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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Bob's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, February 28th, 2017
12:00 pm
Hey, this still works!
So here's the cool thing, this - LiveJournal - still works. My own blog? Not so much.

Over the past couple of years I've gone from running my own server to running a server on a friend's virtual hosting box. That didn't work out, so I moved to a paid server. Now I'm banging my head on getting my e-mail functional, and my blog is about three projects away from even being on the table.

But I can still post here on LiveJournal! Nobody READS it, but that's okay.

Current Mood: Exasperated
Thursday, August 14th, 2014
1:01 am
Глобальный рынок мобильной рекламы почти удвоился в 2013 году
Well I guess you have some computerized Russian hacking-and-spamming program to thank for me blogging on LiveJournal again!

Woke up this morning to a "login from unknown location" e-mail in my inbox, found 50 new LiveJournal posts all with Russian spam.

Honestly, LiveJournal, you COULD make it easier to mass-delete posts, y'know?

Anyway I'm leaving the subject line on this one just for fun. I'd LIKE to get back to blogging again, but we'll see...
Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
10:58 am
Hi y'all.  Not that anybody reads this, but just to let you know the auto-post connection between my blog at albatross.org and here has broken, and I haven't had time to address that.  I have major server work to do, so it will be a while before I figure this out.  Upside: I'm a couple of months away from completing my final college course, after which I intend to MAKE time.  See you then!
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
5:00 pm
Yet another captured comment

Today's post is another political rant posted as a comment. Feel free to skip, as it's nothing I haven't said before. I've found that it's necessary to say the same thing over and over again in order to encourage the message to sink in.

It’s important to recognize that the forces feeding Scott Walker and Fox News are INTERNATIONAL forces, who care NOTHING about America. While Murdoch and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal are obviously foreigners, even the native Koch brothers evidently prioritize their corporate well-being over any interest in the Common Good of America.

That’s because these people represent corporatism, where those at the top hold absolute power, and those underneath are workers. Or in older but no less applicable terms, those at the top are Kings, those underneath are serfs. Call it corporatism, fascism, or authoritarianism, the real phenomenon is simply FEUDALISM. It’s the same mindset of centralized power and control that ruled mankind for centuries, and despite the Magna Carta and the French Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, it has never quite gone away.

What the media errantly calls “conservatives” are actually radical feudalists, like the Kochs or Murdoch. For them, national boundaries do not apply, their corporations sprawl across many nations, and they only use the differences between national laws and taxes to game all systems of taxation and subsidies in their favor.

And these foreign radicals don’t care about America. For the Kochs or Murdoch, the Soviet-style collapse of the United States would simply represent the ultimate tax break, and the ultimate deregulation. If our federal government were gone they would be free to end the 40 hour work week, reinstate child labor, even bring back slavery (to say nothing of drilling in ANWR and mountaintop removal). And don’t think they aren’t considering it.

Meanwhile, what the media calls “liberals” are actually conservative populists: citizens fighting to retain basic rights, from the right to choose to the 4th Amendment and habeas corpus. The modern battle isn’t “conservatives” vs. “liberals,” it’s foreign radical authoritarians versus conservative American populists. And the stakes are nothing less than the United States themselves, because as soon as these radicals have drained America of every last drop of wealth, they’ll start working – or working harder – to have the nation scrapped and broken up into smaller nations that are much, much easier to exploit. Murdoch and the Kochs frankly look to the breakup of the Soviet Union and think only, “I bet I could do that even more profitably here.”

So the question is, can representative democracy (populism) survive the corrupting power of feudalism (authoritarianism)? And how long are we going to accept this foreign assault on our country before we fight back?

Sunday, February 27th, 2011
10:43 am
Another letter the Strib won't print

Really, Star Tribune? The largest political rally in forty years, between 70,000 and 100,000 people, takes place next door in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday and your paper has nothing more current about the events than notes from last Wednesday? The Associated Press covered it, you could run their story. Or you could assign a reporter to watch live streaming video from a number of sources. But instead... nothing. A couple of overview pages in the back of the A section. Do you wonder why your subscriptions are declining? It's not the Internet - the Internet could help you - it's that you're not doing your job of covering actual news.

Friday, February 25th, 2011
11:08 pm
TWO infosec posts?

ANOTHER infosec post? Yeah. Reading a Schneier post regarding the "crisis in the infosec industry" I was struck by how much of the discussion was about the individual actors, and not much was about the setting in which these actors performed. Not my best post ever, I'm weary and it's late, but the point is, information security is only as strong as the laws we enforce.


Another contributing component to this mess is the fact that authoritarianism in America is waxing very strong right now. What we call "Republicans" or "Conservatives" are actually radical authoritarians trying to impose contemporary feudalism, also known as corportaism or fascism. What we call "Democrats" or "Liberals" are actually conservative populists, trying to preserve things like habeas corpus, the Fourth Amendment or the right to organize unions. The cultural battle is progressives vs. authoritarians.

Well authoritarians believe their ends justify their means. So as we see in this HBGary example, and with the Wisconsin Governor, and the sting that brought down Acorn, the authoritarians can and will do ANYTHING, without fear of reprisal or prosecution. AND should one of their operatives manage to get prosecuted, despite being insulated from such things by the mechanics of the authoritarian state, should one of them get prosecuted anyway they are simply abandoned (if too small a fish) or welcomed back and forgiven (if a big fish).

In an authoritarian worldview it is fine for members of the authoritarian tribe to take any steps, regardless of legality. But it is NOT fine for the powerless, the average person, to break ANY laws. If you lack authority, or power, you are not free.

Anonymous, whatever else you think of them, represent populism. Likewise Wikileaks. This is why they are so reviled, and their prosecution is so important to authoritarians.

But despite their corrupt incompetence (HBGary, Governor Walker) the law doesn't apply to authoritarians: because they have power, they are above the law.

And THAT'S why the security industry is facing a crisis. First, because when the Rule of Law collapses as it has in this country (Dick Cheney's obstruction of justice following shooting his friend, the failure to prosecute or even investigate anyone following the 2008 Wall Street collapse), the whole culture itself is a short way from collapse. Because Law requires Justice, and presently we don't HAVE justice.

This isn't to say that there was ever a perfect day when Law and Justice ruled absolutely, but in the cycles of such things we are certainly at a nadir.

When Law and Justice fail, then the apparatus of security ("cyber" or not) is SO easily corrupted into a tool of oppression.

The security industry is at a crisis because in an injust, authoritarian age, only the ethics of individual practitioners stand between justice and corruption. As an industry, we are only as reputable as the average of our practitioners. And nothing insulates us as security practitioners from suffering the consequences of taking an ethical stance.

Hopefully America will survive this powerful down-cycle of Justice, and up-cycle of authoritariansm. But until that changes our industry will be very vulnerable to the corrupting influences of authoritarian abuse. And the average practitioner will be forced to choose, again and again, between keeping their job and doing what their corrupt client demands.

Thursday, February 24th, 2011
11:51 am
An information security rant

Wow, look, I'm actually blogging about something to do with my profession! This was a response to some folks complaining about how FRUSTRATING the information security field is. With about 20% REAL unemployment in the United States, I think these folks should STFU and just get back to work, but beyond THAT little gripe is this salutary moment of perspective...

Here's the thing to be aware of about the information security industry: we are on the sharpest bleeding edge of business. I don't mean that in an OH WOW AREN'T WE COOL sort of way, but in a "What the hell does Gutenburg think he's doing with that fucked-up thing in his workshop?" kind of way. Computers in the workplace, and the Internet itself, are so new, nobody really actually knows what we're doing with them yet.

Business changes very slowly. We've spent the last thirty years basically figuring out what to do with Microsoft Office. I mean, I'm presently working with an organization that still routinely faxes documents from one end of the building to another as part of a business process they've followed since the 1980's.

Business is SO slow to change that business still considers IT an expense, and largely ignores the value of its information assets and its data processing.

That's going to change. My friend in the field Ben Tomhave and I have been saying for more than ten years that IT is not a cost center, it's a profit center, and still few businesses have really restructured themselves in a way that recognizes that fact.

Going further up the business ladder, we see that ignorance of the real value of IT is still firmly entrenched whenever the CISO reports to anyone but the Board or the CFO. In an "IT is a cost center" business structure the job of IT is always going to be "keep the lights on." Every time security (whether represented by a CISO or a mere "security guy") is structured to report to the COO, CIO, or Director of IT, security will be doomed to a frustrating, ineffective existence.

And across the whole scope of business, that's what security does - it reports to IT. And THAT'S because IT itself is, in business terms, brand spanking new and unknown. Business STILL hasn't really figured out what it's doing with computers and networks. Security will have to wait until business has figured out what it's doing with computers before the follow on question, "Now that we know what we're doing with IT, how do we do IT the right way?" can even be asked. And "Doing IT the right way" is what information security actually IS. It's optimized information technology where the only rights anyone possess are the exact rights necessary to do their job and no more.

And that? That time is years, DECADES away. MBA's graduating from college right NOW do not properly understand the role of IT in business, and until emerging MBA's understand that their data center is a profit center, they won't be able to start the long climb up to the Board, where the decision to have the CISO report to the Board can be made, understood, and appreciated. And until THAT happens, security will remain the bastard stepchild, sequestered behind the conflict-of-interest position of having to report to the CIO who is just trying to keep the whole place running, with no thought of the business beyond making sure services are available.

So for the next couple of generations, infosec is going to have a long, slow slog that will frustrate a lot of people. But a century from now? Smooth as silk. Infosec's role in business will be understood and integrated into how business does business.

Something to look forward to, ain't it??

Sunday, February 20th, 2011
12:24 pm

I have long since become accustomed to the annoyance that the Minneapolis Star Tribune brings me. Most any mainstream newspaper is going to be Statist - that is, it will support the maintenance of the State, the continuance of the status quo in order that business proceed normally and it continue to make money. That's a regrettable, but natural and understandable conservatism that most people don't even notice. Of course we want everything to continue as it has been - we just want a few tweaks here and there.

But the greater annoyance for me has been this strong public perception, apparent in online political dialog, that the Star Tribune is perceived as being liberal. Calling the Star Tribune the "Red Star" is not unusual among the type of right-wing nutjobs who post on its comment boards.

That's annoying because it's so at odds with any evidence. The Star Tribune eagerly supported right-wing nutjob Senator Norm Coleman, continuing to post editorials on his behalf even long after it became apparent he was going to lose the Senatorial recount to Al Franken. You'd think a newspaper would want to shift with the wind, to start cozying up to the next Senator, but no, the Strib only bregrudgingly acknowledged the Franken win that had been inevitable to any reasonable observer for months. This isn't what a "liberal" or even a preferably unbiased paper would do.

Likewise, the Strib continues to run the wingnuttiest of right-wing columns. Katherine Kersten is the Crazy Cat Lady of the Right, and has never seen a corporatist, authoritarian policy she didn't wholeheartedly support. Michael Gerson - President George W. Bush's senior speechwriter - makes frequent appearances, as do the usual tired-old blatherers, George Will and Charles Krauthammer. The Strib's concessions to "liberalism" include merely a couple of local writers - Nick Coleman and Garrison Keillor, the latter whose liberalism includes scolding Unitarians for their hymnals.

Despite the overwhelmingly conservative slant of the paper, its critics continue to piss and moan about how liberal it is. While I realize that a near-paranoid perception of victimization is an important component of being a conservative, it continues to rankle that the Right continues its "Red Star" criticism of the Star Tribune. I suspect they'd continue this delusional position even were my lynched corpse displayed on the front page under the headline "SERVED THE LIBERAL RIGHT."

But while not as graphic, today's Sunday edition is a pretty clear example of this disconnect between wingnut perception and reality. The paper features three columns regarding Governor Dayton's budget, all lined up next to each other, and each featuring a one-word summary of their opinion.

Democratic St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman: Honest.
Republican head of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce David Olson: Repellant
"Independent" (disgruntled Republican) and defeated Gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner: Doomed.

So anyone glancing at this page sees "Honest, Repellent, Doomed."

However, as Coleman points out in his column, two-thirds of Minnesotans recognize the mathematical necessity of Dayton's plan to tax the wealthiest 5% to try to address the deficit left to the State by Tim Pawlenty.

So despite the fact that 2/3rds of the public supports Dayton's budget, 2/3rds of the Star Tribune's opinion headlines read as critical of the plan: Honest, Repellent, Doomed.

But, still, the paper will be called the "Socialist Red Star." Sigh.

After the jump is the letter to the editor I posted in response to this imbalance. We'll see if they run it. Even were they to do so it would be like so many such "corrections," too little, too late.

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Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
9:01 pm
A Gloomy Post

A comment on an Ian Welsh blog post that I thought I should post here. I just end to write a lot of stuff out on the Net that ends up disappearing into the ether, sometimes I like to at least capture it.

Basic update: life is good, I have a job, I'm finishing school, paying the bills, etc. Everyone healthy, can't complain. Just watching the American empire collapse around us, that's all.


There is so much about the master class/working class division that the working class does not, can not, or will not fathom.

The working class simply doesn’t seem able or willing to comprehend the truly enormous discrepancy in wealth. I mean, they understand “they’re rich, we’re not,” but they don’t seem to understand in a real way what it means that some scumbag on Wall Street earns two BILLION dollars a year for playing computerized gambling with everyone’s money. The numbers are so big, they defy comprehension, but also there seems to be an unwillingness to try, an emotional resistance to even attempt to understand that one person, someplace, is stealing the wealth generated by hundreds of thousands of other people. Easier, instead, to gripe about welfare queens with Cadillacs, or illegal immigrants ‘stealing’ a $4/hour job – those numbers, at least, are comprehensible.

I try to communicate this to people who appear to listen, but they don’t seem to be able to get it. I tell them “The wealthy have stolen SO MUCH wealth from America, that EVERYONE IN AMERICA IS BROKE. The reason you earn less than your father did for the same work is because the wealthy have TAKEN it, and they’re keeping it. The reason that we can’t repair roads and can’t pay for schools, and we can’t keep cops on the street and firefighters on the job is because the ultra-wealthy have TAKEN all the money for that and put it in their overseas bank.”

It falls on deaf ears. It’s like denial is a safer place than facing the fact that we’re being ripped off and doing something about it. Why? I don’t know. Because the work and responsibility necessary to take that wealth back from the ultra-wealthy just seems impossible? Because getting involved, changing the laws back, resisting the lies of propaganda, and demanding economic justice, they all just seem too big or impossible?

In part, it seems to be simple authoritarianism – Americans simply believe it is wrong to oppose power. You don’t complain about the wealthy stealing billions of dollars because it’s just not your place to do so. They’re wealthy, they must be smart or they wouldn’t BE wealthy, so don’t get out of line and mouth off, because at best you’ll just look stupid and at worst you’ll go to jail. Instead, shut up, work harder, and, well, not THIS year, but maybe NEXT year if the economy improves, maybe you might get a single-digit percent raise.

And then there’s the unwillingness to believe the whole system could be wrong. Maybe it’s too frightening to believe that the only way that wealthy bankers on Wall Street could steal billions of dollars while workers are having their homes foreclosed out from under them is if the whole system is broken. Maybe the idea that we don’t have a working government, but instead a system of swindle and corruption, is that, again, the job of fixing it is incomprehensibly large.

I don’t know – I’ve always had a higher risk-tolerance than everyone else, so it seems very natural to me to look at the U.S. and say “this is a collapsing, broken system that will result in gigantic social upheaval when it finally goes.” Other folks, maybe, need to start from the premise of “America will always persevere, smart folks are in charge looking out for us, laws protect us, and the world is basically fair.” Maybe challenging that idea is just too much.

I look at America and I say “Well, if the U.S. collapses during my lifetime, hopefully the Upper Midwest Federation where I’ll end up living will be a halfway decent little nation.” I don’t think many people feel comfortable considering notions like that, so they start from the premise of ‘everything will work out.’

Monday, January 24th, 2011
3:50 pm
Amid the Slog

And we're hip-deep in the 2011 Slog everybody. Today's weather is gray, with grey, and a touch of gris.

This year's Slog hasn't hit me as badly as others have, possibly because I have a job and was unemployed for long enough to renew my deep appreciation for a steady paycheck. However there are still several weeks left and that's plenty of time to settle into a deep funk at some point.

I'm in my final sit-down-in-the-classroom class, a Sociology requirement that I'm fulfilling with a course in GLB families. Since I have one myself, it seemed relevant. So far so good, it looks like a very easy course (no tests, no final, just a few papers). Keeping my fingers crossed. Also have to get to work on this semester's paper.

It was nice having the twins home for Christmas. Now they're both gone again and the house has gotten all rambly and empty feeling. The cats help fill it out sometimes, as they're getting quite punchy and tend to chase each other across the furniture in unpredictable gales of claws and fur that start up in the attic and end by the back door.

Theresa's poetry book should be coming back from the printer's in a couple of days, the second printing with a lot of typos fixed. Now to schedule some readings at local bookstores and get her out there!

With class and school and gym I'm keeping busy, but I'm also still running the Shadow World Mars game. It's a lot of fun, and it substitutes for the creative endeavors I don't have time for while I'm trying to wrap up my undergraduate degree. I guess I can add it to my list of post-career-change novels...

Welp that's the quick update for now. More later!

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
5:29 pm
2010 Out

Okay, a quick entry because I have been negligent and my blog is empty and looks even more pathetic than usual.

2010 was an uneven year. On the downside, the employment picture for the first half the year was hell. On the upside, Lots of good gaming with friends, a fun trip to Portland where I got to meet Richard and Shawn, and of course, six months of steady employment.

Next year will be a sort of quiet one, at least I hope. Should i be so fortunate as to be employed for all 12 months, we will attempt to restore our financial situation from capsized to upright. I'll be working hard to finish my school - maybe by this time next year I'll be a college graduate? That would be novel!

Hopefully the children - sorry, our young adults - will continue to enjoy their college. And hopefully my lovely spouse will enjoy writing something fun. And hopefully my youngest boy will continue to improve at his high school pursuits.

Hopefully all of you will have a good year, remain healthy, remain happy, remain alive.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
11:06 pm
What's actually happening

The current political schism in America is plutocratic authoritarianism versus populist democracy. These are mislabled as "conservatism" and "liberalism," respectively, but in actual fact the authoritarians are radicals seeking to change America, and the populists are conservatives trying to retain our constitutional rights.

Unfortunately our discussion of these issues is FURTHER muddled by the assumed alignments of Republican=conservative=authoritarian=wealthy, and Democrat=liberal=populist=working class.

In fact, almost everyone in Congress, Democrat and Republican, is aligned with the wealthy class (and also the political class*). Additionally, MANY Congressional Democrats are authoritarian. And some Libertarian Republicans and Constitutional conservative Republicans would be better aligned with the populists in the Democratic party.

Just as nearly everyone fails to refer to our military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan as "occupations" rather than "wars," the failure of anybody to accurately perceive and describe the politics of the current situation makes it much, much harder to work towards a solution.

Calling Republicans 'conservatives,' rather than 'radical, anti-democratic authoritarians' provides them much more legitimacy and gravitas than they deserve, to their advantage. And calling actual conservative populist democrats 'liberals' is simply ass-backward. There is nothing 'liberal' about insisting on things like the Rule of Law, the re-establishment of habeas corpus, and the observation of anti-trust laws, or the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Until we start referring to things by their actual names, rather than whatever labels have been sloppily applied by others, we will have a very hard time solving our political crisis. Consider the difference between these two headlines:

"Republicans urge increased funding for the war in Afghanistan"


"Wealthy authoritarians who own defense contracting firms seek increased funding for the occupation of Afghanistan."

Or these headlines

"Obama and Congressional Democrats cave to Republicans on extension of Bush-era tax cuts"


"Wealthy Congressional plutocrats persuade wealthy Barack Obama to refrain from increasing their own taxes, saddling the next generation of working class Americans with a trillion dollars of additonal debt."

Until we describe things clearly, we cannot see the problems, to say nothing of actually finding solutions.

*The political class are those people who identify with each other as rulers over everyone else, regardless of their policy differences. They recognize that their careers will intertwine, that they will hire each other for jobs and help each other get rich and remain powerful. They'll serve in office for a while, then become highly paid lobbyists, then go work on Wall Street, and then if they get rich they will use their money to buy more influence in Congress. So while they make a show of fighting with each other over policy differences, they seek to maintain good relationships with each other over the long haul, because it is those relationships that will help them become rich and powerful. Given a choice between alienating their constituents, and alienating the rest of the political class, they will dump their constituents in a New York minute. Barack Obama is a member of the political class, and his efforts to avoid alienating the rest of the political class are why he capitulates populist positions, such as Single Payer Health Care, so quickly.

Sunday, October 31st, 2010
9:47 pm
Big Deal

I actually don't think this election is going to make much of a difference. The House will be turned over to the Republicans, which will barely be different from the Democratic House under Pelosi's leadership. Probably the worst effect of a Republican House will be the unending stream of ridiculous go-nowhere investigations designed to undercut Obama's presidency and position for 2012.

The Senate will remain in Democratic control but with more Republicans, which again hardly matters because the Senate has been completely unable to get anything done with the current Party of No representation, so a few more "No"s will hardly matter. I really hope Reid loses, because honestly adding Sharon Angle to the Senate will be less damaging to progressive values than Harry Reid's continued "leadership." One positive out of this is that Joe Lieberman will no longer have any power as a swing vote. If I thought the Democrats had any spine whatsoever I'd say "Yay, they'll dump him from his committees," but they're so completely spineless that they'll probably be afraid of a completely powerless loser like Lieberman. So everything will go on exactly as it has been, which after all is what the Senate likes.

All this election is going to do is give the Republicans more propaganda fodder, and seeing as they lie incessantly and unashamedly, it really doesn't matter. Heck, if they were to fail to take the House or Senate they'll simply crank up the volume in their Massive Victim Mode.

The fact is, nothing is going to fix this mess while the Democrats and Republicans continue to hold single-party power, unless we get some real leadership from someplace, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
1:19 pm
Propaganda or Why Republicans Always Win

The reason Republicans will consistently win back power, as we're seeing against all common sense in the upcoming elections, is that the national media has been allowed to monopolize. This allows the international Right wing corporations that control the U.S. media to shape public opinion through the most powerful propaganda empire that has ever existed.

Since this propaganda empire serves the corporate Right, the Democrats (to say nothing of unaffiliated progressives) are at a disadvantage communicating their message at all. But adding to their problems, the Democrats have not built the powerful marketing empire to shape messages, even if they had the media over which to transmit it.

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Monday, September 27th, 2010
9:15 pm
Accidental posting

Hi again. Well I STILL haven't finished the paper that was stressing me out back in JULY, and now I've eaten three weeks off the NEXT paper, so I have been putting all my time (when I wasn't procrastinating) into finishing it up. And I'm within hailing distance.

Stumbled in here tonight to approve a comment only to discover the comment was from August, so it was already approved. Figured while I was in here I'd say hello.

We have a new kitten named Loki in the house, Theresa got him for her birthday although she insists that me 1) allowing her to have a SECOND cat when I didn't even want the first one and 2) shelling out $150 to "adopt" the kitten from the Humane Society don't qualify as "a birthday present." It's a darned good thing for her that she's got me wrapped around her little finger, or I'd give her what for!

Leo is off at River Falls, where he may believe he's over committed to classes but I'm confident he'll do fine. Gennie is at the U of Mn where she likewise is dealing with a big workload. I hope they're both having fun.

Okay, I have to get back to my paper. More in June, when I will supposedly have graduated. Okay, hopefully sooner than then, but, y'know, gotta prioritize, right?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
10:24 pm
How I started doing this...

Sometime late in 1975 I sat down at a strange device that had appeared in our science room in my outstate Minnesota high school: a teletype. One of the older students showed me how to connect to a service called TIES, and play a game called “Lunar Lander.” Only six years after the first moon landing, the objective of Lunar Lander was to safely guide your descent module to a landing on the Moon. Since this was a text based game printed on a lengthy scroll of cheap yellow paper, the game display was simply this:


Which, as the lander descended, became


A line of numbers below this indicated your velocity in meters per second and requested simply a number representing your desired thrust for the next turn. You had to descend quickly enough to not crash for lack of fuel, but slowly enough not to crash from excessive speed on impact.

I played a few times and crashed a few times, but something was bothering me. I didn't like the M-----L layout. I wanted a curve for the moon and a little rocket ship for the lander.


Also, I thought that when you fired your engines, the flames should appear


Curious about how to make this happen, I listed the BASIC language source code for the program... and suddenly I knew what I was going to be doing for my career.

There is a scene in J. K. Rowling's “Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone” where the protagonist first rides a flying broomstick.

“He mounted the broom and kicked hard against the ground. Up, up he soared. Air rushed through his hair and his robes whipped out behind him, and in a rush of fierce joy he realized he had found something he could do without being taught. This was easy! This was wonderful.”

I've always enjoyed this scene, because this is what happened to me when I started making my changes to the Lunar Lander game. A frisson ran up my back and my hair stood on end, and I knew what my career was going to be. And it has been.

I quickly made the changes that I wanted, then went on to add a number of gruesome and creative different death scenes for each different velocity of impact. Mutation? Starvation? Asphyxiation? Lunar Lander had them all...

I was very lucky that day. All the while when students around me were trying to figure out their careers, I already knew. And while I get sorely tired of computers sometimes, still, it has been a good career. I shudder to think what I would have had to do for a living if these danged things weren't around.

Monday, August 16th, 2010
11:11 pm
What evening?

Man. Had fun tonight, but these days everything is leavened by the awareness that I need to get my paper done. Tonight I went straight from work to a meeting, and straight from the meeting to a dinner for a friend, and got home after 10:00 p.m. Then of course I have stayed up another hour reading e-mail and Facebook. But MAN, the way the days just evaporate...

I was a bit "off' at work today. First one fellow launched an impromptu meeting with me that lasted 90 minutes. It was all good, and quite necessary, but that'll set one's plan on their ear. Then an important meeting I was anticipating just got up and walked off three days into the future. Then the following meeting was complex and hard to understand. As a result the day didn't feel terribly productive, but rather scattershot and chaotic. Add to that the Microsoft Updates that insisted on being installed on my computer and then repeatedly rebooting it, and it was just kind of a mess of a day.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better, more organized, and more productive. At least I will get to bike. Once again I have transported three entire work outfits on Monday, so I can bike Tuesday through Thursday in shorts, and then change when I arrive. This takes a lot of coordination (for me at least) because I have to start washing my clothes on Friday to ensure they're all done and ironed by Sunday night so I can pick outfits and bundle them to work on Monday. Still if I can bike four days a week, that will hopefully help get me in better shape (although, honestly, my weight has just sat where it is, despite a variety of efforts, for several years now). You'd think a strict diet of Mars bars and poutine would have some effect one way or the other...

Sunday, August 15th, 2010
8:47 pm
It's dark

What the...? Okay, so I know the days start getting shorter after June 21st, and certainly now we're quite a ways from that date. Still, it seems like tonight the sun realized that it had been staying late at work, and decided to head home early. It's not even 9:00 p.m. and it's already pitch black outside! Wasn't it just yesterday that it was light out til nearly 10:00?

Like the evening light, this weekend is already over. After yesterday's obligations, I spent the last day working only on my paper, meaning that I only experienced today's absolutely delicious weather indirectly. The basement was comfortable today, and not a sauna, so I was able to work quite readily for a change, rather than being uncomfortable in the stuffy air. The work on the paper IS interesting, but I need to be making faster progress.

In addition to my paper I got my laundry washed and dried, and now I'm going to iron it, and then head off to bed. Tomorrow I'll drive to work because of meetings in Eagan immediately thereafter, then a dinner immediately after that. Hopefully the rest of the week I can bike.

Next weekend is the opening of the Ren Fest, and I'm hoping to go to the opening day - I've ordered a new hat and it will be waiting for me at the haberdasher's by the Bear Stage. I hope I like it.

If I DON'T like it, then I'll be off to Hymie's in St. Paul. Or maybe I will anyway. Hats are cool. Except fezzes.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
11:02 pm

Time is a monosyllabic fiend. It just sits there, "Tic" "Tic" "Tic" advancing into the future at a notoriously steady pace. Supposedly you can slow him down by accelerating to great speed, or speed him up by soaring off into space, but most people can't take advantage of such tricks, and the most anyone who CAN do these things has accomplished is to shave a "Tic" off here or there.

In my case Time seems to speed up when I become busy, which is entirely counterintuitive. If as Einstein insists time slows down when you accelerate, then it ought to slow down when you accelerate your pace of activity. Instead it races along. When I have a job it goes faster. When I have a job and take a college course, faster still. Honestly a year can flash past under the right circumstances. And insofar as I only get a limited number of these years - less than 100 I am fairly sure - then having one or more of them "flash past" makes me very resentful.

"Why do we hurtle ourselves through every inch of time and space?" the Indigo Girls ask, adding "I must say, around some corner I can sense a resting place." Indeed. Why "flash past" all these years? Why labor at meaningless jobs and accomplishments when it all comes to dust in the end? I have visited Lakewood Cemetary in Minneapolis and I have seen there great sepulchres and obelisks, and if they had one thing in common it was that I did not recognize the names beneath these mighty memorials. Statistically we are all more likely to be struck by lightning than to make any mark upon the world that will outlast two generations. So why do it?

No idea. I mean, I gotta pay the bills, so I gotta trade my time for cash, but beside that necessity, what motivation is there for ambition? Why do I aim to the next level and the next level? When do I let it all go and settle down on with a cold drink on a sunny beach? Does life ever slow down?

Not complaining, not exactly. Just wondering why we all live this way, those of us who do, and what those of us who don't have figured out in order to escape....

Monday, August 9th, 2010
11:45 pm
Forty seven

Well that was my forty-seventh year. I've had worse. I've had better. On the downside was the work situation, which was rather uneven. On the upside I must be getting older, because as annoying and briefly upsetting as my three job-losses in the past year have been, still they did not permanently sap my confidence like they might have a decade ago or two. Meanwhile, I've had a lot to enjoy, not the least of which has been my relationship with my kids, which has long been an astonishing and unexpectedly rewarding venture, but which has improved considerably in the past year.

Up ahead is 48, which teases of a few things. I might, perchance, actually finish my college degree. I might, possibly, hang on to a job for more than ten weeks (please check back in October to see how that's going). We might, maybe, travel to Germany again - we're merely toying with the notion, but it will be five years next summer since our last visit and possibly the family with whom we swapped homes may be up for a repeat. And maybe I'll get some bills paid off. And maybe I'll lose some weight. And maybe I'll write something more than homework assignments and random blog posts.

But whatever, I'm glad to have what I've got in life. For all the ups and downs it's certainly privileged and fortunate, and hopefully I can keep that in mind across my forty-eighth year. I only get one forty-eighth year, I may as well make the best of it.

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