Saturday, August 31, 2013

Things I Saw Yesterday

It's that time of year when Pig Out In The Park overwhelms Riverfont Park, providing a great place for people watching. Some of what I saw:

A woman picking up her young son after his constant rebellion against the leash that was attached to him. "It's for your own safety. It's so nobody takes you."

A young man playing a guitar and singing the same six songs over and over and taking in a pretty good chunk of change in an hour. He was also competing against the sound of the carrousel's calliope and a nearby sax player.

A scary looking Elvis clown making balloon animals. Somehow his prescription glasses added to his strange appearance. If I was five I would not go near that guy.

A disheveled balloon animal maker who tried to pass off something completely unrecognizable as a brontosaurus. The child's father was incredulous but played it cool.

A highly energetic one-man aerobics routine on the north-side steps between the Howard Street Bridge and the Clocktower. I wanted to know what music he was listening to.

A young man walking around while wearing a monkey-face mask holding a sign, "Mask for sale."

A plastic tub of free kittens being offered up by some very sketchy looking people.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our Justice System At Work

From one of many sites bringing this to our attention:

In November 2008, [Darryl Lane] Woods, 48, who was the head of [Columbia, MO] Mainstreet Bank and the bank's holding company Calvert Financial Corporation, applied for TARP money on behalf of his bank, a press release states.  In January 2009, his bank received $1,037,000.  A month later, he used $381,487 of it to buy a place in Fort Myers, Florida. He pleaded guilty to misleading federal investigators about how he used the TARP money.    

Woods is no longer allowed to work in the banking industry, according to the release. He also faces a sentence of up to one year in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $100,000 plus restitution. 

You'll notice he was not charged with theft or fraud. He was charged with making a false statement. I can't begin to explain how someone who steals $381,487 only get charged with making a false statement.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Being An Asshole

I had a conference call today that was scheduled to last two hours. It was a call for technical people only and it had to do with the installation of a new version of software for the server and the client workstations. After doing a roll call of about 30 attendees, the person heading up the conference passed the baton to a technical person who had us open the 38-page server installation instructions and he proceeded to read each and every word to us. One of the first paragraphs instructed the user to read and review the entire document before doing the installation. After a couple of pages of this, I responded when the reader asked if we had any questions about the page he just covered.

I politely questioned the need for reading the instructions completely--there was a second set to go through for the workstations as well and I was not looking forward to two hours of story time--and asked if there were parts of the instructions that needed to be touched on because they had been troublesome to others. The conference lead got all defensive and said that nobody complained during the last two conference calls and he thought this was important.

I wasn't looking for a fight so I didn't mention that what everyone probably did during those conference calls was work on other stuff while a voice on their speakerphone read to them and maybe complained to a work mate about how stupid that was. So I said, "Thank you," and was just about to disconnect when someone else chimed in. They agreed that a better use of our time would be to summarize and mention any troublesome spots. The conference lead was a little upset and asked if anyone else thought we should do that. So someone else piped up and said they thought so too.

Bizarrely, the conference lead said that maybe other people on the call would like to go through the entire set of instructions, to which that person responded, "Well, you asked." And nobody said they wanted to have it read in detail. So they shifted gears and the instructions were summarized. Not as much as they could have been, but enough to shorten the meeting from two hours to one during which I worked on emails, edited a document, monitored bandwidth usage, and requested quotes from vendors.
The title of this post doesn't convey what I intended to be, but that's how the conference lead reacted to me. That's his problem. In the end there were exactly three points where we were told something important. They could have just updated the instructions and told everyone to get the latest version via email, but the lead didn't give anyone a chance to say so. As soon as the last page of the second document was covered he thanked everyone for attending and concluded the call by hanging up.

I hit play on my music.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ignoring White Privilege

In today's Spokesman Review we have an op-ed from Kathleen Parker in which she shows that in this respect she's out of touch with the real world.

These are all true statements if we identify ourselves and each other only by the color of our skin, which increasingly seems to be the case – including our own president.  

Barack Obama helped lead the way when he identified himself with Trayvon Martin, shot by George Zimmerman in the neighborhood-watch catastrophe with which all are familiar. Stepping out from his usual duties of drawing meaningless red lines in the Syrian sand, the president splashed red paint across the American landscape:  

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”  

In so saying, he essentially gave permission for all to identify themselves by race with the victim or the accused. How sad as we approach the 50th anniversary of the march Martin Luther King Jr. led on Washington that even the president resorts to judging not by the content of one’s character but by the color of his skin – the antithesis of the great dream King articulated with those words.

Obama went even further after the Zimmerman verdict, expressing his self-identification not as leader of a racially diverse nation – or as the son of a white mother – but as a black man who remembers women clutching their purses tighter when he entered an elevator and being followed in department stores. All because he was black?

What Ms. Parker doesn't understand is that President Obama wasn't giving permission for people to identify themselves by race. He was describing what it's like to be black in America, explained even better by LeVar Burton when he appeared on CNN. It's something I've not only witnessed my entire life but shamefully contributed to in my younger years.

Ms Parker's op-ed is appropriately entitled "Sad When Color Outweighs Character". But she gets it all wrong because she's looking at it from a white privileged perspective where her character is never automatically, unfairly, and disparagingly determined by her skin color.

Climbing The Walls

Geoff and Josh are home for a few days so we had a family outing at Wild Walls. Geoff has been climbing for quite a while now and it was cool watching him be all ninja on the more difficult routes. Josh, Kathy and I were first timers and this was Steph's second time around. The challenges were many and while we stepped up to them, our lack of upper body strength and technique were telling. But it was a lot of fun. Today we nurse sore forearms and shoulders.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How Frightening

Imagine, for just a moment, not being able to document your life with a phone. Wasn't there a Twilight Zone episode about that?

Friday, August 23, 2013

How's That Working For You?

From the House Republican Conference--chaired by Cathy McMorris Rodgers--District Work Period Planning Kit: Do not speak from behind a podium on  a stage above the audience. Engage from the floor and walk around with  the microphone to get questions.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Replacing The Web

This from the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

There's usually at least one Y Combinator startup that surprises the prestigious accelerator's co-founder, Paul Graham, and at this week's Demo Day it was Floobits

The company founded by Geoff Greer and Matt Kaniaris has introduced a way for two people to write software at the same time on the same code. But they have a much bigger goal in mind — replacing the Web.
"Those guys are kind of quiet hacker types and I was wondering whether they would be able to withstand Demo Day and what kind of presentation they would be able to make," Graham told me when the dust settled on Tuesday. 

"They are reticent hacker types and they don't like talking. I encouraged them to give people the full breadth of their ambition and they did it." "It's something insanely ambitious. Replacing the Web? Sheesh!" Graham said. "But I think investors liked them and they were able to get across what they are doing."

I'm hoping that when Geoff replaces the web he creates a simulator for the old web for his mother and I so we don't have to change. I still think vi and notepad are useful tools.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Town Hall Meeting

I arrived at the Lincoln Center early so I could also observe the Republican rally scheduled for 5:30. State Representative Kevin Parker was, for lack of a better word, the emcee.
First, he introduced State Senator Mike Padden. The senator said Republicans need to articulate their views. He's for less government and he says people can do more for themselves than government can. He's also for less taxes, respecting private property rights, and moral values. He also says they need to engage the culture. I have no idea what that means.
Next up in the rally batting order was 7th Legislative District Representative John Smith whom Parker described as a good friend. Smith acknowledged this has been a contentious year. He said that our country's founding principles need to be remembered, not reconsidered. He described them as personal accountability, personal responsibility, and free market principles. He told us that looking back at history, every nation suffered the consequences for failing those principles. He informed us that he was raised by a single mom and that he was poor. But in this country you can start poor and grow into something better. The founding principles are for that. He briefly mentioned there had been letters to editor and his response was that he's running on reality and truth. Apparently there was no reality or truth in the letters to the editor.  
Next up was Mike Cannon. He's running for city council. He supports David Condon. Nobody could hear much of what he said because a couple guys off to one side were obviously at odds with each other's position on whatever topic they were on.
Then we heard from officers of the County Republican Party. Come to our meetings.
Kent Clausen, of the Republicans of Spokane County, invited everyone to join them. They've been around since 2009. For some reason nobody said the Tea Party word.
It wasn't much of a rally or at least what I would consider a rally. It was more like a meet and greet people running for office. No signs were permitted on the property so a couple of fellows from Walla Walla had to put their signs back in their cars.
I get the feeling that Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan doesn't like it when I take his picture. I don't know, it might be one of those Agenda 21 things.
Kevin Parker ended the rally with a story about President Obama throwing the first pitch at a New York Yankees game. Derek Jeter allegedly told the president to throw from the mound, not from in front it it. To throw his best. And not to bounce it in front of the plate because he'd get laughed out of the park. Plus, he was throwing a pitch for America, not the Yankees. The whole point of the story was to emphasize leadership and doing your best. What's lost on the college professor telling the story, as well as those in attendance, is that President Obama has never thrown a ceremonial first pitch for the Yankees and Derek Jeter has been banned from baseball for cheating through use of performance enhancing drugs*. But, hey, leadership and do your best.

* Updated - Got my players mixed up. Forgive me, I'm not a baseball fan.

After the "rally" ended, we were allowed to enter the building for the town hall meeting. This time around it was down to business. After posting the flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (during which a man near me practically screamed the "under God" part), playing the National Anthem, and a few introductory remarks we went to the Q&A period. Well almost.
Steve Rusch (wearing the Mariners shirt below) made the trip here from Walla Walla. He's very passionate. I met and talked with him before the rally that was held outside. I had no idea he was going to do this, but he immediately began calling out Cathy McMorris Rodgers and being disruptive in doing so. The facility manager asked him to be quiet. After a few back and forths, security was called over. Steve wasn't about to leave voluntarily so he laid down on the floor. He was unceremoniously dragged out of the room by a Spokane police officer and a suit wearing an ear piece. I assume he was placed under arrest. (The manager was fair in warning people when they yelled or interrupted regardless of whether the person was for or against. Believe me, he had his work cut out for him. At least one other gentleman was voluntarily escorted from the room, but he had at least three warnings beforehand.)
Once that bit of excitement was over, more fun began. Overall, those in attendance seemed to be evenly divided. The Affordable Health Care Act was the main topic of the evening. Cathy McMorris Rodgers fielded jeers and cheers for the entire hour. She was obviously more comfortable with the cheers. The jeers tended to freeze her in her tracks, but she was a trooper and she stuck with the talking points.

A grizzled veteran asked the crowd if any of them had ever been in a country that had socialized medicine. "If you liked it so much then why don't you move there?" he asked. An older man in front of me jumped up and said, "I'll buy their plane ticket. Ha ha ha ha." That man turned out to be a veteran who gets his health care through the Veteran's Administration, which is socialized medicine. When that point was made later on he was strangely quiet.

One talking point Cathy McMorris Rodgers emphasized was the debunked one concerning $700 billion being cut from Medicare. She made it sound like Medicare benefits were being lost. When pressed about the Republican plan for replacing the health care plan, all she could say was that they had one. She did not give any specifics. She also railed about President Obama having the temerity to waive the employer mandate of the Affordable Health Care Act for one year as if he was subverting Congress's authority. She believes Congress should make the decisions, not the President. And yet not 10 minutes later she spoke about how she will continue to delay the ACA as much as possible and referred to the delayed mandate as if it was a good thing.

It was a raucous, disappointing, and entertaining hour. I was amazed at how ugly people could be. It was like live talk radio. Outbursts from "both sides" happened all evening. "That's a lie" was met with "Shut up." Fan boys and girls stood and applauded like faithful acolytes. Loud boo's erupted in response to several of the congresswoman's statements. "Undocumented immigrants" was met with "You don't belong here." On that one, I don't think I've ever seen such a change from what I considered a pleasant, grandmotherly face to an incredibly hateful and loathsome sneer. She was unnerving.

I'm sure our representative was happy when the meeting finally ended. Nothing was accomplished except that everybody heard what they expected to hear. To some it was music to their ears and to others it was obnoxious. Missing for the entire evening was a common thread connecting everybody there. Sadly, I don't see our representative as being the person who could create one or make use of it.

Y Combinator Demo Day

Geoff did his presentation in front of hundreds of possible investors yesterday and he was very happy with the results. Paul Graham, Y Combinator co-founder, said he did great. He must have since Floobits was one of the companies mentioned in the press report about yesterday's Demo Day. He and his partner, Matt, have been working their asses off getting their company going. It's awesome to see their work paying off. They have a committed investor now!

Recent Road Finds

 C'mon, people! Really?

No battery or SIM card, but I salvaged a 4GB microSD card.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Questions, Questions

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is excited to invite us to her town hall meeting on Wednesday evening. I've been to three of the last four town halls. One hour is not enough time to get a lot of questions in. Plus, the odds of getting your number drawn to ask a question are not that good. And if your number is drawn, you only get to ask one question. She invited us to post questions on her Facebook page. So I did. I look forward to her answers.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Expressive Faces

We had some family friends over at the house yesterday. You have to be patient and quick to catch their grandchildren's moods.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

50mm Fun

I went for a walk during lunch today with the 50mm lens on the camera trying to make something happen. I'm not sure I got there, but it's good to practice.

The Surveillance State And Commandeering

Bruce Schneier has some excellent advice for technology companies.

There are lots more high-tech companies who have cooperated with the government. Most of those company names are somewhere in the thousands of documents that Edward Snowden took with him, and sooner or later they'll be released to the public. The NSA probably told you that your cooperation would forever remain secret, but they're sloppy. They'll put your company name on presentations delivered to thousands of people: government employees, contractors, probably even foreign nationals. If Snowden doesn't have a copy, the next whistleblower will.  

This is why you have to fight. When it becomes public that the NSA has been hoovering up all of your users' communications and personal files, what's going to save you in the eyes of those users is whether or not you fought. Fighting will cost you money in the short term, but capitulating will cost you more in the long term.   
You, an executive in one of those companies, can fight. You'll probably lose, but you need to take the stand. And you might win. It's time we called the government's actions what it really is: commandeering. Commandeering is a practice we're used to in wartime, where commercial ships are taken for military use, or production lines are converted to military production. But now it's happening in peacetime. Vast swaths of the Internet are being commandeered to support this surveillance state.

We live in a time where all of our emails are collected by our government. If you encrypt it you become a target. If it doesn't change we all lose.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Behold, The Power Of Fear

In today's Spokesman Review we have an article about arming District 81 Resource Officers by January 2014.

What better way to demonstrate the power of fear than to have armed resource officers within your public schools?

We're telling our children that school is a dangerous place that requires armed guards. Yet the presence of armed guards is no guarantee for preventing a mass shooting. The expense of such security to counter a highly unlikely threat is illogical and wasteful. And if this is a must, why aren't we protecting shopping malls, churches, and other locations where mass shootings have taken place?  

Newtown triggered the recent changes, “but there have been other reasons for considering arming our resource officers,” said Jason Conley, the district’s safety, security and transportation director. “It’s those outside threats that are driving us to this next level of safety. In a criminal’s mind, a school resource officer would be the first target to eliminate to get into the school.”

What are these outside threats? What is their likelihood of happening?

The goal of arming the school resource officers, district officials say, “is to assist in better protecting the safety of students and staff … and provide a greater level of safety for the District’s School Resource Officers.”

We have to arm the resource officers for their own safety? How often have District 81 Resource Officers been in a school situation where they needed a firearm?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gravel, Gravel, Gravel

View Kronquist and Foothills in a larger map

Apparently I didn't get enough gravel during the Midnight Century last weekend. I thought I'd venture out and explore some gravel roads closer to home. I went east through Mead and Peone Prairie onto Kronquist where the gravel started. Since it rained last night dust was not a factor during today's ride when those six or seven cars passed by me. (The quiet sure was nice.)

Kronquist greeted me with three climbs so that was fun. Just after starting the third climb, as I headed towards the intersection with Heglar, three dogs came running from the house on my left. I was past their driveway but slogging up hill by the time they reached the road. Fortunately, they stopped once they got on the road, hopefully feeling like they successfully defended their territory from possible invasion.

There was a patch of hardtop at Heglar but the road returned to gravel as I stayed on Kronquist. I finished off the last climb and found myself in wheat fields. I followed Kronquist to Darknell and then to Farwell. A red-tailed hawk was keeping a sharp eye for prey in a recently mowed field.

Farwell turned into a single lane road with a steep drop to Forker. I followed Forker to Foothills and headed east again. After a mile of pavement, Foothills went back to gravel and I climbed for quite a while. At Norman I ate a Clif bar and drank a sports drink. A little more climbing on Norman until I reached Temple.

Temple was downhill all the way to Forker. As tempting as it was to cut loose, I rode the brakes instead. There were lots of tight turns and almost every one of them had loose gravel and washboards. Reaching Forker, I returned to Farwell. Farwell has a long climb and there was one section where it's steep. So I included a short walk.

Getting through the wheat fields again, I headed down Kronquist. This time those three dogs saw me coming from the top of the hill and made a beeline for the road to "greet" me. I coasted but I was still going at a good speed. The dogs arrived at the road a moment after I passed by. One of them gave chase for 100 feet or so and presumably returned to celebrate the triumph of another dissuaded intruder.

The last two climbs on Kronquist were easier coming back, maybe because the elevation I was climbing to wasn't as high as the one I just left. And then it was pavement all the way home.

Next time I think I'll see how it goes by staying on Foothills all the way to Newman Lake.

 First Kronquist climb way off in the distance.

 Viewing the second Kronquist climb from the top of the first one.

 Looking back from the second Kronquist climb.

 Top of the third Kronquist climb.

 Under observation as I climb Foothills.

 A banker, accountant, or attorney maybe?

 Under observation as I descend Temple.

Looking back down the Farwell climb.