Friday, November 11, 2016

Reflection - A Call To Action...

Looking through my blog archive, I thought I would share what I wrote exactly 8 years ago about the outcomes of THAT election. In the past days, I have been called a sexist, a misogynist, white privileged, and there was the indirect implication that I am a racist.

I get that people are raw from the outcome of the election. I get that they think the world is going to end. I get that they believe that Trump is a personal attack on everything they believe. 

I really do get it. 

This is how I felt when we elected a socialist TWICE from the Chicago south-side. This is how I felt when the Democrats unilaterally passed Obamacare. This is how I felt when he declared that we are no longer a great nation or a super power.

So yes - I really do get it...

No doubt that the last seven days have been difficult for you: a failed election, Democrat gains in the House and Senate, the virtual cartwheels of the left leaning media celebrating the election of their hand selected candidate and his perceived elevation to god like status, the joyous news articles about the first 100 days of Camelot 2 (the sequel), the disappointment among the cast at Saturday Night Live who now have nobody to make fun of, and the media coverage of Sarah Palin forced to return her campaign wardrobe. Recounts in Minnesota, the landscape littered with failed ballot initiatives and the announcement of trials for our enemies locked away in the soon to be closed Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The fact is: you should be angry. You should be upset. You should be confused and distraught and fearful.

And the fear comes, in part, when you see those that we would probably classify as our enemies, dancing in the street. Not because Obama or the Democrats are going to usher a new era of peace and prosperity for the world, but because they now know that America will be far less likely to take direct action against them while they move unabated across the globe. Osama bin Laden endorsed Obama, not because he expects peace with our country but because he believes it will be easier to destroy the Great Satan with the Democrats in control.

The Republican Party took a punch in the gut, and you probably hand the wind knocked out of you.

And worse: the change is coming. The change you fought against. The change that will march forward unchallenged through the House and through the Senate and through the media. The change that represents the greatest threat to conservative values in the past thirty years. Greater than Carter. Even greater than the Clintons. The people have spoken, and the change is coming. Like a tidal wave.

Is moving to Canada the answer? Hardly. Though it certainly will be easier to go back and forth between our northern and southern neighbors. Congressional liberals will blow bazooka-sized holes in an already struggling immigration policy, inviting them to join their party of “inclusion”, as the various labor unions wait with open arms to add them to their rosters. This will be easy, as they will be able to unionize businesses through the card check method, discarding the secret ballot for a more “democratic” process. And these newly energized and cash laden unions will be sponsoring election day "vote-as-many-times-as-you-can" bus tours for their left leaning members now that we will have same day voter registration in all 50 states. Your vote will now have to directly compete with the voting dead of Cook County political machine, or the ACORN registered Dallas Cowboys offensive line (they only get to vote 47 times, so no big deal there).

We currently live in a constitutional republic with some democratic leanings, but that is changing as well. Those democratic leanings are inching their way to become the standard, a standard of mob rule with little concern of the checks and balances that our Founders created to save us from ourselves. Our liberties are more at risk as we move towards democracy. The progression has been slow to this point, but high speed communications have changed the average person’s view of democratic processes, and most believe republican processes are slow and ineffective. That darn Electoral College has stood in the way for far too long, and our more liberal friends are not going to allow something like one of the foundations of our republic type of government and most brilliant compromises of the Constitutional Convention stand in the way of the new Democrat, “you don’t need to see my identification” super voter base.

Not that it matters, as you will probably not have to hear about it. If Nancy Pelosi has her way, the "fairness doctrine" will wipe out the minute media opposition to liberal policies, putting conservative talk radio and any other conservative media outlet out of business, possibly including my blog (sorry folks!).

But all is not lost.

There is a twinkle of starlight on the blanket of darkness that has enveloped the conservative universe. We may have taken the punch in the gut, but we can recover.

While this election saw a general rout of elected officials with conservative ideals, the election was not a complete loss. There was pre-election speculation that the Democrats might pick up enough seats to hold a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, and this did not happen. Several conservative ballot initiatives passed in Colorado, proving that the voting public has not completely migrated to the left. Several states, including California, affirmed conservative values and confirmed the widely held belief that marriage is an institution that should be between a man and a woman. This, despite the millions of dollars spent by Hollywood and gay organizations that tried to use their influence (not only in monetary resources, but in star power and in the scripts of the very television shows that they honor year after year) to defeat the measure.

For certain, this election hurts really more than any other election in recent history, as we now have a left leaning unified government with a very left leaning President. We have discussed the kinds of policies this kind of government will enact, now that they have their chance to govern.

These kinds of polices scare me. But more than anything else, it motivates me. It motivates me to get involved. It motivates me to embrace my values. It motivates me to make certain that it doesn’t happen again.

We have two years of a unified Congress to deal with. That’s 730 days. We have four years of a leftist President. That's 1460 days.

The GOP will have to get serious now about the Congressional mid-terms and in about 1000 days for the next Presidential election. Now is the time to really start identifying what the platform is going to be, who we want as our next party leaders, and who we want to be the next President.

Very soon, we will know the impacts of a Democrat unified Congress. We will know the impacts of a rubber stamp executive. We will know the damage to the court system, to the small businesses that have been taxed out of existence, to our wallets and checking accounts. We will know first hand of the failures of Obama/Pelosi/Reid’s social policies, and we will have to develop plans to minimize the damage as quickly as possible.

Keep your chin up. Remember your values. Stay true to your beliefs. I sincerely believe that the country made a mistake a week ago, and we will have 4 years to learn from than mistake. Pay attention, and get involved at the local level. We lost this election, in part, because people in the 40 and under crowd voted for Obama. We need to even the playing field the next time around.

And remember that conservatism is not dead - we are just taking a breather to rebuild!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Guest Post - What Can I Do...

Philip Marshall, a friend and co-worker, shared his thoughts on the election outcomes yesterday. I am honored to share them with you here.

I’ve been trying to think what it’s like today to be a Muslim, disabled, Hispanic, woman or other person with a nationality, religious beliefs, origin or background to whom Donald Trump has been disingenuous. I can hardly imagine.

What I can imagine is making sure that I make eye contact, smile, acknowledge and engage every person who may undoubtedly feel uncomfortable in their own skin. I can and should do this anyway. I want them to feel, with every interaction, that they are welcome and just as much a part of my America as I am. They might be a surgeon, attorney, coffee barrister or someone I meet at an event, in a store or at work.

What I believe is that most people want to do good, want to contribute and want to make me feel connected to them in at least some small way. We’re all in this together and my belief is that it’s a very small world. Someone I hold a door for today may very well save my life down the road. Wouldn’t it be great if when they’re helping me that they remember that I was the nice guy who smiled, took a minute to connect and left them feeling a part of my world as opposed to feeling shunned by it.

Unless you’re of Native American descent, it’s likely that your parents, grandparents, or some distant relative journeyed here. Perhaps their reason for coming was that they were persecuted in a foreign land. They likely braved a long trip by ship or endured horrendous conditions on barely passable roads. And when they arrived, they may not have been treated well. It wasn’t easy. Don’t you think they’d be pleased to see you reach out to strangers, many of whom are petrified of this new land and its diverse people?

Now more than ever it’s time to embrace people who seem unlike ourselves rather than be predetermined to hate. This world can become a better place, not by building walls, but by tearing them down. As Isaac Newton said, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” So I’m going to smile, hold out my hand, look a stranger in the eye, and envision a world in which with each persons’ contributions, we all thrive. In the words of the great American poet Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want them to feel like they’re home.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Do I Tell My Kids? A Suggestion...

Stop.

Just. Stop.

Stop emoting and let your right brain take a breather for a moment.

Better? Now read on…

Yes, the election is a shocker. You were misled by ALL of the polls. No one (apart from the Simpsons 16 years ago) could have predicted this to happen. Yet it did.

No, the world is not going to come to an end, though it may feel that way for some of you. There were even reports of the Canadian immigration site crashing as the election results were coming in.

Every four year, we have a new election for the President of the United States. Sometimes, it goes your way. Sometimes it doesn’t. And yet – every time the country has survived. You may not like the person, or the system, or the results. But the country survived (and if you are the anarchist type that was hoping to overthrow the government or something, maybe you *SHOULD* consider Canada. Or Libya. Or Iran. Or North Korea – I hear they have a great golf tournament there).

I saw that #WhatDoITellMyKids is trending on Twitter at the moment, and I thought I would share some things that you can share with your kids about this election and the American political system, without delving too deeply into more political rants and discourse:
  • There will be a woman President someday. She will be a person with honor, integrity, character and values. She will love our country, and do everything in her power to make it better. Hillary Clinton may not have won this election cycle, but she has proven that major parties can nominate and compete with a woman on the top of the ticket. Trailblazers such as Clinton (and Condoleezza Rice and others) have craved a path through a male dominated world for our daughters to follow and excel.
  • The powers of the Presidency are limited. Simply, there are limits to what the President can do, and those limits are a good thing. Many think that they get in the way of positive action, but just as often, they prevent totalitarianism. Yes, the President will be able to select his Cabinet, and he will oversee the bureaucracy. But those positions will still be held by those that know how to make the government run, and many will be those that were hired by the former President.
  • Congress acts a check and balance. One of the more bizarre consequences of this election is that few (if any) of those elected or reelected to Congress achieved this by riding the President-elect’s coat tails. Trump may have a unified Congress for the first couple of years, but none of these congressional leaders are beholden to him. Quite the contrary – there is probably more animosity between a President and the congressional leaders of his party than at any time in history. Point being – don’t think that Trump has a rubber stamp for any of his programs or ideas. Far from it.
  • Trump the TV personality vs. Trump the businessman. I don’t know how else to explain this other than like this: I believe (as do MANY others) that the Donald Trump that we have seen on the campaign trail is Donald Trump the TV celebrity, and that Donald Trump the businessman is a VERY different person. I can’t speak to whether this is true, and maybe the businessman is not really any better than the celebrity. Time will tell. But if you think that this campaign felt like one long reality TV show, maybe it is because it was. And Trump played a part specifically designed and molded for him by the public and the media. He played it so well that he won. Sure, it isn’t the Emmy that he wanted so badly for his TV show, but the perks for winning this contest are not too bad…
  • Trump was elected for a reason. Certainly, it was not because he was a stalwart Republican. Certainly it was not because of his great hair. I have read by many that it wasn’t that Trump won, but that Hillary did everything she could to lose. That may be true as well. But there is a current of dis-satisfaction with the “business as usual” approach to government and politics. Trump tapped in to this wellspring and the current carried him to victory. Republicans and Democrats need to stop and take notice – despite their best efforts to stop the stream and run business as usual campaigns, the message that Trump promoted (in between insults and horrible statements) was still the one that was the most important to voters. The people tried 8 years of “Hope and Change” under Obama, and have very little to show for it. They wanted an outsider to have a crack at it – someone that was against the business as usual, Washington establishment types. And that is who they elected – bad hair and all.
The right brain side of you is probably violently reacting again at this point, coming up with all of the counterpoints to things listed above. At the end of it all, the kind of person you are will undoubtedly shape what you tell your kids, and the tone in which you tell them. You can focus on the negative – which there was ample from both candidates – or you can focus on the smooth transition and the desire to affect change in a positive way in the future.

So my simple message for your kids is this:

I am proud to be an American, 
and will continue to work to shape the future elections 
for the benefit of all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Day After...

I was hoping this day would come. I know it is still early, but - like I said - I'm hopeful!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Old Skool...

NOTE: I originally posted this to Medium (follow this link), but thought I would share it on my personal blog as well.  Enjoy!
A friend and colleague of mine recently mentioned that I was “Old School IT” — actually several times. I have been thinking on it most of the weekend, and thought it might be worthwhile to share some of those thoughts.
Let’s start with a definition: In this case, old skool refers to a technology enthusiast that probably has 20+ years experience, and, at one point in their careers, has pretty much seen and done it all when it comes to information technology: system administration, wire monkey, help desk, network Jedi (or Sith, depending on your affiliation), database admin, and/or printer paper filler. You might have even had that title-of-titles: COMPUTER GUY.
In all likelihood, at this point in their careers, they are a specialist or expert — having done many of the various aspects of IT and settled into a specialty (for me it has been information security, or — even more specifically — information security and compliance in the various cloud architectures). They may even be a member of management — using those skills gained over the last decade plus to educate and train others in the technical field. In some rare cases, the old skool tech has become an executive, using their experiences to drive a technical vision and direction for an enterprise or the industry. In my years of tech, I have been privileged to know and even work with a few of these. It is a truly amazing thing to see experienced technical innovators at work — the right combination of business acumen with technical kung fu.
Now to really age myself — Part of being old skool is remembering and working in a time where technology was NOT ubiquitous, the Internet was a very small collection of web pages, and the only thing that Apple had released as a portable mobile device was a Newton (and no — a Mac Portable does NOT count).
15 years too soon, Steve.
Point being — I remember the trial and error in building computers (jumper combos and dip switches), programming EPROMs, coding using the VI editor in some flavor of Unix and making a Macaquarium out of my Mac SE/30 (still wish I had that thing). Answers came in books and manuals (RTFM), not Google searches (anyone remember setting up Sendmail using the Bat Book?). It isn’t to say that the twenty somethings that are the techies of today are not qualified, but it is a very different beast than it was when I started (one could say the same thing about programming with punch cards or even worse — in Fortran — but I am not THAT old).
Being old skool has made me a better technologist: instead of jumping into management and executive positions with no experience, I have been there and done that in the technical world. I can honestly relate to those that I am talking to at *ANY* level. A significant part of my job is talking to people about cloud security, and I have the confidence and the experience to relate directly to the audience — from the C-Table to the security engineer — because I have been there and done that. For example, when attending a technical conference, which was better: the sessions where someone drones on and on about technology (think PowerPoint of Death), or the sessions led by someone who is a technical expert in his/her subject (think technical demos or just Q/A)?
I never really intended to have a career in the technology industry — it just sort of happened. But I kept coming back to it, despite diversions in politics and non-profits. Sure, it pays the bills. But there is more to it. The constant challenge of learning may not be unique in any particular vertical, but in the technology world, and even more so in the information security and cloud spaces, the technology and uses are evolving right in front of us.
Old skool technologists — then — are those that have evolved as the technology has evolved. They have stayed relevant with their skills, applying their experiences to better understand the next evolution — revolution.
I am proud to be considered old skool…
(BTW — I am not so “old school” as to not know how it is really spelled…)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Drive and Determination...

Every once in a while, you meet someone that you immediately know is destined to change the world in some way...

No – this isn’t the opening line of a sappy employment recommendation or valedictory speech. Instead, it is my first thought every time I come in contact with a person I know, whom we will call ”Michelle” (not her name, but a sobriquet to protect her identity).

While I could go into a huge list of her many accomplishments and adventures (some of which would just completely blow your mind), what made me put down words is her incredible passion and drive.

As I told her earlier in the day today, I have met some of the most fascinating people in the world through my own work and personal experiences.  But none are at quite the same level as Michelle.  She has worked with Nobel Laureates, traveled (in most cases by herself) to six continents, earned multiple Bachelor and Masters degrees (all for free, BTW, through scholarships and raw determination), been a CEO of a tech start up, a motivational public speaker, an ice skater, and a college cheerleader. She joked with her sister about a beauty pageants, was basically dared to enter it, and won (again, something else she doesn’t really publicize).

Today, she shared with me that she is pursuing another of her life long dreams to become a cheerleader for a professional sports franchise.  She is not doing it for the money. She is not doing it for the publicity. She is not doing it to hook up with a sports player. She is doing it because it is something she has always wanted to do.  Unlike most of us (myself included), she is completely able and willing to dedicate whatever she needs to do to accomplish her goals. 

And she will become that cheerleader.

I am reminded of that line in Legally Blonde, when one of Elle Woods professors says "Do you think she just woke up one morning and said, 'I think I'll go to law school today'?” I think that Michelle has bolted upright out of her bed on several occasions and said “I am going to do X tomorrow”.

And she does it.  Regardless of how crazy it may seem to you and I.  She just does it.

I admire drive and ambition.  I have it in spades.  But never have I met someone who is so much more passionate and driven than myself that it makes me feel boring. 

I could say that we need more people in the world like Michelle.  But we don’t.  The world is completely unprepared for the extreme few that we do have like her, and more could cause a massive unbalance in how the world works (I am being completely serious here). 

The point in all of this: if we had 1/10 of the drive and determination that Michelle has, think of the incredible things we would be able to accomplish.  You don’t need to be a Michelle to be passionate about the things that are important to you. Even those things that others might find odd (I have an abnormal obsession with all things cheeseburgers, as many of you may know) can be channeled in a way to be of interest to others.  And people like Michelle push me to be even more crazy than I already am. Because – if she can do it, I know I can as well. 

But I will likely NOT be a cheerleader.  No one wants to see that. No one.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The President and the SCOTUS Nominee...

Today, President Obama will nominate a person to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), filling the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  The President will be nominating Merrick Garland, the chief justice of the US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

I am not going to go into a huge review of Garland’s resume, except to say that, regardless of his political bent, he is undoubtedly qualified to fill the open seat on the Court.

The President has performed his Constitutional obligation, and now the ball is squarely in the court (excuse the pun) of the Republican controlled Senate.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said that there will be no hearings for any nominee that the current President chooses, instead leaving the next President to fill the seat.  And in the truest form of irony, various conservative media outlets have produced video of President Obama and Vice President Biden recommending that exact position as Senators while George W. Bush was in office.

The larger question is: Should the Senate hold hearings and confirm the President’s nominee to the SCOTUS?

The simple answer is yes. And here’s why:

First, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(highlights for relevance, italics for importance)

At some point, the “Advice and Consent of the Senate” clause has been bastardized to mean that the Senate gets to scrutinize every aspect of a potential Presidential nominee (and for the record – both parties are guilty of this abuse). Constitutional scholars and historians are at odds as to the meaning of the phrase, but nearly all would agree (I hope) that the Founders never envisioned the type of circus that exists now over Presidential nominations.

One could also argue that the nomination of a SCOTUS Justice is one of the most important powers that a President has, given the lifetime tenure of the appointment, to promote their ideas on government. This is not a new concept – Adams and Marshall’s plan to fill the judicial branch with Federalist judges was the first of MANY examples. There may be another discussion here about the lifetime appointment of federal judges, but what is relevant is that a SCOTUS lifetime appointment makes the nomination ever more important to the President and their values, but also to the Senate to confirm the appointment (which is a partial explanation of the rancor surrounding SCOTUS nominations).

Just because the nomination or the appointment is “high stakes” such as the SCOTUS appointment, does not grant the Senate the arbitrary purview to ignore the nomination.  

For the record – I believe that the Senate is obligated to conduct hearings on the President’s nomination.  Further, I believe that the Senate should confirm the President’s nominee, unless they find an extraordinary reason to suspect that the nominee is somehow unqualified for the position (which they will not find).  Political views or leanings are NOT grounds for finding a nominee unqualified for the position, regardless of any diametric opposition the Republicans may have to the nominee.  

My view will likely not win the day with the Republicans in the Senate – they will continue to preach their mantra and stall as long as possible. But it is not the right thing for them to do. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Good Bye Old Job - One Year Later...

Today, about the time that this blog has been posted, will mark one year since the company that I had been working for decided to eliminate my position as the Director of Information Technology. It came as a shock – I knew that I had accomplished most of the projects that I had been hired to do, but I still had a number of things I wanted to do to improve the enterprise infrastructure and solidify the corporate office transition.  Alas, it was not to be.

Instead of bashing that company (which is never productive), I wanted to share some insights that I learned from that experience.  Maybe they will be helpful to you, or maybe not.  

Your job should not define who you are.  Especially in the IT universe, we (IT workers of the world) are given labels. And those labels come with an identity.  And for many, that identity becomes part of who we are as a person.  I don’t know why this is the case, but it usually is.  But as much as I enjoyed being an IT Director (I even had a t-shirt made – no kidding), it is / was not who I am.  Yes, I am a bit of a nerd, and I do like pretty much all things computers, and I did have a job as the IT Director for a cool company.  But I am also a Boy Scout, politically active and educated, a renowned burger expert and (according to my wife) a pretty decent husband.  I decided long ago that I work to live, and that I did not live to work.  I appreciate the comforts that a good job affords me, and I work very hard at the job.  But there is more to me and my life than to be “owned” by my job and my employer. If the job you have is more important to you than your family or living, maybe it is time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Your skills are yours – your employer rents them from you.  The IT Industry (as well as many other verticals) are filled with specialists – educated individuals that are often hired to fulfill a specific task or role within the company. In the IT realm, you may be a security specialist, a database administrator, or a project manager.  Sometimes, you may even be all three.  Whatever your particular skill set may be, it never hurts to be able to do more.  Most people have the dreaded “other duties as assigned” line somewhere in their HR approved job description.  I know many that hate when their boss / manager asks them to do something not within the confines or comfort zone of their usual tasks.  But you should always take the opportunity to improve and increase your marketable job skills – if / when you leave the company you are currently employed by, the skills and experience that you take with you are far and away the most valuable thing that you can take.  To that end, go to as many trainings as possible. Even if they are free online webinars, the company is paying you to learn something that will make you more valuable – initially to the employer. But also to the next employer.

A job is a job is a job. As great as your job was / is, it is only a job.  There are others exactly like it (more or less) if you look.  Chances are, the skills that you brought to your job are the same skills that another company is looking for.  Now, you have to find them.  Networking, social media, even those free conferences – all great ways to let others know about your skills and availability.  The job I Have right now came from letting my Facebook friends know that I was looking.  72 hours after that initial post, I was interviewing, and eventually hired.  I am incredibly grateful for that, but I also know that I am not alone.  While I don’t have statistics, an unbelievable majority of jobs are never posted, and are filled by word of mouth – a friend knows a guy who is looking for a guy that can do .  Don’t for a second think that you are not hireable.  There is a job out there waiting for you, almost regardless of the market conditions.  Keep looking, keep talking, and you will find the job (or the job will find you).

I could go on and on, but I hope these suggestions have been…interesting.

And to the company that let me go - I know how things have been going since I left.  I still talk to people, and follow the goings on at the company.  I wish you nothing but the very best!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Another New Adventure...

For those keeping track, about 3 or 4 posts back I mentioned that I left my position at Factual Data to become the Director of Information Technology at Magpul Industries.

Well, that's over.  The company decided to restructure, and IT is not really part of their long term plans.  Nothing but positive things to say about Magpul - they are an awesome company that makes some of the greatest products that there are.

That said, I have accepted a position at the Senior Product Manager for Helion Cloud Computing at Hewlett Packard.  I officially started yesterday, and cannot be more excited to work with such a fun and dedicated (and super tech-geeky) team.  It should be a blast!

New Star Wars Trailer Released...

Not that I am excited or anything, but I had to share this screenshot:




I know the release is still months out, but Han and Chewie back in the Falcon?  Come on...

Here is a link to the newest trailer: