Just Say No to (political) ads

Over the past couple of months I have heard too many complaints about political ads taking over the airwaves and I realized something special: I have not seen or heard a single one.  That’s right.  I have gone this entire campaign without hearing or seeing a single – not even one – political advertisement (with the minor exception of banners placed alongside the roads – I guess those truly are unavoidable).  Here’s how I did it:

1) I use Chrome almost exclusively now, with AdBlock and ScriptNo running full force.  Result: NO ads, even on YouTube.

2) I don’t watch TV (I don’t and will never again have any sort of television subscription – total waste of money).  Result: NO TV ads.

3) I don’t listen to the radio – I just about only listen to podcasts like This Week In Tech or random music on my MP3 player.  Result: NO radio ads.

I now feel it is safe to say that I am almost completely protected from most advertisements.  Obviously I see billboards and ads that are posted at the grocery store, but I have to think my daily exposure to ads is significantly less than it is for most Americans if I can make it through a presidential election without seeing a single advertisement.

tl;dr: Suck it, advertisers!!!

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The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

Going back to a prior post about what I will focus on for the rest of the year, I’ve landed on passing the CISSP exam as my final goal this year.  I passed the Scurity+ exam two weeks ago and I feel more confident than ever that I can pass CISSP.  I will be taking an online prep course for the exam starting in week that will last until November; then I will take (and pass!) the CISSP exam.

I’ve been playing around with the idea of pursuing a PhD in Information Security from somewhere like George Mason or George Washington, but that will have to wait until after I finish this final goal for the year.

Meanwhile I’ve managed to get myself into a bunch of new random books – I can never be content reading a single book at time (unless it was written by GRRM or Crichton).  This month’s reading list includes No Easy Day (I couldn’t resist), The Lexus and the Olive Tree, The Clinton Tapes, Swerve, and I’ve been back in some of the Java and Hadoop programming books again trying to become a Java EE expert (they teach Java in school, but nobody mentions EE).

It doesn’t help that, while reading all these random books at random intervals at random times throughout the day, I discovered a blog post by Bill Gates that mentions the books he read over the summer – I want to start reading all of them right now.  The one that I will likely get and add to this month’s random reading list immediately is called Moonwalking with Einstein and I think Bill’s summary of the book (you know, the one that has me clicking to buy it right now) is the best description to share here:

“Foer (the author) got interested in memory as a way to understand how the mind works. That took him to the world memory contest, where people can do things like memorize the order of a deck of 52 cards in just a few minutes. He was fascinated. He wondered: Are some people born with very good memories? But it turns out, except for people like the main character in Rain Man – and just a very few other people whose brains are wired differently – the average human memory is extremely good at tasks that are important to you, and extremely poor at things that aren’t as important.”

In other news, I’ve been keeping an eye on the news coming out of China and Japan and my other eye on Israel and Iran…  Work has been a steady non-stop long list of things that must be done as soon as possible, so with all these things in my head I’ve found a new favorite motto from the No Easy Day book: “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday” (one of the official Navy SEAL mottos).

Alright, back to staring at Eclipse while listening to the Downtempo/Chill station on Pandora.  Another day, another configuration error.

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Always Learning (random stuff)

I can’t help myself – I love learning new things (this might explain my addiction to reddit).  I was asked recently what one of my flaws is and I said it was that I like learning, but that a lot of my learning is pretty random and unstructured.  For instance, in the past week or so I have…

I guess my problem is I get bored with a single topic if I focus on it for too long (a day is too much for me!).  I also blame the Internet for having too many cool things out there to learn about…

Anyway, I’ve formally and officially decided I will focus on Information Security over the course of the next year.  I am joining the Reston chapter of OWASP and I will try my best to focus my random learning.

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Status: Still Alive

Alright alright, where to begin. I finally finished my masters degree in information technology last month, so now I’m looking around for the next big thing to focus on. I’ve narrowed it down to 2 options with a few other ideas I have in mind:

  1. PMBA (Personal MBA) 
    • Reason: I’m aiming to do a real MBA in the future, so this would lay some groundwork and help convince me it’s worthwhile.
  2. CISSP
    • Reason: As the concept of cyberwar is now a reality and it looks more and more likely that the next major war will involve – or even revolve around – digital components, this seems like a promising career direction.

I am currently trying to do too many things at the same time.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Taking Stanford’s online Algorithms course
  • Fixing various things for our company website
  • Learning as much as I can about Java EE
  • Reading several books at the same time (this isn’t going to change)
  • Studying for and preparing to take the Security+ exam (leaning more toward CISSP / security work)

There are a lot of books on the PMBA recommended reading list that I would like to read regardless of the path I take.  I think I’ve decided going for an MBA from a “top” school is still on my radar, but I may also consider doing some work in China before getting serious about that — and of course that will require a renewed focus on learning Chinese.

Planning sucks.  I wonder what reddit’s up to?

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To-Day is 11-11-11

I stumbled on this article from the New York Times from 100 years ago that made me think about all the crazy stuff that has happened over the past century (militarization of airplanes, collapse of the Ottoman Empire, two world wars, the Space Race, personal computing and the Internet – to name a few). 100 years ago the top stories were about Andrew Carnegie’s $25,000,000 donation and the bizarre date. Today the top stories include the ongoing European debt crisis, a delay on a massive North American oil pipeline, and more coverage of Republican primary candidate Rick Perry’s mistake at a recent public debate. What will people be talking about on this date in 2111..?

To-Day Is 11-11-11

Date Can’t Be Written In This Way Again for a Century

To-day it is possible to write the date with the repetition six times of a single digit. It is the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, and so one may save time and just put it down 11-11-11. It will be a century before the same thing can be done on Nov. 11, 2011, though, of course, on Dec. 12 next year there will be a close approximation to it with 12-12-12 as a correct presentation of the date.

Still to-day for the last time until the era is changed will one digit appear seven times in the date, however it is written. To-day is 11-11-1911. Eight hundred years ago this was beaten by writing 11-11-1111, on Nov. 11, 1111, but it is not likely that the precise monkish scribes at that time would have allowed so slovenly a method of recording an essential fact. As none of us is likely to be living in the year 11111, it would be well for those who delight in curious trifles to take their fill of enjoyment out of this method of dating to-day, 11-11-11.

- New York Times, Nov. 11, 1911

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The People Behind the Website

“When I design, I work very hard to make the interface experience feel like there’s a human on the other end, not a computer.”

– Aarron Walter, Designing for Emotion

I love this quote because it’s so true that the better websites and applications out there are ones where you feel like you’re communicating with another person and not some dumb computer. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it’s always easier for me to forgive people than it is to forgive a computer. I have infinitely more patience for people than for machines. Some of the best websites out there today are designed so you feel like you’re communicating with the people behind the website and not with the website itself.  This is definitely something to keep in mind if you do any kind of design work, and it is something more companies need to consider as they build and maintain their web presence.

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The End of NPR???

I have been sitting around at home helping to take care of my new baby, which means I have been listening to NPR and Classical WETA all weekend – day and night.  This weekend I have been hearing occasional messages saying the House of Representatives is going to vote on a Continuing Resolution that could completely cut all government funding for public broadcasting.  Being an avid listening of these stations and a person who enjoys the quality of the programming on PBS, I decided to hit Google to learn more.

Here’s what I found.

Last Friday, Republicans in the House introduced a new bill that would cut around $60 billion of government spending (or $100 billion depending on who you ask).  Apparently the bill needs to be passed by March 4 to take effect and no formal appropriations bill has been signed so far, so this would take the form of a “continuing resolution” (provides funding for existing federal programs at current or reduced levels – thank you, Wikipedia).

Here’s the federal government’s fiscal year calendar for 2011 (for the curious) – if passed, this bill would be in effect from March to October (to the end of FY 2011):

  • 1st Quarter: October 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010
  • 2nd Quarter: January 1, 2011 – March 31, 2011
  • 3rd Quarter: April 1, 2011 – June 30, 2011
  • 4th Quarter: July 1, 2011 – September 30, 2011

I’m fine with cutting spending – it desperately needs to be done with our looming $14 trillion deficit, but the problem for me is that this bill would cut ALL spending on public broadcasting.  According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), about 14% of their funding comes from federal spending – but they say this money is used primarily to help garner additional funds from local sources.  The message on the radio states that losing this money would jeopardize the future of all public broadcasting.

(Here’s a concise list of things being cut – notice how many times you see the word “education” or something related to that……..)

This bill also RAISES defense spending by an estimated $9.6 billion (“while the defense budget is down $13 billion from the 2011 budget request, it’s still up $9.6 billion from the 2010 baseline.”).  If anything in our budget needs to be drastically reduced, it’s our astronomical defense spending.  I’m of the opinion that when a nation spends even a dollar more on the military than it does on education it is pissing all over its future.

So what’s in the bill?

Continuing House Resolution (H.R. 1) is the single largest cut in discretionary spending ever put forth in Congress with an estimated $100 billion in cuts.  Hal Rogers, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, had the following to say:

“This year, our nation is spending 1.5 trillion dollars more than we have, running our debt to $14 trillion. The taxpayers have told us loud and clear that this is simply unacceptable, and have demanded that we get our nation’s fiscal house in order. This CR responds to this call. The legislation includes the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation – over five times larger than any other discretionary cut package ever considered by the House.”

I’m the type of person who prefers to actually read the full text of something like this rather than relying on our shitty media to explain it to me using their bias.  So – here’s the full text of the bill as a PDF:


The part I care about reads as follows:

“Sec. 1838. (a) Of the funds made available for “Corporation for Public Broadcasting” in title IV of division F of Public Law 111-8, the unobligated balance is rescinded. (b) The amounts included under the heading “Corporation for Public Broadcasting” in division D of Public Law 111-117 shall be applied to funds appropriated by this division as follows: by substituting “$0” for “$86,000,000”; by substituting “$0” for “$25,000,000”; by substituting “$0” for “$36,000,000”; and by substituting “$0” for “$25,000,000”.”

Well, Mr. Rogers of Kentucky, your bill can be vastly improved by substituting “Worthless Pile of Shit” for “Full-Year Continuing 24 Appropriations Act, 2011”.

I have already written to my congressional representatives about this; if you care about public broadcasting I hope you will, too.

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Shared Norms for the New Reality

Here’s a difference I’ve noticed between the U.S. and Russia: When there is a major lapse in security in the U.S., the general public likes to blame top officials. In Russia, however, it’s the top officials who point the blame. In the wake of the devastating suicide bombing at the busiest airport in Moscow (yes, you did actually just read that – this is very scary stuff), Russian President Medvedev was quick to point at airport security staff that were directly responsible.

He has been quoted as saying, “I instruct the Russian government to consider the issues of liability of the persons responsible for security on transportation. I instruct prosecutors and the Investigation Committee to consider the criminal liability of these persons.”

Some have concluded the attack was orchestrated before the Davos conference to derail Russia’s rising image as a global cultural center and economic powerhouse. It is now unclear if Medvedev will even attend the Davos conference.

But the show must go on and this year’s theme (the title of this post) “reflects the foremost concern of many leaders – namely, living in a world that is becoming increasingly complex and interconnected and, at the same time, experiencing an erosion of common values that undermines public trust in leadership as well as future economic growth and political stability.” Blah blah blah we need to figure out what to do about the emerging world superpowers blah blah blah. I’ll be very interested in what Medvedev has to say if is able to attend.

I’ll also be interested in hearing what, if anything, President Obama has to say about the Moscow bombing at his “Winning the Future” State of the Union address tonight.

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Done With facebook

Most of you reading this already know this, but I’m done with facebook.  I believe the site peaked in 2010 and it will decline now that it is gaining huge corporate sponsorships (look at what happened to MySpace after Rupert Murdoch bought it).  That aside, here are some of my personal reasons for quitting:

  1. Any communication done via facebook can be done (usually better) by other means – whether it’s face-to-face conversations at work, talking on the phone, or even with good old-fashioned email.
  2. facebook is AOL with new paint!
  3. Because of its wild popularity, facebook is a colossal magnet for the scum of the Internet.  It has become a massive target for hackers/crackers/spammers – not to mention pedophiles and criminals.
  4. facebook makes money off you the same way survey companies make money off you – the difference is you usually know why you’re doing a survey and what the data will be used for.  If huge databases storing everything about you (like ChoicePoint) scare you, then facebook should also scare you.
  5. The people who really buy into facebook become so entrenched in it that they blur facebook with reality. As a consequence, they feel like friendships in real life end when they are ‘unfriended’.  For most people, myself included, this creates a feeling like you are tied to the site and you really have no personal control over leaving – a feeling I hate more than words can express.

I will try to update this blog more frequently now that I am no longer posting random comments on facebook. I’ll also try not to rant too much and I’ll try to include humor and/or stuff that is somewhat interesting or educational.

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