Category Archives: Musings

Thursday trivia #96

  • Apparently people with lots of self-control are happier. Makes perfect sense to me.
  • Butterscotch pudding popsicles? Yes please.
  • Or maybe key lime pie popsicles would be better.
  • I need to do a longer post on my progress so far with the coached fitness program I started a couple of weeks ago. So far, however, I am noticeably stronger (my best deadlift is now 245!), with better muscle definition. Despite eating like a horse on workout days, I’ve lost about 8 pounds so far.
  • Apropos of fitness: I loooove Fitocracy. What a great community. On the other hand, my local gym (1Fit) is almost always deserted; this is good for lifting, but not so good for community purposes.
  • I am starting transition training to the 182RG, meanwhile looking around for a weekend prep course for my instrument written. I’ve also decided to write a book (a short one, I hope) about the process of getting an instrument rating. It’s going to be self-published through Amazon. Stay tuned.
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Why I love working for Dell, Tuesday edition

I’m just shy of my three-month anniversary with Dell. So far I love it because, among other reasons…

…They match charitable donations dollar for dollar. I just dropped some cash to the Captain Jason Dahl scholarship fund, and if you are so inclined I encourage you to do the same. If you don’t want any of the prizes, I’ll be happy to take them off your hands.

…I have an actual LAPTOP DOCK again. You know, one of those handy things that lets you simply snap your laptop into it to attach it to external devices. This dock drives two monitors, and it has a ton of USB ports. I sorely missed real docking stations with my MacBook Pro.

…No one finds anything remarkable about sentences such as “Well, we can provision support out of either Guadalajara or Morocco” or “That shouldn’t be more than another dozen servers” or “For 63,000 mailboxes, we would need…”

…My teammates are highly distributed. On one project, I’m working with two Australians (one in Austin, one in Pleasanton), a West Virginian, two Texans, and a bunch of other people whose location I don’t know because it doesn’t matter where they are.

 

 

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Thursday trivia #95

Wow, it’s been one day shy of three months since my last Thursday trivia! Time flies indeed. I should be able to post these more regularly now that my summertime madness has died down a bit.

  • The book is content complete, and now I am working my way through technical edits and adding new material where needed. Expect another post on that shortly.
  • My oldest son just started his freshman year… of college. Boy howdy, that makes me feel old.
  • This week’s project: build a building-block Exchange design suitable for use at a customer with operations in some countries (notably Israel, Russia, Taiwan, and Turkey) where they are not legally allowed to use HA or DR services that migrate data from the home country to outside. For example, if you have mailboxes in Israel, you can’t have a stretched DAG to the UK, as that would violate local law. Fun times, and certainly educational.
  • I have started a group strength training and fitness program coached by John Romaniello. So far it’s been awesome; I love the workouts and the adjustment to my eating habits has been manageable so far. If you’re on Fitocracy, follow me here. I still have to measure my current body fat percentage, but don’t expect any before/after until I get much further into the program.
  • From the TMI department: resting pulse rate 52, total cholesterol 136, blood glucose 92. Looks like I am good to go for another year.
  • I just booked my flights for IT/Dev Connections! Now I need to finish building my slide decks and demos. 
  • One of the fun things about being back in Huntsville is discovering new restaurants and rediscovering old ones. Bo has given me some very valuable tips, but I am going to have to cut back to make sure I stay on my nutrition plan.
  • Speaking of Bo: if you’re not reading his series on marriage, and you are, or want to be, married, you should probably read it. It’s been very thought-provoking so far.
  • FOOTBALL SEASON APPROACHETH. I am excited.

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Advice on communication

From a recent post to The Listserve (which you should join if you haven’t already), sent by someone who makes a living teaching rhetoric and communications:

…don’t get hung up on assuming the intent of the person communicating with you. What I mean is, it is impossible to know for sure what a person intended to mean when they say something to us. When I think of the missteps I make in everyday communication it is often because I assume why someone said something to me, I take offense at them for the purpose behind what they said. In reality, I can never know the intent behind their statement unless they tell me. Try and avoid making assumptions about the meaning of, and purpose behind, someone’s statement and see how it changes the flow of your communication.

This is valuable advice which I am determined to follow more closely. Now that my job entails working with a diverse set of customers, being a better communicator is increasingly important.

Having said that, remember that what is said is only part of what is communicated; there is also what is left unsaid, as well whether the communication is responsive, or not, to what you say. When you consider the totality of the communication, it may be possible to derive more information about intent– or it may equally be possible to make a wrong assumption. This is especially true of people who are avoidant, or who have personal, business, or political motives that lead them to conceal, evade, or avoid communicating clearly.

I’m reminded of RF test equipment such as signal generators. You use these devices to generate a particular waveform, which you then feed in to your transmitter or receiver so you can measure the output for distortion, clipping, and so on. You can measure how closely what you put in conforms to what you get out. Sadly we don’t have anything like that for human communication, apart from adaptive listening, which is a fascinating topic in itself but requires both parties to be actively engaged in the communication.

Always something new to learn…

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Transitions (or, “Dell, you’re getting a dude!”)

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a post here titled simply “We’re moving to California.” Now I’m writing this post because… I’m moving back to Alabama.

I’m also switching jobs; effective June 3, I will be joining Michael Przytula‘s Global Communications and Collaboration team at Dell as a global principal consultant. My first project will be assisting a large automotive supply company with their migration from Lotus Notes to Office 365, so I’m jumping back into the Exchange world with both feet.

The reasons for these changes can be summed up simply: in order to be an effective father to my sons, I need to be where they are. For two years, I have been commuting faithfully at my own expense to see them every other weekend, plus one week per month during which Acuitus allowed me to work remotely. This has been a great experience in itself in many ways, but it has also been emotionally exhausting, physically tiring, and extremely expensive. The constant back-and-forth has made me at times feel like a visitor, not a father, and I’ve had to miss a great many milestone events because they happened at times when I wasn’t, couldn’t be, there.

Moving back was simultaneously a no-brainer (of course I need to be where the boys are!) and a very difficult decision to actually execute on. I believe that ultimately it is the right thing to do for my sons, so that’s what I’m doing.

As much as I believe that what Acuitus is doing is important and worthwhile, and as much as I’ve enjoyed the experience of living and working in California, and as hard a transition as it will likely be, it’s time for me to move on by moving back. I am optimistic and energized about working with Dell, and I am delighted by the prospect of being able to spend more, and better, time with the boys. Against that I have to weigh the upheaval, expense, and hassle of moving, the sadness of leaving valued friends and coworkers behind, and the feeling of unfinished business that comes from leaving Acuitus in the midst of our VA school project.

On balance, though, I am more optimistic than not… as I said back in 2009, it takes work. I still believe that’s true, and I’m going to put in the work that’s required. We’ll see what happens…

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Thursday trivia #92

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Drone strikes on criminals

For my first Flying Fridays post, I want to return to a favorite topic: drones. My first-ever published work was an article for the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) on some research work done there on unmanned aerial vehicles. I sure wish I’d kept a copy (their archives were no help, sadly). Ever since then I’ve had an abiding interest in the mechanics, ethics, and practical use of unmanned aircraft.

Anyway, here’s a little snippet from the New York Times this week:

China considered using a drone strike in a mountainous region of Southeast Asia to kill a Myanmar drug lord wanted in the killings of 13 Chinese sailors, but decided instead to capture him alive, according to an influential state-run newspaper.

Sound familiar? To put this in context: the publicly-disclosed criteria for droning a US citizen are that it must be infeasible for US or allied forces to capture or kill the target; the target must be a “senior member” of Al-Qaeda, and the target must pose an imminent threat of violent attack against the US. Non-citizens are subject to a different set of rules, detailed in this handy flowchart. In either case, the US government explicitly reserves the right to use unmanned aircraft to kill people who have acted against US interests.. and now the Chinese are copying us.

Thought experiment: imagine a search-and-replace of “Al-Qaeda” in the above paragraph with some other criminal or terrorist organization. Suppose a nearby country (say, Mexico, or Venezuela) becomes a base for violent, criminal-but-not-terrorist, attacks on US citizens. Internal governance is too weak to allow the local authorities to arrest the bad guys. Do you drone them? In other words, could this policy conceivably extend to pre-emptive strikes on drug lords or other violent criminals?

If so, who’s next? If not, why not, given the current legal framework?

If you think this is an unrealistic scenario,  here’s a question to ponder. Law enforcement agencies can, and have, used manned aircraft carrying snipers to fire on suspects. What practical difference is there between an FBI HRT helicopter carrying a sniper and an armed FBI HRT drone? If it’s OK for US to stage armed counternarcotics missions into, e.g.  Honduras and shoot people, why wouldn’t it be OK to just send a drone instead?

(nb. I am not arguing that it is a good idea for the US to be doing these things, merely positing a logical extension of our current policies.)

Meanwhile, the FAA is still trying to figure out how to integrate drones safely into the National Airspace System. There’s a ton of interesting commentary on this AVweb opinion piece that I commend to your attention; there seems to be an emerging consensus in the aviation world that mixing drones and manned aircraft is a recipe for disaster because current unmanned aerial systems (UAS) don’t implement the see-and-avoid behavior drilled into human pilots from day 1. Large, remotely-operated drones such as those operated by Customs and Border Protection are relatively safe: they are large (and thus somewhat easier to see), have elaborate command-and-control systems, operate in predictable areas, and generally fly at medium to high altitudes. What I’m more worried about are smaller, less-visible, less-well-equipped drones (such as the kind operated by police departments in Houston, Dallas, and various other locales). Small drones offer so much potential utility for surveying, traffic monitoring and control, crop monitoring, aerial application, and burrito delivery that their arrival is inevitable; I just don’t want to have to play dodge-a-drone when I fly.

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