On Middle Age

I admit it. I am middle age.  I will be 50 in two years. I fully expect to live until I am 100.  I will also admit that I don't stay up all night anymore.  I cannot lift as many servers as I used to be able to without being sore for a couple of days after.  I have gotten thicker in the mid-section.  I drink too much coffee, probably too much scotch and do not exercise as much as I should, but none of that is a surprise.

But I do not feel middle aged.  Now I am not sure what middle age is supposed to feel like, as I have only experienced it once, and I am still experiencing it, but I do not feel it.  I am certainly not one of those guys you see on television suffering from the myriad of ailments that supposedly afflict those of us in this generation.  At least, until yesterday I did not feel it.

Then I received this:

It is with great sadness that I share the news that TCS alumnus and long-serving faculty member, Bruce Grandfield ’70, died suddenly this morning when out for a walk.

Bruce Grandfield was one of my teachers at Trinity College School. He was also an Old Boy.  And he was only fifteen years older than I am, as well as my fellow classmates. I remember him as an active member of the school, both inside and outside of the classroom.  He was vigorous. And while I had not had contact with him lately, I do not doubt that he was still very active.  Heck, he was still middle age!

I know that I am now of an aged when those I knew, especially those who were my teachers, my mentors, those I looked up to, will begin to die.  It is the natural way of things. But that does not mean that their passing will happen without notice or without serving to make those of us who knew them feel, just perhaps, a little bit older.

I know my fellow Old Boys will stand with me and raise a glass to Mr. Grandfield, and extend our condolences to his family. And remember that life may be fleeting.  But that it does not have to be feared.


If you wondered, is the US a Police State? The answer is – yes.

Over the last few months, the citizens, residents, and visitors to the United States have been regaled with stories of how the Government of the United States has been invading their privacy, opening their mail, listening to their phone calls, and generally monitoring their daily lives.  Of course, this is all in the name of security and to protect the public from the bad guys.

Up to this point in time, the revelations have been about how the National Security Administration are capturing your metadata, but not actually listening to your calls or reading your mail in real-time - they claim. But we have always suspected that other aspects of our life were under scrutiny.

Today, we got our answer:

The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information. (New York Times)

What starches my socks is not that the TSA is doing this.  We pretty much knew they were doing this, even if we did not know they were doing this. No, what really galls me is that the TSA has a new program, called TSA Pre, which:

...allows select frequent flyers of participating airlines and members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs who are flying on participating airlines, to receive expedited screening benefits. Eligible participants use dedicated screening lanes for screening benefits which include leaving on shoes, light outerwear and belts, as well as leaving laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids in carry-on bags.

And to get this benefit, you have to fill out an on-line application, have an in-person interview and, most importantly, pay the TSA for the privilege every five years!  Currently the fee is $85.  Now some frequent flyer programs include this in the ticket price, but for the average Joe Flyer, you are on the hook.  Yet the TSA is already doing a complete scan before you board for free!  OK, so it is not really free.  I have already paid for it with my taxes, fees, and other departure costs rolled into the ticket.

So what is the point?  Already, the United States has more secure screening processes in place, compared to the rest of the world.  I can leave my shoes and belt on in Europe and Canada.  The x-ray machines can already pick out my laptop.  And frankly the screening outside the US is much better than what the TSA is doing.  So why should I be paying the TSA?  They already know more about me than I do.  I have already paid the fee, several times over, and they already have done the in-person interview, every single time I fly.

I am opposed to the police state the United States has become.  There are a number of reasons for this. But to charge the flying public to go through security is really taking the cake. As the saying goes: There's a sucker born every minute. Clearly the American public is the sucker, and their own government is taking advantage.

“Requires Facebook” is a recipe for an automatic fail

For the better part of the last four years, I have managed, quite well I might add, to do without a Facebook account.  Yet, despite this, more an more applications seem to be depending or relying on you having a Facebook account in order to use them.  This is true of a wide range of things from comment boards to business applications.  What baffles me is why anyone would tie their application to Facebook.

Sure, I get the idea that the general public is stupid when it comes to technology.  They cannot remember their passwords (which is why Apple put a fingerprint scanner on the new iPhone), they cannot manage to understand what a URI is or why it matters, and basic interfaces confuse them, but Facebook is hardly the panacea, and worse, it opens the end user up to even more insecurities and potential application and privacy leakage.

So from this point forward, if your application, chat room, or comment board requires a Facebook account to use, I will give it an automatic fail and one star rating.  Real application development does not rely on some other application for its security model. And the general public should not accept any application or solution that does.

Congress Has One Job

onejobThe Congress of the United States, the House of Representatives in particular, has one job, spelled out in the Constitution.

In Section 7 of the Constitution:

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

And Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

So, it is the House of Representatives sole job to allocate the resources that allows the government to function.  This is everything from keeping the lights turned on to keeping the web sites operational and more importantly, serving the American people. And they have failed.

The Affordable Care Act, which the Tea Party is holding the country over a barrel for, is a flawed law. It has issues, bugs, and serious problems. And frankly, I do not think it will do what it was designed to do.  It is not Universal Health Care as it is known in Canada or the EU.  It is not a panacea. But at the moment, it is the law, and the Tea Party does not have the votes to repeal it.  You would think that after more than 40 attempts at repealing the law they would get the message, but clearly they have not. And the Republican leadership is certainly not doing their job, which is leading. Instead they have caved and are following the lemmings over the cliff and taking the rest of the nation with them.

Congress has one job.  And it cannot even manage to do that effectively.  Again.