max_boma: (Rainbow)
Snopes today published an article about a two-month-old girl allegedly burned by a hospital in California. The family has retained a lawyer who has advised them not to talk to the press, but this was after their story went viral. Apparently the family then put up a Facebook page to state their case.

Predictably, responses on the Facebook page are widely split between "OMG! That poor baby! I hope you make the hospital pay!" and "I don't believe it." There is, of course, a backlash to the latter: "I can't believe anyone would doubt this! It's true!" or "I'm sorry some people doubt your story."

Without any notion of the plausibility of the story or knowing any of the alleged participants in the events described, I understand perfectly well the skepticism, and I'm almost amused by the defenses against the skeptics.

I just read a new article saying this page is fake/scam which it's NOT. I know you can't believe everything you read online but this page is not fake.

Well, OK! They say they're not a fake, but others might be! That should settle it! Not! I can't even prove to myself that the author of the page is "a friend of the family." And if they are a friend of the family, does that give them any standing to judge the veracity of the family's story? "They're good people." "They're quiet and keep to themselves." Oh, wait, that's what they say about the quiet person who goes on a murderous rampage. "None of us ever believed he was capable of this." But he was. As are the mothers who harm their children, out of post-partum depression, frustration, or incompetence. I'm not saying that this child was hurt by her mother; I have no way of knowing. But I've heard too many stories about implausible things happening to take things at face value. I've also heard of too many hoaxes or mangled stories or urban legends to take things at face value. Even when there's a brand new Facebook page to plead the case.

As for those who think it's cruel to express skepticism, get over it. If it's true, the truth will come out, and the skeptics presumably will express their sympathies, without apologizing for their skepticism. If it's false, the skeptics probably will be sorry to be right, especially if there is an injured infant who was injured some other way. But if it's false, I hope the skeptics have deterred some of the gullible from going "all in" with their sympathies and with their material charity.
max_boma: (Dwarf)
My reaction today after my first day back at work was, "Remind me again, why do I like my job?"

In the week and a half I was away, any number of problems get bungled by our off-shore contractors and even by my usual colleagues, and that's before I heard what management has decided. A problem I noticed before I left was called into IBM -- but while I was gone, our proxies accepted an answer from IBM that rather blatantly ignored several points I had pointed out because I thought they were relevant. When I pointed out to my colleagues the inadequacy of the answer, a colleague I normally trust and work well with parroted back IBM's answer.

The point that almost amuses me, but really disgusts me, is that management has decided that a project that was projected to be partly finished eleven months from now will instead be complete in six months. They haven't explained how we're going to order and install the necessary equipment in time. They haven't explained how they're going to cover the short-fall in the capital the need needs. They just made a decision that it would be great if we got this done in six months total instead of at least twelve months. They also didn't acknowledge our answers about why we need other hardware to handle the current overloaded servers.

Our Operations staff seems to be too busy not drowning in their workload to consider a proposal that would lighten at least part of the load.

My manager also challenged me on why I charged time to the "fix it" budget code instead of the much beloved "build it" budget code. I'm used to charging stuff to "build it" when there's any a faint reason to do so, but the project managers seem to be suddenly cracking down on dubious claims to "build it" budget codes. I'm strongly tempted to just charge all of my time to "fix it," because that's what we need now, especially since we're barely building anything these days. Fixing stuff is what I like; fixing stuff is what I'll do.

Along the way, I'll "counsel" the off-shore guys who are supposed to be fixing stuff on what they're missing and what they're getting wrong on the stuff we delegated to them. I'll also start riding herd on the Operations guys who are supposed to fix their client problems.

Why do I like my job? Because I can fix things that are worth fixing. And I will, damn it.

max_boma: (Default)
I don't remember when I first started using Quicken to manage household finances. It probably was 1993 or so; I remember seeing someone else in South Bend trying it and deciding that it would be better than what we were currently trying to use.

When I moved from PC to Mac after my divorce, I got Quicken for the Mac -- even though it was already two years out of date. Quicken was promising a new Mac-centric Quicken, and I wanted to encourage them, so I spent the money.

Quicken Essentials was the project they had promised. Boy, is it a bitter disappointment! There's no support for investment transactions, and there's no way to export your financial data in a "normal" way that other programs understand. I think they have an export format that goes to Quicken for Windows, but why would I do that? 

Today, I am trying to end my frustration by starting to use a new program for household accounting, one that it Mac-centric. I fear losing track of some essential details, but I have to try.

I would have tried counseling with Intuit if they had shown any interest, but they took me for granted.

Their loss more than mine.
max_boma: (Default)
When I was younger, my parents and uncles and aunts got to do things, like travel to visit each other. Now they're all getting older; two are now dead. And while one aunt is coming to my wedding, I've got more cousins coming than their parents.

That makes me feel old!

max_boma: (Uncertainty)
I've seen recently two TV shows about a man told of people he's supposed to help in some vague way from a source no sane person would consider credible. He starts pulling at threads of clues until he can save someone through a series of coincidences or clues deftly extracted from the world around us.

One incredible source of clues is an all-knowing post-9/11 anti-terrorist computer that stretches the limits of what we know computers to be able to do. The other is a New Age-y theory about new talents now recognized by us mere mortals to recognize numeric patterns. Numbers meets Touched By an Angel, perhaps? I don't know; I didn't watch either of those shows.

Sorry, Fox; I like the CBS version better.

Are you glad you asked?

What do you mean, you didn't? 

max_boma: Boma, the Flavors of Africa (Boma)
Happy holidays, one and all!

The two of us are alive and well, with not much to report, but sometimes even saying that is worthwhile.
max_boma: (Default)
It's another period when I haven't had much to say.

I'm taking Maureen to SF on Wednesday, returning Sunday. The "Why now?" answer is my thirtieth year high school reunion, which will actually be my first high school reunion. Some friends will be there; more won't be, including some who live in the area but apparently just aren't interested, or somehow never got the message. Some are folks who have lived their adult lives enough off-line that I don't recognize them when I search for them on Google. Maybe I'll hear about some of them at the reunion events. More likely to be fun than the reunion events, I'm showing Maureen around places she's never been. Muir Woods in on the agenda, as are Union Square and Ghirardelli Square. Also, Max's, probably, as in, "the 'Max' in 'Max_Boma.'"

Work? There are two distinct ongoing technical problems I'm trying to resolve. Well, one to resolve, and one I have to wait for others to resolve. My current manager is running around pursuing various ideas of varying degrees of feasibility instead of letting his staff have the crazy ideas while he manages us.

We're also in the process of replacing a team member. He joined BOHIS with the understanding we'd sponsor him for an H1-B visa. Well, H1-B visas are only for skills we can't find in available Americans, and there's no way he should have been hired with that understanding. Two managers before the current manager didn't pursue the issue, for reasons I'm not privy to. Now that his previous H1-B is expiring (it's supposed to be limited to one employer, the one who sponsored it), our current manager refuses to certify that he can't find Americans with TSM skills. I feel bad for the guy who will have to uproot his family, but I feel worse for American's with technical skills who are jobless or underemployed because of abuses of the H1-B program.

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be happy that Boise State lost yesterday, bringing Boise back to a more normal situation, or sorry that they lost their special opportunity. Help me out, [livejournal.com profile] purrevil?

Otherwise, the women are still handsome, and I'm assured the children are all above average.

max_boma: (Diversity)
Seven years ago today, my father passed away after a long illness. It was hardly a surprise; I had had time to travel from Maryland to California to support my mom in this difficult time. But

I was still active on Usenet then; I remember noting in one newsgroup his passing. There was no Twitter, and my first LiveJournal was a year away still. I hadn't even joined EZBoard, where I met many good friends, let alone joined anything like MySpace or Facebook.

My dad passed away on the day George W. Bush stole his second election. The world's politics and economy has changed some since that day, but not as much as I might hope. Certainly the economies of the world are mostly worse off since then.

I've worked for at least five employers since that day, in three states. Compared to Dad's career after moving to California, I've been a tumbleweed.

And, of course, my personal life is a lot different now than it was then.

My journey has gone on. The world will continue to change. I'll continue to change.

Language

Oct. 27th, 2011 09:30 pm
max_boma: (Owl)
I've been thinking about language a lot lately. Some of it is about why I judge people on the basis of the language they use, and some of it is the effect of language or words on political discussions.

Language should be used to communicate, to get ideas across to others. To the extent that it helps people communicate accurately and clearly, having a formal grammar and formal meanings for words is a good thing. With that in mind, I don't mind the word "ain't" much, because I understand what it means and don't think its meaning is ambiguous, but "shizzle" means nothing to me. "Bling" means more to me, but I'm sure there are layers of nuance among some people about what "bling" is that hinder, not help, communications between me and people who use words like "bling" and "shizzle."

Some slang seems meant to divide people, not unite them. I'm sure some crowd thinks I'm hopelessly conventional ("square" to my generation, but God only knows what to people who use words like "shizzle"), but if you intentionally use words you know I don't understand and then mock me for my lack of understanding, that says as much about you as about me. I can accept what it says about me; I wonder if you agree with me what it says about you.

Perhaps similarly, in our popular and political cultures, many words now have layers of nuance associated with them that make those words almost unusable. Think of how a few years ago politicians would go to almost any length to avoid being tagged as a "liberal," because one group of people managed to emphasize the poor results of some efforts associated with liberal thinking and politics. Now I find people who despise government bureaucracy and who complain about the welfare culture reacting harshly to my characterization of their views as "Republican" or "conservative." Apparently there are people who would disable the government's safety nets for the poor or unfortunate but aren't necessarily "conservative," although how they would describe themselves, I have no idea.

There are also politicians who would mangle the English language to avoid admitting they would ever in any circumstances allow taxes or other government fees and revenues to be increased. Others are loathe to admit that they would "cut" Social Security in any way, even if they would only do so to reign in the worst excesses and abuses, or the people who were never the original targets of the program at its inception. I'm sure part of this is a reaction to our sound-bite mentality: "He said he would raise taxes!" is a damning sentence if no one anyone takes the time to understand under which conditions or how narrowly he would raise taxes.

So, we speak in euphemisms and idioms rather than speaking plainly and simply and trusting our audience, and our audience's audience, to take the time to understand what we mean, or we speak in code to avoid saying things that our opponents would rightly hold us responsible for. Those who speak of illegal immigrants as if they are the large majority of recent immigrants to this country have something to answer for.

Finally, languages themselves.

When I worked for a German client and spent more time in Germany and the United States for several months in 2000, I tried to learn some German. Most people I interacted with spoke much better English than the best German I could have hoped to have learned to speak in the short time I was in Germany, but I still made an effort. It was up to me to learn to speak the dominant language, even if I was in an area of Germany where the post-WWII occupying forces had spoken English. I think of that frequently when I see signs in the USA that are mostly or completely a foreign language. While I understand retaining fluency in one's native language, when in a country where your native language isn't the dominant language, what does it say about your participation in life around you if you decline to speak the language or do business in the local language?

I don't like things that divide the world. I admit this. And I don't like it when language is used to divide the world, or to hide things. I admit it, and I'm trying to say it plainly and clearly. I hope many of you agree with me.

reposted, not plagiarized, if it matters.

Mid-week

Sep. 28th, 2011 07:17 am
max_boma: (Rainbow)
Not much to say. Today started nicely; it'll be nice to see if the rest of the day continues that way.

Work is OK. I'm starting to think about taking a day off for my birthday; work might be "OK," but it hasn't been that great lately.

Max

max_boma: Boma, the Flavors of Africa (Boma)
I didn't finish Reamde, but I'm working on it. I like it better than The Baroque Cycle, but that's faint praise. I'm more than a third of the way into the book, and I'm wondering where the heck it's going. With Cryptonomincon, there was a question of how the threads would connect, and each thread had a clear goal. This doesn't have that much clarity about it. We'll see.

It's mildly cooler here in Austin, enough that I should be able to resume walking and cycling with some regularity. I started last night with a walk. We'll see how I do keeping it up.



max_boma: (Default)
I've got a hardcover of Reamde that arrived yesterday, and I'm going to enjoy today, tomorrow, and maybe during a bit of the week. Neal Stephenson is a wonderful writer, but he doesn't write short books or quick reads. More to savor!

So...

Sep. 22nd, 2011 07:09 am
max_boma: (ripples)
Not much to say, but I'm still here.

Bored. Unexcited. Didn't watch any new shows last night, just the season premier of a show I've watched for a long time, and not even one my fiancee likes.

Like I said, not much to say.
max_boma: Boma, the Flavors of Africa (Boma)
Last night's accomplishment, besides welcoming back Castle, was to update the values of my 401(k) and employee stock purchase plan in Quicken Essentials on my iMac. It's a bit of work to do so; neither plan is set up to work with programs like Quicken, so there's a bit of downloading and reconciling by hand, especially for the 401(k), and given the lack of immediate consequence, it's just an exercise in OCD for me.

Quicken Essentials is clearly a dead-end. Intuit gave it a shot and apparently didn't get enough interest in improving their Mac product. Sigh.

Does anyone have any suggestions for financial software for the Mac?

max_boma: (Dwarf)
  • Rick Perry
  • Qwikster
  • My hearing
  • 80 Days of 100 Degrees
  • Cowboys Win
Name the category! 

Presence

Sep. 17th, 2011 11:43 am
max_boma: (WTF?)
Facebook's latest change to their main page leaves me cold. Maybe I shouldn't worry about who's there and just post my comments here, triteness be damned.
max_boma: (WTF?)
As I said earlier this week, the trip to New England went well. My grieving cousin was tremendously glad to see me, even though we hadn't seen each other since the last century, at least. In fact, everyone was thrilled to see me: her siblings and her parents; my uncle in New Hampshire, his three adult children, and even their kids; and even my dad's cousin on the Connecticut shore of the Long Island Sound, whom I visited hours before flying out, along with her husband and her eldest, a daughter who lives in the same town.

I had purposefully booked a late afternoon flight out of Hartford, hoping in vain that there'd be a funeral Tuesday morning to attend. There wasn't, which was why there was time to visit the cousin and her family, But that also meant it was after 10 PM before I was on the ground in Texas and midnight before I was asleep.

Wednesday was meetings with two vendors, to talk about alternatives to our current backup software. Our manager arranged one of the meetings, and then my team leader arranged the other, not caring that it was the same day. My team leader loves meetings with vendors; he'll ask questions too arcane or too detailed to have a simple answer, and he'll tell them more about our environment and our office politics than they need to know. To me, it's a waste of time; to him, it's building a relationship, or something. I excused myself from the latter half of the first vendor meeting, so I could spend more time catching up on e-mails and other signs of what had happened over the weekend. I skipped the first of two meetings with our incumbent storage vendor; I had been to their conference in Las Vegas in May, so I wasn't at all in the mood for a "technology refresh" session. I showed up for the scheduled discussion of their recommended backup solution. It wasn't much that I haven't already heard, but since we seem to be facing an important decision about keeping or dumping our current backup solution, I figured I'd better be there.

Thursday was spent trying to break down in some reasonable manner our overall environment into meaningful chunks so that any vendor who wants to can size up our environment and tell us how they'd solve our backup problems for us. Which of two sites? Produciton or not? Database data or regular computer data? There were lots of ways to break down the data. Normally this is work I enjoy, but not under the gun, and not with the fear that some managers are about to make a rushed decisions just to show that we're addressing some concern, regardless of the validity of the complaint.

Overnight Thursday, I got paged at 1:40 AM to reinstate some computer's backup account. One manager told us to put it on the inactive list because it hasn't had a complete backup ever; someone from another team was paging me to activate it again so they could continue with its first complete backup.

Friday? I lasted an hour and a half at the office and decided I was too exhausted to be useful at the office. I think I slept six of the nine hours after getting home again, setting an alarm to dial into a weekly staff meeting, only to find that our manager was on a series of crisis calls about something that has nothing to do with me or my team.

The ENT doctor gave me medicines to try to alleviate any impediment on the nerve in my ear that apparently isn't working correctly. This is the nerve that for four weeks now (minus a day) has produced a high-pitched tone and distortion when I hear high-frequency sounds. My lower frequency range hearing is OK, but above 8 KHz, it declines rapidly, and the whine I get instead gets on my nerves, no pun intended. Alas, the medicines he gave me to alleviate possible causes aren't doing anything, so when I get back to see him (Monday?), I expect to have a talk about hearing aids and how they can help in my case.

Thank God it's the weekend; I need some down time.

Home again

Sep. 7th, 2011 07:11 am
max_boma: (ripples)
I'm back home after a whirlwind trip around New England. I got as far north as Manchester, NH, where my dad was raised, and as far south as the Connecticut shore of the Long Island Sound, where Dad's closest cousin lives. I saw all of my relatives from my generation and my dad's generation who still live in New England, which I didn't expect to be able to say, especially since they were never gathered in one place at the same time. I met one wife for the first time and a good chat with another wife for the first time. I even had my first general aviation (ie, not commercial) flight with a friend I know from work.

Now to figure out what happened outside New England while I was away, like the outbreak of wildfires close to home. Ugh! 
max_boma: (Default)
Boeing today named their next 737 generation after me! 

I always liked the 767 better, but I understand why that family died out; the cargo configuration just wasn't right. C'est la vie.

max_boma: (Diversity)
Today had two different kinds of shocks, both from the East Coast, and neither involved Rick Perry.

I probably would have found the mid-Atlantic earthquake scary enough. My old office at NIST was in the basement, so that might not have been so bad. (I wonder how the underground labs at NIST that are supposed to be isolated from vibrations in the environment did during the quake?) I wonder, though, how the home I used to own in Maryland did. It had a very high family room that would sometimes shake in the wind. A 5.8 quake 100 miles to the southwest? That would have caused some anxiety, and some anxiety about others' anxiety. The best line of the day may have been Bill Walton's tweet that as a Californian, his cell phone's vibrate mode is stronger than a 5.9 quake, but considering that there was some structural damage in the DC area, perhaps those with a history of living through quakes need to be a wee bit aware of what it must be like in an area not used to worrying about stuff like that.

The second shocking news was Pat Head Summitt's dementia diagnosis. The diagnosis itself is shocking, but the news that she expects to consider coaching is somewhat bewildering. She admits she'll have to have her assistants doing most of the in-game coaching; apparently last year in a couple of games, she became disoriented. Part of me hopes she can make this work out, but part of me fears that the disease will rob her of her necessary faculties and that she may try to hold on too long.

To my friends along the eastern seaboard, I'm glad you're all well and relatively unscathed.

To Pat Head Summitt and those closest to her, I wish you the best of luck in the long, difficult effort ahead.

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