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isn't quite ashamed enough to present

jr conlin's ink stained banana

:: The Process of Process

For a while, there was a fad for software engineers to rebel against “Process”.

They hated the fact that there were rules and procedures for things and wanted the freedom to make code. They wanted to run free among the linkers and cuddle up to garbage collectors, i presume.

Yeah, i wasn’t one of those types.

You see, i also cook. i understand that a good meal generally doesn’t happen by wandering into the kitchen and seeing what happens. It involves thinking about what meals you’re going to eat up to a week ago when you’re making a grocery list. It involves setting up a clean workspace, making sure tools are ready, and performing the steps. Mind you, while there’s some “drudgery”, it’s not much, and hey, there’s meat, fire & knives, so that’s a bonus.

But yeah, one of the keys of good, actually fun, cooking is that “organization will set you free”. Having ingredients ready to go when you need them is amazing. Pinch dishes are cheap as hell and make your life so, so much better. (You can get dozens at the local Goodwill or Dollar Store for just a few bucks.)

So, yeah, it makes sense that you have some level of process for coding. You want to understand what you’re building, have the tools and tests set up, and then have check lists so you don’t forget something. Because if you don’t you ABSOLUTELY will forget something. Plus, having a checklist is one less thing to spend precious memory dealing with. Heck, pilots have lots of them, and frankly, they help them stay focused on, you know, flying.

Of course, no process is ever really finalized and all process is subject to review and updating. You should never have to fight a process, it should be smooth and nearly second nature. If a process doesn’t work, it should be changed.

Sorry, just spent some time creating some additional process in order to capture data that we were ignoring because we forgot to capture it.

Granted, getting folks to follow process is harder.

:: Fuck it.

Right. So, the assholes have won.

Doesn’t matter where you are, because there’s a lot of assholes and they’ve managed to win. In many respects, i should be proud of them. They’ve worked long and hard to get to the top. They’ve been determined and focused and frankly, it’s paid off for them. So, yeah, now they get to do their happy dances and tell the rest of the world to “Suck it up, buttercup!”

They’re in charge.

Let’s be clear. The assholes didn’t win by fluke. It wasn’t just random chance. It was effort that was spent over the last 30 years or so. In the case of the US, this was an entire generation spent planning their win. This was a long game that started after Reagan (yeah, wasn’t a fan then, not a fan now). Still, while family farms failed and we held mega concerts to bail them out, and his cabinet introduced supply side economics that pretty much got the whole wealth inequity business off like a rocket, and we spent insane money on woo-woo defense projects, he was built up as a minor god.

Don’t get me wrong. i benefited from the Reagan years. My family was doing defense contracting in those years and Reagan basically paid for my college years and my parents retirement. But the way he ended the Cold War was to make Russia realize there was no way in hell they could out-spend us. Wonder why our debt is still insanely high? Hi, mister Reagan!

And this is where i point out that all the Gen X folk who’ve been so damn quiet fit rather nicely into that 30 year generation. Behold, the fruits of their labor. Behold the generation of helicopter parents that gave us the “Participation Trophies” we all derided. Behold the (confederate) flag wavin’, “i ain’t PC”, Reagan worshipers who have given us the Alt-Right. Behold the generation that found “Long Duk Dong” hi-larious.

So, instead of following more fantasies about how “we can correct this problem”, screw it. Look, these folks wanted to burn down “the system”. They’re not reasonable. They don’t think about long term consequences, only the concept of “winning”. They are 100% sure they’re being totally rational and justified in being horrible to other humans because They Won.

So, what can we expect? Well, presume unemployment will go up, particularly in media organizations. These include things like the Internet. If you’ve not already carved out your multi-billion dollar homestead on the digital frontier, expect that it’ll be shut down either by competition, regulation, or just relegated to the dustbin. “Fake News” will be anything that deviates from the declared narrative, so “independent” sites will get shut down fairly regularly.

Oh, yeah, don’t expect to be able to use Tor, Signal or VPNs. Those will be filtered by either Comcast or AT&T for any number of reasons. (i had originally said “Your ISP”, but yeah, who’s kidding anyone?) Why wouldn’t you want to use your daily Facebook Allowance, citizen?

Protesting? Yeah, that won’t really make a difference either. Nobody will notice because the assholes won’t talk about it or let anyone know. How much discussion was there about what happened in North Dakota? (And don’t even think that’s actually over and done, yet.) Heck, these are folks who think the Chinese have the right idea. You might feel good about yourself or even take some level of pride in the idea that you were arrested for “Standing Up”. When historians discover your actions in 75 years, i expect that they’ll probably note it.

Expect whatever money you have to go away. You’ll have income, and might even get a stipend, but then, so did the peasants, so at least there’s a precedent, but unless you’ve got a few tens of millions readily available, you’re not livin’ in the manor house. What income you have will be lost to inflation, health care, and the like.

Granted, now’s a pretty awful time to buy up beach real estate, but a fantastic time to sell it, but you already knew that.

Frankly, if you want to see what things are going to be like, just look to Poland.

So, what to do?

Well, for one, i plan on trying to continue to act much like i had. i’m nice to people mostly for selfish reasons. (i like to be around happy people.) “Weirdos” and “Freaks” are more interesting than assholes, so i’ll prefer and promote their company when possible. i’ll secure my information as best i can for the same reasons i’ve done it for years. i’ll generally pay cash for things, use bogus affiliate information, and reduce my footprint as much as possible. i’ll watch news from other countries because the assholes they suck up to are different than the assholes here.

i’ll use various forms of encryption for stuff i give a crap about, and anything really important gets put on paper, only. If i have something crucial to tell someone, i’ll make sure that i either tell them directly (face to face) or use a trusted agent. Like i’ve done for years. Turns out, there’s centuries of rules and protocol around real, paper documents that hasn’t reflected into digital ones. Plus, message encryption is pretty good.

i plan on having fun trying to find ways to turn the system on itself. Assholes have proven that they can be played like those wind-up monkeys with cymbals. Just need to find the right keys to let ’em go. Unsubstantiated rumor that aligns with most of their core beliefs with just enough subversion to cast doubt seems like a pretty good, well trod road. Bet it might be useful in the wrong hands.

i am absolutely not giving in to hope. Hope is a drug that keeps you from acting. No need to go full Nihilist, but it’s important to separate wishful thinking from reality. Best to plan for the worst and enjoy the delightful surprise the rare times you’re wrong. Know what does work? Anger. The driving desire to make people as miserable as they are intent to do to you. Frustrate them at every opportunity. Make them angry. Use that anger against themselves. Call ’em “Liberals” because they are about as far from real, honest Conservatism than you can unreasonably get. (They’re defending Russia and China? The birthplace of communism? Where Big Government is absolutely the rule? Shut up you liberal idiot.)

Best thing to do is be an asshole to assholes. Find ways to ruin their fun. Delight in pointing out when things go horribly wrong for them, because assholes don’t understand empathy, science or really anything other than reaction, so yeah, things are going to go horribly wrong. i have no interest in being “better than them” or “an example they can learn from”. i’ve been down that road. Doesn’t happen. When their crops fail or wells get poisoned, they need to just “Suck it up, Buttercup. Your side won.”

:: Tech Tips from My Family

i get it. i’m weird. i understand tech and how it is used and abused. i’m pretty much no longer “in touch” with the modern denizen of the digital frontier suburban sprawl complete with too many Starbucks, nothing but chain restaurants, and both a Walmart and Target across the street from each other. That digital domain.

i’m willing to believe that my long suffering wife, who’s been dealing with my special brand of paranoia for more than two decades, is also no longer “in touch”. She’s been corrupted and is no longer the perfect bellwether for the general population.

That’s why i appreciate watching my family over the holidays.

My father in law has multiple sheets of paper with various online accounts and one of three passwords scrawled on them. He carries those papers everywhere he brings his computer. Recently, he decided to create a document to hold the latest, corrected versions of his passwords.

Mind you, i showed him, repeatedly, how to get the browser to auto-complete passwords so he wouldn’t have to write those down. i showed him where he could go to see the list of all the accounts and passwords.

i printed out the password list, then secured the document with one of the three passwords he uses on all of those sites.

He couldn’t remember which one it was, so he was going to write it down.

i removed the password from the file.

He has horrible, albeit reasonably secure passwords. Telling him to use a password manager is useless. He doesn’t have the behaviors to even make that feasible, nor will he ever.

My sister-in-law pretty much lives on Facebook. i would be deeply astounded if she had any other app on her phone, including one to make calls or show the date. Facebook doesn’t need to create a phone, they already have millions of them.

These are people who don’t understand privacy or why it matters. They don’t understand security or even how to do it. i could tell my father in law that what he’s doing is the equivalent of putting a spare house key in a planter, but he does that too. i could tell my sister in law that facebook uses all of that information to sell her ads, if she didn’t talk about the great deals she got on stuff.

These are people who click and open anything that’s sent to them. They do all the stuff that gives me nightmares and see no problem. i’ve tried to talk to them earnestly and they, frankly, don’t care.

Kinda sad, but at this point, they’re not really welcome on my network. Much the same way that i think i might not be invited back if i used all the guest towels and flushed the entire roll of toilet paper in every bathroom. They get to use the “kiddie” network. The one that i put any untrusted device i don’t want getting access to my live network.

This is how an army of web cameras took out most of the internet. This is why there are vast botnets at the command of criminal organizations and why ransomware is a thing, and i harbor little if any hope that things will improve. We’re giving highly capable computers with open credentials to folks who proudly refuse to read the manual “quick start” guides.

The internet was built like how the freeway system was. There’s redundancy, and routing, but also there was a basic assumption that most folks would at least try to follow the rules. Yeah, that’s not happening. Instead we’ve wound up with something more akin to Mad Max where everyone is texting behind the wheel or fishing out a fry from the back seat.

And here i thought that political discussions were what would make me sad this year.

:: Anger Issues

First off, i’m going to lead with this. It’s sweary, so wear headphones if you need to, but regardless of your opinion on the outcome of the 2016 election, you need to watch this:

Trump and Clinton weren’t the problem. They’re both symptoms. Nearly half of the registered voters didn’t bother to vote because neither were appealing enough to do so. (Yes, voter suppression is a real thing and that played a part of the low turn-out, but not all 100,000,000 people were suppressed. A good percent just didn’t want to vote.)

And it wasn’t just the “ignorant poors” that voted for Trump, he had votes across the spectrum, including from minorities and women. Folks are angry. Folks aren’t being heard. This is what angry ignored people do.

Because both sides continually do the same damn thing. We shout at each other. We dismiss any reason that the other side might hold an opinion we disagree with. We’re all delusional from crap like confirmation bias, “No True Scotsman” bias, Learned Helplessness and pretty much all the stuff you can read and listen to about here. And i mean everyone. Myself included. Because i am a mammal that has a brain.

i lived in Baltimore and West Virginia. In my very limited experience, i’ve seen systems work against people for decades. Poverty is very real and not what you think. So is disenfranchisement. People have reasons for their actions and beliefs.

Look, right now, as a country… hell, as a species… we have a huge problem. We’re isolated from each other. We’re building walls figurative and literal instead of doing what we’re best at, communicating. Hate comes from ignorance and fear, but it also comes from experience and frustration.

Turn off the media. It’s lying to you because getting you worked up gets you watching which gets them money from running boner pill ads. (Side note: go watch the news from sites like CBC, BBC and NHK. Ideally, all three. They got horses to run, but in completely different races.)

Find someone with a differing political opinion, and have a discussion, not a yelling match.
1) Find common ground as often as possible.
2) When they voice an opinion or statement you disagree with, find the root of the cause. Ask about experiences they had that lead to this belief. Do not dismiss it the way you wouldn’t want your beliefs dismissed.
3) Disagree, politely. Do not try to change their mind. Seek understanding not conversion.
4) If you can tell they’re getting agitated or threatened, take a break and discuss a neutral topic like favorite foods or weather or traffic. Again, find common ground.

Do this, because that’s what makes America Great.

And on that note:

Addendum:
Let me note that, yes, horrible acts by people embolded for the wrong reasons should be confronted and stopped. Those who are oppressed should be spoken for. It’s going to be messy, horrible, and there’s going to be a lot of tears.

There will also be people who do not want to talk and hold opinions and beliefs that are repugnant to you. You will not be able to talk to those people. There will be others, however, that are more reasonable. You will be able to talk to them.

Likewise, i fully recognize that i “look the part” and can speak to folks without raising too many hackles. That’s my goal at least. Understand what motivates and rationalizes the sort of things that lead to what we’re seeing. This is a cancer. You don’t take one pill to cure cancer. You take a lot and hope to hell you’re taking the right ones.

:: Full of Crap

It should be noted, to no one’s surprise and to the continually voiced proclamations of our elders, the world is full of crap.

There are precious few, truly, well made things, and most of those you are blissfully unaware of or barely ever willingly ever interact with. The things that are “not-crap” tend to include items like a light bulb in a Livermore fire station that has continued to burn for well over 100 years, or a dam created in the post-Depression era National Work Project years, which was completely overbuilt mostly because the goal was to get labor working, not save a few bucks.

Of course, “The more one understands something, the more one realizes how horribly broken that thing is” holds true and i’m gleefully unaware of how few lumens the light bulb casts or how little power the dam can generate.

That’s kind of my point, really. i’m also fully aware of my contributions to the huge amount of pervasive crap in the world.

At some point, societies innocence got the upper hand and we started believing that the people building our future were competent. They were the white coated geniuses who’s benevolence gifted us treasures from the future. Not only had they somehow crafted a bidet for our feline friends, but they allowed us to remotely monitor it through the interwebs and give Tiddles positive encouragement. What a wondrous future we live in!

At no time did anyone ask, about how this device is secured, if it’s properly constructed, or who would pay for the post encounter kitty therapy session. All of these are important questions that need to be asked by someone other than the claims adjuster or investigating police officer. Yet, we don’t. We welcome things like “In-Car Internet” without wondering who’s holding the information about our travel and usage. We welcome open microphones into our homes because they give us the weather report, as well as constantly listen to conversations and audio (including frequencies we may not be able to hear).

New technology is massively complicated in ways that we can’t quite wrap our heads around, and that includes the folks making it up. It’s possible to have a full computer, running a very real operating system on something as small as a stack of quarters. This means that if there’s a way to get in, an attacker has unlimited ability to modify or control that device. Likewise, “Unintended Use” is a very, very real thing. Something crafted for the most innocent of reasons could be used for some of the most nefarious, because folks who created it simply don’t think evil enough.

It’s a bit like having a front door that has a combination lock, only the lock works off of only the final rotation of the dial, or used a key, but only one of the tumblers was active. Chances are pretty darn good you’d never bother to check. Heck, your lock could well be doing this right now and you’d be none the wiser.

So, what do you do? i’m not suggesting we all become neo-amish and post things to the barn wall, but maybe we ought to be a bit more reluctant to believe that digital utopia awaits the next pre-order.

Honestly, on this side of the digital fence, i’d love to proclaim the upcoming year “Digital Infrastructure Year”. Where we, as an industry, stop creating stuff and actually spend a year shoring up critical elements. Granted, it’ll be hard to sell that to the folks who have money to pay for things, but sometimes you gotta pay your taxes. We spend time closing some of the massive holes that let things like the recent DDoS attacks happen, or beefing up crypto so that communication and storage are actually secure, or any of the thousands of bugs and issues that folks have been told to ignore.

Yeah, i know, i know. It’s a lovely idea, but turns out, it’s full of crap too.

Blogs of note
personal Christopher Conlin USMC memoirs of hydrogen guy rhapsodic.org Henriette's Herbal Blog
geek ultramookie

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