Month: February 2009

Choose your toxin wisely

Apparently Obama is thinking of appointing Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske as the nations new Drug Czar.

This is the same Chief that put law enforcement on public safety duty during the Hempfest in Seattle. I wonder how his attitude will translate into ONDCP policy.

The more research I do the more I say legalize Marijuana. I say this as someone whose toxin of choice is alcohol.

But here’s something to chew on. Take a look at this graph. It shows the fatal dose as a multiple of effective dose. Marijuana requires more than a thousand times the effective dose to be fatal. But it’s virtually impossible to do that via the normal method of intake for marijuana.

Fatal Dose vs. Effective Dose
Fatal Dose vs. Effective Dose

So lets take my poison of choice and figure things out.

I’m mainly a beer/wine guy with beer being more prevalent than wine. Most beer is in the 3% alcohol range and I note I start feeling the effects of alcohol at about 2.5 beers.

If each beer is 12 ounce, 2.5 times that gives me 30 ounces of beer. Of that 30 ounces, 3% is alcohol which gives us .9 ounces as the effective dose. So by definition of that graph, ten times the .9 ounces gives us 9 ounces as the fatal dose. That would require I drink a case which I’ve seen people do on numerous occasions. But for me I can down a six pack with ease and that’s about it.

Now suppose I drank vodka. Vodka is 50% alcohol. Suppose I took in the same volume, 30 ounces. That would be a whopping 15 ounces of alcohol. I’d pretty much be severely alcohol poisoned or dead.

That’s the other thing, I’ve noticed that the FUD spread by ONDCP an their ilk says smoking pot affects memory, etc.

My own empirical observations tell me otherwise. I know plenty of sane, lucid people who smoke pot and don’t suffer any memory deficits. And new research is coming forward that posits that components of cannabis actually offer anti-cancer protections in certain organs of the human body.

So legalize it already. As I’ve demonstrated here alcohol is far more dangerous than pot could ever be.

Yet alcohol is legal. Makes you wonder where the real opposition to marijuana is coming from. Could it be the legal alcohol industry?

All in a name

Got this from Polt who got it from another blogger.

Antonino Stefano P. I go by Tony though or the anglicized Anthony.

2.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME:(mother and fathers middle names)
Albert Marie

3.NASCAR NAME:(first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad)
Elon Anthony

4.STAR WARS NAME:(the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)

5.DETECTIVE NAME:(favorite color, favorite animal)
Blue Cat

6.SOAP OPERA NAME:(middle name, town where you were born)
Stefano Providence

7.SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav drink, add “THE” to the beginning)
The Green Beer

8.FLY NAME:(first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)

9.STREET NAME:(fav ice cream flavor, fav cookie)
Chocolate Oreo

10. ROCK STAR NAME (pet’s name and street where you live)
Randy Knight

11. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on)
Randy Cheshire

12.YOUR GANGSTA NAME:(first 3 letters of real name plus izzle)

13.YOUR GOTH NAME:(black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Randy

14. STRIPPER NAME: (name of your fav perfume/cologne, fav candy)
Nothing M&M

I.T. War Stories Part 6

Ok I lied, there is a part 6.

Did a little three month stint working for a company that shall now and forever more be nameless, if only because when the contract ended I had to remove them from my linkedin list.

I was doing database development work, scripts to convert pipe separated files into other pipe separated files. The process went like this:


The biggest pain in the ass was MIT.

First it started with UPC lengths. I know UPC lengths having setup Point of Sale for nearly five years. All the scanners pass ten digits back to the POS program, they disregard the type digit and don’t report the check digit as that’s only used to verify the number was correctly read by the scanner.

When I got there it was decided UPC lengths would be 13 to conform with GTIN standard. That’s when the shit started happening with the nitwit at MIT.

They’re proprietary application couldn’t accept anything more than 12 digits. Ok, we drop to 11. But 11 digits includes a check and she doesn’t need that.

In essence we never got any data interchange information from MIT.

As a result I had to write conversion programs to add or remove check, type, etc. I’d imagine UPC lengths are still biting them in the ass to this day.

While I was there if they wanted to add a new merchant account on their SCP server they had to put a ticket into Rackspace and wait a couple days for it to be created. I got shell access and just created them on the fly because it was quicker and easier.

That was until one day the CFO decided he should be the only one who knew the root password to the box. Except I was now added to Rackspaces admin site so I just put a ticket in asking for the password and they gave it to me.

In essence they kept me around until I managed to port things to MySQL and they could get their Java app to work with it.

Now I do consulting on my own. I’m about to setup my new web site for Orion Information Professionals. I’ve already done a few thousand dollars worth of work and I think I can learn to enjoy doing my own thing.

iTunes/iPod ching – Dignity

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Tag 10 friends (Or not!).

“Getting Late” (by Floetry)

“Bartender” (by T-Pain)

“Shot of Love” (by Lakeside)

“Hey Ya!” (by Outkast)

“Outta My Head” (by Nate James)

“Just A Touch of Love ” (by Slave)
Sort of appropriate when I think about it.

“Lets Go Round Again” (by Average White Band)

“If You’re Out There” (by John Legend)

“I Just Wanna Be” (by Cameo)

WHAT IS 2 + 2?
“Escape” (by Journey)

“Fly Like an Egal” (by The Game)

“Maxine” (by John Legend)

“Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby” (by Dina Washington)

“Lets Love” (by Ohio Players)
Ok now this is freaky!

“Quiet Storm” (by Smokey Robinson)
Now it’s getting eerie!

“Crying Shame” (by Jack Johnson)

“Angel” (by Chaka Khan)

“Rumpofsteelskin” (by Parliament)

“The Ghetto” (by Donny Hathaway)

“Strawberry Letter 23′” (by The Brothers Johnson)

“Call Me Up” (by Chromeo)

“Dignity” (by Joe Cocker)

I.T. War Stores Part 5

Part 5 brings us to the Rhode Island Department of State aka the Secretary of State’s office.

Started that job as a tech support guy. Rapidly moved into systems, database management, phone systems, network security, network design, and infrastructure planning. Spent nearly 4 years there.

Initially the I.T. unit of seven was based in the sub-basement of the RI State House. To get to the office you had to enter via the freight entrance and walk all the way to the end of the hall, ducking under a low sewage pipe in the process.

My boss at the time was Jim Willis, a pretty good guy and a total open source evangelist. The support side was fairly easy, lots of Win2K workstations, an aging NT4 PDC, and a small cluster of Linux (RedHat and Debian) boxes for web, email, proxy and MySQL databases.

While at the State House we used all SonicWall firewalls. Fairly big pieces of crap with very restricted rule sets.

The office is split among three different sites in the city of Providence. In the State House there are the Sec. State’s actual office on the 2nd floor, the State Library, and the Public Information office. The State Archives is at 337 Westminster St, and then Corporations, Elections and I.T. are at 148 West River St.

Prior to this Corporations and Elections were at 100 North Main St.

When it came time for the move I don’t know how I ended up with the task but I got to plan out all the power, networking, telecom infrastructure. I actually enjoyed that aspect of it. This included finding a new carrier for our data since DSL wasn’t available at 148 West River St. Ended up getting a 10Mbps fiber feed from Cox, and then had two coax based VAN’s to at 2Mbps to our other locations.

The 10Mbps connection was first fed through redundant Cisco PIX 515E’s with full failover, then into an HP4108GL switch with 144 ports on it. We VLAN’d the hell out of that thing, each group got their own VLAN, I.T., Corporations, Elections, State House and Archives. That annoyed some people because iTunes won’t cross VLAN’s.

Overall the Brown administration may have seemed to use to be a bit aloof but they were good people. It took the election of A. Ralph Mollis to really screw things up.

Mollis of course is a political hack. He brought in people as favors, one in particular proved my undoing 9 months into the new administration.

When the Mollis admin came in my then boss Jim told us that the biggest question that the Mollis team asked during transition meetings was where they could park.

Jim left just before the new administration came in. They then made our apps developer Christopher Fowler the new I.T. director, without paying him as such. This went on for a couple of months before Christopher finally had it and quit.

During that time though we realized that tape backup wasn’t cutting it for us anymore so the other systems guy and I built a rsnapshot server, that box did daily, weekly, and monthly sets. The monthly sets were then replicated to removable hard drives and stored at our Archives.

Then we get a new I.T. Director. You may have heard of him before because he’s the dope who sent out an email from his RIPTA email account supporting Mollis.

Yes, Bill Barbieri. Our admin director was Catherine Avila (No, not Ah-Vee-Lah, but Ah-Vil-ah.). This woman was the very definition of cunt, a 21 year state employee that was a horse trade from the outgoing treasurer.

I should mention that during the move of I.T. I got the job of going out and finding moving companies specializing in I.T. moves. I also got the job of reaching out to other state agencies and asking about their moves and who they used.

One of the stories that came back was a true horror story. Apparently a moving company moved a fully populated server rack and then dropped it off the loading dock on the building. It turns out that the entity that had this happen was Treasury. My opinion of Ms. Avila dropped like a rock. Stupid bitch.

Anyhow I got bounced out of there 9 months after the new administration ostensibly because backups weren’t being run on the servers. Couldn’t explain to them that it was all on rsnapshot, that restores happened via a web interface and could be done in a matter of minutes vs. hours for tape. No, she just didn’t like me.

The new I.T. director, Bill Barbieri, he’s a Windows lapdog. Spent approximately a quarter million dollars dismantling the open source infrastructure and replacing it with Microsoft products.

That’s the other thing. On the open source side we replicated the MySQL data to the web server. Thing was there was some badly written SQL running on that slave that would occasionally make MySQL swamp the CPU. The fix was to just go into MySQL, do a repair table to rebuild the index, and then everything would be fine.

I had documented this, informed everyone of this but it fell on deaf ears. Same as how trying to train people on how to administer the Prologix and Intuity systems fell on deaf ears. They’ve got the documentation, but wait, they dismantled the CVS server and Intranet. Ooops.

When I’d left I made the prediction that within two months the web server would crash hard. Sure enough it did and of course the office pedaled it to the ProJo as a hack. I wrote the author at ProJo and let her know the real truth, that they had a technically incompetent hack running I.T.

There’s no part 6. I did spend a few months doing database and linux work for a new company in MA, now I do my own bit.

Debunkng Supply Side Economics

This is a very interesting analysis of the both the origins of supply-side or Vodooo economics, it’s effects over the past 30 years and the reason why the Republican party threw their arms around it.

While it is a rather lengthy article I can summarize it in just a few words. Supply-side economics is the looting of the middle class and all it’s institutions.

Think about that for a moment. Remember back when banks paid more than a piddling 1 or 2 percent on a savings account, where fees were $5 for a returned check, or ATM fees didn’t yet exist?

Remember when utility costs were low, even housing prices were reasonable.

I think in the last election we finally saw the great awakening to what the Republican party has been all about for these past 30 years.

And we’re seeing this play out in the stimulus bill working its way through congress right now. The Republicans of course are still trying to do the supply-side thing with tax cuts. But time and again it has been shown that the economic benefit of tax cuts only generates $1 or less for each dollar in tax cuts. Meanwhile stimulus like Unemployment Insurance, or Welfare returns $1.50 to $1.73 per dollar spent. Imagine that.

John Maynard Keynes wasn’t wrong as the Republicans would have you believe. He was absolutely correct, you must spend to dig out of a recession or depression. And right now this is looking increasingly like a depression.

Here are the current economic numbers:

Current Economic Indicators
February 06, 2009 (Close of Day)

    Indicator Value

Inflation % -0.09
GDP Growth % -3.86
Unemployment % 7.60
Gold $/oz 913.00
Oil $/bbl 40.17
Prime % 3.25

See that bolded number, we’re in negative growth. A depression is defined as negative growth for more than. There has been a bit of an uptick but nowhere near the levels when the housing bubble burst.

Here’s a graph of GDP growth from 1947 to the present. I wish I could find one that ran 1920’s through present because that would be more telling.

GDP Growth 1947 to Present
GDP Growth 1947 to Present

This graph appears a bit dated since we haven’t sunken below the zero line. Indeed, it only covers to 2007 before the housing bubble started to burst in earnest.

Republican Senators reject TARP conditions

Apparently since these banks are taking government money the theory is that certain government regulations apply. More to the point as a taxpayer I’d say that theory is correct.

But then you get asshat Republicans like Bennet that say:

“It’s a leap, because the executive at the bank is a free agent who can leave the bank and go to work someplace else,” said Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) of the welfare comparison. “You run the risk of having a brain drain at the bank of their top talent.”

Listen cupcake, I’d love to see a brain drain in the banking industry. Maybe then we could get people that understand that screwing the public and then taking their money again in a bailout program isn’t going to fly anymore.

And what got this whole thing rolling was the proposal to limit bank executive salaries to $500,000.

To be honest, congress is capable of running things if only we didn’t have so much interference from corporate interests. Medicare for all the moaning about it was a fairly efficient system, they had investigators always looking into fraud too. But then Bush & Co. (The & Co. includes Republicans in congress) decided to fuck with it.

The VA Medical system works well too.

So don’t say government can’t run anything effectively, it can. It’s just when greedy corporations get greedy government officials to do their bidding the entire house of cards comes down.

I.T. War Stories Part 4

Part 4 brings us to the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General. The AG at that time is now the U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse.

The interview process for the job was interesting. The initial interview was with Director of Administration Marisa White, Director of HR Darlene Walsh and the HR secretary.

I was told later that the reason I made it past the first interview was because I was so enthusiastic.

The second interview was with the technical staff at the Department of Administration.

The third interview was pretty much a formality where I met Sheldon Whitehouse, Criminal Division Director Bill Ferland, and Civil Division Director Jim Lee. This was where I was impressed with the fact that it was a life or death shop, where everything was always on. I understood that well and started work there two weeks later.

My staff initially consisted of a young black woman, a middle age white woman and a white male around my age.

I was told that the young black woman was a problem. Little did I know at that time they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead it was the middle age white woman who was the real problem. Some of the shit she’d pull is still legendary.

The Judiciary put on training events for Oracle and Banner all the time so I sent the middle age woman because she dealt with a lot of the database issues. But she’s never retain any of the training.

In the meantime I figured out the problem with the young woman, they had basically (Actually I suspect more the middle age woman than anyone else.) marginalized her because she was black.

If you’ve read my blog you’ve probably noted that nothing pisses me off more than racism.

I started giving the young woman responsibility for our web development and she picked it up and ran with it.

When it came time for the next round of training (PL/SQL and Forms) I went along with the young woman. She retained the training and started taking over some of the database tasks. I did a lot of the development work on Access front ends.

The middle age woman fancied herself assistant Director. So one day I asked HR and Administration if that was the case. The answer I got back was that it wasn’t.

At one point in my time there I started getting reports on sick time, vacation time, etc. for the people in my unit. The Admin director even commented that the middle aged woman had used the most sick time of anyone in the entire office.

And don’t you know, the day I get the report who calls in sick but the middle age woman. I let it go that day.

The next day she calls in sick and says she won’t be there the following day at which point I tell her that I got the report, that she used excessive sick time and the policy was at 3 days out you needed to bring back a doctors note.

The next morning I get into the office a little bit early and she’s sitting in her cube. I asked what she was doing there and she belts out “You threatened me!”. Talk about shrew!

At that point I told her to go home, she was suspended for the next three days without pay. I put the entry into her personnel file and that was that.

After that I tried to shop her around to other units, I did not want this woman in the I.T. unit.

By this point with interns the I.T. unit was up to six people and it was interesting. When the middle age woman was there it was like the shop just stopped, that’s how negative her attitude got.

We all breathed a sigh of relied when she was out sick, or off on a training mission or what have you.

At this point there had been several other incidents that I’d placed in her file so I approached Administration and asked if I could move to terminate. They blocked me on that.

Apparently this woman had some pull somewhere. I don’t give a fuck. It did teach me something though, everyone gets one chance to pull themselves up. Failing that I’m better off terminating than putting up with the shit.

One of the training events I had to go through was the training for new managers in state service. It’s there that I found out that I’m a team builder. I’d probably known that. Another little factoid came out that I had high Machiavellian scores, E.g. the ends justify the means. That’s just common among all managers in state service btw. You have to get things done even though there’s no money in the budget for it, no people to do it, and you have a legislative liaison who told you about mandates a week after they’d been enacted.

Know this, the entire criminal history for the state was then housed on two IBM RS/6000’s with a shared disk array that sat in the basement of the building behind a boiler room and in an area that floods on occasion.

I made sure the administration was aware of this fact and proposed we move those servers up to the 2nd floor of the building. I also tried working with operations to do a full scale test of the generator to see what was connected and what wasn’t.

The technology in the place was a smattering of Windows 2000 workstations, NT4 servers, a couple of Linux boxes doing proxy, and the RS/6000’s.

We were using Microsoft Exchange for email which only sealed my hatred for the product.

We had two spectacular events. In one case our main file server bricked itself when the boot volume ran out of space. That’s a bad thing on NT4. Needless to say the backup software had a big issue backing up the user db on NT4 too so we didn’t have anything when it crapped. Not even a BDC.

That was an 8:30AM to 4:30AM day. We had to rebuild the boot volume and then re-add the user groups and accounts. Fun times. But at 1:30AM we had a visitor, Sheldon himself with beer and shrimp cocktail for us.

The second spectacular event came when my web/email/database girl got the request to turn on OWA on the Exchange box. She turned it on and mail went POOF! If we weren’t so married to the damned shared folders in Exhange I would have just moved us to Sendmail, Qmail, or something similar.

The thing is I was very protective of my team. So when we got the call I took responsibility for it.

Another interesting thing was that sitting in the back of the computer room was a device with all sorts of crypto gear in it. I asked around and nobody knew what it was for.

One day I get a call from the folks at the FBI’s CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Systems) division. That was our link into the FBI’s III (Interstate Identification Index). Up until the last couple years when a local PD (ORI) scanned fingerprints they’d come through us to the III which withing 20 minutes would return identity information to the ORI if the subject being scanned had prior contact with the criminal justice system.

I had to engineer the email gateways etc. that would do this. That was fun.

Part of the process was doing a dump of all our criminal history, just case-ID, name, dob, etc. The RS/6000’s could only read/write from metal oxide tapes. The FBI CJIS couldn’t read those tapes so I had to SCP the data from the servers to a desktop and then burn CD’s of the data.

I was there for a couple years but that came undone. Remember my former boss, Mr. Resnik from Emblem & Badge? His next door neighbor was then Speaker of the House John Harwood.

So guess how I lost that job when the Lynch administration came in. Uh huh, Renik to Harwood to Lynch. Pretty easy game of connect the dots.

But karma is interesting. Emblem & Badge once had a presence all through New England. That was until the equipment all got auctioned off. Now it’s just a single little shop. I don’t even know if it still exists to be honest.

I just wish I’d known about the auction sooner. It would have been fun to buy a couple laser engraving systems.

Stay tuned for Part 5, my time at the Rhode Island Department of State.

I.T. War Stories Part 3 – The Emblem & Badge Years

You obviously know about the reasons I left Ernst & Young, part of it had to do with the increasing micro management of the TSS staff in general.

So I went on with a local awards manufacturer called Emblem & Badge. The job entailed keeping a multi-location retail POS system up and running as well as consulting with outside clients for POS and General Ledger software.

When I got there they were running all MS-DOS 6 on their workstations and using a Novell 3.11 server for both their POS and GL functions, and a SCO box for email and web services. The first major challenge was upgrading the Novel 3.11 server to version 3.20, and that was fairly simple.

Setting up routing across NIC’s on that server was a bit of a job however since we had two different class-C IP ranges to route on the thing. Not to mention that one half of the network was thin-net coax, the other Cat-5.

I think the most interesting part was the client side. Dealt with companies like the Kayak Center in Wickford, KaBloom up in MA, etc. I do have to say though that KaBloom couldn’t wrap their minds around the fact that the POS software while very flexible had limitations and if they wanted they could pay to have features added to the source code of the software.

I recall one argument with their I.T. guy that ended with me telling him he really had no idea what the software was doing and what it would take to modify it for their needs and then I walked out, called my boss and explained it to him.

For four years I kept everything in that place humming, even figured out what broke on the email server. My boss fancied himself an IT guy too, except he really had no clue about Unix or Linux for that matter. So he bricked the mail server by fussing with the net card settings one day while I was out on the road.

I got the entire HQ onto a Cat-5 switched network, and had starting evaluating rolling out Windows 98 at the time to the desktops we were using. I didn’t roll it out to the stores because the software we used to do the dumps every night called Blast didn’t work with Windows.

We also bought a new file server because we knew the old one wasn’t going to last much longer. Myself and the controller lobbied to go with NT4 at the time because the software we were using was going in that direction anyhow. My boss who again fancied himself an I.T. pro, said we’d go Novell 4. I explained there would be a heavy learning curve and gave projections as to how long it would take to get it up and running, and that it required some fairly heavy planning regarding container objects, etc. Even gave him the info about if we went NT4 it would take considerably less time since both myself and the controller had more than a passing acquaintance with it and since most of our outside clients were using it that was the direction we should go.

That turned into a shouting match and was the beginning of the end for me.

It took me a month or so to wrap my head around it then I had to spend another 3 or 4 months wrapping the bosses head around it. But by that time I’d had quite enough.

The company was family owned and the son was the President of the company while the old man Sol was just there from day to day. Sol and I got to know each other pretty well. Everybody thought Sol was an asshole, I learned differently. Even he couldn’t stand the way his son was running the company.

We moved two stores, Norwood from it’s decrepit facility to a modern one. I wired in a new phone system, new networking etc. for that store. We also moved our Sommerville store into Medford.

My last year and a half there were bad. I needed to get the hell out and one day I saw a posting in the newspaper for an I.T. Director position at the Department of Attorney General. Had a rather grueling 3 interview process for that but finally got the word that I had the job so I gave my notice.

During my last two weeks my boss tried to work me like a dog. Finally on my last day I was in Medford trying to get Timbuktu to work with Windows 98 and our Blast install at the office. Failed miserably. I had begged to test this out in the Providence office before rolling it out but the boss wanted it trialed in the field.

I was on the phone with the controller when the boss gets on and says “Did you try this, did you try that.” Finally I said I’d see him soon. I left Medford, drove back to Providence walked in threw the boss my keys and said “Nice knowing you.” at which point he starts with “That’s not fair” at which point I turned around and said “What isnt’ fair is four years of the same shitty pay and all the bullshit I had to put up with. ” and proceeded to leave.

When I took the position at the AG’s office I warned them that my former boss was the type of person to start shit. Sure enough two months later I get a call from the Chief of the BCI unit. The first thing he asked me was “How the fuck did you work there for almost five years? I wanted to run out of there the minute I walked in since the atmosphere was so negative.” This from the former Cranston Police Chief himself.

He told me that yes a complaint had been registered, that it was unfounded.

But wait for Part 4, apparently my former boss did come back to bite me in the ass.

I.T. War Stores Part 2

Next stop is Ernst & Young, LLP in Providence, RI. I got there just in time for us to move from the 11th floor of the then newer Fleet building to the 8th and 9th floors of the Textron building.

This was when Windows 95 first rolled out too and we transitions all the audit staff onto Windows computers. They’d been using Macintosh products before then, System 7 I believe. I tried to stay as far from the Mac side as possible back then.

This one was a fairly uneventful job. Trek up to Boston every few weeks for an all I.T. staff meeting, keep backups running, tax servers running, phone system running, etc.

When I think about it that was probably the dullest I.T. job I ever had. The only major issues I ran into while there was the office move and a few issues with a cranky Novel 3.11 server.

The nice thing about Ernst & Young was the training. In my couple of years there I went on a few junkets including a Windows 95 Boot Camp held at then then Bellcore training facility in Lysle, IL just outside Chicago.

Then there was the TSS (Technology Support Services) kickoff in Princeton, NJ, a TSS team building get together in Vero Beach, FL and yet another TSS gathering in Dallas, TX. Did I mention I spent only two years there?

Worked with a pretty good bunch. My first boss was Rick Hamrick, he was a great guy very confident in his staff etc. Next up was Glenn Fund. Glenn was shall we say someone who liked to live on the bleeding edge and was only there for a short time. Then came Kathleen Bernstein, the micro manager which is about when I left Ernst & Young.

Up next is Emblem & Badge.