Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The early 2016 gaming sweetspot?

So, theoretically AMD is "getting serious about desktop gaming CPUs again"... which is hilarious to me, since they haven't BEEN serious about any kind of desktop or consumer performance for 10 years now.

But it got me thinking about the current state of desktop gaming, and what the current price performance optimums are...

And I was actually kind of surprised...

Because it looks right now, that the "sweet spot" is right where it was about 18 months ago... only it's cheaper...

Right now, the sweetspot in gaming GPU price/performance is still the GTX970... which has been out since the middle of 2014.

You can get a really good gtx970 for $300-350 right now... The lower performing Radeon r9 290x is still over $400, and as high as $500, and the even lower performaing r9-290 is just touching $350.

And GTX980s, are still $500.

On CPU's the price performance equation is certainly more complicated...

First question for CPU is actually not about CPU, it's about RAM... and then motherboards.

Do you want a DDR4 machine or not... 16gb ddr4 runs $85 to $100 right now for 2400mhz or 2700mhz, and more like $115 to $125 for 3000mhz. 16gb of good high performance DDR3 is more like $85 flat for 3000mhz.

More importantly though, the best ddr4 mobos are a bit more expensive, and the best performing DDR3 is actually faster in some ways than DDR4... and more overclocking stable, with more options of overclocking motherboards etc... though that won't be the case for long, and the very best mobos are now DDR4.

I'd probably go for DDR4 to futureproof... but really, the price performance right now isn't definitive. And if you want to overclock, DDR3 may still be a better choice.

For DDR4 gaming boards... basically you've got three price points... $170 $270, and $370.

So... you've got options for socket 1151, and socket 2011... the socket 2011 options obviously being the more expensive, and taking the more expensive CPUs.

Right now, I'd still go with an 1151... Though a lot of people are doing Xeon gaming right now, I still think your best option and best value is with an i7, and the skylake based Xeons are now on the 1151 anyway.

For DDR3, you can still go for LGA1150 boards, and basically pay whatever you want. $50 to $400, with really good boards in the $150 to $200 range.

And the best value for performance in an i7, is actually probably still an older i7 like a 4790 or 4790k from 2014... at $300-310ish and $330-340ish respectively.

If you want the new skylake, the i7-6700 will run about 50-60 more and a 6700k unlocked will run $420ish.

.. but guess what... clocked the same, on the same speed RAM... they benchmark out at about the same... with the 4790 actually slightly edging out the skylake in some things.

... and overclocked to their maximum, the 4790k will out perform the 6700k in a lot of benchmarks... though some of that is simply that the boards and ram are better worked out.

So, to my mind, the gaming sweetspot right now is:

cpu: i7 4790k $330
Board: any decent gaming 1150 board $150
RAM: any decent 3000mhz gaming ram $85
GPU: any decent gtx970 $300

That's $865 for the core components, that would be variable among gaming builds. The rest... case, psu, ssd... is all the same, and based on personal preference more than anything else.

Oh and before you ask, no, there is no AMD option worth bothering with at this point, unless you're trying to build a much cheaper system.

If you want to be more current and future proof

cpu: i7-6700k $420
Board: decent gaming 1151 board $170
RAM: decent 3000mhz gaming ram $125
GPU: any decent gtx970 $300

$1015... about $150 more than the DDR3 system.

Is it worth the difference... ehhhh.... Performance wise, probably not... But getting into a DDR4 platform with an 1151 socket... Especially if you're thinking about going higher end on the board, with an NVME-SSD... yeah, probably.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Simple Question

So... hardcore drug warriors out there... I have a very simple question for you...


You can't stop people from getting high. It's NOT POSSIBLE.

It literally does not matter how far you go, you cannot stop it.

We can't stop heroin from getting into supermax prisons, where there are no visitors allowed, and everyone is body searched in and out.

I just had a dedicated drug warrior fully sincerely advocate that we completely seal the border, and that every vehicle, container, and person should be fully cavity searched.

When I pointed out that cavity searches didn't stop heroin from getting in to supermax prisons, he said that we need to have full walls on all the borders, and boats to patrol the coastlines to stop smugglers.

You can't stop people from getting high. This is not an issue of sealing the borders.

Even if you actually sealed the borders successfully, then they would just grow it here.

How exactly would you stop that?

It would require constantly patrolling millions of acres of property, searching all greenhouses, and all forests, and all fields of any kind of anything, at least once every 90 days... in the entire country.

Doing so... aside from the massive violations of peoples rights, would require millions of law enforcement officers dedicated to it.

That would cost more than the entire budget of the United State by the way.

Even if you manage to completely eradicate all opium poppies, and all coca plants on the planet, they will just synthesize it in labs... and by labs, I mean, any quiet room with an electrical outlet, or anywhere you can run a generator, or a blow torch.

If you completely ban all substances that people could get high with, you ban thousands of legal products with legitimate and critical uses, including a huge number of critical medications.

You also have to ban all lab equipment, or closely license and track its sale. And all chemicals of all kind... and many kinds of foods. And most kinds of flowers.

And all machine tools, and glass blowing equipment... and blow torches, and pipes and tubes and sand...

And you'll have to dig out and burn out millions and millions of acres of plants.

We have 7,500 miles of border. We have 13,000 miles of coastline.

You can make it a death penalty offense to posses, sell, or use drugs, or get high. Many countries do in fact... and people still get high.

This dedicated drug warrior said that it didn't matter what it took, it didn't matter what it cost... It didn't matter if it wouldn't work at all... That we had to do it anyway.

When I asked why, he said:

"Because to do otherwise would be to surrender"

Then I asked "Surrender what? To who?"

He said "Surrender to the junkies and the dealers"

I asked "Surrender what?"

He refused to answer.

And again I asked "Why"

He refused to answer.

I said "You're advocating a police state, in order to stop people from getting high. Why?"

He refused to answer.

So... I have a very simple question for you...

You cannot possibly stop people who want to get high, from getting high.

You can't make it illegal enough. You can't ban or control enough. It's not possible... you have to know that it isn't possible..

Prohibition PROVED beyond all possibility of doubt that it's impossible.

The last 45 years of the war on drugs have proved beyond all possibility of doubt that it's impossible.

Maximum security prisons prove beyond all possibility of doubt that it's impossible.

But you still think we have to do it... No matter what it takes... No matter the harm it causes... No matter what rights get violated...No matter how much power it gives the state. No matter how much it costs...


It's a really simple question...

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Eternally Meaningless Caliber Wars

It's funny... as caliber wars become more pointless, they become more vocal and partisan...

This seems to actually be BECAUSE the data show the differential between chamberings is small, and has been getting smaller for decades. As datasets get larger, data and data analysis get better, and as ammunition gets better, the differences between common defensive pistol chamberings are progressively smaller, and less meaningful.

Pistols are Pistols, and Rifles are Rifles.

We have a saying "pistols are pistols, and rifles are rifles"; which means that the difference between reasonable defensive pistol chamberings is small, and effectively meaningless, compared to the difference between pistols, and long guns; both shotguns and rifles.

Compared to rifles, pistols are lost in the noise... and looking at the variability between different rifle chamberings, the differences can be greater than most powerful reasonable defensive pistol chamberings, and nothing at all.

In fact... if we just look at muzzle energy numbers, there can be greater variability within a single chambering.. say, something like subsonic .300blackout, and high velocity .300blackout, with something like 900ftlbs of energy difference between them, and the most powerful reasonable defensive pistol chamberings, such as hot and heavy .357 magnum, at something like 750ftlbs.

Pistols are pistols, and rifles are rifles. 

When there were thought to be larger differences, one could have clear advantages and disadvantages which could be argued. When the differences are small, it comes down to preference, individual performance, and small optimizations. Now, there can be no clear differentiation.

Because pistols are pistols, and rifles are rifles.

So, the caliber wars rage on

The most recent "major shakeup" has commenced, as many law enforcement agencies ( who moved to .40 and .45 in the late 90s and 2000s, after a series of notable failures in effectiveness of 9mm in the 80s and early 90s) have decided to move back to 9mm.

This is happening, because both ballistic testing, and empirical shooting data, show very little difference in effectiveness with modern high performance ammunition.

9mm has always had a few fairly significant advantages... and these are not controversial... that were thought to be offset by its reduced effectiveness compared to .40 and .45. It costs substantially less, it's smaller and lighter (more rounds in the same size, or smaller and lighter with the same round count); and smaller officers, and those who are less skilled with firearms, and who practice less, generally shoot better with it.

Since police generally open carry, large "duty" pistols, and in general are not good shots, who don't get to train very much, and don't have much money for ammo when training; and because there are more and more women and smaller officers on police forces, 9mm is at its greatest position of advantage, in police duty pistols.

With the data showing that modern high performance ammunition gives little or no effective difference between 9mm, .40, and .45; there is really no reason for police duty weapons NOT to move back to 9mm, and some good reasons to do so.

And so 9mm partisans in the non-police shooting world, believe they have scored a final victory over the dark forces of the .45acp.

... this war having been going on literally for over 100 years now by the way; the chamberings having been been developed in 1901 and 1904 respectively, and having first fought on opposite sides of world war one...

Of course, the police duty carry mission, is different from the many different concealed and open carry missions that non-police defensive pistol carriers have.

So the "decisive victory" is nothing of the sort... it's just another set of data points.

There's caliber wars, and there's actual reasonable argument with data.

Most people wouldn't know what the second is, never mind the third.

... Presuming modern premium defensive JHP ammunition, without restrictions...

Basically there is between a 10%-20% or so spread of expected effectiveness between .380+p and .45+p, depending on exactly which data you look at, presuming a human in standard street clothes, and no barrier penetration. About a 10% spread from 9mm (standard pressure) to .45+p and less than 5% from 9mm+p to .45+p... so...

When you factor in things like heavy clothing, barrier penetration and the like, the numbers get even more murky, and less reliable, and less useful...

Effectively, the differences between reasonable defensive chamberings don't matter.

20% is worth debating... 10% maybe... but not really too much, 5% really not at all. It's margin of error, a slight optimization, or a personal preference.

Is it worth upgrading from .380 to 9mm...?

...Sure, if you can shoot it just as well, and carry it just as well... 

Is it worth "upgrading to" .45...?

...Sure, if you can shoot it and carry it just as well...

...and you don't mind 2 or so fewer rounds in the same size package.

Is it worth "downgrading" to 9mm...?

...Sure if you can shoot and carry it just as well...

...and you want the 2 or so more rounds in the same size package.

What about .40?

It almost exactly splits the difference between .45 and 9mm, with none of the advantages of either, and all the disadvantages of both really... With modern ammunition, it's really no longer worth considering (except as a smaller version of 10mm, or the basis for .357sig), except "because I feel like it" or "because I shoot it well"... But it's also probably not worth trading or selling it for either 9mm or .45acp if you like it.

Functionally, the spectrum of defensive chamberings between 9mm+p and .45+p make no difference.

So... what DOES make a difference, and how much?

Ehh... not much, and not much...

Basically, a tiny bit with .357sig and a slight advantage with .357magnum and 10mm... and I don't consider .45lc and and .44magnum to be reasonable defensive chamberings for most people (they're effective, but they're bigger, more expensive, harder to shoot, and harder to carry than most will ever bother with).

There's a little bit of an advantage to .357sig, light .357 mag, and light 10mm over .45acp +p... maybe 5%.

There a slightly bigger advantage to medium .357mag and medium 10mm... a little more than 5% to maybe 10%

There's a slightly bigger advantage to hot .357mag and hot 10mm... a little more than 10% to maybe a little more than 15%, or even 20% under some circumstances (particularly with barrier penetration, and with tougher animals than humans).

However, for all of those upgrades, you get higher cost, more recoil, and its more difficult to shoot well...

In the case of medium and heavy 10mm and .357 in lighter easier to carry guns, it can actually be physically painful to shoot, and most people can't shoot them well at all.

Is it worth the upgrade to magnum class chamberings like these? 

Sure, if you can carry and shoot them just as well, don't mind the extra recoil and the extra cost.

Getting the picture here...?

It's not about the chambering... because pistols are pistols...

It's really about how well you can shoot, and carry the gun, in your chosen chambering... and in personal preference, and in small optimizations for particular missions.

So, what do I choose? What do I recommend?

I'm a really big guy, who can carry almost any sized gun reasonably comfortably. I live in a rural, cold, northern state, and at times have had to deal with wild animals.

Most importantly for my chambering selection, I shoot heavy recoiling guns pretty well, and the differences in recoil between 9mm+p and light .357 and 10mm are basically meaningless to me; with only a slight disadvantage to medium and heavy .357 and 10mm loads.

My pocket carry guns are a 5 shot .357 revolver, and a 7 shot .380... I like how both of them carry, and I can empty them both into a 4" or smaller circle at 10 or less yards with deliberate fire, and an 8" or smaller circle as fast as I can recover each shot... though neither have much in the way of sights.

Once I got the small .357 revolver, I pretty much stopped bothering carrying the .380 frankly, because I can shoot the .357 as well, it's no heavier, it carries just as well, and it's more reliable. I occasionally carry the .380, particularly in shorts, because it's a little flatter and slimmer... but that's really it.

My belt carry guns right now, are all 3-5" barreled 7-9 round .45 and 10mm 1911s... But at times have been 7 to 16 round 9mm, .40, and .357sig, and .357 magnum I've never felt insufficiently armed with any of them. I have never felt over armed with any of them. Though a couple have been a little bigger or heavier than ideal.

I don't feel that an 8 round .45 1911 is significantly more or less effective, for my personal defensive needs and missions, than a 13 round 9mm Browning hi-power. I happen to own a couple of good 1911s in .45 and 10mm that I like... I happen to have sold all my 9mm pistols a few years ago, including my 2 BHPs, expecting that I'd buy more, but I haven't been in a position to do so.

The only ones that I thought were in any meaningful way more effective, were the .357 magnums, and the 10mm, in both of which I carried loads suitable to heavier animals than people, because I lived in the north Idaho mountains. If I had to dispatch an elk or a moose, or god forbid deal with a bear, I wanted 158gr to 180gr at 1250-1350fps... The biggest advantages I could get in pistols that I felt like carrying every day, and could shoot well.

... and really... it's only a small advantage...

Because Pistols are Pistols, and Rifles are Rifles. 

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Lessons From the Well Spouse - The Types Of People You Run Into While Treating Cancer

For the longest time I've held on to the draft of the post you're reading now and since we're starting Chris Has Cancer Round 2, I thought maybe it was time to finish the post. True to form we've seen all of these types again, plus some new types that either we didn't have in our lives at the time or have sprung up since.

The Mostly Benign

The Know-It-All Who Knows Nothing: this person is the instant expert on your condition, despite not actually knowing anything about it. Easily identified by their blanket statements and complete inability to do any medical research, they will gladly tell you how "natural foods will cure any cancer" or "you should try *insert current medical fad here*". Most of their medical knowledge will be gleaned from Facebook. Assess their intentions (most of them are actually trying to help) and if you need to use to magic words, "thanks, I will totally look into that".

The Misinformed Overgeneralizer - this person heard "cancer" and has no clue that not only are there many, many different types of cancer but also that the treatments are highly specialized and not universal. Usually their first comment is along the lines of "omg are you gonna lose your hair?" Generally considered benign, they are sometimes worth educating or at least worth throwing a few search terms to set them on the right path.

The Person Who Can't Use Google - sometimes a variant of the Misinformed Overgeneralizer, they are willing to admit their ignorance. However, they will expect *you* to explain everything to them. This person's opinion automatically does not matter, and depending on how much you give a shit about them you can spend the time to explain or you can tell them to Google it for themselves.

The Math-Impaired - this person doesn't understand odds, survival rates, or any statistics whatsoever. Prone to coming to the wrong conclusion or falling for spurious medical studies (they don't understand the concept of sample size at all) they will come to an understanding of the situation that's either overly pessimistic or overly optimistic. Best ignored.

The Story Teller - this person is usually suffering from the need to say something but not knowing what to say. They will typically try to find common ground, and will sometimes succeed if they're a survivor or close to a survivor. However most of the time they will fall flat on their faces. The stories will run from reasonable attempt ("my aunt had a cancer kind of like that and she survived") to the distressing ("my brother just died from _____ cancer, it was horrible") to the utterly insulting ("my dog had prostate cancer so I totally know what you're going through.") Generally these people are at least trying to do the right thing, so you can at least smile and nod.

The Stunned and Wordless - self-explanatory. These people will mumble "I'm so sorry" when they get their wits back. They're benign, they just have no clue what to do.

The Road to Hell is Paved with These Guys

The Blamer - Monsanto, pollution, the American Diet, chemicals in our food, chemtrails - this person is certain your cancer is caused by *something*. Their intention is generally to help, though their speeches don't actually do anything but annoy the hell out of you.

The Fixer - diet, juice cleanse, exercise, meditation, hypnotherapy, acupuncture - this person puts their trust in everything other than modern Western medicine. They will argue with you over the best treatment for their condition while (unironically, somehow) telling you that surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy will kill you. Sometimes they're right in that some people die from the treatments but they completely ignore the very important fact that an untreated malignant cancer will generally kill you much faster.

The Fixer, Religious Variant - pray enough and it will go away, have enough faith and God will heal you. You will somehow resist the urge to tell them that yes, God has answered your prayers and He will heal you... with the help of your cancer treatment team.

The Fixer, Cannabis Variant - do I really need to explain this one?

The Saint-Makers and Pedestal Builders - yes, they intend it as a compliment when they say "bless you, I could never manage keep calm and carry on in your circumstances". They honestly don't understand that it's really lonely up on that pedestal, and that you don't really want to feel superhuman at the moment, and that you really, REALLY don't want to think of your situation as that bad and unmanageable. These guys will take the wind out of your sails without knowing it, so do your best to accept it as a compliment and remember that if they were in your position they'd probably buck up and manage too.

The Narcissists

The Suddenly Absent - this person used to be a friend but suddenly dropped off the face of the planet when you told everyone the news. This fair-weather friend can't handle the discomfort or you no longer serve their purposes. Either way you're better off without them.

The More Distressed Than Thou - this person is not close to the patient or otherwise impacted by the cancer but somehow has FOUND A WAY to be more upset over the news than you are. There may be hysterics, sobbing, rending of garments or other displays of extreme emotion and those displays will be calculated to get the most attention possible. Sometimes they will suck you into comforting *them*. Avoid them at all costs.

The Conspiracy Theorist - an odd mix of the Blamer and the Fixer, this person should be benign. They're not. In all of their ranting about how Monsanto gave you the cancer and Big Pharma is hiding the universal cancer cure in a bid to get more money, they are actually demonstrating their ability to not be sheeple and not be brainwashed. Congratulations, you are now a character in their latest narrative about how The Man is killing us all.

The Nihilist - "If I were you I'd just kill myself and get it over with." Gee, thanks for that vote of confidence! This person will sap your will to live as they prove to themselves that life isn't worth living.

The Fault-Finder - this person invariably is an adherent to *some* sort of religion or dogma and needs to find the reason that you, personally, are going through cancer, Their reason is usually a variation of their concept of sin. God is smiting you personally for your sins, you smoked or did drugs, you're not a vegan, you're not eating organic, any reason will do. As long as they can come up with some reason why you're sick that's your fault they can avoid the uncomfortable truth that cancer could happen to them, too.

The Doers and the Helpers

The Doctor/ Nurse/ Medically Inclined - this person asks for specifics and either knows about the condition or runs off and does their own research. They can help you with resources, tell you where to find studies or clinical trials, vet your docs, give you tips, and otherwise help with the medical part of things. They can range from totally benign to totally helpful and give you real advice like how to find advocates, how to treat the nurses, who to talk to, and how to fight with insurance.

The Truly Empathetic - this person will listen to you rant, give you a shoulder to cry on, and otherwise be a support as best they can.

The Helper - like the Truly Empathetic they want to help you, but may not know what to say. Instead they'll show up and clean your house, bring you meals, visit you at the hospital, watch your kids, do your laundry, and otherwise help you with keeping life together.

The Avenger - this person lost someone to cancer and WILL NOT LET CANCER WIN AGAIN DAMNIT. Will do as much as they can to help you have a positive outcome, including all sorts of medical, mental, emotional, physical, and logistical support.

The Survivor - like the Truly Empathetic and the Helper they can be an invaluable resource and support, but unlike the Truly Empathetic or the Helper their knowledge of how to get through comes from real experience, either their own or from going through cancer with someone really close to them. They are the Tribe you will become part of for the rest of your life.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

So... its a bad news good news kind of thing...

God I had hoped I'd never have to write something like this...

The bad news, is that I definitely have either a recurrence, or additional metastasis, of cancer... Either way, this still counts as stage 4, as it has spread to multiple systems.

The cancer appears to be in at least one of my parathyroids, and at least 8 of the lymph nodes, around my thyroid bed (left and right sides, and bottom at least... and its likely to have spread to most or all of the anterior cervical and superclavicular nodes). Most of the enlarged nodes are under 1.5cm, but at least one of them is grossly enlarged to over 2.5cm, and at least one parathyroid is grossly enlarged as well.

So yeah... technically, I have stage 4 metastatic lymphocytic cancer...

That's pretty bad.

The GOOD news is that it doesn't seem to have had any distant or systemic lymphocytic metastasis, or metastasis outside the typical local spread common to these kinds of cancers.

The BEST news... It doesn't seem to be either of the two REALLY bad varieties of cancer that it could have been (there are strongly negative indicators saying it isnt).

If it was one of those, it would be effectively untreatable, and I'd have a few months left to live on the outside.

It's HIGHLY unlikely to be either of those, based on existing blood test results, and general evaluation of the current diagnostic data. This will be confirmed with pathology on the tumors, and further blood tests.

So, yesterday afternoon, I had FIVE FNA biopsies (somewhat uncomfortable having needles stuck into your neck over and over again... and it stays uncomfortable for a coupel days), and more blood tests; to narrow down what the cancer subtype and pathology are exactly.

Once we have that nailed down, I"ll get more imaging to ensure it hasnt spread further (there's a moderate probability it may have spread to some of the nodes in my chest as and a small chance it could be in my liver or in other areas).

It could still be one of several moderately bad types of cancer, or a greater than anticipated metastasis; with as little as a 40% positive short term and 25% positive long term prognosis... but that seems unlikely at this point.

Most likely, I have something like a 75% to 92% positive short term (1 to 5 year) prognosis, and a 40% to 80% positive long term (5 to 10 year) prognosis.

So that's good.

I'll write more later...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ten Years Gone

Honestly... I don't even know how it's possible this day has come... I should have been dead before I ever met her... 100 times over...

I've had almost everyone I've ever been with tell me that I was incredibly easy to fall in love with, and incredibly hard to stay with... to keep up with, to put up with... I've always been "too much" for everyone.

But here we are... 10 years later... Through hell and back, and through it again... and on our way back out again...

10 years...

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful wife, Melody Byrne.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

You just... you have to laugh at the absurdity of it all...

Well... This is one of those things that would be funny... and is just... absurd...

Mel was transferring the rest of our stuff from a friends house to our storage unit, and had put a bunch of that stuff up on the front lawn, waiting to load it into the truck.

Then she and our friend went into the garage to get that stuff ready to load in the truck.

While they were in the garage, someone came by the front yard, and took most of what was out there.

It ended up being a couple thousand dollars worth of clothing, shoes, electronics, and furniture that they took... Including a lot of Mels clothes, a lot of the boys clothes, and most of what was left of my business wardrobe (I'm now apparently down to 3 pairs of pants, three collared shirts, and two button downs... That's not good).

It was also several hundred pounds worth of not obviously saleable things (all but the furniture was packed in bins ready to load up).

...And this is in Milton, a town with effectively zero crime, on a quiet side street in a nice neighborhood etc... etc...

Honestly... It may have been an overzealous charitable donation van, or someone assuming we were putting out trash, because I can't imagine someone just pulling up a van to grab all that. It just wouldn't look like it was worth much, and it would have been a fair bit of effort to move it.

And... I just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all... Just... Wow.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Taxation CAN be ethical and legitimate... I just wish it actually were...



Hmmm... would it surprise you to learn that neither of those things are true... but that both are based on valid, and nonconflicting, principles?

... Yes, valid and non conflicting. Yes, even for libertarians and other individualists, not just statist and collectivists...

Being a libertarian... or even broader, being one who recognizes and accepts the notion of fundamental and inherent individual rights, regardless of ones political philosophy surrounding them... means that you must recognize that all people have equal rights, AND equal responsibilities.

It means you must recognize that the exercise of rights (even the right to attempt to continue living) has consequences, which we must own in the entire, as we own ourselves in the entire.

This includes recognizing and understanding that our actions, including those that are within and pursuant to our rights, DO impact others, including in ways which MAY create obligation.

Social debt is a real, valid, and legitimate concept; even... in fact a system of individual rights. To claim otherwise is to twist the notion of individual rights, and self ownership, to exclude certain cases of responsibilities and consequences... and to ignore basic economics for that matter.

Social debt is incurred by all who gain direct benefit or substantive indirect benefit, from a social good, or from the use of property held in common, even without their explicit consent; unless that social good is forced on them, both against their will, and without direct necessity.

For example, babies can't consent to incurring debt for police, courts, and national defense, however they both gain benefit from these social goods, and such costs are necessary to the functioning of society as it exists today (and it can be argued, some "things" which serve these unctions will always be necessary, as anarchy among a large population, always and inevitably results in the tyranny of the strong over the weak).

A man who is left unconscious, in the cold or heat, without food, water, and shelter, will die. If he is then given food, shelter, water, and medical care, necessary to sustain his life, he incurs debt for these goods, even though he did not consent to it. If he does not wish to accept such debt, then he must ensure that should he become unable to consent or refuse, that he be allowed to die rather than incurring such debt.

Of course... If "society", or the state, do not allow him to make this decision, to die rather than incur such debt... if we force him to accept such treatment against his will... then no debt is incurred. Otherwise, any debt whatsoever could be justified, by claiming it was necessary. This would abrogate the ownership of oneself, and arrogate such ownership to the state, or to "society" (of course, many people already believe that we are owned by "society", so this concept is not a problem for them).

Thus, yes, simply being born into, and living in, a nation or a "society", incurs obligation, even without your explicit consent. If you do not wish to incur such obligation, then do not live in that country or society. If you are unable to leave because of your circumstances, unless you are being explicitly forced to remain against your will, and not as a consequence of your own actions and choices (no matter how poor or limited your options), this does not free you of your obligations.

There must be some system for satisfying such obligations. Taxation, as a broad concept, is one such system (or set of systems, as there are many different types and means of taxation) for doing so, though there are others.

THIS, is how involuntary taxation CAN BE ethical, and legitimate, in a system of individual rights.

HOWEVER... in order to be ethical and legitimate, such obligations must be strictly limited.

Taxation is only ethical, and legitimate, if such burdens are: minimized, provide direct or substantive indirect benefit, and are either necessary, or voluntary. And no, majority decision is not "voluntary" automatically, unless one has consented to be governed by such decisions.

We implicitly consent to some degree of governance by accepting or maintaining citizenship, or residency, in this country... However, we also do so under the conditions of the constitution, AND those of our preexisting fundamental and inherent rights, which the constitution recognizes and protect.

Actions of the government can only be legitimate.... and can only legitimately create obligation... if they align with such principles; among which are that any impingement on one's rights (including property rights, which includes your wealth, cash, assets etc...) even as allowed by the constitution, must still be minimal, must effectively serve a compelling interest, and must be applied equally under the law.

Now... I don't know about anyone else... But I don't feel that our current regime of taxation... and much of what those taxes are used for... are aligned with either the constitution, or our individual rights, nor do they impose the minimum necessary burden, nor do they effectively serve a compelling interest, and they are most certainly not applied equally under the law.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Individual rights, collective anathema

What makes America different from all nations which preceeded it (and I believe, all other nations still), is that we are a nation fundamentally and entirely based, on the recognition and protection of fundamental, inherent, preexisting, individual rights.

Not royal right, not divine right, not collective rights... none of these things exist, they are artificial and false concepts used to subjugate individuals... but individual rights.

Though our constitution calls itself the highest law of the land, it is not... It explicitly recognizes that the highest law, is that set of fundemental, inherent, and pre-existing individual rights, from which its authority, legitimacy, and powers, are entirely derived.

Our constitution and all our laws derive their entire legitimacy and authority from the rights of the individual; it's powers derived from and with the consent of, the governed.

We are a nation with a government of strictly limited and enumerated powers, and a people of unenumerated and nearly unlimited individual rights and powers; wherein the people, and their individual rights and powers, are always superior to the government

Our constitution, and our nation, have no existence whatsoever, outside of or without, fundamental and inherent individual rights.

This concept is absolutely critical to liberty, and to the function of our nation, and our government.

... Which is why so many have spent so long, and worked so hard, trying to eliminate the very notion that inherent individual rights exist.

Their worldview cannot be validated, their desires and plans cannot be fulfilled, so long as individual rights exist.

... Which is why so many people are now falsely taught that the very concept does not exist, or that it is wrong. That there are no rights at all, or that rights are granted or determined by government or society.

These people believe that there are no fundamental and inherent rights... Only those privileges which "society"... or the "right people" in society... collectively decide are appropriate or beneficial, and which they falsely chose to call "rights".

They believe that "society" or government can grant such "rights", define them, limit or expand them, and take them away; as it wills.

Many believe that is how things are now, how they should and must be, and do not even understand how any other way could possibly exist, or function, or be true.

They are of course entirely wrong... and dangerously so.

This false "collective rights" concept is anathema to the American ideal, to our constitution, and to human liberty.

Rights, are those things inherent to individuals, which cannot be infringed, abrogated, or violated, without force, fraud, or willing consent.

Rights cannot be granted or taken away, they can only be recognized, respected, and protected; or violated, infringed, or abrogated.

Rights are not subject to or contingent upon the will of others, nor the vote of the majority, nor any law or government.

Rights are always and only a property of individuals, inherent to them, and inalienable.

Collectives, and entities other than individuals cannot have rights, they may only exercise the rights and powers that individuals within those entities have delegated to them. As such, they may not exercise any right or power which is not posessed by the individuals within them, nor can these rights and powers be in any way be superior to those of any individual.

... Which is why so many deny that such rights exist.

Without fundamental, inherent, and preexisting individual rights, we have nothing but the consent and approval of others, to protect us from being subject to the will of others.

... Which is what so many people would prefer.

With such rights, there are many things which cannot be denied or stripped away from you, simply by the will of others.

... Which is why so many disparage such rights.

With such rights, there are many things which cannot be forced on you, simply by the will of others.

... Which is why those who believe in the false notion of "collective rights" have worked so long and so hard to, and are still attempting to; deny and destroy the very concept of individual rights.

Because so long as we have individual rights, individuals can legitimately disagree with, and prevent, the will of the majority from being enforced on the minority, if doing so would violate those rights...

... No matter how many people want it...

... No matter how "important" it is...

... No matter how bad the problem they want to "fix" is...

... No matter how "good" or "beneficial" the idea or plan is...

Those who believe in "collective rights", simply cannot tolerate this.

Monday, October 05, 2015

The Problem is People

The problem with violence is people... always, and nothing but.

No substance, no object, no tool, no law, no government, no society, no state... just people, always and nothing but.

People are violent, and they cannot be controlled by the laws against violence we already have, nor by any new laws, nor by the state and it's agents, nor by other people directly.

The only control any person has, is over their own choices and actions. If people chose to act in ways that harm others, then there is very little anyone else can do, except to attempt to use force against those people, in order to stop them.

Laws do not keep one safe, nor do they control the actions of others. They simply codify the rules by which force may be used to attempt to prevent their violation, the means and manner of force which may be used to attempt to prevent such violations, and the means and manner of force which may be used to punish such violations when they occur.

LAW IS FORCE. If any control is exerted by this, it is through nothing but fear of said force, by those who would otherwise violate the law.

As should obvious to all... though many attempt to ignore and deny it... fear of this force, has but little restraining influence on those who would do violence against others.

Control over anything but ones own choices, is an illusion. Safety is an illusion. Both illusions are incredibly dangerous. There is no such thing as control, or safety... Only probabilities and degrees of risk, and mitigation of that risk. Acting as if it were otherwise guarantees only that the risks are greater, and the damage greater when that risk becomes reality.

This set of objective factors and principles, presents a truly, incredibly, difficult; intellectual, emotional, and moral understanding. It violates all of our closely held precepts of what society should be, how people should behave... simply the way things SHOULD be... and accepting it can be nearly impossible.

Some accept this, and decide that they have a moral responsibility to take what actions they can when confronted with it. Thus they prepare to use force personally and directly against others if necessary, and bear the consequences if they do so.

Some accept this, but also believe, or decide, that they cannot personally and directly use force against others, or have the means to do so, even in defense of themselves or others. They must then accept that when confronted by such violent acts, that either someone else must intervene, or violence will be done to them or others.

Some accept this, but believe morally or ideologically, that whether they would be capable of doing so or not; using force directly and personally against others, or having the means to do so, even in defense of themselves or others; presents an unacceptable risk or threat to themselves, to others, or to society as a whole. Thus they delegate such use of force to society as a whole, or to the state, and must accept that if the state fails to prevent it, violence may be done to them or others.

Many people simply cannot accept these things at all... or at best, only parts of them, or in limited ways. This creates extremely strong cognitive, emotional, and moral dissonance in them. Things simply SHOULD NOT BE this way. They CAN NOT BE this way. They feel out of control, unsafe, and threatened.

Many people cannot bear... or believe they cannot, or cannot even consider... the responsibility and moral weight, of personally using force directly against another, even in defense of themselves or others. Nor can they bear the understanding, that this moral weight falls not just equally upon them, but in fact greater upon them, when others do so on their behalf; whether as individuals, or as agents of the state.

In defense of their own sense of self, they create a false moral separation, and false sense of control and superiority, in order to partially resolve the emotional and moral dissonance of this state. They then partially resolve the cognitive dissonance, by rationalizing the false notion that they are too moral, too compassionate, too civilized... and therefore they are morally uncompromised, and superior... for being unable to, or refusing to, use force personally and directly against others.

Perhaps worse, they may also (or instead) rationalize the false notion that individuals (sometimes all individuals, sometimes all others but not themselves, sometimes just a subset of others they disfavor, sometimes all others except agents of the state) are morally and actually incapable of preventing, attempting to prevent, or having the means to prevent; such acts of violence against themselves or others (either entirely, or without engendering unacceptable risk or actual harm, to others, or to society). They falsely believe this then absolves them of the moral weight of the use of force against others, and the violence which might otherwise have been prevented.

Yet, they also cannot accept this utter lack of control over the actions of others. This presents an existential threat to their person and their psyche, which they cannot resolve within their intellectual, emotional, and moral framework. They feel out of control, unsafe, and threatened, with no means of resolving these problems.

Thus, in a state of profound cognitive, emotional, and moral dissonance, they will attempt ANYTHING they can justify in the slightest, no matter how poor the justification, no matter how little evidence or reason, to reassure themselves. They will seize on any rationalization, any symbol or totem or fetishes that they can cling to. Any way, in which they can at least partially resolve this dissonance, in order to regain and maintain the illusions of control and moral superiority.

In so doing, they have no problem with compelling others to use force on their behalf, and to enforce the symbols which maintain that illusion of control, on all people; falsely believing that such action absolves them of both the moral responsibility for the use of force against others, and the violence done to others that might otherwise have been prevented.

It doesnt matter if what they are doing is useless, or even harmful. Even that which harms others, and violates the rights of others, is inconsequential to them, so long as they can restore and maintain their illusion of control, to resolve their cognitive, emotional, and moral dissonance, and to dismiss the existential threat.

They will justify and rationalize it in any and every possible way. Compassion, justice, morality, safety, "civilization"... but in reality, it is simply their desire to restore their comfortable illusion of control and safety, without having to take moral responsibility for the use of force against others.

Any person, principle, argument, or fact, that threatens this set of illusions and rationalizations... or breaks it...  must be destroyed or dismissed. or the painful dissonance and existential threat will return. They will feel out of control, and unsafe, and this cannot be tolerated.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Murphy needs to stop already

So between the fact that I ended up needing to bring the boy back with me (instead of leaving him up north while we moved) and therefore needing hotels for the trip back up, Chris ' s business wardrobe needing completely replaced (what we left in storage in NH ended up destroyed), and the fact that not near enough moving prep was done while I was in Boston, our cash supply is pretty much non-existent.

I'm really, really tired of Murphy at this point.

I just want to get moved, get it done safely, and get through this time in our lives.


Monday, August 31, 2015

An Appeal: Help Us Get Our Family Back Together

This month has been one of the worst months of my life.

So as has been mentioned, Chris landed a new job in the Boston area, looking to be closer to his farher, who recently had a massive heart attack. We wanted the boy to know his family, and to have time with his grandfather.

He received his job offer in the first week of July, replied very quickly, finished the required paperwork, the whole deal. The contract was signed, July 11th, the paperwork finished by the 18th in theory. The contracting agency gave him a start date of August 3rd, so he turned down the other two job offers he had pending, and flew up to Boston on August 1st raring to start his new job.

... Except the end client wasn't ready for him. In fact, they hadn't even started the paperwork to get him a start date, and THEIR contract and purchase order had only been signed on the third. The subcontracting company had lied about the start date in order to keep Chris from taking another job. Then the start date was August 10th, then August 17th, then last week it came down that MAYBE in 6 weeks he could start...

The contracting agency was supposed to make partial payment to him for the delay, but that's still "in process" more than a week after saying they would do it, and at best wouldn't be "through the process" until the next pay period on the 15th... frankly, we don't believe it's going to happen, they just keep trying to delay so Chris won't take another job. 

Meanwhile, we have burned through everything we've got, he's not getting paid, and we have to move out of our house in a few weeks.

At this point we're completely separated as a family, because it took all we had to get him to Boston in the first place... So our son and I were left behind in Florida, helpless and 1400 miles apart.

After the contract startup delay extended more than a week, Chris started actively pursuing other opportunities. In addition to waiting out the contract delay, he's currently actively working 7 different job opportunities that might actually end in an offer. He has had several interviews already, withe more this week.  Two of the recruiters are confident he will have an offer, possibly next week.

In the meantime, I've been in Florida, with a toddler, having continuous and severe panic attacks and recurrent PTSD episodes, from past abandonment and emotional abuse. Not a good thing, and something I'm now somewhat heavily medicated for, just to function. So in other words having the family split apart by circumstances and lying contracting agencies, is literally making me insane.

It's the 31st and he still hasn't started the new gig. The contracting company straight up lied to him and left him holding the bag. It's also the day we expected to receive his first paycheck. He did everything right, had the paperwork returned within 12 hours, managed to get to Boston for his start date and... got completely screwed over.

Early in the month I used donated airline miles to book tickets for the child and me to visit him in Boston, expecting that he'd be paid by now and... he's not. He also lost his place to stay in all of this. I've been dealing with constant panic attacks and PTSD episodes. We can't afford to keep the house in Florida, particularly with no housemate to split the rent with anymore. We're beyond broke.

Our original plan was for him to find us a rental as soon as he had income and move the family up then. I can't wait that long. This has become a crisis for me. Any of you who saw me disappear from Facebook for weeks... this is why. I have been in continuous panic freakouts all day long, almost every day, for weeks. I NEED to be with my husband NOW. As long as I'm with him, I can control the panic attacks... without him, I need to be medicated or they get out of control.

Fortunately Chris has found a friend who will let us live with them until we can get another place. Which is good because it will cost less to move than to pay full rent (we split it with the housemate until recently when the housemate moved out) and electricity and cable and everything else that goes with staying in the house. However I need to actually manage to fly up there to meet the possible housemate, make sure everyone gets along, etc etc. This is especially important because I'm literally going insane from the lack of my husband. Fortunately I already have plane tickets for Christopher and me.

Our current plan (if everything goes perfectly) is that I go through with the intended flights, make preparations on that end, then come back and load what we're keeping into the rental truck, get the car onto a trailer to be towed behind the rental truck, load up the dogs, and head north.

We already gave notice to vacate on the house (because we can't pay for the rent anyway, and we'd already paid last month's rent upon moving in) and they have nee tenants altrady lined up... and now we have to get out by the end of the month. I've been packing and cleaning like crazy while handling the toddler and dogs by myself, while having major anxiety over the whole thing.

So Chris is focusing on getting new work, and trying to find temporary employment. I am focusing on getting the house ready and moved, and getting it paid for while he does. The only problem? We literally don't have the cash to accomplish this. I don't have the cash for the bills, the necessary medications, the gas to get to the airport, the rental truck, the trailer, the cleaning supplies necessary or even that small thing called FOOD. This should have been fixed by now. And if Chris hadn't been completely screwed over it wouldn't be a problem at all.

We did the right thing... we did everything right, and we SHOULD have been paid by now... and be well sorted in a few weeks. Instead were being punished again, for I don't know what. We just can't seem to catch a single break.

So at this point, we need the $3,500 to fund the move, the final bills, pay for the medications that keep us alive, and food and other essentials; until the entire family is moved to Boston and back together and Chris begins work. So... as much as I never wanted to do anything like this again... I need to ask for help. Because we need the family back together, both to keep our costs down, and so Chris and I don't go insane over months of separation.

Honestly, I can't take any more time apart... this is absolutely killing me, and I can't take anymore. We NEED to be back with my husband right now... 

So please, please help us. I know some of you ask for a PayPal link whenever we do this, so here it is:

Otherwise please email me at melody DOT byrne AT gmail DOT com and we can arrange something. Thank you so much. I can't even tell you how much any help at all means.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

A hard road out...

With two very notable exceptions, the 2010s have been a pretty horrible decade for us so far...

Those notable exceptions, would be me not dying in 2012, and the boy being born in 2013.

The rest though? It sounds melodramatic to say I know what hell is like... but there are days it feels like it.

September 2010 is when everything really started going completely to hell... the girls being taken, and my health getting so bad I was on sudden death watch for six weeks at the end of the year.

Then my brother dying and finding out it was cancer in early 2011. Leaving Wells Fargo late that year and starting contracting again as the cancer worsened. Commuting from Idaho to SFO every week while I got sicker and sicker.

Trying to go to GBR in Reno that year, and I managed two whole dinners, and a couple hours at the range one morning... and the rest of the time I was stuck in my hotel room, in pain.... not even able to sit up in a chair to be with some of my best friends...

Honestly, that was in September... and I don't even remember the rest of the year after that... My sleep apnea from the tumor was so bad that even with the cpap and the meds it was depriving my brain of oxygen. My thyroid and adrenals had pretty much stopped functioning by then, but we couldn't supplement because it might have made the cancer worse... and the tests said I wasnt actually critically hypothyroid but they were wrong, because of the weirdness of the cancer... and I was just getting sicker and sicker, and stupider and stupider.

Then early 2012 my mom dies, and the IRS decides to screw us over, and seizes our accounts while we're visiting Boston for her damn memorial... The memorial that never happened because... things were screwed up with that side of my family... Then I get a great new gig, that turns to hell, as my cancer decides to go stage 4 and almost kill me.

Then it's good news, as we find out Mel is pregnant with the boy... and bad news as we find out how bad the malignancy was, and the metastasis, and how much radiation I would need... and the radiation... I spent three months completely in bed... the cancer and the radiation were so bad I'm still not recovered fully from it.

And 2013 rolls around...

December 1995 to December 1996 used to be my worst year ever... It started with a motorcycle accident, losing my fiancee, losing my home, and losing my job, all on the same day, ended with the man I loved most in the world dying, and in between, my house burning down, and several friends dying ..

Now... my worst year is April 2013 to April 2014... not even a question.

In 2013, we finally run out of resources... and we lost the atv, and the boat, and the car, and most of the guns, and almost anything of value we had...

But we get a bright spot in March because the boy is born... and we live for him for the next few months, until we finally lost the house at the end of August...

Meanwhile, Mel has SEVERE pre and post partum issues, and our community of friends is torn apart by... nasty things from nasty people... and people we love are badly hurt, and friendships are lost and... things just go from bad to worse.

This is the point where stuff could have started turning around... but instead it turns out we made the wrong decision, and everything just kept getting worse... Because instead of going to my family in Boston, when they were asking us to, and could help us... We made the incredibly stupid decision to go back to Arizona.

... in the middle of nowhere, with limited phone and Internet, 80 miles from any employment or friends, and Mel's autistic hyperreligious father...

And we just got stuck in a hole for a few months...

But I was stupid enough to think I was recovered enough to work again... and so, with the help of vast quantities of pharmaceuticals, come November, I start a new job that requires rapid relocation entirely across the country to New Hampshire... while I'm trying to work 60 to 80 hours a week... and traveling back and forth from Arizona to Vegas, then to New Hampshire, then Chicago, Arizona, New Hampshire, Connecticut, back to New Hampshire, back to Arizona, to Seattle, and then what was supposed to be a final trip back from AZ to NH... all in a matter of a few weeks.

Only the company (who went half bust and were acquired soon after by the way) decided to screw me over relocation expenses, because the CFO and I didnt get along and never wanted to pay relo anyway... and they left us stranded in the middle of a transcontinental relocation... no home to go to, unpaid and unreimbursed, out of pocket to the tune of almost $20,000...

And my health, which had not been good to begin with... after months and months of travel and overwork, and stress... just collapsed. I got pneumonia in late January while I was still travelling, and I kept working through it because we needed to survive...  and it didn't clear up until early March... by which time we ended up stuck back in one little room in Arizona.

... and for its second.. or third maybe... encore, my destroyed endocrine system and the abuse I'd been heaping on my body for so long, finally caught up... and I spent 10 or so days going into and out of a myxedemic coma.

.... at the same time, Mels relationship with her father rapidly deteriorates, to the point where they are never going to speak again... and there I am... can't work, can't take care of my family... helpless, and homeless.

Thank God friends were able to help us out... and after a few days with good friends in phoenix.., Once again, rather than go to my family in Boston, we make the wrong decision... and go to Florida. No offense to the great friends who helped save our lives... we are grateful in ways we can't even express... but it was the wrong decision.

The last 15 months... they were better than the previous three and a half years absolutely, but they were the wrong move. After the first few months, things stopped getting better and just sort of oscillated around a low baseline.

Getting off the medication that was killing me, and onto the right one helped, but not enough... and Mels mindset and health deteroriated, and after some improvement mine plateaued way below where it needed to be... My inflammation was out of control, and the pain was... I just kept getting sick over and over... and in between I worked until I dropped... and I dropped and stayed down for weeks, then I'd work for a bit again, and then I'd drop again...

Then finally I made enough of a recovery, that I could commit to a full time job... and I did... in fact I overcommitted. 80 plus hours weeks for months, for low pay... because I believed in what we were doing, where we were going... and I get bronchitis, and work through it for three weeks, and kill myself crawling around a warehouse in 105 degree heat and humidity with it... I work for 70 hours straight through one time... but the CEO decides he wants to go in a different direction, and he can't afford me...

...and my dad has a heart attack... the day before my birthday no less... and I don't find out until the day of... from facebook no less, because apparently, everyone in my family had my old phone number from two years before... and it's a 98% blockage, and he actually died on the way to the ER and... it was really bad.

..And that has to be one of those not so gentle hints you get every once in a while that you're doing the wrong thing.

We lost the Idaho house the end of August 2013... and have gone through hell since...  We should have come back to Boston two years ago.

If we had gone back to Boston after the boy was born, as we should have... April 2013 to 2014 never would have happened. I wouldn't have ended up in a coma... Instead of struggling with intermittent contracts and friends and family helping and generally being a damn burden on everyone... I'd have been working in a good high paying job, that didn't require 4 hour round trip commutes, or airline commutes, or 80% travel... and we would have had my family around to help and support us.

Instead we spent a year in a holding pattern, while Mels own issues get worse and worse, and we get more and more isolated, and...

And then my dad has a heart attack... and it's pretty damn clear we have to go to Boston, to be around him, and my family, and to make sure my son knows his grandfather and...

So I look for jobs up here, I go through interviews, I get some great opportunities, I spend most of June and early July hustling a new gig... I even get a choice of potential offers... And one of them looks like a really great gig, and it's only a few minutes from my dad, and they want me to start right away, and GREAT... I take the offer, I sign the contract, I let the other employers know I'm unavailable, and I start getting ready to come up here.

That was July 11th...  I was supposed to start on the 3rd, and I've now been up here 19 days and I'm still waiting to start, and even then after that I won't be paid for four weeks...

...meanwhile I haven't been paid since May...

...and I'm getting jerked around because "the process" is so badly broken, that I may not start until some time next month, and then not be paid until a month after that...

So, as soon as I found out that I was misled about the start date, I started looking for other  jobs, and in fact I've had several phone interviews already. Im on second interview phase on four different... really good... jobs in the next few days.

... but even if I get a new job next week (unlikely), or the week after (possibly); the start date won't be until mid September, or even first of October... and then I won't be paid for 15 to 30 days after that.

And my wife is stuck back in Florida with the toddler, and it's coming up on the end of the month, and her state of mind is NOT good, and getting worse every day I'm not home...

... and when I get here, I find out my dad is FAR worse than I knew about... my grandmother dying last year after three years of taking care of her through the decline, and then the heart attack... his PTSD has got so bad...

And now... this delay, and my money situation, and Mel's stress and bad reaction, and my dad's issues, and... and as pathetic a tale of woe as this is, I've left out most of it... and just every damn thing.

Apparently my family have had enough... because... well there's no more help there... that was made clear to me today... yesterday.. whatever... and things are starting to get nasty, and I have no right to ask anything of them anyways... and apparently, none of any of this has actually happened, and I'm just... yeah... it got nasty.

...and we've already lost almost everything, several times over...

... And I keep trying to do the right thing, or anything I can... and I keep getting hit in the damn face... Sometimes it's my health, sometimes it's my own fault from my own bad decisions,  sometimes it somebody else, sometimes it's just the way things go...

And I'm writing this... half of me doesn't want to post it, because it's too damn much of a tale of woe... and the other half has to write this down, because it's just too damn much and I've got to get it out,

We have got great friends who are doing what they can to help us, and people who love us... and God knows I appreciate that... and they've been with us through this whole process, even back to the custody battle for the girls...

...But I haven't breathed a single breath that wasn't under imminent threat of our life being ruined, or even dying, since... I don't even know... what year did the custody case go federal? 2007? 2008? I haven't been healthy since even before that, and I have only been healthy enough to actually work for... less than a year now really... I have been in a non stop life and death struggle since September 2010, and every time it gets any better, I keep getting knocked back down.

My personal favors, my relationships, my resources, my reputation, my honor, my pride, and now both Mels family and mine... they're... just gone...

I keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel... and I keep getting hit by the train that's behind it...

... and I am badly, badly burned out, and exhausted, and I just need to rest, and I can't... I haven't been able to rest since 2010... or before...

Now, it's mid... I guess late now... 2015... August 20th 2015... in two weeks it'll be five years since the girls were taken...

I no longer have a "worst year"...

I now have a "worst five years"... September 2010 through August 2015...

Maybe September 2015 will be better... I really hope so...

Critical Process Capture

I'm going to illustrate for you how process capture, and broken processes, have real world consequences, for the success of your organization, as well as for the people in it.

At the very end of April, my father had a serious heart attack. In the wake of that, my wife and I decided to move back to the Boston area, to be closer to him.

I start looking for jobs up here, I go through interviews, I get some great opportunities, I spend most of June and early July hustling a new gig... I even get a choice of potential offers...

One of them looks like a really great gig, and it's only a few minutes from my dad, and they want me to start right away, and GREAT... I take the offer, I sign the contract, I let the other employers know I'm unavailable, and I start getting ready to come up here.

That was July 11th... 

Now, it's mid... I guess late... August... August 20th to be exact. Six weeks after I signed the contract... and now tied for the longest time I've gone between signed contract, and start date.

When I was recruited, this was a critically urgent... in fact months overdue... requirement. And they had a very quick process for interviewing and hiring me... It was two weeks from first phone call, to signed contract, with a projected start date another two weeks out... "Maybe three at the most".

At this point, "the process" got started... and the failure started along with it.

A two week out start date, became the first week of August... Then, after my tickets have been booked for two weeks, and I'm a day from travelling, I get a phone call... It's not gonna be the 3rd, it'll be a meeting on the 5th to get my badges and paperwork done, and then I'll start either the 6th or the 10th.

Ok, that's annoying, but I can deal with it... a few days of hanging out with my family, seeing my friends... It's a big pain losing a week of billing, but we'll live.

Then I go to the meeting on the 5th expecting to be ready to go... get my badge, fill in my final paperwork... This is what my recruiter and contract manager said the meeting was supposed to be about...

Except "the process" had other plans.

I talk to the hiring manager in the meeting that Wednesday,  and I find out that due to "delays in the approvals process", even though I had signed the contract on July 11th, the actual PO for the first phase of the engagement, had only been signed that Monday... and, because it is a completely serialized process, with no parallel work streams allowed, the SOW hadn't even been signed or approved yet.

At that point, they hadn't even started the paperwork to get me cleared to start, never mind a start date, a workspace, a PC, ID'S etc... and in fact, because of "the process", they weren't even allowed to START the sub process for doing do.

But "they're working on it"... "it should be the next week, assuming all goes well, or at worst, the 17th", because "someone will be working "the process" the whole time".

Only the week of the 10th the hiring manager goes on vacation... and I find out that nothing even got started the week before, except my background check...

... Which I told them at the first meeting would pop an issue if they did a credit check, because of the medical issues and losing the house etc... and which they said wouldn't be a problem, there was an exception process and they'd get started right away...

Remember, I signed the contract July 11th, and was told by the contracting agency, that the background check had cleared, THREE WEEKS BEFORE, or I never would have got on a plane in the first place...

And, of course, there's an issue with my background check, because they are one of the few companies that still does a credit check for pre-employment screening ...even though I'm just a subcontractor... and they have arbitrary rules about what's "clearable",  so there's a problem...

...but there's an "exception process", and I need to wait for the paperwork from the background check company in order to do my part of the process... Which by the way they send to Florida instead of here, and which doesn't get to Florida, until this past SATURDAY, more than a week after the background check was initiated.

...Meanwhile my hiring manager needs to start the exception process... which can take 10 to 15 business days... which he was supposed to do after the meeting on THE FIFTH...

... Only he's on vacation, and he didnt start the "exception process" because they can't start the exception until the background check starts being processed and comes up with a problem... and that didnt actually happen until he was already on vacation... and the person who is supposed to be "working the process" isn't "working the process", because only the hiring manager is allowed to start the "except process"...

...but the manager "knows about it, and will start on it as soon as he gets back".

... yeah...

The hiring manager finally got back from vacation on Tuesday, and apparently NOBODY understands the damn process, because four different people in four different groups have a different idea of what needs to be done by who...

...and there can't be any separate work streams, it's all serial...

...and unless they can "expedite the exception process", it may be ANOTHER 10 TO 15 BUSINESS DAYS before the EXCEPTION can be processed... and that has to be completed before the REST of the on boarding process can even START...

... which may take 10 to 15 days beyond that...

... Unless they can "expedite the on boarding process"...

That's been my last few days... and in fact, my last few weeks.

Yesterday, I got a call from the contact administrator, the hiring manager says it's absolutely critical to get me on boarded as soon as possible, and he's working the exception process but needs me to go back to the group that told me that I need to have the hiring manager work the "exception process".

They're now six months overdue on the requirements I'm supposed to be filling, and every day I'm not working they fall further and further behind...

... but "the process" must be obeyed, and there is no way around it except "the exception process", which is really just another part of "the process".

Later today, I talk to that group again... I tried working with them again yesterday, but the guy who was supposed to be working with me, was out the last few days, and their backfill person had no clue what to do... except to "start the process over again" from scratch, which would take... you guessed it... another 10 to 15 business days.

This friends, is process capture... I'm almost tempted to say at its worst... but unfortunately, I've seen worse...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Proof and Motivation

Almost everyone I love or care about, suffers from depression, anxiety, addiction or substance abuse, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or some combination thereof.

So, whether I would otherwise or not... I do too... It's different for me of course, but I do too.

And if you are in the same boat, so do you.

And if you are a primary sufferer, remember... those who love you are suffering through it too.

You may not see it, they may be hiding it from you, they may show it in different ways... and they most likely will not tell you, because they know you will just use it as ammunition against yourself.

And when you feel like you're alone, and nobody loves you... the fact that they are their suffering with you, is the most tangible proof you will ever have that you are loved and you aren't alone.

Tattoo it on your forehead if you have to, so every time you look in the mirror you'll be reminded.

Don't use it as an excuse to feed your depression and anxiety and pain even more... Don't use it as an excuse to justify the evil thought "they would be better off without me". Use it as proof that you're loved, and not alone, and motivation to drive on and live your life as best you can.

When you love someone... their pain, is your pain... And their "not wanting to hurt you" or minimizing or "leaving for your benefit" or anything else... I doesn't stop the pain, it makes it worse.

Use it as proof, and motivation.... it's the best that you can do.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A valuable lesson in how not to govern a state

So... if you weren't paying attention... and most haven't been and have little reason to... the state of Connecticut is in serious trouble. They're effectively not just bankrupt, they're in the hole so deep they can't even see the top.

20 years ago, they were in great shape, and looking to get better...

So, what the hell happened?

Basically, Connecticut has been a textbook case for "how to kill your economy with government".

...This is gonna be a long one, because I'm not kidding, it really is a by the numbers lesson of exactly what not to do...

CT is in trouble explicitly because of its government.

This is one that even the liberals can't deny... and if you've read much from regional media, even they are generally placing the blame, at least close to where it belongs.

This all started about 20 years ago...

After some rough years in the 70s and 80s while their legacy manufacturing and fishing industires dramadically contracted, and 10 years where their core insurance and financial aervices industries had plateaued; Connecticut went through a huge economic boom in  the mid 90s (as with most of the country, but as a percentage more than anywhere other than MA, CA and TX)

This was primarily due to massive expansion in the financial services sector; as well as the overall technology boom and .com bubble, and smaller booms... or at least swells... in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, certain elements of the communications, defense, aviation, aerospace, and light manufacturing sectors; and a HUGE boom in the high end commercial real estate and development sectors; all of which CT has traditionally been strong in.

In response to this, the state and local governments very rapidly spent...not just their increased revenue... but decades woth of future revenue as well.

They made revenue and growth assumptions, based on continued growth at that explosive boom rate; creating legislation and programs that depended it... and worse, taking on HUGE amounts of debt, with the assumption that it would be easily paid back with future revenue growth.

At the same time, they made regulations that made it much more difficult and expensive to do business in the state... Because, after all, business was booming, and they could afford it, right?

Well, actually, no.

The state and local governments had increased the burdens of doing business so much, that they made it  nearly impossible for those businesses not in a boom.

They made it particularly difficult for small and medium businesses not primarily driven by discretionary consumer spending; which form the long term economic base of a healthy local and regional economy (about 30% of all private sector employment in this country is from businesses of this type).

Local property taxes and assessments shot up precipitously. Insurance rates skyrocketed. Business to business overheads went up without increased productivity. Legal ahllnd compliance costs went way up. Various individual and business taxes and fees on both the local and state level went up far faster than inflation, or income and revenue growth.

Commercial property costs and new commedical property development went way up in "desireable" areas (even though there wasn't a big increase in demand in most areas). Worse, even though occupancy rates remained stagnant or even crashed, costs still increased significantly in most "less desireable" areas as well.

Similarly,  housing costs and new development shot up in "desireable" areas, even though there wasnt very much overall population growth (CT lost population over the decade), and costs in "less desireable" areas still rose even though occupancy rates fell.

A lot of small businesses, struggling business, and less established businesses just failed. Their costs just became too high for marginal operations to remain viable. At the same time, a number of large legacy business that had been barely viable, became non-viable and finally folded (or in a lot of cases were acquired for short money, then operations were relocated to lower cost markets, contributing both to unemployment and population los).

It became difficult even for established and successful businesses outside of the boom to grow, and very difficult for new businesses outside the boom to get established. The barriers to entry and costs to grow, we're just too high.

In fact,  as early as 1998, it had been noted that in some areas, costs were too high, even in comparison to neighboring or nearby Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey (with few attractions and advantages to offset those burdens).

The government forgot something critical... They forgot that things change, and people and businesses change and move, in response to changing conditions and incentives.

They forgot basic economics.

Businesses need incentives to stay, that are greater than their incentives to leave. They need incentives to start or grow in one place, that are greater than the incentives in another place. Otherwise they're going to go elsewhere. Simple as that.

When your state is more expensive and difficult to do business in than New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California (every state other than Hawaii in fact)... You're doing something very very wrong.

So, businesses started leaving... or were started elsewhere... or expanded in other states.

The big employers and established big revenue companies were able to leverage their size, power, and government relationships, to get some relief from certain burdens (particularly in the defense, financial, and pharmaceutical industries)... and in general were better able to absorb them... So, for as long as the booms lasted, they were happy to keep doing business. But they weren't actually making sustainable long term business growth and investment in Connecticut.

This of course made the government keep thinking that everything was good, and they kept running up their tab, and tightening the screws on businesses and citizens.

...and then the boom slowed

New and small business development essentially halted. Larger established businesses did not bring more business into Connecticut or grow their operations in the state, and started contracting and relocating operations elsewhere. Businesses outside the state chose not to bring new operations there...

...Unless of course they could wangle a legislative favor and get some incentives and relief...

Which of course the government were all too happy to continue doing... After all, it gave them more power, and more money, and more secure political positions.

And from the government's point of view, all was still rosy...

But those companies still made preparations to move their operations out of state the second anything changed... and they expanded operations anywhere other than CT.

... and then the boom ended.

It actually ended right around October of 2000 or so... though most didnt notice it until mid to late 2001, when both companies and governments, came to the inescapable conclusion that actual realized revenues as of the end of q1 and q2 (as opposed to booked revenues, which may be commonly booked from 30 to 180 days before they begin to be realized... or longer... or in many cases never) were down well below their estimates for 2000, and were tracking lower for the rest of 2001 and into 2002.

... and then September 11th happened...

At the same time, the fed cut interest rates to effectively nothing (anything lower than inflation is actually effectively lower than nothing... which they've mostly been at since then by the way, minus a couple years at "slightly more than nothing" from the end of 2004 to the beginning of 2008. It's been at an actual 0% since 2008), and the property boom that had started in 1996-7 with the .com bubbles halo "wealth effect", suddenly kicked into ludicrous speed.

Between 9/11 and the property bubble... somehow people didn't notice that we were actually in a recession in every sector not dependent on the "wealth effect" or debt driven consumer spending.

After the .com bust and 9/11, most American and international big businesses (outside of certain elements of the financial, mineral extraction, energy, transportation, housing, consumer goods, luxury goods and retail sectors, all of which were riding the bubble), changed their operational patterns dramatically to cut costs and reduce risk (as had happened in the early 70s and mid to late 80s in response to major changes in the marketplace). 

At the same time, small business growth slowed dramatically across much of the country, in response to shifting geographic patterns of development, increased risks, and higher costs of doing business. Small businesses that were not driven by the "wealth effect", were largely stagnant. The startup market collapsed, and outside of a few momentarily hot sectors and minibubbles, became nearly dormant in comparison to what it had been between 1989 and 2000.

Venture capital went into a strange mode where capital pools were building, and risk aversion and command and control mindset dominated... But at the same time, in an effort to drive market beating returns, crazy amounts of money would be pumped into anything analysts thought would be a market maker or primary sector driver, without regard for underlying value... Chasing issues up high and fast, and then dumping them hard once profit taking hit (essentially a legal form of pump and dump).

Everyone's risk tolerance went WAY down, except for those in active bubbles.

Most big businesses started aggressively reducing their exposures to risk, and slashing their legacy and high cost operations, especially in high cost markets like the northeast. High cost low margin operations and businesses were divested or shut down. Big companies got bigger, seeking to leverage scale and reduce risk by acquiring viable but marginal operstions, and small but growing operstions. New development was directed to lower cost, lower risk markets like Texas, Florida, south Dakota, and to a lesser extent Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Meanwhile,  collectively, Americans were going insane, and running up a massive property and debt bubble,  peaking at the end of 2006 and just kinda floating there til 2009, before popping completely, in the banking bust.

... And during this time, the CT government spent even MORE and took on even more debt, and turned the screws even tighter on businesses and citizens...

...all in expectation that the "prosperity" of the property and consumer spending bubble would result in significantly increased revenues.

It didn't.

In fact, the insurance and other financial services industries that had long been the core of Connecticuts revenue base were damn near destroyed between 2005 and 2009.

Discretionary consumer spending driven businesses had massively over expanded in the bubble, and suddenly began to contract, or fail, wholesale.

Most of the legacy heavy industry of Connecticut manufacturing cities was killed off in the previous 20 years, except those dependent on government contracts.

The fishing business had long been non-viable because of poor catch rates, high costs, and crippling regulation.

And of course, the property development business completely collapsed.

Between 1997-9 or so and 2009, most viable medium and large businesses (outside of a boom industry) that could leave... did.

Well... unless they got a special incentive from the government to stay (Pfizer... you wouldn't even believe....)

Basically, the entire states primary industries and major private sector employers; failed, contracted dramatically, fled the state, or got special considerations which made them revenue neutral (or even net negative due to state spending or subsidy comittments).

Between this and the collapse of consumer spending, small business failures and contraction, high unemployment, and all of the other ripple effects; Connecticuts economy has contracted by between 11% and 15% overall from its peak in 2006-2008 (depending on how you calculate it and  whose numbers you believe).

That's the worst in the country by a large margin by the way.

The picture is much worse when you look exclusively at the private sector economy, which has contracted over 20% (it may be more than 25% or even more depending on whose estimates you believe)

Excluding those companies in the financial sector and other large businesses whose revenues are primarily realized out of state, and those with negotiated tax breaks... Who knows...

The states taxable revenue base has certainly fallen dramatically, by any measure.

... but the government kept spending as if the state were growing, while massively increasing state debt year over year. In fact, state employment and state expenditures INCREASED EVERY YEAR since 2006.

After 2009, any sane government would have slashed the burden and expense of doing business in their state in order to promote growth and attract new business. That's exactly what most of the states I noted above did (all but Virginia, which made it harder, but boomed on increased government spending).

After 2009, any sane government would have looked at their situation and said "hey, those big expensive projects and new spending that we'd planned on? Yeah, we have to put that on hold".

Again, that's what most states did, outside of the "stimulus money".

Not Connecticut.

From 2008-2010, Connecticut lost 120,000 jobs... about 8% of total jobs in the state. During those same two years, government sector employment (outside of indian gaming industry employment, which is counted as government employment) ACTUALLY INCREASED BY 9%

In the face of total collapses in private sector employment and revenues, and an already overwhelming debt burden, Connecticut actually INCREASED spending, and acquired MORE debt... Counting on state and federal government spending to "stimulate the economy" and Kickstart growth.

It didnt.

Then... and this is my favorite bit....

....when some folks both at the city and state levels, finally woke up and tried to restore some rationality and sanity to the situation... cut spending, layoff non essential staff, cancel new programs, reduce scheduled spending increases, put pending projects on hold etc...


That's not a joke... look it up... and it's not just once either... the absurdity of it would be hilarious, if it weren't tragic.

Now they have the worst debt to revenue ratio in the country... and it's not getting better anytime soon.

Regardless of what Connecticuts government officially says (they concluded they had 0.6% net economic growth in 2014), they are facing what everyone honestly examining the situation knows to be net annual outflow of private sector jobs, income, economic output, and population; with resulting decreasing revenue, and increasing debt load. They're in a coffin corner.

In the next two years, large job losses at GE, Pfizer, General Dynamics, and Sikorsky, are going to stagger the states economy even further

... and rather than stop the bleeding and make it attractive to stay in or come to CT, they have doubled down and continued making it worse.

Rather than cut their regulatory and tax burden, making an overall lower cost to do business for ALL businesses, they are desperately trying to o woo specific large employers to come to the state, with tax and regulatory breaks.

The employers weren't biting, because CT did that before and then screwed those companies 4 to 12 years later.... And besides, there's really no advantage to doing so.

Even if they offer a company 100% corporate income tax free operations, and free land to build their facilities (I did mentione Pfizer earlier didnt I?); CT can't give employers the advantages they get in Texas or Florida:

A government they know actually is pro business, and a generally low cost of doing business; lower total tax burden, lower regulatory burden, lower property costs, lower development cost, lower insurance and benefit costs, lower legal costs and risks; and most significantly, a much easier time (and therefore much lower cost) attracting and retaining quality staff at substantially lower cost per employee (because in addition to lower overheadsm these states have a much lower cost of living, much better weather, and much less constrained lifestyles, providing a considerably higher effective standard of living for a given salary).

Of course,  Connecticuts government somehow never got the lesson, that if you took the same breaks from the ridiculous tax and regulatory burden you were going to give to a company promising to bring 5000 jobs into the state.... and you gave them  to EVERY company in the state already... you wouldn't have to beg big companies to come in, and then have to pander to fhem for decades... Small and medium businesses would flourish again, while costs to everyone for everything in the state would go down, and the economy would not just recover, but soar.

... because they just don't think that way...

It's not command and control, it's not collective, it's not a single big thing they can take credit for, it's not one guy they can cut a deal with, or one guy they can control...

... it doesn't fit the narrative...

But... It actually works...