Linux – Fixing “apt-get” failed installation

Occasionally, when I try to install an update or install software via the console using apt-get, something goes wrong. To date, I have never had the failure of a package to install ruin my system. However, it isn’t uncommon after such an incident to get an error the next time I run apt-get. The easiest way to fix apt-get is to run the following command:

sudo dpkg --configure -a

The above command is the replacement for the old command in Debian-based distributions:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure --all

Almost every time I have run into an apt-get error, the above command has been able to solve the problem. It’s a useful command to have on hand if you’re running a Debian-based Linux distribution (like Kubuntu, my distribution of choice).

Europe Trip – Sea Day (Day 9)

Our last day on the cruise ship was filled with activities on the ship as we didn’t have a port of call. We enjoyed a nice breakfast in the dining room then most of us went swimming. I took along a fantasy novel that I spent quite a bit of time reading. Debi went to the spa for a free session, which turned into a sales pitch for pseudo-science spa treatments.

At one point there was a call for participants in a belly flop contest. The announcer seemed to suggest that no one had signed up, so I went over to sign up. It turns out, there were 5 other people who had signed up, all of them rather large individuals (i.e., upwards of 220 pounds). I looked tiny compared to them, but I had a secret weapon: I can jump. Most of the guys had large bellies, but one was a big guy (6′ 3″) from South African who was ripped. I was the last contestant and managed to get some air and slap the pool very hard. It stung for about a minute but the red helped me win votes. I ended up taking second place behind the South African!

We also went to another diving show in the afternoon and several people went ice skating. We ended the evening with a family-friendly comedy show by the same comedian I had seen a couple of nights earlier.

Europe Trip – Amalfi Coast and Pompeii (Day 8)

Our fifth port of call was Naples. However, we didn’t actually spend any time in Naples. Instead, we took a bus through Sorrento to the small town of Positano on the Amalfi Coast. We stopped briefly to get some photos of Sorrento before continuing to Positano.

Debi and Toren with Sorrento in the background.

Positano was similar to the other villages in Cinque Terre, but the mountains here were even more rugged. Positano was also substantially larger than most of those towns, though Monterroso del Mar may have been similarly sized. It was really picturesque, with a beautiful waterfront and colorful houses working their way up to the cliffs.

Our tour bus parked in about the middle of the village in terms of elevation – about halfway between the cliffs and the water. Debi, Toren, and I quickly made our way down to the water and walked along the waterfront, taking some fun photos along the way:

We walked from one end of the waterfront to the other, enjoying the views.

Debi and I on the waterfront in Positano.

As I had done in the towns in Cinque Terre, I thought it might be fun to see the city from higher up. This time, I convinced Debi and Toren to join me. We moved up the town pretty quickly as we were pressed for time, going from the very lowest point in elevation, the waterfront, to just below the cliffs in about 20 minutes. (An estimate via Google maps suggests the elevation just below the cliffs is about 130 meters; another website put it at around 150 meters; somewhere around 400 to 500 feet above sea level.) On the way, I snapped a photo of Debi and Toren crossing a bridge:

You can see we’re getting closer to the cliffs at this point.

We did make it to just below the cliffs, but were running out of time to get back to the bus, so I snapped a picture or two and then we headed back down. We actually got back to the bathroom with 10 minutes to spare, but the line was huge, so we ended up getting back to the bus late (the only time we were late) by about 5 minutes. Everyone but our guide was cool about it. Our guide seemed bothered, even though I was technically there on time and told him that Debi and Toren were in the bathroom and were coming as quickly as they could. Oh well, no one will remember that but me and I only remember it because our guide was annoying about it.

From Positano, we took the bus back to Sorrento where our guide gave us about an hour and a half to explore the city. We walked down to the cliff edge overlooking the bay and took in the view, then found a nice place for lunch where I split a Napolitano pizza (cheese and anchovies) with my brother-in-law. I also tried the local beverage, limoncello, that had a very high alcohol content level. We all enjoyed our meals, I think, and followed up lunch with a trip to a gelateria:

Debi enjoying her gnocchi in Sorrento.

We made our way back to the tour bus and then headed to Pompeii where we got an archaeological guide who took us through the ruins. As I’m keen to do, I walked by the guide most of the time and peppered him with questions: Why was Pompeii so diverse? (Answer: It was a prominent port.) Didn’t anyone survive the explosion? (Answer: Yes. Some were not in the town when the explosion occurred; others were able to run away, but most were not.) Where are all the items they discovered in the ruins? (Answer: Almost everything is in a museum in Naples. Very few artifacts remain in Pompeii proper.)

Our guide seemed informative if a little impatient. However, I checked on a few of the things he claimed after the trip and he wasn’t always accurate. For instance, he claimed that the word “spa” derives from the Latin, salus per aquam or “health through water.” A little digging illustrated that is a backronym and was not an acronym invented by the Romans (the word “spa” comes from a town in Belgium). He also claimed that the roads in Pompeii didn’t have sewers underneath because they were built on tough volcanic rock, so they made the roads into the sewers. I’m a little more skeptical of this claim now, but it was cool seeing the ruts in the roads made by ancient Roman wagons.

I’m sure it would be fun to walk through Pompeii slowly with an actual archaeologist rather than a pseudo-archaeologist tour guide. And, I think the ideal way to see Pompeii is really to go to the ruins and then go to the museum in Naples that houses all the artifacts. Even so, I’ve always been fascinated by Pompeii and it was nice to see the site in person.

We spent about an hour and a half in Pompeii and that wrapped up our tour for the day. We took a few minutes to get some drinks at the entrance of the site (lemon-flavored again, and very over-priced), then boarded the bus and headed back to the cruise ship.

Debi and Toren in the Forum at Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

Europe Trip – Rome (Day 7)

We also had a private tour in Rome. We were a big enough group that we needed two vans. Our guide and drivers were really amazing. We packed a lot into one day in Rome and couldn’t have done it without our excellent drivers (our driver was Nicola, who did an amazing job).

Our drivers picked us up in Civatavecchia, the port, then drove us to The Vatican, where we met our guide. We did stop quickly for snacks and a bathroom break on the way, where I got to sample Italian espresso, which was quite good.

My Italian espresso.

Knowing a little bit about religion, I knew The Vatican was its own country and had a sense that it was big, but I didn’t realize just how big. I also didn’t realize just how ornate and ostentatious it is. We rushed through several buildings (since we had a busy agenda), but all of them contained priceless artwork: statues, paintings, friezes, etc.

A shot of the ceiling in the Vatican Gallery of Maps.

We got to visit the Sistine Chapel, but no photos can be taken inside (I followed the rules, but not everyone does). It really is impressive. I pestered our guide with questions throughout the tour and, even though we weren’t supposed to talk in the Sistine Chapel, she was whispering quietly about what we were seeing. Given its central role in electing new popes, I was interested in where they burned the ballots. That particular piece of equipment was not in there; it is installed only when the cardinals are meeting, and the piping is set up at that time as well.

From the Sistine Chapel, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Catholic Church in the world. This, too, illustrated just how much money the Catholic Church has and started me down a path of questioning with our guide that she probably doesn’t get very often. One of the more prominent features in St. Peter’s Basilica is a set of four columns in the center of the basilica made out of pure bronze. The bronze was stolen from pre-Catholic sites around Rome, particularly the Pantheon, melted down, then used in the construction of the pillars in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Catholic Church worked hard to erase the glory of the pagan era that pre-dated it and to build up its own status at the expense of history, much like ISIS has done by destroying ancient art and monuments from pre-Islamic times.

Steve, Rosemary, Toren, and Debi in front of the four bronze pillars in the center of St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican. The bronze was all raided from Roman buildings, melted down, and recast here.

Another illustration of Catholic syncretism was the co-opting of the obelisks from Egypt. The Roman Empire stole dozens of obelisks, which had been monuments to the sun god, and brought them back to Rome. When the Catholic Church took over, they mounted crosses on top of all of them, co-opting them as symbols of Christianity. A very large obelisk stands in the center of the courtyard outside St. Peter’s Basilica:

An Egyptian obelisk syncretized by the Catholic Church into a symbol of Christianity, in the middle of the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

I’m sure I could spend several days at The Vatican, appreciating the art and architecture. I’m sure I would also thoroughly enjoy visiting the library and archives, the bank, and a number of other elements of Vatican City that most people would find of little interest. Given my background and training, I couldn’t help but find examples of syncretism throughout Vatican City.

Our time in The Vatican was relatively short as we had lots of other stuff to do. From The Vatican, we drove to The Pantheon, which is another brilliant example of Catholic syncretism. They took a beautiful building dedicated to the Roman gods and co-opted it as a Catholic Church. The dome is a truly remarkable piece of engineering that has stood for thousands of years.

From there, our drivers and guide took us to Trevi Fountain, which is absolutely stunning. Any decent-sized city that attracts tourists should learn from Trevi Fountain – build a beautiful fountain in a central location and people will flock to it. Trevi Fountain was teeming with people, but it’s not surprising that it was given how beautiful it is.

Family selfie at the Trevi Fountain.

We grabbed some food while at Trevi Fountain as we hadn’t had lunch and still had a few more hours on our tour.

The next stop was The Colosseum.

I knew that the Colosseum was large and what it was used for, but I was still impressed when I walked in and saw the arena (sand) for the first time. It’s enormous. It could seat over 60,000 people. It’s a truly astounding piece of architecture.

Toren and one of his cousins pretending to be gladiators outside the Colosseum.

Our last stop on our whirlwind tour of Rome was the LDS Temple. Given that most of the family is LDS and the temple was recently dedicated, they really wanted to see it. Given my research interests, I was perfectly happy to go as well.

Strangely, the temple is located quite far from the city center in what appear to be suburbs. In fact, there is an Ikea right next to it. The location is definitely odd and there certainly were not as many visitors as there were at The Vatican. Even so, they have done a nice job with both the architecture and the surrounding landscaping. There are nice, understated fountains and gardens. It was very beautiful. The visitor’s center was nice as well.

We spent a good hour at the LDS temple and visitor’s center, then got back in the vans and headed back to the cruise ship.

That evening, I went to a comedy show with Steve and Scott (the twins). The comedian, who was pretty good, assumed that the three of us were gay as we were sitting together without any women around us. We didn’t disabuse him of that notion and got a good laugh out of it.

Thought on Rome… I’m definitely going to need to return to Rome with more time to explore the city. As our guide said repeatedly, Rome is a living archaeological site.

Europe Trip – Pisa and Cinque Terre (Day 6)

Given the size of our group (15 total), for some of our excursions, Rosemary booked private tours. This also meant we got to customize our tours and do precisely what we wanted. That was the case on our third port of call, La Spezia. Rosemary arranged for a minibus and our own tour guide.

The bus picked us up early and drove us straight to Pisa so we could see the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa. I remember seeing pictures of the tower when I was a kid and thinking it was funny. But seeing it in person is different. It really is a very large tower and the angle at which it is leaning forces a double-take.

Toren holding up the leaning tower of pisa.
The obligatory “holding up the tower” photo.

The guide company had arranged tickets for us to climb the tower. The two youngest grandkids were not able to climb the tower due to their age, so Rosemary stayed with them while the rest of us climbed the tower. You actually climb inside the walls. It’s over 200 steps but didn’t seem particularly challenging.

We got to spend a good 30 minutes on top of the tower. Here’s a photosphere from the top:

Toren on the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Toren on the Leaning Tower of Pisa

I did find it interesting that where the steps are worn varies based on the lean of the tower – people move closer to one side or the other depending on how the tower is leaning and that has resulted in deep grooves in the steps as a result. If you look closely, you can see the grooves in this short video of Debi going down the stairs.

We spent another 20 to 30 minutes at Pisa, walking around the church and taking photos. We then got back in the minibus and headed back toward La Spezia for the second part of our tour.

Apparently, the place to go right now in Italy is Cinque Terre, a national park with some villages that are right on the ocean. Not being up on the latest things to do, this was news to me. Our guide had arranged for us to stop in three towns in Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. We got on the train in La Spezia and arrived in Riomaggiore in short order.

In order to make it to all three towns and get back in time to catch the cruise ship, we didn’t have a lot of time in each town. Since we hadn’t stopped for lunch at any point, in Riomaggiore, everyone decided to get food. I can go for quite a while without food and had some snacks with me anyway, so I opted instead to hike quickly to the top of Riomaggiore to see the view. I took a photosphere there:

I had to take a selfie, too:

Once everyone had food, we quickly headed down to the water and spent a few minutes there before having to head to the train station. While waiting for everyone to ascend the stairs, I bought some grapes that were amazing given how hot it was.

In Vernazza, a similar situation unfolded. Most everyone wanted gelato/ice cream. I was more interested in seeing the town. I, again, took off and climbed to the top of the town while they were getting ice cream, then headed down to the waterfront where I took this photosphere:

Once everyone else had their ice cream, they all headed down to the waterfront where we spent a little time enjoying the views and climbing on the rocks. We then boarded a ferry that took us to our last stop, Monterosso al Mare.

We had about 45 minutes in Monterosso al Mare. Debi, Toren, and I took advantage of the time to walk through the town, visit another Byzantine style church that matched Debi’s outfit, and stop by a few shops.

Debi and Toren matched this striped church in Monterosso al Mare.

We then took an alternate route to meet up with the guide that took us out and around a large outcropping that was quite scenic:

Toren with two of his cousins in Monterosso al Mare.

We ended up getting to the meeting place 10 minutes early. As we had made our way around the outcropping, I saw some stairs headed up and decided that I’d go as far up as I could in 5 minutes, then head back down so I wasn’t late. I tracked the hike back down on my watch:

As it turns out, 5 minutes was enough time to make it to the top where I found a monastery and graveyard. I didn’t have time to explore it all, but the first crypt I saw belonged to the Ferrari family, who own a large estate not far from Monterosso al Mare.

The Ferrari Family crypt in Monterosso al Mare.

From Monterosso al Mare, we took the train one last time and then met our minibus, which took us back to the cruise ship. We went to an ice skating show that night on the cruise ship. Yes, the ship has an ice rink.

One final note… I took my favorite picture of Toren and Debi on this trip in Vernazza:

Debi and Toren in Vernazza.