Archive for September, 2004

And since I’m on my soapbox…

I just read through one of the transcripts of something called The McNealy Report. This is a regular thing that is recorded and transcribed for all of Sun, as an internal sort of newsletter. I’m pretty sure that quoting any significant portion of that would get me in trouble, but I’ll give a quick summary. Scott reiterates an employee question about what to do when you’re moved around in the organization or something similar, and in these chaotic times, you don’t really even know what you’re supposed to be doing. John MacGowan (sr.vp of hr) as part of his response, mentioned:

The whole system requires really good communication between a manager and an employee. Where that occurs, it works better. Where it doesn’t, there’s a problem

So exactly how are we supposed to have really good communication when we get moved around every 3 months.

Riddle me that, Batman.


Once again…

Ultimately, I’m hoping that someone in SUN’s executive management reads this and takes something good out of it.

I’ll summarize in one statement. I was talking today to manager A. She had been responsible for the day to day tasks of employee C. She was not the direct report manager, however. That was manager B. Manager B was just asked to do a widespread layoff. Employee C was part of that cut. Manager A (who lost the resource), was not consulted. Additionally, as part of a sidebar discussion today, manager B asked manager A what it was that their employee did.

If that was too confusing, pardon me. The bottom line is that layoff decisions are being made, on a fairly widespread level, that DID NOT ASSESS THE BUSINESS IMPACT of the layoff. WTF, over.

Ok, I’m not so naive that I don’t understand that in some cases, you have to make difficult decisions about your staffing, and in some cases, you need to cut people who are critical. THAT HAPPENS. But you should never, ever do that unless you understand the business impact of those decisions and have some kind of (albeit perhaps only preliminary) plan in place for how to recover from the loss of that resource.

THAT’S JUST DUMB. In this latest RIF (Sun’s term for layoffs: reduction in force), I can count at least 3 people in my immediate vicinity that are (in my view) completely critical to the business. In none of those cases was any real assessment made to determine what sort of impact having that person be gone would have, nor how to recover from that person’s absence.

What a week.


Sleep apnea

So very occasionally, when I fall asleep on my back, I get symptoms that are very similar to sleep apnea. I wake up short of breath, feeling like I had stopped breathing, or something was obstructing my breathing. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what happens. Normally, sleeping on my stomach (which is my normal mode anyway) prevents this, because it keeps the airways open better.

Tonight I was sleeping on my stomach, and woke up short of breath anyways. In this case, it felt like I had some acid reflux or something, because I could taste bile, and felt like I was coughing it up. Sort of like when you burp and get a bit too much help from your stomach, and taste bile. Except that it was blocking my breathing. What a way to wake up.

So now I sit down here waiting for the taste to leave my mouth and drinking fluids so I can get back to bed. Joy.


I’m completely shocked

I pull up The Reg today, and its completely blue and SUN branded, with their ads all over it. If I wasn’t so cynical, I’d suspect that we were actually spending some money on advertising.

That kind of thinking might get me to being hopeful for the future of the company again. God, wouldn’t that be a thing. Stock up 22 cents in 2 days. Hmm. Sounds like the hot mouth project is in full swing in upper management’s attempts to court the media and/or Wall Street.


Wow! That lasted a long time

And there you have it! Another miracle in corporate efficiency. I mentioned in this post that I had just switched managers, and now I’ve been switched again. Just over two months. Brilliant. Now I get to train yet another manager, and convince yet another person that I’m worth my salt. I love this fucking process.


further thoughts on plague world

Post plague, and post Riot Years, some semblance of order begins to form. Ex-military types begin to form small communities and protect them from rioting, looters and other travelling bandits. Most power plants around the country aren’t functional anymore, or don’t last long, so people have gone back to other sources for power, water driven, wind driven, solar driven and in some cases, no power at all. Much of the remaining populace begins to return to a more agricultural existence, and in some cases (near natural huntable resources), they hunt for their food again. Medical care continues to exist, and the system that had begun to form before the collapse evolves and continues to do business. People exchange drugs, food, chemicals supplies, nearly anything the doctors will accept to get care. Doctors begin to form their own small communities in known central areas to provide this care, hire on their own military guards and maintain in the largest cases, whole hospitals. The largest of these become known as HC’s (hospital cities) or eventually, just Aitches, and exist in several places around the country (Denver, Atlanta, Austin, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Burlington (VT) and Raleigh(NC)).

Some communities use this model to get themselves back on their own feet as well, and form ‘Free Cities’, usually quite near the Aitches, and begin to try to restore some of the public services that were present before the collapse. Some are able to bring mainstram power back online, or setup enough solar/wind based power to provide themselves with electricity and basic amenities. All of these maintain their own police/military forces, and protect themselves fiercely from outsiders.

Travel between cities is very dangerous. Bandit groups in the large stretches of country between Free Cities and Aitches and prevalent and in some case, organized as well. The Free Cities often send out caravans to attempt to find essential resources from abandoned areas, looting from whatever is available. Canned goods, gas, appliances (where applicable), in some cases technological artifacts (computers, etc), chemicals and medical supplies, etc. These caravans are constantly plagued by bandit attacks, and are always accompanied by heavy military escort.

At some point, someone (need a name here … Phoenix comes to mind … Blackbauch also) realizes that one of the resources that is being largely ignored is the knowledge and communication networks that used to exist, and begins trying to extend control over the old Internet networks and data centers. Focused heavily on high technology areas, probably based out of Texas. Their rading parties also target old technology companies and anyone producing or using large bodies of computing resources. Hard drives and storage arrays become very highly prized by these Techs. They slowly secure and resurrect bodies of data and research and teams of them focus on the cataloging of the knowledge they find and bring back online. They are largely ignored by the remainder of the Free Cities. Aitches, however, recognize the value of having access to the old research and contract with the Techs to gain access to that again. A loose alliance is formed, and health care for the Techs is secured in exchange for access to the data pools.

The networks begin to come back online, focusing on buried lines that were using railroad rights of way for their tracks. These railroads are also slowly brought back into service, and resources and communication begin to flow around the country again, completely controlled by the techs. As soon as communication between sites is restored, they quickly implement a badge identification system, and security and access to Tech resources is based on that. Aitches and Aitch staff are also pulled back into the slowly growing ‘identified’ populace, and are also allowed access to Tech resources based on ID. Eventually, fingerprint, retina-print and dna/blood-printing identification methods are brought back into standard practice.

Other Tech targets: military installations with advanced tech and satellite capabilities. Limited satellite data and connectivity is restored. International communication is (in very limited circles) restored. Weather and other military satellite data is restored (Monterey Bay). Eventually, production plants for hard drives, and research facilities into efficient storage methods are restored. International travel is slowly brought back online, primarily through shipping. Planes aren’t used yet since transponder networks aren’t online, but that eventually returns as well.

Eventually, the world is brought under one control, managed by the people who manage knowledge and technology and information. Haven’t thought too far ahead yet because I think the meat of the writing will happen during the turmoil following the collapse and during the rebuilding stages.



things to research:

diseases, bioweapons and distribution vectors
virus effects, incubation, inception of symptoms, manifestation and durations of these stages before death
where during those periods are the various virii considered infectious, and if the vectors vary by stage, how

locations for various bioweapons facilities in the world, and where various
toxics are stored and/or researched

areas where heavy pollution effects occur. projections of global warming effects, including rising sea levels, temperature increases (or decreases due to to ocean current degradation), increasingly severe weather (hurricanes, tornados, general patterns of weather formation and densities of these types of severe weather). Include trending over the past 30 years. Make sure to include on an international level, not just US centric. Earthquake and fault data. See if there are maps of faults throughout the US. Can large scale nuclear deployment on US soil trigger faults? If so, which ones and what effects might these have on our current shorelines/land masses. Volcano activity (probably limited to west coast and alaska). Pacific Ring of Fire.

I need to come up with a new world map that include blast zones, radiated zones, waste islands, and areas that are severely affected by tidal, global warming or other weather effects. Whats left?

Try and project the path technology might have taken in terms of computing and communications in the years up to the collapse. That is the ‘ground zero’ point where all research would be stopped. Keep in mind that the years preceeding the collapse were pushing Internet communications industry down, and not as much innovation would have occurred. Mass storage would also have been slowed, while high speed computing and processing would have continued.

Anything technology wise that would have benefitted military applications would have continued in force.

Need maps form the major network providers one their backbones, US and international. What lines would be affected by nuclear/weather worsening and what would be left largely intact.

Need maps of railroad routes that are actively used (Groot?) and what they principally carry anymore. Shipping lanes, major ports of entry for shipping. What would be left after ocean levels rise?

Current nuclear power facilities, both here and overseas. What would the effect of cutting off their electricity be? Assume some safeguarding systems about removing rods from reactors when cooling/electricity is removed, but assume also that some of the older ones would have accidents, also contributing to the world’s “dead zones”.

Assume that research into alternative power means would have continued, but underfunded and not much better than today. That should include wind/solar/water (offshore turbines, etc).


beginnings of world

Ok, so some advanced ideas from a world in which to stage books.

Somewhere in the near future. I’d estimate the range at +50 years at least, if not more, and there’s nothing stopping me from writing books from the different ‘stages’ of this, happening during the course of events.

A series of presidents in the US become increasingly more powerful. All part of the same family. The name ‘Trim’ struck me as amusing (bush/trim). After several presidencies of this family, they become powerful enough to rewrite some of the more fundamental laws of the manner in which the country is governed. Presidents can serve more than 2 terms. More power to the president with less checks and balances. Things become increasingly corrupt in the various houses until the party system deteriorates and devolves into just the people who supported the Trim family. Lobbying becomes the main mechanism by which laws are passed. The initial ‘cover’ of conservativism and family values eventually recedes to expose the core: greed. Anything for money. If you have enough of it, you can buy the gov’t and its laws. Education budgets continue to wane, military spending continues to increase. Natural resources continue to be plundered. Global warming accelerates. Oil is simply taken. Countries that oppose the US in getting what they want are simply squashed under the military might.

The UN eventually becomes a complete figurehead/pawn of the US gov’t. European Union governments are quietly brought under control and managed through new foreign policy committees. International trade organizations are eventually subsumed as well. Terrorism increases, despite best efforts, and become rampant in all parts of the world, regardless of ideology. They seem to all center on US interests, and no longer on religious backed efforts (although the core religions still play a part and some endorse these tactics).

Industrialized interests in the US are released from their confines from ECO-groups, and no longer worry about waste disposal and pollution. Smog is prevalent in all large cities, and even in smaller ones. Disposal services become to form, and end up dumping wastes in oceans and on remote islands that become ‘radiated zones’. After a final dispute with the US over shipping lanes and other interests, Cuba eventually becomes such an island, and is no longer populated except by the robotics running the waste disposal.

Crime rates rise, many cities institute a diluted form of martial law, and the local law enforcement turns to National Guard out of necessity, giving the high level gov’t even more control over the population at large. The DHS (Department for Homeland Security) eventually becomes responsible for all internal security in the country, ‘hiring’ private security companies all over the country to assist with monitoring the population. Information privacy and personal privacy becomes things of a clouded and vague past. Routine investigations into seemingly innocent people turn up arrests for very vague crimes, and very often disappear without any other information becoming available. All in the name of national security.

The Internet and information flow inside the US becomes heavily monitored, and (as a result), very slow. Liesure usage of that resource trickles down to a standstill. The trend of having every household connected eventually reverses, and personal internet connections are reserved to only the wealthiest citizens. The core backbone network providers eventually cave in to political pressures and are managed resources open almost exclusively to big business and military projects.

The health care system in the country continues to deteriorate. Eventually, only the wealthiest citizens are able to afford health care, and the large HMO and Pharma companies go under due to a lack of customers who can pay what they mandate. Doctors stop participating in national programs, and practice only locally, since they couldn’t pay the insurance premiums anyway. They begin implementing a bartering system for medical care, taking payment in money, food, goods, medical supplies, etc. This will eventually be the system used by everyone after the collapse.

The only pharmacological research that continues is in bio-weapons divisions of military projects. Ethical practices in testing are abandoned, and human trials (on criminals and otherwise terminal patients of other diseases) become commonplace.

These same trends are also mirrored (to a lesser degree, perhaps, and maybe lagged behind by years or so) by all first world countries, throughout the european union, and even into second world countries as well (whose laws were already lax enough to allow much of this type of activity).

At some point, at a time I still need to pick, one of the bio-research facilities has a problem (this might be one of the books?). Due to some disaster or other accident, the contents of one particularly potent virus or bioweapon is released into the general populace, and spreads by many vectors (airborne, water, animal and human carriers) to the entire population of the globe. Although some geographical areas are not touched (lack of exposure … maybe another book or two on these areas?), nearly 100% of the world population is exposed and infected. The disease manifests in a 2 week incubation period (where carriers are spreading the disease), 1 week of increasingly severe symptoms (talk to Ella on this. Get something particularly bad and trump it up some), and then eventually death. No known cures at all.

While all of the world is affected, there is a segment of the population of the world that is immune to its effects. Everyone is still a carrier, but roughly 20% of the world’s population doesn’t die (have this vary slightly by ethnicity).

During the final stages of the panic that surrounds the outbreak and spreading of this disease, the final president, Jeremiah Trim, makes his last decision. He decides by executive decision to turn our own nukes on several US cities to halt the spread of the disease. Several other nuclear capable countries do the same. Although not everyone called on to do so actually fires their nukes, several US cities are completely annihilated (New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle). Rioting and mayhem in the remaining populace ensues, the military forces also end up with mass desertion and the current political regime is removed. Very few of the current political players survive (if any). The country (and in fact, most of the world) loses coherency, and things devolve into a particularly brutal few years of almost no order at all.


Talk Like a Pirate!

Yes, that’s right. Today begins Talk Like a Pirate weekend, with Sunday being official international Talk Like a Pirate day. The link above has some great tutorials if you’re unitiated in the ways of the pirate’s patois.

So grab yer lassies, buckle yer swashes, and prepare t’ be boarded.



So I can check this off my list. I got to see Yes, for the first, and given their advancing ages, probably the last time, tonight. It reinforces my belief that if you put enough musical talent together in one place, it will eventually produce something truly profound. They are, as ever, just amazing.

Current lineup: Rick Wakeman (keys), Alan White (drums), Steve Howe (guitars), Chris Squire (bass) and Jon Anderson fronting. Many of their older favorites were present in the lineup. including Awaken, Starship Trooper (encore), All Good People, Sweet Dreams, Owner of a Lonely Heart, America (Paul Simon), Wonderous Stories and many others.

They still do righteously rock the house.



It is amazing to me that in larger companies, the various arms and departments can’t play together nice. C’mon folks, its the same damn sandbox we’re all playing in. We’re all trying to drive revenues and make the bottom line for the whole organization look good. Why does it need to be so fiercely competitive between the different groups? Are you so worried that I’ll make you look bad that your job is in jeopardy? Hmm … if thats the case, maybe you SHOULD be worried.


a big tall empty silo

Thats what my head feels like. My ear infection got worse, and is now spread to both ears, so I can’t hear. Well, thats not entirely accurate. I hear everything like it was coming through big gauze pads over both ears. Kind of like the muffling you get from a good pair of headphones.

And to those that have to deal with this (and worse) fulltime? I’m sorry. This just sucks. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I came home today, sat down, and was just about to hit the play button on winamp. A part of my brain realized … ‘why are you doing that? You’re not going to be able to hear it anyway’. Life without music is damn near my definition of hell. Not that I want either, but I think I’d even choose losing my sight before I’d go without hearing. Maybe not. I don’t know. Like I said, I’d rather not lose either.



As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of the medical industry. No, I don’t need the qualify that, I’m not a fan of the medical industry. I don’t go as far down that road as some others. Some people I know wouldn’t go to a doctor unless their leg was only loosely attached. I value the services that specific physicians and surgeons provide, when it is needed. Thats the key right there, I guess. I do believe that the human body has an amazing recuperative ability. Astonishing, really … when you consider all of the complex systems involved just to do something as simple as a cut on your skin healing. So when I absolutely need some kind of care, its usually at the point when I’ve accepted that either a) my body’s ability to heal some particular thing isn’t good enough, or b) that the healing process is too painfully slow for me to tolerate the pain any longer.

Today was just such an event. I am prone to ear infections. Moving to Colorado has been mostly good things, and at least this one bad thing. The lack of humidity in the air means that the skin on the inside of my ear canal is very dry, and itchy. Jamming my finger in there to relieve the itching has a tendency to introduce some bad stuff in there that sometimes gets infected to a lesser (or in this case, greater) degree. The side of my head is kinda puffy. My ear canal is all but completely swollen shut. When she went poking in there with the little light scopey thing, she couldn’t even see my eardrum. Middle ear infection at minimum, and possibly also inner ear (that would be normal for me). So what do they do for this? Usually, you get a systemic antibiotic to handle the infection from the body perspective, and then a topical one (ear drops) to handle the part that is external to the bloodstream. Only one problem. When the ear canal is so swollen shut that the drops can’t reach the parts (or some of the parts) that are infected, they have to insert a ‘wick’. Ok, so your ear canal is dry, irritated, infected, tender and painful. I can’t imagine a more soothing experience than stuffing a dry, chafing cloth wick down in there. Not so much.

I have scales of pain. In your typical scale of 1 to 10, dental pain and gout are competing for first place at 9 or 10. That singular event registered at about an 8. Most things below a 7 don’t even really annoy me too much, or my tolerance for them is sufficient to keep me going without any medication needed. This was so sudden and acute that I nearly threw up on the attending nurse. God. All in the name of getting better. The alternatives aren’t acceptable.

I’ll save my ranting and raving about big pharma companies and the HMOs for another post when I’ve settled down.


MMOG evolution

I’ve had this conversation with quite a few people at this point, so this is perhaps reiteration. Oh well, such as it is…

Every single massively multiplayer game I’ve ever participated has gone down a very similar road, eventually. And I’ve played in ALOT of them. This starts all the way back into the very first ones, including the long series of MUDs, MUSHes and MUXes that are out there.

The way I see it, they all start out with some ‘hook’. In the early days of MUDing, it was a new type of mob, or in the cases of the social MU*es, some new area that has been built, or someplace to explore, a new code or program you can utilitize to customize the environment, or whatever. Some of the oldest of them, like TIM or similar, had a large following of players and a just immense area to explore, fun objects to play with and trigger, and so on.

The graphical era moved in, so games like Ultima Online, Everquest, Asheron’s Call began to suck up the players. And the current influx of games is immense. There is alot of room in the market for them, and they continue to be successful, but eventually that will peak out as well.

The interesting part is what happens to ALL of them once the initial push wears off. They all become, at the core, a social construct. They are supported by the community that has developed there, and that continue to visit to maintain the contacts and touch points with all the people they’ve come to know and call friends. With the MUDs and MUSHes, it stopped being a game to explore and play, and just became an extended chat room. In the case of the pay-to-play style games, they continue to update content and exist as long as the player base that continues to visit is strong enough to keep paying the bills. Thats a really important point.

So no matter how much you may want those games to return to their ‘glory days’ of major activity and interactivity, you eventually have to embrace their new role.

One thing to keep in mind. I’m not saying that these games become ‘static’ or unchanging shadows of what they once were. While that may be true in some cases, I think that ones that have a dedicated development staff that believes in the game will continue to invest (once again, so long as they are able to continue being paid) in keeping the content fresh, updating on a monthly or at least regular basis, and keep the people who continue to play drawn in to the world. If they didn’t, it would eventually die. I don’t believe even the social constructs survive a pure stasis.

So what is the point of all this? It kind of sounds like I’m nay-saying the whole concept of MMOGs. Quite on the contrary, actually. What I’m saying is to embrace them for what they are. Every single one of them has formal or informal concepts of guilds, allegiances and other manners in which their players group up and have fun together. FIND A GOOD ONE! I think you’ll find that the core group of those players who’ve become fast friends over the time spent on these games will move as a unit from game to game as their interests vary. In fact, in some cases, participating in multiple games at the same time to keep the content fresh for them. I believe with MMOGs, eventually, it stops being about the game you’re playing, and eventually becomes about the PEOPLE you play them with.

And quite frankly, thats just FINE with me.



I’ve mentioned making wallpaper images using a technique I called “compositing”. I’m sure it has some other name that makes sense just as well, but thats what I call it. For those who crave such a technique, I’m happy to share. I suppose I’ll just discuss it in the general sense, and then provide a very specific example from one of the images in the gallery.

Honestly, this isn’t brain science or anything, just a whacky technique thats easy and produces some (imho) very nice images to look at. Ok, basic principle.

The first task is to go browsing the Intranaut for images that are appealing to you. The ones that I find that work best are pictures of natural settings with one consistent structure to the whole image. As some examples, I will show you a picture of some rusted metal, some sand, a rock wall and the side of a dirty car. Again, notice that each image doesn’t contain a huge variety of content. Each sticks to one theme, and has consistent elements throughout.

These images aren’t really all that notable in and of themselves. They key is in the layering. Next take your favorite image manipulation program. Make sure it supports layering, and having each layer act as a filter. Personally, I use Paint Shop Pro, and have for years. To each their own.

Next: Open your graphics program of choice, and open a new image of whatever size you want. I almost always start with a blank, black 1600×1200 image, figuring that I can scale down from there to whatever size I want later. Open all your ‘sampled’ images as well, and RESIZE them to the same size as your target image. I generally ignore scale here, it isn’t important in the sampled images.

Start with a base color. Pick a color that is generally pleasing to your eye, and just paint that color into your background layer as the base color. Now, for each of your sampled images, copy and paste it into your target image as a new layer. With each of these layers, change the filtering type and percentage until you arrive at something that looks good to you. Repeat for each image.

What I mean by ‘filtering type’ is how the new layer affects the image. Yes, it is a picture and you’d think you’re just overlaying that image onto your background color with a certain opacity, big deal. Well, yes and no. The filtering type ‘Overlay’ is certainly an option, but there are many others. For example: Darken, Lighten, Hue, Luminance, Multiply, Hard Light, Soft Light, Dodge, Burn, etc. Each of these filtering types will take your sampled image, and affect whats behind it a different way.

I normally spend the majority of my time in this step. With each layer, I go through ALL the filtering types, and with each type, vary the percentage of effect (opacity, to use the same analogy) from zero to 100%. Even if I find something pleasing to the eye, I always go through all the filter types anyway. I come up with a mental list of the two or three I liked, and once I’ve completed the whole list, I go back and reevaluate the couple that were the most appealing.

Once thats done, lock down the layer, and go get the next example image. Repeat until you’re done. There are occasions when I don’t use one of the sampled images because none of the filters strike me, or occasionally change the order of the layers to get a different result. Experimentation here is key, it will reward you eventually. I may also, as a final step, introduce a darken/lighten layer, or a contrast type thing to improve the overall brightness of the image, but usually not. Thats it!

So for a specific example, check out the moss image in gallery three. The example images I selected earlier are the ones used to make this one. Here’s the exact process:

Background color is a dark green (#004040)
First layer is the old metal image, Burn filter, 100%
Second layer is the sand one, Burn filter, 16%
Third layer is the brick wall, Hard Light filter, 26%
Fourth and final layer is the auto dirt one, Dodge filter, also at 100%

voila. I’m particularly pleased with that one. It took about 5 minutes (quite literally) to make. It all just bolted together very nicely. Please feel free to comment or add your own thoughts about this if you like. I’m curious what other sorts of magical techniques people use to make nice backgrounds and wallpapers.

What I think is the most appealing about this technique is that since each of the images used is itself a very natural (or pseudo natural) image that could easily occur in nature, the resultant image also looks very natural. The moss one in particular reminds me of what you might see on a moss covered rock underwater, with some specular highlights that might be some sort of phosphorescent part or little glowing thinger. Also, once you’ve seen the images used to create it, you can usually just about pick out the effects each of them had, but without that knowledge there really is no discernible “order” to things, or any way to really see what makes up the image. Dig it. Give it a shot!

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