Musings of the day

Time flies when you’re having fun, or so they say.. I’ve lost 2 years now, and it wasn’t fun.  Covid sucks, so do all the politics surrounding it and clouding peoples common sense.

Working from home has been a blessing and a curse. I get a lot more done, both at ‘the office’ and at home. No 2 hours a day in the car. No quick dinners because I don’t have time to cook properly. No time spent cussing the idiots on the road. Those are good things, but also not as much time spent cultivating good relationships with the people I work with, all the interactions are video or phone calls, or impersonal emails.. no standing around chatting.  I switched employers in the middle of all of this. The old firm cut me and my team, loose with a 5 week notice. They did treat us well on the way out, but still..  Oddly enough, I think we’re all better off for it. I really like the new place, most of the time… the majority of the team stayed at the old firm, just went to new departments, and for all but one that seems to have been a good move. The one is coming to work for me now at the new place.  One other person moved on, but she seems happy with her new place as well.  So overall, it was a good thing. It did hurt, 15 years I spent there, only to have some twit come in and decide they would be better off outsourcing us.

I still talk to a lot of people at the old place, and they are not appreciating the third party much at all. The best part is, my new employer was already using that same third party, and part of my new role was to turn that around, and do the reverse of what my old employer did. So, I get the satisfaction of getting rid of that same third party and getting us a top quality help desk. Not a bunch of ticket takers, but a team that can deliver first rate service on time, all the time.

A Support Center (Helpdesk) should be able to take your call and solve your problem 85% of the time. Some things they can’t fix, simply because it requires hands-on, which can’t be done over the phone. So they should be fixing it, quickly, or getting your issue routed to the right people who can and will solve it.  It’s a hard, and mostly thankless job by the way. No one calls the help number to say ‘Hi, how are you? Hope you’re having a nice day.”  No, when they call, they are already having a bad day and far too often it shows.

I guess I’ll never understand people

People get married, and people get divorced. It happens. Sometimes it’s a peaceful parting of ways, other times it’s World War 3.
Couples with small children fight over custody, many times with little regard for how those children feel about it all.
What people fail to realize is that it impacts their friends too. Maybe not the same as the children, but it does have an emotional impact.

My wife and I moved to our current home to live next door to two of our closest friends, one of whom happens to be one of my sisters. You don’t get to pick your family, but you do get to pick your friends and I thought, past tense, she was one of my best friends. (EDIT: Scratch that, she still is, she just doesn’t realize it, and I’m still here, waiting for her to come to her senses.)
They (my sister and BiL) are now getting divorced. It came on fast.. sure I knew they had the occasional problem. What married couple has the ‘perfect’ marriage? None that I know of, not even my wife and me. I just failed to realize I guess, that it was this bad.
Long story short (like I ever tell the short version) they had been split up less than a month when my I found out my sister was seeing someone else. Her prerogative, and not really my business. I did notice the guys truck there at night, and still there in the morning. Hell we share a driveway, I couldn’t miss it, I wasn’t being nosy.
DW (the wife) met him once or twice when she’d wander over. I have nothing at all against the new guy, why would I? I’ve never met him, and I reserve judgment for myself, not anyone elses opinion of someone.
I started this post months ago, but kept it flagged private, as I do a lot of what I write.. this is for me, it’s cathartic. No one else really needs to read it, and most people really don’t care what I think. (that is their loss by the way).

Fast forward to the present, I’ll hit publish on this in a bit..
My sister is still not speaking to me, she thinks I have betrayed her somehow.. in the past 5 months since all this started I have spoken with my BiL exactly 3 times. Three, as in one more than Two. In the first conversation he asked me a question. One he already knew the answer to. I told him the truth. That is why my sister is upset with me. I did not lie for her.
If the situation was reversed, first off I know she would not lie to my wife for me. Second, I would not expect her to. Their relationship is theirs, not mine to interfere with.
In fact, despite the tension between my sister and me the two of them have remained friends. Somehow my sister expects nothing less, despite the tension it now causes between my wife and I sometimes. She (my sister) does not care about that. I don’t either really, I love my wife, I love my sister even if I think she has lost her mind at the moment, I am happy they are still friends.
What does hurt though is that my sister thinks that somehow I did something intentionally to hurt her, as if by refusing to be a liar I betrayed her. My honor is worth more than that.
I’d still drop everything and help her if she asked for it. I just won’t compromise my own integrity for anyone is all.

More socially retarded by the day…

With each passing day it seems our world grows smaller, yet more socially retarded.

This past week I was witness to a repeat of something that had happened to me personally a couple of years ago.

My youngest daughter, Grace, standing in the dining room with a shocked look on her face.. (I should mention, for sake of clarity as I tell the story, she is not my bio-daughter) as she reads, on Facebook, that her grandmother, her biological sperm-donor’s mother, is in the hospital.
No one called her to tell her, she only found out hours later when she happened to check Facebook on her phone. Her aunt had posted it. 
Grace was upset, immediately worried about her grandmother. I, on the other hand, was pissed. When did it become acceptable to blurt something like that out on social media without at least telling the family first? If the grandmother had died in the fall that sent her to the hospital would it still have hit Facebook that way rather than a phone call? I somehow get the feeling that the answer to that question is yes.

Some people crave attention above all else. They must immediately, when opportunity presents itself, scream “Look at me! Look at me!”. Anything that will draw that attention is fair game, good, bad, indifferent. They must announce it to the world and smile profusely as the number of ‘Likes’ and comments roll in… The more the better. 

A couple of years ago my own grandmother was rushed to the hospital, and my own aunt had it out on Facebook before word got around to the rest of us.. the only time I have spoken to her since then was at my grandmother’s funeral. I have little use for shit like that.

No consideration of the feelings of others. No thought to how they might feel reading such personal news on such a public platform, while strangers, ‘friends’ of the person making the post, comment on it. How many of those ‘friends’ are even friends? Look at your friends list on Facebook. How many of those people do you honestly know? I see people with hundreds and thousands of Facebook friends, yet outside of Facebook they barely interact with anyone., barely know anyone. They barely interact with their own families, yet spill their most personal things out for attention from these cyber-friends to comment on.

I am so frustrated by this that I totally lost the train of thought I was working on and seem to have resorted to rambling and babbling…

I guess, what I want to say is, Think Before You Post. 
Is what you are about to spill publically something others might need to know in private first?
Do you really need the attention? 
Is your life that shallow that you require the commiseration, or approval, of people you only know as an icon next to a name at the expense of the feelings of your Family, and Real Friends?

If you answered yes to that last question, and I’m on your friends list, expect I won’t be for long. Expect also that your own family probably has little use for it as well.

Reading is Fundamental

Some of my earliest memories involve learning to read. Cuddled on the couch next to my mother, she reading Dr. Seuss, me following along, my fingers under the words on the page repeating each word and memorizing the patterns of the letters that made up those words, with a bowl of Jiffy Pop next to us to snack on as I learned. There are other memories of times snuggled in my grandfather’s lap as we sat in his old black recliner, more Dr Seuss, “Inside, Outside, Upside Down” the rumbly baritone of his voice, the smell of the peppermints he always kept in his pocket for 3 year old me, the low drone of the television in the background… a hockey game, or wrestling match. I still associate those smells and sounds, with reading and learning. Throughout the years, between then and now, I have always been an avid reader, but those memories are the key. By the age of 4, I was the one reading to them and by the time I started kindergarten I had stacks and piles of books in my room, and read everything I could set my eyes on. Reading seemed so important, though I still didn’t know why. The more I read, the more I learned, the easier learning became. The reading experiences of my childhood were significant because they taught me to think things through, helped me learn to look at problems from many angles when seeking a solution and helped me to achieve a position in the world of IT management.

In my adult years, this love of learning, brought on by reading, helped me to establish myself firmly into the world of management. I attribute my rise through the ranks to my ability to think things through, clearly and effectively choosing the right path to reach the desired end, and solve problems as they arise along the way, skills I learned as I learned to read and write all those years ago.

I learned critical thinking skills, as I sought ways to help my favorite characters out of one difficult situation after another. I learned to expand my imagination, to ask “What if..?”, and to follow through on those questions to determine likely outcomes.

I learned to assess the needs of others, to ask the right questions, and turn the answers into actionable decisions as I pondered the lives of Tarzan, John Carter, and Carson Napier as I wandered the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’m a Support Center Manager, one of the areas I am responsible for is the Helpdesk. People frequently call for assistance, and while they think they know what they need, they really only know what end result they want. For instance, I recently was approached by a senior partner who insisted he needed a laptop for travel that was equipped with certain software, and entire databases of data he would need for a trial. By asking the right questions, determining what he was attempting to do, and showing him how to use a web-based interface to access our network I was able to convince him that while he needed the laptop, he did not need all of the extra programs and data installed, making the laptop more efficient, and preventing loss of data if it were stolen.

I learned to look for clues, and pay attention to details as I followed the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators. Just last week I was, by pure chance, included in a conversation concerning a problem with our wireless network in the St Louis office. While not normally something I would be involved with, the topic came up while in a meeting with several other managers. I asked how long this had been going on. “About 2 weeks or so.” was the answer. I thought back, wondering what had changed two weeks prior. Attention to detail saved me, and I pointed out that the new clinic on our floor had opened at that time. Something that should have made no difference, yet it was the only change, the only new detail in our environment. Two hours later I received an email saying that the clinic had been tied into the wrong network, and was using the lion’s share of the bandwidth that was meant for our wireless system. Thank you, Sir Doyle and Mr. Hitchcock, for teaching me to pay attention to the small things.

I learned to never give up, to follow through and achieve my goals following Melville’s characters in Moby Dick. This dogged insistence that there must be a way to achieve my goals has led me to the path I am on now. Learning for the sake of learning, learning, to be able to move forward, to have more answers at my fingertips when presented with new problems to solve. Higher Education is now my White Whale.

As I said previously, the reading experiences of my childhood were significant because they taught me to think things through, helped me learn to look at problems from many angles when seeking a solution and helped me to achieve a position in the world of IT management. In the end, it was reading that taught me the skills I needed to succeed in my chosen career. By following the lives of the characters in my books I learned to think, to assess the situation and look for critical clues. I learned to ask the questions that would lead to the answers I needed and to never give up, because there must always be a solution to the problem if you just look hard enough.


Too Many Hobbies

I have too many things going on sometimes. I just can’t keep track, I get distracted and hop from one task or hobby to another.

Genealogy is one of my favorite hobbies, and now adding DNA studies into the mix makes it even more time consuming, rather than less.

10 years ago I submitted my first sample for Y-DNA testing, and built on that when new developments came along. It opened a few interesting doors, including some rather eye-opening discussions with my father before he passed away.

The along came Autosomal DNA matching, a way to trace not just my fathers, fathers, fathers line with Y-DNA, or Mitochondrial DNA which traces the Mothers mothers, mothers line… both of those only went up the outside branches of the tree, but with atDNA we could start looking at potential matches in the middle. We can now find people we share bits and pieces of DNA with, inherited from both parents, or grandparents, etc… you can find a bit of explanation about it by clicking HERE, they do a far better job of explaining than I could.

All this testing, and matching brought a lot of results, but enough that I have gotten some leads on places and people to look at for more information, and it has led to some useful information, such as finding the Mexican War enlistment records for my Great-Great Grandfather, who I really had no information on prior to his marrying my GGGrandmother before I found those papers.

One of my fathers cousins got hooked on genealogy research, she blames me, but I’m okay with that. Her atDNA testing opened some doors for possible connections, and my own testing then confirmed her matches, although we have no hard paper trails yet, we know we are looking in the right direction.

Some cousins on my mother’s side are now looking into doing some testing as well, which I hope will lead to more discoveries. In the meantime, I have already had one brother sampled and tested (that led to the discussions with my father I mentioned before) and I plan to talk to my half-brother soon and see if he’ll submit a sample if I cover the costs. That will give us a the triangulation to confirm a few things.

I have found some other cousins on the Williamson line that I need to talk into this as well, and perhaps we can start to fill in the blanks…

If you’re interested in genealogy, and haven’t started yet, look around, there’s plenty of options, or drop me an email, I’ll make what suggestions I can.

Back to the World

It’s been a crazy few months, and most things written here are locked away, they’re for me, more of a personal journal, not for public consumption.

Chad Grimm, the Libertarian candidate for Governor of Illinois, lost of course. I didn’t expect he’d win, but a stronger showing would have been nice. Too many people still buying into the same old crap. They ‘have to vote Republican or Democrat’ the ‘Lesser of the Two Evils’ even when they self identify as Libertarians, or confess that they want what the party stands for. Still, they buy the bullshit, and vote for Evil, in one form or another. They don’t get it, and this time next year, those that voted for Rauner will be bitching about it, but it will be too late. The lesser of two evils is still evil, yea? So you get what you voted for.

On another front, I’m well into my first term working on this BS degree, emphasis on IT Security. 2 classes finished, 2 exams coming up, and hoping to squeeze 2, maybe 3 more courses in this term. Western Governors University is perfect for me. I work at my own pace, when and where I have time. Schedule my exams, and off I go. They’re all proctored of course, but all good so far. One new IT certificate for the wall already, and a dozen more on the way.

Last April saw me in the hospital, 321 pounds, and having heart issues.. go figure.. what the F* happened? how did I get there? It just crept right on, but now it’s December, and most of it’s gone, back down in the 240’s, and aiming for 220 by April, I figure 100 pounds in a year is enough, and it’ll have the Doc off my ass. At 6’3”, 220 is just fine, I don’t care what the charts say.

I just spent a week at the Occidental Grand Xcaret Resort with my amazing wife, and one of my sisters and her husband. All I can sat is, it was AWESOME, and we’re already planning next years trip. Maybe the same place, but I think a lot of it had to do with the company. I don’t think it matters where the 4 of us go, we’re going to have a good time together. We all just click well.

All of the above are fodder for longer posts, but I just felt like spilling something out this evening, taking a break from the studies, and needed something to ‘dump the brain’, so this was it.



Disable that GeoTagging!

That’s easy. Metadata


In short, metadata is more data about data. In most common document types, embedded within a file is more information, typically hidden from casual viewing. This hidden data is used by the computer programs to provide accurate processing information, i.e. what version of software was used to create the document, how the file is encoded, and often who created it.

In the case with many popular image/picture formats, the list of possible metadata is quite extensive. With the expanded options for metadata in JPEG images, we have the ability to record the photographer, camera settings (ISO, Aperture, Flash, lens type), processing software and location.

The metadata in images is often retained by default by desktop image processing software and many online photo storage websites. This information is often valuable to the photographer, as well as the website provider for demographic information. Of course, location is also one of the options available for storage in a JPEG image.

About Geotagging

The storage of location based data, in the form of Latitude and Longitude inside of images is called Geotagging; essentially tagging your photograph with the geographic location. This data is stored inside if the metadata if JPEG images and is useful for tying the photograph to a location. Want to remember exactly where you took those photographs while on vacation? This information is for you.

However, most modern digital cameras do not automatically add geolocation (Latitude and Longitude) metadata to pictures. The process for adding the geolocation data either requires specialized add on hardware, or post processing with software on the desktop after the pictures are taken.

There is a large exception to this rule: Smartphones. With the proliferation of smart phones that contain GPS locator technology inside, the cameras in these devices are already equipped with the specialized hardware to automatically add geolocation information to the pictures at the time they are taken.

Most people don’t realize that the action of automatic geotagging takes place on their smart phones, either because it is enabled by default, not exposed the user as an option, or was asked and then forgotten. As a result, individuals often share too much information about their location, right down to the exact Latitude and Longitude when snapping photos with their smartpphone and posting them online.

How do I disable this?

The easiest way to stop posting this information for all to see it to disable geotagging on your smartphone.

Disabling on your phone

There are many phones out there on the market that geo tag their pictures and as we get more information, we will update the instructions to list more models, however, lets start with two phones: the Apple iPhone and the Palm Pre

iPhone (iOS 4.x)

(Via Charles)

Apple greatly simplified the way to turn off location services on a per-application basis. To see your settings, go to Settings, General, then Location Services. From there you can set which applications can access your GPS coordinates or disable it entirely.

iPhone4 Screenshot 1

iPhone (iOS 3.x)

With the iOS 3.x there are two ways to disable Geotagging of photos. The first involves disabling of all location based services. To disable this feature, Go to Settings, General then set Location Services to off.

iPhone 3 Screenshot 1iPhone 3 Screenshot 2

Be warned: This will turn off ALL location based services for ALLapplications. Of course we may actually have need to use location based services for other applications (such as maps and driving directions, or getting robbed via Foursquare), but just not for our pictures.

There is no easy way to disable location based servces for just one application. However, we can make the iPhone prompt us at first use for each application. Once reset, the first time we enter the application we can enable or disable location based services for the application. To do so we need to go to Settings, General, Reset.

iPhone 3 Screenshot 1iPhone 3 Screenshot 3

Be careful here! We want to select Reset Location Warnings, and then Reset Warnings. This restores all of our Location based warnings for each application to the default, which in most cases is “Ask on first use”.

iPhone 3 Screenshot 4iPhone 3 Screenshot 5

From here, once we enter into the default Camera app on the iPhone, we can select Don’t Allow. This will prevent the Camera app from geotagging our photos.

iPhone 3 Screenshot 1

Palm WebOS

Palm has made it fairly easy to disable applications from accessing the GPS without your explicit permission. If you bring up the “Location Services” configuration screen, there should be three options: Auto Locate, Geotag Photos, and Background Data Collection. Ideally, all three should be turned off.

To disable geotagging photos, simply turn the “Geotag Photos” option off. If “Auto Locate” is off, the “Geotag Photos” option will not be displayed as the Pre will not geotag photos with “Auto Locate” off. Once the “Geotag Photos” is turned off, the camera appplication will no longer geo tag photos. As a side note, if “Auto Locate” is off, the Pre will prompt you anytime an application requests your location from the GPS. This allows you to know who’s asking to find out where you are.

Google Android (Verizon Droid Phones, this is you! :))

Like the iPhone, there are two ways to turn off geotagging. To completely disable GPS location finding for all applications, we will need to do the following:

Press the Menu Key and then Settings

Android Settings

Then press Location and security

Android Location Security

By default, GPS is on. Uncheck it to turn it off

Android GPS ON Andorid GPS OFF

Like disabling the GPS in the iPhone, this will break location based information for all applications, including legitimate uses.

In order to disable for just the camera application, start the Camera app to make sure that you are not saving your location. This is the menu on the left side of the camera application; it slides out from left to right.

Android GPS Camera Location

Select “Store Location” and make sure it is set to off.

Android GPS Camera Location Off

Once this is disabled, the camera app will no longer add geotags to your images.

BlackBerry Devices

There are multiple ways to disable the geo-tags on Blackberry. We details three ways here:

(Via Bug_Bear)

Select Options, Advanced Options, GPS, press Menu key, Select Disable GPS and select Yes to confirm. This will disable all GPS capabilities on the phone.

(Via Bug_Bear)

Select Options, Security, Applications Permissions, menu select Edit on the application (default is Prompt for BB Core), Expand Connections, Change Location (GPS) to “Deny”, or you can disable within the application. Most apps i.e. Google Maps, Ubertwitter, etc… will just default everything to “allow” for app perms regardless of app settings chosen during setup.

(Via an anonymous contributor… Thanks!)

Go into picture-taking mode (via HomeScreen, click icon “Camera”), press the Menu button and choose “Options”. Set the “Geotagging” setting to be “Disabled”. Finally, save the updated settings.

Other Phones

Sadly, there are numerous phones that we are unable to test. The exact directions on how to disable may vary by phone but we suggest checking under the Options menu of the Camera application and also any kind of “Location” or “GPS” menu under your phone’s control panel. If you are successful in disabling it, please let us know how you did it so we can share!

Raise the minimum wage in Illinois?

Illinois must not impose any minimum wage increase. Businesses in Illinois are still struggling to recover from the deepest recession since the great depression. Illinois’ unemployment rate is stubbornly high at 9.2%, nearly 2 points higher than the U.S. average. Since 1.4% of Illinois workers earn minimum wage, increasing the mandatory minimum would have an adverse effect on the unemployment rate. I am opposed any measure that will increase unemployment or harm our businesses.

The economics of increasing in the minimum wage during a down economy are simple: when something costs more, people purchase less of it – including low-skilled labor. I believe the current minimum wage benefits those that it is intended to benefit and increasing it may be detrimental to their continued employment.

Our elected officials continually see legislation to increase the minimum wage. They must remain vigilant in their efforts to oppose those bills – and make it clear that such increases will drive more jobs out of Illinois and threaten our small businesses.

One of my own daughters is one of those minimum wage employees. This is not some arbitrary decision on my part, it is well thought out. It would be nice if she made more money, and she will, eventually, but not at the risk of further damaging our economy for the sake of garnering a few votes. Shame on Quinn, because that’s all this is, a tactic to scrounge up votes.

Uphill battle for the Libertarians in Illinois

There’s a group of 7 Libertarians who want to run for office and clean up the great state of Illinois, but the Democrats and Republicans don’t want that to happen.

They have us right where they want us, under their collective thumb.

The Libertarian Party of Illinois has collected over 43,000, more than double what was required, and the D&R bunch is seeking to eliminate as many as possible of those, to keep the Libertarians off the ballot.

What are they afraid of? Most likely it’s the fact that Illinoisans are waking up, and are tired of the same old bullshit in Springfield.

Half of Illinoisians are ready to move out of state

According to a recent Gallup Poll, HERE fully half of the people living in Illinois would rather live someplace else.

Why is that you ask? I’m sure one of the reasons is that the state is so poorly managed, and is currently 6.7 Billion dollars in debt.

How did we get that for in the hole? I’d suggest asking our current Governor, but he obviously has no clue, see my post from early this week… we’re so far behind he seems to think we’re ahead.

I’d say ask our previous governors, but you’ll need a pass to visit half of them in prison… that’s right, they were so corrupt that 4 of them are, or have been, serving prison sentences.

Now, look forward to this fall… we have a choice, the apparent imbecile we know, Governor Quinn who thinks he’s doing a good job (or is an incredible liar) or his Republican opponent, Mr. Bruce Rauner, a man who won’t answer a lot of direct questions, in true politician style, or who has already flip-flopped on more than one subject, telling everyone what they want to hear, even if it contradicts something he already said.

Rauner appears to have plenty of skeletons in the closet, Quinn can’t seem to tell a loss from a profit, and wants to raise our taxes permanently.

That, for me, leaves two options. One? Flee the state, move to Missouri or Texas. Two? Support and vote for Chad Grimm, and watch him do for Illinois what Gary Johnson did for New Mexico as a Libertarian Governor.

I love my little home here, my family is mostly here, I’d rather stay than go, so Grimm is my last hope. If he doesn’t win, I’m packing up the house, hanging a for sale sign and headed across the river.