Returning to Posting

It’s been roughly over a year since I last posted. A lot has happened since then. I don’t really feel like going into the reasons why, but suffice to say that everything is as usual okay. Not great, not spectacular, but also not lousy.

I am considering transitioning this site to become a longer-term project, but for now, it is what it is.

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The Lack of Gray

I haven’t written in a while, mostly because I just haven’t felt like writing much lately. There’s been a lot of stuff happening, and sometimes it’s hard just to keep everything from overwhelming me.

However, there are two separate issues that have at their heart a much larger issue. They are the Declassified CIA Report detailing what was done to keep America safe, and the actions or lack thereof of grand juries across this nation, doing what they did to keep America safe.

I have nothing new to say on Ferguson and the other cases. There’s so much information and so many opinions out there that anything I offer would be a rehashing of other views, so as for the stories themselves, I’m going to remain in the background. The one part of the story that I want to bring up is the way in which we in America seem to have lost the ability to have a middle ground where two things can be true and yet seemingly contradictory. In the Garner case and other instances of police brutality, the arguments have become siloed into two distinct camps: “the police are bad”, and “the police are doing their job”. I blame the media for pushing this narrative without allowing the middle ground of “there are good police officers, and there are ones who shouldn’t be near weapons of any sort.” In the case of the CIA report, again we have two sides: “It was torture” and “It kept the country safe”. Again, there’s no room for the ugly truth that maybe some of the torture worked. The problem is that we on the outside do not know and can’t independently judge the information. What we get is filtered through one side that’s seen to have a bias, so it becomes untrustworthy and without merit in the eyes of many. Again, the media is quick to pick up on this and create a controversy and endless amounts of shouting the same things at each other in an effort to convince the other person that we have a viewpoint too.

In both issues, I think people acted in moments of irrational haste and fear. You don’t bridge a gap by making it wider.

Shouldn’t America and the people who do the dangerous work be held to much higher standards? If we wish to claim any sort of authority in this world and call ourselves the greatest nation, then why do we not have better standards than those who we perceive to be our enemy? If we’re not going to have a middle ground, why not err on the side of dignity?

Without dignity, we are individually and collectively severed from any sense of morality and justice. This falls way short of creating a “more perfect union,” doesn’t it?

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Can Corporations be “Religious”?

Let’s talk about Hobby Lobby.

Currently, HL is suing the federal government because they feel that the inclusion of emergency contraceptives as part of mandated by PPACA goes against their religious beliefs.

There has been some frothing at the mouth about HL on the internet, and some of it is with good reason. The owners of the company are deeply religious people who have gone as far as producing a classroom curriculum for the Bible for public schools. Frankly, I go to church to learn about the Bible, and I did a critical reading of the book of Job in college. I have my own beliefs about the Bible, and while I believe it is a transformative book that can provide a firm moral basis for actions, I feel that placing it in public schools only elevates divisions and derision about faith and religion in this country. The true test of whether something like this course should be accepted is to ask as if it were coming from another religion or even an agnostic/atheistic viewpoint. Would the same people be okay if there were a class about the Qu’ran in Mustang’s schools?

We say that America is a Christian nation, but that’s not at all accurate. We’re an inclusive nation that tries to accommodate a wide range of beliefs under the concept of tolerance and not having the state or its actors (such as schools) promote one religion over any other. Frankly, how could you choose? Sectarianism is rife in almost every religion, and usually the breakaways have to do with different views of God. So if we have so many different views, how can they condense them into one course?

The answer, of course, is that they don’t. The curriculum follows a very conservative interpretation of the Bible, and I just don’t agree with that approach.

But that’s just me.

A lot of people commenting on HL point out that “well, if they call themselves Christian, then why do they do X” where X is “have goods made in China”, or “have pension funds that invest in companies that sell abortion equipment” or whatever. It’s extending the idea of hypocrisy and taking it from a personal level to a corporate level.

I don’t believe corporations have the same rights and freedoms as individuals. You cannot convince me that corporations care about anything else but profits (at least those with public investors), simply because all companies want to survive and thrive. Human beings have selfless motives, and while some companies pay lip service to this in vague forms of “community engagement”, the sad truth is that for corporations, giving to charity is another means to write off taxes.

People, especially Christians, are hypocrites. I know I am about several issues in my life, and it is that which I hope keeps me humble about my faith. As far as corporations can have values, they too can be hypocrites. The big difference lies in who can forgive that hypocrisy. Nothing is perfect on this earth–no person or company or organization or church or anything.

So on the issue of corporate hypocrisy, I’m going to cut HL some slack.

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A typical day

And so the machine has to reside in the DMZ to have outside people access it…
But you can’t use an insecure port, because people are picky about that…
Then you have to try and collate years of results into meaningful data…
VMWare? Why hast thou forsaken me?
Huh. So that’s what a Gomertz equation is…
Need iced tea. Probably need something stronger, but I have limits…
There was a stick of butter on the counter…
Why is the Virtual Machine not even showing up like the other one? I mean, they’re in the same place, doing the same thing, but THIS thingawhatzit doesn’t match THAT thingawhatzit and google has failed me….
Did the dog eat the butter?
How do you turn data into something of value?
I don’t see a wrapper…
Got the tea. Do we have cookies? No? Grumble.
There’s Halloween candy.
And I’ve tried setting things from DHCP to manual routing, and nothing seems to work. I can’t even update packages, although ostensibly the machine says it’s connected…
That package from where? Oh, yes. I’ll be here tonight.
Dinner is… fajitas. We’re low on tortillas. We’ll have to make do and leave 1 for Jacob in the morning.
Must get more.
And probably more butter.
And dog food.
Preferably stuff that tastes like butter.
To the dog.
I’m not trying it.
I’ve been working on this for pretty much all of two days, and I’ve made glacial progress. Glacial as in pre-anthrogenic global warming glacial.
Cookie dough is in tomorrow. Oh frabjous joy.
Did the doorbell ring?
Maybe it was the dog plus butter.
But will past work actually indicate some sort of change, especially since there are always new twists to every project? Do I need to put some sort of derivative meta-measure in to allow for future “progress”?
So putting a 64-bit image of a VM doesn’t work.
I should write that down.
Stupid dog.

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Camping, Scouts, and… Stuff

I had the distinct pleasure of going to Webelos Camp with Jacob last week. We left Wednesday morning and came back Saturday morning. The camp was located in beautiful Pottsboro, Texas, right on the shore of Lake Texoma or somesuch (no, I didn’t really check. They just told us that 42 feet out into the water was Oklahoma territory).

I felt bad in terms of preparing Jacob for the trip. One of the courses to take is Aquanauts, and for that, you have to pass a swim test. Jacob doesn’t know how to swim, so he was classified a non-swimmer. That meant he couldn’t go deeper than 3 feet of water in the pool without a life vest. Parent failure #1.

However, he and his friend Greyson camped together. Some other parents shared a tent with their kids, but in two years, he’s supposed to go camping on his own. Hopefully by then we’ll have worked out the “keeping yourself clean” issues. He wore his swimsuit under his shorts and didn’t change out of them the entire camp. I don’t think that’s normal, but then again, I only made it to Bears.

I got the chance to talk to other scout leaders about the entire Homosexuality issue. For those of you who haven’t paid attention to the news, the scouts decided that they will no longer discriminate against sexual orientation in their members. They still don’t allow LGBT leaders, but as far as acceptance goes, this is a pretty good start.

Personally, I’m in favor of the change, primarily because for younger scouts (namely Jacob’s age and younger), sex isn’t an issue. Girls still have cooties. However, I can see it start to come into play around the time that kids become boy scouts.

Naturally, the decision is going to come with a cost–the Southern Baptists have decided to not recharter any scouts sponsored by one of their churches, and that is expected to cost the scouts somewhere in the area of $40 million. If they can keep going without that, so much the better. However…

The one question that I’d never really considered until talking with other leaders was “when you go camping with a gay scout, where do you put them?”

This sounds like an innocent question, but the ramifications are:
(a) two gay scouts sharing a tent
(b) a gay scout with a straight scout
(c) virtual ostracism of the gay scout by being alone in a tent

I think the one thing about these choices that makes me upset is that they make the fundamental assumption that a gay scout will be a sexual deviant toward other scouts. And frankly, I don’t think that’s a fair assumption to make. We don’t consider “straight” scouts to be any more or less deviant. And we still have issues of leaders (straight leaders, mind you) who are predators.

I’m not gay. I can’t walk in those shoes and understand what the attraction is. However, if we are to allow homosexuality in scouts, we have to confront that underlying assumption and work to change it. And the only people who can help us do that are the gay scouts themselves by their behavior and conduct. I truly believe any incident will lead to immediate pressure to reverse the decision, even as we ignore the previous molestation cases by (again, straight) leaders.

In the end, I guess it will work out. We’ll just have to see.

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Photo Reorg and Seriously, CPI?

I’ve moved the photos to a new link, so please update if you track such things.

Also, apparently CPI, the parent company behind Sears Portrait Studios and some Walmart Studios, went bankrupt. So much for getting those pics from 2011…


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Burn, Baby, Burn

Ultimately, we had no other choice.

There are some things you don’t want to deal with as an adult. I’m not referring to the really big life-changes such as losing jobs or family issues; this is just “okay, why do I have to put up with this?” level irritation.

Background: Laureen and I are suckers. Complete and utter suckers. We want to believe the best in people, and this has led to some questionable decisions on our part. We’ve had the luxury of helping people out by giving them a place to stay in time of need. Some of them have worked out.

Notice the “some” there. In an ideal world, that’d be “all” or “everything”, but just as I have my own faults and issues, the people we’ve brought into our house, for whatever reason, have had issues. Laureen’s rather interesting way of stating it was “why do we attract the crazy?”

There was Arleen; by the end of her time here, she believed Laureen was poisoning her milk.

There was another lady who didn’t last one night. She later committed suicide.

Then there was/is the current family: a mom with two daughters aged 13 and 6. They had a swim through our place once, and during that time, we also hosted her brother. I don’t know how other people feel about people “in recovery”, but there’s still an addict mentality, even if they are attending NA meetings. The brother spent one night in a shelter that was infested with bedbugs. The bedbugs came to our house with him. So did his drug habits, psychopathic nature, and ability to convincingly lie. Needless to say, he was removed from the house after several issues arose, most notably his attempting to choke his sister. That plus their habit of going to NA meetings and then going out to smoke weed afterwards made it an irrevocable decision.

There are many, many people who point to marijuana and hemp as being useful parts of (a) American History, (b) Medical Necessity, and (c) Enjoyment of Life. I’ve never tried it, nor do I ever plan to. I believe that it’s still something that can mess you up and put you in a position to harm others, whether short-term or long-term. And I seriously question the wisdom of someone in NA still believing that smoking pot is okay. That’s just a reason to justify their decisions more than anything. Is it a gateway drug? I don’t know, nor do I care. Should the U.S. spend millions of dollars prosecuting marijuana offenses? Again, I don’t know, nor do I care. What I DO care about is what comes into my house; there’s a firm line that, when crossed, will turn me into an angry, protective papa bear.

For reasons best left unexplained, the woman and her kids had to leave the house around Thanksgiving of last year. Of course, our daughter started getting these bite marks on her legs that we thought were just mosquitos. No, it was the bedbugs.

After some extensive cursing out of earshot of the children, we tried to figure out what to do. There were two routes: treat them with chemicals or treat them with heat. Seeing as how the heat option cost $1500-$2000, we decided to try the chemical option with a two week followup to kill remaining eggs that might have hatched.

$500 dollars and a week or two later, the bedbugs came back, but not in our daughter’s bedroom. This time they were in OUR bedroom.

Again, for reasons best left unexplained except for Laureen and I being suckers, the woman and her two kids came back to stay with us. Might as well have the original crew for a party, huh.

After the discovery of the second round of bedbugs, there was much, much cursing, depression, anger, and other bad karmic emotions that essentially threw us all for a loop. Of course, now there was only one choice: burn ’em out.

While napalm might have been interesting, I doubt our homeowner’s insurance would have been happy with it. Instead, we chose a company who would set up propane heaters, blow hot air into the house, and heat it to 150 degrees for 6 hours. This would kill the bedbugs.

The amount of preparation you must do to attempt this sort of thing is gargantuan in and of itself, even if you aren’t a packrat. We were unfortunate enough to have our master bedroom closet FULL of clothes that should have gone to other homes or to Goodwill. When we pulled them out and put them on a table (actually 2 3×10 tables) as recommended, the pile was 2 feet high.

And that was one closet. There was also moving all of the furniture away from the walls, going through the house and removing anything that might melt like crayons, candles, fruit, plants, the dog–you get the drift. And with kids 6 and 8 (plus another 6 year old), there were crayon surprises all around. Hey! Underneath the washing machine! Oh, gotta take all of the medicines out as well. And the paintings and pictures, too. Gotta get them all.

Operation Burn, Baby, Burn commenced at 9:45 yesterday morning. Laureen had spent the entire night finishing getting things where they needed to be. The heaters came; we left.

The job was finished at 6:00 p.m. The guys doing the work said that they would normally be done sooner, but… I hate that “but”. It implies that we were Not Prepared. And, as it turns out, we weren’t.

I got to the house at 6:15 p.m. and went in to open windows. The temperature at the thermostat read 99 degrees. The clothes piled on the table were spread everywhere–the floors of the living room, kitchen, dining room… everywhere. We hadn’t taken the blinds down, so that was done for us. Admittedly, that wasn’t mentioned in the pre-treatment brochure, but geez, it would have been nice to know.

By 8:15, it was 85 degrees downstairs. The mom and her boyfriend did amazing work in cleaning stuff up. For whatever bad things I may think (and then feel ashamed for thinking them because who am I to judge others), I have nothing but thanks for her in what they did last night. They turned parts of the house livable.

Laureen and the kids accepted the kindness of a neighbor to go sleep somewhere else. I stayed put, mostly out of a sense of duty to my house and dog, but also because I really didn’t want to repack my CPAP machine.

From going to extremely hot walls back to normal was a long process, but we were helped by the chilly air last night. And the bugs are dead. They can’t survive more than two hours in that temperature, so they. Are. Gone.

Takeaway: bedbugs must be destroyed. With heat. Do not trust chemicals.

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In defense of imperfection

This post is political. Be forewarned. I doubt anyone will like the conclusions. That’s okay. I just need to talk about various things going on around here.

Here’s a few things I believe:
1. Businesses exist to make money for those that own them.
2. As a direct result of #1, there is no such thing as job safety. If your job can be done by someone for less money, then chances are it will be — if not now, then at some point in the future.
3. We have a staggering debt in this country.
4. We talk about the deficit, but it’s the debt that truly matters.
5. The money our government spends in many ways goes to jobs for Americans, whether it be directly through employment or indirectly through contracts for goods and services.
6. There will always be someone or some business looking to make more money off the government.
7. Those people will use their resources to influence legislation, elections, and other people to achieve their goals.

Question 1: Can we truly balance the budget and start to pay down our debt?
My view is that no one currently in Congress wants to go through that exercise, because that money is jobs for people. If we truly reduced our spending as a nation to a point where we could pay down the debt, major programs would suffer (see the recent sequestration kerfuffle), constituents would get mad, and more people would paradoxically rely on the government for assistance. Thus, when it comes to our spending, we have one choice that we aren’t willing to make. I personally believe that raising revenue will only serve to increase budgets instead of keep them level.

Question 2: There’s an awful lot of noise about guns. Should certain guns be banned?

This is a hard question to answer, simply because people will start screaming about rights. I believe that guns should be legal, but I also believe that there should be common sense regulation of them. When the 2nd amendment was crafted, it was such that if citizens needed to fight against the government, they would have arms. Now these days, as much as some people would like it, our government isn’t worth fighting against. At best, it’s inefficient; at worst, it’s incompetent. But there is enough money and voices to prevent any real change to the status quo regarding gun ownership.

No, no one is going to take your guns. They can already imprison you without a warrant, wiretap you without a warrant, even kill you with a drone strike, but they’re not likely to take your guns. The question then becomes how many do you really need?

Inevitably, the people who are the best trained and most careful with guns are the ones who see things as unnecessary. Again, I tend to think the worst of humanity, especially since we have made mental health care specifically difficult to obtain and maintain. Plus, there’s the question of Evil. I admit to believing in God; therefore I admit to believing that Evil exists in our world. And I don’t think any doctor can fix that.

Question 3: Is our government that messed up?

Yes. But it’s what we have. To me, the biggest abridgment of rights comes when dollars in campaign contributions translates to access, either directly, through bundlers, or through lobbyists. This means that people without money have less of a say in policymaking, and things continue tilting toward a plutocracy/kleptocracy. Despite there being good people trying to good things (even though I don’t agree with their support of outcome-based education, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s at least DOING something), our policies are shaped not by what’s best for our earth or all of us as citizens but instead are driven by the overarching goals of those with money. Those whose sole purpose, as I stated above, is to make money.

If you have some, you want more. If you have more, you want even more. There is never enough. The stock market demands certain performance levels, or your company loses money. The system relies on people you don’t know making judgments about value that have nothing to do with objective reality.

It’s broken. It’s imperfect. It’s capitalism. It’s what we have.

Question 4: Can we do better?

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Catching up

It’s been a while since I’ve written; life has been busy. The basics:
Jacob’s in third grade. Jessie’s in first.
Laureen’s teaching again.
I’m on loan to TI, working in their OMAP processor group.

Over the summer, we went to Ruidoso, New Mexico. We also acquired a dog, a Carolina dog named Creek. Her full name is “Little Running Creek”, but it should be “Little Running Creek Roll in Poop Attention Hog”. She reminds me so much of our previous dog it’s scary. And I miss Chewie.

Jacob’s in soccer with the same bunch as last year. We’re actually undefeated as of this writing. Jacob plays forward, midfield, and sweeper, which apparently is the defender who deals with everything that gets by other people.

After much thought and prayer, we made a decision to open our home to a single mom and her two kids. Yes. Every single person that I know has told me that I’m either crazy or a better person than they are, and I’ll be the first to admit that this hasn’t been easy. We have two kids who need lots of attention, we’re trying to be the safety net for the family while the mom reestablishes her business, and all sorts of other details. We’re trying really hard not to lose our own kids in that maw, because they’re bearing a bigger cost than we are. Jacob and Jessie are sharing a room (we got them bunk beds), and soon we’re going to have a play loft constructed for Jacob so he has a place to play Legos.

But it’s hard. So, so hard. I love both of the girls living with us, but the 12-year old needs a father figure in the worst way. She had one, and… stuff happened. The 6 year old operates a lot of the time like a toddler does. I’m not saying this to be mean, but her behavior is “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine”, and she has always been able to get her way by throwing a tantrum at the slightest provocation.

That dog don’t hunt around our place, so it’s a battle. “Please clear your placemat,” “please pick up your toys,” “please turn out the lights,” and on and on.

Despite it all, I have some peace about this; there’s more people to help around the house, and the garage is getting organized (shocker).

Right now, I’m in Phoenix, spending some time at a convention of online gamers. Yes, it sounds ridiculous. And I agree, it is. But these are my friends.

Anyway, enough for now. Time to move ahead.

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