Sunday, December 27, 2015

I am the very model of a modern connected individual

This morning, I went for a walk. On my person were :
  • Four step counters
  • Two heart monitors
  • A pulse oximeter
  • A GPS (which was tracking speed, elevation, and location)
  • A posture alignment sensor
As I'm sitting here typing this, I'm wearing... exactly the same stuff. It's all collectivizing my data, all the time, from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed (When I go to bed, I'm only wearing a sleep monitor, which also happens to do step and pulse ox).

All these monitors report into my phone, which compiles the data and presents to me a dashboard for my body. My dashboard isn't limited to activity trackers and basic pulse monitors, though, heavens no! Also feeding into this little repository of personal medical data are:
  • A sleep monitor that tracks quality and phase of sleep.
  • A blood pressure cuff (which of course takes the pulse as well)
  • A blood glucose monitor (I'm sweet, but not diabetic yet!)
  • A scale, which measures weight, body fat, pulse (again), and air quality. It also tells you the weather forecast because why not?
  • A nutrition intake logger. Now that you can scan UPCs and it automatically knows when you're sitting at McDonalds (and knows all the menu items), it's really hard to justify not entering information.
The latest addition to these connected sensors? A thermometer. You know where the best place to measure core temperature is, don't you? That's right, I have technology literally out the wazoo.

But what's the point of all this, other than to enable a GATTACA-style impersonator?

Well, it's knowledge and awareness. It's my body, so I think I should have access to all the debug functions, since apparently I'm responsible for managing them through exercise and nutrition.

Now I just need an owner's manual.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Computers? A fad.

My next job, having had my hours cut to nothing at Best was as a lift truck mechanic. I got this job because the job placement people at my college had a request for someone with some basic electronics knowledge for a local lift truck (AKA fork lift, scissor lift, etc) repair company.

I hated that job. I hated being greasy. I hated smelling like grease. I hated not owning any clothing that wasn't stained by grease.

I was pretty tired of it, when one day one of olivetti word processors they used in the clerks office jammed up. It was determined to be "broke", and a call was made to Harrisburg to have a guy come and repair it. But they guy wouldnt get there until next week. Seeing my chance to spend some time in the air conditioning, I offered to take a look, based solely on my experience convincing people they needed these machines because typewriters were fossils and computers we just a fad.

I don't remember what was wrong with it, but I did manage to fix it. After that, I became the olivetti repair guy. Some of our satellite offices had issues, so I started going to those places. Then, a guy who knew a guy suggested I go look at some other guy's olivetti. The shop manager, ever one to smell money being dropped, made up a rate card for my services. I should have done it myself, since i was being paid mechanic's wages still for what was essentially a white collar job, but hey, I was stupid.

Before long I was a full time olivetti guy. Until the company computer broke, anyway, at which point I was also the computer guy (I had just bought, at the time, a brand new 66Mhz computer, which was top of the line). This, then, is how I got into IT.

Another company started up in our loft. They were a computer company. It took me about 3 seconds to realize I needed to apply there, and with my recent background in olivetti and PS/2 repair, I got the job easily. It seems funny to say now, but our business model was this:

-Buy XT/AT machines (this is pre-286 technology mind you) cheap,
-Install copies (not licensed copies, mind you) of Windows 3.0, Works, and whatever else we could get our hands on.
-Sell the computers to home users.
-Support those customers with our in-home installation service!
-Also, repair olivetti word processors for the government.

This is also the time that I managed to get dial up access to a mainframe, which allowed me to access a number of internetworked computers. And lo, I found out about Mucks.

I also found out that if you run up your company's phone bill dialing an out of state mainframe, they'll can your ass.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My first retail job

I learned two things from college:
1) Academia sucks
2) Living costs money

To combat the first, I picked a college that was easy (a technical school) with a major I could sleep through (electronic technology). To the second, I got a retail job at Best.

I can’t really tell you a lot about that job, because I honestly don’t remember most of it. I worked in the camera department, back when cameras used film. The 35mm canon pocket-zoom had just come out, and everybody wanted one (zoom! In your pocket!) and so naturally it was my job to upsell people to the giant Sony SLRs that most people couldn’t figure out. A couple anecdotes come to mind, including:

Cameras (which back in the day is where electronics went) also carried word processors (not computers, word processors. This is important later) and the awesome new technology of the future: Laserdisc. We even had a TV (a 30” big-screen) and home theater (2.1) system. Problem was we only had one laser disc to demo it with: “A Chorus Line”.

If you’re familiar with the show, you’ll probably see how this is going to play out. But if not, it’s enough to know that any time we demo’d the thing, cranking up the volume, somehow we always ended up landing on the “TITS AND ASS” number. We were college kids, after all.

The other miracle technology, the “Compact Disc” was not much better, in that we only had a copy of “The Wonder Years” soundtrack. I got really tired of that soundtrack. Really. Really. Tired. For a year and I half, I listened to that CD once every 45 minutes.

Still, it was a job, and it paid, and except for when they cut me down to 4 hours per week (and I thus quit)(and they used this as an excuse to not hire me the following holiday season) it was a good learning experience. Now, as a consultant, I think everyone (in consulting) should work a year or two in retail, because it teaching you customer service (which is a way of saying “how to ignore assholes to get the job done”)

The most important thing, though, was that I learned a lot about Olivetti word processors. This would be important later on.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mutant Spiders

Back in the day (Fall of '95; I remember listening to the end of the OJ trial on site) I got a job for a big chemical manufacturing plant in PA. My job, as it was explained to me, was to go around this plant and retrieve old, unused computers, clean them up, and prepare them for salvage.

What they didn't tell me right off was that the computers were unused because the plant had been evacuated, and that the stuff I was cleaning off was toxic residue, and that to get to them I had to don a SCBA tank, a hazmat suit, and wade through the detritus of an abandoned factory.

Fun job, right? It would have been, except for the spiders.

Now, there's a bunch of Troma films about toxic waste turning people superhuman. I don't know about that, but it certainly did wonders for the spider population. Apparently, the spill created a breeding ground for a particular type of flying thing. I don't know what they were, but they were nasty. Like brown lighting bugs with no redeeming qualities. Spiders apparently love these things, and in the years since the plant was closed, the spiders had grown. And multiplied. And I swear - mutated. These spiders weren't large (compared to some we got round those parts), but they were thick, juicy, and plentiful. As in, you had to wade through the carcasses half and inch deep in some rooms. There were no predators for them, see, or not enough, and when they died (presumably from starvation) their little crunchy husks fell like ash. There were plenty living, though, and you could find a dozen of them in any doorway or light fixture.

Down in the tunnels, though, there were no spiders. Just gunk. Gunk that we sprayed with another toxic chemical that bonded to the slime and turned it to crystal. Then it was a matter of shoveling it out. There were a lot of tunnels.

Up on the surface, in the clean buildings (the old admin trailers), things just smelled bad. Some areas you could walk into without SCBA, but the air wouldn't do you any good. Gas would move, but it was like there was no oxygen to be had. It was as if parts of New Jersey had gotten across the river and set up shop.

Strangely, the MOST interesting thing to happen to me on this job was during a run to the salvage operation. I was in the company van, waiting for a train. Trains parked in the yard, so they would break them up at the crossings so vehicles could get through. They were in the process of closing one up to move it somewhere else, when the train guy (I don't know his real title) waved the last vehicles through, then signaled to the engine to close the gap. Problem was the guy in front of me stopped to talk to this signal fellow, which left the back end of my truck over the tracks. I couldn't move, and by the time I realized the train had started moving, it was too late. I bailed out and watched as the train slowly crushed the back end of the van at about half a mile an hour. Slow, but unstoppable.

For some reason, I was let go shortly after that.

One Night At A Con

Repost from my old blog, because it’s come up in conversation more than twice:


Bangkok, oriental setting
Here, 'Bangkok' refers to San Mateo, California. 'Oriental' is a shift from 'Hispanic'

And the city don't know that the city is getting
Too true. Especially true of the Broiler Express, a greasy spoon close to the hotel that suffered a sudden increase in business from people with ears and tails.

The creme de la creme of the chess world
'Chess World' is a euphamism for the 'Furry Genre'. Most references to the game actually apply to the genre itself. The 'creme de la creme' refers of course to the large number of 'name' artists, authors, and dealers, and even the more infamous fans.

In a show with everything but Yul Brynner
'Yul Brynner ' referring to the missing contingent. Possibly BronzeBear Media, possibly Rich Chandler. Who knows?

Time flies, doesn't seem a minute
Time does go by fast, especially after a 14 hour drive.

Since the Tirolean spa had the chess boys in it
The hotel pool, full of floating furry fans.

All change, don't you know
That when you play at this level there's no ordinary venue
Furry cons can't get into the ordinary convention centers. Either they're too small to support the cost, or the hotel KNOWS what they're in for.

It's Iceland or the Philippines or Hastings
Seattle, Philidelphia, Los Angeles

Or, or this place
San Mateo

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
EVERYBODY knows what goes on at Furry Cons.

The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
Possible a reference to auctions where Lisa Jennings sells the shirt off her back. Literally. The winner got to take it off.

You'll find a God in every golden cloister
Let's be honest with ourselves. We all saw the MTV special.

And if you're lucky then the God's a she
..but not very often.

I can feel an angel sliding up to me
...who is actually an overwieght middle-aged man in an inflatable costume. But then, Virus seemed to be having impure thoughts about John Barret's RoxiCat costume.

One town's very like another
One CON's very like another..
When your head's down over your pieces, brother
Pieces referring to art. Flinthoof is perpetually head-down and has only a crotch-view of the world.

(It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity)
It is, if you consider what crotches he's looking at.

(To be looking at the board, not looking at the city)
See below.

What d'ya mean
You seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town
If you're not running the con, and you're not attending, then you're dealing. And it's all the same.

(Tea, girls, warm and sweet, sweet)
The lowest 'sweet' of course tells you that some of the girls weren't, originally.

(Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite)
Gene, Mier, and Kieth got TWO TVs, a microwave, and a frige!

Get Thai'd! You're talking to a tourist
Whose every move's among the purest
I never did find out what EVERYONE knows about cons.

I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine
Because I have no hormones and ice water for blood. (Thanks Sheryl)

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
Except that last piece of clothing..

One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
See above.

I can feel the devil walking next to me
Also a costume. Brian Harp does a really nice succubus character. He was next to me alot.

Siam's gonna be the witness
Siam. Sam Siam.

To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
Iron Artist?

This grips me more than would
A muddy old river or reclining Buddha
The pool, after the furry fans are done. The reclining Buddha sat in the hallway alot and took up most of it.

Thank God I'm only watching the game, controlling it
Metaphorically. I am NOT controlling it, except in my mind. But thank God it's not my fault.

I don't see you guys rating
The kind of mate I'm contemplating
A repetitive theme at cons..

I'd let you watch, I would invite you
If I had anything to watch, that is.

But the queens we use would not excite you
See above

So you better go back to your bars, your temples
Your room parties.

Your massage parlors
Or the masseusse who set up out in the dealers hall-annex-death zone thing.

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a God in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me
Not that I found, though..

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me
I only got hit on twice, by two unattractive guys. I must be losing my sex appeal.

Religious Predators in Hospitals

This is a repost from my old blog. My father recently passed away, and once again this sort of thing popped up, so I thought it warranted a repost:


Religious Predators in Hospitals

So, recently I travelled to Maryland to visit my father in the hospital, and I saw several things that amazed and insulted me.

My father had an infected ulcer screen that had to be removed. Along with it came two entire liters of pus. This is in addition to the new fluid that was draining from a thumb-sized abscess on his stomach. While they were in there pulling out the nasty, they pulled his gall bladder, too. So, he's pretty well out of it, but overall much healthier than he was before he came in. Because of the sheer amount of nasty, they had him in ICU instead of recovery.

While we're in ICU, a woman comes through and says hello, exchanges pleasantries, makes some vague medical statements, then gets down to business. Did he want communion? No, he did not, but thank you. "Well, God bless you any way" she says, reaching over and drawing a cross on his forehead, and pressing her porta-cross to his lips. He couldn't fight her off, but I wanted to slap the impertinent bitch silly. If it were me, and I were tethered with IVs, and someone did that to me, I think I would have garroted someone. Failing that, I'd mark them for future retribution. People can mean well, and if they want to have their own faith, I'm fine with that, but forcing it on people who have politely turned you down? No.

The next day, in a regular room and without all the equipment, my father is laying in bed. A man comes in, says hello, asks what he had done. Is there a history of that? How is your wife. What's next? He exchanges some stories. He also makes some vague medical comments about surely discharge order are coming soon, and is there any thing he could get a nurse to get for him? No? Well, let me just leave this with you.. He produces a BE SAVED OR BURN IN HELL pamphlet, and goes into his main speech about the only important thing in life is knowing where you will go when you die. In fact, it's a matter of life and death. He's a baptist pastor of the southern variety, and he cheers people up by telling them that their mortal coil is rotting every day, and every day they grow closer to Death and Jesus (Death and Jesus would make an AWESOME band name, by the way..). It's positively revolting to me, this drivel he's spouting, and again, he's doing it in a hospital, full of people that really don't need to be thinking about how their body is rotting and they're going to die, and when they do, they're going to BURN IN HELL! The best part is when, without saying two words to me, he says to my father "Wouldn't it be nice if you were both saved at the same time?" For all he knows of me I could be a leader of my church. But no, he knows I'm a heathen by the way I shake his hand. How does he know about us? Simple. Family. The family called him to let him know we were here, and heathens, and perhaps our souls could yet be saved.

This is one of the times I am proud to be Not A Christian. I'm not associated with this sort of mentality, at all.

Seriously, this whole pushing your religion on other people thing disgusts me, and the Christians are by far the worst at it. But I know, people expect and accept this sort of behavior. Should any Christians read this and be upset with my heathen ideals, let me flip the tables, theoretically..

A man is in ICU, having just undergone major surgery. He's awake, but weak, tethered by IVs and vitals monitors. His legs are in DVT cuffs, and a wide tube is taped into his throat for a ventilator. His eyes track the people in his room, he nods and shakes his head. He can't move, can't speak, but his mind is functioning, and more than a little scared that everyone talks about him as if he isn't there. A man comes in, speaking pleasantly and softly to him. Is it a doctor? No, despite the way he asks the nurses about the procedure, and how it went. The man reaches for a get-well-soon card by the patient's bedside, festooned with angels and images of Christ. The visitor smiles, leaning close to the patient as he sets the card face down again.

"I have to tell you.. " he says, voice full of sincerity and concern, "..that you worship a false god. Your mistaken faith in this so-called deity only clouds your mind. You believe that you will go to heaven should you die? No such luck, it does exist. This moment, right now, is the culmination of your wasted life so far. Where is your god, now? Your body can't breath on its own, I see, doesn't that mean your god is calling to you? Shouldn't you be rushing to his loving embrace? I believe you should be fighting to stay alive. Ignore the calling of any god that would have you put your belief in him above your desire to live. Be strong, heal your body, and ignore those who would tell you that your fate is in the hands of the deity that, by their own logic, put you in this position in the first place."

The patients eyes dart wildly, but he is helpless to escape this morbid psychopath speaking to him. He makes a noise around the ventilator tube, catching the attention of an attending nurse. She smiles, nods, and thanks the visitor for his truthful words. The visitor reaches out, and removes the cross from around the patient's neck. He throws it in the trash along with the religious cards and a rosary that someone left behind.

"There, I've cleaned up for you. No need to thank me, I know in your heart you have forsaken your god and believe him to be the great oppressor. I'll tell your family that I've visited, so they will know that if you die today it won't be with false hope of an afterlife. You're welcome."

Is that any different from the other way around? Yes, of course there is. The Christian would be thanked. The non-christian would be arrested shortly thereafter.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The blog of my life.

Last week, my father passed away. This was the first death in MY immediate family, so it was something of a shock all around when people started telling stories of his life. What struck me most was that the stories people told... well, they didn’t match. They didn’t match each other, and they didn’t match reality. Now, it could be that we’re all right and everyone remembers the same thing differently, but that’s a nice way of saying everyone got to tell their story except my dad.

So, in the grandest tradition of blogging (shameless self-promotion, that is) I present to you this blog, where it will be my goal to simply tell stories about my life (in no particular order) for the sole purpose of talking about myself so that when I’m gone, anybody who is going to stand around telling stories about me will at least have to get it right.