David Lane

About David Lane

Where in the World…

Perhaps I am a bit nuts. If you have been reading my posts at all, you probably came to that conclusion a long time ago, but for the new people that just came in, it is a possibility. Then again, you have to be a tad off to stay sane in the world anymore.

To wit, over the next few days, I hope to be taking up a new position that will require a bit of travel. Not that unusual, I have had these sorts of jobs before, but this time, even the Welcome Aboard and Indoctrination is going to require me to travel. I expect that for a while, I will be like Carmen. I will not know where I am, or what I am doing until I get there.

Want to play along? I will see if I can find the time to post some pictures of where I am, and you can try and guess the city. I might even post the famous ones. In the meantime, wish me luck!

Play Ball!

The first game is in the books (Tampa Bay beat the New York Yankees), and San Francisco is up on Arizona in the seventh on the back of not one but two home runs hit by the pitcher, Madison Bumgarner. Yes, the pitcher has hit two home runs on Opening Day. This afternoon ends up with the Cubs and the Cardinals at 8:35 this evening.

I am happy that Opening Day is here. I am not crazy about the three games to start the season, and I am still not a huge fan of the instant replay, but the good news is that baseball is back for 2017.

On the ice, Boston beat Chicago and has leapfrogged Toronto in the standings for the last playoff spot (yeah, and Ottawa too, but who cares about Ottawa, eh?). So it looks like the Leafs are golf course bound. The Jays open in Baltimore tomorrow (which means I will only get to see replays since I cannot stream the game at work, being in MASN’s backyard – yes, someday the leagues will realize how much they are cutting off the fans, but that’s another argument).

Pass the hot dogs, the Cracker Jack, and the beverage of choice. The 2017 MLB season is here. And minor league too. I will be going to see the Potomac Nations at some point as well.

Go Jays!

Your Rights Are Not What You Think

“Aden described the scene in a Facebook post Saturday, adding that the officer who told him that he wasn’t being detained has an “ignorance of the law and the Fourth Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution that should disqualify him as a customs officer.” (WTOP)

Regrettably for Mr. Aden, as well as everyone else that considers themselves a citizen of the United States, whether natural born or legally converted, the law is not that clear and the rights granted under the Constitution do not actually apply as you have been deluded into believing (and if you think a Founding Father or two just rolled over, join the crowd). The article What Customs and Border Officials Can and Can’t Do highlights this in chilling detail.

As more and more of us are learning, especially with the more tyrannical leadership under Number 45, the Constitutional provisions off you no protections within 100 miles of the United States Border. Let me say that again. According to the law, any member of the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CPB) has the legal right to stop you, perform an unsanctioned search and seizure, and detain you without a warrant. If your jaw just hit the floor, join the club. If you are confused, think about this. The Border of the United States is not just with Canada and Mexico. There is an invisible border twelve miles off the coast of the United States. Take a ruler. Draw a line from that 12-mile limit one hundred miles into the interior of the United States. Draw it one hundred miles from the US/Canadian border and 100 miles from the Mexican border. Tell me how many cities are inside that border? Tell me how much of the population fo the United States lives inside that line. Upset yet? You should be. Inside that zone, many of the provisions of the Constitution can be suspended without cause and there is nothing you can do about it. And it is only going to get worse, not better.

The person in the street shrugs, security comes first [B. Cockburn]. If that is your attitude, either you never plan to travel anywhere, or you do not understand how damaging this is to our foreign relationships. But as this sort of nonsense continues, it is likely that the United States will see a departure of its citizens. Those citizens that have the option to go somewhere else. The brain drain started when the IRS cracked down, in many cases irrationally, on funds overseas. This resulted in serious backlash in financial markets that is already causing issues with US funds abroad. This type of harassment of citizens and foreigners alike will have negative impacts. Travel, tourism, and good will are important in international relations. When the country’s citizens are treated as criminals, the only one left will be criminals.

I listened, now it is your turn

I did not write this, but it sums up the previous eight years and highlights just what the next four years will be. And if you think I have pulled my punches before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

“I listened as they called my President a Muslim.
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys.
I listened as they said he wasn’t born here.
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could.
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog.
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I listened.
I watched.
I paid attention.
Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To “Get over it.”
To accept this…
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.
Now it’s their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as they thought it was Obama’s.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.”

–Author Unknown

I Need A Specific Browser?

The only browser that the system supports is IE , Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. We recommend the most (sic) IE browser.

Excuse me while I check the calendar. Yup, it does say it is December, 2016. And yes, that is a message I received from a web site that I was having trouble entering data on. Data that is mission critical. Data, that is consumed by a python application on the back end where the servers that are serving the data are Linux based and the processing is done in an AWS environment. And yet, the code the browser is using is specifically written to run best on Microsoft Internet Explorer. And I wish I could say this is an anomoly. I am still encountering websites that require Flash, or versions of IE that are so old that their security risks have security risks. And yet that is the state of the art in a day when most people are making transations via the mobile devices, which are either on i-devices (which primarily run Safari) or Android devices, that primarily run Chrome. Sure you can load Chrome on to i-devices, or other browsers, but 99% of users do not, and for a good reason. Why would you?

I abandoned Windows completely about a year ago for Mac. Yes, I still have one laying around somewhere, but I have not turned it on in several months, and it would take hours to come up to speed with the 10,000 patches that probably need to be applied. But even I do not use my Mac that much anymore. For example this post is being written on my iPad. Yesterday I was doing a number of things in my AWS envrionment from this same iPad. And if I had a monitor handy, I could do it from my iPhone. Why do I need to carry a laptop anymore? Why do I need to have a specific operating system any more. I do not need a specific a browser to create this post, so why do I need a specific browser to type in data to a form on a web site! This is not 1999. If you are still restricting your broswers, it is time to upgrade your application development. Or you will lose customers. Or at least annoy them to the point that they will not be giving you good reviews on-line.

Fountain for Scriptwriting

I recently discovered fountain, a markdown syntax specifically designed for script writing. i have done a couple of experiments with it, both quite successful. The real test though is how well it imports into Celtx, my script writing software of choice. And I must say it works pretty well. i had to make a couple of minor corrections with parentheticals. I made a couple of errors when I composed the base document, but that was easily remedied and when I corrected the base document, it imported cleanly.

I have been an avid user of Celtx for years. The product is solid and has a robust user community. Their updates are well thought out and their Studio application/eco-system that supports more than just writing scrips is great for those on a budget. The only negative is that it is web based (with some features available for iOS). In most cases this is not a big show stopper, unless, like me, you are disconnected when you do your primary writing. The iOS apps do allow for off-line editing, but what about when I am using my Linux desktop?

Celtx no longer supports their desktop client (and I never could get it to run on Linux properly), so for these situations, the fountain format is a great find. It has a robust ecosystem around it and is also good for those who are just starting out and looking for an entry into script writing.

Experienced script writers will like a number of power features that allow you to go from treatment to script in the same document, depending on how you post-process it. And because it is an open standard, it allows you to store and reprocess scripts over time. A major plus as the software landscape is always changing.

Another nice feature is the ability to embed script segments into a blog with a nice WordPress plug in. As you can see, it is quite a nice little feature, and no additional work on my part than wrapping the text.

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

The door crashes open and BILL TURNER crashes into the room, blood pouring from two gun shot wounds. He is holding his abdomen as he staggers and falls to his knees. ALICE GEORGE is sitting on the couch.

ALICE

(screams)

Who are you! What are you doing here?

BILL

Currently bleeding. Call 9-1-1!

Bill falls to the floor.

If you are not already familiar with it, I encourage you to look into it and see if it fits your needs. I am more than happy with what it provides.

An Open Letter To Starbucks

Starbucks, it is time to rethink our relationship. It has been a good run. Almost twenty years of providing me a morning jolt, a quiet place to sit and prepare for the day, a quick breakfast on the way to any number of events. But I think we have come to the end of the run. Now do not get the wrong idea. The quality of the prepared food is still acceptable, and the coffee is still what gets me going in the morning most days. And least you think I am upset about the new rewards program, I am not. In fact, it suits me better than the old one. On any weekend I am expending $40 a day and only getting one star for that, the same as for buying a bottle of water. But I was not in the reward program for the stars. Heck, I probably have let more than a dozen free drinks fly by.

No, I am afraid the problem is service. Pure and simple. Starbucks used to be the gold standard for customer service. But lately, something has come off the rails. And not just a little. Allow me to illustrate.

I have two Starbucks within a mile of my house, pretty much on the same street. I pick one over the other by proximity. What we call in the business, the intervening opportunity. I visit the store that is closest to what I am doing at the time. Today, when I pulled up, there were fifteen cars in the drive-through. When I walked into the store, there were at least ten waiting to place their orders. This being a Saturday, you can expect that most people are ordering more than one item. I did not even pause, but turned on my heel and left. With only three people behind the counter, I did not have much confidence that I could get in and out quickly, and I had a bit of a time crunch.

Instead, I went to the other shop. Again, busy, but not as busy and the people ahead of me were only ordering one item. I placed my order and waited. This is where we come to the second problem in service, quality control. My daughter likes frappuccinos, but is not a fan of whipped cream. Go figure. So I always order hers without. Starbucks, if you could make one rapid improvement, it would be in the literacy of your baristas. In the dozen odd years I have been ordering her frappuccinos, without whipped cream, your baristas have got it wrong 50% of the time. And in 90% of those cases, it has been marked correctly on the cup!

I am not going to expect perfection. The baristas are human. Stuff happens. I expect that an order will be wrong on occasion. The problem is that the definition of occasion is not weekly. Worse, if this was something that happened in only one store, I would have a quiet word with the manager and that would be that. But it is not just one store. And it is not the only error, which have run the gamut from missing coffee in coffee drinks, missing syrups and sometimes straight up the wrong drink. I could go on. Since most of my drinks are coffee drinks, I am usually far away from the store before I notice something wrong at which point it is more of a hassle to go back.

Which brings me to the last issue. I would have words with the manager, but I cannot easily tell who the manager is. I am the first one to say that leadership and age are not synonymous, but sometimes the oldest person in the store is the worst offender and the youngest is the manager. Maybe if you make them stand out like the coffee masters, it would be easier to bring these issues to their attention.

Are these insurmountable issues? No. Are they resolvable? Yes, and in many cases, very easily. If it was just one store, I would chalk it up to that store and find another, but it is apparent that it is systemic. And because of this, I am considering my alternatives. Including making it myself.

Camp Nanowrimo

CNW_Participant_FacebookIt is April, and at least in Washington, DC, that thing called climate change is in full affect. And by full, I mean temperatures are below normal and we are likely to go from winter into full summer with no spring. It feels like November, so, why not write? It is time for Camp Nanowrimo, or as the old guard used to call it Script Frenzy. And while you can write a script, that month dedicated to just writing scripts has expanded. Again, the goal is 50,000 words in 30 days, or about 1,667 words a day. As today is April 4, and I have yet to come up with much of an idea about what I want to write, this may end faster than it began, but it may also prove out to be successful. I have been known to turn and burn on a book, or script in fifteen days. So all hope is not yet lost.

But, if you have ever wanted to write that great insert your nation here novel, this is your chance. Anyone can do it. So, what are you waiting for? 1,700 words takes as little as an hour a day to crank out. All you have to do is start.

Why Primaries?

Sunday morning, I awoke to discover that Marco Rubio had won the primary in Puerto Rico. Two thoughts emerged from this.

First, why is there a primary in Puerto Rico? Or Guam? Or any other non-state, since none of these people get to actually vote in the Presidential Election because none of these jurisdictions send people to the Electoral College. They do not even have voting representation in the House or Senate. So why, exactly, was there a primary there?

And this brought me to my second question. Who, exactly is paying for all of these primaries? I have a sinking feeling it is me. In my little town, they had to pull out the voting machines and ran through the process as if it was a real election, including the full up election board. My question – why? Who cares? Why does this have to be done this way and, more importantly, why do I have to pay for it? The primaries are a function of the parties. They created them, they direct when they happen, and they throw a snit whenever one state or another decides to hold them out of some predetermined order.

Again, why?

I have to dig back through US history, but I cannot believe that this whole circus of primaries has been around since the beginning. And I am pretty sure most Americans would be relieved if they did not have to listen to all the vitriol and blovating that has been consuming the media for the better part of the last two years, and certainly since the beginning of 2016. Is there a reason that the United States cannot choose a President in less than four years? At the very least, is there a reason we have to go through the mess that is the primaries? Given how few people actually voted in the primaries, most have tuned out the noise. If the goal is to get more people involved, perhaps the cycle should be condensed. I know I would pay more attention if the elections stated in September and ended in November of the same year. Instead of starting in December, the month after the elections have occured.