Sunday, August 24, 2014

Brown Colored Sugar Syrup

I currently live in Florida, which is deep in the "sweet tea" zone (which, near as I can tell begins somewhere in Maryland, extending south to Florida, and west to Texas).

My friend Bobby for example (a native Floridian... one of the only 35%), is utterly firm in his conviction that tea has not been properly sweetened until a spoon can stand up in it unaided.

Now, I should be clear, a bit of sugar and a bit of lemon in my tea (whether iced or hot) is quite fine... but sweet tea?

When I want to drink brown colored simple syrup, I order a whiskey sour thank you very much.

In support of my position on this matter, I quote the great Eric Arthur Blair:

"Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water. 
Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Real Victim

Stop calling people who commit suicides "Victims of suicide", They are not.

You cannot be a victim of your own conscious choices and actions. That's not victimization, that's consequence.

Victimization is an unearned and unjustified harm imposed on you.

Victims of the disease of depression and anxiety? Ok...

Victims of a society that has no idea how to deal with mental illness, and actively worsens it? Ok...

Victims of a "mental health system" that often seems like nothing more than a funding mechanism for a series of uncontrolled trial and error experiments? Ok...

But those who chose to kill themselves are not "victims of suicide".

The victims of suicide, are those of us who are left behind to suffer the loss.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wrong Problem, Wrong Solution

Everyone saying "take the military weapons away from the cops" is missing the point... and the problem.

It's not the weapons... it's the training, and the philosophy.

It's the training and philosophy that says that "officer safety" is more important than civil rights, or the rule of law.

It's the militaristic attitude and training, that fundamentally confuse the police mission, protecting the public; with the military mission of attacking and defending against "the enemy"; explicitly separating the police from the public.

This has the effect of making the public, the enemy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bring me a Sandwich

Y'all who have always lived north of Delaware and east of Pittsburgh just can't understand...

Generally speaking, baked goods SUCK in the rest of the country (with the possible exception of San Francisco).

Pizza, bread, donuts, pastry... they are all just... anywhere from "not good" to "absolutely fucking horrible".

The only baked goods the rest of the country seem to get right are cookies, cakes, and pies... and even then most places fuck those up too, at best reaching mediocrity (the midwest and northwest generally do decent pies).

Sometimes they're fucking horrible, sometimes they're just mediocre, sometimes they are really CLOSE to being good... but those are worse than the horrible ones because they're close enough to make you remember what the good stuff is like.

The first thing I do when I get off a plane or drive into the area, is get a pizza. Usually on the ride from the airport. My next meal is almost always a sub... usually a steak and cheese. Then I get good "bad chinese" food (meaning americanized chinese food, which is actually good in the northeast, and pretty horrible everywhere else).

In most of the country, they actually think Subway, blimpies, quiznos, and jimmy johns, are actual subs.

Don't even get me started on donuts... Outside of the northeast and Ohio (I don't know why, but Ohio seems to have good donuts), it seems like only Austin, Chicago, Portland, LA, and San Francisco, actually have good donuts.

Bagels... forget it...

So even getting a sandwich on what by northeastern standards is mediocre bread, is 1000% better than the shit you have to get used to having.

Monday, August 04, 2014

I think he works for Apple

Ok... so, finally, after 30 someodd years of graphical interface design, sometime in the late 2000s and into the early 2010s we came up with an interface aesthetic where interface representations of things actually looked like things... kinda 3-Dish, but not goofy, or cartoonish, or "jewel-like", with realistic color and shading.

This was a GOOD thing.

Everything was clearly differentiated and visually distinct from every other thing, and could be easily found within ones visual field, whether on a large computer screen, or a small phone screen.

All of a sudden, in 2010 or so, this started changing for the worse.

What asshole suddenly decided that the new modern cool clean thing for interfaces was to undo ALL of that 30 years of progress, and make everything flat, 2d, and composed of meaningless geometric shapes, in bright primary colors, spread across a featureless background of bright primary colors; with no visual indication of, or connection to, that things name or function?

That asshole is fucking up the world, and he should be killed, immediately, and in a painful and public way; pour encourager les autres.

I think he works for Apple.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Yes... it's the owner not the dog... BUT...



This, is a Cane Corso:




Cane Corsos are some of the biggest, strongest, and by their very genetic nature, most territorial and protective dogs. They are bred to hunt large game, and to catch and herd straying swine and cattle.

Like other large "catch dogs", they can literally catch a large livestock animal, and either kill them, or hold them on the ground waiting for their handler to come and retrieve the caught prey.

This, is a Presa Canario:



Presa Canarios are a very different breed in many ways, but they descend from the same basic genetic foundation (molosser) and are also large catch dogs. They have the same size, strength, and drives as the Cane Corso. They are big, strong, highly territorial, and highly protective.

How big is "big"? 

Those chains and big heavy collars aren't for show. Males of either breed can easily exceed 150lbs, and standing on their hind legs can easily look a 6'2" man like myself directly in the eyes.

Corsos and Presas can be great dogs. Loyal, affectionate, loving, fun...

...For the right people, in the right environment...

A few days ago, a couple of Cane Corsos killed a jogger in Michigan. It came out that those same dogs had attacked other people in the neighborhood over the course of two years, but nothing had been done.

A few years ago, actor Ving Rhames had a pair of Presa Canarios, that killed his gardener.

This Michigan incident is the latest in a long series of reports from the last few years where Cane Corsos, or Presa Canarios have killed pedestrians, joggers, yard or service workers etc...

No, it's not the dogs fault. Yes, it is their owners fault.

But... not for the reasons some "dog people" like to champion.

Yes, there is no such thing as inherently bad or dangerous dog, or an inherently bad or dangerous breed...

...except that isn't ENTIRELY true.

As is usually the case, the truth is more complicated.

All dogs, no matter the breed, are potentially dangerous, because they are DOGS. YOU may consider them a member of your family, but they are not children, they are DOGS.

They are little... or not so little... balls of muscle and instincts with teeth and claws; and under the right... or wrong... circumstances, they can be dangerous.

Of course, abuse or ill treatment can make any dog MORE dangerous...

...but it doesn't take abuse to make a dog dangerous. It just takes the wrong situation, or the wrong environment, or the wrong owner who doesn't know how to handle their dog.

Some breeds of dogs need special handling or they will be dangerous, simply because of their natures. Their size, their strength, their basic breed characteristics, and their instincts.

Big, strong, territorial dogs with high prey drive or high protective drive, ARE dangerous; if not kept in the right environments, and trained, socialized, and exercised and handled properly; by the right sort of people who can properly manage these types of dogs.

Cane Corsos and Presa Canarios are working dogs. They NEED to work. They need to work off their energy, and they NEED to follow their "mission" instinct.

In military parlance, they are extremely motivated and mission oriented, and their mission is to PROTECT THE HERD AND THE FIELDS AND THE PACK AT ALL COSTS.

They're very good at it. It's what they're bred for.

They are NOT dogs that you can have in a busy urban or suburban area. They'll be miserable, and they'll make you miserable. They'll literally be driven crazy by the constant influx of strangers and "threats".

Dogs like this need room to run. More importantly, they need defensive depth. They need a big buffer zone for "their" territory. They need room to back off if they feel threatened.

If they don't have room, unless they are properly trained and handled, and their handler is present and managing the situation properly; in close quarters they WILL feel threatened, and they WILL get aggressively protective.

These are SERIOUS working dogs.

However, for a certain class of asshole, they have become "fashionable" over the past few years, because they're so big, so strong, and so "dangerous". Rottweilers and "pit bulls" are becoming more common, and certain types of assholes just want to have the biggest, baddest dog on the block.

Another type of asshole doesn't recognize that dogs are actually animals, rather than just furry people. Or that the dog that is so cuddly and great with them, is an entirely different beast when it comes to strangers and their "mission" or their territory.

Dogs are NOT fashion accessories. Nor are they furry children. They are living beings, with their own needs and drives, not simply extensions or projections of their owners.

Most people are simply not mentally and emotionally prepared to, or even physically able to, properly handle Cane Corsos and Presa Canarios (or for that matter most other large dogs); nor do most people have the proper environment to keep them.

I have been handling and training large dogs since I was a child, and I'm a VERY large, strong, and dominant man..  I've also made a habit of rehabilitating troubled and abused large breed dogs, particularly rottweilers and other molosser variants. My family and I love "politically incorrect" dogs, and have had great experiences with our wonderful rescued dogs, that others had considered "dangerous" or "unstable" because of prior abuse.

Even given all that however, unless I raised them myself, or knew the person who raised them, I would not accept a Presa or a Corso into my pack. Not a chance in hell in fact.

Even if I'd raised one from a pup, if I didn't have a big, FULLY FENCED and secure property, with neighbors who also knew how to handle and deal with big, protective dogs, I wouldn't even consider having a Corso or a Presa.

 For people who like and want "big dogs", and can deal with a confident, physical, and protective dog, I'm always a fan of rotties.

Jayne, my rott/amstaff male, is 130lbs of muscle, teeth, and love. He's the worlds largest lap dog when I let him get away with it.

We like to joke that he might be "dangerous" or "aggressive" if he weren't too busy looking for comfort and cuddles, and too lazy to chase after trouble.

My other rott mix is a 65lb rott/redbone coonhound bitch, and her coonhound side sometimes causes her to follow her nose into trouble, but she's still a total affection slut.

No matter what though, you still need to be prepared and able to handle large dogs.

What do I mean when I say "prepared and able to handle large dogs" ?

Well, let me use myself as an example. Yes, I'm a big strong man, but that's not the most important thing. The most important things are emotional and mental preparedness.

You MUST be the alpha, and you must be prepared to do what is necessary to deal with your dog.

I can make Jayne cower and roll with a strong look... and he loves and respects me, and I love and respect him, enough that I rarely have to.

When he does get upset, or over excited, I can usually calm him down with a word or a touch, or at worst a strong tone of command and a physical reminder.

USUALLY... but not always...

Jayne is well trained, and well socialized, with an even... in fact a laid back and lazy... demeanor and temperament; but like all dogs, he can get excited, or anxious, or agitated. Very rarely, again like any other dog, he can get excited or agitated enough that he can be difficult to handle.

If he gets so excited or scared that his instincts overwhelm his pack conditioning, I'm big enough, strong enough, and mean enough to back him down, and hold him down if necessary.

And he knows it...

If as an absolute last resort he is driven mad by something, and I am unable to back him down, calm him down, get him back under control or otherwise safely restrain or isolate him from those he could harm... I am prepared to kill him.

And he knows it...

It may sound silly to you, but anyone who works with dogs will understand this... A properly socialized dog knows when you are bigger and stronger and meaner than he is... he especially knows whether you're willing to kill him if you have to. That's how their world works.

Understand, I have raised Jayne from first separation, and love this dog as a member of my own family... but I also recognize a dog is a dog, not a child; and 130lbs of out of control and maddened muscle and teeth is a danger that must be brought under control or stopped, by whatever means necessary.

When you own big dogs... that's what you MUST understand, and be prepared for. If you are not, you have NO DAMN BUSINESS owning a big dog.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Luc, Lucy, and the Meaning of Life.

Just watched Scarlet Johansson in Luc Bessons "Lucy".

Yeah...

Lots of fan service certainly.

VERY VERY VERY DUMB...

Also, in many ways it goes far beyond "homage" and into "total blowjob" territory for Yuen Woo-Ping, John Woo, and Park Chan-Wook... and to Hong Kong and Korean (and of course being a Luc Besson film, french and italian) cinema in general... To the point of some shot for shot "homages", and very explicit callbacks and stunt casting.

Frankly, that was part of the fan service.

I didn't like ScarJo's performance choices and/or Bessons choices in directing her performance... but that was a matter of personal preference and taste. I don't think it was actually a bad performance, I think she was executing what she and Besson wanted... I just didn't care for those choices.

It was REALLY short. It also made very extensive use of stock footage; to the point that I think without it, the whole film minus credits (it's listed as 90 minutes with credits. We timed the actual film content as 83 minutes from opening shot to closing shot) would have been under 60 minutes.

Fun. Not good. Not so horrible as to wrap around and be great.

If you're a film geek... particularly if you love hong kong and korean action movies it's a good "bad movie night" movie

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mr. Watson... Go the hell away, I don't need you now

I really hate talking on the phone... Always have really, but more and more so as I get older.

I have to talk on the phone for hours and hours as part of my job; it's the absolute last thing I want to do when I'm not working

Even if I love you and you're a great friend and we haven't talked in a while... I still hate talking on the phone, and unless there's something specific to talk about, if you call me, I'm likely to say ten words (four of which are likely to be SSDD) and then beg off.

I make an exception for my less technical relatives, with whom I generally can't communicate via email, IM, or Facebook; and with whom I will have long phone conversations a few times a year... But that's pretty much it.

There are times when I simply cannot stand to talk with ANYONE on the phone, or even via instant message... sometimes for a few days at a time. My head just feels like exploding even thinking about picking up the phone.

When I am feeling like that, I will simply not answer the phone or IM for anything other than emergencies or critical work calls. I cancel my con calls, I don't even listen to voicemail never mind respond (oh and DON'T leave me voicemail unless its an emergency and its the only way you know how to contact me. IM, email, or TXT me... I LOATHE voicemail no matter what mood I'm in).

If I am in one of those moods... I am not avoiding you, I just REALLY DO NOT WANT TO TALK ON THE PHONE... Just EMAIL me. I can respond to you properly when I have time and when my head feels better.

Believe me... Its not you I hate.... Its the gods be damned telephone.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Welfare Towns and Equilibrium Traps

Alright, here's where I start to sound like a liberal to those who don't know any better...

Many people seem to believe, that the majority of "welfare recipients", and the recipients of the majority of "welfare dollars" in this country are minorities; particularly blacks and hispanics, and most particularly urban blacks and hispanics living in slums, ghettos, "the barrio", "the hood" etc...

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

It's certainly understandable why this misperception exists, because for the most part, it's the image the media, and politicians, present to us. It's just not true.

This is not to say that there aren't a large number of blacks and hispanics receiving some type of "welfare" in this county, or even that in many areas they do so in disproportionate numbers to their local populations. It just needs to be pointed out, that the common perception of "the welfare people" and "the welfare areas" as urban, and black is not only false, it's actually the complete opposite of the truth.

While this stereotype is generally true in large urban areas outside of the southwestern border states (California, Arizona, New mexico, and Texas, where the majority of urban recipients of state aid are hispanic); overall, even in heavily urbanized states, the very large majority (in most states without a "top 20" city it's generally somewhere between 60% and 80%) of those receiving AFDC, subsidized housing, food stamps, and medicaid (the most significant "welfare" programs); are white non-hispanic, and live in rural or semi-rural, suburban, or small metropolitan semi-urban areas.

It can be hard to generalize of course, because these things vary year to year, and state to state; and of course there are variations in how the states collect and report data; but some demographic factors are very clear, and any error or variability is damped out over time and in the aggregate, so a clear historical baseline and trend can be established.

Blacks and city dewellers simply are not the major "beneficiaries" of "welfare" programs in this coiuntry.

In fact, if you want to know what the "typical welfare town" looks like, it's not urban or black at all. It's very white, and very "middle america".

Likely It's a midwestern or southern, large town or small city; though these towns can be found in just about every state from Connecticut to California, and at most any size population, from a few thousand up to 200,000 or so.

Generally, it will have a very small "metropolitan area" around it, with a significant semi-rural or rural population around that, using the town for shopping and services.

It will generally have either a single major employer or majority single industry employment (often a legacy manufacturing industry, agribusiness, or a military base), along with the businesses that service and support those employed by that employer/industry.

Generally, that single company or industry will have closed down entirely, be subject to severe boom and bust cycles, or have just generally hit bad times and have significantly contracted.

Even if the towns revenue base was healthy and diversified, or their major employers are doing OK, often they are still in trouble because things have changed around them which have just made them economically stagnant or non-viable. In those cases, very often they were a thriving town or city before the interstate highway system expanded, and the rail network contracted; but now they are off the main transport routes, and they cost too much, or are too inconvenient, for infrastructure and logistics dependent employers, to economically operate.

Sometimes, they are farm towns, or often former farm towns. Over the past 80 years, our nations farm productivity has soared, but farm labor has crashed. Before the depression, at least 10% of our population directly farmed or ranched the land to produce foodstuffs or textiles. Now, it's less than 1%. That's great for the cost of food, and in general keeping inflation down... but what are all those people who used to be farmers doing now? Meanwhile, the populations of farming areas have grown at a rate similar to that of the rest of semi-rural america. Only there's no decent employment opportunities to support this growth.

Often, they are a distant satellite of a medium or large sized college town, state capital, military base town, or similar polity; close enough that the larger city pulls away business and talent, but not close enough for workers to economically commute, or for the smaller city to share in the largers suburban prosperity.

... and generally, outside of a few southeastern states, and the border states; these towns have largely majority white populations, with largely white populations of "welfare" recipients.

These are the places that the permanent or semi-permanent, intergenerational, white underclass in America live.

Those stuck in that underclass are most likely high school dropouts (about 50%), or GED recipients (about 25%. Only about 25% actually graduate high school). They have almost always become parents before the age of 24 (about 60%) if not actually while in high school (about 40% of those).

If we're just looking at women it's more like 80% have had children under the age of 24, 60% of those while still in high school, and 80% of them dropped out and did not later obtain a GD (at least not before the age of 24).

Even if they had any postsecondary education, or a trade outside the industry which has left the town non-viable (and Devry, other trade schools and for profit colleges and the like, recruit heavily in these populations), theres little or no nearby employment base for them to gain better employment.

They are likely (more than 50% overall, with more than 60% or males and more than 40% of females) to have multiple minor convictions for possession or intoxication, simple assault, driving with suspended license and insurance; or other relatively minor crimes, that while not felonies, do make getting better than low end employment difficult.

Very few are active habitual hard drug users, though intermittent methamphetamine and marijuana use are common (again, over 50%), and intermittent misuse of prescription drugs is becoming common.

Oh and while they may not generally be regular users, they are however statistically by far the most likely group of people to become serious abusers of methamphetamine.

Minor and intermittent alcohol abuse is common, but true alcoholism is relatively rare.

Most of them DO smoke though... in fact, they're the only group of white people in this country among whom more than 40% still smoke (about 40% of women and 60% of men).

They also tend to have poor diets, which in addition to making them more likely to be obese (more than 60%), when combined with their other risk factors is likely to make them far less healthy overall.This reduces both their testable intelligence scores (such as they are... rant for another time), and their expected lifespan by between 5% and 15%.

That's the white underclass in America today... and the "welfare" recipients alone make up something like 15-20% of the population, never mind the "working poor" who earn enough to be means tested out of "welfare" programs.

All told, white, black, hispanic, and everyone else, this institutionalized underclass is something like 25% to 35% of our population, depending how you count it, and whose numbers you believe. Most of them don't live in the inner cities, or the "hood"...

They live in... Jacksonville Illinois.... or Kearny Arizona... or Waycross Georgia.

... and whether they are recipients of state "aid" or not, they are in what is known as an equilibrium trap.

If things were any worse, people would just leave. Go to another place with better education and employment prospects.

If things were any better, people could get ahead, and the local economy could grow.

As it is, conditions are just in that "dead spot" on the curve, where they are both "good enough" or even "tolerable enough", that most people willing to live under them long term, AND where there there is little opportunity for anyone to significantly improve their life, without both a major expenditure of effort and resources, and significant risk of failure (actually, the near certainty of failure several times, before success is achieved).

The risk outweighs the potential reward for most, and most of the rest get beaten down by the multiple failures it generally takes before one can succeed.

Equilibrium traps are considered one of the worst steadystate socioeconomic problems for good reason.

That one particular issue: the fact that failure (even repeated failure) is a part of the process of success; is often the hardest obstacle to overcome.

 Even those who are motivated to improve their lot, and willing to put in the effort, and take the risk; generally have neither the resources to keep trying in the face of failure; nor the education, motivation, acculturation, and support network to help them do so... even if only to help them understand that failure is part of the process, and that it is possible to succeed.

So, you get an institutionalized underclass of the barely employed or unemployed, under-educated, disincentivized, and demoralized people, maybe just maybe just getting by, maybe just surviving...

Maybe not really living... maybe just... existing.

Of course, even when our government is not actually directly creating this equilibrium trap (and very often, they are), they encourage, support, and reinforce it. The government gives just enough "aid" to make things tolerable, but not enough to really make it better; not enough resources, or options, or freedom to let someone help themselves effectively; and they take EVERYTHING AWAY if you try to make it better for yourself.

It would be a case of perverse incentive, if it weren't for the fact that the system is clearly functioning as designerd. It's purpose is not to lift people up, or help them lift themselves... but to keep them under control.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Technological Life, or something like it

I have just been wasted the last few days.

I got sick last Thursday and was in bed all day, Then I thought I was better enough to go to a 4th of july BBQ and made myself worse. Because I'm an idiot, and do this almost every time I'm sick.

Then Monday, I have no idea what happened, I don't recall doing anything stupid to it other than... growing old I guess... but for some reason my lower back just locked up.

Rather painful that. Could barely move. I tried to get out of my truck and pump some diesel, and I literally couldn't manage it.

Two hours of little Korean lady sadists (yes, it took two of them. The first one could only last about 45 minutes before she was worn out) beating, elbowing, kneeing, and walking on my back (accompanied by repeated exclamations in mixed Korean and English to the effect of "Jesus christ... too much muscle... all too tense... all tied in knots") later, and I could almost sorta kinda walk upright again.

Almost...

The next morning however I was completely locked up again, and I've pretty much been locked up in bed, or on the couch, ever since.

Yay, pain.

Being sick, makes you dumb. Having back pain, very much makes you dumb. Which kinda leads to to the next thing...

My macbook pro is out for warranty service with Apple right now, so I'm on my windows laptop.

As it happens, I also just changed phones.

We switched from Verizon to T-Mobile a few months ago, but were using our old verizon phones (they're unlocked multiband global 4g phones) with t-mobile SIMs (yes, this works, you just have to know how to reprogram the phone to work on the new network, and it has to be fully unlocked).

A few weeks into this, my Galaxy S4 decided to stop working on T-Mobiles network, so I had to replace it.

After researching and comparing the current smartphone landscape, I ended up picking up a google Nexus 5. It's alright, but I don't really like it. I tend to work my devices hard, and the Nexus just didn't quite keep up with what I wanted it to do.

Mels phone was also unreliable, and since I have been preparing to start a new contract which will have me travelling a lot, we needed to get her a reliable replacement.

Or rather I got a replacement. Since I didn't care for the Nexus 5 but Mel likes it, she got the Nexus, and I grabbed a Galaxy S5 (which I'm quite happy with, as I expected I would be. I loved my S4, and the S5 is a straightforward upgrade to it).

Both my windows laptop, and my new phone, are wonderful, current, high performing examples of their type... However, neither of them had my full and current working setup or documents on them. The setups that typically take me a few weeks or more of tinkering and tweaking to get right, when I switch devices.

I am one of those folks who depends on their digital exobrains to run their lives; because, so to speak, I've got too many active tracks going, and I LOSE track of the ones not currently active.

I had forgotten to configure two pieces of software, and two accounts, on my windows laptop and new phone. A combination of just too many little things to remember, and the fact that I've been braindead the last week between being sick, and having really bad back pain.

This not having my digital exobrains properly updated and configured caused me to miss several messages, emails, and two con calls over the past few days.

Nothing that's going to kill me or anything, just one of those irritations of modern life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dain Bramaged

I've had something like 60 job screening or interview phone calls, several in person interviews, and now several offers, in the last few weeks. 

I've got several long term background contracts and slow burn projects going on as well. Some stuff which should be really interesting over time. 

My ISC(2) course description (warning, PDF link) for the security congress is up finally, and they've asked me to redevelop and become a trainer for two more courses.

Oh and there's the office cleanout, the garage organization, the woodworking and shelving projects to support those... 

Basically, I've been running at 100mph since we got here, May 11th...

Damn, was that 5 weeks ago?

All work and no play makes Chris a DAMNED TIRED BOY...

I'm gonna go fall over now for like... the rest of the week. I may have to travel next week, and I need the brain rest. 

Say good night Gracie... Good night Gracie. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Uh... dude... look at your tire"

So, heading out the door to do some errands Saturday and look what we see...



Well... That's not good...


Let's get a better look...




Yeah... that's pretty bad actually...




Quote from the tire guy "Good thing you guys buy heavy duty commercial truck tires... I've never seen a sidewall fail that bad and hold together. If that was a normal consumer light truck tire it would have exploded. It was a time bomb".

Yeah...

Obviously, we had to grab two new tires on Saturday (the other two were replaced a few months back). Heavy duty commercial truck tires again, because yeah. They're not cheap, but they're worth it.

We were planning on replacing them this week anyway... we just moved our timeline up a few days.

Oh and this time we got the E rated load range. We tried last time but they were back ordered six weeks, so settled for the D rated. They DID last us 50,000+ miles of VERY hard use, from desert to mountains, to blizzard, to ice, and back again; at high speeds and heavy loads before they failed.



Thursday, June 05, 2014

Stroms in Toyland

REALLY miss my V-strom...

I've GOT TO get back on a bike soon. It's early summer and I've ridden precisely ONCE since November, and that was for like 10 minutes.

Not sure I'd want to fly back to AZ, unload and prep ( it's a 1,000 with full hard bags) for a 2100 mile road trip, and then ride it from AZ to FL in the height of the summer rains on the Gulf Coast...

On the other hand... I AM sure I don't want to be without a Motorcycle much longer.

Perhaps one of these outstanding job prospects will resolve itself into an offer with relocation, or sufficiently decent offer, that I can just pay to have the trailer fixed and hauled out to me.

Perhaps even so good that even after digging out of our current hole I will have enough left over to acquire another low cost motorcycle.

One advantage to our current location... We are in heaven for purchasers of used second, toy, fun and recreation vehicles like motorcycles, boats, RV's etc...

When you say "full" and "busy"... what exactly do you mean by that?

So, it's another one of those 68 hours awake nights... unintentional for much of it... a combination of insomnia, and just working my ass off, round the clock, the last few days.

In the first 55 of those hours I had NINE different job interviews, or prospect calls, or negotiation sessions, plus a couple extended email exchanges... seemingly all of which are likely to result in final job offers (9, possibly 10 different jobs prospects working, all of them good, a few full time, a few contract).

Plus I'm working on an actual short term contract.

Plus we are working on shutting down a friends old business, so he can move on with his new business; which today involved me mostly carrying a 9 foot couch down 3 split flights of stairs (6 runs plus landings), literally carrying it on my back (which worked out very well, and was much faster and easier than we expected.

Plus working with my friend to try to get his NEW company to understand that they have a critical need for an enterprise, infrastructure, and security architect (or two of us, or possibly three), at least on a contract basis for a few months... and really, they do (to be fair, most organizations could stand with some work in those areas, particularly most startups)... In the process making HIS life easier, improving outcomes for him and his new company, AND giving me a solid source of ongoing revenue while we deal with other opportunities.

Plus cleaning, organizing, and building organizational systems and infrastructure (for example I'm fabricating a custom shelving system for the garage, making use of every inch of wall space for either shelves, a server rack, or workbenches) for the house, garage, lab, and other stuff we require to recondition the large amount of gear left over from the previous business, and ready it for sale, reclamation, recycling, or donation... as well as have an actually usable garage/shop, and some storage space available back in the house.

When I say the garage is full... I mean that it's total volume (it's a two plus sized garage), and entire floor space has been taken up from ground level to chest height... Mostly with servers, networking gear, and assorted other IT crap; some with tools... only a tiny bit with normal "garage stuff"....

... Of course, for geeks like us... this IS normal garage crap.

Plus... you know... rebuilding our life which kinda blew into little pieces a while back...

The one legged man won the ass kicking contest a while back, then hopped across the Boston marathon finish line in under 2:05, hopped across the continental united states, swum the pacific ocean, and is currently engaged in attempting to face kick every taekwondoin in Korea.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Re-writing history to fit his personal racial narrative preferences....

This is one of the stupidest and most offensive things I've read in some time... and I don't LIKE the "religious right".

"The REAL Origins of the Religious Right" 

"In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools."

Uhh... no... not even close...

The ACTUAL "real" origins of the "religious right" go much farther back first of all.

It started with the "aftereffects" of the second great awakening, and the fundamentalist-modernist/reformist controversy and schism of the late 1890s through 1920s.

This was the separation of "mainline" protestantism, and evangelical/fundamental protestantism; as well as the marking of wholesale entry of organized fundamentalist church groups aggregating into larger political blocs and attempting to act on a regional and national basis.

It's got NOTHING to do with racism or race... Mostly in fact, the issues they advocated for, were economic and social justice issues.

Mainline protestantism mostly aligned strongly on the right economically but were socially moderate, and evangelical/fundamentalist protestantism mostly aligned strongly on the left economically (particularly with the rise of "farm progressives" and later the "new deal"), while being strongly socially conservative or reactionary.

What BEGAN to establish religious groups as right wing in the fundamentalist and evangelical branches, was in fact largely postwar anti-communism/anti-socialism.

From the 1920s, the evangelical churches that were active in issues of race, were strongly economically leftist and STAUNCH democrats.

It was the LATER response to changing social conditions and the rise of race based social change in the south that roused the more reactionary elements...

But that was NOT a factor of the "religious right"...

In fact that was STILL mostly among democrats and those who were moderate leftists economically, but "social conservatives" (who were not in fact conservatives, they were reactionaries).

It wasn't even until the 1980s that the majority of evangelicals identified at Republican or right wing, primarily transitioning with Carter and Reagan.

Through at least the early 80s, evangelicals and other fundamentalists were the strong core of southern, and midwestern democrats.

Ascribing the rise of the "religious right" to race is... ridiculous, short sighted, and bigoted.

...Though unsurprising...

Bergdahl... Policy Fail, Strategy Fail, Tactics Fail... PR win?

Ok... Something that some folks don't seem to understand... and thus do not understand why conservatives, and in particular why current and former servicemembers are extremely upset about... the Bergdahl issue (never mind how he got there in the first place).

Many seem to be mystified why conservatives, and in particular servicemembers, do not seem to be happy about "getting Bergdahl home at least", regardless of what they may think of Bergdahl personally.

They are ascribing this to nothing but reflexive Obama hate... That we hate Obama so much, we'd rather a servicemember remain a prisoner of the Taliban than allow the administration a PR victory.

That's not it. At least not for those who actually understand what has gone on here.

The so called "prisoner exchange" of 5 Taliban terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl was in fact NOT a "prisoner exchange", it was in fact "negotiating with terrorists".

This is against U.S. law in most circumstances, however the president can issue a "finding" that says that doing so is in the national security interest of the united states, or that not doing to presents a clear and present danger to the national security interests of the united states. Such a finding would make the action legal (mostly, under most circumstances, with caveats etc... etc...).

It is not clear whether this was done or not... therefore it is not clear if the law has been broken or not.

What IS clear however, is that "Prisoner Exchange" with non-state actors is not prisoner exchange, it is bribing terrorists. It is DANEGELD, and once you have paid the danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.

That is WHY we have a policy of not negotiating with terrorists.

Whether this is illegal or not, is irrelevant...

Whether Bergdahl is a hero, or a deserter, or something in between is irrelevant....

What IS relevant, is that the actions taken to "get him home" are guaranteed to harm the national security of the United States, and to put our people at greater risks.

These actions are GUARANTEED to increase the kidnapping, torture, and ransoming of our servicemembers, diplomatic corps, and citizens.

THAT is what so many of us are upset about.

Mostly Untrue.... How to Lie with Facts part whatever...

A couple months back I wrote a few posts in a row about how we are lied to using common misunderstandings about science, basic facts, statistics, percentages and the like...

Time to address another one...

So, popular facebook meme:



True or Not?

MOSTLY untrue...

The first part of it being mostly untrue, is that McDonalds has announced that it already does not use "mechanically separated and recovered beef slurry" in most of their patties in most of their locations; and that for those who do, they will cease doing so.

For the other part of it being mostly untrue... that's where we get into lying with science, and misapplication and overgeneralization etc...

Its a semantic issue, and a matter of lying using the facts without context.

Yes, every major food processors lower cost frozen beef patties are made at least in part, with mechanically separated and recovered beef (the same is true of chicken patties and nuggets).

First thing there is, mechanically separated beef IS "real" beef. It just looks gross and has no texture.

Now... Some of it, from some processors, is cleansed with ammonia, from others it isn't.

However, in either case, it is generally cleansed, neutralized, flushed and rinsed with either saline solution or pure distilled water, and only trace amounts of ammonia remain.

Also, this is a standard technique... in fact, sometimes an FDA MANDATED technique... for maintaining sanitation in all processed meats including ground beef and beef that has been broken down into primals and subprimals at a processing facility (i.e. anything smaller than a side of beef that gets shipped to your supermarket for their own butchers to break down... which means almost all beef sold in the U.S. today; generally referred to as "boxed beef").

In any case, what remains in the food product prior to shipment is so low as to require a lab to detect it... Lower than the levels likely to be present in your own kitchen.

Mechanically separated meat is indistinguishable in lab tests from other meat except in that when handled properly it actually has LESS chemical trace AND less pathogen trace, than most ground beef.

Further, it has been in used for over 100 years, and it does NOT cause cancer.

Nor does ammonia in the extremely tiny amounts remaining in any food product. If it did, we would all get cancer from the trace amounts of ammonia left in our kitchens from using windex.

So.. you can't say it's absolutely 100% false... and some of the bare facts are at least in part correct... But basically the graphic is a lie.

The meme itself by the way was created by an anti-meat raw food advocacy group, who run the website "rawforbeauty.com".

Let's all get screwed over JUST A LITTLE BIT LESS




This... in it's entirety. Not one single word said here is incorrect in any way.

This is not a left, right, or libertarian issue... it's an EVERYONE GETTING SCREWED MORE issue.

Let's all try to get screwed JUST A LITTLE BIT LESS people.

It's a Typical American Phenomenon...

Self identified "Conservatives", and particularly those who identify with the "tea party" (whatever that means at this point... not very much)...

...and who, again mostly are not in fact conservatives, mostly they are reactionary right wing populists...

...are up in arms... again... about the possibility that Republicans might actually work with Democrats on some nebulous form of "Immigration Reform".

Outside the Beltway: House Republicans To Move Forward On Immigration Reform This Summer?

So... To be clear...

U.S. Immigration laws, regulations, and policies are universally recognized by all parties, regardless of politics, in and out of the U.S.; as stupid, wrongheaded, ineffective, and in fact damaging to both the nation, and to those who seek to immigrate here.

We are very effective at keeping the people out who we actually want here.  We are absolutely ineffective at keeping out the people we want out.

There are many reasons for this, but they pretty much all come down to the laws, regulations, and processes being completely wrong and stupid...

... and EVERYONE KNOWS IT.

The current disagreement is in theory based on the idea that we should go about fixing these problems in a slightly different order, or with slightly different priorities.

From the politicians side of things (and yes, they are their own side here, and they're all on the same side... the one that obtains and retains greater power for them) the dispute is ACTUALLY about who gets to score what points, with what voting and donor blocs, and what media organizations.

From the PEOPLES standpoint, the dispute is ACTUALLY about the fact the "sides" don't trust each other not to use the issue to deliberately screw over the "other side"...

... and of course about ingroup identification and social signalling, because this is a "wedge issue".

And mostly, the people doing the "arguing", are the vocal morons who have no clue what is actually going on, or why, or even what the laws, regulations, and processes ARE... Never mind what they should be...

... or the people who are USING THOSE PEOPLE... to whatever their particular ends may be.

So really... it's a fairly typical "wedge issue" in American politics today, more about "identity" than about the actual issue.

See "entitlement reform"

See "Tax Reform"

See "Environmental Policy"

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Another not QUITE a Recipe for REAL Men - Sacrilicious Experiment

So, I had a thought...

...Hmm....

Hummus used as a dip for pork rinds...

Low-ish carb (not atkins low, but low), ultra low glycemic index and load, ultra high protein, EXTREME flavor...

...and given the cultural background of hummus, vaguely sacrilicious.

What's not to like?

Maybe crumble some bacon on the top? Some feta?

Oh yeah... and hot sauce...

That's the stuff man

UPDATE: Just tried it... OH MY GOD THAT IS GOOD

Oh and as a second tip...

For my fellow foodies who like neither mayonnaise nor guacamole (and in general I don't care for sour cream either), there IS a wonderful substitute available for you.

Try a schmear of hummus.

I find it particularly complements grilled chicken... especially with some bacon. Hummus will substitute for both mayonnaise, AND a slice of cheese, in your grilled chicken sandwich.

I've got to try that with my next bacon cheeseburger as well...

Not QUITE a recipe for REAL men - LOTS and LOTS of Butter Chicken

So, Mel and I LOVE indian food. Most of our marriage however, we have lived in places where getting GOOD Indian (or good British Indian), has been difficult; so, we tend to do it for ourselves a lot.

As it happens, for dinner tonight, Mel and I just made about the best butter chicken (Chicken Makhani) that any of us have ever had.

It's been requested that I post the recipe... But I don't really use recipes for this sort of thing.

It's not so much a recipe as a technique which I tweak based on what I have available, the exact flavor profile I'd like etc...

However, I can describe the technique and give a roughish recipe.

The first thing is we're using a prepared Garam Masala powder from india. I prefer toasting, grinding and mixing my own, but it wasn't convenient to do so at this time.

For appx 4 pounds of chicken, we used:

Appx 4tblsp garam masala powder (which includes some chili powder)
Appx 1tblsp of a mild mustard powder (mostly for emulsification)
Appx 1tblsp of garlic powder
Appx 1tblsp ground black pepper
Appx 1tblsp ground fenugreek
Appx 1tsp cumin (the garam masala had cumin as well)
Appx 1tsp paprika
Appx 2tblsp salt

Cube 4lb of BSB, and thoroughly rub the spice mixture into the cubed chicken.

Mix the spiced chicken together with appx 8oz of drained greek style yogurt, and 1/2 cup of buttermilk. I also add a couple teaspoons of soy, a couple teaspoons of franks redhot, a couple teaspoons of lemon juice, and a few dashes of worcestershire sauce.

Let sit for at least 2 hours.

For this step, you can start with clarified butter... but I actually prefer to use a brown butter preparation. I like the flavor... you just have to be more careful to avoid burning the butter solids.

Pull the chicken out of the marinade and remove as much as possible, shaking it off into a bowl to save... it will be the basis of the sauce.

You will get your best results with this using a very heavy enameled cast iron pan or dutch oven, on medium to medium low heat... just enough to really keep a sautee going. It will allow you to have a stable heat, and avoid scorching.

Gently brown 1/4lb of butter in a flavorful oil (olive, peanut, whatever you like) to a nutty brown color, aroma, and flavor.

I prefer to sautee some fresh garlic in the mix here, but we were out this time, so the only garlic was from the spice powder mix.

Sautee the chicken in small batches in the butter. Add more butter and oil, and brown it as necessary between batches, taking care not to scorch or burn the butter of the remainders of the yogurt from the chicken. You don't want the chicken fully cooked here, just MOSTLY cooked.

You will eventually use 1/2lb of butter or more in this recipe, depending on your butter, and the moisture content of your yogurt and chicken.

Add all the chicken back into the pan, along with the saved off yogurt marinade from before, and a 6oz can of tomato paste. Cook fully with high heat, making sure to reach a high simmer or sautee (depending on the fat and moisture content of the mix it might sautee, but most likely this is going to be too wet) for at least 4 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.

This is a very important step, for food safety as well as flavor.

At this point you want to add about 4 more ounces of yogurt. Keep another 4oz of yogurt handy to adjust the final texture and flavor.

Gently simmer the chicken in the yogurt sauce until it is fully cooked but tender, then remove from the heat and let stand. If the sauce breaks, vigorously stir in some more yogurt.

Serve over steamed basmati rice, or with a pilau or jasmine rice, with or without vegetables; and of course, naan.

At your option you may add onions, peppers, carrots, or peas, either raw or sauteed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

YES... THIS... WE WANT THIS... LOTS AND LOTS OF THIS...

Bring Reading Rainbow Back for Every Child, Everywhere.




First thing... THIS is how you do a kickstarter.

This is the kind of thing that kickstarter can be great at, and do great things with; being done by people who understand their medium and their audience, and who design their campaign properly around it.

If this doesn't become one of the most overfunded kickstarters in history, I would be amazed.

I've been watching it for about 2 hours, and it's gone from $100k to over $500k in that time.

... And this is something I'm backing... even as little as I can afford right now. It's a good idea, and it's something I'd like to see done. I can't do much, but I pledged... It's the price of a cup of coffee or a little more than a gallon of gas. You should too if you can.

Anything we can do to increase the net level of education, intelligence, and reading in this country... on this planet... we should be doing. If it's a smart, well designed, well implemented way of doing so, even better.

Long term, I'd like to see what their fee schedule and sustainability model is, are they organizing long term as for profit, not for profit etc... but let's get this off the ground at the very least.

Now... for my more skeptical, and more conservative friends and readers... yes, liberals, education blah blah blah.

THIS IS A GOOD THING - IGNORE THE POLITICS

This is an essentially libertarian thing, using the power of private enterprise and initiative, and the power of market preference, to fund education.

WE WANT MORE OF THIS. LOTS MORE OF THIS.

There is one specific issue that I personally have a problem with... but I can get over it, because I understand the issue, and why it's presented as it is.

So for my fellow skeptics, and numbers geeks...

Ignore the claim that 25% of children don't learn to read in this country...

That is not an outright lie... it's also not the absolute truth. It's a matter of how we define literacy, and to what degree we count someone literate based on that definition.

That's a concept that takes more than 30 seconds, and more than one paragraph to explain... so it gets simplified here as "1 in 4 children don't learn to read".

It a political number, not a real number. A classic example of using definitions to make things scarier, to emphasize the problem.

Don't let that stop you from the core message here, or from supporting what looks to be an excellent idea.

Oh and, be sure to watch the video to the very end... priceless...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Might as well just build me a Florida room...

Seems I'm getting used to Florida. It was 93 and over 90 percent humidity yesterday... and it wasn't THAT bad...

Maybe a little TOO used to Florida...

The day before that was the first time I had worn a garment covering my legs below the knee since I had arrived, something I basically NEVER do in public, unless at the beach or working out (shorts are just not personally acceptable for me to wear in most circumstances), and it was again over 95, and over 90% humidity...

...and for the most part, I wasn't uncomfortable.

At first I thought "Well... it's only May, it'll get a lot worse soon", but actually, since we got here, we've been in an unusual warm spell, and though it's been very humid, there has been no rain.

So, I looked up the historical climate data for this area, and every day we have been here so far, we have been WELL above the mean for the date... and in fact, above the mean MAX temperatures... for JULY AND AUGUST.

Every day has been a record, or near record temperature, AND at or near the record humidity (we're averaging about 15% over the mean for each date right now... Some day 20+ percent over the mean).

It hasn't rained at all yet, which is a bit unusual, but historically we're about to hit the summer monsoon here (in fact, t-storms are forecast for this afternoon), and get 8+ inches of rain a day from now through... Oh... about August. That should cool things down a bit. I hope...

Since we arrived, every day has been at least 86 degrees, and most days have been 92 or over, peaking at 99 point something, with humidity each day averaging over 90%, peaking at 99.something%

So... Yeah... it's been hot the last couple weeks.

...and, we're getting used to it... Which is a good thing.

Really the only discomfort issue I'm having, is my medications make me sweat a lot... And with the climate here, it just POURS off me if I try to be active outside in the afternoons.

So long as there's plenty of airflow (driving, a fan, a good breeze etc...) I'm OK. With the box fan and ceiling on in the bedroom, Mel and I aren't constantly wanting to turn the AC down anymore... at least not to 60 something....

Though a dehumidifier might be helpful.

... and, of course... Gold Bond is my stalwart friend and constant companion. Because the million tiny gnomes, are far better than the alternative.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's getting better all the time

just about 2130 local... and I've just sat down from about 12 hours now of continuously running around and or actively "doing something" not actually at a computer or in front of a screen...

...much of it actual walking around...

These are "Good Things"tm.

First time in a long time when that was happening, outside of the context of actual travelling across the country.

Getting borderline heatstroked and dehydrated while doing it because it was 93 at 90% humidity and I didn't eat or drink enough today... not such a great thing.

Quantity of necessary and useful stuff which got done today... very high... also a very good thing.

Having an adorable 3 year old girls birthday party at the end of it all... A wonderful thing.

Having a few hours of paperwork to do on a new project now before I collapse... maybe not so great. I might do it in the morning.

My joint pain was actually pretty OK most of the day... the meds overall are working a lot better now with the better thyroid medication... If I can be this mobile tomorrow as well... that would REALLY be fantastic.

Honestly... today I have felt physically better than I have felt since 2010 or so... maybe better than that. My pain has been lower, my energy and focus higher... And I'm still recovering, and we've still got a lot of medication adjusting to work with... so hopefully things are really going to continue improving.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Opportunity Knocking...

Well... I just had one of the best phone interviews I've ever had in my life.

There's what is a just about ideal position for my skills and experience, at a just coming out of stealth mode startup, in almost the perfect position for me to come in and add value.

It's a very interesting company, great people whose names you would know if you were familiar with their market and their skill domains.

I've already had about six hours of conversations with the CEO and founder, and their CTO. We talked everything from hobbies and humor, to technology, to philosophy and the future.

This was a technical interview with their most technical guy... who happens to be one of the people who helped design and build the internet as we know it today... and who said that I clearly provided exactly the value... and more... in exactly the areas, and more, that they needed me to.

The company is doing incredibly interesting work, in a huge, but badly undeveloped and underserved market (importantly, this isn't a potential market, it's a real market that is huge today). They have the potential to be very big... and they're doing everything right to do just that.

Even better... it's a socially responsible, and in fact world improving thing they are doing, while finding an ethical and responsible way to make great money doing so... and being an example to others as well.

Really... this couldn't get any better...

The only question now is... are we both in a position where we can meet each others needs... or can we get there in a reasonable manner and timeframe.

No matter what, these have been great folks to talk with, and I'm very excited about the possibilities here. Even if we can't get to that point, they are people I'm glad to know, and to have talked with.

That's a very good feeling.

"Anything we want to keep?"

Helping a friend clear out the office of the company he's shutting down...

"Hey, can you go through this box of trash and junk before we toss it, make sure there's nothing in here that we actually want to keep"
Oh... I don't know... maybe a bit of something:



Aint it cool news...

I have been asked to develop and deliver a two day training seminar on BigData and Information Security at the ISC2 world security congress this coming September.

In addition to being a paying gig, it's a not insignificant honor, and bit of professional recognition...

It should be fun, and interesting. I love developing and delivering training to motivated professionals.

...Now I need to renew my CISSP...

I let it lapse while I was no longer actively consulting a few years back. It's been long enough I have to start over. That said, it's far less of a pain today than when I first got it back in.... I don't remember exactly.... 1999? 2000? Something like that.

A little more career advice...

So, I've given career advice here before a few times, mostly for folks who have already started their careers, or who are thinking about college:

A Little Career Advice

A Little Clothing Advice...

Tulips and Tuition

The Power Law Distribution Applies in Ways You Might Not Expect

Recently, I received a request for advice from a career counselor for college students, asking for help advising a student with a generic field of study currently considering a masters in some IT field, with their serious considerations lying in the virtualization, infrastructure, information security, or various architecture fields...

As it happens, I had been talking with others about the subject recently, and thought theirs was a good venue for combining and refining my previous advice.

I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter here as well, since my previous posts on the subject have generated a lot of interest.

Before I begin, let me just outline my basic qualifications and experience... 
I'm primarily an enterprise, infrastructure (including virtualization), and security (including risk and compliance) architect. Secondarily, I am a professional courseware developer and trainer in these disciplines. Finally, I am an experienced team leader and technical manager across these disciplines, in both small businesses and large enterprises, as well as a long term small business owner. 
Particularly significant to this discussion, for six years I was a chief architect, architecture manager, and team leader, covering all of these disciplines and domains; for one of the largest financial institutions in the world. 
I currently work as an independent consultant in these disciplines and domains, primarily serving the technology, medical, financial, government, and defense sectors. I am, and have been, a thought leader, executive, and hiring manager in these disciplines as well as a senior level advisor to executives and hiring managers in these disciplines. 
Now, having established that I have some relevant knowledge and experience, and am reasonably qualified to give advice on this topic... 
Here's my actual direct advice...
Education is great, I recommend it... 
...but as a hiring manager for these roles, and someone who has done a lot of career development and mentoring of junior and mid-level staff in these roles, I can tell you no degree program that I know of will have anywhere near the value, of two to four years of work experience in the industry... even if that experience is not directly related to their duties in ant particular role. 
That does NOT mean I think that students shouldn't get a degree... just that they should go about it somewhat unconventionally. 
MOST IMPORTANT... No IT degree is worth any significant amount of debt. 
 Let me repeat that... 
NO IT degree of ANY kind, including any masters degree, is worth any significant amount of debt. 
Whatever value the degree may provide (which, in most disciplines is no more than the value of "any bachelors degree" as a filter for candidates), will be more than outweighed by the burden of debt. 
Freedom from debt lets you do things like take a lower paying... or even non-paying... position that will give you more valuable career experience. 
I think the smart way to do it, is to work with colleges that grant accredited four year degrees, AND which give degree credit or even offer classes, for valuable industry certifications, and vendor and technology specific training and education. Doubly so for those institutions which offer credit for direct work experience, and through work study opportunities. 
This is especially true for masters degrees (and there are more universities willing to accept work experience and work study programs for masters credit). 
At the same time, the student should be working full time if possible, at a position within the industry. Unpaid intern if they have to, anything other than 1st level call center based tech support if they can... But WORK in the industry. 
Establish a track record of providing value within the industry, and hopefully the segment and discipline, they would like to direct their career into. 
Finally from a purely technical side, work on as much new, and different, and outside stuff... things not directly related to their specific job or degree or position... as they can possibly manage. Volunteer to work on it for free just to get the experience and exposure if necessary (though get paid for it if you can... if it' a particularly interesting or valuable skill or technology, certainly, volunteer). 
This may seem counterintuitive, but in an IT career you will find that a broad exposure to different technologies and processes is generally at least as, if not more valuable, than additional depth in a skillset already mastered.  
My final piece of advice is non-technical, but certainly far more important to any students potential career. 
The best, and most important advice I can give is this... 
Learn BUSINESS skills...
By "business skills" I mean business management, financial, and communications skills. 
Learn to read, write, and speak (both in public, and in private), very well. 
Learn to do so properly, and effectively (this may seem redundant, but actually all three are very different). 
Learn how to tailor your style, and your content, to your audience. 
Learn how to present, and defend, arguments, in writing and while speaking (both publicly and in private... the skills are related but different). 
Learn how to write business and technical documents, and documentation. 
Importantly... learn how NOT to do it, so you don't make the same mistakes as others, or your own mistakes over and over again. 
Learn how to sell... how to present, how to justify, how to craft and shape your message.
... and learn WHY you are doing so. 
Learn about basic financials, economics, basic business operations and management. 
Learn how to write (and read) policies and processes, and both technical and operational documentation for them. 
Learn how to read basic business legal language, particularly regulations and contracts. 
Learn how to write business cases and justifications, and how to read them. 
Learn about project management, and costings, and resource management.  
As a hiring manager... these are the people I really need. 
A candidate who can understand the business side, and the technology side, and can communicate effectively with both sides; is INFINITELY more useful, and valuable, than someone who can't, or who only has one of these skillsets, or can only work effectively with one of these groups of people.  
I can find plenty of people who have business skills, plenty who have communications skills, and plenty who have technical skills. All very good people, who will provide value in their specific areas of expertise. 
It's a lot harder to find any viable candidates, with any two of those skillsets. We want as many of them as we can get. They are at least twice as valuable to us as a candidate with just one of these skillsets... more often than not five or ten times more valuable 
It's DAMN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to find people with all three... and when you do, you grab them and hold on to them as hard as you can manage, because you can't replace them.  
You don't actually CARE if they don't have the EXACT skills and experience in the technologies and products you need; they'll provide value with their other skillsets, while learning the specific technologies and products. 
Let me be very clear... people with this combination of skills, are are more valuable to you, even not knowing the details and specifics of the exact technologies and tools, and the specifics of the organization; than all but the most expert, highest performing individuals in any one of those fields. 
If you want a rewarding career with great jobs doing interesting things... That's what you should be trying to learn, and who you should be trying to get to be. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Note to "OUR" side... Strongly worded communication to follow...

Earlier today, a friend posted a negative headline about Chipotle deciding to ban open carry in their corporate owned restaurants... but then made a post showing that he understood that the issue was more complicated than the headline, by far.

The headline was "Chipotle declares it's stores shooting galleries".

My response was thus:

Let us be absolutely clear...

After years of being perfectly fine with people carrying firearms in Chipotle stores, "open carry activists" carrying AR-15s and deliberately provoking confrontations with customers and police, have forced Chipotle to change their policies.

Note to "OUR" side:

STOP BEING FUCKTARDS!

This is not "activism", this is attention seeking, nothing less. It's the same kind of thing that conservatives decry about "feminist activists" who walk around topless around children, or "gay activists" who wear leather thongs and dry hump in street parades.

Yes... you should have the legal freedom to do that... because we live in a free society.


...But you shouldn't ACTUALLY DO IT, because doing to is nothing more than shocking sensibilities for its own sake. It's assholic attention seeking.

It also brings us back to one of those paradoxes, or irritating factors I keep coming back to...

"An unfortunate number of theoretically liberty oriented people are that way; not because liberty is the best way, but simply because they are horses asses, misanthropes, contrarian, or insane"

Want to understand Putin, and the Russians? WATCH THIS NOW

A few months ago I wrote about understanding the Russians, and how and why Americans have such difficulty in doing so.

Mike McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, gets frank and explicit about Putin and Russia in this Hoover institution video:



If you want to understand Russians at all, watch this now.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I don't want to set the world on fire...

Overheard in my household... 

ME: 
Thus far, the boy has seen fire, but has not yet created it for himself.  
At some point he will discover the means to create fire for himself.  
From that point forward, the entire world is at risk.

EVERYONE within earshot:

Facebook that quote NOW!

Reframing the hierarchy of false dichotomies



This image is one way of reframing the common conception of the left/right false dichotomy... and it's an important first step of reconceptualizing the false dichotomy to reveal the true dichotomy... but if you stop there, you have failed, and will continue to fail.

Reframe the statement further...

Neither work for the corporations.

"Both" work in furtherance of their own power over the people. They do so through the same types of tactics and manipulations, largely paid for by the same corporations (or similar if theoretically oppositional positioned interests), presenting a hierarchy of false dichotomies.

The true dichotomy is control over others, vs. liberty.

It's a rather important distinction, with difference... because the core issue and the motivation behind it are both different, the potential solution sets are different.

Both potential solution sets include the "get corporate money out of politics" point within them...

...but for one way of framing the issue, it's the primary... even the only meaningful point in that potential solution set (thus dooming it to inevitable failure, as doing so is functionally impossible without a complete transformation in the nature and structure of our politics).

For the other, it's just one of the many possible points within the potentially viable solution set or sets, and importantly is recognized as neither necessary nor sufficient.

One cannot proceed to successful resolution of complex issues, without understanding the second and third order issues which underly them. This increases complexity and multiplies the problems of imperfect information, imperfect reason, and unintended consequences... again, dooming such efforts to failure by their nature.

Only by reducing the problems to first principles, and their associated core motivations, can true dichotomies be resolved.

Scientists, Signalling, and Sides

Recently, a scientist who I generally quite like... and who in geek circles has a lot of cred and "cool", Neil Degrasse Tyson; has used the big soap box of his reimagined "Cosmos" TV show, to essentially dismiss anyone opposed to the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming causing catastrophic climate change, as being "anti-science".

He is sadly incorrect in this... 

There are plenty of scientifically literate, educated, pro-science folks, who understand the facts and the issues at hand, and do not subscribe to what is in fact a rather radical theory which is thus far not only not supported by the evidence, but which is in fact contradicted by it.

Unfortunately... he is correct ENOUGH, that it has become a matter of ingroup and outgroup identification and "the drawing up of sides".

All too often, ones position on this matter IS a matter of scientific ignorance, and has become simply signalling of ones sociopolitical/ideological position.

Often enough that it's a good enough proxy for many to simply make the assumption...

NOTE: This leaves aside the corruption of funding question. The funding corruption issue is an entirely separate issue. It's a serious and important issue that I've addressed before... and it is a large part of the explanation of why the proponents in and around the field of environmental science behave as they do. The funding question however, is neither necessary, nor sufficient, to explain the political or social positioning, or the passion and intensity thereof, when it comes to the huge majority of scientists whose funding has nothing to do with environmental and climate science whatsoever.

The problem is, for Tyson... and for a lot of other scientists... This stopped being about the facts of the case a long time ago.

It became about sides... 

One side being pro science, the other side being anti-science.

One side being everyone who respects science, and education, and opposes ignorance...

The other side being the Kansas and Texas textbook authority people. And the creation museum people. And the anti-gay, anti abortion people. And the science funding cutters and actual anti-science nutjobs.

AND FOR THE MOST PART THEY WERE RIGHT...

Since the "social conservatives" drew up some pretty clean lines, with congressional support and legislative activity on "their side" (particularly on the state level), everything else, which had been fairly fractured politically from the perspective of science, felt an existential threat. Those who were not politically active and motivated got so, in a big way, quickly, when they saw the way things were going.

As soon as this bloc hardened up, it had to become unassailable... It couldn't admit error or fault in even the smallest way, or it would become politically vulnerable. The "other side" would use that error to force their anti-science agenda through.

This isn't to say the liberals didn't already have their blocks of agenda science... Of course they did; the entire block of " environmental science" formed its core and still does. If you consider "social science" a science at all (at it's best, it is, but mostly it isn't), that is even more politicized and agenda driven, and always has been.

But the "social conservatives" (who, I keep emphasizing in these pages, are mostly anything but "conservative", they are mostly populist religious reactionaries) essentially unified the vast majority of science, and mostly aligned on the left (since the anti-science folks are mostly aligned on the right) against their direct assault.

And yes, it has been a direct assault. A mostly weak, futile, and stupid one to be sure, centered around local and state level action, mostly in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, and Arkansas... But very direct and tangible assault it has been and continues to be.
An Aside: Don't try to defend the "social conservative" position here for the most part. If it were an actual social conservative position, that would be fine... and defensible...

The only "socially conservative" science position has to be "science is science, leave agendas out of it, left OR right. Stop using it as an excuse for social experimentation and social engineering".  
It would be things like "stop trying to teach sex-ed in kindergarten as a mask to set up a gay rights educational agenda for 5 year olds" (something I actually fought down in Phoenix, and I generally support "gay rights"... but that's MY job to teach, when and how I think it's appropriate for MY kids... not the schools job). 
But right now, the self identified "social conservative" position and agenda certainly isn't that. It's trying to make it illegal to teach ACTUAL SCIENCE in high school for example. 
And no, your personal religious views... NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE... have NO place in the classroom. 
In any way. 
Under any circumstances. 
So long as we compel public education and there is no publicly funded alternative, this must always be so. 
Stop trying to disguise it with "intelligent design" or "teach the controversy" garbage as well... it's a disingenuous lie, insulting to everyone elses intelligence, and everyone knows it. 
It's not about "inclusiveness" or "teaching alternatives"... It's about trying to force society to stop teaching actual science and history, and start teaching what YOUR church tells YOU to believe.
If you want to teach your kids that everything their science and history teachers teach them is wrong and against Gods will and teaching... go for it. That's what churches and home bible study, and home religious schooling, and private religious schools are for. 
But you don't get to legislate that my kids have to be taught your religion, or that they NOT be taught what your religion says is false. In fact, you don't even get to try... 
What is more... by trying, you permanently forfeit any right to participate any more in any public process other than voting and speechifying. You have proven that you neither understand, nor respect, the rights and liberties of others. You have proven, that you are not to be trusted.
If you think that somehow your moral or religious superiority justifies ignoring (or altering) our societal rules, moral conventions, laws and constitution... because God looks on your views with special favor and you have to see his good works through... or some other such twaddle... You think the ends justify the means, and you are not to be trusted. 
That view makes you every bit as dangerous as the islamists... and every bit as dangerous as the left wing think you are... 
Not just dangerous to their agenda... Dangerous to the United States, to science, to education, to the fight against ignorance, and to the fight for liberty.
And yes... that means that the atheists and the liberals "automatically win" in schools when it comes to science. 
Get over it. 
They "won" the second you decided that science and history were your enemy. You SHOULD lose here... For the United States to continue, you NEED to lose on this issue. 
The schools are not supposed to be a battleground (yes, they are, but they are not supposed to be and making it worse is not helping), and your side here is flat wrong... Better in degree than the Islamicist lunatics, but not in kind. 
If you think your beliefs can't stand up to the "threat" presented them by science and history... Well the first thing is you might want to take a look at your personal faith... and the second is, you may want to re-evaluate those beliefs.
So for right now, it has become impossible for those who support science as a whole, but want GOOD science to prevail, to assault the BAD science that dominates the field of environmental science. The entire science "bloc" is in "defend science against anti science bigots and extremists and idiots at all costs no matter what" mode.

Every time someone gets up there and says "I believe every word of the bible is literally true and you shouldn't be allowed to teach children otherwise" they make it worse.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sarcasm?

Overheard in my household:

Chris: "Yay for government regulation induced semi-monopolies"

Mel: "Was that sarcasm"

Chris: "Actually I think it was despair"

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

There's no age restriction....

Hey, 20 somethings and 30 somethings... I have some advice for you...

You are not immortal, and cancer happens in your 20s and 30s, as much as in your 40s and 50s.

--

I was about 27 or 28 when my cancer could have been detected...

It wasn't ACTUALLY detected until I was 33, in late stage 2... and it wasn't thought to be too serious.

When it was removed 18 months later, it had progressed to stage 4, even though I was under the care of excellent doctors. When it was removed, I was at most, three months from dying, possibly as little as a few weeks.

--

My brother died a few months before he was 32. His cancer wasn't discovered until it was stage 3, when he was 29...

It could likely have been detected when he was 25 or 26, but by the time it actually WAS detected, It had progressed to the point where he had decided that living with the treatment was worse than dying from the disease.

He died of a painkiller overdose, while recovering from an infection caused by his cancer.

He was 31...

31...

--

My friend David Smyth, Heck, just died because they didn't find his cancer until it was stage 4.

Had they looked for it properly.... had anyone known... It was probably detectable some time before it was actually discovered.

By the time anyone figured out it was cancer, it was stage 4.

Heck died 4 days ago, at age 31.

--

Stop thinking that cancer is just something that happens when you're old... or you might not live to see "old".

Heck....




This was my friend Heck... David Smyth... Heck passed on may 10th, 2014, from cancer. He was only 31. He was laid to rest a few hours ago in Dublin.

I took this picture in 2002, on the seacoast near Wexford town, while spending the weekend with a group of my crazy, loving, wonderful friends in Ireland.

I miss you man.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Trip Log

Sorry I haven't updated in a few days. I've been mixing trying to get the basic tasks of the move done, with the even more basic task of trying to recover from the trip.

So, we left Phoenix late Wednesday to get out after most of the traffic cleared, and pulled into our friends place in El Paso at about 3am (420ish miles).

I was pretty wasted from the previous weeks chaos... So when our friends most graciously offered to have us stay an extra day with them, we most gratefully accepted.

Having well recovered with a decent nights sleep, and a good days company, we again decided to set off later than originally desired...

...this time because a major tropical depression had formed over the next major destination point on route, New Orleans... in fact, there was a full blown cyclonic storm stretching from Austin to the Florida atlantic coast.

Next leg, El Paso to Austin was about 580 miles, when we stopped for a late dinner around 10pm (the Texican in Austin, very good food, most of it house made not brought in, and excellent service), and waited another couple hours for the rain to clear between there and New Orleans.

We left Austin about midnight, drove down through NO (Mel had never seen it before), and stopped for breakfast with a friend in Kenner (just outside of New Orleans) around 10am (about 500 miles). He also led us to a great dogpark where we all played with the boy, and the dogs, for a couple hours of much needed off the road time.

From Kenner, it was a relatively short hop (220 miles) over to Pensacola for dinner etc... with another couple of friends, and a couple hours of socialization, before the final leg down to Lakeland.

That final leg was about 470 miles, and with the timezone change and fuel stops... and some slowdowns due to REALLY REALLY thick fog, we finally pulled in around 10am Sunday.

We've been running around the last two days doing the basic errands required so that we can sleep, eat, live, work etc... but tonight we can actually mostly relax. We only have a couple more "must do now or soon" things to deal with over the next couple days...

... then I think I'mna try to sleep for a bit..

You know... like... a couple weeks...

Trip Log:

Origination: Chandler, AZ- 05-07-0159z
Termination: Lakeland, FL - 05-11-1459z

Total time enroute: 97h 58m
Total engine on time: 35h 59m
Total rolling time: 31h 58m

Total en route miles: 2,222.22mi ctd.

Total enroute average speed: 22.9mph
Average driving speed: 69.49mph

Total fuel: 145.9 usgal
Average fuel economy: 15.229mpg
Total fuel cost: $559.78
Avg fuel cost per gallon: $3.839
Fuel cost per mile: $0.252

Food cost: $196.94