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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Positive Reinforcement

I am taking this opportunity to remind people that a small expression of appreciation goes a LONG way to making someone feel their hard work is worthwhile.

Today was the day that I spend some time in the building I rarely get to. During the entire time I was there I got warm welcomes and people genuinely pleased for my assistance. These people are grateful when I show up to help them and even thank me when I finish.

If more of my users took those few seconds to voice appreciation for the work I, and my team, do I think we would have fewer days like the one that spawned yesterday's post.

This works for everyone you meet. If you order a sandwich for lunch: be polite to the person making it and the person who run the register for you. Thank them. Wish them a good afternoon/evening. I try to do this everywhere I go and I am surprised to see how many people are genuinely surprised that I am polite back to them. I know they appreciate it and I know I appreciate that I made their day a little better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Perception is a Powerful Force

As I have mentioned before, I work in I.T.

One problem that nearly EVERY I.T. department has in nearly EVERY organization is the public opinion of the other employees being weighted against the I.T. department.

While being something I do not understand it is something I MUST deal with.

Today there was a meeting in which the person who (for all intents and purposes) is my boss, his boss and another department head. I was NOT invited to this meeting. This meeting was to discuss problems with technology support in the other department head's facility. The problems discussed, so I was later informed, were not new but just a re-hashing of problems already discussed (to me this means that the department head is still not happy that he did not get his way after earlier discussions).

One of the things that came up was that no one knows what I.T. workers actually DO. All that they see is when things do NOT work. All that they see are the things that haven't been done yet. All that they see is that something on their computer broke and no one has helped them fix it yet. This is a problem with ANY organization that has an internal I.T. department. Unless the department is OVERstaffed there will be people who have to wait for service to be completed (in my experience if there is an abundance of help then users become lazier and lazier about trying ANYTHING for themselves so the problem actually does not go away with more staffing).
One comment that was made by an anonymous someone (e.g. neither I, nor my defacto boss know whom) was that I, apparently, did nothing over the summer except shoot my bow (I am an archer) all day long. This infuriates me. Yes, I shot my bow (the fitness and recreation department here has archery equipment). Yes I shot it nearly daily. I shot between 44 and 55 rounds with it (I only have 11 arrows). The total time I spent doing archery on days with good weather: 45 minutes. The total time I spent on a lunch break: 45 minutes.  If I take a break from work and do something CONSTRUCTIVE with my time (e.g. archery is good strength exercise AND a skill to boost hand - eye coordination) then that is my decision.

What people NEVER manage to see are the other aspects of their I.T. departments.
For example: today I arrived at work at 7:45 AM. I am writing this as an automated task is finishing up (can't leave until it is done, but too late to start anything new) at 6:30 pm. I took a half-hour lunch break where I discussed the aforementioned meeting with my defacto boss. That's a 10 hour and 45 minute work day. No one notices when I, or any of my staff put in 10 hours of (unpaid) overtime a week for three consecutive weeks to get a project done. No one understands or accepts that, perhaps, it is not the I.T. guys who had the problem when a project is not finished on time... but that it MIGHT be further up the chain (e.g. I recently had 7.5 person-weeks of work dumped on me with no warning that, had a decision been made in June, would have been 1 person-week of work).

Everyone is so quick to blame the I.T. staff when decisions regarding usage don;t go their way or when decisions regarding policy are too constrictive. I understand this; what I fail to understand is why they are so forgiving with every other department. Why is the I.T. department the one that is heavily persecuted while all of the others are forgiven so easily? Why is the most over-worked department the one that gets the least leniency?

One of the most lenient and forgiving people at my employer was frustrated with the I.T. staff until he moonlighted with us for a few weeks. He was startled and amazed at the logistics we have to run and the sheer volume of work that we have to complete to make ANYONE happy.  Seeing that experience makes me wish I could require ALL complaintive users to work as one of my employees for one week in our busiest month.

If you are reading this and have a computer issue at work please consider how busy your I.T. staff are. They probably work A LOT harder than you could imagine.

It makes me sad to post this post. I REALLY did not want to turn this blog into a complaint forum.
Sadly, for the month of September I can expect total chaos and excessive stress about work. It's just the way my job goes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I recently saw the movie “Inception.”

Although I predicted the ending roughly one third of the way into the movie I found it to be an intriguing journey of the mind. In the pilot of the TV show “Firefly” the character named Shepard Book stated that “getting there is the worthier part.” Shepard Book's words from that episode could not be more perfectly suited to any story being told on the silver screen than they are to “Inception.”

One could spend hours discussing the visual spectacles present in this film. One could spend an equal amount of time discussing how the use of 3D technology was NOT used in this film and how that was the correct decision. One COULD spend hours discussing these aspects of the movie, but that would be  a waste of their time. The visual aspects of the film, while intriguing and stunning, are insignificant compared to the concepts that the movie presents.

While technically a spoiler the marketing campaign for the movie released the knowledge that this movie explores the nature of dreams. Dreams are a fantastic topic and MANY genre films have explored it but none have explored it in quite the same way. “Inception” explores dreams on multiple levels. It explores them as a topic to be discussed while awake. It explores them as a surrealistic projection of our mind. “Inception” even explores the idea of fragments of our minds manifesting in our dreams as separate characters.

While “Inception” does not explore the nature of dreams in exactly the same way as any other movie it does share a similar question about the nature of dreaming and what dreaming means to us as the movie “Vanilla Sky” (released in 2001). Both movies explore what it means to be stuck in a dream and both movies explore it in different ways, yet both pose the same question to the viewer. That question was explicitly stated by the character Morpheus in “The Matrix.” That question is: “what is real?”

“Inception,” “Vanilla Sky” and “The Matrix” all ask this question in different ways and with different levels of obviousness. “The Matrix” asks it blatantly, where both “Inception” and “Vanilla Sky” ask it in a more subtle way.

One could keep comparing the three movies mentioned above, but that would prevent you from examining the works for yourself. One could also create a much deeper conversation surrounding how “Inception” (or the other films) explore the nature of reality but not without extensive spoilers.

I HIGHLY recommend you check out “Inception” for yourself if you enjoy examining the nature of reality and the world around you. I encourage you to count the layers of the movie. Count the layers, watch the totems, and, most of all, be sure to always pay attention to how you got where you are. Enjoy the ride for it truly is the “worthier part” of this film.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Contemplation of Absolutes

On the way to work this morning, like most mornings, I was listening to a podcast (for those that are interested it was "Dr. Kiki's Science Hour" which one can find through or the TWIT network or in the iTunes podcast directory).  This particular episode broke with the show's normal format and touched on several science topics on several articles rather than focussing on one particular topic for the entire hour.

One of these articles is what prompts this post. It does so for two reasons.

The first of these directly relates to the article. The article that Dr. Kiki summarized discussed how people are far more willing to accept the credentials of scientists in who are proposing hypotheses and/or theories that support their cultural norm over those who do not. It also pointed out that they are more able to remember scientific evidence that is presented that supports the way they WANT things to turn out.
I'm sure this is not a surprise to ANYONE reading my blog. What is interesting is that they did a controlled study (I'm interested enough that if I had the time I would go read it for more details, but I do not have the time required to find and read it) to gather data on exactly how much people tend to do this. So now, according to this study, it's FACT that people do this and not just anecdotal speculation. That is a move forward (unless, of course, you don't believe people do this in which case this study MUST be flawed and based on a bad premise :-) )

The discussion of the article, as many regarding controversial science often do, led almost immediately to global climate change. This leads me to the second topic of this post: global climate change.

I, personally, do not care, even a little bit, about your opinion on this topic; ESPECIALLY if it disagrees with mine. The only exception to that rule is if you have rational and well-thought out points that I CANNOT shred in my own mind using facts, logic and reason. I, like nearly every other person in the developed world, have been barraged with this topic for DECADES and I am tired of arguing about it with people who have irrational opinions and flawed data that they combine with even more flawed logic.

Lucky for me, this is MY blog. :-) I can post whatever I want. If you don't like it you can read elsewhere. :-)

With my preliminary statement finished I now present my stance on global climate change:

1. This is something that is ocurring.
             There are plenty of sources of evidence that date backward through the history of our species that all agree: the planet is gradually warming. They also all agree that it has been warming since mankind first starting scratching marks into cave walls.
2. We did NOT cause it.
            If our evidence shows that this has been ongoing since mankind first began scratching on cave walls it CANNOT be CAUSED by mankind. It's that simple. At that point in our history we were no more a manipulator of nature than any other animal on the planet. If this process was in the works THEN it obviously could not have been STARTED by our species.
3. We MIGHT be contributing to it in a measurable fashion
           Are we polluting our planet? Yes. Most certainly. Unequivocally. Without question. We are causing harm to the ecosphere that nurtured us as we grew from a partially-sentient animal into the fully sentient (at least some of us) beings that we are today. Is this a bad thing? Yes. Should we pursue better ways of managing our lives, resources, energy consumption? YES. Conservatism is NEVER a bad idea for those that want their resources to last. And we SHOULD all want out resources to last because we have no other home to go to when we wreck this one.
4. Carbon dioxide is not as scary as scientists make it out to be. Yes, it is a bad thing to have in the atmosphere but the thing that makes it so bad is that we are destroying the world's carbon sink. Something NONE of the media outlets will ever mention is that ALL of the carbon we dump into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels was already once in the biosphere. That's right ladies and gentlemen: we're just returning that carbon to the biosphere that put it into pre-oil form. If the earth sustained itself with that much carbon in the biosphere before it can do it again. Will species go extinct as part of the process? Probably. Will we? Maybe. Will it kill the earth? No. People who dislike this argument when I bring it up are fond of pointing out that volcanoes put HUGE volumes of carbon dioxide into the air each year and that the biosphere never had that carbon to deal with. I put out that those same volcanoes dump more carbon dioxide into the air than all of mankind's pollution combined. So, if volcanoes are that significant than there is NOTHING we can do about the carbon anyway: so why try? Of course, the counter to this counter is that the same forces that spew out carbon dioxide from the depths of the earth also draw produce large volumes of rock. The converse is that for every unit of mass that the earth disgorges through a volcano it draws back in at a subduction zone. If it did not the earth would empty and the surface of the planet would grow until it collapsed for lack of anything under it. Therefore, the summary of this point is that fossil fuel emissions are returning CO2 to the biosphere that was once there in the first place. Tectonic activity contribute to the problem AND the solution. The biosphere will survive the carbon problem. The BEST thing we can do to mitigate the CO2 in the atmosphere problem is to PLANT MORE PLANTS. Plants grow. As plants grow they take in CO2 and push out O2. That means they absorb the carbon. They use this carbon to grow. More plants means a greater volume of carbon sinkage in the biosphere.
5. Other greenhouse gasses: most people don't realize that water vapor is a MUCH more significant greenhouse gas than CO2. It has a significantly greater thermal retention property. The upside is that it has a MUCH shorter in-atmosphere time because it precipitates out as rain/snow/hail/etc. This is merely a fact that most people do not know.
6. Ancient evidence. MILLIONS of years ago, when the North American continent was FURTHER NORTH than it is now there was a thick and full forest along the NORTHERN shore. The fossilized remnants of this forest imply that the plant growth there was similar in nature to plants that live in the warmer regions of the planet now. The regions nearer the equator than where I live. This forest was sustained for MILLIONS of years. This means that for MILLIONS of consecutive years the entire planet was MUCH warmer than it is now; so much warmer that the NORTHERN SHORE of CANADA was a tropical forest. ALL of humanity has existed in less than a million years. ALL of recorded history has taken place since the great ice age. Take a few minutes to ponder that.

Now that you've pondered I'll tell you what that means. It means that that is the NORMAL level of heat for this planet. ALL of humankind's history has taken place in a period of abnormal coolness for this planet. The planet is NOT warming up: it's returning to it's natural state. There is NOTHING we can do to STOP that with our current technology levels.

7. The Sun. There are some people who have reams of evidence to correlate heating and cooling cycles with solar output. There is a study currently being conducted which has preliminary data showing that a larger and longer solar cycle of sunspots and magnetic activity (the "normal" cycle is 11 years, but there are longer cycles which make the magnitude of the 11-year cycle greater - our data on the sun is VERY limited in this respect) DIRECTLY correspond to long-term climate variations. Their current data even implies that the "Little Ice Age" of the 1300s - 1800s was caused by a variation in sunspot activity. As ALL energy on earth is derivative of the fusion furnace in the heart of the sun ANY changes in the solar output MUST have some sort of affect on the earth. Are there other forces at work that can magnify or dampen the solar influence? Yes. But at the core of the habitability of earth is the sun.

8. Heat pollution: All I ever hear about when scientists discuss how humanity is ruining the earth is our contribution to the CO2 in the atmosphere. I NEVER hear anyone talking about how we are doing to things that much more directly affect the temperatures of the planet. The first is direct heat pollution. EVERYTHING you use generates heat pollution. Light bulbs. Your fridge. Your car. The laptop I am using to write this. Your TV. Your body. Composting the waste products from your home. EVERYTHING. All of this thermal energy is being dumped into our atmosphere as raw heat. The second thing we are doing is we are removing all of the heat absorbers and converters that nature created and replacing them with heat sinks. Every tree, flower, weed, blade of grass, algae blob that we remove from nature is one less thing that can absorb the heat from the sun AND pull carbon out of the atmosphere. We are replacing those heat and carbon absorbers with asphalt and concrete. Both asphalt and concrete absorb heat ALL DAY LONG and then they release it back into the air at night. They are not absorbing either heat or carbon: they are just storing heat during the day and releasing it at night.

This is the point where I am going to cut myself off rather than start ranting on each of the tangents that this post could generate if I allowed it to do so. The raw summary of it is that global climate change is happening. We didn't cause it, but we're helping it happen. If you want to do something plant a garden and grow more plants. Those of you who live in large, urban buildings: see if you can get roof access to grow a roof-top vegetable garden (or even clearance to put in 2 inches of dirt and lay down some sod). The plant life on the roof will help insulate the building from heat in the summer and from the cold in the winter. It will reduce the heat-sink affect of the building's roof. It will pull carbon out of the air. Plants also absorb other air pollution so it will help make your city a nicer, cleaner place.

I wish I had a place I could do this, but our backyard is already filled with plant life and our roof has a significant slope to it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This Space Intentionally Left Blank

Insert witty, thought-provoking post here.

It's that time of year where there is TOO MUCH work being piled on and not enough time to do it.

So, sadly, no post today. Perhaps I will make up for it with a nice post this weekend.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

General Stupidity

This post is prompted by my experiences of today.

I will preface the core of the post by stating, unequivocally, that I am a smart person. Like every person I can do dumb things. Like every person there are things I do not understand. Regardless of that, I am a smart person. I took the honors-level classes in high school and scored well in most of them without trying. I went to a difficult university and graduated with a high GPA (I also did extra curricular activities, was a double major and worked retail part-time). I know I am not the smartest person in the world. I know there are LOTS of people smarter than me. But I also know I am well above average.

Because of this stupidity bothers me. A lot.

Today was a day of excessive stupidity.

In one of my schools today marked the day of some standardized testing. All of the work-related stupidity centers around that process.

The first incidence of stupidity today involved a general inability to count and relay a number to my staff.
This is a very simple process consisting of TWO steps:
1. Count the number of people needing an item who do not have one of that item.
2. Relay the number in 1 to the people who have extras of the item so they may bring you how many you need.

In theory this SHOULD have resulting in myself and the remainder of my staff loading a cart and delivering the correct number of units to all of the people in need in a single pass. We had to make at least 6 trips. The worst destination had to receive units THREE times because they were unable to count the number of people without a unit accurately. (Side note: the destination that required the largest number of units required 6. That means that the highest anyone needed to count to was 6).

Incident number two involved a singular staff member who was responsible for two units being
used in the testing. This staff member successfully, and without ANY intervention from anyone in my staff, got the first of the two units up and running. The stupidity comes in where the staff member was unable to follow the same process on the second unit. I would completely understand if they had required assistance to get the first one going but to have the first one running and then mess up the second baffles me.

The next incidence of stupidity involved 12-14 year old people who were unable/unwilling to follow SIMPLE instructions. In order to accomplish a standardized task I wrote a script. That script is named in a self-descriptive way and EASY to find. So easy, in fact, that it is the TOP item in the list of applications. The students had SIMPLE instructions:
1. Open the Applications folder.
2. Go to the TOP item
3. Drag it to your desktop
4. Double-click the version on your desktop.
5. Touch NOTHING else until you are told to do so.

I had a variety of students who failed at each of the above SIMPLE steps. Some, despite having used the equipment for 3 years already, failed to locate the Applications folder. Others failed to go to the top of the list. Others failed to drag the correct item (or ANY item) to their desktop. A few failed to double-click the item after dragging it. Several failed task #5.

So my morning brought a great deal of frustration to me.

When the time finally came for me to get my mid-day escape I went to lunch. While at lunch I encountered the following:

1. In a nearly empty venue I took an out of the way table in a quiet, unoccupied room. Almost immediately two noisy and obnoxious women took the table nearest to me.
2. This venue has two soda fountains. Each soda fountain has two halves and both halves have nearly identical selections. This means there are, essentially, 4 drink stations for customers to get drinks. While waiting for my turn at the drink dispenser I watched the 6 people in front of me each select a drink and proceed to block two drink stations to fill their drink.
3. Just after I sat down, but before the women in the next point showed up,  I witnessed a discussion between two men about which exit they should take. One of them was suggesting that they should go out the exit closest to them and the other suggested the front door. If this had been a 15 second conversation with two legitimate exits I wouldn't have bothered to notice. First: it was a nearly five minute discussion. Second: the closest door is clearly marked, in LARGE, RED letters right on the door that it is an EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY - ALARM WILL SOUND. The door nearest them was clearly not an option.
4. The women mentioned in point 1 proceeded to complain about their bill (it is a order, pay, get food, sit down, eat place) and how expensive their lunch was and how they didn't think it would be that much and how offended they were that it was as expensive as it was. I MUST point out here that the menu, with pricing, covers the ENTIRE WALL behind the cashiers. In order for you to order you have to face this menu. If you don't like what you see you should GO SOMEWHERE ELSE before you order. These women then proceeded to complain loudly and stupidly about many other things. I ended up moving to a different table where a different group of loud people came and sat at the table nearest to me in a mostly empty venue.

So, now that I have relayed the obnoxious and complaintive background that makes the core of the post relevant I will move into that thought.

I often wonder how different the world would be if I were, at my current level of intelligence, the stupidest person alive.

Would it lead t a better world where great marvels of science and technology were wrought into existence by the most average of people? Would it be a world where unimaginable technologies (to us) were everyday, average equipment? Would we have left this planet and found new homes around other stars?
Would that world be filled with the problems that society has now or would the people there have found a solution to all of the problems in their society? What new problems would they discover?

Would those people be happier than people are today?

Most importantly (to me) would being in that position make me happier to NOT be exposed to such general stupidity on a daily basis or would I be thoroughly miserable being the stupidest person on the world and knowing it?

Anyone have any thoughts on this one?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Funny Clothing is Funny Clothing: Fantasy Games are Fantasy Games

It's that time of year again: when people start talking a language I do not understand and dressing funny.

That's right: it's football season (note: this also happens during baseball season).

Professional sports intrigue me in a way that nothing else does. They do so in that I completely, totally and utterly fail to understand why people are so fascinated and entrenched in sports. To me sports always have been and always will be something to play: not something to watch. I fail to understand people who rotate their lives around watching sports and are willing to bet money on sports, etc.

Sports, to me, simply equal games. Games are fun; for playing. I would be just as entertained watching a slow and boring chess match between two bad chess players as I am watching (what I am told is) a fantastic and exciting football/baseball/basketball/etc game. They are all equally boring. I would MUCH rather watch TV or read a book or jut plain work.

As a geek I do understand ONE aspect of the fanaticism of hardcore sports fans: the funny clothes.
I am happy to wear a themed set of clothing to a movie opening. I am happy to go to a fantasy or science fiction convention in costume. I am happy on Halloween. I like costuming. I like getting the opportunity to, for a short time, carry the visage of something other than what I am. I get it. Wearing a football or baseball jersey carries the same level of interest that a Starfleet uniform does to a Star Trek fan.

Here's the divergence: when someone chooses to wear a RedSox or Giants or Mets or Lakers jersey out during their normal daily lives NO ONE NOTICES. No one pays attention. No one makes any note of it. People think of that as normal.

Inversely, if one wears a Starfleet uniform or Jedi robes, or your Hogwart's regalia out for an average afternoon then the limits of what the average passers-by will say (or sometimes do) about/to you know no bounds.

This has, and always will, fascinate me.

Why is it that one group of people who will wear abnormal clothing representing a group or organization that they will NEVER be a part of is more tolerated than another group? Why is it that society, as a whole, will not simply tolerate that behavior from one group but actively ignore how weird it really is?

Lets take a quick look at some of the similarities between the two groups:
1. Some members dress funny because it pleases them to do so.
2. Some members spend far too much time/energy/money on their passion.
3. Most members find a sense of community with the other members.
4. The more extreme members may apply face/body paint to further enhance point 1.
5. Many members are dissapointed if they miss newly released media from/about their passion.
6. Many members will travel great distances to partake in their preferred activities.

Yet, one group is considered normal and all of the other groups are not.

This is something I wish I could point out, directly, to ALL sports fans who are intolerant of other interests. OUR passion is no weirder than theirs. Our behavior is no weirder than theirs. The only truly weird part about it is why theirs is so tolerated by society when ours is not.

We've got role-playing games where we develop fantasy teams of great and mighty people who accomplish great feats - Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, etc.

So do the sports fans. They call is Fantasy Football (of baseball).

So, I'll leave on this note:

Fantasy Football = Dungeons & Dragons

It's time society began treating them as equals.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vaccinations and the Bad Science of the Anti-Vaccination Activists

Earlier today a friend of mine posted this link to an article about the current outbreak of whooping cough in California. Along with the link she posted the following quotes:

"We need to remember that vaccines are probably the biggest reason that
so few of us lose our children when they are young," said Dr. Patricia
Samuelson, speaking on behalf of the California Academy of Family
Physicians. "They used to say in this country, 'Don't count your
children until after they've had measles' because so many would die."

And this statement of her own opinion 


Most of the resulting conversation was on par with what I expect from people whom my friends choose to socialize with. It was in agreement with the idea of vaccinations and carried some slight jest at some of the medical ideas that go against all known science.

But then, on the tenth response, began the anti-vaccination opinions.  The first one (response #10) was inquiring about why they have to be so toxic and draining on the young immune system. Why are they so dangerous? It was geared in an acceptable and inquiring mind. It was phrased such that the person obviously has been exposed to the controversy started by the bad science of the anti-vaccination activists but someone who seemed to really want answer, rather than someone who had already made up their mind.
I, and a couple of other people, provided them with some (admittedly, opinion laced) answers to the inquiries.

Why is there mercury in vaccines? Because it was used as a preservative in a stable and non-toxic compound: just like in your fillings.

Why give 3-4 vaccines in a single injection instead of spreading them out? Because spreading them out would have the average person receiving the last of their vaccinations when they are 20 years old. Most of the diseases we are protecting against affect people before they reach that age. There is no point in vaccinating someone against Measles after they have died from it.

Why are the vaccines now so toxic that they induce a fever? Because they always have been: it's how they work. The vaccination generates an immune response to the pathogens that generate the disease so that your body knows what to do when it next encounters those pathogens. That means it generates a MUCH milder version of the same immune response. That means a mild fever. The response burns energy which makes you tired. People are super concerned about this type of response now because of the anti-vaccination-activists but the reality is this type of response by the body has always existed. Your muscles ache after a tetanus shot. That's been a reality for a LONG time. It's not new. It's the body generating an immune response to the pathogens that cause tetanus. (Yes a tetanus shot is a vaccine).

I will come out and plainly say it. Willful ignorance of science fact is stupid. If you CHOOSE to disbelieve the evidence presented by science I will find your opinions stupid. If you want to convince me otherwise: use reason and logic. The next anti-vaccine poster was much more hostile. She, who had not participated in the conversation to that point, felt that those who were answering the challenges of the science were calling her (and those who believe as she does) stupid even though care had been given to state things in an educational way (with the exception of flatly stating that those who push the mercury in vaccines scare do not understand chemistry: which is true). Her response was angry at those who support vaccines and angrier at those who wish to discredit the anti-vaccine movement. She has anecdotal evidence on her side regarding her niece who is now exhibiting autism signs after having been given the hepatitis B vaccine before going home from being birthed. It is obvious to me that she blames the vaccine for the autism.

This is the point where I point out the cold, hard logic.
1. Are there more autism diagnosis than 50 years ago? Yes.
2. Are there more people than 50 years ago? Yes.
3. Is there a higher percentage of people who obtain health care than 50 years ago? Yes.
4. Does modern health care have a greater means of communicating data on various anomalies in behavior and symptoms? Yes.
5. Does modern health care have better tools to diagnose and treat conditions? Yes.

If you follow these questions the logic train is easy to follow AND it can be followed with ANY disease that has an increase in the NUMBER of diagnoses (e.g. autism, asthma, ADHD, depression, etc):

5. Better equipment means more people with less severe symptoms can be diagnosed.
4. Better communication means that more doctors can be made aware of the symptoms of any condition and perform a more accurate diagnosis.
3. A higher percentage of people acquiring health care means that the percentage who were afflicted, but not treated, are now being treated. This alone will boost the number of cases even if the population did not grow.
2. More people means a greater number of diagnoses. The only way to prevent that is to find a way to make the condition being examined rarer.

ANY of the above logical points would lead to an increase in the raw number of cases of a condition over time. ALL of the them certainly will do so.

Connecting a rise in autism to a rise in vaccine usage is foolish. One might as well do a correlative study that shows that increased TV viewing in the average American home leads to higher autism rates or that the increase in the number of homes with internet connectivity leads to an increase in autism. People grab at the vaccines because it is an easy target that can be easily connected to autism because autism manifests (often suddenly) around age 3-4 which is after all of the vaccination batteries have (at least) begun (often mostly finished).

This correlation is based on fear and feelings, not statistical data. There have been repeated studies that have examined the data and NONE of them have found a reliable DIRECT correlation. The only one that found such a correlation was published by a doctor in the UK who performed the study in an unethical and unscientific way and whose supporting university has since redacted the entire article and (essentially) disavowed the doctor himself. The ONE study that shows a causal link was falsified. The ONE study that shows a correlation was performed by a doctor on a vaccine that was a direct competitor to HIS work that could be produced MUCH cheaper and faster than his work. The one study that shows a causal link was written to boost the cash flow to the author's bank account.

Another logical point, and one which has a recent study to support it, is that modern health care is happy to over-diagnose people. The recent study showed that among children diagnosed with ADHD in grades K-2 (whose were prescribed Ritalin to treat it) MOST of them (by a significant margin) were among the youngest in their class. They were diagnosed based on their fidgetiness and their inability to pay attention in class as observed by their teachers. The study implies that, perhaps, they do not have an abornmal behavior pattern but are, instead, acting normally for someone who is 15% - 20% younger than the remainder of their class. To someone who is 20 a 15% age difference is 3 years. As we age differences in age decrease in importance yet there is still a HUGE difference in the lifestyle of the average 17 year old and the average 20 year old. Often that lifestyle change has an equally large gap in maturity. If the change is that significant at that age imagine how much more significant it must be to a 6 year old. This does not prove anything other than over-diagnoses occur. If they occur in other areas they may also occur in autism.

Lastly I want to point out the basic numbers. As there is no correlation between vaccines and autism (or any other health care risk EXCEPT an allergic reaction) the probability of having vaccine-induced autism is 0%. But, for the sake of comparison, I feel like being generous. I'm going to say it is 1 in a million. That's .0001%. At this rate, for every 100 children vaccinated .01 would develop autism. Let's compare this to the mortality rate of measles: 15%. For every 100 children who contract measles 15 will DIE. Let's compare this to the mortality rate of Hepatitis B: 50%. For every 100 children who contract this 50 will DIE.

It seems to me that .01 out of a hundred is a MUCH less risky endeavor than HALF.

The natural reaction, of course, is to say "Well, who gets measles or hepatitis b anymore?" This is a perfectly sound question with a equally sound answer: almost no one because we're vaccinated against them.
For vaccinations to prevent epidemics 80% - 90% of the population must be vaccinated. If the vaccination pool drops much below that then the pathogens have enough population to move through that they can stay alive and spread and evolve. If you eliminate the viable hosts then you eliminate the habitat that the pathogens require. The disease gets wiped out (almost).
Sometimes, like in California, after a disease is assumed to be gone we'll stop vaccinating against it by default (another example is polio). When the general population is no longer protected and the disease comes back it will spread through the population as if there had never been a vaccine. If the anti-vaccinationists get their way and vaccines are stopped (or drop below 80% penetration rate) then, within 2 generations, we will see EVERY child-killing disease making a HUGE comeback.

This will kill MILLIONS of children.
This will flood the health provision system with sick, preventing others from getting the care they need.
This will dramatically increase the number of illness-related days of work lost which will hurt the economy.

Stopping vaccines is a bad idea.

That said: I think we should ALL have the right to CHOOSE for our children whether or not we vaccinate them. But do it based on DATA and KNOWLEDGE not FEAR and SUPERSTITION.

If you base your decision on data and knowledge you will choose vaccination as the less risky option unless new studies change the current belief.

Topics vs Motivation

Yesterday I failed to write a post.
It was due to to neither a lack of motivation nor a lack of topics to write about.
Yesterday's failure was, quite simply, an instance of adult life getting in the way of a hobby.
When I left work last night I had put in more than 45 hours AT work this week (For those reading this in the future: today is Friday). Note this does not include time spent checking email, etc after hours or on my lunch breaks.
Today was supposed to be a "flex" day to compensate for the hours I put in earlier in the week.
Sadly, I have too much work to do to accomplish that.
I have an application that requires a launcher script to use it. That application is needed for 3 weeks a year. One of those weeks is next week. The application installer works and it even correctly places the launcher script. The launcher script works on the machine where I wrote it and a small percentage of the sample machines I tried it on. But it does NOT work on the majority.  This frustrates me because it means my "flex" day has turned into a working day (from home, interrupted by errands that needed to get done, but still work).
Needless to say this is a serious demotivator. I work hard when I am working and I work a lot yet I am never getting ahead. It's even worse than that, actually, each time I attempt to get ahead I discover something else that is forcing me back further than I was before.

The post today started with its title because I knew, if I wished to continue my habit of writing, that I MUST write but I REALLY did not want to. My motivation failure is bleeding out of my office and into my personal life. This is a problem for I have no shortage of topics to write about; quite the opposite, actually.

But is let the demotivation win the motivation war I will fail to develop the habit of always writing thoughts down.

Here's my encouraging thought for the day: writing this post, however disjointed it might be, has helped me cope with the current futility of my job. I won the battle against my own apathy. If I can, so can you. It just takes a little bit of "mind over matter" or the Nike slogan "just do it" to overcome many internal obstacles.

Now I will go back to trying to figure out why my launching script is being an obnoxiously difficult <insert "colorful metaphor" here>.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Disaster Recovery

Today's post is work-related.
The topic is disaster recovery.
I'd like to remind everyone that hardware can be replaced and software can be reinstalled but YOUR WORK cannot be recovered as easily.

I know many people and many of them have learned the lesson about backing up their data the hard way. In fact, I don't KNOW of anyone who has learned this lesson without learning it the hard way at least once.

It is VERY important to have a backup strategy for your data.
The easiest rule for this is to have 3 copies at all times: your working copy, your local backup and a remote backup.

Why three copies?

That's a simple question to answer.

The first copy is obvious: it's your working copy. This is the copy you work with on a regular basis. It's the one that is on the internal hard disk of your workstation. It's the copy you think of when you think of a file.

The second copy is also obvious: it's your backup. If you suffer a hard disk crash on your workstation you get the backup copy from the backup drive. Simple.

So why do you need a third copy? Because that's the true way to prevent data loss from an actual disaster.

Here's an example:
If you only have TWO copies (working and local backup) of a file what happens to your data in the event of a flood or a fire? What happens if a thief steals both the workstation AND external drive? What happens if you have a lightning strike that completely fries the electronics in both the workstation and the external backup?

That's why you need a THIRD backup copy.

When I relate this process to my users I am often asked "how can I do this? I don't know anything about computers!"

There are a variety of answers, but they vary based on what type of equipment and operating system you have.


One easy solution for remote backup, regardless of your operating system or hardware is an online service known as Carbonite. This is a paid service ($55 / year) that backs up your entire computer. I have not yet had the need to try this service, but I have heard nothing but good things about it from anyone I have asked.

Another easy, online solution is DropBox. DropBox is another paid service, but it allows for free use for up to 2GBs of data. I do use this service. I backup the 2 most important GBs of my data through DropBox. The extra bonus of this: I can read anything in my DropBox folder on my mobile phone using the appropriate DropBox client.

Either of the above options will allow you to quickly, easily, inexpensively and, best of all, automatically backup your data to an offsite location without any worries. If you experience a fire, lightning strike, flood, theft, meteor strike, etc you can feel relieved that you haven't lost your data.

Onto the local backup. The most universal way to do this is to buy an external drive and manually copy of all the important files once a day. This method works on every version of MS Windows, Linux and Macintosh OS (all the way back, in all three cases). This, however, is slow, cumbersome and it has one HUGE potential fail point: you. This method relies on your personal vigilance and dedication to protecting your data. This method usually leads to failure or out-dated backups when you need them most.

There are plenty of tools that will allow you to have automatic backup systems. If I were prepared to discuss any one Windows or Linux I would, but my knowledge of them is a couple of years old so I am certain there are better (and more) tools available than anything I could talk about.
I can, however, discuss the best way to do this if you have OSX (10.5+): Time Machine. Time Machine is a program that is part of OSX. It is included with the OS for free. It allows you to attach an external drive that will just backup your entire disk (by default: you can tweak it if you like) to the external. Time Machine does what is called an iterative backup. This process is VERY efficient with storage space and data transfer bandwidth. It works by taking a FULL backup the very first time you run it then it only backs up the changes from that point forward. You are able to slide backward through the backups that have been made and access each and every change along the way. It's a fantastic tool that will save you from accidental deletions, terrible edits, and full disaster. You can even rebuild a system from it in the event of a hard disk failure.
A side note on Time Machine for the technically inclined: it seems to work very much like using RSync in Linux. The browsing mechanism for the files is very much like dirvsh.

So, this entire post bring me to ask: does anyone know of a good, easy, automatic way to backup this blog?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Public Speaking

When I was younger I did a lot of theatre.
That might make one assume I have no problems standing in front of a group of people and being the center of attention; but one would be wrong for that assumption.
I LOVE working in a theatre. There is a magic about the show and an energy about the audience as the house fills. I HATE being on stage. I have spent many hours over many shows building sets or helping with lights and sound setup. I like being involved, but not noticed.

Public speaking, like acting, is not my strong suit. I am very out of my element when doing it.

I know, however, the importance of being able to speak in public. It is a skill EVERYONE should develop. EVERYONE will encounter a need to do it at some point in their life if they wish to have a position that requires any responsibility. It might be "public" speaking to a group of coworkers. It might be to some managers in your company. It might be as an actor in a Shakespearean play. It also might be speaking to the general public.

It is important to cultivate this skill so that you CAN do it when you need to: regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you feel.

I am not a fan of it, yet I presented this afternoon to 300+ 12-14 year olds. I am writing this post having just presented to a similar number of the parents of those children. In about 45 minutes I have to present to another group of parents. Does this make me comfortable? Not at all. I do take pride in knowing I CAN make the presentation. I take pride in the fact that I can speak to a 600+ seat auditorium without needing a microphone. I take pride in the fact that I can convey the information that is needed because I can control my anxiety about the situation.

In short: I dislike speaking to groups of people, but I CAN. I can do it and I can do it well. That means my ability to speak publicly proves I have TWO important skills: public speaking AND mastery over my anxiety.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I did with my weekend

This past weekend, like many of my weekends, I do my best to relax my mind.
At the very least I like to shift gears from the "heavy lifting" that my brain does all week at work.
For many of my weekends this means I go to a Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) function.

This past weekend the function I went to was an open-to-the-public demo at Fort Knox in Maine.

Here are a few pictures:

The Fort as seen from the opposite side of the "harbor." Taken out my car window with an iPhone.

The view of the two bridges, old and new, from the Fort's ground
A partial view of the Fort from the grounds
My fencing gear, my armor bag and my hat.

As I was busy most of the day my photography stopped there. Luckily, there were plenty of people at the demo who took many pictures. Here are some samples of the day (all posted with permission: check back during the week to see if I add more!):

Outside the fort was a dangerous place to be if you stood down-range:
Yes, it works.

"Heavy List" fighting is a popular activity:
This is from the afternoon fighting session. It is a novelty fight over a center barrier.

This is what happens when someone is "dead." They stand around and wait for the next scenario.

There was also fencing:
(pictures forthcoming)

And a display of a variety of arts & sciences:

and dancing and signing:

(pictures forthcoming)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bad Science in Movies Bothers Me

Like most people of a geeky persuasion I enjoy science fiction.
Like many people who have an adrenal system I enjoy movies with some good action and/or adventure in them.
The other night I watched Terminator: Salvation for the first time.
I had heard that it was a bad film. I had heard that Christian Bale's performance was flat and boring.
What I had not heard was how badly they sacrificed science for the overall movie.


This is a problem with Hollywood. They often decide to "enhance" certain parts of the film to make it more intense. I can tolerate "enhancement" of certain things for the sake of storytelling and making a more entertaining product.
One example of this is the misrepresentation of ballistic physics in the movies. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. If I shoot a gun at a robot that weighs 500+ pounds and the impact of the bullet is able to knock that robot through the air for a few feet than the recoil from that shot would hurl me twice as far in the opposite direction.

What bothers me is when they decide to through science completely out the window when it applies to critical plot points.
This movie has two examples of this. The first (chronological order) is something that I have seen in movies before and each time it hurts my rational brain. Conventional (e.g. chemical) explosives work alike. They ALL burn. They burn VERY fast. When they burn (VERY fast) they produce hot off-gassing as the reaction process. This hot off-gassing happens ALL AT ONCE and creates a pressure wave as all of that gas tries to make room for all of the other gas all at once. The result is that all of the gas moves away from the center of the reaction at a high rate of speed. This is how gun powder works. This is how gasoline works. It is, essentially, the same exact reaction as a conventional fire, or rusting (yes, rusting), or aging but VERY VERY fast.
Nuclear bombs do not work this way. They do not release chemical energy. They work by breaking the bonds of the nucleus (hence the name) and, in doing so, converting a very small amount of matter directly into energy along the famous E=MC^2 equation. A teensy tiny bit of matter turns into a GIGANTIC wave of raw energy. Raw energy is, essentially, movement of particles. Movement of particles is, essentially, heat. It takes special apparatus that is configured exactly right with the proper catalyst and proper fuel (e.g. dense material that is easily split-able OR very not dense material that is easily smashed together) to create a nuclear reaction. Haphazardly placed chemical explosives do NOT make for the means to cause a nuclear reaction. If John Connor had done what he did then the resulting explosion would NOT have triggered all of the T800 nuclear power cells to explode in a nuclear fireball. What would happen is that the cells themselves would have been destroyed and the fuel spread out by the explosion's pressure wave. If the cells were fusion cells then the fuel would have burned (conventionally, not in a nuclear fireball) because that fuel would have been hydrogen. If the cells were fission cells then the material would have been excellent shrapnel that was probably radioactive. The entire facility would not have exploded. Skynet would not have been destroyed.
The second incident was just before the end of the movie. It was stated repeatedly during the movie that Marcus' heart was human. One cannot simply transplant any person's heart into another. There are tests. For starters the blood types have to be compatible. If the blood types are compatible (along with the other tests) then the transplant can occur BUT the recipient will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their life. Somehow I don't think that they were able to perform the battery of tests to confirm compatibility between the two people nor would they have been able to replace the blood loss during the operation nor were they likely to find any anti-rejection drugs at all, let along the quantity that John would have needed to survive. The last scene was not needed. It did not make the movie better and it completely disregards the majority of the medical science that goes into the idea of organ transplants.

People often wonder why Americans are so ignorant and misinformed about science. It's because we spend money on movies that completely misrepresent how science concepts work and then strip-mine our educational system so that our kids don't even know that the movies are wrong let alone HOW wrong. Of course, the broken education system is a completely different topic for many posts over many days.

If you want to check out this bad movie you can order it here:


And you can locate the third movie in the series (also bad) here:


The related TV show (that erased the 3rd movie from the timeline in the pilot episode):


There's good news here:
The first two movies were great. You can get them here:


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Two Humorous End-User Stories

On the heels of my last post I wanted to share these two stories about end users doing foolish things.

The first is from one of my earliest jobs in technical support. I worked for a manufacturing company that was contained in a single LONG building. IT was about a quarter of the way into one end. My first Wednesday on the job the IT office phone rang at 8:03AM.
No one moved to answer it.
I looked around the room and noticed everyone else looking around the room. After the third ring one of the other guys said "That's Debbie" and stated that I should take it as my first call.
I took the call.
Debbie's computer would not turn on. I went through the normal trouble-shooting steps starting with "is it plugged in?" and moving from there.
Nothing worked.
I told Debbie I would be right down.
It turns out Debbie's workspace is the farthest possible workspace from the IT office. Debbie, literally, faces the exterior wall of the building on the far end of the building from the IT office. I had to walk through every department except engineering (including the manufacturing floor) to get there.
After my nice 10 minute walk I arrived at Debbie's cubicle and looked around.
I immediately looked under her desk and found that her computer's power plug was hanging loosely from the outlet. I pushed it into the wall and *poof* the computer was able to boot.
I walked back to the IT office.
The next Wednesday, at 8:03 AM, the IT office phone rang. It was Debbie. Her computer wouldn't boot.
For the remainder of my time with that company my Wednesday morning routine was to walk to Debbie's department and, literally, plug her computer in for her.

The next story is several years later.

I was responsible for the technology department in the organization I was working for. Part of that responsibility was to attend meetings with all of the other department heads for one morning every other week. We ALL hated these meetings. They cut into our productivity and returned us nothing for our time. Our collective boss LOVED these meetings. But I digress.
At one of these meetings the performance of my department as it related to one of the buildings arose. The problem we had in that building was that no one would enter a help request when something broke. They, instead, would complain that it was broken to each other for two weeks then complain for another week to the person in charge of the building who would, eventually, email one of the tech support staff to complain that it had not been fixed (note: still NOT submitting a proper help request). We would then create the proper help request and go fix the problem that day.
The discussion was entirely focused around our lack of responsiveness in that building. I stated that we serviced the items as soon as we received word that our services were needed and reiterated that we are unable to fix broken equipment until we know it is broken.
The person in charge of the building stated that my department was ALWAYS notified as soon as something was broken and that we just ALWAYS took three weeks to fix it.
Then the boss asked for a recent example of something that did not work.
The person in charge of the building answered, without hesitation, "my printer."
I replied with "did you submit a help request on it?" and received an affirmative.
I looked in the help request and pointed out that no such request had been received.
I also did a search on ALL of the email from that user and verified that I had not received a help request via email (not the proper method of submitting a request).
I also emailed every technician in my department and asked them if any of them had received word. My reply for all of them was nearly immediate: "no."
I pointed out that we hadn't fixed the printer because no one knew it was broken until just then. I also promised to go take a look at it during our mid-morning break but I first asked "did you check to make sure that the printer is plugged in?"
The user was furious and flabbergasted that I would DARE to ask such a question. OF COURSE they knew to check and make sure it was plugged in. That is the first step of troubleshooting technology. EVERYONE knows to check to make sure it is plugged in. Surely I didn't think that they were stupid?
I replied with the excessive response with a "Sorry. I did not mean to offend you. It's the first thing to check and even my staff have found that they were caught in things not being plugged in."
The break came.
I went and looked at the situation.
I noticed that the printer was on and it had several status lights lit up.
I also noticed that the USB cord coming out of the printer had transparent insulation.
I looked at the user's laptop. It had two USB cords plugged into it. Both of them were black. One went to the PalmPilot sync cradle and the other to an external keyboard.
I reached back and pulled on the printer's USB cable. It came out from behind the desk without resistance to show that it was plugged into nothing.
I then unplugged the user's PalmPilot sync cradle from the laptop and plugged it into the spare USB port in the side of the external keyboard. I then plugged in the printer.
As soon as the printer's USB cable was plugged in the printer sprang to life and starting spewing paper.
I opened the print queue for the printer and found more than 10 copies of the same document in the queue as well as multiple copies of other documents.
I took the first copy of the first document with me when I went back to the meeting as proof that the printer was now working.
My statement was, simply, "You're all set now. It's printing out the things you sent to it."
The user, of course, was not satisfied with that and HAD to ask "well, what was wrong with it."
I simply answered "It wasn't plugged in to your laptop."

EDIT: both of these stories were expanded upon and made into singular instances later on and appear in later posts

Commentary on Users

I work in I.T.
For those that do not know, I.T. is an abbreviation for "Information Technology."
At its simplest that is a fancy way of saying "Tech Support" even though, for many (myself included) it is MUCH more than simple technical support for the end user.

That said, most I.T. professionals have to work with end users from time to time. Some on a daily basis, some rarely. But end users are the inevitable reality that provides I.T. professionals with work.

We are at an interesting time when many of the end users did not develop in a world with computers as an everyday fact of life. This is an interesting sociological development but, as it relates to I.T. it is something VERY important to remember. What it means is that some users simply do not grok computers. At all. Even a little. Everything about the idea of a computer is foreign and scary to them.
Other users understand the concepts of computers but lack the knowledge to use them properly.
I work with people in each of these categories every day. I am happy to work with them and I do my best to not express frustration with them when a task I think of as simple is a barrier to them.

My patience, however, has limits.

When a user gives bogus excuses for not being able to use technology I will stop them. The most common one of these is "I'm too old to use a computer." I am particularly offended by this because the "I'm too old" complaint is charged on multiple levels.
  • The first is that many old people who point out their own age are looking for some sort of respect or discount or special treatment because of their age alone. I don't buy into that. You EARN respect from me. Everyone starts out the same and those who earn more respect get it and those who earn my disdain get that, too. This, of course, is a pet peeve of mine and a side-track from the core content of this post. 
  • The second reason I dislike the "I'm too old" comment is that it is self-prejudicial against the speaker. They're limiting their own options based on their perception of what old people should and should not be able to do. 
  • The third thing that bothers me by this is that it is blatantly not true. No one is too old to learn and no one is too old to use a computer. I have met people in their 90s using email and the internet on a daily basis. Unless you are older than they are you have no place telling me you're "too old" to use one. 
  • Lastly, I have a problem with it because it is a lame excuse to try and hide intellectual laziness. When you use the "I'm too old" excuse you're really saying to me "I'm too mentally lazy to even try."
Another problem with users is something I began jokingly referring to as SCARS. SCARS stands for Sudden Computer Acquired Retardation Syndrome. This is what happens when someone who is an intelligent person capable of reason and rational thinking turns into a complete idiot whenever they sit in front of a computer. I fail to understand this disease. I suspect it is a combination of many things including the fear of breaking an expensive tool, fear of the unknown and fear of looking stupid (ironically, letting SCARS affect you makes you look stupider than if you were to try to use the machine and do things in an odd way).

Mostly, though, my limits are exceeded when a user is blatantly hostile toward myself, or any of the I.T. staff here. Being hostile to the people who are there to help you is NEVER the right way to get the help and support you need. This is a lesson that is true in EVERY aspect of life and one everyone should keep in mind more often.

I know I try to be cordial and nice to whomever I am speaking with when I am seeking support and assistance. I don't always succeed, but I do try.

None of these categories represent the majority of my users. I think that this is something that many (perhaps most) I.T. professionals forget. Most of your users never ask for your help because they accomplish what they need to accomplish on their own. Those that ask for help are the ones that need it the most (either through malfunction of equipment or user) and we all need to remember that the users we never hear from are the ones we like to have.

So I am going to end this post with a thank you to the end users who never need my help as well as a bigger thank you to those who are constantly supportive of the help that I.T. professionals provide and the hard work we do.

About this blog

You might have noticed the time-stamp on the "First Post" entry (and on this entry).

These time-stamps are important.

The fact that I am posting my first and second posts at just shy of 2AM is because my brain never shuts up. It harasses me constantly with thoughts about the most random topics at the most random times.

Recently I have been thinking about several business opportunities that I don't have the knowledge or capital to undertake as well as one that I have enough knowledge to get started on and will soon have the capital for.

I have also been plagued with the idea that I MUST start a blog to vent out many of my thoughts on the world. Tonight this thought won in the battle vs. sleep. The result is this blog.

This blog will be a gateway into SOME of the thoughts that flow through my brain. Thoughts that I am willing to share to the world. Thoughts that I encourage feedback on. Thoughts that I need to get out of my head so that I can get some peace and quiet inside my own skull.

The sad part is that sometimes when I let thoughts out of my head they are replaced with a greater number of new thoughts.

Trying to get some peace and quiet inside my head is a Herculean task.

First Post!

At first glance one might see the name of this blog as being self-defeating but I assure you that that is not the intent.
The name is born out of the frustration that EVERY other name I tried was not only already taken but also abandoned. The most recent post on the most recently active blog name I tried was slightly more than 4 years old. Based on that, and the knowledge that more than 80% of all blogs started are abandoned in the first year I went with something that is statistically honest.

If, by some miracle of willpower I manage to develop a habit of writing the name will become ironic (for a time, anyway).