually become “Guerrilla Astronomy”, though at the time is was less organised and consisted mostly of grabbing people at the camping grounds at night and demanding they look at the eclipse that was happening. We had no idea or previous warning that there would be an eclipse that night, so the excitement and surprise was palpable for a bunch of weary astronomers.

Norseman. A little windy.

It was a little windy. In fact it was stormy this time across the Nullarbor, which is sad as the remote nature makes it a typically fantastic place for astronomy. One day I would love to go back and do a relaxed trip with a telescope, a camera, and no deadlines; if you are interested, let me know.

The Great Australian Bight!

Coming up to the Great Australian Bight is always a welcome change in scenery; here there are giant cliffs that mark different epochs of shorelines, each looking down on to vast flatlands that were once the ocean bed hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is always nice to sit back and take a moment to reflect on just how amazing, and how unfathomably old this land is.

Prehistoric ponderings.

Deciding that we were making much better time than anticipated, the original plans to stop at Eucla were scrapped and we pressed on into the rapidly dwindling twilight. This meant that the journey could be completed in three nights instead of four, at the expense of creature comforts like “sleep” and “food”. Eventually we ended up taking refuge and a stealing a few hours of slumber at a roadhouse in the middle of the Nullarbor, embarking once more just before the crack of dawn.

Nullarbor. Yep...

This divergence from the original itinerary had one additional drawback; in order to take advantage of the hours gained by going hard yakka across the Nullarbor, an equally arduous adventure would need to be undertaken if we were to reach the next landmark. Stopping in Adelaide would require taking a serious and costly detour south (also I really cannot stand Adelaide, and I am sorry all you Adelaidians who might take offence to this), and so the only reasonable stopping point would be the town of Broken Hill, deep within the borders of New South Wales.

Broken Hill, but not Broken Resolve. Not yet...

At this point you may have noticed something, a trend, a pattern in these images. I am wearing the same clothes and looking more and more haggard each day. Yes, I noticed this too. Leaving well and truly before the sun and the horizon had met that morning, the final leg of the journey was at hand. Unlike the Nullarbor, rural New South Wales is much busier and so keeping my attention on the road was of utmost importance.

The final dash!

As a result, and possibly from mild sleep deprivation, the last dash to my new home was bereft of photos in an effort to make it to Sydney before yet another rotational cycle of the Earth was complete. The idea of navigating the busy streets of Sydney in the dark and with precious little energy left in my body was not an attractive prospect; fortunately we made it safe and sound. This was a triumph!

… or was it?

Find out next week in “The Exodus Part 2 – The Death

Tamriel and Tattoos

Skyrim Launches in less than a week, and I think that to say that I am excited is a whole level of understatement that has never been seen before. One day, centuries from now, lingual scholars will wonder whether anyone was truly excited before. For me, Skyrim isn’t just a game, but the continuation of an experience that has spanned decades. The Elder Scrolls have been like a second home for me, a world so rich and detailed that I have literally spent hundreds of hours (and quite possibly over a thousand) exploring. To give you an idea of just how much depth this series offers, in the third game Morrowind, there are 300 unique books scattered throughout the game world. Each book has excerpts that are fully rendered, most averaging 20-30 pages long. Oblivion increased this number almost twofold again, giving way to an actual library of texts, each meticulously detailing aspects of the rich history and cultural make up of the different races and settlements of the setting, a landmass known as Tamriel.

However it isn’t just the in game literature; the setting itself is a vast series of lands, covering thousands of square kilometres between the games, and within this are desolate settlements, bustling cities, ash volcanoes, forrested valleys, murky swamps, and snowing alps. Every location has a beautiful and gradual transition, every rock is appropriately weathered, every plant thoughtfully hand placed. The world feels alive, and that is probably one of the reasons I spent so much time escaping there, at a time when the real world just didn’t seem to offer me anything worthwhile. Fortunately for me and those I care about (and who care about me), those dark times are in my past now, but sometimes I wonder whether or not I would be here, and who I am today if it were not for Morrowind and that second life I led there.

This is why, several years ago, I decided to get a tattoo of the sigil of Alduin as depicted from Morrowind. Alduin is a prominent reference throughout The Elder Scrolls lore, known by a different name to each of the races of Tamriel, but sharing a common description; the Dragon-God of Time. So imagine my surprise and unbridled joy when it was announce that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim would feature none other than Alduin him/her/itself!

The tattoo itself has a story as well. It was done by the amazing Marc Pinto of Primitive Tattoos. Marc has done my other inking work, all of which is done in the traditional Japanese technique called Tebori. In contrast to “Western” tattoing, Tebori is done by hand, using a sharp implement to push the ink under the skin.

As no machines are involved the whole process is very quiet, so much that you can hear the sound of the implement piercing the skin; this is called Shakki, an onomatopoeic description of the noise it makes, and is deceptively relaxing.

Tebori is a time consuming technique, but the final results are most definitely worth it. I find that the ink stays darker for longer, the lines are more crisp and suffer edge-bleeding less, and the shading that is employed is far more uniform and smooth.

A good Horishi (trained artist) is hard to find, as the training alone takes years of dedication and commitment. An Uchideshi (apprentice) will work under a strict regimen, hand making the needles, the ink (Sumi), and keeping the studio clean and ready. At any one time, there are only a handful of artists trained in Tebori, and Marc Pinto is truly a phenomenal artist whom I have a great amount of respect and admiration for.

This particular piece took about 4 hours to complete, and the experience was amazing. The ultimate irony was that the chair had no head rest, and so my neck was sore and tired from holding it at an awkward angle. This complaint coming from the person who is having thousands upon thousands of needles puncturing his skin and depositing activated carbon underneath it.

The result was incredible and I was superbly happy with it then, as I am now. People often ask me what the tattoo is (as it is my only visible one when I am fully clothed), and often I tell them that it is either the Sigil of Alduin, the Dragon God, or the Akaviri Sigil from Morrowind (this is a long held debate among fans of the Elder Scrolls, but I won’t go into it here). When they ask why I would get a video game tattoo, often while smirking, I tell them that to me The Elder Scrolls are more than just a game. They are a symbol of creativity, dedication, and most of all they are a reminder that no matter how difficult things might have been, or how difficult they might be in the future, I was able to get through them.

So finally, I would like to say Thank You to Bethesda, and the team behind all of the Elder Scrolls games. You might not realise it, but you have indirectly helped to make me who I am today, and I cannot express enough how much that means to me.

-Tim

 

All Stations Go!

First and foremost, I would like to thank those of you who are here because you watched Beauty and the Geek Australia and were kind enough to follow and support me and my fellow Geeks (and Beauties) through-out the season. It was an amazing time for all of us, and though I miss the show I am glad to be back in my life doing the research that I had left behind. Now that the show is over, I can revive this site and resume writing short bursts of creativity interspersed with long periods of procrastination!

A lot has happened since I was last able to post on this site, as I am sure you can appreciate. Not only has my physical appearance undergone a radical shift; so has the way I approach my life. I do get a lot of people approaching me on the streets or in the shopping centre, asking me questions and offering me compliments on the makeover. To all of you I offer my deepest gratitude, as it is heartwarming to know that people have watched the show and joined all of us on our respective journeys. To the most common questions that I am asked, here is a quick FAQ:

  • Do you like your makeover?
    Yes, though I must admit it was two full weeks before I started to recognise myself in the mirror. The mansion has many reflective surfaces, and I was constantly spinning around, looking for the strange-looking person standing behind me, only to realise that it was me.
  • Are you going to keep your hair short/your beard shaved?
    Yes, I believe (for the meantime at least) I will be keeping this look, or some minor variation there-of. The short hair is certainly easier to maintain (and I used far less shampoo), though I will have to factor regular haircuts back into my budget.
  • Are you and Kara still friends?
    Absolutely! Kara is one of the most amazing people I have ever been fortunate enough to meet, and I am sure we will remain good friends for a long time. I cannot stress enough, just how happy I am that she picked me on that very first day. Nor can I articulate just how proud of her, and how much I appreciate everything that she has done for me both during the show and since. <3
  • Was it fun filming the show?
    The whole experience was a blast, though there were ups and downs just like every part of your life. The crew were amazing and the Mansion was a lot of fun to live in. And yes, Bernard Curry is a fantastic and hilarious person to spend time with. (Also, yes, Bernard and I did spend some time talking about the LHC and quantum physics)
  • What are you doing now that the show has finished?
    Back to my research! My real world job is both as a science communicator at Horizon – The Planetarium in Perth (come and see me for a show some time!), and as a researcher currently writing my Honours Thesis in Pulsar Astrophysics. Feel free to ask me about my research, but I warn you in advance: sometimes I can get a bit too excited and talk so much that your ears will bleed. I really do love my work! :D

So, what is next? Just as I have gone through a transformation over the course of the show, so too will Anchorage. There are some articles that will start appearing on the site over the coming weeks, but for those of you who would rather listen than read I have some exciting news. That’s right, I am boldy going where many, more-experienced people have gone before; I am starting a brand new podcast! Keep your eyes (and now your ears as well) peeled and join me on this new venture into the world of science, gaming, and rambling anecdotes. Thank you all once more for your support and for joining us on Beauty and the Geek Australia. Subscribe to the RSS feed (big blue button on the top right of the page) and I hope to hear from you all in the future.

Yours Truly

Tim Young

Radio Silence

Due to a certain NDA I have signed recently, Corsair’s Anchorage will be offline for the short-medium term. I will be back as soon as this “scenario” has come to a resolution, and I promise some very exciting times ahead.

In the meantime, hit the big blue RSS button and subscribe to the feed, and I hope to have a post waiting in your favourite aggregator by October.

#UPDATE#

It is no secret, now that the show has begun to air, that I am in fact a contestant on this current season of Beauty and the Geek. I can not talk about the show just yet, nor can I update this site until I am out of my “online-presence lockdown” phase. In the mean time you can watch the show on Thursdays at 8:30 PM on Channel 7, or catch up with missed episodes and behind the scenes action at the Official Beauty and the Geek website.

Beauty and the Geek Australia

You can also show your support by joining this Facebook page!
(Caveat: I am in no way involved with this fan-page! Information posted on it should be treated as speculation as common sense dictates.)

Yours sincerely
– The Corsair

Discipline

betty page stencil?
Creative Commons License photo credit: duncan

After yet another successful annual trip to Prevelly, I have found myself in a pre-metamorphic state. The trip itself consisted what anyone would expect from a bunch of university students desperately clinging onto the last shreds of their sanity post-exams. Discussions of philosophy, the preparation of gourmet delicacies, and meditations of self worth. Also, drinking.

In all seriousness, I have decided I require more discipline in my life. I have decided that Tai Chi will do as a viable substitute. I will attempt to update on how this is going, however one thing I would like to investigate is the possibility of blending some of the movements of Tai Chi into Fencing, possibly improving balance and reaction times. Food for thought, that is for sure. On the topic of food, I have no doubt that a post will be up very soon at my second favourite food blog, detailing the scrumptious exploits of one of the best amateur chefs I know. Let this man anywhere near fresh marron and I assure you that what follows will leave you a husk of a man who’s digestive tracts have transcended to a higher plane. Yes, it is that good.

My own escapades in that realm were met with kind words of their own, a heart 1.6kg slab of quivering meat marinated in one of my own concoctions and slow roasted over 4 hours to something that closely resembles perfection. While I feel it could have been rarer for my tastes, with the quality of the kitchens in these small cedar cabins I believe the results exceeded expectations. The marinade, however, was my real victory here. The base constituents of this culinary alchemy were maple syrup, vinegar, Cajun peppers and lime zest. Not what anyone would call traditional, in fact some have expressed their abhorrence at this aberration, yet the combination has merit beyond comprehension. I can only ask you save your vitriol until after you have let me cook it for you.

Segue: Speaking of food and discipline, I have noticed recently that while I have a fantastic espresso machine that I use every day (hourly is probably a better term) I have not yet once used the milk steamer attachment. This is primarily because I am a lazy person, and I like to be able to consume the caffeine part of the coffee as quickly as possible, such that I can get back to my addiction of the moment. Today I broke that particular trend and I must say that it is something I should do more often. For little extra effort my caffeinated beverages could be much nicer; I am simply just too lazy. All this, however, shall change very soon.