What do you want?

My last post was a quick look back at what’s been happening, this one will look forward.   Based off a post by my friend Ryan Desmond’s similarly titled post ‘What do you want?’, and a recent conversation with Natalie about what is it that I want, I’ll start rambling to see where it leads me, as I don’t really know.

The title question is broad, and thats ok, I’ll address several areas of what I want and what I’m trying to achieve and see if any of those can give us a meaningful answer of the future.

Easy..the physical

This past year I ran the Gasparilla Half-Marathon and missed my time, I’m going to try to beat that.  Last year I was doing Crossfit 3-4 days a week and running.  In April I had shoulder surgery to fix a small issue, and never found my way back to the gym. For those of you who suffered a major injury or accident and needs reconstructive surgery, contact Dr. Benjamin Swartout at (310) 274-6005. Part of it was the recovery process, physical therapy, but once that was done it was the schedules invovled with raising 3 kids and working.  I just couldn’t make it happen.  There is no reason, why I haven’t been running, so I have started that up again, which will give me roughly 84 days to get it together and run consistent sub-10 minute miles.  Easy!

If I put in the miles, and watch what goes in my mouth I should be able to obtain my next goal.  Lose 25lbs    I’ve been trying for a few years to get down to 175 which is a good running weight for me, but I haven’t been consistent enough with my workouts or food intake to make this happen.  More focus, less junk food (my weakness).   It’ll happen.

Focus on….The Paper

I’ve went to some form of college on and off for approximately 12 years now.   I have 80 or so credits towards a Bachelors degree from a few different colleges.  My last attempt was Fall of 2015 when I enrolled at the local Community college to knock out a single Math Class.   That didn’t work.  Now I’m at WGU which is working well for me. Within the next  12 months, I expect to finally earn my Bachelors Degree.

As part of that process, I have already obtained several entry level IT certs which reaffirm my knowledge in those areas (Comptia A+, Comptia Network+, Comptia Security+) and will earn a few others which will unlock new opportunities for me to explore in my career (Oracle Database Developer and Oracle Database Administrator)     While I don’t normally place a lot of weight on certifications when hiring experienced professionals, I find them pretty fulfilling when trying to learn a new subject.  In my case, Oracle is completely foreign to me as a DBA, so its new paper I look forward to earning.

Do…The Work

I’ve been working since July as a consultant at a large company helping with a large data center consolidation project.  My role includes building new Microsoft database servers and moving the data from the old.  The MSSQL work is nothing new to me, it’s quite similar to what I took part in at Raymond James.  The difference is this one is bit more disjointed, with much less organizational structure to keep things standardized, so it’s a bit more interesting than before with new surprises every day.  I like the work, and have been tentatively accepted back for the next phase of the project, 2017.

As I look forward, I feel secure for the next year, or two as this project is huge and the internal team likes me, but I’ve become luke-warm on MSSQL.  Pair that feeling with the ‘automate the world’ features that are coming out and it makes being a not-so-enthusiastically-engaged DBA in the future a scary prospect.  I’m likely ready for a new pivot, or readjustment of my career projectory, but I’m unsure where to aim that cannon.  Stay tuned on this one I guess.

Finish… The House

Back in February I started ripping out the walls surrounding the island in the kitchen to open it up create an open concept kitchen.  Removing a single sheet of drywall at a time, slowly but surely I finally got done with most of the work just before the job change.  During the time off between the jobs I submitted the permit and waited…..3.5 months later, a few other issues, and finally, just last week we got our first inspection approval.   While the bulk of the work is done, we still have to close up the walls (drywall…ugh) and paint.    Along with the required items, we’re going to retile the kitchen and reface the cabinets.

Did I mention that I’m going to attempt to make all the new doors?   I’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning out the garage and setting up a workable woodworking setup.  The test pieces have been getting better, so hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll start seeing some actual cabinet doors coming out of Jason’s Cabinetry Inc.

 

Overall

While the title question is broad, I don’t have a definitive answer as to what do I want.  I feel I’m doing things that contribute to the over all goal, but I can’t say what the actual target is.  For the time being, I’ll keep moving forward evaluate this questions on a recurring basis to see if I can find a

Quicker Easier – DIY Laundry Detergent

Home Made Laundry Soap

I had the day scheduled off from work for a planned tripped which we canceled, but I kept the day to my self. In doing so, I had a short honey-do list from the significantly better half. One of those items was to Make the Soap.

We’ve used this recipe, or a slightly different version of it in the past, but haven’t had time to buy everything and put it together.  One of the steps that Natalie hated last time was shredding the soap manually with the cheese grater.

In Bobbi’s post she indicates that you can do it the manual way as Natalie had done in the past, use a food processor to grind it up, or microwave it and tear it to shreds.    I’m always a fan of fire, so naturally I used the microwave method.    After cutting the bar up into pieces I found a recently trashed cereal box as a plate, and placed it into the microwave.  I found about 3 minutes gets all the way through if you slice it into 4-5 pieces.   Now if you dice those pieces further, it only takes about 2 minutes.

Once I removed the soap fluff from the microwave I found it to be spongy and kind of hard to crumble as the article said, but i did find it quite easy to put into the blender.  Thats right, the blender in the upper cabinet that we rarely use, it will make that soap fluff into soap powder!!!!     Since all the other items of this concoction are all powder (and crystals for the smell good) it made since.

Helix Paint Mixer
Also in Bobbi’s post, she indicates that she layered the items into a big bucket and then mixed it up.    Being a man, I knew there must be a better way, I mean, who has all the time to go back and forth between all those boxes time and time again.  After a quick trip to the garage, I came back with my trusty 18v cordless drill, and a never used Workforce5-Gallon Helix Paint Mixer.

With the bucket on the floor and the drill in my hand, I made quick work of blending all the detergenty goodness into a final product that is well blended, smells good, and took me just a few, tireless minutes to concoct.

Final run down of suggestions for the origianl post:

  • Microwave Fels or Zote soap.
  • Blend resulting soap fluff
  • Use Paint Mixer to Mix it up.
  • Bask in the glory of your ingenuity for days to come.

 

 

Fat Shaming – Do it to me!!!

I was thinking about an app that would publicly call me out for not going to the gym, or in my case, CrossFit. With a little looking around, i found it. Its called Gym Shamer and unless I check in on FourSquare at the Gym, its going to post my laziness on Twitter and Facebook.

If you happen to see these post, feel free to join in the shaming.

Lets see how this works out.

Transunion Reps are Jerks

I’ve been working with my mom to see about buying a house. In doing so, this task requires us to know what type of information is on her credit report. Knowing what is on the report before the bank pulls it allows us to be prepared to address any issues that may be on that report, fairly common stuff.

In pulling the report, we realize that Mom’s report has tons of stuff that doesn’t belong to her. Most people will immediately jump to ‘FRAUD’ or ‘STOLEN IDENTITY’ but that is not the case. It turns out that Mom has doppelgänger, well at least in name. This young lady used to live 3 blocks away from Mom, and for some odd reason, all three credit reporting agencies decided these two ladies were one in the same, thus combining their reports. I’m not even sure whats the point of using a Social Security Number, if they don’t even compare them.

Having gone through the actions to undo the perils of my youth to my credit a few years ago, I am familiar with the processes to get the corrections made. In this case, we initiated an online dispute for each agency. One of the agencies, Equifax, indicated that the ‘Same Name – Different Person’ dispute would be better handled on the phone. Mom and I organized a time for a conference call to get these things squared away. While we were on the line, we decided to call all three agencies to see if we could get some quicker action, and it turns out, we could. Equifax and Experian both made the process smooth as glass for us, and neither minded that we were on a conference call dealing with the issues. I would venture to guess that each of these calls lasted less than 15 minutes.

And then comes TransUnion. When we finally reached someone, I started talking to the agent on the other end. When he ask my first name I indicated that I was calling for my mother, who was also on the line. The agent, with a certain degree of rudeness, informed us that he could not talk to us while on a conference call. I asked him why, to which his answer was that he could not continue the call while on a conference call. He wouldn’t even answer my question.

Being that I work in the call center industry, and my mom is a customer service representative for an insurance agency, we both have extensive experience with how telephony customer service should be, and this was not it. When presented with this type of situation that the consumer does not understand, it is generally a good idea to explain the company policy, and possible the reasoning behind it. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the course he took.

I’ll play his game. I indicated to him I was going to tell him our stated problem ,and I would leave the call. Being the savvy, telecom software engineer that I am, I pressed the Mute button. After I ‘left the call’ the agent was still very short and quite unpleasant with my mother. While he did address her needs, it was possibly the most unpleasant experience I’ve had on the phone in as far back as I can remember.

Has anyone else had this type of treatment from custom service agents?

Wikileaks: A letter from a son to his parents

I found this letter on Reddit from a guy to his parents about the Wikileaks situation. Nat and I just read it together and are both pretty in-step with the points this guy makes, so for your reading pleasure:

I know you may not like Wikileaks and view what they did as irresponsible and harmful. I want to take the time to give you all a second opinion on the situation. I want to express why I feel the media is horribly misrepresenting this issue. I have heard in news reports the accusations of Wikileaks being a hacker organization or indiscriminately leaking 250,000 diplomatic cables. They have been blatantly lying about leaks themselves, Wikileaks, and Julian Assange.

Let’s get the facts straight before jumping to conclusions or forming opinions. Wikileaks is a journalist organization who’s mission is to help whistleblowers remain anonymous. Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, is the site’s public figure. Here’s a short list of previous publishings that wikileaks has been lauded for:

  • Systematic killings and disappearances by the Kenyan Government; this leak changed the Kenyan election.
  • Illegal Cayman Island activities of the Swiss Bank Julius Baer.
  • Mass corruption in the Icelandic government just prior to the economic collapse
  • Iranian nuclear facility accident (related to the Stuxnet worm)

These exposures were from information that other people leaked to wikileaks. Wikileaks does not go out and steal documents, they are given information from a source just like any other news organization. Again, Wikileaks’s goal is to help whistleblowers remain anonymous while making their information public.

Private Bradley Manning downloaded the 250,000 cables and other documents from his army computer. He then leaked those file to wikileaks within the last year. After the leak, Manning was turned in after admitting to it to hacker Adrian Lamo. He was arrested and charged with the crime, he is currently being held in a military prison in the U.S.

Of the 250,000 diplomatic cables, over 130,000 are unclassified, 100,000 are confidential, and 15,000 are secret. Nothing is rated top secret. Wikileaks passed these cables along to several major news organizations and did not release them publicly. The news organizations then, after reading and analysing them, publicly released about 300 of the cables. After they were posted by The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and El Pais did Wikileaks make only those 300 cables available on their website. The release has been proceeding in this fashion with Wikileaks publishing the cables after they are made public by the mainstream media. So far, out of 250,000 cables only 1,200 have been released.

Wikileaks is not leaking this information, the information is leaked to them. They are not hacking government computers and stealing files. They have not publicly released any of these cables, they are hosting 1,200 cables which had been publicly released by other news organizations.

So, if you think the cable releases were irresponsible and someone should be punished, I have to ask why should it be Assange and Wikileaks? Surely the responsible party was Manning himself, who is facing very serious punishment for the laws he broke. If you still blame Wikileaks for facilitating the leaks and making them public, would not The New York Times (which is actually a U.S. based company) be more complicit in the act?

And then there are the ludicrous allegations against Julian Assange. In almost every report on TV I have heard it said that he is facing rape charges in Sweden. Yet another lie. There are two charges from two women in Sweden from his visit to a conference. The first woman was organizing the event, and offered to let him stay at her apartment while he was in Sweden. During his stay they had consensual sex and the condom had split. She explained what STDs were and how to get tested, and he refused. At the conference he met the second woman. They later went out and had dinner and saw a movie. The saw each other the next day. They had sex at her apartment that night. She said she had asked him to wear a condom, but he refused. The next morning she made him breakfast before he had left. The charges are that he had consensual sex without a condom, yet he is being smeared as an alleged rapist. I would like to ask, since when is having sex without a condom grounds for an Interpol international arrest warrant, or being held without bail on extradition charges in the UK where what he did is not a crime?

What about the documents themselves, how irresponsible was this leak? I hear that these cables will compromise our national security and set our foreign policy back decades. These are the same people who say Assange should be hunted down and assassinated as a terrorist, as if extra-judicial killings are perfectly reasonable. Sarah Palin said ignorantly that he should be charged with treason, as if someone who is not a U.S. citizen could commit treason against the U.S. Of course I should reiterate that Bradley Manning is the person who comprised our very lax national security, but that is besides the point.

I do understand threats to national security are real, but there is a big difference between national security and foreign policy. These are exchanges between diplomats, nowhere are intimate military details or defense secrets discussed. And, had we found such discussion, that would show diplomats clearly overstepping their authority and acting illegally. Even if this does hurt our foreign reputation, that in no way entails compromising our national security. This is why we separate diplomats and military. If there is a threat to our national security, it is the miserable state of computer security that allowed Manning to leak the documents. But there are no calls for their heads.

Many people on both sides of this issue agree that this will hurt America’s foreign reputation. Some of those opposing Wikileaks say Assange should be charged for hurting our foreign reputation. This is a very dangerous idea that needs to be attacked. This is a direct argument for political censorship, prosecuting someone for embarrassing the government, and I cannot believe it is being called for in the United States. I want to remind you that the majority of the cables are unclassified and available to the public by request. Had the New York Times requested all unclassified diplomatic cables and published the most embarrassing ones, should they be charged for embarrassing the government? What about when Watergate or the Pentagon Papers broke loose, those certainly embarrassed the government, but I don’t know anyone who objects to them.

When you call for political censorship, you are setting a trap for yourself. The question raised is this: who is going to be the censor? To whom do you award the job of deciding what you can and cannot read. To whom do you trust in relieving you of the responsibility of determining, for yourself, what is harmful to hear? Thoreau asks us, why possess our own conscience if we are going to relegate moral responsibility to someone else.

Well we chose our faithful servants and we relegated our responsibilities, and now we get to see what has come of that. And what is revealed? To no surprise we find the State Secrets Privilege horribly abused. The majority of the confidential cables that have been released do not meet the criteria for being classified in the first place. Nor was there any judicial oversight to their classification. More to the point, we were betrayed the minute the State Secrets Privilege was granted. The case U.S. vs Reynolds, where it originated in 1953, involved widows seeking accident reports for the B-29 crash where their husbands had died. The government claimed that the reports contained sensitive information the would risk our national security. In 2000, the accident report was finally declassified. There were no secret mission details as claimed, only embarrassing information about the poor condition of the airplane. That is the license for government secrets, but do we hear about that every time the privilege is invoked?

Now we get to see this practice of lying and misinforming the public institutionalized on a grand scale. And yet where are the news reports about this revelation? We do not hear much about what the cables actually say. Do we hear about political pressure stopping a trial in Madrid against 3 U.S. soldiers who killed an innocent reporter? Do we hear about pressure stopping CIA agents from going to trial for kidnapping an innocent German citizen then torturing him for months in Afghanistan? Do we hear about how Pfizer lobbied to avoid clinical trial payouts? Do we hear about our tax dollars paying for “bacha bazi” which is child prostitution where “young boys are dressed up in women’s clothing, forced to dance for leering men, and then sold for sex to the highest bidder.” No, the real crimes being committed are being swept under the rug.

Yes, the cable disclosures may be very embarrassing for the government, but that’s because our government does some really embarrassing things. The most embarrassing of which was to completely fail the public in protecting these secrets in the first place. Julian Assange and Wikileaks are not the criminals here. They are providing us with the transparency our government has been promising for decades, and I hope you will not let them be used as a scapegoat.

Original Post from Reddit