Category Archives: Drivel

Drivel

goodbye location independent lifestyle, at least for now

Yesterday, Beth and I made some big life decisions for our medium-term future. I’m going to take a regular position with a software company again, and we’ll settle down wherever that company is. We’ve tried a few different lifestyles over the past 18 months, but none of them are really working for us for one reason or another.

Moving to a new city each month, as we did during the “12 Cities, 1 Year” project, was a great way to experience new places.  But I wasn’t in any one place long enough to develop new networks or clientele for my videography business.

Splitting my time  between software contracting and videography, as I did while I was in Denver from January through August, gave me the flexibility to help care for Beth much better than would have been possible if I was working a full-time regular job.  But that won’t cover the increased costs for health insurance that we’re going to have starting January 1, 2013. And I need to have major ear surgery on the left side, which is going to cost a lot of money out of pocket.

Obviously, traveling around the country staying mainly with family and friends, as we’ve done during our current three-month Fall 2012 tour of the East Coast, isn’t sustainable. We never thought it would be. This has been a nice way to see some people and places we wouldn’t otherwise see, but it’s only bought us some time to figure out what’s really next.

One possible “what’s next” was going to be long term housesitting as a way to keep expenses low while we build up some cash reserves again.  But the housesitting opportunities that we’re finding are in places we really don’t want to live. Almost all of the long-term housesits are rural or semi-rural, and we don’t want to live in a place where we’re 30 minutes from town, especially with only one car. We really want to live in places where services are close-by. I want to be able to walk to the grocery story, the doctor’s office, a rec center, a park.

So starting this week, I’m updating my resume and starting the search for a regular full-time salaried position in the software test engineering field again. We are very flexible about location, though we’d prefer to live in Seattle, Albuquerque, Austin, or some other “real city” that interests us. I have a good network in this industry in the Denver area, and we’ll consider Denver again, but we prefer to see someplace new. Work environment is very important to me, and I want to find a job with an organization that’s small enough that I can make a difference, different enough that I can learn new things, and yet similar enough to things I’ve done in the past that I can leverage some of the many hard lessons I’ve learned over the past 24 years. Hopefully I can find a fun job like that somewhere in the US in the next couple months.

My videography business will, very sadly, have to go mostly onto the back burner.  I will continue to develop it into something I can somehow take overseas with us when we move abroad in the future. But it has to go back to being a “nights and weekends” kind of thing for now.  I’ve spent a lot of effort over the past two – almost three – years to build it into something to support us financially.  But that hasn’t worked, for several reasons.  And with our finances depleted from Beth’s cancer treatment and travel, we can’t afford for me to continue to lose money on it.

All this is a bit depressing, and it’s hard not to feel like we are taking several steps backward to the way our life was three or five or even ten years ago. We worked so hard and wanted so badly to make the digital nomad lifestyle work for us, but it hasn’t. At least not yet. We plan to try again in a few years, with a few of the variables tweaked – location, income sources, etc.  Meanwhile, got any good job leads to send my way?  🙂

my own reflections on 9/11

Earlier this month was the 10-year anniversary of the “9/11” jumbo jet terrorist attacks, and lots of us here in the US are reflecting on the events, how things have changed since then, and what it all means. I don’t know what it says about me, but my own feelings about 9/11 are different than those I most often read about.

The Chickens

On 9/11/01, I was essentially unemployed. I’d been laid off my job at a dot-com startup company a couple months earlier, and was doing my best to establish a consulting business. But due to the post-dot-com economy, I was having a hard time of it. I first heard about the airliner crashing into the World Trade Center by email from an acquaintance of mine. Initially, I didn’t have any sense of the scale of the issue, so I didn’t turn on the news. Then, later there was another email about the second crash, and that’s when I tuned into the television coverage, which was all over every channel.

I was astonished by the immensity of the disaster. I don’t think anyone expected the buildings to come tumbling down; I sure didn’t. To this day, I doubt even the planners of the attack expected their mission to be so “successful” (I should note that although I love conspiracy theories, I’ve never bought into the “9/11 was an inside job” theory). I remember feeling numb at the time, but also immediately thinking this must be the doing of Osama bin Laden. Anyone who had paid any attention to international news over the previous decade knew that his attacks were getting bigger and bigger. And so the attacks didn’t really surprise me as I think they did some people.

In the following days and weeks, I kept reading about how the American people were so “shocked” by the attacks. But as soon as it happened, the phrase that popped into my mind was “chickens coming home to roost.” If you’re not familiar with the idiom, it means that if you do enough bad things to someone, eventually they’ll do bad things back to you. From the perspective of many of the downtrodden in the Middle East, the USA had done a lot of bad things to them. And eventually, I felt, all the bad karma of how we’ve treated the locals created an environment where bin Laden could easily get recruits and funding for terrorism.

This idea that we – America – had done wrong to any of the locals in the Middle East never did get much attention in the press. It certainly wasn’t politically correct to discuss in the hyper-jingoistic days that followed the attacks. Most Americans portrayed in the media had an attitude more like, “We never did anything to them, so how could they do this to us?” Well, unfortunately, we had a long history of doing bad things to “them” – at least from their perspective. As of 2001, Americans had…

  • historically supported Israel over Palestine, which essentially means supporting Judaism over Islam
  • exploited local resources (oil in particular) without any compensation reaching the common people of the lands
  • put into power dictators (like the Saudi royal family, the Shah of Iran, and Saddam Hussein) who were friendly to our extraction interests, and then turned a blind eye when they brutally suppressed factions of their own people

In short, even though we usually don’t think of America as an empire, we acted pretty imperialistic in the 20th century in the Middle East. It shouldn’t have surprised us, the American people, so much when the local commoners in those empires we created rose up. We have our own history of rebellion against imperialism. And yet, we did act surprised.

Leadership and Divisiveness

Another case of my feelings about 9/11 being way different from my friends is regarding the response of our elected officials. It was terrible right from the beginning and never really got any better. Think back to the week following 9/11/2001. This big national shock and tragedy just happened. The talking heads are calling it the Pearl Harbor of our generation. Gas prices spike wildly, based on speculation that OPEC is going to cut off our lifeline. People rush to the grocery stores to stock up on supplies. The airlines are shut down for the first time anyone can remember. Here is the perfect opportunity for our President to bring America together for a unified goal.

Some great possible goals might have gone like this:

  • Our dependence on oil from the Middle East comes at too high of a cost. We as a nation must dedicate ourselves immediately to cutting back.  In the short term, conservation. In the long term, develop local energy sources.
  • Too long have we ignored the ordinary citizens of the Middle East, and allowed a culture of fear and hatred to develop. America will re-dedicate itself to fostering education, health care, and prosperity to being the people of the region into the modern world, where democracy and free speech are treasured.

But instead we got “America is open for business” and repeated messages that it is patriotic to go out and spend, spend, spend. President Bush could have used this opportunity to kick off a program for Americans to achieve any of a number of great things, but he fumbled the ball. All we got was the message to get back to work, and there’s no need to make personal sacrifices. So we launched these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without any belt-tightening whatsoever.

In World War II, that belt-tightening was part of what brought Americans together. Everyone gave up a little for the war effort – gasoline, rubber, cigarettes, whatever. But after 9/11 nobody had to give up anything. Instead, we were encouraged to go buy an SUV and a bigger TV. That’ll show those Muslim extremists!

As the months rolled on, it became more and more clear that Bush’s strings were being pulled by the Vice President, Dick “conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy” Cheney.

An acquaintance of mine (an accomplished part-time sports journalist named Tom George) posted a note to Facebook:

If there is one happy memory about 10 years ago today, it’s how we all came together as a nation. Yeah…we argue and fight amongst each other about all sorts of different things. But when someone takes a swipe at us, nobody circles the wagons like the USA can. As somber as this anniversary is every year, this one happy memory probably fills me with more patriotic pride than the 4th of July or any other national holiday does.

Sadly, I don’t see it that way. My impression of the past 10 years it that my country’s response to the attacks has divided the country more than united us. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote:

The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

And a Facebook note from another acquaintance (Jenny Nunemacher) sums up my feelings better than I think I can:

[…]What is most troublesome to me is that the Patriot Act and all those other militaristic actions in the years since have proven that the terrorists got what they wanted. They assaulted our freedom and WE LET IT CONTINUE TO HAPPEN. We may be incrementally more safe, but we are less free.

Our Legacy

I’m very proud to be a US citizen. I’m patriotic and would rather be in America than anywhere else. I know it probably sounds corny to some of you, but I tear up sometimes when they sing the national anthem at a baseball game (or a roller derby bout). So I think I lot about America’s legacy. What will my generation be remembered for? Are we going to leave this world better than it was before?

It’s because I care so much about these things that I feel so negative about 9/11 and our response to it.

We could have set a great example to the rest of the world of how understanding and compassionate Americans can be. But instead we went on a witch hunt, rounded up anyone who looked like they might be a terrorist, tortured some of them, and held the rest as permanent prisoners, breaking our own laws and international law in the process. We definitely didn’t take the moral high road.

We could have set a great example to the rest of the world of how wise the one remaining superpower can be. But instead we treated the attacks not as a criminal matter, but as an international “war”.

We could have used this as an opportunity to demonstrate fiscal responsibility. But instead we deployed our military and thousands of mercenaries without regard to budgets or funding.

We could have thumbed our noses at terrorism. But instead we played right into the terrorists’ plans. Why did the terrorists hate us? They hate us for our freedom, we were told. And then we turned around and gave up some of our freedom in the interests of “security”.

Why are they called terrorists? Because they accomplish their political goals by causing terror in their enemies. So to fight terrorism, we should do things to make ourselves less afraid, right? But instead we made ourselves more afraid. Don’t believe me? Go to any airport, and stand in the security line. Ask people as they pass through the inspection process, “Do you feel more afraid or less afraid to travel today than you would have in 1980?”

I really hope that this is all just a pendulum, and that it’ll swing back, especially in my lifetime. In the decade that has passed since 9/11 I haven’t seen any signs of it, but I still hold out hope.

everything has changed

I just realized I haven’t written anything on my Todd Bradley’s Galaxy blog since May 22.  Wow!  Just in case you’ve been living on Planet-X and haven’t heard the news, the “12 Cities, 1 Year” project is now underway.  Since May 22, I quit my job at Polycom, sold our house, sold my motorcycle, sold our Dodge pickup, sold or gave away nearly everything we own, and set out on a year-long adventure in our Toyota Prius with Beth.

I’m writing this from Missoula, Montana, which is the 1st of the 12 cities.  And most of my writing lately has been related to our travels, adapting to major life changes, etc.  Go check that out at the 12 Cities, 1 Year blog site.

“Live to Tell” – my Cyberpunk 2020 adventure from 1991

I got an email out of the blue earlier this week from a guy asking if I was the author of a Cyberpunk 2020 adventure called “Live to Tell.”  The person found a copy online and wanted to include it in an archive he was building.  I wrote back that my name is indeed Todd Bradley and that I did indeed play a RPG by that name about 20 years ago.  And maybe I even wrote the adventure he’s talking about, though I couldn’t remember.  Well, he wrote back to me and sent me the adventure in PDF format.  That was enough to jog my memory.

Reading the adventure gave me a good chuckle.  It was like pulling out a 20-year-old version of me out of a time machine.  My writing style is still pretty much the same as it was then.  But the tools were pretty archaic.  I wrote the adventure in Microsoft Write (.wri) format, and drew some hokey graphics for visual aids.  The storyline sounds hilarious to the modern-day me.  I definitely wrote it keeping in mind the players in the gaming group I had at the time: hack-and-slashers with short attention spans.

So if you’re curious, here it is: http://toddbradley.com/files/Live%20To%20Tell%20by%20Todd%20Bradley.pdf

Memories of Wild West Showdown 2011

The first weekend of March 2011, I went to my first major roller derby tournament.  It was Wild West Showdown, in Bremerton, Washington.  There, several of the top teams in the western USA met for two and a half days of roller derby on three tracks.  Teams traveled to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds from Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Santa Cruz, Denver, Colorado Springs, and even Philadelphia (as well as a lot of smaller cities in the northwest).

I had an awesome opportunity to work the event as a member of the live video production crew, Blaze Streaming Media.  And though the pay wasn’t great (there aren’t big bucks to be made anywhere in roller derby yet), it paid for about half my travel expenses.  Best of all, for every two bouts we worked, we got one off.  And so I made sure to get all the Mile High Club’s bouts off so I could be a regular spectator (in case you don’t know, the Mile High Club is the Denver Roller Dolls’ all-star team).  It was an experience I think I’ll never forget, and I want to share some of the highlights with you now.

  • Best thing about the venue: Unlike places like the 1STBANK Center in Denver, the seats were very close to the action.  I think I never sat more than about 15 feet from the track.
  • Worst thing about the venue: They only let people drink beer upstairs in the “beer garden” where the view is terrible.  That’s right, no beer in the stands.  I don’t know why, but that’s how they do it at the Kitsap Sun Pavilion.
  • Favorite fanboy memory: Learning strategy and rules from other Denver Roller Dolls while watching the Denver Roller Dolls.  Oh, and cheering DRD to a perfect three wins out of three bouts.
  • Favorite bout: While I loved all three of the Mile High Club’s bouts, the most silly fun was a test bout with Vagine Regime vs. Vagine Regime.  Half of them wore orange and the other half wore white, and it was hilarious good times.  There was also a closed door bout after the end of the tournament, where the debauchery level went way up; but I had to work during most of it.
  • Favorite memory of the after party: I drank too much at the after party.  At one point, I must have started hallucinating because I thought the Mile High Club dance squad were on the ground, making it shake around like an earthquake.  But then, out of the haze, came a statuesque blonde in a beautiful evening gown.  She was carrying a silver platter and offered me wine, cheese, and crackers.  It was as if she had stepped through a portal from a Hollywood gala. It was Denise “Fawn Stalking” Dambrackas. I laughed and laughed with her, and ate her crackers.
  • Least favorite memory of the after party: Waking up about 4 hours later to catch the shuttle bus to the airport.  It’s been a long time since I had a drunken breakfast or a two-day hangover.
  • Biggest lost opportunities: I realized after I got back that I didn’t get a single photo with the Denver Roller Dolls.  I also didn’t get in the crew photo for the video production team.  And I didn’t get a chance to meet Sara Problem, who has the best derby name I’ve heard yet.
  • Second biggest lasting impression: In addition to being awesome competitors, the members of the Mile High Club are just downright nice people to be around.
  • Biggest lasting impression: Unlike the monthly home bouts, which have a lot of spectacle, lights, music, half-time shows, etc. the tournament bouts were just focused on the sport.  The spectacle is great fun, but I really appreciated seeing roller derby done in its more pure form, played at a very high competitive level.  I can’t wait to have an opportunity to see it like this again.

I miss my blog

If you are one of the few who actually regularly read my Todd Bradley’s Galaxy blog, you may think that after my trip to see the night time space shuttle launch I promptly died.  Well, that’s not true.  It’s just that I haven’t been in a very wordy mood, I guess.  What little blog style writing I’ve been doing got taken over by Facebook.

There’s pros and cons to Facebook, and I’ve been fighting over them in my mind.

On the plus side, way more of my real friends and family read my status updates on Facebook than have ever read my blog.  Most people don’t use a news reader and have no idea what RSS is, but Facebook makes it simple because they can get all that sort of social information in once place.

On the minus side, everyone I write on Facebook belongs to the Facebook corporation.  They can do whatever they want with it, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.  I sort of like to retain the copyright to the few interesting things I write online.  Plus, Facebook just isn’t suited for long articles.  Check out the blog post I wrote before this one about my trip to Florida to see the shuttle.  Facebook just doesn’t seem well designed for handling that sort of post.  Twitter seems to be for sharing thoughts that are about 3 words in length, Facebook seems to be for sharing thoughts that are about 30 words in length, and blogs seem to be for sharing thoughts that are about 300 to 3000 words in length.  (Anything longer than that and you should just write a magazine article or a book)

So I just upgraded WordPress to 3.0.1 and installed a plugin that will update my Facebook status whenever I post a new blog article.  That way, if I want to write something longer than comfortably fits in Facebook’s little box, I have my outlet and all my Facebook friends will hear about it at the same time.  Those that care can go read the whole thing, and those that don’t can just skip it like they would have done anyhow.

I’ll try this approach for a while and see how it goes.  Leave a comment with any thoughts you have on the topic.

DITCH THE HEADSET. He can barely pull it off and you are not him.

Today at the office, the receptionist, known only as JH, sent out an all-hands email:

Good morning Westminster! One of our employees has misplaced a Bluetooth headset. It is a Motorola and looks similar to the one pictured below. Has anyone seen or recovered this? Thanks!

Motorola  Headset  Looks similar to this:

(photo removed – Ed.)

JH

I couldn’t help but think maybe someone took the headset in the interests of good taste.  It reminded me of this Wired cover from a few months back.  Here’s an interesting commentary on it:

Marketing Actuary: Brad Pitt, Bluetooth Headsets and You
DITCH THE HEADSET. He can barely pull it off and you are not him.
— Wired, Issue 17.08

should I use Google Chrome?

I just got this email from Google:

It’s finally here: Google Chrome for Mac. Available today in beta!

Hi there,

Thanks for signing up to hear from us regarding Google Chrome for Mac! We’re excited to let you know that Google Chrome is now available in beta for Mac OS X.

Here are a few fun facts from us on the Google Chrome for Mac team:

  • 73,804 lines of Mac-specific code written
  • 29 developer builds
  • 1,177 Mac-specific bugs fixed
  • 12 external committers and bug editors to the Google Chrome for Mac code base, 48 external code contributors
  • 64 Mac Minis doing continuous builds and tests
  • 8,760 cups of soft drinks and coffee consumed
  • 4,380 frosted mini-wheats eaten

Thanks for waiting and we hope you’ll give Google Chrome for Mac a whirl.

Google Chrome Team
www.google.com/chrome

I’m glad that Chrome for Mac is finally available, even if it’s just a beta.  Of course, what software by Google isn’t “beta” anyhow?

But I’m even more concerned, as a software quality professional, by the numbers they posted.  They say they only wrote 73,804 lines of code and fixed 1177 bugs.  In the QA field, there’s a measurement we use to gauge the quality of source code for a product, and we call it “defect density.”  In short, it’s the number of bugs per thousand lines of source code.

Good software has a low defect density, and bad software has a high defect density.  Typically you see numbers in the range of 0.1 to 1.0 bugs per thousand lines of code.  One study of several open source software applications showed an average of 0.3.  But judging from Google’s own numbers, their Mac code has a defect density of 15.9.  That’s a higher defect density than I think I’ve ever measured at any company I’ve worked for.

So now I’m wondering if I really want to download and install Google Chrome for Mac.  With a defect density this bad, is it going to crash at every turn?  What’s your opinion?