Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Has One of John Holland's Submarines Been Found?

One of the problems with being mortal is that you do not know how some stories end and one might really want to know. In science of course, this is obvious but maybe more dramatic than people realize. For those of us of a romantic nature, in the classical sense of romance, there are an amazing number of such stories. Where lies a missing ship? What happened to that expedition. For those of us with a particular interest in matters that involve what is called “intelligence”, then we are well aware that it is unrealistic to expect to know the real story for at least 50 years or more and most of us will not be alive by then.

The age of exploration, however you might define it, is filled with such stories. War, for better or worse, is filled with such stories. Sometimes no one survived to tell what happened. A missing platoon, a missing airplane, no one knows what happened or where. Then 50 or 100 years later a wrecked airplane is found in a field in the middle of the Ukraine or at the bottom of a lake and we have closure.

Some mysteries are partially solved, of course. If an airliner goes missing for over a year and no person or piece of that airplane is found, then you can be quite sure that a tragedy has happened even if we do not know what it was, where, when or why. If a ship goes on patrol and is never heard from again, then unless it really did go to the Twilight Zone or on vacation with the Space Aliens then something very bad has happened.

Sometimes you know in general what happened but not exactly where, and the bodies of your friends are never recovered.

Last week something happened off the coast of Sweden that helps to complete one of these stories. It happened in a somewhat amusing way (assuming the death of sailors can ever be said to be amusing). Sweden has recently been troubled by what they believe are incursions by Russian submarines up to some mysterious activities in Swedish waters. Their Navy believes that they tracked such a submarine for quite a while and that it may have escaped. The defense budget has been increased, people are on the lookout, there have been all kinds of false sightings.

Then, a week or so ago, a diver found a wrecked submarine off the coast within Sweden territory. A private firm was engaged by Sweden to investigate and found the wreck of a Russian submarine which went down with all hands. They thought the submarine looked modern, and they assumed it was a modern Russian midget / spy submarine, perhaps on a mission, perhaps being tested, and that it had experienced some disaster.

They were right that the submarine was Russian and that it had gone down with all hands.  Two officers and 16 crew.  Furthermore, the submarine was approximately 20 meters by 3 meters in size, very cramped quarters.

But it was not a modern Russian submarine. It is almost certainly a submarine in the Imperial Russian Navy which went down and which was lost with all hands in 1916. Not only that, but this may be a very famous submarine.

A model of the Royal Navy's Holland 1.  This would not be the same submarine design as the one that has been found, but it would be similar.  .

As readers of my blog know, the history of submarines is deeply interconnected with our culture, especially the tradition of American Musical Theatre. What you may not realize is that the people who built the original Russian submarines were Americans (well, immigrants to America) from Connecticut.  Designed in America, the first of class was built by Holland's Electric Boat Company, shipped to Russia, and assembled there.   

To briefly recap the history of submarines, they were a technology that came to fruition very early in the 20th century and which saw a lot of contributions from all over the world.  One of the pioneers of this field was John Holland, an immigrant to America from Ireland, who designed and built what is recognized as the first modern submarine.  That is, it was the first to have the important design elements that a modern submarine would have for the next 50 years.  Furthermore, he founded the company that built these submarines for many different countries, including the United States, Great Britain, and Imperial Russia.

In many ways the development of the submarine was similar to the development of the airplane.  It was an international development that achieved success at the beginning of the 20th century and was being used in a major war within a decade.  Airplane use has wildly expanded of course but submarine use, although in most navies worldwide, remain an eclectic tool used mostly for military and research purposes. 

Here is a biography of John Holland in the US Navy's Undersea Warfare magazine:

The first of the Som class was built in Connecticut, shipped to Russia, and assembled there. This may be that submarine. If so, there is other history here as this submarine may be the repurposed Fulton, an early Holland design that was built and then sold to Russia.   The articles suggest that is the case, but I am withholding judgment until we know more.

The sailors who manned that submarine are almost certainly still inside having gone down with the ship. In a submarine, this is fairly easy to determine without looking very hard.  If a submarine is at the bottom of the sea and its hatches are still closed, then very likely no one got out.  When leaving a distressed submarine, very few sailors bother to close the hatch behind them.



John Philip Holland on Wikipedia

Wikipedia articles on the discovery and the Som Class of Submarines

News story on a possible fragment from Amelia Earhart's plane

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lions and Tigers and the LAPD, Oh My

One of the great advantages of using mass transit, or at least transit, in this case Amtrak, to go back and forth between LA and Oceanside is that the process throws you in with a lot of other people, and sometimes you end up talking to them while you are waiting for your train.   But if you do that, you might learn something and that might be annoying or unfortunate depending on what it is that you learn.

So here I am minding my own business, waiting for the last train to Oceanside from Los Angeles. It is maybe 9:30 PM at night at Union Station and I am waiting on the platform with about four other people one of them a nice man under 30 or so with his son (who knows, maybe the boy is 8 years old, its really hard for me to tell).

And the nice young man is talking to his son and he says “See that building over there? Thats the big house.”

“Actually”, I say, for some reason adding my two cents worth, “If you mean the jail, I am pretty sure that it is on the other side of the tracks, around the corner. The building you are pointing to is far too nice to be the jail, and besides, it has windows”. So my new friend laughs and looks closer (this is night you understand), and says, “hmmm, you are right, it is too nice and it does have windows”.

“I am pretty sure that the jail”, I say, “ is about a block away on the right side of the train as we leave. I had been trying to figure out what building would be that big but not have any windows, just apparently slits for light, and I am guessing that is the city jail.”

So my new friend and I started talking while his son amused himself with a video game. He had his son for the weekend and was just coming back from San Luis Obispo where his son lived with his mother. And he started entertaining me with stories about life inside the jail, something he knew first hand as it turned out that he had a complicated legal history due to his tendency to drink and drive on occasion.

And in the next 30 minutes or so I learned a lot about what the difference was between jail and prison, and what life was like inside the Los Angeles City jail, run as it is by those stalwart defenders of peace and justice, the LAPD.   And what he told me was bad, really actually kind of bad.

You will notice that I am not going to be specific about what it is he told me.  I am not going to be specific here in print.   You can talk to me in person or over the phone if you want more details.

I asked my new friend whether he understood that what he had experienced was, as far as I know, completely against the law and violated his civil rights. That if his experiences were publicized in the press that there would be a brief expression of outrage, some pious promises by our politicians to “get to the bottom of the story” and maybe a scapegoat or two, but that of course nothing would change.

I also asked him, who knows about this? And he says that as far as he can tell, anyone who wants to know about it knows. All the prisoners know, all police officers know because they are required to work at the jail for their first two years on the LAPD, and he presumes that any politician who cares to know, knows. How about rights groups, I asked. He laughs, oh they are easy to fool. They come in and as they walk through the jail things are fixed up while they are there and as they move on, things revert to normal.

By the way, in case you did not know this, jail is different from prison. You can not be in jail for longer than one year or 18 months (I forget which) and therefore have to be transferred to prison. Prison is apparently nicer than jail because it is run by outside contractors and those contractors are afraid that the former prisoners will kill them if they do shit like the LAPD does in the LA jail. But the LAPD is not concerned with that because everyone knows that anyone who fucks with an LAPD officer in any way is killed.

So where is the ACLU when all this is going on?   Where are our Los Angeles political leaders?

Now here is something you might want to know that many people who are white and middle class do not know. It turns out that the LAPD has a well-known reputation for, well, bad behavior, and that reputation is long standing and non-subtle. What is odd about this reputation is that the only people who don't seem to realize this are my middle class, privileged white friends. Every black person who lives in LA has a story to tell, they are not all making these stories up. It is only my white friends, well off by the standards of most Americans, who seem to be in complete denial about the LAPD reputation.

Are the rumors true? The rumors are always true, at least as far as they go.

So whats my point? I am not in a position to do anything about what I learned.   What, are you crazy?  I have more than enough problems just trying to figure out whether or not I have a career.  I dont need to make an enemy of the LAPD.  That would be quite self-destructive.

You on the other hand, my well-off, successful friends, who laugh at the stupidity of the people who live in the south and point the finger at Kansas City or Charleston S. C., it seems to me that you are just the right person to go out there and organize and end this injustice. Why not clean up your own hometown first?

One day this will all come out in the press I think, at least I hope it will.  Hey for all I know it already has and I just didnt notice.   Trust me, when you hear the details of the bad behavior I am referring to, you will not be amused and you will not think it is subtle.

Why do we permit any of this to go on in American in 2015?  Surely we know better by now.

Of course it could be that my friend was just making all this up.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Proposed Naming Convention for Random Acts of Violence

If you are like me, you are confused by the different random acts of violence in this country. Who can remember if the murders were committed by an extreme Muslim, a right wing nut trying to cause a race war, a local police force who traditionally murders black people to keep then in line, murder by special teams of major city police forces, murder by pretend-suicide in jail?  And whether they used an automatic weapon, ran into them with their HUMVEE or dropped a piano on their head.  Nobody can remember, its too confusing.

I think that we need to have a good naming convention, or at least a naming convention of some type in order to keep things straight.

When the time comes to build your digital studio, naming conventions will also be very important so this is good practice for you.   Naming conventions bring order out of chaos, give meaning to otherwise random strings of letters, and help you to find things both during a project or later, when the project is long over.  Because when a project is over, the project isn't over and very often a project needs to be revisited years later.

In this case, I propose that each random act of violence (RAV) have two names: a short one that is easy to remember, and a long one with all kinds of information.

The short one might be something like ELIJAH-2015-3, meaning the third RAV of 2015, named for the prophet Elijah.

The long name would be something like ELIJAH-2015-3-<type of violence>-<weapon>-
                                                                 <number dead>-<number wounded>-<location type>
                                                                  <location by name>

So it might be something like ELIJAH-2015-3-INDIVIDUAL-SEMIAUTOMATIC-5-8-
                                                                        MOVIE THEATRE-COLORADOSPRINGS

Of course we could come up with clever abbreviations to make things more obscure.

I am not sure if I really like this naming convention, but maybe with more thought we can come up with something that would work for us and help us to remember and keep separate the various criminals, nuts, insane and other people who are running around in America these days.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Thomas Piketty and the New Celebrity Economics

You know that things are going to hell in a handbasket when Economists become cultural heroes. When America, the ultimate anti-intellectual state, starts reading and discussing economics, then that is all the evidence you need that things must be bad, really bad.

For decades even centuries, the only economist that Americans needed was Adam Smith and a Cliff Notes for The Wealth of Nations.  But now not even Adam Smith is proof against revisionist Economics.

And Piketty has been particularly vicious and non traditional.  Looking for any evidence that the free market results in increased wealth for everyone, he discovered that, whoopsie, there was no evidence.  You mean that all that crap about capitalism and the free market has no evidence to support it? Thats a bummer, dont you think?


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Obsolete Vision of Dr. Heywood Floyd

When I was very young, I went to see 2001 in what must have been a 35 mm print in Richmond, VA.  . I was of course bored out of my mind.  I remember the concerns in the city that people might go to see this movie stoned, and I could certainly understand why.   Boring but beautiful.      But even though I was bored, it was clear to me, even then, that a particularly innocuous scene, that of Dr. Heywood Floyd's briefing on the Moon was filled with meaning.   A meaning that I, as a callow youth, could not understand.

Many critics have noticed this scene as well.  And completely misunderstood it.    One of the more well known, by Tony Macklin of Film Comment, said as early as 1969 that this scene was filled with tongue-in-cheek Kubrick irony.   And he made fun of his fellow critics for not realizing this irony and satire.  Or maybe it is the case that Macklin completely screwed the pooch here and himself misunderstood this subtle but criitical scene.

But before we go much futher, perhaps it would be best if you reviewed the scene to refresh your memory.

The scene can be found on Youtube. Note the natty checker suit of the photographer.

A partial transcript of the scene:

Dr. Ellison: Well, I know you will all want to join with me in welcoming our distinguished friend and colleague from the National Council of Astronautics, Dr. Heywood Floyd. Dr. Floyd has come up especially to Clavius to be with us today. And before the briefing I know he would like to have a few words with you. Dr. Floyd ?


Dr. Floyd: Well, thank you Dr. Ellison. Hi everybody. Nice to be back with you. Well, first of all I bring a personal message from Dr. Howell who asked me to convey his deepest appreciation to all of you for the many sacrifices you have had to make. And of course his congratulations on your discovery which may well prove to be among the most significant in the history of science. Well, uh, (laughs), I know there have been some conflicting views held by some of you about the need for complete security in this matter. More specifically, your opposition to the cover story, created to give the impression that there is an epidemic at the base. I understand that beyond it being a matter of principle, Well, I completely sympathize with your point of view. I found this cover story personally embarrassing myself. However, I accept the need for absolute secrecy and I hope you will too. Now I am sure you are all aware of the extremely grave potential for cultural shock and social disorientation if the facts were made known without (bla bla bla, I got tired transcribing this dialog).. Anyway this is the view of the council. Oh yes, the Council has requested that a formal security oath be signed by everyone present. Well, are there any more questions?

Now how does our intellectual interpret this scene in Film Comment ? Tony Macklin says:

“When Floyd gives his remarks at the briefing the satire of the inept language fairly leaps out. It is trite and inarticulate. But it is not Kubrick's (or Clarke's) inadequacy, it is the characters' inarticulateness, their loss of language. A parade of meagre "well"s fills the air. Halvorsen, who introduces Floyd, starts out, "Well, . . . " He sticks his hands in his pockets. If this were done once, one might assume that it didn't matter. But this stance and feeble language are the imprint of the scene, the exposing of dullness.
“Floyd is no more competent in talking, "Hi, everybody, nice to be back with you," He follows this with the refrain, "Well, . . . " and then comments "Now, ah . . . " He too puts his hands in his pockets. When the floor is opened for questions, there is only one, about the danger of "cultural shock." Floyd responds, "Well, I, ah, sympathize with your point of view." (The questioner is against the cover story of an epidemic which has been used to protect the secret of the monolith on the moon.) Floyd concludes. "Well, I think that's about it. Any questions?" Halvorsen thanks Floyd, "Well, ... " "No more questions [there was only one]. We should get on with the briefing."

In my humble opinion, this is wrong, wrong and completely wrong.  Idiots.  Wouldnt you know that he would write for Film Comment, a nutty intellectual film magazine if there ever was one.

Instead of seeing Dr. Floyd's speech as inept, I see it as a masterwork; a bureaucratic tour de force and just what the situation called for. You see, Dr. Floyd is not there to bring new information: his mission is to tell everyone that they must keep quiet and do as they are told, and he finds the nicest possible way to say that.

In other words, Dr. Floyd demonstrates that he is in fact a senior and skilled bureaucrat perfectly capable of getting up in front and saying absolutely nothing in a genial and businesslike fashion.  And if there are no more questions as he points out, they can go on with their briefing.

But this is not the end of the story of the search for meaning in 2001.  Although 2001 is a solid 14 years behind us, clearly we can see that our psychohistorians have gone awry.  Pan Am and AT&T are way out of business, we do not have bases on the moon.  We did not send a manned expedition to Jupiter.   The interpretation of Dr. Floyd's speech required a firm grasp of the cold war aesthetic and the cold war bureaucracy.   But where is that bureaucracy now that Communism no longer exists and we have in its place the gangster capitalists of China and gangster gangsters of Russia not to mention the incompetent scum-politicos of America without two neurons to rub together?

New art requires new artists and our new society requires a new Heywood Floyd.  In the modern cinematic aesthetic, I can envisage Heywood Floyd ducking into the back to put on his superhero outfit and go out and punch a monolith in the nose.   Take that you damn monolith, he will say, go back to your masters, the giant robots, we will never allow you to turn Jupiter into a mini-mall.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Corruption and Degradation in Orange County

“The law must be honest, just, reasonable and according to the ways of the people. It must meet their needs and speak plainly, so that all men may know and understand, what the law is. It is not to be made in any man's favor, but for the needs of all them who live in the land. No man shall judge contrary to the law, which the king has given and the country chosen. [...] neither shall he [the king] take it back without the will of the people.”

English translation of the Latin from the Danish code of Holmiensis from roughly 1291. See

Why should we, as citizens, be concerned if it turns out that the District Attorney office of Orange County is a snake pit of unconstitutional illegalities?   I am of the opinion that nothing we do could possibly make a difference to our justice system.   Just publicly discussing the issues will probably result in some sort of action against the citizen who complains.  

I suppose that the reason we should care about the local insanity is that it puts us in a better position to accuse the rest of the world of being unjust and racist.  I mean how does it look for us to point the finger but not be aware of our own little, or not so little, corrupt cesspools?

So I want to bring to your attention two scandals closer to home.  The first is in Orange County and involves the District Attorney's office.  The second will be for another post and involve the LAPD.

To give you a feel for the magnitude of this gross violation of law, by those that we trust to enforce the law, consider the following paragraph chosen almost at random from the articles listed below:

In recent months, we've learned, over the objections of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD), that the agency created TRED, a computerized records system in which deputies store information about in-custody defendants, including informants. Some of the data is trivial; other pieces contain vital, exculpatory evidence. But for a quarter of a century, OCSD management deemed TRED beyond the reach of any outside authority. In Dekraai, deputies Ben Garcia and Seth Tunstall committed perjury to hide the mere existence of TRED. Those lies didn't originate from blind loyalty, however. The concealed records show how prosecution teams slyly trampled the constitutional rights of defendants by employing informants—and then keeping clueless judges, juries and defense lawyers.


The scandal in Orange County is pretty amazing. The news broke about 16 months ago, but I never heard a word of it until I stumbled on this about a month ago. Why not?   Why isnt our media discussing this, what should we call it, gross abuse of justice? A scandal that affects thousands and thousands of innocent citizens who have been victimized by a corrupt justice department in flagrant and egregious ways.

The thing to realize is that the corruption in Orange County is that it is so bad, that it may literally be the worst of its kind in American history.  True there has been a lot of corruption in American history, so that is quite a statement.  But it may be true because this is a particularly specific form of corruption. 

Its a complex story, a very large story, and I am sure I only know a few percent of the big picture. But let me tell you what I think I know and point you to some news articles. Then the both of us, you and I, can watch our justice system fail to punish the guilty and release and compensate the innocent. We can watch together as our system does what it has always done: support criminals as long as those criminals are in bed with the politicians. As it has always been in America.

What seems to have happened is that through a series of misadventures, a few judges demanded some information which revealed that the entire justice system of Orange County was completely corrupt. That they were keeping a database of evidence that proved the innocence of people which the County was prosecuting and getting convictions for. That the system was running an informant system in the jails that violated the rights of prisoners in an egregious and systematic fashion.

Check these out.  They are pretty terrific.

Excuse me? All 250 prosecutors for the county are disqualified? Excuse me, the entire office of the District Attorney of Orange County?

The problem is, you don't get to wash this shit under the rug forever you know. One day you wake up and find that citizens no longer believe that there is any justice, that all politicians are corrupt, and that the state exists purely to exalt the rich. Of course that is the case, now, all of these things are true: the politicians are corrupt, there is no justice except for the rich, and the state and the law and the economy only exists for the rich. But not everyone knows it. But when everyone does know it, then you have a bad situation. So you want to correct the problems before everyone figures it out. That would be the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, as proven over and over again, our leaders and their masters, the rich, are not smart. They are just greedy and corrupt.

Before we go beating up our friends in the South, I think we should clean up our own puddle of nastiness first.

Lets start with the Orange County DA office.

In another post, I will write up what I think I know about the LAPD and the jail that they run.   But that will be extra credit and later.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Internet Provides A New Way for Human Resources to Confuse Victims

When I first worked for a large corporation, I had a very benign view of Human Resources.  I assumed that HR was there to help everybody get their job done in an organized and civil manner. Yes I was so naive that I believed that HR had the employee's and potential employee's welfare in mind as well as that of the corporation. Of course as years went by I realized that this was rarely so, and that HR was there first and foremost to protect the corporation and nothing else.

Nevertheless, in spite of our experience, most American's seem to have a very naive view of various elements of the HR process.  They believe, against all experience, that many HR mediated processes are fair, that there are rules to the game and that the game is not entirely crooked.   They believe that people only get fired for just cause, that everyone gets the same shot at opportunities, and that corporations work hard to get the best person for the job, not merely the one that has surface validity or who expresses the same corrupt values as the people they will work for.

Of course the reality is different.  And not all of these differences are necessarily bad.  For example, one reason that not everyone gets the same opportunities, is that for most people I know at a fairly senior level, their jobs are created for them, in some sense tailored to the person who is being hired.   That has often been the case for me in the past, and is very much the case for many friends who are further along in their career.  Of course one side effect of this is that not everyone gets the same opportunity.

Related to that is the phenomena where jobs are not listed until there is a candidate in mind, or that a job is listed but will not be filled, or that the real qualifications are not the ones that are listed, or that the job is listed for pro forma reasons only, or that the job opening(s) is/are created as a way of gathering data about one's competition.

The single biggest lie is that people get hired without having contacts at the company that hires them.  In other words, that it can be done anonymously via the internet, a cover letter and a resume. It turns out that there are people for whom this has occurred, but it is not very common in my experience.  Usually you need someone inside pulling for you.

But even if the above is all true, it is certainly not a new phenomenon.  All of these issues have existed for years and decades and maybe even longer.

But there is one part that is new.  It used to be that there was a job board that was never quite up to date, with job openings tacked to the wall.   Or a book of job openings at the corporation that was unwieldy and difficult to use.  But now all corporations have Internet job boards online and what is great about these job boards, which the potential job seeker is required to use, is that they, in my humble experience, are rarely up to date and often are just wrong.

For the last several years, I have at irregular intervals, and purely manually, reviewed the job boards for a series of companies that are on a select list. In some cases I am interested in jobs at that company, in some cases I am just interested in the kinds of jobs that they advertise and what skills they need. There are a variety of reasons for this research, if that is what it is, and one of the reasons is to see to what extent companies perceive computer animation as a desirable skill.

But for whatever reasons I do this, I have noticed the odd situation where jobs seem to appear or disappear on a daily basis. One day here, one day not here, and seemingly at random. At first I just thought that the job opening had been pulled, or was filled, or some other normal explanation.

But recently I had a very egregious situation and proved to myself that the job listing did exist, but only if you knew the correct term to search for.  If you just did a general search for all job openings, it might or might not appear.

In other words, the Internet has helped create a whole new dysfunction for Human Resources to exhibit: the database-backed web page that is broken.

Centos Linux 6.6 Good, 7.0 Bad

When a new major release of an operating system comes out, I generally wait six months or a year, and then try installing it on a non-critical, non-production machine that I keep for just this purpose. That way I can keep doing serious work on my main systems while I work out the issues with the latest release.

In the past this has worked out well for me.

I have been very pleased with Linux as a workstation environment as well as a production server environment. Although not real Unix, it has certainly been very reliable and surprisingly scalable, which is remarkable I think.

For those of you who do not know your Linux distributions, Centos is basically the same as the major Redhat releases, but without the Redhat logo and without the formal support (for which of course you are expected to pay).

It has lots of people working on it both at Redhat and out in the world and although it has its quirks, as all Linux distributions do, I have had really very little to complain about beyond the usual issues that one faces when there are too many solutions to a problem and it is not clear which one to use.

For the first time, I have tried a new release of Centos and backed off to the previous release. Several things happened to cause me to do this.

The major annoyances all came down to the situation that the desktop part of Linux was not getting the attention that those of us who use Linux as a development environment would desire. In particular, the X window system does not automatically come up any more, and you have to jump through hoops to try and make it automatically start. Also, a variety of features that I have been pleased with in Gnome (one of the two desktop environments) suddenly went missing. Third, there were serious performance issues after a period of use that I could not explain, and did not seem to have anything to do with the usual things one looks at in tuning a system. It made the system both cranky and unreliable.

But the final disaster that just was unacceptable, is that this release of Linux insists on installing system patches and updates whether or not you want it to, destroying the old version, and imposing the new version on you. The problem is that it did so, but did not deliver a working version of Linux. The system had been automatically trashed and I then had to decide how I wanted to recover when there was no easy fix. Some of this brought on because of brain damage of the Linux community involving graphics drivers. I use the Nvidia driver exclusively and that may have complicated things.

But it is an ironclad rule here at my place of work, that updates are not installed until I want them to be installed just to avoid this kind of problem. This is not an isolated incident. I have in the past had very bad experiences where kernel updates were made and the OS stopped being usable. But in this case it is not obvious how to turn off the automatic updates and I dont want to fuck with it.

So for my uses Centos 6.6 is infinitely preferable to Centos 7. It comes with a working window system, a working desktop, is more reliable, and doesnt self destruct whenever it wishes to.

I dont know what this means for the future, and that does worry me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reading List on Data Storage for the Computer Illiterate

This is the second post in the boring “build a backup for your studio” series of posts. The first post is here.

The primary reason I am writing these boring posts is the occasion of having a friend of mine, a professional photographer, recover from a catastrophic data failure.  Whenever I would bring up terms like "network file server", she would put on that expression of "I am just a girl and I dont know what that means" that so many of us are so familiar with.   The good news is that even my brilliant professional photographer friend can pick up these computer terms with very little effort.

This stuff is not hard to understand.  What is hard to understand may be how things are implemented to work well, if indeed they do work well, but the basic concepts are straightforward.

The fact is that most professional users of computers, even those in their own home office or studio, will have a heterogeneous collection of files that look like they are all attached to the local computer even though they are not.  Some OS's handle this better than others "out of the box" but they all accommodate it.

Most of the time you, the user, do not care if a file is local, or on your local network, or even further afield. But you very well might care if you are your own systems administrator or your studio architect and since most of us are our own administrator, you have to know this stuff.

So get over your computer anxiety and gender bias and get this done.   Here is your Wikipedia (and one optional Dell white paper) reading list.

1. All your files on a computer is managed by a file system.

2. Most simple storage on your basic home computer is directly attached storage.

3. All modern computers today also support network attached storage.

4. Whether your storage is direct or on your local network, there are a variety of techniques designed to take these relatively cheap disks for personal use and make things more reliable. There are a variety of ways of doing this. The simplest is disk mirroring. RAID is a way of formalizing some of the existing techniques of combining multiple disks into a more reliable, or better performing, “virtual” disk.   You mostly only care about RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 5.

5. RAID can be implemented in hardware or software or both. People used to care passionately about which one they had, hardware or software. The reality is that you should not care which one it is as long as it is reliable, fast and low maintenance.  For those who think they care, here is a Dell white paper on the topic (optional).

6. But a file system, or a file server, or a reliable disk subsystem is not the same as having a backup system, although it may be a part of that system.

Now we can get on with the exciting yet boring design of our backup system.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Is a Worker With Baggage Like a Plant That Has Bolted?

In this post, I want to ask the deliberately limited question of whether or not a “more experienced worker with baggage” is similar in some ways to a plant that has bolted.

First lets define our terms. To a human resources person, a potential employee with baggage is someone who has accumulated behavior, ideas, concepts and so forth during his or her previous employment or personal life which might complicate their working smoothly in the present situation. This is my impression of what the term means, it is not a formal definition from a human resources guide.  God only knows what these guardians of corporate propriety think.

On the other hand, everyone who has had a garden know what “bolted” or “to bolt” means. It means that for one of a variety of reasons,  usually water stress or change of season but sometimes just maturity, a plant enters a different stage of life that is usually not very useful to the gardener.  Generally, the plant prepares to get the hell out of there by preparing to generate seeds. It is very similar to the concept of “going to seed” and it implies that the previously useful plant is now nearly useless unless of course the goal is to generate seeds. Lettuce, which previously was great, is now bitter. Basil, which was amazing, changes flavor to a much lesser form, and so forth.

Is this romaine lettuce about to become unemployable because of its work experience?

In other words, our theory goes, that instead of becoming more colorful, more experienced, more valuable because of things that one has learned that only life can teach you, the potential employee instead appears to be bolted, too concerned about past battles, too filled with preconception about certain types of people or certain businesses, that it interferes with getting the job done with enthusiasm and initiative.

This is an important question because pretty much every interesting person I know who has worked in a field for a while, all of these people have experience that is very real and which will affect their future work. Is that experience positive, or does it make them bolted, or appear bolted?

Furthermore, the judgement, the final judgement of whether the experienced worker unit has value is made, and must be made by people who have neither the experience or knowledge necessary to make a judgement as that might be conventionally thought of.  Rather these keepers of the just and the right have a HR handbook and relevant HR experience to be able to judge.

Sadly the experienced worker comes in with about 10 strikes against them as they have almost certainly been guilty of the unforgivable sin of not making enough money in their previous endeavors.  This is self evident because if they had been successful, defined in the beautifully elegant American manner of accumulating cash, they would not be applying for a job here, but would be in Paris or Bangkok or Manhattan or Aspen managing their certificates of deposit or frolicking with splendid examples of the appropriate gender or genders as the case may be.

The issue of whether experience is the same as baggage, negative and not positive, is just one of the many issues that the meta-concept of baggage brings up.   Can baggage be turned into useful experience through a change in attitude?  Is it fair to attribute baggage to someone without understanding what led to this belief or issue which is now being called baggage?   Is learning from ones experiences baggage?  Is what the human resources person or corporation looking for is not really a person without baggage, but someone who is merely naive?

Indeed, naivete might be the very greatest virtue in a situation like this.  The work output of the virgin is all too likely to be more effusive and extravagant than the work output of the jaded or the sophisticated cosmopolitan who has seen it all.   Those who have not been wounded in love and life are perhaps more likely to go over the top with a rebel yell onto the killing fields and the line of bullets then those who have been there, done that, and knows how much it hurts.

Once a person has this real experience, are they irretrievably "bolted" and unfit for duty in the Globalized Workplace?  Is work experience necessarily a form of disability?

One thing is certain.  In America, business has no responsibility to this wounded and arguably disabled victim of the workplace.  Having fallen in the field of battle but not having the decency of dying and / or going away, he or she degrades themselves by attempting to return to the front lines attempting to fight, that is, to get a job.  Why don't these wounded soldiers just go away and die?  It would be better for them and far less embarrassing.  Business owes nothing to these impoverished survivors.

In America, at least, that much is clear.

Computer Language Preference by Country

Let us say for a moment that I had to get a real job instead of doing what I do now, which is writing a blog, writing little programs for my friend in NYC, reading books and surfing the web, etc.

Although I know (literally) at least 100 (computer) languages, there are only a few of them that I routinely use to "get something done" and which I am comfortable that I know the full extent of that language such that I could be professional at it. It turns out that language use (computer languages) preference differs by country. Here is a map of that use.

So apparently I can work in France and Finland.

Is emigration an option?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mid Summer 2015 Container Garden Report

This is our mid-summer review on the container garden and the various techniques and choices made.

There has been almost no rain, almost no overcast, and very hot temperatures. Things were different this summer in various ways.

We tried the following techniques (a) put the lettuce and the herbs such as basil in partial shade in the hope they would not bolt so quickly. (b) preventively spray with copper solution and neem oil now and then, (c) when disease or insects attack, spray with various solutions and then ruthlessly and carefully remove the affected areas and / or remove the entire plant, (d) leave more space than ever before between plants, especially the beans and tomatoes, even though this would probably reduce overall yield because of less growing area, (e) provide support for everything, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers, (f) in the case of tomatoes, try growing the seedlings in these peat moss starting pods that they sell.

All of these techniques worked out to one extent or another and are recommended.

What did not work out was that we had total failure on our carrots and our peas, two different types. I do not know why. I suspect that the peas were victims of the birds, see below.

One surprise was that for the first time, the birds viciously attacked small seedlings, particularly the tomatoes, cucumbers and peas.

Bird countermeasures consist of $20 of green plastic fencing cut half height and surrounding each seedling with a cylinder of fencing material. This worked splendidly and had the additional benefit of providing support to the plant (cucumbers and tomatoes).

The end result was pretty good availability of romaine, green beans and just ok cucumbers. Basil was very useful. Almost all of these but the basil are now history. The tomatoes are just starting. Peas and carrots were a total failure.

We had less disease this year. The green beans always had a lower leaf yellow rot that I removed by scissors. One cucumber plant had a billion aphids, knocked back with insecticidal soap and then the plant removed. The cucumber leaves always had some sort of horrible rot that might have just been leaf burn and which I ignored.

Strangely, plants that in the past had delivered many crops only delivered one this year. Green beans and cucumbers are most notable here.

Going forward, the use of shade for lettuce and herbs, the much greater space between plants, and the use of the green fencing are all solidly recommended.

This cost very little this year, as we are in that sweet spot that equipment bought can be reused but new equipment not needed.

Finally, one final word of caution. If one were to do this to actually live on or for economic purposes, the scale would have to be vastly increased, and no doubt new issues would emerge.