Colorado Department of Transportation cyberattack, and Doritos

CDOT, the Colorado Department of Transportation, was the victim of a cyberattack that cost millions of dollars last year. They refused to pay the ransom requested, and instead had their technical people working “20 hour shifts” to try to dig them out of the mess, which apparently took about a month.

First off, anyone who’s managed knowledge workers knows working 20 hours straight is stupid. After somewhere between 8 and 15 hours, computer programmers start to make enough mistakes that it takes more time to fix those mistakes than is gained by working extra hours. Like the Pony Express knew, you gotta rest your programmers to keep your overall speed up.

Second, Kevin Klein, Colorado’s director of homeland security and emergency management, said at a recent conference, “We switched from Doritos and Mountain Dew to actual food.” As far as I can tell, he’s serious that the CDOT employees who were working 20 hour days, were living on junk food. That’s another management mistake that shows why I’d never work for the government. The Pony Express also knew that you’ve gotta keep your ponies nourished. Software engineers are the same way. Yeah, you can live for a few days on junk food. But if you know you need lots of work from your employees over the long haul, feed them well. The best software managers I’ve worked for know this and have been quick to bring in food when the team’s in “crunch mode”.

You can read more in this article:

Note that Governor Hickenlooper eventually declared a state of emergency due to this cyberattack, which enabled them to get help from other government agencies. That allowed the CDOT engineers to stop working 20 hour days and start eating real food again.

why facts don’t matter

This article came out over two years ago, and was very popular, but I didn’t actually read it until this week. It’s amazing and informative and I recommend it, especially if – like me – you are curious what evolutionary advantage humanity gained through confirmation bias (no other species has it, as far as we know). Or, if you’re someone who still thinks you can win political arguments using logic and reason.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds

A couple of my favorite parts of the article:

“As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views.

And…

The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.

 

not hot enough for pho

I asked the server at the new neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant which she recommends – the pho or the lemongrass rice noodle bowl. She thought for a moment and said that since it’s not hot outside today, I shouldn’t have the soup. It’s funny how many people think the opposite – that pho is for cool weather.

wait a minute, King?

I’m a little excited about the trailer for this film, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”. But wait a minute, isn’t Godzilla a “she”? Shouldn’t it be “Godzilla: Queen of the Monsters”?

Well, Wikipedia to the rescue:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla

“Godzilla was referred to as a male and was depicted laying eggs through parthenogenesis.” I don’t know what parthenogenesis means, but I guess it means males can lay eggs.

So, never mind.

my plan for breaking up with Facebook and Instagram

I normally don’t make New Years resolutions. I figure if a change is worth making, why not start right now, instead of waiting until some arbitrary date on the calendar? Besides, most New Years resolutions are broken anyhow, and if I’m going to make a change in my life, why do it in a way that’s expected to fail? I guess I’m superstitious like that. But this year, I made one. I just didn’t tell many people. My resolution was to break up with Facebook and Instagram.

Anyone reading this probably already knows a dozen reasons to leave Facebook. For me personally, there are two main reasons. First, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram is dishonest, and I can’t justify being an enabler anymore. Second, I’m disappointed with how far they’ve let – and even encouraged – online communities to devolve. I’m not gonna go into the reasons in any more depth. The internet has a steady stream of news articles about why.

So, what next? Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I get out of Facebook. When I first signed up in September 2007, the site didn’t do much. But now it serves a lot of purposes. The company’s key to success has been being the “one stop shop” for a lot of different features. It’s convenient to have these things all in one place, but it’s not really essential. Here are the different benefits I feel like I’ve gotten:

  • a way to stay in touch with friends and family
  • a way to share experiences and information with others online who have the same hobbies and interests – games, sports, travel, food, etc.
  • a way to read about important local, regional, national, and international news, and opinions from experts
  • a way to share my own opinions and experiences to whoever is interested
  • a way to schedule and plan events with friends and family

That’s a lot of benefits all under one roof. So how am I approaching getting rid of all that? Well, I’m learning about what other services exist that help with each of these things. In fact, I started reading about alternatives back in October 2018, and have been trying several of them since then. My hope is that by using other online services, I can fill each of those gaps to some degree. For example, there’s no need to rely on Facebook for the daily news, even though a lot of people use it for that. There are a dozen other ways to learn about important news from a variety of perspectives.

What do I expect to miss?

Facebook has spent billions of dollars refining their service to keep me and you engaged as long as possible. They have used every trick in the book and invented several news ones to get people to keep reading for longer and longer amounts of time. So I don’t expect that whatever set of replacement services I put together will “engage” me to the same degree. And actually, that’s a good thing. I spend too much time on social media as it is. So I’m hoping that this change increases the amount of free time I spend on more productive things.

I think I’ll make a new set of online acquaintances, most likely. And I’ll go back to getting news from better quality news sources. I hope to read books more and read Facebook less.

My check lists

As I said, I’ve already been working at this for several months. Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

  • Read a whole bunch about how to do this – see the bibliography below, if you’re curious
  • Unfriended about 200 Facebook “friends” who really weren’t friends
  • Deleted all my weird fun Facebook pages (I made up a fake band, a fake Russian fake US patriot site, and a few others)
  • Imported all my Facebook photos into Apple Photos, mirrored to Amazon Photos
  • Revamped and upgraded my blog site, Todd Bradley’s Galaxy: http://toddbradley.com
  • Set up accounts on MeWe and Mastodon social media networks
  • Became a paying subscriber to Medium and Reddit, sources of news and smart (as well as some dumb) essays
  • Changed my Facebook privacy so my posts are only visible by Friends instead of Public
  • Exported all my posts and media from Facebook and downloaded the files to my home computer for safe keeping
  • Signed up for Signal and Feedly

Coming up next:

  • Tell my friends and family about this grand scheme
  • Encourage people to subscribe to my blog if they want to stay in touch
  • Consider Tumblr as a microblogging platform, since nobody uses it for porn anymore
  • Link WordPress to Facebook so when I publish a new WordPress post, Facebook friends see an excerpt
  • Let all my friends and family know other ways to contact me – phone, text, email, etc.
  • Delete Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger apps from my phone and iPad
  • Maybe write some software to import my 12 years of Facebook posts into my blog

Bibliography:

Tools:

looking for recipes?

I decided to add a new category to my blog, and that is “Recipe”. So I went back and labeled all the recipes I’ve posted here over the past decades. That means I can now list them all in once place, right here:

My 50th birthday party

My birthday is March 20, which most years is the first day of spring. This year the vernal equinox is at 3:58 PM Mountain Daylight Time. I plan to take the day off work and do some of my favorite things, and then we’ll have a casual gathering at a local bar near my home. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by.

Green River, Part 3

(continued from Green River, Part 2)

Sunday

Sunday morning we got up, enjoyed an even bigger free breakfast at the Tamarisk Restaurant, checked out, and headed east to a place called Sego Canyon. This is another place in the area that I’d never been. There’s a ghost town up in a canyon somewhere, but my real interest was the rock art.

The drive to the rock art was easy, even through snow and mud in my Honda Civic. There’s rock art of three different types here, not counting the modern American vandalism. One panel has Ute rock art, one panel has Fremont culture rock art, and one panel has Barrier Canyon style rock art. Those are the three main traditions or styles of rock art found in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.

pictograph: an ancient or prehistoric drawing or painting on a rock wall

petroglyph: a carving or inscription on a rock

Fremont petroglyphs on top of Barrier Canyon pictographs
Ute rock art – notice the horses and bison
Me at the Barrier Canyon panel
Close up of some of the Barrier Canyon rock art

My personal favorite is Barrier Canyon rock art, because it has all these weird figures that look vaguely like scary, dark, faceless humans with aspects of what looks a lot like alien creatures – bug eyes, antennas, etc.

Years ago, I hiked into Horseshoe Canyon, the least-known district of Canyonlands National Park. It used to be called Barrier Canyon, and the rock art at Great Gallery there is the “type site” of Barrier Canyon style rock art found in a hundred mile radius of there.

Great Gallery photo from Wikipedia

Tangent

A “type specimen” is a common term for a specific sample or drawing scientists consider to have the definitive characteristics of a species. For example, according to Wikipedia, “the type specimen for the species Homo neanderthalensis was the specimen ‘Neanderthal-1’ discovered by Johann Karl Fuhlrott in 1856 at Feldhofer in the Neander Valley in Germany.”  

In geology, a lot of geological formations are named after a specific place where that formation was first seen or is most definitively seen. For example, in the desert southwest, there’s a type of rock called “Wingate sandstone” because it’s very prominent at Wingate, Arizona. Similarly, the “Chinle Formation” is prominent at Chinle, Arizona and the “Kayenta Formation” is prominent at Kayenta, Arizona. In geology these are called the “type locality”.

In archaeology, the same idea is called a “type site”. For example, there was a prehistoric culture in what’s now the western US called the “Clovis culture”. Maybe you’ve heard of “Clovis point” arrow heads. Well, this is named after Clovis, New Mexico just as the “Folsom Tradition” was first identified near modern day Folsom, New Mexico. Apparently, “type site” is also used to indicate the place where a particular style of rock art is most definitive.

According to the BCS Project website, “The Great Gallery is the type-site for the Barrier Canyon style and the largest of the Barrier Canyon style rock art gallery sites.” But the people who made it aren’t called Barrier Canyon people, they’re called Western Archaic people, which I think essentially means “they were here so long ago (6000 years ago) that nobody really knows which modern day Native Americans descended from them, if any”.

End of tangent

There is also some rock art across the road on private land. This one’s a mix of styles, with English signatures and other modern graffiti.

After walking around in the muddy snow to see all the art, we headed for Colorado. We stopped for gas in Fruita, and then drove over the Colorado National Monument, something I hadn’t done in decades.

Then we made a stop at the Grand Junction Memorial Gardens so I could say hi to my grandparents, all four of whom are there. And then we drove on to Glenwood Springs. After a small meal of Mexican food at Jilbertitos, we spent a couple hours soaking at Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and then called it a night.

Monday

Monday morning was just driving, for the most part. Fortunately, traffic was way better than it had been on the way west on Friday, and we got to Denver in time for a lunch of pho. And that marked the end of our long weekend away. 

It was a nice getaway. I got to see the Ken Sleight exhibit and the rest of the museum, some rock art, some beautiful geology, and a missile test site. All with good food and good company.


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