Not Cease from Exploration

Monday, September 29, 2014

Porn and Politicos

IIt was officially announced late last week that the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office is investigating the sending and receipt of pornographic emails by state government officials.  Some of these government officials are department heads.

You read more about it HERE.

It seems to me that there are three logical parts to this story, so I'm going to deconstruct things a bit.

Part 1 - The Porn
Strictly from an intellectual perspective, I have no problem with pornography.  It's not my cup of tea, but if it is for someone else, well then that's their life and not mine.  However the real world is far different than an intellectual pursuit, and as such I think that one has to consider that the pornography business hasn't had a stellar reputation when it comes to things like the safety of it's "actors".  I am also absolutely certain that there are younger folks who get caught up in the business who probably end up wishing they would have stayed in, say, Iowa.  Let's also not forget that porn can be the source of societal issues through the creation of unrealistic (in the real word outside of porn) body images and expectations.  My biggest gripe, if you want to call it that though, is that porn objectifies people; not just young women, but just about everyone, as it's a business about your "parts" not you the person.

Part 2 - The Government
I've never, ever received a pornographic email at work, despite having worked for the same large financial services company for over a quarter century.  Not one.  Not even by mistake.  It goes without saying that I've never sent one either.  Why?  Well part of it, I suspect, has to do with me (see below), but part of it has to do with the fact that my employer has this crazy notion that allowing pornographic emails at work is is wrong.  I know, that sounds crazy, but it's true.  Now because my employer views it as being wrong, it actually stops such things.  It may not be completely successful all the time, but by and large is is very successful.  In the case of this story, it seems as if there are zero controls in place at a state information technology level to monitor and prevent this kind of stuff.

Part 3 - The People
Lastly, there needs to be a willing audience.  As noted above, I've never received a pornographic email at work in over 25 years of employment.  If I did though, you had better believe that I would immediately act to make sure it wouldn't happen again.  What's more, my employer should be preventing this from ever happening in the first place as well.  How would an employer help me?  Well how about this?

  • Make sure that everyone in the organizations knows that there is a zero tolerance for pornographic emails.  I know, this is like saying "don't kill kittens", but still one has to be specific when it comes to policy stuff.
  • Make sure that the employer has an IT infrastructure to block and prevent these types of emails.  
  • Have a mechanism in place to randomly sample email attachments, especially those coming from outside the organization.  
From a practical standpoint it also involves actions and consequences.  Two come to mind right off the bat:

  • If you receive a pornographic email, you are responsible for reporting that to an appropriate party (such as Human Resources) immediately.  Failing to do that should result in disciplinary actions, up to termination if you are a repeat offender, assuming that you have been given notice that you are responsible for reporting this in the first place.
  • If you are the sender of a pornographic email, you should be terminated immediately.  Zero tolerance.  No second chances.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $100.


When it comes to this particular news item I suspect that there zero IT controls in place and even fewer human controls as well.

In the end, Pennsylvania's state government is paid for by all of us.  As a result, we should have a reasonable expectation that state employees are working, not snickering at the daily porno delivery.  In this case, employees (including those represented by a labor union) need to be terminated if they repeatedly engaged in this kind of behavior.  It's really that simple.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Obligatory Sports Posting

I am not a sports fan, at least in terms of watching sports.  There's just something odd about passively sitting watching others be active.  What's more, sports can sometimes have the impact of dulling and distracting people from the stuff that really matters.  Take high school football for example:  but when a football program becomes the focus of a school, instead of, well, actually educating students, then you know a line has been crossed.

Anyway, all of the above is simply a ramp-up for a posting about sports.  They don't come very often.

Pete Rose 
I hear much grumbling in the dank corners of the Internet that Pete Rose should be "allowed back into baseball".  Let's set the record straight:  Pete Rose is sleaze.  He basically crapped all over the game he supposedly loved.  He then lied about his craptastic activities.  There is no constitutional right to be a part of professional sporting activity.  His presence in the Baseball Hall-O-Fame would be a sham.  Let him die and then, maybe, have a plaque honoring him installed in a Cooperstown ladies bathroom.

Penn State Football
Yes, Penn State is winning football games.  Yeah!  But let's not forget that it was a "football uber-alles" mentality that got the school national attention for allowing the rape of little boys by an assistant coach.  Yes, I know, it was the assistant coach who assaulted the boys, but that activity was passively condoned by a head coach and an administration.  Passively allowed.  When a child is seen being assaulted by an assistant coach and the observer doesn't immediately rush in to try and stop the activity, well then I suspect that maybe concerns for a football program begin to outweigh concerns for basic morality.  Never forget Penn Staters...never forget.  This alumni will not, that's for sure.

High School Sports
I've watched three high school football games so far this year, which for me is a lot.  I actually enjoy watching the kids play.  The fact that they make mistakes helps to create much more enjoyable spectacle.  What's more, high school football games create this unique sense of community that you just don't see just about anywhere else.  Let's not forget though that sports are secondary to the formal education that schools provide to our children.  I cringe when I hear and read stories about academic programs being cut in schools due to budgetary concerns, yet football and other sports programs are left in tact.  Oh, and let's set the record straight:  virtually no high school football program is even capable of earning enough money to pay for itself, when you consider the costs associated with facilities, staff, liability insurance, equipment, transportation and the like.  If you love high school sports then you should also love paying your property taxes.  Period.

Professional Abusers Football Players
So we have this endeavor that encourages people to be ultra violent...

...and we pay these folks very, very well to be that way...

...and by and large the people engaging in these activities are poorly educated products of college jock factories...

...and then we shutter in disbelief that they may engage in violent activity at home?

Come on people, let's get real.  I'm not, in any way, shape or form condoning the violent activities of any professional football players (from any team, be they the Washington Wife-Beaters or the Cincinnati Child-Abusers), but I am saying that these individuals are the products of the systems in which they have been placed.  It's starts in high school, with football players being allowed to cut classes (because we all know that football is more important than education).  Then it progresses to college, where blind eyes are turned on the extra-football social activities of star players, some of whom are not even qualified to be in college in the first place (and yet manage to get through four years of academic studies...hmmmmmm, I wonder how?).  Then they graduate to the professional ranks where they are worshiped as icons by a bread-and-circuses desiring population.  We then feign outrage when these athletes act as if they can get away with beating a spouse or a child?  Oh come on!  These athletes have been trained to believe that they can get away with just about anything.


In the final analysis, I do believe that sports do play an important role in our society...as entertainment.  Yes, I said entertainment.  The fact that these activities play a far larger role in society today than just another means of entertainment speaks to the fact that it's in the best interests of some that the populace be distracted and complacent.  Bread and circuses folks, bread and circuses.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Road Apples, #153

Blogging Units...my blogging units are being depleted the by copious amount of writing required for a class I am taking.  Okay, maybe it's sheer laziness too, but at least this time I have something of a legitimate excuse.

WILK...having gotten bored with listening to militant right-wing Catholic radio ("we are all inherently bad because of original sin"...and on from there), I've been listening to WILK in the mornings and during the drive home.  A few observations:
  • They still love the get rich quick commercials ("The global economy is going to collapse at any moment.  Are you ready?")...
  • ...along with the "miracle cure" commercials ("Order our miracle weight loss cure now, but if you take it and start losing too much weight cut back your dosage.").
  • Nancy Kman still has a great radio voice.
  • John Webster should do the entire morning news show as his hilarious "Jonsey" character.  Actually I'm just kidding.  Maybe.
  • Steve Corbett is still psychotic, but in a good way.  The world needs more passionately psychotic people speaking their minds these days.  
I figure between NPR, militant right-wing Catholic radio and WILK I will always have something to entertain me.

Homework...As of this very moment I am not working on a paper.  I should be working on the paper, but I am not.  Damn, I had this same problem 30 years ago too.

Emotional Intelligence...I have a decent posting finished on the subject of emotional intelligence.  I just need to hit the publish button.  Sometimes, for reasons I just can't explain, hitting that button is difficult.  It's as if I want to continue to noodle with it for two more weeks.  Strange, very strange.

Weekend After Next...is a weekend get-away to the shore.  I've always wanted to visit the beach in October for some reason.  Something about the colder air and the ocean is appealing.

Gone Phishing...Yes, even relatively aware (from a computer literacy perspective) folks such as I occasionally fall prey to phishing emails.  Luckily I have a second line of defense, namely a great product called WinPatrol Explorer that lets me know (by barking...I kid you not) if some new program is attempting to do stuff to my computer.  It then gives me the ability to stop the new program if I so desire.  I've been using WinPatrol for a few years now and it is highly recommended.  You can find WinPatrol HERE.

Good Old Desk...is a great song my Harry Nilsson.  I was singing this song to myself just the other day.


And just for fun here are pictures of my good old desks...at home:



Admittedly it's not so old, but that's okay. I also couldn't help myself, as I just had to slip in a picture of my prized Bill the Cat doll.  Anyway, here's the work version:


For the record I have cleaned up a bit since I took this picture.

Eric Frein...for those unaware, a 30ish year old man by the name of Eric Frein is wanted as a suspect in the murder of a Pennsylvania State Trooper and the sever wounding of another.  Refer HERE for more information.   Reading the news story commentary on the Internet is fascinating when it comes to this case.  I wonder how many "right to life Christians" are calling for this man's immediate execution?  Granted that there is evidence linking Mr Frein to the murder, but he hasn't been convicted yet.  There was even a man who called into WILK suggesting that a predator drone be used to search for...and presumable Hellfire missile to death...Mr Frein.  Yes, violence against anyone, especially a public servant, is horrible; however we have to remember that these same police officers work to protect our freedoms.  One of those freedoms is the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  


Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Religious Freedom Works in 2014

I've been trying to articulate my thoughts around a sense religious oppression that seems to exist in some quarters.  I haven't been very successful.  Then I saw this graphic and it all came together for me.


All the paranoia.

All the nonsensical complaining.

All of the fundraising disguised as whining.


Now let me be perfectly clear in one regard:  I do not believe that any religion should be forced to alter, change or modify any aspect of their creed simply because a government says so.  Well, within limits, and by "limits" I mean basically that no religion should advocate for the harming of children or animals.  Now if it involves consenting adults and it doesn't interfere with my life or yours, then more power to them.

Let's think about how this actually works.  In practice I don't think that conservative Christians should be required to accept same-sex marriage, in a religious context, by the government.  In reality though, for example, the Roman Catholic Church does not actually accepts many different types of marriages involving heterosexual couples anyway.  So no, the FBI will not be forcing priests to marry lesbians.  Sorry.  However, it seems that the converse is certainly not true, as many religious are trying to define the meaning of marriage from a civil context.  They can be slick about it, using words like "natural law" in their arguments, but it all ends up being the same point, simply that their religion is against same-sex marriage.

Let's take the discussion up a level.  There is a contingent in America's religious society today that feels threatened.  Why?  Because they once made the rules, and no one held them accountable.   Well that's not true, as they technically held themselves accountable.  Anyway, they could do and say whatever they wanted, hiding behind a one way mirror version of the First Amendment.  Note the key words "one way".  Now, it seems, elements of society have learned the same freedom that gives religious institutions an ability to criticize others also gives them the freedom to call out those same religious institutions as being sexist, racist, homophobic, etc.  The reaction by those religious institutions?  "Why it's persecution!"  I think that last phrase is code for "How dare they use our tactics against us!".

I realize that this plays out in some very subtle ways, and there is plenty of grey area to go around when it comes to how a concept like religious freedom becomes operationalized in a society.  At the end of the day though, while religion can claim a monopoly on the truth within the walls of its temples/churches/mosques/synagogues, that version of the truth ceases to exist at the building exit sign.  That's simply the way our American society was founded, period.  In the United States, religions don't get to make the civil rules.  That's for places like Saudi Arabia.  Has religion helped form our civil society?  It sure has, but "helped form" is different than "controlled by".

Speaking of forming and the role of religion in society, I know that there are many who want to claim that the United States is a Christian nation, but if that were truly the case, wouldn't the Constitution use the word "Christian" or "Christian Nation" at least once?  Wouldn't Jesus be mentioned at least once?  How about at least one reference to the "Bible"?  At best, our founding fathers left us with the words like "God" and "Creator" in our official founding documents as reminders of their mostly deist view of the universe.  As I understand it, many of the founding fathers had a basic distrust of organized religion, born in part out of experiences with state-sanctioned creeds in Europe.  History (both recent and not so recent) has shown the wisdom of their thinking in the separating of both church and state.  It's simply too bad though that some have a revisionist view of our nation's founding, used mostly as a fundraising tool, to claim that the founding fathers were a bunch of born-again conservative Christians.

Lastly we shouldn't forget the power of the almighty dollar.  A sense of persecution is the perfect fundraising fodder for the many religious groups out there in this day and age.  I've spent a few months listening to the local militant right-wing Catholic radio station, and the paranoia is inescapable, along with the appeals for money to fight "secular politicians and judges who want to take our freedoms away".  Again, it's as if there is legislation in front of Congress at this very moment that seeks to have the government name the next Pope.  It's borderline insanity when viewed from an objective perspective.  However, it's worth noting that "objective perspective" and "religious fundamentalism" are more or less mutually exclusive concepts.  Again, see theocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

At the end of the day, religious society in the United States needs to take a deep breath and ponder the following:
  1. No one is telling you how or what to worship in your church/mosque/synagogue or home. 
  2. No one is requiring you to like/approve of/enjoy those who are different than you.  You can hate all you want, as long as that hate doesn't interfere with someone else's pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  
  3. No one else but you and those like you care about your religion.  Sorry, it's just not that important. 
  4. Your right to religious expression is not superior to the rights of those who wish to be critical of your religious expression.
  5. Your religion is free to ban, prohibit, regulate behavior and excommunicate followers to its heart's content, as long as it is completely understood that those actions are only valid within the context of that religion.
  6. If you want to claim the moral high ground, then you have to actually act the part; otherwise you're just another hypocrite.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On the bleeding edge of Serbo-Croation automotive technology

All hail the zenith of Serbo-Croation automotive technology, the humble Yugo.

(image from Wired.com)


If you are not familiar with with Yugo, then you can read more HERE.

Anyway, and quite shockingly, the Yugo was the butt of many jokes.  Here are 10 of my favorites, plus a bonus.

Q:  Why does a Yugo come with a rear defroster?
A:  To keep your hands warm in the winter when you need to push it.

Q:  What do you call a Yugo at the top of a hill?
A:  A miracle!

Q:  What do you call the shock absorbers in a Yugo?
A:  Passengers.

Q:  What's the difference between a Yugo and a Ferrari?
A:  A Ferrari goes from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds.  A Yugo goes from 0 to 4 in 60 seconds.

Q:  A man walks into a auto parts store and says "I'll take a gas cap for my Yugo."
A:  The clerk says, "That sounds like a fair trade to me."

Q:  How do you double the value of a Yugo?
A:  Fill the tank up with gas.

Q:  Why don't Yugo's sustain much damage after a front-end collision?
A:  Because the tow truck takes the impact.

Q:  What's found on the last two pages of every Yugo owner's manual?
A:  The bus schedule.

Q:  How do you make a Yugo go faster down hill?
A:  Turn off the engine.

Q:  What do you do if your Yugo gets stuck in a swarm of killer bees?
A:  Stop pushing and get into the car!


Bonus
True Story - In the mid-late 80's I was working in Southcentral Pennsylvania.  While driving near one of the many shopping malls in the area, I was listening to the local radio station's traffic report.  That report went as follows:

"There is a major back-up on route 30 that seems to be caused by a Yugo stuck on a wad of chewing gum."

Friday, September 12, 2014

From Psychology Today - 5 Steps to a clearer mind

You can read the article HERE.

As someone who has a notoriously cluttered mind, I'm going to have to give these steps a try.

This has always been something of both a blessing and a curse for me.

A blessing?
I love being interested in lots of different things, sometimes all at the same time.  For example, I was just cutting the grass while thinking about a pressing issue at work and my school work.  Mentally I am never bored.  In fact, it might be nice to be able to live to, say, 200 so that I could get around to everything I want to try in my lifetime.

A curse?
There are times when I just get too many conflicting thoughts happening all at once in my head.  It's not like a bunch of whispers, but rather a bunch of whispers and shouts, all moving at light speed.  It's not really voices either; think more like images and words circling around and around and around. The more tired I get, the less ability I have to sort it all out.

Here's to clear(er) minds for all of us.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Managing People and Time

I was participating in a meeting at work last week and the subject of a leader's effectiveness (or lack thereof) came up.  Inevitably, one of my co-workers brought up the tested and approved remedy of "well maybe they need better time management skills".  Have I mentioned how much I dislike that phrase?  Well in case I have not, I do, in fact, dislike that phrase.

You can't manage time.

The word "manage" implies control.  A big no-no in my book is also the phrase:

"Manage People"

Again, "manage" implies control.  Let that one sink in:  by saying "manage people" you are saying that you really wish to control people.  Nice concept that fails, in epic fashion, when faced with reality.

You can not control people.  Never, ever.

You may think you control someone, but that's an illusion.  At best, you may temporarily have some sway over someone's behavior, but that will not last.  Just ask any parent.  I'll also add that you may be allowed to think you control someone's behavior, but that's solely at the discretion of the person you think you are controlling.

The above is why I much prefer the term:

"Lead People"

"Lead" isn't about controlling behavior of others, it's about encouraging the behaviors required for mutual success in an endeavor (any endeavor).  Think about it:  Generals don't "manage" armies, they "lead" them.

So what can you "manage"?  Well you can manage a process, for example.  You can manage a piece of machinery as well.  As noted above though, I don't necessarily think you can "manage time", at least in the strictest sense of the word.  Why?  Well time is a constant, relatively speaking.  It will occur, and at at rate you can not change, regardless of your attempts at control.  The notion that you can "manage your time" is, as a result, a fallacy.

It all comes back to control, and the one (and I will note only) human you can, in fact, control is you.  You can manage yourself.  In the end, it's not "time management" that some folks lack, but rather it's simply self-discipline.  I suspect  that in the world of soft-sounding business speak "better time management skills" sounds better than "better self discipline".  We like sounding better, don't we?  But sometimes in our efforts to not offend others we end up muddying our intent.  Sometimes a bit more precision in language would serve us all a little better.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Road Apples, #152

Yesterday...would have been my mother's 79th birthday.  To mark the occasion, I did something I have never done before (well not since she passed away), namely visit her grave.  I'm not going to "wax poetic"  writing about my mother for two reasons:  First, she was an incredibly hard, difficult, often times mean-spirited person.  Second, and despite what I just wrote, she'd be the last one to ever want someone writing glowing Internet stuff about her.  Besides, I don't believe, as a matter of well established personal philosophy, in the concept of dwelling the in past.  What's done is done, and the best days are always in front of us.  Anyway, Rest in Peace Mom.

Side note:  In the odd coincidences of life department, both my and Ms Rivers' mothers have the same birthday (although different years).  Small world.

Blogger Groove...In spite of concerns on my end for not having as much time or energy to write these days, my blogger units seem to be in good supply.  Perhaps I am just getting more and more efficient with my time (code for "I am not spending as much time simply goofing off").

Governor's Race...I was at La Festa Salmonella last Monday and I was surprised by what I didn't see, namely a ton of politicos wandering around.  Maybe I just hit the wrong day.  Oh well.  It did get me thinking that things have been mighty quiet on the impending election for governor this coming November.  You know, this is the one that Tom Corbett is going to lose.  Anyway, I'd like to see the governor do a bit more advertising, but let's face it, he simply doesn't have much in the way of ammunition.  He can, of course, always resort to lying (case in point:  his commercial that claimed that he actually INCREASED state education funding), but that stinks of desperation over the long term.  On second thought, maybe he should do more monster truck television spots.

IKEA...It's worth a minute or three of your life to watch the new IKEA commercial.



As a parody of the upcoming Apple mega-announcement, this is very well done.  I'll also note that IKEA is simply a great store.  If you've never been to an IKEA, then please do yourself a favor and make an IKEA pilgrimage.  My home office desk and surrounding stuff is mostly from IKEA, and I've never happier with furniture.

Bird-feeder...I've always wanted to erect a bird-feeder.  Now granted that this is not a challenge that falls into the difficult category, but rather in that of "things I just never seem to find time to do" column.  Well that ended yesterday.  The feeder is in place outside of the kitchen window, stocked with seeds.  Now all we need are birds.  Hopefully they will come, in time.  Finding the right kind of feeder was a bit of a challenge in that Ms Rivers and I wanted something relatively squirrel proof, yet not unwieldy in dimension.  Nothing at Wally World, but I did end up finding one at a home store that seems to do the trick.  Ultimately we will let the birds decide.

Yeah local sports team!...Ms Rivers and I walked down to the Wyoming Area football stadium on Friday night to catch most of the game between our local school and Scranton Prep.  I actually find the activity enjoyable.  Why?  Well first, it's nice to be able to walk down to the stadium.  It's a few blocks, but on a cool evening it's a nice experience.  Second, I've always enjoyed watching amateur sports.  I can't be bothered with the professional stuff, but watching a bunch of kids play football or basketball is fun precisely because you get to see the effort at work.  They make mistakes and they react.  Interesting stuff.  The score?  Wyoming Area was crushed by Scranton Prep.  It wasn't even close.

Home Improvement 101...Outside of erecting bird-feeders, I recently replaced a busted up window on our garage.  This is the same garage that had a non-functional door that I also replaced.  Anyway, if for no other reason than testosterone fueled manliness, here are before and after pictures.

(before)

(during)

(almost done)

(more or less done)

[Insert all manner of manly grunts and such here.]

Over the Fall I'll be working on the inside of the garage.  Next year I may end up siding it.  We shall see.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Privacy and the Right to be Stupid

Much has been written in the news and other dark corners of the Internet about the issue of on-line privacy.  Think "famous actress nudie photos leaded from Banana bCloud" and such.  Some of it is almost reported with a tinge of horror, as if someone's very existence has been violated to the core.  Anyway, just to kind of sort of maybe wade into this just a tad bit, here are a few random thoughts from me, someone who knows just enough to be dangerous when it comes to Internet security (and basic common sense).

  1. Don't put your nude s*#t on the Internet (unless you actually want someone to see it).  This one should be a layup, but apparently it isn't for everyone.  Just don't do it.  Period.  Ever. 
  2. The Internet is not EVER a completely safe place for anything.  See item #1. Once content leaves your computer assume it could fall into anyone's hands.
  3. If you want to keep copies of stuff, make sure you keep those copies off-line.  While I have three on-line storage services for my stuff, all of my important files are backed up not onto one of those clouds, but rather onto a physical, removable, off-line mass storage device.  For the record, none of my "stuff" includes me being in the "buff".  Hey, that sounds like a rap lyric.  Yes, the backup process is manual, and yes it takes time.  Yes also that my mass storage device could be stolen.  I could also come down with Ebola, but seriously, we are talking general odds here folks, with the bottom line being that off-line storage is simply more secure than on-line storage.  
  4. Set basic standards for your public, on-line life (oh, and then follow them).  Maybe, just maybe, it's not important to share every detail of your life on the Facebooks.  If you do, however, want to share every detail of your life on the Facebooks, then please just know that you are surrendering every ounce privacy you think you may have to a company that is far more interested in profit than it is you.  Facebook is a business, it is not your friend.  
  5. Ask before you drag others into your on-line life.  Don't reference any family members or loved ones on-line unless they have given you permission to do so. 
  6. Pay attention to what you do when you are on-line.  On-line scams and hacks exist because the perpetrators of such things count on folks not paying attention.  Sadly, for example, this means actually reading all of those annoying pop-up boxes that appear when Java insists on it's 28th update for this month ("Oh, that's why I have that annoying toolbar on Internet Explorer.",).  This also means not clicking of that file that claims to be your winning ticket to $87,000,000 from the Irish sweepstakes.  Sorry, the only thing you have won is potentially a case of Internet Herpes.
 You can thank me later.  Now I'm off to Google image "Jennifer Lawrence".

Thursday, September 4, 2014

When the going gets weird: Fake Cell Phone Towers

This is worth reading.


This isn't Tin-Foil hat lunacy.  This is actual news reported on from multiple sources.  Worth your time to read.

In the end, the three primary questions are this:
  • Who do these belong to?
  • What are they being used for?
  • Who knew before now that these existed?
I don't think we will like the answers...any of the answers.