Thursday, August 25, 2011



I haven’t been around much recently. I won’t be around much in the future. I am trying to get my ducks in order so that I can start the final push toward retirement. It is still two years away, but in government, we measure things in cycles and I only have about three left. While dealing with those, I am also setting in motion plans for what I am going to be doing after retirement. This all translates to less time sitting in front of the computer, reading and writing blogs. But I will be around; you can’t get rid of me that easy.

So for today, I wanted to give you a little heads up about Big Brother. This isn’t some sort of a conspiracy rant or anxiety story. It is just a realization that I came across a few weeks ago, while cleaning up some stuff on my computer.

I use a bunch of software for doing photography and creating web logs. Some are in the ‘cloud’ and some are on my hard drive. Most of my blog images are stored on Google’s Picasa site. Picasa also has a standalone (downloadable) version of their photo software. I recently downloaded the updated version of it and came across something that I found disturbing. You can find this software here.

This is really powerful (free) image processing software, but it also gives a glimpse into just how far technology has come and how much it is going to change our lives. Once installed, Picasa will rip through your hard drives and find ‘any’ images you have and very quickly categorize them. This is pretty slick, since there were pictures on my hard drive that I had totally forgotten about, tucked away in long misplaced folders.

As I was getting acquainted with the user interface, I noticed a little folder on the side bar titled ‘Faces’, that I had not created. When I opened it, I found that Picasa had ‘searched’ all the images on my computer and found all the pictures that had faces in them. It then cropped the face and put a thumbnail in the ‘Faces’ folder. Further investigation showed that I could assign a name to a face and the software would then automatically scan all the other face thumbnails for matching faces.

So if I labeled a picture of myself ‘super stud’, Picasa would find all other images of me and label them Super Stud as well. And get this; it is really, really good at recognizing facial features. It recognizes me from the age of 54 all the way back to the age of 10, both front view and by profile.

Once I got over the g-whiz factor of this, I realized just how powerful this was. This is free software that you can download, can you imagine what the corporate version is like, or the government version?

I had always assumed that there was some underpaid security guard sitting in a dark room somewhere watching dozens of television monitors connected to security cameras at the mall, the light rail platform or at the grocery store. Guess again.

Hook this software into your security system and it can match faces of anyone instantly, tell where they have been and tell when they have returned and how often. Once they know you are a criminal and have your picture, they can tell when you pop up on ANY security camera that is networked with this type of software.

Big brother is here, he exists on your computer and you can tinker with him if you want. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee. You can’t be anonymous anymore.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tear It Down - Addendum


This was forwarded to me in an e-mail, relating to the current situation with the United States Government. I am posting it here, becuase I beleive that it has merit regarding the discussion and the possible solutions to a government that is no longer relevant or capable of executing it's duties.

An ammendment to the constituion hasn't been floated for over four decades. The fact that we have not tried to modify this document given all the changes in the world of late, is sort of alarming.

If enough people demand change in the governence of this country, this is the avenue the founding fathers left us to try and effect that change. I would give it some serious thought. Left to their own devices, the elected politians aren't going to fix the problems on their own.


The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18-year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 . . . before computer, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land . . . all because of public pressure.

Let's Proclaim a Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. Term Limits

12 years max, some possible options are below.

A. Two Six-year Senate terms

B. Six Two-year House terms, OR

C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension

Members of Congress receive a salary while in office,

that salary ends when they leave office.

3. Congress members (past, present & future) are to participate in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system


All future funds flow into the Social Security system,

and Congress participates with all Americans.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan,

just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.

Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system

and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Members of Congress must equally abide by all laws

they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present members of Congress are void effective 1/1/12.

The American people did not make the contract members of Congress enjoy,

Congress made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.

The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators,

so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people, then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Tear It Down

Sorry for the length of this post, but there just isn't any easy way to explain this.

There has been a lot of disgust going around recently here in the United States about several things. Most notably the economy and the government’s inability to adjust, control and regulate it. This has lead to several stalemates in Washington D.C. over opposing views of how to best ‘correct’ the direction of the country.

The majority in the Senate and White House feel that the economy has to be coaxed back into alignment with incentives and taxes to help fund them. The new right wing (Republicans and Tea Party advocates) believes that ‘leaning’ out government and reducing taxing and spending will right the ship of state.

I roll my eyes whenever the talking-heads on television debate these issues as each side blames the other for how bad things are. I am constantly amazed at how short sighted the American public is when it comes to these issues. They have been ongoing since the 1960s and only appear to get worse with each successive fix of the problem. It appears to me that the Democrats and Republicans are constantly arguing over how best to form the bucket line and bail water on the Titanic. One bucket line might work better than the other, but the end result is inevitable, the ship is still going to sink.

This is a problem that can’t be fixed by voting in a specific set of candidates with agendas or plans. This all started when Abraham Lincoln initiated the first ‘income tax’ to fund the War for States Rights (Civil War). This was followed up by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, to deal with the Great Depression and finally took the form of Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ to lift the impoverished out of the poor house. It seems that all these programs really gave us was Income Taxes, Social Security, and Food Stamps. Not really the best lasting legacies.

Since I have been watching the way this whole mess has been playing out for much of my adult life, I have come to the only logical conclusion of how to fix. Start Over.

I haven’t voted since the mid 1980s in any election. I often hear that I shouldn’t be complaining about the problem if I am not willing to participate in the process to try and fix the issues. My response is, “Voting for candidates in a failed system only perpetuates the failed system.”

I just got a little card in the mail the other day from my government employer. It was a thank you card for my 15 years of service to the state. I have been in my current position for that many years. In that time, I have seen administrations come and go, and crisis pop up and fade away.

What the whole journey has taught me is best summed up by a quote from Ronald Reagan, when I saw him campaign for President back in 1976. When asked about how government was going to solve a particular social problem Mr. Reagan shot back, “Government is not here to solve your problems…..government IS the problem.” I thought I knew what he meant when I heard him say it, but looking back now, I know what he was really talking about.

Let me try and explain it to you. I have been frustrated in most of my jobs in civil service. The various agencies and tasks that I have been given to perform often seemed mundane, inefficient, and produced no tangible results. Furthermore, pending changes were always driving our work model. We didn’t manage change, change was always managing us. This meant that we have always been behind the curve in dealing issues such as changes in laws, regulations, resource issues or technology. The key words in every office I have worked in for the past 20 years have been ‘triage’ and ‘catch-up’. Being proactive is a foreign concept in my world.

I was always baffled by my employer’s lack of foresight and planning, until I started to look at it from the employer’s perspective and not the workers perspective. You see, there is money to be made in chaos and triage. Not money from ‘profits’ but money from ‘budgets’.

Let me explain the budget world that I work in. In the public sector, everything is budgeted. Since in essence, we are a huge non-profit, we can’t get more funding for being more efficient. A government agency can only get more money by having its budget increased. You can only do this if you can show a larger client base, and therefore, the need for more staff / resources to service that base.

So if I come up with a new business process in my division that streamlines the process, uses less paper, requires fewer man-hours, and produces better results than the previous system……… will got shot down in flames just like the Hindenburg. An office that requires fewer people and less paper can’t justify the same budget as they had the previous year. If you can do the job with fewer resources, you get less money… here is the rub.

Management in civil service measures power and influence, not by how much money you make, but how much money you CONTROL. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a major industrial company can increase his firms production and earnings and be rewarded with a 2 million dollar bonus. The director of a state agency will never make more than $150,000 a year, but they can have control over 2 billion dollars in budget. With that much funding, they can hire, fire, purchase and influence almost anything. So what do you think they are going to say if someone floats an idea that could reduce their budget?

This is what Ronald Reagen was referring to when he spoke about government BEING the problem. Governments are organizations. An organization, like any ‘organism’ has one primary goal, which is to perpetuate itself.

You are never going to be able to find enough competent elected officials that can break this cycle. It is engrained in the organism like a cancer. You can try and cut it out, but only at great pain and risk of death to the organism. Therefore, tear it down and start over.

This isn’t a radical idea. It is the same idea that founded the country. In fact, the founding fathers wrote it into the Constitution. If the populace feels that the government is no longer serving their best interest, we can dissolve it and create a new one. That is why we have freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and the right to assemble.

The founding fathers knew that the world was going to change and that the Constitution needed to be a ‘modifiable’ document to change with the times. It served this purpose pretty well up until the 1930s, and then things started to change faster than the laws and codes of our country could keep up with.

Let’s face it, Tommy Jefferson and Bennie Franklin could never have envisioned things like the following;

1) The ability to destroy an entire country with the push of a button.

2) Being able to speak into a box in the palm of your hand and talk to another person on the other side of the planet, in a language that you can’t understand, and have the box translate for you.

3) Having a teenager walk into a school with a weapon that would allow him to murder 35 of his classmates in less than 2 minutes.

4) A world without borders where there was no segregation by class or ethnicity.

5) A mass media that can spread propaganda to everyone about radical beliefs or political views.

The list can go on and on. They could not have foreseen the world we live in, and I am positive that if they had, they would have written a different set of codes and laws to govern us by.

I think it is time for a revolution. It could be violent or it could be orderly, but he has to come eventually. The current system does not work. It hasn’t worked for a long time.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

Back in the day (almost 6 years ago) I used to wax philisophically about the past and where I was headed. I don't do that much anymore...maybe when I retire I might start doing it again

The American Journey

First Published August 26, 2005

(thoughts that played through my head on my recent trip up north, all pictures taken along Interstate 17 and Interstate 40 with my PalmPilot)

Every once in a while my job sees fit to yank me form my desk and throw me up into the wild reaches of Arizona to handle some business because we can't retain staff to do it.

I don't mind these long trips, because they give me time to think and reflect on a lot of things.

I-17 North from Phoenix

The American Journey isn't just one from point A to point B. It is a journey of understanding and figuring things out. How our views change over time and from location to location based on our experiences and what we have learned.

Sedona Near Flagstaff

I don't know a lot of conservatives that were not liberals at one point in their lives and vice versa. Folks that were conservative and now throw caution to the wind. Their journeys brought about these changes.

Cabin in the Sky

I chuckle at how much the youth of today can't wait to get off the 'farm' and make it to the big city where anything goes and they can party all they want. Only to find out that by the time they have grown up, had kids, taken out a second mortgage and fixed their car for the 18th time to commute to work, that what they REALLY want is to go back to that rural lifestyle that they longed to escape from so many years before.


These cars were once shiny and new, speeding down what was then Route 66 in a country that was affluent, run by caucasians, where Coke had real sugar and there was no HIV or Ebola. Those days, like these cars, are gone, transformed by the journey.


Yet, in their decay, there is a certain beauty to them. They undergo the slow transition back to the minerals from which they were forged. Like the delicate bones of some pre-historic creature momentarily exposed by the wind before being covered up again.

Gas Pumps

Once these silent sentinels pumped petrol for .29 cents a gallon. Now, in the shadow of the speeding semi-trucks that race by on Interstate 40, they stand as tombstones for the coming end of the petroleum age. More road markers on the journey.

Fallen Dreams

In a way, the land is littered with the graveyards of our past. Those things that we held so dear (or were told to hold so dear) but have become obsolete because something new and better came along. But were they really better? Did we really 'need' them? Figuring that out is one of the purposes of the journey.

Cloud Ruins

In the end, the journey teaches us that many of the dreams we had were not our own. We followed road signs that told of us great destinations, lands of milk and honey, with things that were newer, cheaper, better. But when we got there we found that in the long run none of it was true. The signs were not put up for our benefit, but for the benefit of others, to lead us to them.

Empty Rooms

Some say that we should make our own signs and leave trails to follow, and not follow in the footsteps of others. But the insecurity that is inherent in all our lives holds us back. The older we get, the more we lose that insecurity and the more we finally realize how important it is to blaze those trails, but often we also realize that we have lost the vigor of youth.

Window Ruins

These are the thoughts that continually run through my head while taking these long journeys for my employer. A good use of the State's money, I must admit. In their never ending goal of finding new and inefficient ways of doing things with the taxpayers hard earned cash, they offer me the time and the distance to gage the journey and in so doing, show me just how far off course I am sometimes.

Desert Tower

As I stopped at many of these old places along Interstate 40, I saw all those old days, those slower days. This highway parallels the old Route 66 and it is still visible in many sections. I walked some of it to take these pictures. The mother road had a lot to tell if you just stood still long enough and listened.

I-40 Train

How many journeys? How many lives were changed by the wheels passing over this broken asphalt? A million miles, a million miles.

I-40 Windows

I hope the journey never ends; I have still have so much to learn.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Over Saturation

I can't stand this commercial. While it is cute and all, I have seen it so many times that it is starting to seem like a recurring "Ground Hog Day" nightmare whenever I see it.

Let me give you a little background here. This is a regional thing, so it may not be common knowledge in the rest of the country (United States) and certainly not the rest of the world.

As big fish gobble up smaller fish, the big fish wants to assure all the other fishies in the sea that nothing has changed and in fact, things are getting better. Such is the case when one of the major telephone / internet providers in the American Southwest (Qwest) got swallowed up by a bigger fish, called 'Century Link' recently.

Strangely enough, prior to the acquisition, Qwest was boosting how they had been around forever and would always be here to serve their loyal customers. Two months later, they were history. This was something that their major rival in telecommunications (Cox Broadband) was quick to exploit in some of their commercials. So much for longevity.

I learned in college that when this type of acquisition happens, it is common for the new company to put out 'feel good' advertising to assure the public that this is actually a GOOD thing and that they are going to benefit from the newer bigger company. Reality has shown that this is rarely the case, since acquisitions tend to mean leaning out the smaller fish to assimilate it, which usually means lost jobs and less customer service.

But my point here is, this is one of those 'feel good' commercials. An invasion of Slinkies that appear to take over the planet to a catchy little pop tune by some up-and-coming middle-of-the-road artist about 'moving forward'. Yet, in essence, this commercial tells you nothing. It just makes you tap your foot and smile. Thereby, making you think that, "Gee, Century Link must be a really swell company. They have darn cute commercials!" They could be employing child labor in Indo-China and overworking their employees to death, but you wouldn't know it.

If this were the case across the spectrum, when Lockheed/Martin acquired Northrup Aviation, we should have seen a bunch of school age children singing and dancing around a B-1 Stealth Attack Bomber singing 'Lockheed/Northrup is good for us all!'.

To compound the horror of the whole Century Link commercial, there is the repetition. I only watch about one hour of television a night and I SWEAR I have seen this commercial at least 100 times in the last 30 days. Often times three times in a single hour of network programming.

I'll cry UNCLE for Christ's sake, just make it stop!!!

....and don't even get me started on this commercial. I have seen it even more in the last 30 days, and until I linked to it on YouTube, I really didn't know who it was (ATT, I had assumed Verizon), although I knew it was for some cellular provider.

Considering that these companies have to be making money hand over fist, don't you think they could put together a more diversified ad campaign, instead of showing us the same commercials over and over until we puke?