I am a successful IT professional. I got my start in the 90s, answering phones at an independent ISP and getting folks online with their new modems. This was a great age when folks had a choice of any number of Internet SERVICE Providers who could help them get up and running on AT&T’s local telephone infrastructure.
To this very day, I use the DSL option available from the local Internet Service Provider (Sonic) over AT&T’s wires. I use this despite the fiber optic cable AT&T has hung on the pole in front of my house. Fiber would be so, so much faster, but I’m not going to pay for it until I have a CHOICE of providers, like Sonic, who has always been great about answering the phone and taking care of my Internet SERVICE needs.
Competitive services were the foundation of my career in IT. I believe they were a strong foundation to get Americans online in the first place. Competitive services are, in my opinion, REQUIRED, if you want to get Americans on to modern network technology today.
Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Junior Day, a national holiday, Black Lives Matter protesters briefly shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge in one direction. I smiled at that. A traffic snarl on a holiday commemorating a great activist caused by today’s ambitious activists: what is not to love?
But today on the drive in they were discussing it on Forum and people kept calling in to complain about how yeah sure they support black people and they think it is okay to protest but not, heck forbid, if it is disruptive. “Who do these people think they are? They’re not going to win me over with tactics like that!”
“Hooray for Our Side”
Dan Brekke, also of KQED, posted a piece with some historical perspective, and recounted how his Uncle Bill Hogan, once a Catholic Priest, had participated in a very similar protest in Chicago, blocking a highway into the city, on a Tuesday, May 9, 1972. He remarked that the Vietnam War ultimately ended, but that the protest in question was only one of very very many.
I got to thinking of the first time I ever engaged in a protest. Just a few days over twenty five years ago, on January 16, 1991. To quote an article by Charles Leroux in The Chicago Tribune:
“Cara Brigandi, 16, a junior at Lincoln Park High School, said she led a movement of Lincoln Park students to walk out of school and protest. Organizers gave students their marching orders when they came to school Tuesday morning. Fliers were passed out urging students to leave classes about 10 a.m. That effort mushroomed into a march down North Avenue to Lake Shore Drive and then to the Loop. Along the way, Lincoln Park students say they picked up students from the Latin School of Chicago, and William Jones Metropolitan High School. By about 12:30, approximately 200 students were in front of City Hall.”
I remember getting the flyer at the school door. I remember that moment when the time came and every student had to ask themselves whether they were going to stick with class or step outside. I remember looking out the window to see a growing crowd inviting us to join them and then the moment I decided to join other teenage kids running down the stairs to break a first taboo. After some cheering and whatnot, the crowd headed down the street. The cops managed to break the crowd in two, with the folks in the back returning to school. Those of us toward the front were soon walking through a Chicago winter day down a highway on-ramp and on to Lake Shore Drive: two lanes of students, one more lane of police cars, buffering us, and another lane of mid-morning traffic squeezing by, many cheering us on.
“Hell no, we won’t go,” the protesters chanted. And: “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your (bleeping) war. Five, six, seven, eight, we will not cooperate.” Among the crowd were many non-students who had protested the Vietnam War. With that war, “it took years before there was this kind of protest,” said Lester McNeely, 37, of Oak Park, a member of the West Side Peace Coalition.
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
I’ve come a long way from being a chanting high school kid walking down LSD … I own a house in the suburbs!? I guess I’m in a place where I can suggest to others of my social class that there is a time for order, but there is also a time for action, however messy, disorganized, inchoate, and perhaps even self-defeating.
If it is Martin Luther King Day, and your trip across the Bay Bridge from the Chocolate City of Oakland into the Liberal Mecca of San Francisco gets delayed by people who are angry about cops murdering black kids, well, I would suggest that whether you agree with the protest or not, this is a perfect time to roll down the window, raise your fist in the air, and express your opinion.
Today marks the completion of the 40th trip of this body around the local star. A momentous milestone for the resident being. I spent the weekend with my wife and son, riding the train down to Santa Barbara and back, a pretty little beach town where we visited the zoo and ate ice cream together.
Most likely, I’ll be around another 40 years, or more, but really: who knows? Every day I wake up with my health and my loved ones is a blessing.
The trip has been good. Tommy did pretty well, and the scenery along the way has had a lot of that intense emerald green the dry parts of California get after some good winter rains. The view along the coast near Santa Barbara is worth the long train ride.
I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for my job and ability to earn a living. I am grateful to be living at what honestly seems to be a very promising time in the history of our species. Life will not always be so great for this being, and in time, my life will end. I am grateful for the time I have had, and the time I have yet, and that I get to experience a little part of our collective adventure.
We had company over Wednesday evening. Friends of the family who have cat-sat for us. They brought dim sum. After dinner we sat around chatting. I got a call on my mobile from a 408 number. I took it.
“Are you the owner of Maxwell?”
“I am. Is he causing trouble?”
It was the opposite. I grabbed a cardboard box and hustled down to the corner, where a small crowd had gathered. The woman who had called me said he had been standing in the street, looking the other way, when the car hit him. He died instantly. She removed him from the street and found my number on the tag. We hugged. She was obviously a cat person, who was glad that he had a collar, a bell, and an identification tag.
I brought him home. He rested briefly where his feline companion Maggie took a last opportunity to groom him. The young woman who drove the car and her father came by to express their remorse and see if they could make amends, but there was nothing to be done. The young woman was in tears. She wants to be a veterinarian. The Father remembers dogs who had been lost to cars. We agreed that the Humane Society might receive a donation. We shook hands several times. What a way to meet the neighbors.
Maxwell napping in the front yard in June.
In the back yard, a shallow grave was dug. Maxwell was wrapped in a familiar fabric, and lain to rest. Words were said.
It will take some time to feel his absence and truly mourn his departure. He might have lived a much longer life as a house cat, but he loved the outdoors and was well known in the neighborhood. He lived as he chose and while his end was violent, it was swift and he did not suffer.
Earlier this week, Yahoo! unveiled a new and improved Flickr! !! A radical new redesign, which, while kind of slick to look at, totally steamrolls all the narrative features that many Flickr users like me love. Time will tell if Yahoo will backpedal enough to let us old-timers see our photos in the ways we like. Given that the new business model appears to be ditching the user subscription model for ads ads ads I am not optimistic.
Tommy smiles at his father photographer.
Enter Iperntity, a 7-person outfit in Cannes, FR which appears to have cloned the Flickr interface back in 2007 and have since moved in the direction of building it into a site where you not only manage and share your photos, but you can also write stories, and keep track of the friends you have on the site. Basically, a little outfit building something like Flickr into what Flickr might have become had Yahoo! not spent the past decade neglecting it. In a way, it is even giving us the core sharing features that people like about Facebook, without all the skeeviness. (Or … critical mass.)
I miss the nice drag-and-drop web uploader that flickr recently launched
The site feels a bit short of snappy … not dog slow, just not snappy … to be sure, they’re seeing a spike in load
The first thing that really makes me smile is that by default the photo lists the date taken, rather than date uploaded … that always frustrated me about Flickr
I of course opted for their 3-month paid service. Once the Collections feature comes online then I reckon there is a very good chance I’ll migrate my data from Flickr and sign up for their two year plan.
It is just nice to discover that there is new technology waiting in the wings when the big megacorp decides to shoot its product in the foot.
I have been excited to see what might come of Yahoo! with Marissa Meyers at the helm. I am really glad to see that, after years of stagnation, Flickr has been improving. Free food and smartphones for employees? Sounds swell. But the buzz now is that there shall be no more remote work. The only way to be productive is to come to the office and feel the buzz and bounce ideas off coworkers.
I am happy to point out that, while we don’t get free smartphones or free food, my employer does issue remote employees with a hardware VPN device that provides corporate wifi, and a videophone. And we are hiring.
In my experience as a non-management technical professional, there is some virtue both to working from home, and to working at the office. The office presents great opportunities for collaboration: working through ideas and solving problems. Working from home, for some people, provides an excellent space to focus on getting some work done without interruption. You can get more hours of productive work when your commute is shortened to a walk across the dining room, and when there’s no pressure to quit at a certain time to appease the demands of the train schedule or traffic.
For some people, there’s no place like the office . . . some people can do better work from home, some people do not. Managers and executives, the bulk of whose work is meeting with others to make collaborative decisions . . . it seems that they may take several meetings from home and when they get to the office they feel uncomfortable that the busy hum of productive creative energy isn’t located there. I believe that managers who can structure the working and communication practices of their teams to effectively collaborate and track work progress without requiring a physical presence have an advantage over those who can not.
I live near the office and frequently collaborate with my manager, so most days I make the trip in. Sometimes when I need to focus on a project, or work with a remote time zone, I’ll commute to the home office. I have been with Cisco for over five years, now. I spent one of those years in New York, and my tenure here would have been much shorter without the flexibility to telecommute.
Leonard Kleinrock tells the story of the Internet’s birth. First word was LO:
And then, he shows us the world’s first router, which they were going to throw out:
My first experience of the Internet was a 1200 baud dialup connection to a USENET host that connected upstream twice a day at 2400 baud. That would have been around 1992 or 1993. (I was a broke highschool kid who couldn’t afford the $30/mo+ for a proper Internet connection.) My first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org, and I lost that address when my network uplink failed to pay his phone bill. Oh well!
When I started college in January, 1995, and had access to labs and labs and labs of computers directly connected via Ethernet, with Mosaic and Netscape installed, it was like I had found my Nerd Nirvana! It only got better when I took a C programming course on the Sun workstations in the basement of the DCL . . .
Dad gives a thumbs up from the driver's seat of a VW bus I rented on Oahu.
Some of my fondest memories of my Dad involve long expeditions in a VW bus. I rented a VW camper bus for a few days on Oahu, and had him pose. Given Dad’s health challenges these past years, to see him make it to Hawaii for the wedding and to enjoy the scenery in an old Volkswagen . . . that’s a good time.
Some folks are irritated with American reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden. Julie indicated that she had mixed feelings upon seeing our “own countrymen basically holding a frat party outside of the White House, hanging off of trees and singing ‘Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye!'” I have heard others moan that this doesn’t change anything, why are we celebrating?
So, I expressed my own feelings in a comment on Julie’s blog:
I was happy about the news yesterday, and I still am. We killed a bad guy who has devoted his life to killing us. That is a victory, and I am proud and glad.
When the crowd outside the White House gathered and sang the Star Spangled Banner, it brought a tear to my eye. Then, America the Beautiful. People gathered at Ground Zero for a candle light vigil. In both places, the crowd chanted “USA! USA! USA!” They spoke for me.
I think it is debatable who kills the most Muslims. Our military adheres to Rules of Engagement that put them at greater risk in order to protect Muslim civilians. On the other hand, extremists recruit the young and naive to walk into crowds of Muslims wearing explosive vests.
We are not perfect and we shouldn’t pretend to be. We make mistakes, we kill innocents, and we have failed to hold ourselves to our own standards of humane treatment of prisoners and jurisprudence.
We are drawing down forces in Iraq, which has changed from a brutal dictatorship built on terror to a messy, unstable, imperfect democracy vulnerable to sectarian violence. We now have one less reason to linger in Afghanistan, which may help motivate the government there to get its act together.
Last night was progress. America done good and a bit of pride is perfectly reasonable.
I mean, its no Moon Landing. No sincere attempt to curb global warming or end world poverty, hunger, disease . . . but it is progress and I’ll celebrate it just the same.
You never forget your first computer.
For Christmas of 1984, Grandpa gave us a
Commodore 64. A couple years later we
got a disk drive, and eventually we even
had a printer. Before the disk drive we
had to buy programs on cartridge, or
type them in to the basic interpreter
line by line. Mostly I just played
Eventually we got a modem, and I could
talk to BBSes at 300 baud in 40 glorious
columns. (Most BBSes assumed
80-columns.) I was happier when I got a
1200 baud modem for my Amiga, which
could display 80 columns of text.
In my second year of college I
discovered the joy of C programming on
Unix workstations, which led to my
present career as a Unix SysAdmin. I
spend my days juggling multiple windows
of text, generally at least 80x24. /djh
Fans in Mountain View Celebrate India's World Cup Victory
As I was walking home from the cafe I encountered a growing crowd of shouting, chanting, singing folks waving Indian flags. I googled “Indian Holidays” on my smart phone, then thought to google “India cricket” and it turns out India has just beaten Sri Lanka to win the World Cup.
In my Sophomore year of college I was paired with a roommate from India. Tarun was a very serious EE major who left the room for only three things: 1) classes, 2) meals and 3) the India-Pakistan cricket match. He was a nice guy but since he was always studying in the room he wasn’t an ideal roommate.
Indian ex-pats I meet tend to be really serious, smart, hard-working people, so it is nice to see a crowd of folks reveling in a collective emotional experience. This is a great moment for anyone who has moved so far from home to make their life.
I’m trying to get a better handle on my “spending cash” which is managed through my personal account and credit cards. Most “needs” type expenses are covered through our joint finances, so the personal account is mostly discretionary. The problem is I want to reduce my personal credit card debt, and these days the personal account doesn’t get much money to play with, which means I need to be smart and aware with my discretionary income.
About a decade ago I tried managing my spending by writing the date on a series of $20 bills. If I was breaking a bill with today’s date on it, things were going alright. If I was breaking yesterday’s date, I was doing well, and if I was spending a bill with a future date on it . . . well, time to cut back, eh?
This time around I’m thinking to allow myself $10/day. ATMs don’t give out tens, and these days I make some small purchases with the credit card, so I’ll try a different solution: a Google Spreadsheet!
I thought it might be neat to share the progress here, in case other folks are curious to see how this experiment works. You should be able to see the results tally up over the course of the month on the right.
This is by no means a comprehensive thing: I’m not tracking automatic withdrawals (charity, web hosting) or interest on the cards: I’m merely trying to keep my personal spending (the “burn rate”) in check by maintaining an awareness of what’s up. This is pretty much lunch money, small gifts, and entertaining the sweetheart. My rule is going to be that any personal spending I have to initiate I will track. So, I’ll count the $50 mobile phone bill, for the sake of a healthy challenge.
Technical note: I don’t know for spreadsheets, but the formula for setting up the balance column was to start at cell D3 with this formula:
This basically means that if the date (A3) on this row is filled in, add the amount (C3) to the previous total (D2). I was then able to “copy” that cell, multi-select all the cells below, and “paste” and the formula got updated each row, as my Excel Guru colleague expected.
My first experience of “Idaho” was hitching a ride to the Rainbow Family campground in Wyoming in a car with Idaho plates driven by a lady who took sips from the bottle of beer she kept pressed between her legs. At which point I concluded that Idaho must be Awesome.
Mind you I haven’t been fooled in to actually going to Idaho.
Some fantasies are best left untainted by reality.
Heck, let us jump upon the social media bandwagon. If you don’t “get” Twitter then I’d say that Twitter is pretty much what you make of it. And for me, that’s a distraction where I can pop in and see if anyone I follow has come up with anything entertaining to say, and I can share a thoughtlet of what is on my mind, and then as quick as it came, Twitter is gone and I’m back to the rest of my day.
The following are entertaining bits I have seen fit to “re-tweet” and share with others during 2010, and now I’ll share them with you.
I took Mei to Europe. We visited London, Paris, Lyon, Rome, and Venice. Then the volcano erupted in Iceland, so we visited Florence, and camped out at Lido, near Rome’s airport.
We also made it out to visited Dad and Gwen in Colorado, and Mom and Grandma visited us in Brooklyn.
Poland lost much of its executive branch in a plane crash, and BP began spilling oil into the gulf of Mexico.
Mei learned to ride a bicycle. I got to tour the New York’s abandoned “City Hall” subway station. We began fostering two older “rescue” kittens, Maxwell and Maggie, in an attempt to “socialize” them to living with people. Mei’s folks visited to attend her graduation from residency, and a week later I took her to Coney Island.
On May 19, a young man, Ronald Glover, was murdered around the corner from our apartment. BP continued spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico.
One weekend after brunching at Two Boots in Park Slope, Mei and I were walking through Prospect Park. I asked her to stop, got down on a knee and asked if she would marry me. With tears in her eyes, she accepted my proposal, and we kissed.
BP continued spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico, while we watched world football games on television.
Mei and I trekked to Hoboken, New Jersey, to watch the fireworks.
In Oakland, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle received a light sentence of manslaughter for his shooting death of Oscar Grant. Oakland, to its credit, failed to riot. Mid-way through the month, BP stopped spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico.
As Mei was finished with her residency, and I was still employed by a San Jose-based company, we prepared for our move back to Northern California.
ROAD TRIP! We drove all of our belongings in a Penske rent-a-truck from New York City to Mountain View, CA, stopping in Chicago and Pueblo, CO along the way.
So, how does working from home compare with working from the office? Working from home allows greater productivity, because you skip the commute and can just grind away for several hours with few interruptions. It can also get a bit lonely at times. At the office, I’m not as productive as I was at the home office, but I get more opportunities to collaborate with colleagues: sharing skills and refining ideas. I’d say that for technology, a 40-80% telecommute could be ideal, but I haven’t had the chance to experiment, as our first Mountain View apartment was a one-bedroom.
The landlord never answered my letter, but instead filed a civil suit of unlawful detainer against us. I talked to a bunch of people in Virginia to establish that they had made a billing error and undercharged our November rent, and they wanted me to pay the difference, plus a late fee, plus re-pay the December rent, plus their legal fees. I talked to some lawyers who indicated that we had a good case, so I compiled an answer, and am looking forward to the hearing.
However, the stress of worrying over an eviction proceeding over the holidays was a bit much, so we took the opportunity to seek out and move to a bigger apartment in a nicer complex. Since nobody wants to move the week before Christmas, they gave us the first month’s rent free.
Mei was notified that she had passed the medical Board Exam for which she had been studying since finishing her residency. To say that she was elated would be an understatement.
Congress repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and there was much rejoicing.
We made it home to Chicago for the holidays. There was much eating and visiting family and friends.