Archive for December, 2008

Dept of Homeland Security believes blogs are for terrorists

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Slashdot submission:

An article at USA Today shows The Department of Homeland Security believes that “Blogging and message boards have played a substantial role in allowing communication among those who would do the United States harm,” the department said in a recent notice. “I just can’t envision a scenario where somebody posts to a message board, ‘I’m getting ready to launch an IED at this location,’ and the government will find that,” said terrorism analyst Matt Devost. This combined with the U.S. preparing itself for massive civil disorder makes me wonder how much longer until we are completely a police state?

Holidays – Priorities of American Culture

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

I can look at the screwed-up priorities and materialism of this culture and I can either feel very bad about it because it’s sad or I can joke about it because it’s absurd. Having tried both, I choose the latter.

I don’t just think Christmas or other holidays that supposedly have a religious/spiritual/otherwise immaterial tradition have become over-commercialized. I think we’ve effectively elevated making money, maybe going to school, and getting a job so you can have kids who grow up to make money, maybe go to school, and get a job, ad infinitum, into something like the purpose of existence since most people cannot or will not either find their own reason for being here on Earth or accept that there may not be a purpose at all.

Some people say that you have to decide to prioritize money over family. I don’t believe it’s quite that simple. Most of the time, going against the crowd is just a simple matter of courage, but this is one of the few areas where It’s rather difficult to make other choices when almost no one else does. Let’s assume (to make a point) that the vast majority of people are giving highest priority to work/money. If you don’t, your employer may start to see you as unwilling, lazy, or “not a team player” when you don’t want to work as many hours during the holiday season as the other employees. It’s also hard to enjoy something like quality time with people who do not value it as much as you do and have decided to go make money instead. Any real change to this system would have to be a change to the culture itself; in the meantime, all you can do is lead by example.

Happy Holidays and may you have a Happy New Year.

Outsourcing and where the U.S. is heading

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

I entirely agree that individually you need to be as valuable as possible. That’s why all the CCNPs I know are working to finish their CCIEs and the CCIEs are working on their Juniper/Avaya certs. All of this is on top of their technical degrees.

The problem is that you and your “invaluable” skills really aren’t being taken into account. It doesn’t matter if firing you would cripple the company because we’re typically thinking 90 days at a time. If you replace a $150K CCIE with a $20K wannabe, then you as a manager can claim a $130K dollar “savings.” Hooray for you, here’s your bonus. When that $20K wonder takes all of your customers down — and here’s the beauty part — you aren’t blamed for it. No one is currently drawing the line between your $130K savings and the customers that walked with their millions of dollars.

The really scary part? I know a couple of people who work on municipal, hospital, and 911 systems. Infrastructure disasters there can cost lives. They’ve watched the cheap guys take down emergency systems, and tried not to think about the calls that were getting dropped as they fought to get them back online. They push the frantic calls for help out of their mind because if they let their imagination run with what an unanswered 911 call could mean…

The cheap guy’s response as they berated him for putting lives at risk? Basically, what do I care? It’s not my country.

Every one of the guys I know are putting in 60-hours weeks routinely. Hours like that mean divorces. They mean early heart attacks. They mean neglected children left to raise themselves. They mean broken homes with the societal carnage that goes with it. It’s the classic tragedy of the commons. The people who lead our country are insulated from the carnage associated with gutting our workforce. In the meantime, my country is falling apart. I’ve got a CS degree from a good University, a couple of certifications, and a decade of experience and even I am feeling the heat. I weep for those not as lucky as I.

We’re gutting our middle class. We just are, and if you don’t see it, it’s probably because you’re young. I hear your “Well, it’s not a problem if you’re the best of the best” bravado, and I wonder what you propose to do with the other 99% percent of the population, because they’re not just going to just disappear.

During the LA Riots of ’92 Rodney King and Daryl Gates might have been the spark that set it off, but that riot burned on the fuel of unemployed people. Anyone who has been to LA, more than a decade later, has seen that the damage still hads’t been repaired. I’d really prefer not to see that happen on a country-wide scale. But me and the other people around my age are worried. We’re getting that “vibe” again.

Things are stretched beyond breaking. Our teachers have flat-out given up. Our cops are showing the sort of violent and unstable behavior you would expect from PTSD. The wave of earnest enlistees that flooded the military after 9/11 have become the sort of weary jaded bastards that could put the most burned-out Vietnam Vet to shame. We are, for the first time in history, routinely using mercenaries in almost every level of our military and law enforcement. I’m seeing military families, families with generations of service, hang up their uniforms and forbid their children from serving.

Our hospitals are literally allowing people to die from neglect in the ER. Our bridges are falling down. Our electrical grid is one snapped breaker from going dark. Katrina should have been our moment of clarity. The fact that it so clearly wasn’t scares me to death.

But you go ahead, and keep humming that “I’m the best, I’m the best, I’m the best” mantra. Keep closing your eyes as tight as you can and shut your ears tighter. Find a good teddy bear, because the old man, the old man has seen all this before.

I’m terrified of where this train is going.