Tinderbox?

I have the weirdest dreams! Had a sequence of them that included standard, if in some cases rare, settings of a mall, an old amusement park, my great-grandmother’s house, and my grandmother’s house. Not so standard: North Korea. In one sequence I was in a mall with two other people. The only clear part is when we each bought a slice of bread with butter for a dollar from a storefront Chinese restaurant. I was last and ended up lagging behind them. To my rational mind, it was weird, but in the dream it was completely usual to buy this thing from this type of seller as a cheap snack. The other thing I recall is a sense of urgency, and that perhaps things weren’t what they could have been, for all the mall looked fairly busy.

Another sequence involved going into a broken down amusement park, small, which morphed into more of a playground, with adjacent Soviet-looking run down buildings. There was a downpour and we all sought shelter under playground structures, tables, or wherever we could, if we weren’t already prepared. I tried to get under something and found the side wall went to close to the ground, and was one of the last left standing.

That morphed into a similar looking “park” or square that was in North Korea, though it seemed a bit prosperous for that, in retrospect. I was meeting people there or something, and passed along a tote bag that I hadn’t even looked in to a contact. I saw when he looked into it that it was shrinkwrapped bundles of magazines, Playboy and something else. Contraband. The clearest thing about that dream segment was an oppressive fear, similar in a way to the pervasive fear of nuclear holocaust that some of us grew up with, but not as low-key. I remember terror that we might have been seen as doing something wrong or being with the wrong person, and the need to get out of there.

Next I was in a house that was the one my great-grandmother owned, and was in the family until my great uncle died. I regretted not having the money at the time. They sold it for very little, but it needed work. My grandmother’s 1/3 of the proceeds in part paid for her new septic system, still so new that the builder who bought the property finagled things to ensure he could use it for one of the new houses being built. But I digress. Near as I can tell, I lived there. And while it was not in North Korea, there was almost the same fear of the government and being spied upon in place. There was just a pretense of freedom over it. Someone else was there. I don’t know or remember who, now, and there were other people I saw who didn’t live there. In the sky there were balloons, more like zeppelins, but small, that were a show of presence by the government. After they passed by, a more zealously revolutionary friend stopped to let me know that the revolution was starting. Apparently the main thing we were going to do was show we simply didn’t take the powers that be seriously, mocking them rather than battling them. He drove off with big balloons trailing behind his car, mockeries of their observation balloon things I had seen just before. That put me into full alert, because all hell was going to break loose and he’d made the mistake of not spreading the word as thoroughly as could be. I grabbed a few provisions and went with whoever the woman was in the same house to what in real life was my grandmother’s house, driving in what I am sure was an old Dodge Dart. Green.

At the other house was a woman I did not know, a little girl who was her daughter, and someone who may or may not have been my mother and/or grandmother. They were surprised to learn the revolution had started, which was when I knew word had spread poorly, or too many people just had no idea or interest. I agreed to take the unknown mother and daughter with us after the woman said “I don’t drive” when asked about driving. I started looking for provisions, mainly food, and putting some into a cloth bag. But not much, weirdly, being selective with no apparent rhyme or reason. To my shock, my grandfather was sitting at a table in the kitchen, not dead, but so feeble he may as well have been. I had to decide on the spot that he wasn’t going to go with us and would be left to his fate. If he wasn’t simply an apparition. Going through cabinets that weren’t where they really were (they were by the porch door, on the wall where the original kitchen sink had been, where the table was in later years), there were a huge number of cans of beans. I found one on the bottom that was bulging top and bottom, and on the bottom edge had actually sprung a leak. I was completely disgusting when I got spoiled beans on my hand. Looking in an upper cabinet, I found it almost completely full of boxes of matches. Wondered why they’d have stockpiled THAT many matches, but knew I wanted some. While grabbing a couple boxes and trying to decide whether to take more, I noticed that most of them had been made in North Korea. I went back into the dining room and living room one more time to talk to people, but after that I woke up.

As for what it means, well, not that odd to be nervous of the government, concerned about spying, the economy, the need to be prepared for trouble, and generally feeling that things aren’t what they once were or could be. North Korea could be indicative of that, if you take it as a direction we don’t want to be going but seemingly are, however far we may appear to have to go. On the other hand, it’s not that odd to dream something that suggests North Korea as a tenderbox or danger to world stability, despite its size.

Site Meter

I’m coming up on 11 years blogging, and all or most of that time I have used Site Meter (I usually say Sitemeter but believe they mean it as two words), even after it mostly stopped tracking referrers a few years back. Not sure that isn’t at least partially Google’s doing. For that matter, Sitemeter, cPanel’s available stats on my hosting, and now, on a static site I am hosting and working on, Google Analytics, each give rather different indications of what a site has for traffic. Analytics being most stingy and cPanel being most effusive (including showing RSS traffic, but generous even without that). I’ve always wondered how it could be so hard. If someone opens a page on your site, it’s a hit. 1. Another one makes 2. And so on. I don’t need to know each load of each element of each page, and each of those is not “a hit.” But I digress.

Recently I started noticing when this page loads (it’s my home page), on the status bar it spends some time claiming to be loading a URL at MySpace. WTF? MySpace?!

I knew the price of free for some free web counters was a spammy link embedded right in the code they give you, or an openly acknowledged and accepted ad banner on your site. Sitemeter never did that. They plastered you with ads on their own site, but that’s to be expected. Some bloggers removed them when they had speed issues a few years back, since you don’t want them bogging down your own site, but they were sort of the gold standard among bloggers for comparability over time and between sites, if not for accuracy.

I have a popup blocker.

Turns out that Site Meter is able to use the link to them embedded on the page to pop up a small video window in the lower corner of the screen, working with MySpace. Thus the call to MySpace, and whatever extra load time that took. Never saw it, but learned it’s now a thing.

As of just before starting this post, I removed the Site Meter. I may not get to ones on all legacy blogs, like the archive of AV in Expression Engine format, but I’ll work on it in the near future. If I need to know about my traffic, I can get a good idea from other sources. What SM has done is unforgivable.

I May Have Started This

Waaaaaaay back about 2003 I described Die Hard as my favorite Christmas movie. I feel like it has taken ten years for it to become something of a meme, enough for people to say that, yes, Die Hard is not a “Christmas movie.”

For the record, I meant it tongue in cheek. I had developed a tradition of rewatching Die Hard at this time of year because it’s so worth watching again, and the Christmas elements made it seem timely. The same is true of While You Were Sleeping, even if that is not a “teach it in how-to-make-a-decent-film class” the way Die Hard is.

Arguably the meme peaked for me a few weeks ago when I saw a character is Josh Roseman’s fantastic Secret Santa ebook refer to Die Hard as his favorite Christmas movie.

So while I sympathize with Sean Hackbarth in his defense of it on Facebook, I am more inclined to agree with Doug Mataconis et al.

But I reserve the right to keep calling it “my favorite Christmas movie” if only out of habit. It’s a Wonderful Film.

Newegg Rocks

We’ve been using a sketchy router for something approaching five years. Initially it was for wi-fi, since we had FiOS and that came with a proper router with multiple wired ports (and wi-fi, but I had disabled it and lost the ability to log in and change things back), and it sat at the end of one of those wires. It had to be rebooted regularly, as it would just flake out and the person on wi-fi would have no internet.

After switching to Comcast, it became the solution to the fact that a cable modem is not a router, and is no good unless you are wiring it to a lone computer. As is the case now.

The router, a Belkin, was reliable wired, but continued to need rebooting, sometimes a few times a day, for wireless. This became more of a problem when we had more than one computer using it. In fact, the more using it, the more it seemed to fail.

Late yesterday afternoon, we started having symptoms that roughly matched DNS being a mess. This troubleshot down into being the old router giving up the ghost.

I perused Newegg’s selection and ordered a D-Link router at a price $30 below that listed elsewhere, with free shipping. It has 4 ethernet ports plus wi-fi. More than four ports seems to be a rare and expensive option, or I might have sought it out. D-Link is what we had with FiOS so reliably. Its only problem was a touchy WAN jack, so the router had to sit just so and remain undisturbed.

Anyway, Newegg packed and shipped the router from New Jersey almost before I ordered it. Initially they said it would be here today, which was updated by UPS to tomorrow, by end of day. Today would be insane. Tomorrow is amazing, and would match the shipping times from the same place previously. They never fail to amaze me.

Fingers crossed that the router works well and sets up easily, of course, but I couldn’t ask for a better vendor.

Polifodder

So yesterday I coined the word polifodder. Today I thought to search Google for it. Obviously the hope is that it’s unique, but I didn’t expect it. I was right. There were only three pages of results, though, so that’s pretty cool, and AV was in there twice. None of them appeared to be a defined word.

At the time, I decided not to complicate the post by defining it explicitly, leaving context to suggest the meaning. When I was typing, I was thinking of the regular people of the LGBT movement and other such movements as political cannon fodder. I was thinking of people largely believing what they are told to believe, acting as they are told to act, to some degree dupes, simplistically unaware or uncaring of the actual goals and motives of their leaders and fomenters. Certainly uncaring or uncognizant of the side or follow-on effects of their ostensible efforts. Even to the point of being people who, upon seeing the stage magician put an object up his sleeve, will maintain indefinitely and vociferously that, no, it really was magic.

Ender’s Game

I am officially a homophobe and enemy of good LGBT polifodder everywhere because I darkened my soul with a viewing of Ender’s Game at the theater. I paid money! Oh my god I must support Card’s alleged views! The humanity! What would my gay uncle gay nephew, gay friends, and muddled nephew niece think!?

Aside from that, holy crap was it a brilliantly done movie.

Stunning visuals, amazing acting, brilliant adaptation, to the extent I remember the book after so long. I read the entire set through Children of the Mind, but one could easily stop with Ender’s Game. I forgot some details like his older brother. The main thing is that they did a stunning job on the challenge of fitting what mattered to tell the story into the length and format of a film, and made it look arguably better than my mind’s eye ever did.

I saw it at a $6.50 matinee on a modest screen. I’ve heard it gains from the big screen, but I was more than happy. I was also pleased they did not make a 3D version. I’ve gotten used to seeing most of the big movies in 3D and perhaps on a rilly rilly big screen in comfy seats that still lack enough leg room (and I have short legs!), but I was both on a budget and not concerned with that, on top of being saved by that production decision.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts! Yes, Massachusetts gave you Scott Brown to defeat Obamacare, President Obama, Harry Reid, et al. It was a clear indicator from a state often called “the bluest of blue” (which I might contest) that people Did Not Want the so-called “Affordable” Care Act.

Instead of “passing” the law as was, in a manner that at least bordered on fraudulent, don’t you wish now, Dems, that you had gone for that “oh man, we BARELY lost by ONE vote, maybe next time” loss?

Massachusetts Did Not Want the law passed, enough to muster the people’s votes against it then. Massachusetts! And you blew it.

Collected Links

I have been bookmarking things on the idea I would post about them. You’d think posting, say, five days a week would be easy, right? The set is huge, some are probably quite stale, and I am not sure I’ll get to them all with meaningful treatment. Therefore, I will collect several in one post, with minimal commentary.

When law is no longer a safe bet and more about economic change, automation, job security and “the good old days.”

The Roman Army Knife beat the Swiss by 1800 years and looks remarkably clever for the time.

Agile: The Once and Future Methodology explores how what some might think of as new software development practices go way back. A favorite topic of mine, for all my experience in software development is modest.

NSA: The Decision Problem is a discussion of the state of and history of sigint and surveillance, and how modern big data and such affect it.

Superfast internet over old-fashioned copper phone wires?

The Dick Durbin Debit Card Fiasco bears shouting from the rooftops, much the way Barney Frank’s role in the financial crash does.

I waited so long to post this, it’s obsolete! The tax was subsequently repealed, but here’s Why We’re So Frustrated About The Massachusetts Software Tax.

That ought to do it for now.

Posting Under the Influence…

Of grief and anger, of feeling the fool, of the overdue shedding of illusion or delusion, however much self-inflicted, is not necessarily conducive to writing only well-considered, entirely accurate, or otherwise ideal text. Venting will do that. Recognition of your own stubborn obtuseness will do that.

Thinking

I was getting ready to start this post and happened upon this one, in which Julie says one of the things I have been thinking, but in fewer words than I might have achieved. I have worried about authenticity. Not merely in expressing myself online, but in living my days, pursuing my works.

So. I have been job hunting, in response to Deb going on disability, on the idea that I both need to at least make up the shortfall, and that I am free to pursue such a thing. I love my part-time job that had more or less perfect SAHD hours around her schedule, but it was all I generally felt I could do, besides herding kids and being a crappy housekeeper and an awesome cook. Yeah, I kept thinking “write, dude” and similar things, since when would I have even that much of an opening. Yet I didn’t even keep blogging up well. Whenever the question of what I really want comes up, though, writing is way at the top. Even if it’s blogging.

That was a great thing about my job in outsourced Microsoft support years ago. While in one product, during an annual review I expressed how much I would love doing work centered around writing. That was part of a career growth kind of thing, as I recall. The manager, who was fantastic, didn’t see much chance of that happening, yet under my next manager it did. I had more to do with that than management did, apart from tolerance, initially, and doing what Microsoft wanted, when one of my counterparts there effectively appointed me to full time “web response” support of the product. This was a new thing. It had only been done by escalation level people at Microsoft itself, by our primary weekend guy, and ad hoc by me and a colleague, in any available time we could find between calls. The weekend guy would handle the cases he got as far as he could, then escalate them, even if they were easy. One Monday, Microsoft assigned them all to me and that was it for phone support. I was writing from then on, with rare exceptions, and was one of the pioneers.

Things that make me think.

I’ve been doing a web site migration for an extended family member who had some sort of falling out with his original designer and host. There was more to fix than I might have expected; ways in which they were sloppy. I figure it’s because of a graphics person going into web development, versus someone with a programming background. It’s been a blast. I could do this a lot, but I’d need to farm out graphics to build sites for people that needed new/nice ones. I can do simple, though I lack the tools I once had, and the money to buy nice ones.

I got a call from an unsolicited prospective employer. On the phone I said I was interested, but the guy was skeptical due to the commute. He had read my town wrong. Off the phone, I found it’d be at least 110 miles a day round trip, an hour minimum each way. I did math. They pay over the amount I must make net of added costs for things like commuting and tax considerations, but not enough even to pay for gas at a charitable price. Then there is the opportunity cost of the hours driving, other car costs, the fact it starts out temp, albeit long term, and that I would loathe working in the industry. Which, near as I can tell, is closely involved with making Obamacare fly. That and the type of work is the secondary type I seek, the “or I could do this.” I got an effective rate of pay for the hours added to what I spend on my PT job that is well below my PT job’s hourly rate (which is just $5 below what they pay before doing the math).

There wouldn’t be enough money to move nearer the job and support me in a room or small apartment plus send enough here to keep things rolling. Since we apparently are separating again but for real this time, moving out is actually a goal, but isn’t going to happen until and unless it’s viable. We have a good arrangement and set of roles, and that would shake things up far beyond money. With her home, we have changed roles, so I am no longer the main crappy housekeeper, laundress and dishwasher, but I am still the primary cook. In job hunting, I have had a low key “I can relocate” aspect that I hadn’t before. At a price and within reason, though what’s reasonable depends on price, as always.

That made me think about what do I want to do, or particularly not do. Do I even want a job job? The bottom line for making up Deb’s shortfall is to nearly double what I make from the PT job. We once had ads on sites and peaked at almost 2/3 of that number. From blogging. Or more accurately, from residual value of having blogged and run a blog carnival. I had some resentments that led me to mostly stop blogging, and to keep starting new sites that’d be mine alone. In fact, I have a conundrum that was going to be another post. We decided to return to AV, which I’d never loved the idea of leaving, the act of which lost us most of our audience and momentum. We were staying together. We would have a joint blog again. Happy days are here again. I had actually made a bit of progress with a solo blog, settling on one to build. Albeit not as I’d originally planned. The site in question was going to be a portal to posts at various blogs on various topics (more blogs, topical ones, easier to get ads), while also having original content, and importantly, promoting myself as a “help you create/maintain a blog or web site” service for side money. When we were really screwed financially, Deb did a brilliant job of building multiple income streams that by themselves might not support us, but contributed, and in some cases bordered on being “yawn money.”

Yawn money is a term a friend and former colleague introduced me to (not sure if he coined it) for things that bring in money while you sleep. Anything that gives you residuals or royalties would be like that. Ditto for ads. Once you get past the initial work. Selling something like crochet patterns isn’t far removed, where you do a fair bit of work, but then it’s a download with automated sales, or worst case, sending e-mail with them to buyers. My ideas for that have extended to reviving the blogging enough to generate revenue again. That’s not so much yawn money as it is getting paid indirectly for writing. It becomes yawn money in that you can coast for a while before it goes away. And to writing a book I have had in mind, though I could blog the story serially as well. It’s a business experiences thing.

Now, I should pursue some of this regardless of whether I search for full time work, even if I am going to set my standards low for what I accept. Especially if I set them low. I keep thinking there is something I am missing. A way to make lightning strike. Like it’s a game and I need to learn to play it.

One of the things that kept me from blogging was the fact too many of the wrong people read me, and I had to watch what I said. It’s not so bad as the Facebook account where you’d barely know I had a political opinion, due to the diversity among friends, and especially the vocalness of the leftier, sometimes almost to the point of commie, people there. I sometimes want to throw all caution to the wind and be myself. Which also applies when I am looking for work, blogging on my real name site that is oriented mainly to that end.

In fact, I have developed mixed feelings about this identity. Too many people know the real one, or could figure it out. At the same time, if what I am selling is that I write, that I know something about business and economics, that I managed/edited a thing on those topics that was in its day a big deal, then how am I to deal with the fact that I can’t admit to those things without revealing my pen name, and revealing all my opinions and maybe the less [adjective chain here] things I might have written along the way.

I am also thinking that I am at a juncture like the one when I job hunted following college. I sought accounting work because that was my degree, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t know what else to look for, though, and I stubbornly resisted taking just any job anywhere and seeing what happened. That is the correct tactic. You explore, learn an industry, make contacts, get work experience cred in general, and avoid having zero income or doing something that can’t lead anywhere. Because I kept adding tech stuff, in the form of software I’d used, to my resume, on the idea accounting needed computer skills and especially knowledge of Lotus 1-2-3, eventually I landed in tech support. Hiring people saw an opportunity I had no idea existed. One that was ideal for me.

Now I feel somewhat the same about support, at least in the call center sense, if not about tech generally. Thus I had focused more on “analyst” as a job title, be it called business, systems, data, or something else that still means you’re in the same continuum. Aspects of this harken back to my business background and experience, go along with my ability to cross-communicate between geeks and ordinary people, the times I’ve worked on determining business needs, and my ability to hold a big flow in my head while also handling detail and accuracy.

Obviously, I have an idea of something I could do and might enjoy, but I am not sure anyone will hire me at it, or that I’d be comfortable starting at a high level version. Yet I keep thinking that I am missing something, and that an astute hiring person might say “aha, you could do…” some cool thing I had never considered.

I’ve done self-employment a lot. I’d have done more over the past few years, but for tax complications and SAHD duties. Working on a web site for someone is ideal as a do at home task, for all I am not obliged to do things that way any more. Though it is actually more possible, given the presence of another parent and more viable age of the kids. The tax complications are gone. My weird reticence about charging adequately still needs work. It was another factor in making me not care whether I did business.

Any conclusions? Well, I am going to work on some of the side money angles, and on associating some stuff with my real name without necessarily shouting out my pen name to the world. There is a business blog can be revived easily, and that was the single most successful ad vehicale we ever had, the one that generated most of the money over time. It might still be, had it not lain fallow. I’ll personal blog, and it’ll probably be here, despite my mixed feelings about the joint versus sole blogs. I’d been meaning to post here more than has happened, and to migrate posts from the old version that was in Expression Engine, which doesn’t port over in a friendly, convenient way. Personal blogs weren’t a big seller for ads, but hey. The only blog with an ad is a tech blog I never post at, and that is a candidate for revival. That and the business one go with skills I am emphasizing for Real Job potential. I also had a site that was going to be my next business. It never went away, but I have it blank right now because the content, including what I did for services, pricing and all, was stale. I mean to do something with that, even if I do limited business. That is because I added that as a position on my resume, as well as because, well, any work I can get is much needed income. If it actually flies, I can see a tiny office in my future, which would be a nice supplement to a tiny apartment or room rental I also see in my future, eventually. I’m going to emphasize more the web stuff than I did before. I’m going to stop failing to play with technology. It was exhilarating recently to make a laptop work, including tearing it apart more than necessary and seeing how it ticked. I have computer carcasses and parts to go through and mostly purge, but in the process I can get my groove back. Funds are an issue, obviously, but I learned the hard way you can’t build or even keep a business running without spending on it in ways that get you and keep you current. I used to be angry that everything I took in at the old business went to home expense and I felt unable to put money into anything “extraneous.” The office rent got paid, though sometimes that was an eventuality rather than a given, but the technology I worked with got older and older, internally and not just with the client. If I couldn’t pay me enough to live on (and I felt like I couldn’t trim things as much as I needed – funny what necessity changes) and keep both the taxes and medical insurance/expenses paid, I certainly couldn’t buy new computers, devices, software, training, whatever. And that is part of the problem with my weird reticence about pricing adequately. Which back then wasn’t a problem, long as I charged the clients for everything I did. Too few clients and too much restriction by one on my ability to service others was a problem, but the hourly rate was at least close to where it should have been.

That job prospect I mentioned saved me turning them down by simply not calling me back or e-mailing as promised. I was prepared to say no. That’s something I am learning! I can say no. I don’t have to take work that pays too little or has demands that are all wrong. Obviously there needs to be some work being had, and it can be a matter of marginal revenue in a storm, but the abuse can be limited.

I figure as I blog, as I muck out my room and work through the old computers, I might have ideas. I am feeling hopeful and my brain feels like it’s funtioning fully now, so I am more likely to have a clever, creative idea and be able to follow it.

If the economy were better, I might be focused purely on jobs, but I have already been turned down for no-brainer opportunities. That’s an element I forgot above: The need to piece a living together, to be a rennaisance man, perhaps.

Sprechen Sie Deutch?

There are 21 counties in America where a substantial number speak German at home, which I agree is more fascinating than the amazing number where that is true of Spanish.

The real story lies in where, and in what other languages are included. Predictably, in my neck of the woods, it is Portuguese. There is enough of this that you see a demand for portuguese speakers to work for doctors, and bilingual signs in places like banks. The same applies to Chinese in Eastern Massachusetts. When I lived in Quincy, you were almost out of place if you weren’t either Irish – and not necessarily umpteenth generation off the boat – or Chinese. Bilingual signs everywhere, and a Chinese supermarket near my apartment.

No surprise there’s a lot of French up near the border between Canada and the Northeast.

Surprising might be the lack of Pennsylvania counties where German is 10% or more, and the number where it is not the highest even when looking at the specs for the uncolored counties that fell under 10% of one or another.

Awesome Sex

Dear Daughter hit a nerve because it is exactly how I feel, and I’d lately seen too much of the dad with shotgun meme. We always had a saying for how we treated our kids: they’re little, not stupid. For the shotgun parents I would say: they’re people, not property.

I would also caution any young person not to be me, and any family member or peer not to do what was done to me. Not even entirely sure how, but I came to feel in my bones that sex was evil and I was vile for wanting it, and more so, that nobody would ever be interested in me romantically. I “learned” that girls are completely disinterested in sex, that there is something deeply wrong with me for expecting them to allow me (but not necessarily other guys, maybe, sometimes) to have it with them, and that they are in total, complete control, doling it out as a gift on impossible to comprehend whims.

And I wasn’t even raised Baptist, or even Catholic. Though I did fall under the influence of a messed up Baptist girl along the way.

So it was that I all but didn’t date, reached 42 expecting I never would date, marry, have sex, or have kids. This was overcome by blogging. Once I became sure I’d never marry or have kids, I did, but to more of a best friend than a romantic partner, and detrimentally without having experience what is out there and how to navigate alien relations. I once saw relations between the sexes compared to practice for relations between completely alien species.

While I would not advise becoming a parent at 15, I would certainly advise my kids to LIVE. I feel like I didn’t live for decades, and continue to have sort of a half life due to my reticence that is so hard to shake. With more than a touch of resentment at all I presumably missed. I was and am completely convinced that if we broke up, I would not date and would be single for the rest of my life. Not blind, of course. Never blind. In my head I’m a teenager or twenty-something, still trying to figure things out. As well if I did not notice the young and attractive who are only my age in my mind, because that just makes me sad and disappointed at what I missed.

So go, enjoy, live life, have experiences, be bold. Yes, be aware of cautions and consequences, but be a human.