Month: November 2009

Interesting: Is Jay-Z coming out as an atheist?

In his latest video, “Empire State of Mind” at the 3:05 time mark, we hear him say “Jesus can’t save you. Life starts when the church ends.”

I’m not sold on the song yet. But I’m happy to see someone with that kind of renown that Jay-Z has openly dismiss the myth of Jesus Christ. Because it is just that, myth based on prior myths of the Babalonians, et al. All those prior gods had virgin births, rose from the dead, etc. It’s formulaic.

And as far as my tastes in hip-hop, it falls in three camps. I like the strident (E.g. Public Enemy), the goofy (Ludacris, and old schoolers like Slick Rick, and Whodini), and the likes of Q-Tip.

Happy Thanksgiving

So today we spent the holiday with our friends Nick and Beth, and Beth’s brother David as well as our new friend Danielle and her mom.

Yours truly was the whirling dervish of the kitchen today. Even Keyron commented that I’ve gotten very chill in the last few years. Not a lot can bother me. The reasons for this are mainly due to two things. The first is that I’ve prepared so many holiday meals that nothing can shake me. The last, and this is not a necessity but it does enhance the confidence effect, is to keep the alcoholic beverages flowing.

I did the stuffed mushrooms, showed Nick how to thicken a gravy (It’s all about the fat and the flour!) and did a lot of chopping, mushrooms, onions, etc.

I did drink a bit much. it was beer and wine for the day, started a little before noon and didn’t stop until about 9PM. I’ve been flushing out with water since I got home and didn’t suffer the deleterious effects of alcohols propensity to dehydrate. Interestingly in my family alcohol never played a big part in holidays. Holidays were about the food, family and the sugar based deserts!

But candy is dandy but liquor is indeed quicker.

Overall a good holiday. Good conversation all around, much better than the old family affair days.

Tech: Caution on BIOS upgrades and iTunes

So I was running the A02 BIOS on my laptop. I decided to kick it up to the current version, A04. I’m so glad the update process has gotten so damned easy. It used to be you had to download the BIOS patch, burn it to floppy or CD, and then boot from that for it to patch.

Now it just runs as a windows application and tells you to reboot to use the new BIOS.

It solved the disk stutter problems I was having with iTunes sure but when I went to sync my iPod Touch I was told I’d have to re-authorize a bunch of applications. So now I know that Apple uses the BIOS version key to authorize a computer. Grrrr… it reminds me of back in the early 1990’s when I was working at Brown University.

We had a Data General Eclipse MV9500 and we ran the WordPerfect suite which also served as the login front-end for all the terminals (Mostly PacerTerm on Macintosh computers.)

That MV9500, that’s the processor or CPU designator. A decision was made to upgrade to an MV9600U processor. Which of course broke the WordPerfect license we were using because WP decided to authenticate against processor identifier.

Had to scramble a bit to write an unbreakable shell under AOS/VS II or Data General’s answer to DEC’s VMS product at the time. I put together a great little CLI shell that you could NOT escape without logoff.

That’s something I’m also good at, getting systems to work when they break.

Tech: Zynga and Facebook hit with class action suit

Now this is interesting..

Before I say this please put on your rose colored glasses since I’m about to cast a very wide net here.

Most net users, and more to that most point Facebook users aren’t the most net or technically savvy people out there. To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, “There’s one born every minute…”

At a minimum, ignore payment for points on games. Just take the old Japanese approach, play it out over time. How do you think I got two a few hundred billion dollars in game money on Mafia Wars? Just play often enough to gain benefits.

On the other end of the spectrum, aggressively block all ads. I employ a few strategies for this. The more egregious crap (E.g. Zango) gets blocked at the firewall level because it actually installs something on a machine rendering it pretty much useless, while other sites either get a host file entry, or get added to the AdBlock+ add-in for Firefox.

Or if you’re simply that full with cash, send some my way. I might give you something in exchange other than points on a game. That something may be advice, or some other thing.

Politics: The New Republican Platform (And my response!)

Found this over on Joe.My.God.

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

I suppose government adequate to meet the needs of the people and perhaps a lower national debt. But that’s where my similarities with the Republicans end. I want to see taxes back at the levels they were at in the 1950’s. You know, when people making more than $300K a year paid a fairly high bracket, and corporations paid quite a lot more in taxes than the roughly 9% to 15% they pay now.

I’d also like to mention that if we ended the debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan we’d save a fucking bundle. Especially with the latter. If you understand anything about the Pashtun tribes, you understand that Afghanistan is essentially undergoing a civil war that has been going on for the better part of the last few centuries.

And Iraq, we need another bully puppet there. Saddam Hussein knew how to keep his party in check. That’s what we need so Shi’a, Sunni and even Kurd can learn how to live with one another again.

Once that’s accomplished lets pay off the national debt, and then with the surpluses available let us re-invest in infrastructure (Rebuilding highways perhaps, with lanes set out for rapid transit systems?) or maybe rebuilding all the schools in the nation, or providing health care to every U.S. citizen, from cradle to grave.

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;

See the last part of my above answer. I support not just a single payer system, but a nationalized system like they have in the UK. Anything left to a ‘market-based’ approach simply means that the market will charge all that can be borne by the customer and provide as cheap a service as they can in order to maximize profit. Profit in health care should be anathema, particularly the extreme cases of profit over care.

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

Here is what I’d support. I’d support dumping huge sums of money into wind, solar, tidal and whatever alternative energy systems we can come up with. I’d also support the R&D into electric vehicles that have ranges in the 300 mile, with < 15 minute recharge times. It's happening already, but would happen a lot faster if we put a little money into it.

I guess you could almost say I agree with this particular point. Cap and trade is bullshit. Lets move ourselves toward a Type 1 Kardashev society.

(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

This one confuses me a bit because I’m not well versed in labor issues. In essence though the Republican party is pretty much anti-union so I guess I’d have to support card check.

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

This point is purely bovine effluvia. I say if they’re here, working and paying taxes they stay here.

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

I oppose this on so many levels. See the last part of my answer to their first platform plank.

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

I support diplomacy with Iran, and as far as North Korea, we need to put the pressure on China, Japan and South Korea to settle that little cluster fuck.

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

And I support abolishing said act. It is unconstitutional on the very face of it and violates my rights to equal protection under the law.

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

Yes, the lives of the vulnerable. Who are they anyway? The way I see it, the very young, the very old and the disabled. I’d extend it to those between very young and very old too.

But do they not realize that health care is already rationed? It’s a default state of the system as it exists even now. As for denial of health care, they really should talk to their buddies in the insurance industry because by far they’ve been the grinchiest of all.

Now the fun part, abortion. I say this, until we get a reasonable sex education program into schools (One that starts around 5th grade, and repeats again in 8th and 10th) we keep access to abortion free, open and legal for all. Otherwise I neither care, nor do I think it is my right to tell a woman if she can or cannot get an abortion. It’s her choice, not mine.

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

And I support the right the arm bears. But seriously, yeah I’m kind of gun nut when it comes to this.

So I do find a small amount of agreement with their 10 planks. But I don’t think I’d ever call myself a Republican.

A funny thought regarding Mags “The Loathsome” Gallagher

We all know Maggie “The Loathsome” Gallagher, or if you don’t just google. She’s the talking head that always talks about that great arc of humanity, male and female and who opposes equal marriage rights at the drop of a set of panties.

This is the same Ms. Gallagher who had a child out of wedlock. But she’s married now. The scuttlebutt is that her husband is Indian (You know, southeast of the -stans notably Pakistan, with Bangladesh to the east.)

With that I had a thought. We all know that Mags is a little on the hefty side. And I thought about the Hindu reverence for a certain animal.

Yeah you guessed it, her husband must revere cows because he married one.

Protest Against Carcieri’s Veto of the Funeral Rights Bill

So this past Tuesday we had a couple of newer faces at the Providence Equality Action Committee meeting. They were people who’d decided that Governor Carcieri’s veto of the Funeral Benefits bill that would cover couples gay or straight was just the straw that broke the camels back.

The vote in the legislature overall was lopsided in favor, 99 to 1 with the 1 being Rep. Arthur Corvese of North Providence.

With widespread notification going out just 2 days before the event we managed to get about 200 people.

The event was spectacular if not somber. Lots of folks dressed in black. Everyone had a candle, and there was even a mock casket with a spray of white roses on top. Once we were all lined up along the brick walkway the pallbearers carried the casket up to the marble steps of the south side of the RI State House and then laid it on a bier with black bunting on it.

Had at least one notable speaker, our favorite Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts who gave a very supportive speech. She did write the leadership in both houses and asked them to do an override vote as soon as they can.

Forgive the darkness. My little Xacti doesn’t do well in light that low.

And some photos:

Gathering at 7:10PM

Casket coming up the columnq

Casket passing by

The Casket and Roses

When I think about it, in the past year I’ve been to so many protests, events, etc. We’re really pushing the whole equality thing hard in RI.

All the places that I’ve been

There’s a thread going on at Polt’s Palace and now Sticky Crows so it’s probably time for me to do the same.

It’s all about careers. Mine has meandered at the beginning. I started out at age 15 working for a hardware store called NHD. Spent five years ended up managing a store or two and finally had enough. I have this innate ability to read the writing on the wall and I knew NHD wasn’t long for the world. They folded a couple years later. I did manage to learn a lot though, probably why I can easily do my own electrical and plumbing.

From there I moved on to CVS, as an assistant manager. In essence, a manager except with half the pay. Stood there for a few years until I got one manager who was for lack of a better word, a cunt. Again, I’d been there for about four years and she had me fired. Oh well… no big thing. They bounced me from stores in Providence, North Providence, and Bristol, RI and Bellingham, MA. So that was one part I hated, the other was the ungodly store delivery hours, 3:30AM to 4:30AM. That and having a work schedule that included night shifts, etc. It was kind of a relief to be fired from there.

My next job was at Brown University in their Alumni and Development Information Resources (ADIR) unit. Spent a couple years there managing an ancient Data General MV9600 microcomputer and about 100 Macintosh LC desktops. Did a major document conversion project in house that saved them about $70K too.

From there I moved to Ernst & Young, LLP as a member of their Technology Support Services (TSS) group. Kind of a boring job, and when a new area director came on board and started micro-managing I just said enough and quit that job.

The next part gets interesting. From Ernst & Young I jumped to a local awards manufacturer called Emblem & Badge. Spent almost five years at that job and overall I enjoyed it except for the idiocy of the company president. I could tell he was driving the company into the ground while not paying his employees very well so I started job hunting.

Now here’s the thing. We had been running a a Novell 3.20 server and it worked well for us and I knew how to manage it. It was getting old so we bought a new server and myself, the company controller and the president had numerous arguments about this.

The company president was a Novell head. Meanwhile I had been out in the field installing POS systems that included tons of Windows NT4 servers. The president wanted Novell 4. I told him and the company controller told him it would be a several month learning curve, that we’d be better served because the POS vendor was moving towards support of Windows servers only to no avail. We had heated arguments over this over a period of months.

That is when I decided to move on. I saw an ad for an I.T. Director position at the RI Department of Attorney General and sent my resume along. Imagine my surprise when I got the call. Went through three interviews for that job, one with the Administration and HR director, one with the IT staff at Dept. of Transportation, and then the final one with the AG himself and his division directors.

When I took the job I warned the HR Director that my former employer might try something. Sure enough, two months after I’m there I get a call from the chief of the Bureau of Criminal Identification/Investigation, and he asks me to come up to his office.

He asked me how the hell I spent nearly five years in a place with such negativity. I told him I thrived on confrontation. That made him chuckle. He told me there was no basis for the complaint and that it was a sealed matter.

However a couple years later it was time for an election and I had to interview with the transition team for the incoming AG. The interview was strange but I found out in a couple of weeks that I was being let go as of January 3rd that year.

Here’s how it goes. The former boss who complained, well his next door neighbor was the Speaker of the House at the time. So you can pretty much figure out how that went down.

My next stint was almost four years at the RI Secretary of State’s Office. Managed Windows and Linux servers, desktops, phones, printers, you name it. It was an enjoyable enough job and I even got a project management scheme pushed into the unit because we were getting hammered with requests and no way to prioritize.

I also figured out a vexing phone issue that both the State Telecom and Avaya couldn’t figure out. We had two phone systems, and on transition we had to move a bunch of people around. One curious problem popped up, the message waiting lights stopped working once you moved to the other location. Turns out the phone system itself doesn’t turn light on, or not how you’d think. It was the Audix voicemail system that set the light. And if it had the wrong system ID in the 3rd page of a mailbox setup, it’d never set the light on or off. So if you moved them you’d have to change them (The system ID’s were 221 and 222)

I made it nine months into the new administration. But again, I ran another woman with whom I didn’t get along. It think what really sealed it is that when we’d moved our offices I did all the due diligence to insure the move went smoothly from an IT perspective. Part of that process was getting references from other state agencies and one story came back about a rack full of servers that was dropped off the truck. Total data loss.

And who managed that project? The above mentioned woman. I probably undid myself but she was a clueless horse trade aka political favor from the outgoing Treasurer. I’ve come to the conclusion, the only way to survive in state government is to act dumb or be dumb. People with a brain either move on or piss someone off. I fall into the later category.

I recall one particularly galling incident. I was in the Corporations division fixing a printer and the Director of Admin comes out and starts yelling at me. Here’s the thing, when people yell at me I can turn on the cool as a cucumber act. I looked at her and told her that we’d shown her numerous times how to use the eTimeSheet application, and that what she wanted it to do was not what it was designed to do.

Little did she know that the application developer had written the changes but because she was such a nasty cur he just left it on the server and never told her that it was ready to roll. That woman pissed off literally every director level position and quite a few people in between.

It was so bad that one day I’m in the Chief of Staff’s office and he apologized to me for her behavior.

When she canned me she mentioned that I didn’t fit the structure. I told her that was interesting as the word structure implies direction which was sorely lacking under her leadership. It felt so good to say that.

She also said I’d be better off in the corporate world. Indeed, for four months I did a contract job that netted me more than I’d made in almost two years at the SoS. Every day on that train to Boston, as we’d pass the facility I worked in for the SoS I’d throw the finger and mouth “Fuck you Catherine!”

BTW, when I got canned I made a prediction. I told the Archives Director that within two months they’d suffer a major web crash. Sure enough, it happened. They claimed a virus but I know better. You see, the web server had a database replica that had some bad SQL (Standard Query Language). Some badly formed SQL over time will corrupt database indexes. The fix was that when it happened, you just stopped the database engine, did a table repair, restart the database and all was good again for a couple of months.

Even went so far as to document this process and email it to the relevant people. But it fell on deaf ears. Ok, I did my part. That’s how I know they lied through their teeth. Of course by that time they’d either canned or lost everyone who had any clue about the MySQL databases.

So that consulting gig I talked about, database development. It was supposed to be a six month contract but again I finished up kind of early and it was only four months. Not to mention there was one bitch in the process who couldn’t wrap her head around a file change so we had to cater to her the whole time.

Now I do my own thing. Much better, now if only I could get one client to pay.

So here’s the breakdown:

1) NHD
2) CVS
3) Brown University
4) Ernst & Young, LLP
5) Emblem & Badge
6) Rhode Island Department of Attorney General
7) Rhode Island Secretary of State
8) A large consulting group – that was the well paid 4 month gig.
9) On my own

Pushing equality forward in RI

As you probably know, I’m a member of both Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) and the Providence Equality Action Committee(PEAC).

At the PEAC meeting this past Tuesday evening we had two people show up who wanted to have a mock funeral for the vetoed dp funeral bill here in RI. So this evening, Thursday November 19, 2009 at 7:30PM we’ll hopefully all be in black, carrying a casket with the bill inside. When I think about this, it really evokes strong Christian themes of death and resurrection doesn’t it. We rally at the south end of the RI State House, otherwise known as the side that faces the Providence Place Mall.

Another thing brought up at the meeting was the growing discontent with our elected representatives, not only over the issue of marriage equality but on economic and other issues.

I stressed that MERI and their staff and volunteers have made great strides in getting us almost to the point where we have the necessary margins to override a veto in the House, next we have to work on the Senate.

Part of what was brought up at the PEAC meeting was that this is an election year. I then explained that the voting public for the most part has the memory of a gnat when it comes to their elected representatives and what they voted on what.

I also brought up the point that on average, we have at least 200 people per DISTRICT in RI. That’s a hell of a political motivator. My house district has 7,322 people in it and has 227 MERI supporters. My senate district has 13,580 people, and 329 MERI supporters. Say each supporter has access to 10 other people in the district and now you’ve amplified the effect to 2,270 and 3,290 respectively. This is especially true if you can drive voter turnout.

We also need to send the message to our elected representatives and senators that their vote to support marriage equality won’t cost them their seat in the legislature. In each state where a legislature has moved to secure our natural rights, there has been no electoral backlash.

I also need to get in touch with the Executive Director at MERI. For awhile now MERI volunteers have been collecting peoples information and signatures on post cards that we’re going to deliver to the representatives and senators. Wouldn’t it be spectacular if we could deliver them when the legislature goes back into session sometime around January 10, 2010. Make it ceremonious, make it grand, but most of all make it memorable to each and every legislator who gets those cards.

As to whether the state effort is worth it, I say yes. Look at every other civil rights battle. It’s never gone right to the federal level and when it has it has been through the offices of the judiciary, not the U.S. Congress. Congress only acts when the courts tell them to act when it comes to civil rights. Look at Title IX, the Civil Rights Act, Womens Suffrage, etc.

Brian Brown of NOM – What a prick!

So I watched Brian Brown of NOM’s testimony before the DC council. I have to say this, yes you are a bigot Mr. Brown. No doubt about it.

Particularly galling was at the end where you called on the council member as a religious bigot. You sir are just a civil rights bigot. Your very stance on marriage equality violates my constitutional rights. And you’ve shown your hand, your entire argument has a religious basis.

Religion had its chance to do things right. Instead over two millenia it’s managed to screw up human societies left and right. Let secular society reign without the interference of religious bigots like yourself Mr. Brown.