Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blogging lagging

It's interesting how twitter has impacted my blogging. I was never an overly active blogger but now, whenever I think of something to post it ends up a tweet instead.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Without a paddle

You know how sometimes you feel like your life is out of control? Like everything's happening to you and you have no say in the matter? Odds are, you probably have. But I can tell you that, while you may have felt that way, you weren't really as helpless as you thought. I know because, until now, I thought I'd experienced it myself. But now I'm truly living it and it's beyond anything I could ever imagined.

First, there's almost no overt stress to it. You simply get numb to everything. This crisis happens or that emergency comes up but, for you, it's just another case of reacting to daily events. Decisions get reduced to "or" choices.

- Pay the electric bill OR buy food
- Pay for Internet OR put gas in the car

What's on the agenda for today? Avoid collection agency calls, figure out how to make $1.15 last the rest of the month, call and see how Oma is doing, take son to Sober, try and find some kind of part-time job I can do until December, put off a boatload of other things because OVERLOAD!

Honestly, I was not made for this kind of reality.

And it's only going to get worse.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I am always surprised by gender inequities in the tech and gaming worlds

Recently there have been some noticeable happenings related to gender in the tech, game and genera worlds. Some significant one being, in no particular order: To anyone who has been online over the last 30 years, this really isn't something new. Gender discrimination and, in many cases, open attacks and hostility, have been around since the beginning. It takes about ten seconds to find a message board or thread where women are threatened with rape and death (no, I am not exaggerating at all) just for speaking their mind. And God forbid that a woman should disagree with anything a guy says.

What prompted me to write this was an exchange I happened across on Twitter the other day. In it, Snipe and K2 were talking about different ways to get men in the industry to stop saying and doing things that are varying degrees of insulting to outright harassment of women. K2, with the help of fellow Meteor employee Sam Kirk, made a poster best titled as “Brosie the Riveter”. A similar theme can be seen in this post on the Repair Her Armor Tumblr blog.

Let's start with some background.

I was born in 1962. This means I spent my teens in the 70's and my twenties in the 80's. Therefor, my formative years had some specific socio-cultural norms that were completely different from today's world. Also, I spend most of these years growing up as a US citizen living in Germany and Italy (Europe during the Cold War was interesting, in the Chinese Curse sort of way, but that's for another time) with the cultural differences that entails, as well. Additionally, I have been in the tech industry, in one form or other, since 1982. I done did seen allot of computer stuff. Lastly, though I didn't find out until my mid-40's, I also have Asperger's Syndrome. I relate this information because it has a strong bearing on how I see the world and can, I hope, help make this piece more coherent.

Why am I writing this post? The reason is that, and I swear to whomever you prefer, every time I run into this attack on women I am completely taken aback. Over the years I have worked with many different men and women and, just like every other human being on the planet, some were better at some things than others. I've known men who were supposed to be computer professionals who couldn't find the power switch without a map. And I've known women who were unquestioned experts in their field. The best computer programmer I've ever had any kind of dealings with was a young lady named Stephanie. She was better at this than anyone I've known in over 20 years with the Linux and Open Source world. From web app devs to kernel hackers, no one was better. When I think of her, the first thing that comes to mind is her code and the skill she had at crafting it. The fact that she was a tall (6'2” I believe), attractive African American woman is secondary to my memories of working with her.

This isn't to say I am a paragon of perfectly balanced racial/gender bias. Like everyone else on this planet, when I picture the average person said person looks allot like me. But that doesn't mean I must accept that image as the only viable one. It is nearly impossible to keep from having a mental image of someone before you've met them that is based on their name and other information you might have about them. But I know that this image is just a figment and has no basis in reality, so I consciously dismiss it. When I meet a person I have the same 15 second reaction that all humans have, but that is only a grain of sand on the beach when it comes to seeing them as a person.

We, as human beings, spend so much time and energy on negative things, such as gender, politics, race, etc., that there's little energy left to be productive. To do something positive that builds rather than tears down. Life is not a Zero Sum game. When someone else shines it does not dim your brilliance. If everyone would celebrate accomplishments and concentrate on bettering themselves you would be astounded how much can be accomplished.

So let us all applaud others success, help them to achieve same, and spend our energy bettering ourselves. That's how you win life!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Old Man Blues

Many, many years ago (seems like two lifetimes) I played the electric guitar in a family band with my two brothers and our sister. We played local clubs and parties for little or no money. Mostly no money. We weren't too bad and even cut a demo of 10 original songs. We played "variety rock", everything from Pat Benatar and Journey to Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. It was fun. 

This was in the 80's.

Then, in 1990 I got married. In 1992 my sister got married and that pretty much put the kibosh on things. I continued to fiddle with playing for a bit until I ended up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and needed surgery on both wrists. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and that killed any idea of playing for me.

Now, 20 years later, I find I want to try and play again.  Don't know how, but I'm going to try.  It's likely I'll make Slowhand sound like a death metal speed demon.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Boy Scouts - Almost there

Yesterday was an historic day.
"Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone."
This is, in my opinion, a very good thing. The bottom line is summed up by this sentence, which was part of the official statement on the BSA website: "While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting." Truer words can't be spoken.

However, as the above statement said, "A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration" so no gay scout leaders allowed. Many in the LGBT* community are unhappy with this but I don't see it as a loss. You see, the BSA hasn't even begun to take up this issue so there's no need to bemoan the non-decision yet. The fact is that, once they organization sees that allowing gay scouts makes no difference, they will be much more open to address the topic of gay scout leaders.

This is not to say that work isn't still needed. The biggest thing that struck me about the reaction to this announcement was that those opposed persist in thinking that their children will now be in danger because of it. While it is no longer held as a belief by the majority of the public, there is still this idea that homosexuals are most likely to molest children. Decades of exhaustive study have shown this is absolutely incorrect. Pedophiles are, almost exclusively, heterosexual men. If these people truly wanted to protect their children they would be fighting to make sure that all Scout Masters were gay. (The preceding statement is, of course, ridiculous, but it is as accurate as anything those opposed to gay adults being troop leaders).

What is needed more than activism and legal action is education. Once the public knows and understands the facts about homosexuality, topics like gay troop leaders and same-sex marriage will become moot.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

So much to say but not enough strength to say it

I have a number of subjects (some even topical) that I really want to pontificate on but it's been difficult sitting long enough to get anything done. Some of the ideas include, but are not limited to...
  • 16yo girl charged with possession and discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device for her science project
  • Black Cat Cosplayer's Sexual Harassment
  • The fact that men and women will never and can never be equal
  • The "War" on breast cancer
  • Disney destroys Brave’s Merida
Also, maybe some babbling on what a bad parent the world thinks I am. Not that I disagree with the world on this one.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Officer accused of having Trayvon Martin target

Officer accused of having Trayvon Martin target - PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- "A police officer accused of bringing targets resembling Trayvon Martin to a gun range has been fired."

I saw the target that this article is about. It's a shadow of a person with the vague outline of someone wearing a hoodie. It's easy to see how it could be interpreted as resembling Trayvon Martin. However, I have seen many of these kind of targets as far back as the late 70's. Reading this particular article makes it seem like Sgt. King might have been asking the others if they were (un)comfortable using that target. There is no specific reference to the way he asked in this account, though, so there's no way to tell what his intent was.

In this specific instance, with the information at hand, I believe that the Sgt. probably shouldn't have brought the target due to the location of Port Canaveral to Sanford and the relative recency of the shooting.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Hagel cites 'growing threat' from North Korean nukes

Hagel cites 'growing threat' from North Korean nukes | Wednesday 4/3/2013, 5:50am ET | WASHINGTON (AP) -- "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is calling North Korea's development of nuclear weapons a "growing threat" to the U.S. and its allies."

I've said it before and I'll say it again... If WWIII is ever going to happen this is where it will start.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Organizationally Challenged

You know, if I had an ounce of organizational skills and didn't have the motivation of a corps, I could rule the world. Or get something accomplished. Currently, I have a few tasks to get finished, most of which are well overdue. I present in no particular order, The List.This shouldn't be a problem if I were able to organize things. A couple of hours on the course; couple of hours on the game(s); a little exploring for some scholarships and grants; suck up some dust...

But, well, it doesn't work that way. It's more like a bunch of hours catching up on email and wandering Twitter, Facebook and the web; work a few minutes on the course; watch some TV on the DVR; spend time with my son when he comes home from school; watch some more TV after dinner; get on the computer to work on either the course or the games but end up getting lost on the web for many more hours; go to bed.

Maybe I need a touch of motivation and discipline as well as organization.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fun with sendmail

It's been 15 years since I've setup sendmail. Now I can't remember how to do anything with the mc file.

The problem was that, when queried, sendmail said there were no auth options. Neither LOGIN nor PLAIN would be accepted. If you can't connect to smtp sendmail can't send mail. (Ha! See what I did there? Alliteration FTW!) So it's off the the docs. Between the sendmail site, Google searches and the FAQS/RFC site, I should find something, right? Well, this time the answer is: Right!

Turns out I had two major config mistakes in the fine. The first was not creating and using a cert for secure connections. The second was not including my IP address in /etc/mail/access with RELAY enabled. Now things are working. The next week or two will see if there are any little buguettes* left in there.

This weekend will be spent banging away on the C++ course, with the exception of Sunday afternoon/evening. My son and I are going to visit with my ex-brother-in-law's family. They have two kids, just younger than my son, and his other grandma will be there, too. We all have a good time when we can get together.
* Yes, that is spelled correctly. I just made the word up. It means "little bugs".

Monday, February 11, 2013

What's the next step, Joe?

The server migration is effectively done. There's still a bunch of things that need to be tweaked, but mail is flowing and the websites are reachable. Next on the agenda is getting the Intro to C++ course finished.

I've given myself a deadline of having it go live by March 1st. This is not an unreasonable deadline. But this is starting to squeeze into my #1GAM time. I do have a game that's 90% done but completely playable which I can use if it comes to that. But I'd rather put something else up and get that game 100% completed. Right now I'm leaning towards making an educational game for Android with the MIT App Inventor. This is doable but I need an idea of what kind of game to make.

Maybe I'll make a flashcard game about the Cold War.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Decisions Decisions

Ok, I'm pretty much done with the server migration so that's out of the way. There's only twenty more days left in the month, though, so I need to start getting started with February's One Game A Month project. The first thing to do is come up with a game idea.

No, wait. The first first thing is to decide what platform and language I want to use. Yeah, yeah, yeah... That's not really when one should start a project, but this is where my joy* is so that's where I'm starting. So let's see what's on the menu.

Platform: Android
DevTools: App Inventor, AndEngine/Eclipse, HTML-CSS-JavaScript/PhoneGap

This has it's appeal but might be a bit overly ambitious at this point. I've barely scratched the surface of Android development and haven't done much of any Java.

Platform: Linux
DevTools: Python/Pygame, C++ with game engine, C++ without an engine

The Python route is extremely exciting, even though I've never programmed in it before. I love to learn new programming languages. C++ w/Engine is sketchy as I don't know anything about what's available outside of Unity. While it would be fairly easy for me to do another terminal based ASCII game, that's seems like wimping out to me. But it's on the table due to the shorter time frame available.

Platform: Windows
DevTools: Game Maker, gameEditor, C++/DirectX, C++ with game engine, C++ without an engine

I'm fairly sure I can get something halfway decent with Game Maker (and possibly gameEditor). I do have a DirectX game that's 85% done I could finish. Using an engine (UDK, Unity, Torque, etc.) runs into the same complexity difficulty as on Linux. There's a side issue with this, though. My Win7 box is on life-support and would not be up to the task. I already have a box to put it on but I really, Really, REALLY hate loading Windows and the ton of crap that doesn't come with it.

That's as far as I've pondered on this subject. It's almost 1am here so I better get to sleep. Gotta deal with a 16yo son who's, a-hem, "in the dog house" in the morning. If anyone happens to read this (like that's going to happen) and wants to put there $0.02 in I have no objections. I'll not turn down any ideas for an actual #1GAM game either.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Pain in the Head

Can't understand why my head hurts all the time. Hopefully, to quote Aaaaaaanold in Kindergarten Cop, "It's not a tooomer." Of course, it could be stress related. All kinds of [Expletive Deleted] hitting the fan lately.

Trying to Get Organized

Like every other human on the planet, with the single exception of my mother (just ask her), I have many faults. Right now I am trying to deal with one of the more annoying ones. Organization, or the lack thereof.

I am not good at organizing, well, anything. I'm especially bad at time management and prioritization. Right now there are three things I need to be doing -
  • Getting the new server up
  • Putting a course together on C++
  • Making games for the One Game A Month initiative
I'm just about done with the server move. The only major thing left is get the user accounts over and the Sumo mailing list back up. This shouldn't be a tremendous bit of work but I started it in November and, well, it's February. Once it's moved we'll be saving around $60 a month, though.

The course is about halfway done. I'd hoped to have it up last December but it's been really rough going trying to find the resources and organizing it all. I keep getting overly complicated with my attempts at assignments and quizzes. Seems I spend half my time undoing and simplifying what I did the day(s) before. This is a paying gig, though, so I need to get it going.

The problem with #1GAM is that I'd much rather be doing it than anything else. It occupies my "thinking time" and distracts me from getting anything else done. The one drawback to this is that there is no financial gain directly related to this project. Yeah, it's possible that I could make some game that people would like and buy, but that's unlikely. The previously described tasks do have direct and significant financial rewards. So they're the ones I should be focusing on. Key words being "should be".

If I were organized, even 1/10th as organized as a normal human being, I'd likely be done first the first two and happily hacking away at game code. But, I'm not. So I am going to try and do something about it. Not sure what, yet. I've tried schedules and all kinds of other time management devices but they all fall apart when faced with my overly distractedness and general lack of motivation (i.e. laziness). I need something different; something off-the-wall. Maybe I'll dream something up one of these nights.

Eh, I'll probably just dream of code.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

One Game A Month

There is a very fun initiative happening this year. It's called One Game A Month (see: and the goal is to write/create one new game a month. Since I seem to be woefully neglecting this blog for my usual ramblings I'm going to attempt to keep a pseudo-running journal of my progress through this long range hack-a-thon. You can follow all the fun on Twitter with the #1GAM hashtag.