Monday, October 21, 2013

"Please Wait..."


I can't imagine anyone being surprised that the HealthCare.gov site is the dismal failure that it has shown itself to be.  Many might refuse to admit it to themselves - much less anyone else, but they can't possibly be shocked.  That said, I think I have a nearly cost-free solution to the current reported plan to edit 5,000,000 lines of code written by the Canadian subcontractor that created the site.  My plan leverages expenditures and data networks already in place and accepted by the public.

It's simple really.  Copy and paste the HealthCare.gov questionnaire and your answers into an email addressed to yourself.  In the email Subject line, type "Obama Sucks", and click Send.  The NSA will intercept and analyze your email and can then forward it to the various responsible Government entities, such as the IRS for enforcement, to the Labor Department so your 29 hour work week can be counted as a "new job", and to the death panels for procedure rejection based on your age.

Bingo!  Problem solved using American resources and Al Gore's Internet!  Remember, you read it here first!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shrug In The City Part IX - A Fond Farewell



They say time flies when you’re having fun.  At my age, I believe that’s especially true - even when there’s no fun to be found.  As this project comes to a close, I’ve spent a total of nine weeks in the Big Apple.  I made it no secret at the onset that I was dreading the thought of having to work in Manhattan for so long.

My normal routine when I’m on the road for IBM is to spend my days working on my client site and my nights alone in my hotel room working on my current project's documentation or preparing for the next one.  Generally speaking, I work solo on most of my projects with occasional interaction from the customer's staff.  It's not like I'm bonding with the boys on a party-filled road trip.  The customers have families and their own lives to live and are therefore usually not interested in hanging out or even having dinner with vendors. This is especially true in a city like Manhattan where few "regular" people can afford to live close enough to avoid hours of commuting to work each day. Hotel television sucks because the channels are unfamiliar and the selection is slim; that is unless you like home shopping, religious programming, The Knitting Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN College, ESPN Classic, ESPN Pets, ESPN Kids, ESPN Insomnia, yadda yadda yadda.  But mostly hotel TV sucks because there's no DVR.  When I'm home, I have no idea what time or which day my favorite shows are broadcast, nor do I tolerate commercials. I watch what I want, when I want, commercial free.  With nothing to watch in my hotel room and since I had so many weeks and...since it is New York City, I figured I could catch up on Tivo on weekends and decided to see what the Big Apple buzz was about.  So I forced myself to get out and mingle among the people.  I figured at the least, it might offer some writing fodder for a daily blog that in actuality, does good to update weekly.

Wheelie Machines for Rent
Throughout my peripatetic exploration, I saw some pretty interesting sights, ate some great food, and met some awesome people.  I also saw excessive homelessness/mental illness, ate some nasty street cart crap, and met some complete assholes.  Of course we have all of that in Texas too, just not on the per capita scale New York City does.  To get around town, I’ve rented cars, ridden in cabs, on trains, buses, and in subways.  I’ve experienced pretty much every form of travel the City has to offer except a horse drawn carriage and one of those pedal driven rickshaw taxis. I even almost got ticketed for riding a bicycle up Lexington Avenue after midnight.  I'm not sure if it was because I was riding up Lex, which is a one-way southbound street, or if it was because I had ridden a wheelie for several blocks straight when one of New York's finest stopped me.  He told me two other officers had alerted him about me via radio as I rode by them.  When he suggested I probably had a really good excuse to share with him, I looked around, smiled, shrugged, and said "I got nothin'. But in my defense, I didn't run any lights", which was actually true.  He chuckled a bit and let me off the hook when I promised to keep both wheels on the ground for the rest of my nocturnal ride.  The drop off point for the bike was literally across Lexington from my hotel, less than a block away.  I waved at him as I crossed into the hotel lobby, realizing that I had just jay walked to get there.

Most of my travels around Manhattan were on foot.  In fact, I’ve walked pretty much the entirety of Manhattan Island north to south and east to west.  I've hiked through damn near every square inch Central Park, into East Harlem, the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, Midtown, the Theater District, the Meat Packing district, the Garment District, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, Gramercy, West Village, East Village, Greenwich Village, SoHo, NoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, the Bowery, Tribeca, the Lower East Side, Wall Street, and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and back.  I met some great people, I ate some great food (LOTS of pizza), I saw Ayn Rand's "Anthem" off Broadway, I watched parades, I gave some food to homeless people, I dropped cash in street musicians' buckets, I photobombed tourists' pictures, and through it all, I took a buttload of pictures.
So now it’s over.  The network for which I was sent here to create is up and running and all the stakeholders are pleased.  I took an antiquated and overloaded network and singlehandedly designed, configured, and deployed an innovative replacement that will scale to serve the store and its clients for years.  I'm kind of proud of that.  In case you haven’t figured it out, I thrive on the sense of achievement I get when I overcome challenges.  Because of the congested RF environment in Manhattan, this project was probably the most technically challenging and patience testing engagement I’ve worked in years.  Even though I had to postpone starting my new role at IBM and travel week in and week out to execute this engagement, I’m walking away from my old role with that satisfying sense of accomplishment that I crave.  I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit that I often wonder in the back of my mind how long sitting in my office week in and week out in my new role will satiate my need for a sense of accomplishment.  I know I'll just have to focus on the benefits of being home with my family, my dogs, my friends, and my bands.




Brooklyn Bridge Panorama
Brooklyn Bridge Looking Towards Manhattan
I know how much I whined at the onset of this project and struggled to comprehend why anyone would actually want to work or live in New York.  I’m a Texan to the core and as such, I’m proud of the independent mindset and limited government control the Lone Star State enjoys.  When I embarked on this project, I was annoyed by the pervasively overwhelming bleeding heart liberal mindset of many New Yorkers and by the nanny state that Mayor Bloomberg has instigated.  My experiences on this project with slothfully complaisant and self-entitled union workers has reaffirmed my long held disdain for organized labor.  Everything I take for granted in Texas costs a fortune in Manhattan.  For the most part, the people you encounter on the streets there are in a foul mood.  A taxi trip to LaGuardia Airport pretty much beats anything Six Flags or Disney World has to offer.  I'm dating myself here, but if Disney World's Space Mountain was an "E" Ticket, then the ticket for a typical cab ride in Manhattan is in a language and font yet to be created.  It’s like living inside a Grand Theft Auto game in ultra high definition with the audio track set to a foreign language.  

This Statue Was Open
Like I said, this was my mindset when I started the project.  But if you’ve read the previous entries in this series, it’s clear that over the weeks I developed a new mindset about the City; a mindset that lies somewhere between acceptance and fondness.  I have never been anywhere where I can walk a different route to the same destination five days in a row and marvel each day at the architectural diversity along each of those routes.  I had an engaging conversation with a young computer network geek who is working as an apprentice electrician pulling LAN cable for my subcontractor at night while attending technical training during the day.  He always took copious notes and asked insightful questions that led me to believe he really wanted to learn.  He even came in a couple of times on his days off to sit in the basement with me to try to learn how to configure the gear.  I found his work ethic and eagerness for knowledge refreshing, albeit uncharacteristic for union workers in these parts whose work ethic examples have been senior union guys with a severely undeserved sense of entitlement.  I rode to the airport with an immigrant taxi driver who described (in unbroken English, no less) how he put
three children through college driving a cab in New York and now has a son who is a US Army officer serving in Afghanistan.  During one of my hikes around town, I had at least two people stop to offer directions whenever I stopped on the street to look at my map.  I was walking past Radio City Music Hall one night during a taping of America’s Got Talent when a side doorman noticed the t-shirt I was wearing under my opened button down shirt and shouted out to me "I'm anti social too!", upon which I opened the button down wider to reveal the red letters "IST".  His eyes lit up, he fist bumped me, and after a brief conversation, let me into the show taping.  I even bought a large iced tea for 99 cents at McDonald's.  Virtually everything I complained about in my early entries was negated because I took the time to see the City.
Manhattan Skyline View at Dusk From Central Park
I wrote in this series’ first entry that it felt like Manhattan was the center of the universe and months later, I still stand by that statement.  Although I could never live there, I must admit that I now recognize the appeal Manhattan holds for those who do.  As depressed as I was every Sunday afternoon when I had to cut my weekend short and leave the lake, leave Strokers, leave home; as much as I missed my family and my dogs; as frustrated as I would get at not being able to rehearse with my new band during the week; as fed up as I was with all of it when I would board my oversold flights back home at the end of the week, I’d be either lying or in denial if I said I haven’t enjoyed most of my time in the City.  Despite all I’ve seen these last two months, I know Manhattan offers a great deal more.  I’m pretty sure I could see most of it if I had another three or four months.  I’m also pretty sure Tiffany would find a way to keep me there if they could.  But I’m DAMN sure that isn’t going to happen so don’t get your hopes up.

Mecca
Gettin' My Evil On!
Bridge to Somewhere
Bryant Park
Rockefeller Center
The REAL Reason I Went to NYC
The View Walking back to My Hotel Each Night
1970s Icon
Hot Dogs Day or Night - Is He Mocking Her?
Letterman!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shrug In The City Part VIII - Manhattan Elevator Etiquette

Fancy Tiffany Elevator Doors
When I consider how much walking I've done in Manhattan and all the meals I've skipped, I should be in much better shape than I am.   Unfortunately, the content of the meals I didn't skip have probably impacted my shape more than those I didn't.  While my daily round trip walking from my hotel to the store is just over a mile, the reality is I covered at least that distance again every day at work just running up and down the stairs traversing the thirteen floors that comprise the Tiffany Flagship store.  For better or worse, I can recite the precise number of steps between each floor in each of the store's staircases. The view inside the windowless stairwells never changes, but I walk them because taking the elevator seems lazy and I can’t stand the awkward silence in an elevator full of people who won’t even look at each other.  It’s common knowledge that people rarely make eye contact on the streets in Manhattan.  It's as if to be caught being looked at is a sign of weakness and to be the looker is a sign of aggression.  I proudly take the aggressor side.

In Manhattan elevators, people who know each other and who were even carrying on a conversation before they stepped in will go silent and stare at the floor during their ride up or down.  Not even on of my famous United Nations-certifiable-weapons-of-mass-destruction-grade-silent-but-deadly farts can get a conversation started and believe me, I’ve tried.  People just stare at the floor, hold their breath, and gingerly wipe the tears from their burning eyes. One woman squeezed herself into an already packed elevator and backed herself up right in front of me. Then she turned to me with a semi-snarl and said "You're standing awful close."  I was too preoccupied with trying to not breathe down her neck to come up with a witty retort.

Manhattan street eye contact notwithstanding, elevator etiquette is even more strange and restrictive. There are several unspoken rules.
  1. Do not speak to anyone in the elevator.
  2. Do not look at anyone in the elevator.  This is a good time to stare at your iPhone.
  3. In a crowded elevator, stand in the back so everyone will have to shuffle around to let you out at your floor. Since articulating human speech is out of the question, grunts and hand gestures are acceptable means of communicating that you need to exit.
  4. If the doors remain open for more than 1 second after a passenger entrance or exit, frantically push the “close” button.
  5. If you realize that you have exited the wrong floor, act as if it was intentional. Do not attempt to re-enter the elevator.  This is especially important if you followed optional rule #3 below.
  6. Do not hold the elevator door for someone racing towards the elevator.  Stare at the floor (or your iPhone) and let the doors close.  Don't feel guilty.  They'll do it to you.
There are probably others, but since I pretty much ignore stupid rules, I've forgotten them.
I created a few of my own elevator rules that are great for garnering stares and looks of disgust, fear, and occasional incredulity.  At the very least, they create additional space for me in the elevator car as other passengers hit the button for the next floor and bail out, usually with an expression of loosely controlled panic.
  1. When the doors open and the car is packed, I invite the people staring into the sardine can to join us saying "Come on in. Two more and it's a party!"
  2. In  a packed elevator, I announce that the crowd might exceed the elevator's weight limit and if the overload alarm sounds, we should all stand on one leg. 
  3. Farting is acceptable, not to mention entertaining.  SBDs are preferred, but audible poots can be pulled off (or pushed out) in an overcrowded elevator where the blame can be easily passed to another unsuspecting passenger.  Turning your head slightly or cutting your eyes towards someone with a "really?!" expression on your face and then looking at others while nodding your head towards the hapless blame target makes for great culpability projecting posture.
  4. Singing along to Muzak is permitted; especially if you don't know the words. I personally like inserting the wrong lyrics.  I've found that the lyrics to "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns 'n Roses fit nicely into the melody of Doris Day's "When I fall in Love"
Despite my preference for stairwells, I've had to spend an inordinate amount of time in the employee elevators because Tiffany demanded voice wireless LAN coverage inside these cars.  This presented real technical and logistical challenges in a 70+ year old building.  Fortunately for me, innovative approaches can overcome to such challenges when money is no object, which was pretty much the case on this gig.  I love it when a customer tells me that money will never stand in the way of doing something right.

I think my attitude on the Manhattan elevator etiquette (farts notwithstanding) has made a positive impact on the store personnel.  The last few days I've been on site, when people get on an elevator in which I'm standing, they smile and verbally greet me - usually with a fist bump or handshake.  They ignore everyone else who might be in the elevator with me and then pretty much stare at the floor or their iPhone after the greeting, but hey, it's a start!.  Now to work on getting back into shape.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

NSA & Privacy

So now we learn that not only is the NSA is collecting our emails and phone call data to include location, calls placed/received, and the conversations themselves, they're also collecting data on our utility bills.

Since the government is so intent on crawling up all of America's ass, I'll give them a head start with the terms that trigger their attention, and a pic.


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Colonoscopy - Welcome to My Ass


Friday, October 4, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

78 Candles

My father’s birthday is today.  Wendell Wilson would have been 78 years old.  He died 25 years ago at the age of 53.  The fact is that he made his emotional departure many years, if not decades, before his physiological one.  I’ll spare you the details about his choices and his demise.  Those were documented a couple of years ago here.

Ironically, my mother's birthdays still invoke genuine sadness when I think about who and what she was to so many people.  It's different with my father and honestly, I feel somewhat guilty for not feeling sad.  Truth is, the only sadness I feel is that he never experienced being a grandparent, even though he was one for a short time.  My boys were two and five when he died and neither of them can recall anything about him.  They are fortunate to have had two other grandfather role models in their lives, one of whom is still with us.

I doubt my father ever thought much about his own birthday given that he was never around for those of his family.  My sister and I were both born in November during deer hunting season and after all, a man's gotta have his priorities.  The photo below is the last one I know of him.  I look at it and marvel at how old and feeble he looked at only 52 years old.  I'll be 52 in thirteen months and you can be damn sure I won't look like I'm 78.

c. March, 1988