November 18, 2013

  • Crappy 2 weeks

    Dammit… not so much fun at the moment.

    I’ve been having massages on my back and shoulders because of ongoing back pain issues. At my masseuse’s insistence, I booked a consult with my GP to check it out and it turns out that I cracked a couple of ribs while falling down a set of stairs at home a couple of months ago. Apparently all the muscular tension and pain is a result of the muscles tightening up to take pressure off the rib-cage. In the meantime my rotator cuff and glutes are giving me much heck, as are a lot of the muscles in the middle of the back, and I have to keep reminding myself not to sleep on my right side, as I wake up with a lot of pain when I do.

    My partner AW was in hospital from last Friday week to Wednesday last week with gall bladder issues. She was admitted on the Friday morning with continuous pain, which even after some serious opiates was at 8-8.5 on the pain scale. By the time they took the gall bladder out on Sunday night, it had turned gangrenous. She’s been recovering ever since, and it looks like it will take a while before she’s able to get back to work.

    And now today, I’ve found out that the job that I’m currently doing on a contract basis is being wound up. I’m transferring my ongoing workload to a peer who I’ve had practically nothing to do with so far, and I need to start doing some serious job-hunting in the meantime. If anyone knows of any vacancies for a guru-level SQL Server professional either in Adelaide, South Australia or has some work they can farm off to someone who can out-work from a fixed IP in that city, please let me know. Data processing, reports, data integration, ETL, cube design, data warehouse design, data quality management, data modelling, database design and even C#/WCF Web Services are all well-inside my capabilities, so any opportunities you can think of will be gratefully reviewed.

    Anyway – interesting times.

December 29, 2011

  • Mindfulness & Manners

    When considering a response to a blog by a twitter friend, I posed a question to myself…  Why are people so much ruder these days than when I was a kid?  Kids are brattier, people show less consideration for disabled or even simply injured people, and little or none for the elderly.  What has led to this streak of indifference – and even cruelty – that seems to have become a hallmark of western society in the 21st century?

    Here’s the discussion that went on in my head.

    • Is it a generational thing?
      • It seems not to be confined to Gen Y or Millennials.  There are plenty of Gen-Xers and Boomers who are oblivious to the needs of others and who seem to take a kind of grim satisfaction in beating others to the punch.
    • Okay… so if it’s not generational, what other factors could be in play?
      • Could it be that other people are all just more oblivious to the wants and needs of others?  There are potentially many reasons why…
      • Is there a change in our cultural values towards responsibility for others?  If so, what could be behind this?
      • Is this simply a result of a greater sense of personal entitlement?
    • So… then I looked at obliviousness. To exhibit the kind of obliviousness that many people show to their common man, there are a number of possible justifications
      • Simple misanthropy.  Buy why would so many people dislike each other with so little justification?  Is that perhaps a subliminal “stranger danger” response that has been elicited by the panic-mongering of our politicians over immigration policy and the Global War on Terror (GWOT)?  A xenophobic fear of “otherness”?  But if this is the case, how have our “societies” shrunk to such a small circle that even a stranger in the street now lumped in with the dreaded “other” – even if they might happen to share our own ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds?  So it’s probably not quite that.
      • Are our own problems now becoming so complex and insurmountable that the issues other people have are now just too much to cope with?  There are people touting statistics stating that we work longer hours for less buying power and have worse work life balance control than our forebears.  Is it possible that these kinds of factors have pushed us into a state of numbness with respect to the needs of others?  This idea seems to fit the facts, but it paints a bleak dystopian view of our civilization.  I can’t believe this is all that’s going on.  I have just as crappy a time of things as anyone else but I can still see the bigger picture and see beyond my own personal dramas.  I don’t see my mind as being so exceptional that I’m the only one who still understands the social contract.
      • Is there perhaps a sense of entitlement in play?  It occurs to me that one of the downsides of a Laissez-Faire “User Pays” society is that we are told entirely too much to stick up for our rights, that we have earned the right to do what we want without consequence, and without remorse.  That we as “the little guy” don’t have to kow-tow to social convention and that our freedoms matter.  This seems to make more sense to me, as I occasionally find myself wondering why it is that other people won’t get out of my way when I need them to.  However, if I can rise above my own sense of personal entitlement when it is appropriate to show some empathy for others, why can’t everyone else?

    The truth here is that we’re probably all guilty of some or all of the above, and the effect tends to be cumulative, not driven exclusively by any one of the influences outlined.  The one thing that I think differentiates those of us who are capable of showing some decency to those around us and those who don’t is simply a matter of empathy.  The person who leans on the horn to tell another motorist to go faster may not have considered the possibility that the person in front might be looking for a specific side-street that they might not have been to before.  The teenagers walking six-abreast down a busy city footpath (sidewalk for those of you in the US) and not leaving space for people travelling in the opposite direction are generally not thinking about the possibility that other people might want to use the space they are so aggressively monopolizing.  The person who leaves a shopping trolley blocking an entire aisle while they look at something at an end-of-aisle merchandising display are generally not thinking about the people who they might be holding up by doing so.  These are things that we’ve all been guilty of one time or another ourselves, yet we all find them hard to forgive others for.

    Ultimately I think this boils down to a sense of mindfulness.  We are not reminded enough in our consumption-driven materialistic society that mindfulness is as much a virtue as possession, punctuality or trying to fill the abyssal pit of despair we all feel in a disconnected and seemingly disenfranchised society.

    If you’re going to take away anything from reading this blog entry, make it this.  Before you leap to anger or impatience, put yourself in the shoes of the people around you before taking aggressive action to empower yourself at the expense of others.  This kind of mindfulness is fundamental to good manners, and to respectful neighbourly behaviour.  Ask yourself why that person is doing what they’re doing and whether it’s reasonable to expect them to do otherwise.  If the answer is still “No, they’re the ones being unmindful” then perhaps a simple statement of this lesson to your tormentors might be more productive than an aggressive or belligerent response.

    With that, may you all have a mindful, successful and happy new year.  May 2012 bring us all what we need, not just what we want! :)  

    Hopefully in my case, the good karma I’ve tried to earn with this blog this will result in winning lottery tickets in Australia’s $31m X-lotto this weekend!

September 21, 2011

  • Should Evolution Be Taught In Schools?

    My partner forwarded on a copy of a you-tube video that pokes fun at the current crop of Miss USA contestants by providing supposed responses to the question “Should math be taught in schools?”  I wanted to confirm whether it was a piss-take, so jumped on You Tube and did some searching about.  Sure enough, I found it pretty quickly, and was able to establish that it was indeed a satirical piss-take, but satire needs source material, so I broadened my search.  Fairly quickly I came across a you-tube clip containing footage of actual Miss USA contestants responding to the question “Should evolution be taught in schools?”  The thing that horrified me most was the general ignorance about the subject of the question.  The contestants were aware that it was a contentious issue, and many of them hedged their responses accordingly, but not one of them really put forth any kind of critical discourse on the topic.  Now – to be fair, this is a collection of the 15 worst answers to the question, but for state representatives to get that far through the competition with that level of ignorance behind them is a saddening reflection of the kind of “instant fix” our society now craves. 

    The “news-byte” syndrome that focuses on the controversy, not the meat of the matter is not what really gets my gander up, though.  What makes me cross, sad and generally disappointed is the lack of critical thinking and informed debate.  I have no problem with someone claiming that God created the world in 6 days, took the Sabbath day off, and seeded the universe with phenomenae and relics such as dinosaur fossils and star-light that appears to have set out from its point of origin well before the 7,500 year point at which the act of creation is supposed to have occurred.  I won’t choose to socialize with that person, but I respect their right to their (admittedly ignorant and self-delusional) opinion.  However, if that person can’t stay WHY they believe that – can’t provide some demonstration of at least an attempt at gathering knowledge and facts in support of their opinion, they shouldn’t be making any kind of assertion to that effect in a public forum.

    The cute thing with science, is that it based on evidence.  That evidence is analysed from several perspectives, and scientists are generally fairly careful to ensure that their experiments and observations are not subject to confirmation bias.  It is genuinely difficult to assault scientific evidence with well-founded arguments because science is BASED on well-founded arguments.  A debate between a scientist and someone who is quoting “divinely imparted” scriptural mythology or popular opinion as the basis for their position will inevitably result in the scientist looking like a well-prepared know-it-all and their opponent looking like an ignorant schmuck, simply because their opponent – no matter how well-read in scripture, or how connected they are to popular opinion – cannot refute the scientist’s argument with anything that has defensible substance. 

    Scientist: Gravity is a documented and well understood phenomenon.  We’ve performed experiments, taken measurements and confirmed our theories about how gravity operates through field observations.

    Scripture Zealot:  But gravity is only a theory. 

    Scientist:  Sure – it’s only a theory… but it’s a pretty comprehensively tested theory that seems to match up to observed facts.  What are you suggesting as the alternative to our theory?

    Scripture Zealot:  Is it not possible that the phenomenon of people staying rooted on the face of the earth is evidence of God’s love for them?  Without such love, they would surely drift off into space!

    Scientist: Umm… okay.  So what about atheists and people from faiths other than your own?

    Scripture Zealot:  Oh… that’s an easy one.  God loves all of his creations!

    Scientist:  A convenient and relatively trite argument.  Okay… so let’s say you’re right.  How do you prove that?

    Scripture Zealot:  Ah… we do not need proof – we have faith in the holy words in the holy book, and they are clear about God’s love!

    Scientist:  So we have clearly stated, tested and – to the greatest extent possible with current technology – proven theories, and you have a motherhood statement written two thousand years ago in a book…

    Scripture Zealot:  Yes – but it’s a very popular book.  People have been reading it for 2000 years!

    Scientist:  Well… people have had parts of it read selectively to them for 2000 years.  Only a very small percentage of the population has actually read the whole thing.

    Scripture Zealot:  But that doesn’t matter.  The book says the book is right, so the book is right!

    Scientist:  Okay… so if I wrote down an assertion that you’re a blithering idiot, and then followed that with a statement that my previous assertion is undeniably correct, then you’d accept that?

    Scripture Zealot:  Of course not!  You have no divine mandate to write such a thing, and it’s clear that because I know my scripture so well I’m no idiot, blithering or otherwise.

    Scientist:  Hmm… the jury’s still out on that.  Nor should we get into an epistemological debate on the respective values of thought vs memory.  So… who actually wrote your book?

    Scripture Zealot:  Oh… lots of people.  It’s a historical record, and there’s no way that the miracles performed in our book could have happened without divine agency!  Our book was written by prophets of the Lord our God!

    Scientist:  Oh… okay.  So… a prophet is someone who – under the inspiration of a higher being – writes down radical ideas and presents them as facts.  How’re we doing so far?

    Scripture Zealot:  Uh… not too bad.

    Scientist:  Well… modern medicine has a term for the kind of people you call prophets.  Have you heard of Schizophrenia?

    Scripture Zealot:  Err… yes.  But you can’t go calling prophets schizophrenics?

    Scientist:  Too late – I just did.

    Scripture Zealot:  But they weren’t.  The fundamental goodness of our scripture cannot possibly have been the result of insane people.

    Scientist:  Ummm… says who?

    Scripture Zealot:  Says… err… the book.  Umm… can we change the topic?

    Scientist:  Okay… sure.  We’ll chalk that one up as a win to me.  You also said that the number of believers was proof of the correctness of your book.

    Scripture Zealot:  Yes!  Yes, I did!  How can so many believers be wrong?

    Scientist:  You realize that the cultures that have had any affiliation with your book currently make up only a fifth of the world’s population?

    Scripture Zealot:  Oh… sure… but most of the others are ignorant savages!

    Scientist:  Ignorant savages who had stone-buildings and documented history a thousand years before your lot even wandered away from the pyramid projects?

    Scripture Zealot:  Umm… you’ve got me there.  Who are you talking about?

    Scientist:  Hmm… the Chinese?  Babylonians?  Sumerians?

    Scripture Zealot:  Oh… them.  Okay… so they had technology, but they had the souls of barbarians.

    Scientist:  Really?  So because they weren’t inspired by the so-called divine truth in your book, they don’t count in your popularity contest?

    Scripture Zealot:  Umm… yes.  I’m sure I can find a passage in the book that confirms that!

    Scientist:  I’m sure you can.  That doesn’t make it correct.

    Scripture Zealot:  But the book is truth!  It says so!

    Scientist:  Here’s your blithering idiot note back.

    Scripture Zealot:  No need to be nasty…

    Scientist:  I’m not… I’m simply stating that the only documents that validate the assertions in your book, are histories written by the same races that wrote your book, and they only really validate the historical content, not the mystical mumbo-jumbo.

    Scripture Zealot:  It’s not mumbo-jumbo – it’s divine revelation!

    Scientist:  Says who?

    Scripture Zealot:  The book!

    Scientist:  So… have you posed any experiments to confirm the contents of your book?

    Scripture Zealot:  Of course not.  That would be an act of heresy!

    Scientist:  Ah… so the reason you haven’t confirmed the assertions your book makes is that the book tells you not to?

    Scripture Zealot:  I see where you’re heading with that.  No… that’s not my point.  My point is that God rewards the faithful and punishes the unbeliever.  To question God’s word is to cast oneself into perdition!

    Scientist:  Let me guess – the book says that?

    Scripture Zealot:  No – I say that!

    Scientist:  So now you’re taking personal responsibility for the fact that your faith is based on the wild ravings of the mentally ill, and shouldn’t be questioned lest you get sent to hell yourself?

    Scripture Zealot:  Stop putting words in my mouth!  That’s not what I’m saying!

    Scientist: So what are you saying?

    Scripture Zealot:  I… umm… I have no idea what I’m saying, other than as an unbeliever, you’re going to hell, and I’m not.  So NYER!!!  In your face science man!

    Scientist:  Very mature.  Thanks for the entertaining 15 minutes.  Let me know when you have something other than the wild ravings of crazy people to support your arguments.  Oh… and while we’re at it, you could do worse than check yourself in for a mental health check-up… that infantile display in the midst of a rational debate was a tad disturbing.

    And with science having the last word, the uncritical thinking of the zealot carted off by men in white coats, and my hands starting to cramp up from the typing, I now bid you adieu until next time. 

  • Atheism vs Agnosticism

    My partner and I have been having a number of frank discussions recently regarding my assertion that I am an Agnostic rather than an Atheist.  The Atheist Foundation of Australia defines Atheism as “Atheism is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural.”  My partner has decided that this definition is now what Atheism is, but I have issues with both the definition, and with the statement that it’s the ONLY definition that matters.

    Let’s start with first principles from an etymological perspective.

    Agnostic – from the greek : a – without, and gnosis – knowledge.  In English, gnosis is taken to mean “Intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths, an esoteric form of knowledge sought by the Gnostics.”

    So… from this linguistic basis, Agnosticism is the sense that one is without a sense of esoteric or spiritual knowledge.  Contrast this with:

    Atheism – from the greek : a – without, and theos – god.  In English, theism is taken to mean “Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.”

    Thus: Atheism is the sense that one is without belief in a god or gods.

    Being more specific: my take on the difference is as follows…

    Agnostics state that the question of the existence of a god, higher being or numinous intelligence behind the universe’s existence is too big for a definitive answer.  Atheists assert that the question CAN and SHOULD be answered in the negative. 

    Deconstructing the ridiculous drivel from the AFA, it seems to be a deer stuck in the headlights of oncoming traffic at a cross-roads. 

    On the East-West run, you have a weak attempt at intellectual rigour.  By dressing up the denial of deity in pseudoscientific terms, the AFA is trying to take the intellectual high ground over their opponents in the religious community.  Sadly, there’s nothing rational in the statement that “there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence…” – you can’t prove the negative case for the existence of an unknowable entity by saying “there’s no proof.”  What if the very existence of the universe itself is proof of an omnipotent creator?  Given the limited scope of human knowledge, who are we to state that there’s no proof positive of a higher intelligence? 

    On the North-South run, you have the simple hubris of the statement that the science of a marginally sentient race of upright apes who owe their success as a species to an interesting tension between social cooperation and competition is even vaguely capable of measuring the existence (or non-existence) of a higher power.

    So… that’s definitions out of the way.

    My attitude is that I am simply a smartish ape with access to some technology that rates as a little more advanced that pointy sticks, but is ultimately nothing to write home about in the context of what can be imagined (and therefore, probably exists in a more developed part of the universe).  With my silicon tech (it’s a bit smarter than banging rocks together, but not much), I can perform complex calculations a lot faster than I can do them in my head, but I can’t measure divinity.  Even the egg-heads from the LHC project at CERN will happily admit that the search for the Higgs-Boson is not an attempt to measure the existence of God – even though the proto-particle they’re looking for is nick-named “The God Particle”. 

    As Clarke’s third law states:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  On a similar basis, the effects of any technology sufficiently more advanced than our own must therefore appear to be the work of a divine being.  Given the size of the universe, number of galaxies, stars, planets, etc… I find it hard to believe that there’s not races in the universe sufficiently more intelligent and technologically capable than us so as to appear as if gods to beings with our limited level of comprehension.

    However, there’s also another angle to the Agnostic vs Atheist debate.  My partner likes trying to point out to me that claiming to be an agnostic is the same thing as condoning institutionalized religion.  I take umbrage at this statement.  This seems to be a piece of programming common to many of the popular atheism blogs.  Strangely, it has more in common with the sorts of statements made by the leaders of religious sects – i.e. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us!”  Personally, I think such a binary view of the world is flawed.  The world is not just black or white.  As an agnostic, I respect the right of other people to have faith.  While I suspect their beliefs are more rooted in mythology than in any kind of measurable reality, I don’t think faith is a weakness.  Sometimes, faith can be the difference between a  cognitive meltdown and a good night’s sleep.  Who am I to force insomnia on others?

    On the other hand, I have big issues with people who tell other people what to believe.  My opinion (despite my partner’s assertions to the contrary) is that the leaders of cults and organized religious institutions are predatory, exploitative bastards, and they should all go rot in their personal definitions of whatever hell is.  Rather than promoting ignorance and painting critical thinking as “giving in to temptation,” these amoral pricks should stick to promoting the good things that religion can lead to – a sense of community, charitable works, and a generosity of spirit that transcends the mean-hearted money-grubbing power-hungry carry-on they are so prone to.  However, my approach is not to campaign against them.  When one draws battle lines, it’s too easy to be brought down to the level of your opponent.  I’d rather follow the approach from another A.C. Clarke quote – “Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor — but they have few followers now.” 

    The great quest should not be a search for absolutes, as they cannot exist when we are such tiny specks of intelligence in a near infinite universe.  We should instead seek to critically determine the difference between superstition and wisdom, and find ways to give our lives meaning on our own terms.  If some people need to turn to old books to find the wisdom therein, then so be it.  But let’s ensure that as a society, we’re giving them the critical tools to distinguish mythology from meaningful social and personal truths.  The epistles of Paul and the book of Revelations are hardly reasonable bed-time reading – the first being sprinkled with misogynstic and homophobic rhetoric, and the latter most likely being the mad ravings of a schizophrenic.  But “Do unto others as thou wouldst have them do unto you” is a good policy, regardless of your beliefs.  Likewise, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” is simply a restatement of the social contract.  However, we should also not forget that Christ’s teachings against the hypocrisy present in certain sects of the Hebrew faith during his time are valid today.  We should not be afraid to ask the Fred Niles and the Fred Phelpses of the world to critically analyze their behaviour in the context of the Gospels, rather than let them continue to selectively pick out the old testament and Pauline texts that happen to support their particular points of view.  Likewise, we should be able to expect that the muslim world which brought such great scientific gifts to the world should also subject its own religious leaders to similar scrutiny.

    We should not forget that the point of scripture was to give people guidance on how to live good and productive lives.  However, we should not be so caught up in what scripture demands of us that we forget the good, and the living.  Most importantly, we should remember to put the folk tales of empires long gone into their appropriate social, political and philosophical context.  Our values and our beliefs are our own choice.  Some of us choose to honour the rational and empirical imperative to say that “In the absence of concrete proof to the positive of any theory, we should simply say we haven’t proved it yet,” rather than to say “without proof, the divinity hypothesis is untrue.”  To me, the latter is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so I’m not afraid to stand proudly and say I’m an agnostic, because I simply do not know.

    Next time you have a religious (or irreligious) debate with someone, ask yourself how you have come to know what you “know”.  Challenge your own suppositions before you try tearing down those of another person.  But also don’t be afraid to call people on exploitation and controlling practices.  Have fun with the debate, and make the outcomes positive.  Don’t seek to tear down the other side, but to help them find the wisdom in your own argument while also acknowledging the wisdom in their own.  Don’t forget that intellectual freedom also permits people to make choices we disagree with.  And have a nice day! :P

September 2, 2011

  • Fun with DNS

    Just letting people know that I’m setting up a new DNS CName record to allow Xanga to redirect to a more consistent web identity for the “Gedulous” name.

    For future reference, feel free to point your browser at xanga.gedulous.com to get to this site instead of the usual www.xanga.com/ged1970 URL.

    Also expect to see content up here a bit more often.

     

    Cheers

     

     

    Ged out. pleased

January 12, 2010

  • More Techy Bloggage

    I’ve been doing some more tech posts on yet another new blog.  I decided to split the techy posts into two areas:

    1. SQL Server posts (on which I’m pretty much an expert)
      • I’m starting out with a fairly long series of posts about SQL Server metadata
      • These posts are also going to help focus some ideas for a data architecture product I’m hoping to build (or at least, start building) this year.
    2. .NET Development posts (where I’m blogging as I learn)
      • In is blog, I’m blogging my experiences on building a relatively simple app (not Hello World, but not an ERP system either) that will give me exposure to a bunch of different .NET framework areas.
      • I’ve also started up an open source project at http://dpga.codeplex.com/ which will allow people to download/view what I’ve done so far and provide feedback on what I can improve..

    The SQL Server posts are at: http://ozziemedessql.blogspot.com/ and the .NET newbie posts are at http://ozziemedes.blogspot.com/ .

    Feel free to take a look.  Subscribe to the feeds if you like them.  I’m going to try to post to each blog at least once a week, and more often if time permits.

January 7, 2010

December 30, 2009

  • 2010 – the grand plan

    As discussed in my previous post, 2009 was not exactly a banner year for me.  I’ve identified that there were some things that were problematic with my own thinking, so I have some things to work on.  I’ve also started building plans to work towards more financial freedom and greater job satisfaction.

    First I need to fix some of the more twisted thinking that’s been allowing me to make bad choices with respect to time management.  In no particular order:

    • I need to start thinking in terms of the sense of achievement in completing work, not in terms of the imposition of the effort required to do so.  The completion of things that are hard offer higher rewards than completing things that are simple, or simply not completing them at all.  It’s better to put in a genuine effort from day 1 with no procrastination, but only work an 8 hour day than to put things off until they’re already overdue then put in 16 hour days to get them done.
    • I need to start getting better at saying no to clients, managers and colleagues/friends.  In the last year I have said yes to too many things and been set up for failure by being overcommitted.  As discussed in the previous post, I tend to deal with stress by retreating into indulgences such as computer gaming or watching DVDs, so making sure that I’m not putting myself under too much stress is a big part of managing the avoidance strategies.
    • Like many people, I still hear the disapproving voices of my parents telling me that what I’ve accomplished isn’t good enough.  Rationally, I know that all my folks were trying to do when they pushed me for better results, etc… was to get me to maximize my potential and do better in life than they did.  However, I internalized that pressure as a kid and one of the big work stressors is that I imagine them telling me that the work I’m expected to deliver doesn’t meet the required standard.  Because of my avoidance/cram approach, I’ve effectively guaranteed that my work products are not going to be good enough as I simply haven’t given myself time to get things right.  However, all I need to aim for just enough, not too much or too little.  I don’t need to write 60-page white-papers when a 20-page specification will do, nor should I be satisfied with handing in 5 pages of bullet-points because that’s all I’ve left myself time to deliver.
    • As I mentioned above – part of my avoidance strategy has been indulgence.  When I get stressed I get the urge to spend money to prove to myself that someone feels I’m important.  This is something I’m learning not to do.  Over the last year I’ve probably spent $2000 on audio gear, the same again on laptops, computer peripherals and parts, another $500 on DVDs and $1500 on booze.  Even worse, I’ve probably spent close to $5000 on take-out or restaurant meals, which is clearly insane. If I had only spent half of that $11,000 I’d have fewer toys, but be a lot closer to achieving my financial goal of getting debt free. 
    • I’ve hinted at this above, but I also need to spendless time on the work treadmill – instead of living to work, I need to reorient my values and my self worth in new areas.  As such, I want to make sure some of these things happen over the next year.
      • I want to join a jazz choir.  I’ve played in bands a lot, but never really had a chance to explore singing as deeply as I’d like.  My voice is untutored, and generally a bit undisciplined… but with some training and use I think I could get quite good.  More importantly, singing is a kind of therapy in its own right.  Singing is a great emotional release, and I really need to find that kind of release right now.  So – first step is probably some singing lessons, and the second is to hopefully find a choir to sing in via my voice teacher.
      • I want to spend more time composing and recording.  This is something I promised myself I’d spend more time doing this year, but because of travel and other emotional demands, I wasn’t able to make the time or find the inspiration to do this.  In the upcoming year, this will change.  I fully intend to produce a minimum of 20 songs.
      • I want to invest some time doing .NET training for non-work purposes.  For example, I have friends in Sydney who are interested in playing dice-n-paper RPGs, and I’d like to build an app that would help facilitate that.  I also have some ideas for how I could use a SharePoint solution for facilitating backstory creation, world building, etc.  It would be interesting to see if I could build an ad-funded site that other dice-n-paper devotees would be interested in using if I can get some legs under this concept. 

    My professional objectives for 2010 are as follows:

    • Move out of the “permanent” job market into the contracting/consulting area - running contracts via my own ACN.  This will have some key learning outcomes for me:
      • I’ll be forced to get more disciplined about money management, dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s.
      • I won’t have quite the level of risk of pure consulting or service-based/product-based business
      • I’ll have the opportunity to set up the company infrastructure required to get better leverage on my income (company tax vs PAYG; operating expenses before tax, not after)
    • Get MCTS certifications for SQL Server and SharePoint
    • Look into Dynamics certification and registration and a Microsoft partner.
    • Start working towards MCA and MCT qualifications
      • An MCA qualification puts me in a particularly good position with respect to architecture and consulting gigs.
      • Getting an MCT qualification means I get access to Microsoft’s official curriculum, and can offer my services within the Adelaide market, which is notoriously under-serviced in non-mainstream products.
    • By March 2010 I want to start getting the tech blog at http://ozziemedes.blogspot.com running in full swing, with articles about Visual Studio, Team System, .NET and SQL Server being published at least weekly, and ideally 2-3 times a week.
    • By July 2010 I want to have the poddify.com.au website fully online and operational.  I also want to have the infrastructure code to support media streaming and storage completed, tested and in production.  The proof of the pudding will be a .NET/SQL Server podcast that I’ll start producing around that time and publishing through the site.
    • By the end of 2010 I want to have at least 5 ongoing clients for Poddify signed and being recorded on a regular basis.  I’d like the Poddify brand to be earning at least a quarter of my earnings from consulting and contracting gigs.
    • I intend to expand the number of people I know in the local IT and media production sector in order to: A) drum up some new business opportunities, and B) identify opportunities for small business alliances and joint ventures.  As an owner-operator, my bread will need to be buttered mainly by recruitment companies for the first 6 months of the year.  However, as I get myself better established, I’d like to become more independent as well.  One way to spread the risk of this is to work collaboratively with other small business operators.  The networking opportunities I’ll be particularly focused on are as follows:
      • Join the AIIA (Australian Information Industry Association) – the peak body for IT companies, and offshoots, such as the SA.NET joint venture that AIIA and South Australia’s Department of Trade and Economic Development have put together in the last 18 months.
      • Attend industry conferences such as Microsoft’s Tech Ed, Professional Developer Conferance and Mix; and start looking at media production conferences/conventions such as Integrate.

    My hope is that by following this path I should be in a much better position by the end of 2010.  I hope to be financially better off – I know contracting has its risks, but unless HP comes to the table with a better offer I don’t see any other way of making the money I’m worth in the immediate short term.  Additionally, I should be emotionally better off as a result of getting more down time and taking some pressure off myself in the work environment.  I’ll be more creatively fulfilled as a result of achieving my gaming software, singing and recording goals.  I’ll also have a better industry standing than I currently have in the IT and media production sectors, and hopefully be in a position to put my hand up as a regular presenter at major Microsoft events over the coming year.

    So… 2010, I’m ready – I know what I want and I know how I intend to go about getting it.  Look out – here I come!

December 29, 2009

  • 2009 in summary

    I’m a big believer in the statement that we create our own realities, and the reality I created for myself this year has not been a fun one.  As such, I think it’s important to acknowledge where I went wrong, and make some decisions about what I want to change for the future.  These kinds of “gestures” have more juice when they’re made publicly, so here goes.

    2009 in review

    2009 was an odd year for me.  It was full of “hurry up and wait” moments, and I ultimately feel I’ve gone backwards over the year in many respects. 

    •  I went into the year hoping to start up a small business on the side building online marketing strategies and producing podcasts for small businesses, but ended up so swamped by work from my employers and their clients that I have had no chance to get anything useful done on the business at all. 
    • I fell into the trap of spending more on the corporate AMEX than I was getting back from the company in “per diem” allowances while while travelling interstate (somewhere around 90 days since July), and have had to juggle some finances as a result. 
    • I went over time (and therefore budget) on a couple of projects I was working on for various reasons, with one of the big ones has been that I’ve fallen back into a fairly deep bout of depression, and been dealing with other people’s expectations by hiding from them until things get too political for me not to complete and hand off the work products they’ve been sweating on me to deliver.  This is not a rational choice, but mental health problems are rarely grounded in rationality. 
    • I’ve struggled with exercise and weight this year – they were going to increase and decrease respectively, but depression, travel and working from home have all had an impact on my activity levels and motivation.
    • I was going to get some serious recording done this year, but I’ve had to deal with hardware issues on my main recording workstation, and have not had the free cash to perform the required upgrades to deal with the problems.  As a result, I’ve got big fat diddly zero done creatively this year other than writing a couple of tunes.
    • I also had intentions of doing some serious tech blogging this year over at http://ozziemedes.blogspot.com/ but as discussed earlier, I’ve been too swamped with wortk (or too busy with work-avoidance strategies) to do the kind of experimentation and tinkering it takes to create blog material.
    • Despite a job-code promotion in 2008, the pay-rise promised me when my new employer (which bought my previous employer in July last year) was buried in the dust of my performance review (less than stellar as a result of depression) from this year.  My expectations for additional “Variable Performance Bonus” allocations have not been met either – I’ve had bigger annual bonuses from my old employer.
    • Oh – and then there’s the matter of the car… I had a Suzuki Grand Vitara on a novated lease that I took on holidays to Western Australia in March.  I got back to Adelaide at the end of March sans car, having tipped it on its side not far from Pemberton, down in Karri country.  The trip itself was still good, but dealing with not having a car for the latter half of this year has been a further blow to my self-esteem which I could have gone without.

    Basically, it’s been a shitty year that has left me financially worse off, less inspired, emotionally exhausted, continually on the verge of tears and feeling betrayed by the company which is currently my only source of income.  There are changes I need to make in the coming year, issues I need to resolve from this year, and a bunch of fires I need to stoke up to start moving my life forwards again.  I’ll write more about them in my next post.

December 15, 2009

  • Open Letter to Minister Conroy re: Internet censorship policy

    Minister Conroy,

     

    I am writing in response to your much publicised plans to apply content filtering on Australian IP based networks.  I am opposed to this direction for a number of reasons, many of which you will either have already heard, or are about to be inundated with.  These include (at a summary level):

    1.       The fact that I am an adult living in a home not frequented (or even “occasionallied”) by children.  I have no interest in kiddie-porn, snuff and other materials that would be considered illegal, but I also see no reason why I should not be able to download adult material that is freely available in other jurisdictions.

    2.       The fact that I am an adult, with the right to go to a video store, adult-shop or game store and buy/hire any number of games, videos and other materials which could be classified as inappropriate for children on the basis of:

    a.       Sexually explicit content

    b.      Graphic violence

    c.       Emotional content inappropriate or confusing for children

    My understanding is that there would be nothing in the legislation that makes it illegal for me to obtain these materials from a retail store-front, so why should internet delivery of this content be considered any different from a legislative perspective?

    3.       The proposed content filtering solution is going to be difficult to administer, practically impossible to enforce and do harm to the performance of Australian broadband infrastructure to the extent that there would be little point in proceeding with the much-vaunted broadband infrastructure refresh proposed by the Labor Party not long after its election.  Note that a very significant percentage of broadband content streamed to homes is downloaded using tools such as Bit-Torrent and peer-to-peer file-sharing tools.  Unless you are going to ban these tools (also impractical from an enforcement perspective) you are going to miss a lot of the illegal content, and most of the stuff that would be inappropriate for children.

    4.       As far as I can tell, the primary driver for implementing this policy is the hysteria of quasi- or overtly-religious parent groups, who want to abdicate their parental responsibilities to the government.  To me, there are inherent issues with falling in line with these kinds of groups:

    a.       They do not speak for the entire electorate.

    b.      Their points are made with the voice of brute electoral force, not with a view to identifying a solution that meets the needs of all parties.

    c.       They are effectively bullies.  The people who speak loudest and longest get the biggest share of the attention.  If they also have the ability to slap you at election time, this makes them even more dangerous.

    d.      You have been elected to represent your entire electorate, which – once you take on the mantle of a federal government ministry – means the whole country.  The rest of us didn’t get a chance to vote the parental advocacy groups into a position of influence, but we DID elect you.  Kow-towing to single-issue groups such as these is undemocratic.

    e.      While we may have voted Labor in this time, you should also remember that this was a vote AGAINST the Howard administration, and Labor was simply the next best thing.  Roll in legislation like this and we might change our mind.

    f.        This approach provides the Libs with an easy chance to trump you with a more comprehensive approach that looks less like it got put together on the back of a matchbook.  While that might not bother you right now, it might by the time the next election rolls around – especially if Tony Abbott successfully woos die-hard conservatives and small business operators back to the Liberal side at the ballot-box.

    g.       Don’t forget that many of the people who will be furious at this policy are swinging voters who take the time to educate themselves on policy and issues using (amongst other things) the Internet as a means to rapidly index and aggregate information.  If you disenchant the swinging vote, you’ll need to beef up your base.  Just between you and me, conservative parental and religious groups are not a traditional Labor Base.

    5.       There are transparency issues in your policy as currently stated:

    a.       Who defines “inappropriate”

    b.      Who decides what content is “inappropriate”

    c.       Who chooses the content reviewers

    d.      Quis custodiet – “who watches the watchers?”

    e.      Where are the advocacy and appeal points? 

    f.        Are you going to appoint an ombudsman to respond to complaints/issues with this policy?

    g.       If so (to f.), how will this office be funded, and to what degree will it be resourced?

    6.       This whole policy is basically constructed to give parents a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card for failing to provide adequate supervision to their children, and putting technology in their child’s hands that they are either too ignorant to understand the impacts of, or too lazy to review with a critical eye.  Of course, critical thinking is the enemy of faith, so this approach also meets broader objective of faith-based groups advocating this policy.  Wouldn’t it be more equitable and democratic (and possibly cheaper) to create a policy which endorses the following?

    a.       Technology education for parents (compulsory if you really think that’s necessary, or perhaps if parents are proven to have failed in their own obligations to protect their children)

    b.      A system of fines, tax disincentives (e.g. loss of family allowance, baby bonuses, etc) and other penalties for parents that fail to fulfil their obligations to supervise their child’s use of electronic communications systems (including -but not limited to – the internet, mobile phones, file-sharing via removable storage media, eBooks, MP3 players and gaming devices such as the PSP or Nintendo DS.

    c.       Legislative support for parents to allow them to inspect storage devices used or owned by their children without the need for probable cause

    d.      Legislative support for human services and education departments to confer on educators and family/youth services staff the same right of inspection as conferred on parents above.

    This could result in parents:

    a.       Taking responsibility for the upbringing of their own children.  God forbid, they might even learn what they’re up to!

    b.      Detecting inappropriate content and reporting of illegal content sources to authorities

    c.       Identifying cyber-bullying being perpetrated either against or by their children

    d.      (and gods forbid…) Actually getting a clue about what’s going on in their children’s lives, rather than expecting governments and educational institutions to do it all for them.

     

    I understand that we are currently being governed by the Labor Party, and that Labor historically moves towards centralized control in situations where complexity is involved (e.g. Banking, Utiltiies Management, etc) – however, this is a step too far.  Through this policy, you are trampling on individual liberty and choice.  I am certain that there will be consequences if you do not come back with a more measured and practical approach in the future.

     

    Regards

     

     

     

    Jeremy Huppatz

    Proud IT professional, blogger, long time internet user and libertarian

    Federal Electorate of Adelaide

    SA State Electorate of Ashford