A lot of fountain pen writing

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Thought I would share a picture of my personal obsession, namely fountain pens. I started writing a little bit each day with a normal pen (Zebra F-701) and realized I really enjoyed it and somehow fell into fountain pens while browsing Reddit at work. Next thing I know I have somehow amassed several hundred dollars in pens, ink and associated paper supplies. Just today I added the blue notebook to the pile which usually is stored inside the wooden chest, but that doesn’t make for a very good photograph at all. Probably my favorite pen so far is my TWSBI Eco Clear with a 1.1mm stub nib which has allowed me to lay down 78 pages since the 17th of May this year in a larger notebook and has helped to improve my writing significantly by encouraging me to write slower and think about what I want to put on the page.

This love of manual writing has even started a project which I think will push me to write better both in content and style; I am planning out a family history covering things that I already struggle to remember clearly even at my relatively young age. Surprisingly the planning of what to write is much easier than the part where I have to chose the ink, pen and notebook to commit the information to since there are so many options which seem quality but don’t hold up under proper scrutiny.

Snowmageddon 2016

So most of the east coast is currently buried up to its nether-bits in snow in case you haven’t been keeping up with things.  I figured this would be an ideal time to slap my newly purchased GoPro up in the window and let it take time-lapse pictures of the snowfall as it started to come down yesterday.  Unfortunately I found out after I had filled up the 32gb memory card that it was only able to take pictures at half second intervals so I didn’t get anywhere near the amount of data I wanted to create a cool looking timelapse of the snowfall, however I did mange to cover the first maybe hour or two of it and process it to a video for the enjoyment of the masses.

Cliche End-of-year Introspection

I was just kind of aimlessly scrolling around making sure things worked right after having to restore from a mangled updated and I realized that this blog has been up for five years now. The first post I made was in September of 2010, and since then I have managed a whopping 102 posts over the course of those five years. Doing some napkin math that works out to about one post every 17 days if things were spaced out evenly, though I suspect its anything but. Kind of surprising to think that 5 years have passed since I puzzled together how to slap WordPress up onto a Digital Ocean droplet and start spouting off my random stupid thoughts. Most days I don’t even think about the blog, hell most days I try not to think at all if I can help it.

It is however amazing to think that I have this little slice of the internet to myself to use as a personal soap box and sometimes portfolio of my various attempts at programming something interesting or useful. Back in the day it was an Angelfire website I posted Duke Nukem 3d maps to which then evolved into teenage angst on Tripod as I learned a little more about things like HTML and CSS while perpetrating absolutely horrifying graphic laden designs that have thankfully been forgotten for the most part. Along the way I have managed to learn a few things, like how to fill my basement with loud computers that sometimes do what I tell them and give me a place to try out things that might otherwise bring down actual production systems at work. I can safely say that I can write terrible code in PHP and Python both, and I bet I could make some awesomely inefficient shit in Go given enough Wild Turkey. I can sometimes understand the difference between DELETE and SELECT when writing MySQL queries and I understand that Salt not only makes my heart die a little bit but also lets me ruin multiple VMs at once in my lab.

So I guess maybe I have learned a few things over the past few years, but most days it sure doesn’t feel like it; I’ve been told that is a sign of actual wisdom but I’m not convinced just yet. Its far more likely that I am just a very clever impostor who has somehow wormed his way up from renting movies in a dying video store to being allowed to assume the mantle of Technical Support Engineer and get paid far more than my pathetic knowledge and lack of skill is really worth. Most of the time I feel tired, confused and quite often way more stressed than a single 32 year old male with no kids or pets should be, and unfortunately I don’t think that is going to ever change no matter how much money I make or fancy titles I get.

The grass is NOT always greener.

I really can’t place what it is that bothers me so much, maybe it is the overall lack of oversight and overbearing micro-mangers that makes it hard for me to feel at home here. It could be from the clean and relatively new work-space, all that cleaner getting to my head or something like that. Heck it could even be that I don’t have to lug the computer with me everywhere yet (eventually I will have to participate in the on-call rotation) reminding me that I am basically a company’s property. That might seem like hyperbole but when you work for a Managed Service Provider you are the IT version of a prostitute, you answer to your Pimp and do what they say or you get curbed so fast your head spins at a solid 7200 RPMs. All I know for sure is that after a month and a half I still don’t feel like I belong here and I barely grasp any of the specialized things that I need to in order to carry out the job I have been hired to do.

Sure it might seem premature to be considering another move already, but the fact is that after my previous four years I can’t imagine spending several years in a place where I don’t even feel like part of the team. Rapid movements in the IT field often are looked down upon, but being miserable is a quick way to burn-out and depression and often end up completely ruining you as a person. At the end of my previous gig I found myself unable to care about much of anything and honestly considered just outright quitting without notice, when you reach that point you know something is seriously wrong. The only misgiving I had about outright quitting was the people I worked with; I at least wanted to say goodbye to the various friends I had made over the years
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Even attempting to throw myself into projects to keep my skills sharp seems to be less than useful, I end up not having much time to spend on them during the week and on the weekends all I want to do is veg out and not think at all. I think that’s another part that bothers me, I had lots of leeway at the last job in that we oversaw the whole OS as opposed to these selective appliances at the new place that only do one task and our hands are largely tied because the development team controls it all. Not that I have anything against that kind of model on the whole, just that it makes for a very restrictive environment to adapt to coming from a place where we had full authority over servers right up to various software like Oracle where we would hand off to the DBA team.

The main thing I have learned over the past few months is that the grass might look green as hell on the other side of the fence but you can’t see all those sharp nails and shit buried underneath it. Don’t rush into changing jobs just because you don’t like the direction your current employer is taking because you might find yourself in a gilded prison of sorts, trapped by the money in a box made of very solid walls.

Four Years of Conditioning

So I just started a new job and its made me realize a few things. First is that I was at the previous gig for far too long, just over 4 years to be precise. That is an awful long time now that I actually sit down and think about it, four years of driving an hour each way to get paid enough to make ends meet and buy a house along the way. A whopping 49 months of dodging crazy drivers on the highway, sitting in traffic behind an accident and twitching at every deer on the side of the road at night.

Despite that long duration its taken only a few days at the new place to realize just how badly I have been messed up by the previous employer. Its not even that the direct supervisor or manager were bad people, to be honest their hands were mostly tied by the corporate structure in place that moved at the pace of drunken dinosaurs in tar. One of the biggest things is the change in lighting, the new office is so bright it sometimes bothers my eyes if I don’t look at something dull like a piece of paper or my matte black new Dell laptop. While I’m thinking about laptops let me contrast the previous with the new; HP Elitebook i5 w/ 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 x32 (with a flat out refusal to update to x64) versus a brand new Dell i7 w/ a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM and an x64 version of Windows. You would think over 4 years the hardware would have been updated but somewhere along the line a policy was put in place that you had to justify updated equipment, so instead of getting a new machine at 3 years I was told to suck it up.

Without going through every little difference the main point I am making is that I didn’t realize how bad I really had it at the previous job until I finally left. Sure I miss the people I worked with, they were probably the only reason I managed to make it to the four year mark. But now I can’t help but shake this feeling that the other shoe is waiting to drop at the new job, that some dark secret or terrible truth is waiting to spring free when I finally let my guard down and accept that not every employer is a monolithic behemoth of bureaucracy that that treats its employees more like prison inmates than actual free people doing a service for them. This of course is not healthy in the least bit, but it is what it is and I have to fight every day to not let that negative voice inside my head be the loudest.

Food for thought

I stumbled across this on Reddit, and its certainly worth reading at least once. All too often I see people claim that they don’t give a shit about the NSA or any other government agency spying on them because they have nothing to hide, but they never seem to consider the larger picture…

I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:

1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.

Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you’re now considered a dangerous person.

Read moreFood for thought

Home isn’t there anymore

Its kind of weird to move out of a place you have lived in for half a decade with the same people, same neighbors, same everything really. Unfortunately it couldn’t be avoided as the roommates have different directions to go now and the landlord wants to sell the property. So now I find myself staying with friends until my new place to live will be ready (its currently under construction now) and living as close to a nomad as I have in a long time. No lab equipment now, no comfortable place to sleep with the soothing sound of electronics humming along. I would be a lying shit if I didn’t admit that I feel more than a little lonely at the idea of no longer getting to see the people I lived with for years. Of course there were the promises to keep hanging out after going separate ways as friends always do when parting but the reality of things is that we are different people with different schedules who quite likely will never cross paths again once business with the now former landlord is concluded. Some have budding relationships leading them towards things like marriage and children, some have changing career paths to take them to new places.

A Year in Retrospect

This actually has nothing to do with a year ending so much as it does with wondering where I am in my life and where I am headed.

I spent considerable time learning how to do all kinds of things with computers, from understanding concepts of security to programming, databases, managing virtualization environments and all kinds of other things as well.  Despite all of that I work as a Tier 2 Linux Engineer for a massive company; as an employee I generate value for the business and that value translates to a benefit or service to the customers we server but I wonder if that’s really enough to be satisfied with my employment on a personal level.

I know several people who currently program for a living and take part in open source projects and generally contribute to things that lots of people use and derive benefit and profit from.  It seems kind of cliche to even think it but I can’t help but wonder if there is more to it than just being that wheel that never squeaks and gets compensated well for said lack of squeaking.  Part of me yearns to get involved in something for fun, for enjoyment and the sense of contribution to something larger than myself rather than just working 40+ hours a week to get paid, but at the same time I wonder how to balance that desire to do something bigger against the very real need to earn an income to survive.

Maybe its just the fact that I’m trapped at work on a holiday when I could be with friends enjoying a few drinks, maybe its natural sense of an ending of the year that is stirring thoughts that generally don’t get much time on the front of the stove but maybe its time to really consider what I am doing with myself, my career and life.

Analog Thoughts

I had started keeping a journal, and I was discovering that I didn’t need school in order to experience the misery of appearances. I could manufacture excruciating embarrassment in the privacy of my bedroom, simply by reading what I’d written in the journal the day before

– Jonathan Franzen

M2aj1jE

At the beginning of this year I started carrying a cliche Moleskine notebook with me almost everywhere, and trying my best to write at least a sentence in it every day. Some days I would churn out pages worth of thoughts (usually when I was agitated), while other times I would maybe put two sentences total on a page before forgetting about it for the day. Most of the entries were somehow tied to work, if not always because I wrote at work when I couldn’t talk to someone else or distance myself from things that bothered me because I had several hours left to go on my shift.  When you can’t discus something and you can’t escape it the only way really to stay sane it seems is to express your thoughts in a way others wont notice; in my case it tends to be writing because its something people simply don’t do anymore.

Read moreAnalog Thoughts

Its Over

EDIT: So according to this it was an employer that tipped off the police, but my rant still stands

Michele Catalano was looking for information online about pressure cookers. Her husband, in the same time frame, was Googling backpacks. Wednesday morning, six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house to see if they were terrorists. Which prompts the question: How’d the government know what they were Googling?

 

policestate

I wish I could say this was from The Onion, or maybe some other satirical blog but sadly its a real 
thing. The picture above this from the confrontation by ‘local police’ with the Catalano family, all over what two people (probably on different computers in different rooms) searched for.  Backpacks and Pressure cookers are now verboten searches under the watchful eyes of the National Security Agency it seems and if you look for them too close together you will be paid a visit.  Since I fit the profile of most ‘lone wolfs’ I wonder if they would visit me if I started reading up on pressure cookers for canning (cause hey, who doesn’t like to save some money) and camping packs because I work a sedentary IT job and should probably get out of the house more often and into nature for exercise.  

I can’t even really properly express how angry and sick this story makes me.  We are lead to believe that we are having our privacy forcefully taken for our own good, yet supposedly there are 99 out of 100 incidents where this was just a wild goose chase initiated by an over-zealous spy agency who gets its jollies off monitoring every single thing we do online.  At this point I am angry at more people than I can count; Congress for letting this happen and implicitly endorsing it, and the people of the country as a whole for not demanding and GETTING an end to this blatant violation of our rights.  We have had larger protests over more niche issues like gay rights or abortion than things that impact all of us like PRISM and the spying on of every single man, woman and child in this country.  If that doesn’t show the cracks in the foundation of our society then I don’t know what does; our priorities are so screwed up we can’t even see the water as it continues to boil us collectively.  Sadly I know this rant falls on deaf ears; chances are one day my nephew or his children will look back and wonder why we left them such a fucked up world and the only mercy will be that I wont be alive to have to try to make some kind of excuse for why my generation proved to be the most spineless in the history of the nation and failed to right a terrible wrong when we had our noses rubbed in it like a dog who shit in the house.

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