On a nuclear North Korea

I woke up this morning to feed our five month old son and saw the news of North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test. While we have known for some time of North Korea’s nuclear plans, and watched their increase in rhetoric and testing, today’s news will solicit a stronger reaction than before. Today North Korea’s nuclear threat got much more deadly.

My initial response is to think about my family. I am angry I live in a world where I have to consider my family’s safety from the power plays of a far away dictator. My gut reaction is to raise my voice to encourage a harsh, swift, and violent end to the Kim regime in North Korea, and return the country’s technology to an earlier state of human existence. A big part of me wants to see the North Korean nuclear threat eliminated at any cost, turning a blind eye to any consequences but my own family’s safety.

It’s easy to have such a response. We are engineered for survival, and eliminating things which threaten our survival is what we do by nature. The gutteral response to strike first when under imminent danger is a survival mechanism unto itself.

However, this is more than just about me or my family. Across South Korea and Japan are fathers and mothers with similar fears as me today. Maybe they are all having the same response, I don’t know. However, the threat to those in closer proximity has to have a dual edge. It’s easy to think about lobbing nuclear bombs back across an ocean, it’s another to consider the possibility of nuclear war on your own continent. There is no scenario for them where a nuclear first strike against North Korea is a safe bet.

I then think about the other set of mothers, fathers, and children we don’t see — the people of North Korea who have been ground under the heel of the Kim family for decades. They’ve been told we want them dead, that pursuing nuclear enablement was for their own survival against an unfriendly world. Maybe they are being told that if they don’t launch a first strike against their enemies, their children will not be safe. If we (the US) strike first, maybe that just reinforces what they’ve been told all their lives.

So my gut response this morning isn’t the right solution. Yes, it could keep my family safe, but at an ultimate cost to other innocent families. We need something that works for the people of South Korea, Japan, and yes, even North Korea. One despot has endangered millions. We need to be the voices of reason.

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The First Signs of my life at Apple

As I approach my 10th chronological and official year with Apple (Sept 2017 and Feb 2018, respectively), I am looking back at what led me here and what the road has been. This is the first post about some of my experiences on this path leading up to next February, when I hope and plan to celebrate that 10th official year. I never take the next day at work or in life for granted, but I’m excited about the next few months.

Identifying a problem

August 8, 2005, I wrote:

Mom had bought a new Dell computer, and despite my warnings, actually paid them $100 for home installation. She said the guy wasn’t there long, and after he left, the sound still wasn’t working. I took me about 20 minutes to fix what he didn’t do right (the sound and he even used the wrong I/O monitor connections), and then spent the rest of the evening installing necessary programs and getting her Outlook set up. It almost disgusts me that so much work has to be put into a new computer to get it up and ready for the individual person. I’m about to go to a CompUSA, so I think I may go by and check out the Macs.

Discovering an old archive

I recently downloaded and logged into SpiderOak, an encrypted backup service I trialed many years ago, to give it an updated look. I thought everything had been deleted from the service when I stopped using it, but I was surprised to see it had about 3GB of data in use. I found the 3GB in the trash file, and the data was recoverable!

I was impressed the service had kept 3GB of data for years in a Trash bin without so much as a login on my part. I downloaded the data to find it was an old version of my Documents folder, complete with a backup archive of my old blog. It has posts from May 2005 through January 2006, covering the separation from my first marriage and subsequent decision to leave law enforcement and my hometown!

Perusing an old blog archive

I spent time today reading through the posts. It has been almost twelve years since that place and time. In my writing I see the sparks of the person I was to become. Early signs of the growth I was to experience in leaving my first career and hometown in search of something different.

In twelve years, I have changed religious beliefs and political parties. I have lived in four different states, including moving across the country to the west coast. I have remarried and had a son with my second wife. I have had a life-altering surgery to correct a heart condition which had not been properly diagnosed at the time. I have built a second career in Information Technology, and I have worked for [what I believe is] the best computer and personal device company in the world for almost the last ten years.

Many things have changed since I was the person writing that blog. Yet, among the differences, I see the foundations which would become the life altering events the last twelve years.

Getting a solution

Before I was in tech, I was a cop. My interest in tech blossomed during that time, and I began learning what I consider now to be the basics. By the time I had written the quote above, I had become the “tech guy” in my family and occasionally at work. 

When I wrote the first quote, I was outlining a problem. I didn’t know that problem would lead me to recommend an iPod to my stepfather early the next year.

January 30, 2006:

Ok, something has been on my mind since my trip to Charlotte last weekend. I set up my stepfather’s new iPod Shuffle 1 gig, basically from scratch. This included downloading and installing iTunes, ripping about 15 of his favorite cds to the computer, and adding them all to the new shuffle. Having not used iTunes since version 1, I figured it would take me a bit to figure it all out and that it would involve reading instructions, directions, or maybe even a call to tech support (those of you that know me KNOW it is an absolute last resort). I was wrong, and that is my problem. It was all so simple and easy to learn. The interface was so intuitive and user friendly. My beloved podcasts are integrated into the program, without a need for a separate program like iPodder that I use with Windows Media Player 10. Transferring files to the new iPod was fast and simple, unlike the complex world of syncing with WMP. Somewhere in the simplicity, I was hooked. I thought of the ease of conversion of my current music library from the unprotected WMA I use now to the AAC format of iTunes. I even came to accept that the files that did not transfer well could easily be purchased through iTunes, having never given myself over to the confusing cacophony of various music stores available through WMP (fear of obsolescence, I guess). Having received an offer from a coworker just last week to purchase my current RCA Lyra, I have found myself perusing the Apple store online, searching and deciding whether to jump on the iPod bandwagon.

I didn’t know that recommendation would lead me to buy one myself, or that it would lead me into an Apple store. I couldn’t have imagined those early trips to an Apple store would influence me to apply to work at one in 2007.

Ending up on the right path

I’ve been asked many times why I left law enforcement and how I ended up in tech. The months of the archive I read today cover the answer I’ve always given: I had a choice between staying where I was and looking for something different. I took the bold choice, the one of a dreamer, the one that didn’t make sense, and it eventually worked out. It wasn’t all roses. It was far from it. Tech wasn’t the first career I tried. Apple wasn’t my first employer.

Before that decision, I was never the risk taker. Making that decision was the single pivotal choice between the life I knew before and the life I have now. It was the first decision that challenged me to think differently than before.

The Audacity of Youth

An overheard conversation

I live in a high rise building. It’s literally a glass tower. I see the irony of my liberal tendencies contrasted against the perils of gentrification and the increased pressure my presence raises on the people and families who settled here long before I thought of coming to California. Yet, it’s the best place for my family right now, and probably another topic for another time.

We have a viewing deck on the 18th floor. I enjoy sitting on the deck and watching planes come in to land at San Jose airport. One afternoon I took my son up there for the first time to see airplanes land.

While we’re waiting for planes to come, there is a young man and woman standing just a few feet away. I couldn’t help but hear their conversation, and admittedly, I listened.

The young man was explaining the perils of being a young man in society to the young woman:

He spoke of being afraid of what to say for fear of being misunderstood and branded mysogonistic.

He told her it is a common feeling among young men in Silicon Valley that they need to make big salaries before they will get women.

He told her about meeting another woman and starting a relationship, but when she wanted him to meet her parents, he ended the relationship immediately because he did not want her to think he was ready for marriage.

He told her how he came from a traditional family, and how he doesn’t think his parents understand today’s dating and the role of women in modern society, although he would willingly be a stay at home father.

He went on to talk about how feminism is dying, that in ten years feminism will be no more. Then in the same breath, went on to say women are taking over the world, and he just wants to be treated fairly.

This rather one sided conversation took place over ten minutes, about fifteen feet from me as I played with my three month old son.

Meanwhile, the young woman said almost nothing.

I don’t know and don’t want to speculate what she was thinking. She seemed to be a willing participant in the conversation, and I perceived the two to be new acquaintences, so I wasn’t sure what brought the two of them to the rooftop.

To my amazement, the young woman listened. She listened quietly, as I imagine many women around the world do, as men spew self-absorbed garbage about how advanced they are from the rest of their gender. I’m sure I’ve spewed my fair share of it out there – hopefully less today than when I was that young man’s age.

About the “N word”.

I’m going to talk about the “N word” a moment.
 
It’s a word of hate. A word of oppression. A word of separation. It has peers — words used to describe other races, nationalities, ethnic groups, sexualities, and gender identities which should never be used to describe others, yet the word and its ilk live on, and will likely continue to in some form for the duration of language and the differentiation of one person to another.
 
Here’s the thing:
 
Sometimes, among the descendants of its victims, the word is a form of bonding, and a part of the culture resulting from enslavement and segregation. From generations of being told they are lesser. From being told what they can and cannot do. From being told what things are supposed to mean.
 
Many of the comments I’ve read resulting from this video, and a sentiment I’ve seen and heard expressed in some form all of my life, is that the word should never be spoken by anyone. That the word would have died out long ago if black people stopped saying it. That it’s ok for others to say it because black people say it to each other.
 
The irony of this sentiment is: if only for a brief moment, in having the roles switched, in being told there is something non-blacks cannot do that black people can, they are experiencing the smallest slight upon their own self-expression and rights which black people experienced hundred-fold for centuries. The anger in their comments, the sense of injustice felt, should give them a sense of the strain and powerlessness blacks have felt in having their destinies dictated to them.
 
So if you are upset about one word you are told not to say, one word which means something different when you say it than when others do, and you’re demanding to be treated with equality — maybe that’s the lesson. These were people who were ascribed that word and meaning to them by others. Black people had no control over what it meant. Taking back that word is taking back the means to define themselves, or at least dull the memory of its original intent.
 
As I said earlier, the n-word is not alone. It has brethren used to describe anyone different — white, black, man, woman, gay, straight, etc. Socially, the rules are different on what can be said without insult depending on your own group identification. Personally, I acknowledge there are some words which would have a worse meaning coming from me than from others. That’s the nature of these words. For me to try to force the victim of one of these words to never say it is adding insult to the injury.
 
It is best to leave the words which don’t apply to you alone. There are plenty of better words in life to think about.

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Level 40 Alex, Level 1 Dad

Level 40 Alex, Level 1 Dad

I just got good at being me.

I’m almost 40 years old. I’ve been through college, a first career, first marriage and divorce, a second career, a second marriage, and a cross country relocation where I’ve planted my flag in the great state of California. I feel like I know myself pretty well.

I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses, and I have no problems expressing either. I have a fairly good idea of the things I don’t know which impact my daily life, and I aggressively acknowledge that there is much in this world I don’t know that I don’t know. If you can follow that, you’re probably on your way to self-actualization yourself.

One of the big things I know I don’t know is how to raise a kid.

Starting back at the beginning.

It’s been a while since I’ve started something new. I started my second career about 10 years ago. I met my wife about 7 years ago. I moved to CA two and a half years ago. In each case, I had started a career before, been married before, and relocated somewhere before. I had a background from which to work.

This is my first time raising a kid from birth. I’ve been a stepfather to teenagers. I’ve had very limited babysitting experience. I’ve never been in the day in, day out of keeping a newborn alive. For the first time in a long time, I’m back at Level 1.

Is there a buff for this?

I’m hoping that all the other experience gained from doing other things helps. I know I’m not going to be jumping right in and be awesome, but I hope that as I encounter the unknown found in dirty diapers and extreme sleep deprivation, I can pull from having to crawl through the other muck of life to get to the promised land of a potty trained child. I hope as we negotiate on what pre-school and schools to send him to, I can draw from the other decisions I’ve made to help guide us.

I’m not going to be a grade A dad right off the bat, but I want to be a great dad, and maybe that will help make the difference.

Letting my day get ahead of me.

I was already off balance.

I had a weird as hell dream last night. My wife is almost 35 weeks along, so we’re preparing for the new baby which is about to change our lives in ways we don’t even realize are possible. Last night I dreamed my wife had the baby, and it was mine, but wasn’t hers. That’s right, I had a fucked up dream that the baby my wife is carrying wasn’t her baby. In the dream, the mother of the aforementioned baby wasn’t anyone I know, but it led to all kinds of turmoil and conflict at the hospital.

Waking up to that bad dream, especially when I rarely have bad dreams, threw off my state of mind this morning. We had planned to get up and get out. Have a pedicure, maybe go shopping. An easy day is all I had to do.

The smallest of cuts.

We went to Starbucks. About once a week for the last month I’ve been getting the new sous vide egg bites. I started keto four weeks ago and they’re an easy somewhat keto-friendly option there. A few days ago I had gone by a Starbucks and had been told they were sold out. Today when I ordered them they said the region was pulling them because their distributor doesn’t have space for them.

This pissed me off way more than it should have. Why should I have given that much of a fuck about it? I shouldn’t – just order something else and move on. Instead I ordered something else and mumbled something about “fucking senseless” under my breath as I walked away. I could have done without that.

A pedicure should have made things better.

My wife wanted to get a pedicure this morning, and she wanted me to come with her. I’ve never had one, so I was game. I wish I had been in a better state of mind, because I think I would have enjoyed it more.

Instead, I was gnashing around the egg bite thing, the dream, and a situation at work in my mind. None of these things were relevant to my immediate life, and I should have gone on not giving them any further mind.

Finally turning things around.

After the pedicure and a quick trip to Ikea (yes, I said quick, so that much was going for us today), I went off on my own in search of a clear head. Finding a book related to my work situation and starting another about simplifying the things that I really care about helped. I’m not going to call out the books by name today, I’ll wait until I’m done reading them to mention, but there is one exercise I did this afternoon I think is helpful.

I write down two lists; a list of things I care about (whether I should or not), and a list of things which I surprisingly don’t care about (which maybe I should). It was a simple free-form exercise to see what I would write down if I were honest with myself. I’m going to sit down to go over it in a few days, but today it was enough to get it out.

I think I’ve had some bleed between the things I really care about and stuff I can really let pass. I’ve gone through simplifications and resets before, and I think with a baby coming it’s a good time to do this again. In a month, there’s going to be a lot of things on that list of things I care about which simply won’t be in the competition anymore, and shouldn’t be.

For today, I’m not on edge anymore. I know there are things for me to clear off my plate, and being upset about stupid egg bites at Starbucks is one of them.

Data Privacy Day 2017

My Basic Privacy Link List

I am not a digital privacy expert. I like to think I’m knowledgeable and aware, especially given the kind of work I do, but keeping up with digital privacy is a full time job, sometimes more. I rely on help.

Here are a few of the resources I use to keep up to date on data privacy issues. They’re not in any particular order, but all are useful. All link to more specific tools and resources. I am not going to endorse any specifically, but there is enough below to get started with your own research.