Sunday, December 01, 2013
We got back on 81 out of Johnson city about 4pm tuesday, and headed north. We decided to make it a relatively short night, and stopped in Waynesboro VA at about 9, to actually get some rest.
We ended up sleeping in, an didn't leave Waynesboro 'til lunch, for the 10-ish hour trip remaining.
Originally we were going to stop in southwest New Jersey to visit my aunt, but she had to cancel on us, so we went direct from Waynesboro to
We wanted to avoid the 95 corridor through the DC and Baltimore areas, particularly because of bad weather. There was nasty freezing rain south of the I-78, and snow north of it.
Thankfully, there was a relatively clear corridor along the 78, and the trip through Harrisburg and Allentown was decent. For some reason though, I always forget how insane the lehigh valley gap down from Bethlehem into New Jersey can be. Especially in the dark, in the rain.
I swear to you, we saw more concentrated potentially fatal stupidity in the first 25 miles in New Jersey, than in the previous 2500 miles combined.
We decided to go straight through NYC and the surrounding areas, on the 95, thinking that doing so relatively late at night would be enough easier, that it would be better than the extra 40 miles to go around.
We were wrong.
Oh it was fast enough, just overwhelmingly painfully stupid. Not worth the aggravation.
So, we pulled into our hotel near my dads place at about 2am thanksgiving morning. Had a great holiday with my dad and family. They insisted we stay the night, and we spent much of the next day with my dad, heading up to my Aunts place in New Hampshire Friday afternoon.
I've pretty much been asleep as much as possible since then. I get on an airplane to Chicago in less than 8 hours, and I haven't really finished recovering from the trip.
All told, including detours and re-rerouting, it was 3151.5 miles, from Kearny, AZ, to New Hampton New Hampshire. Google maps says its only 2624 miles by shortest routing, and 2,864 by our chosen routing. The rest was detours etc...
I drove all but 150 of those miles; the last 150, from somewhere in CT, to our hotel near my dads place. I was too exhausted to drive any more that day and Mel took over.
We had 60 hours of "key on" time, for an average speed of 52.5 miles per hour, but about 10 hours of that was just sitting, in traffic, eating in parking lots etc... so our actual rolling average was about 63mph.
All told it took us exactly 7 days; but that included a day lost to the storm in texas, more than a full day with my dad, and a half day in tennessee with Mels family. Straight through, and without the weather and the detours, we could have done it in four long days, or five reasonable days.
Now we get to do it all again, two more times (once back to arizona, then once back from arizona with the trailer and the dogs).
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
When progress out of Pecos through west and central Texas was so slow, we were presented with an unattractive set of options.
It took us 'til 'round midnight to get to Dallas... but one we cleared the DFW area, we had clear roads for a couple hundred miles. We had already lost more than a full day to weather and traffic, and we were looking at either making our days VERY long in the saddle, or skipping one or both, of our visits to family.
Since I didn't want to do either, I considered a third option... Drive until I didn't feel safe to drive anymore (with Mel cross checking me).
... so that's what we did.
We ended up driving straight through from Pecos, TX, to Johnson City TN, a distance of about 1600 miles as driven (including some diversions and detours). That included hitting Memphis traffic at lunchtime, Nashville traffic at dinner time; and losing about 3 hours to the various accidents and slowdowns between Pecos and Dallas, and probably 6 hours to gas and meal stops.
... and of course that we were in high volume and pressure freezing rain, and ice fog the ENTIRE WAY...
Total time enroute... lessee... we left Pecos at noon Sunday, we rolled into Johnson city at 2am Tuesday; a total time of about 38 hours, and near as I can figure 32 hours of rolling time.
We spent a few hours with Mels family in TN yesterday, then after dealing with heavy traffic and rain all through Virginia, and having made back the day we lost, we decided to make it a short day at about 9pm, and get some rest. We slept in, and are heading to my aunts place taking the routing up around Harrisburg, for about 340 miles (and avoiding the 95 corridor through DC and BAL).
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
.... but that's what thick damn glove are for.
Monday, November 25, 2013
"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you..."
As it happens, our routing on this trip, including all the detours thus far, comes out to 2,917 miles.
...Funny enough, putting the 1458.5 mile mark, in the middle of the bridge crossing the Mississippi river into Memphis.
Of course the last few days have been far harder (and slower) then we expected, but it looks to be RELATIVELY clear weather from here.
Now... We had to celebrate the half way point... And this IS Memphis.. So there was only one option...
it's a moral imperative.
For today's meat festivities we chose a pound of rib tips, and a 1/2 pound each of pulled pork and shredded brisket; from the world famous smoke joint, Toms BBQ.
...now its on to Johnson City (7 hours or so), in time for a late dinner.
Yaknow, its funny... for some reason, whenever I'm trying to leave Texas....Texas finds a way to hold on to me for a while.
Last time we had torrential downpours, and three flat tires in 3 days; two of them in 45 minutes, trying to leave DFW.
We entered Texas just after midnight Saturday, with a plan to be out of Texas 12 driving, 2 stopping, and 8 sleeping sleeping hours later.
It is now 1240 Monday morning, our third night in Texas, and were sitting in a truck stop, to the south of Dallas, still 160 miles from leaving Texas.
... And really, as far as today goes there was no reason for it.. The rain got heavy a few times, but other than that it was fine. Notice, no snow (we were running in between front passages).... Just lots of idiots crawling along in both lanes at -20.
I swear to god, if its not straight, flat, wide, clear, and dry; or nasty, rutted, muddy, dusty, truck eating crud.... Texans just don't know how to drive on it.
...and yes, this was almost entirely Texans, I was looking at license plates.
At this point Im fine to keep going, and we are both tired of being in Texas right now. Hell... Well be back again in 5 weeks...and then again a week after that...Texas can afford to let us go this time.
The weather is fine, the roads are clear and dry between the lines of squalls, and I'm as awake as I was when we left Pecos at noon... We're just going to push on until I feel like getting out from behind the wheel.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Robert Burns wrote the line quoted above, most often rendered as "the best laid plans of mice and men, oft go awry".
Our best laid plan was to wait it out in Pecos for the weather to clear before heading on to Dallas.
It went awry.
Oh, I was right, the weather had cleared... But the stupid hadn't.
We ended up crawling most of the 80 miles from Pecos to Odessa at 30 mph, because there were two rollovers on the westbound 20, and two jackknifed trucks on the eastbound.
They closed part of the highway off, shunting us off onto access roads, so we decided to screw it, just stop for food, gas, and some winter supplies (forgot to pack snow gloves, and hadn't bought an ice scraper or snow broom for this truck yet etc...), and wait for them to clear the road.
We left Pecos at 1145 (after a half hour wait to get to a fuel pump, with all the people stranded when they closed the interstate last night). It's now 1545, and we're about to top tanks and roll out. With the further delay, we figure on making Shreveport or Monroe tonight instead of Jackson.
Enjoying a whataburger deep fried apple pie.... I wish McDonalds still did those.
... This is my " I just LOVE Texas. Can't you tell?" face...
Friday night, we made it from the eastern Arizona mountains, to our hotel on the east side of El Paso, a distance of 410 miles; in about 7 hours total, but only about 5 hours of that was actually spent on the road. Average speed on the road worked out to about 80, average speed overall, a bit less than 60.
That's not bad... actually, it's pretty good. In fact it's particularly good since we had stopped more times, and for longer, than we'd originally planned, but still made a 59mph average speed. It boded well for our progress.
Then... yesterday happened...
Saturday we were supposed to make it from the east side of El Paso, to at least Texarkana (800 miles), with a stretch goal out to Little Rock (just over 900 miles).
Instead, we only made it to Pecos, about 200 miles... in about 7 hours of travel... for an average speed of about 28mph.
That's very bad. We would like to avoid that in future.
Overnighting in Pecos puts us at a bit under 1400 miles to Johnson city. That's way more than one driving day at the pace we want to maintain (frankly, at any pace it's more than a bit far... Even averaging 60mph with stops, that's still a 24 hour drive).
So, we're gonna have to have an intermediate stop tomorrow night.
Now, the weather hasn't fully lifted yet, and they're still clearing wrecks off the roads etc... So we're going to get a late start in the morning. Looks like if we wait 'til 10 or so, things will warm up enough, and they should have had enough time to clear things; we should be able to just push on through.
So... if we look at say 10-11 hours worth of actual drive time, a couple hours for gas and food stops...
That leaves us in Little Rock at a reasonable hour Sunday night (8pm say), instead of late Saturday night as we planned.
So, basically, we lost a day to weather and traffic...
Which is exactly why we decided to leave Friday night instead of Sunday morning... and frankly, if we had left AZ this morning, it probably would've been a lot worse. We'd've probably been trapped in El Paso anyway, not making it through before the road closing.
So, if we make it to Little Rock tomorrow night, and leave after a reasonable breakfast Monday morning, we should be in Johnson city for dinner Monday night.
Which means New Jersey for dinner Tuesday night, and a late afternoon arrival in New Hampshire Wednesday.
So we decided to hang out and wait for weather to clear a bit. As of 11 am local, we are now clear between Pecos and just west of Fort Worth, and DFW should be clear for a good while before we get into the area.
Unfortunately, the I-30 up through to the I-40 won't be. Given the current weather and weather up to midnight, we've decided to alter the route south from DFW.
We're still going to head on towards Dallas, but we're going to stay on 20, and go through Shreveport and Jackson. We'll probably stop at Jackson for the night.
This puts us in clear weather, or at worst rain, once we clear Abilene; and we don't spend the night in Little Rock, or on the 30 between Dallas and Little Rock, which is supposed to get freezing rain all night long.
Radar shows clear by the time we get to Dallas, but not if we continued on to little rock... we'd just end up driving back into the nasty.
It only adds about 50 miles and less than an hour to the travel time... and given the weather I think it might actually trim a couple hours.
Point one: When the voice in the back of your head says "maybe you should do this thing just in case", you should generally listen.
In this case, it was "put a CB in the rental". I have a CB for my truck, but it's not a handheld. I don't happen to own a handheld CB at the moment. I thought about getting one to take in the rental with me, but I figured... "ehhh, what the hell, I probably won't need it". I also neglected to bring my handheld amateur radio, again thinking, "ehh, we're not going off the interstates, it'd be nice to have, but I probably won't need it".
I was wrong. I needed it. Badly.
Remember that adage, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it? Yeah...
For lack of information and preparation, we ended up stuck in the midst of literally thousands of trucks, for 5 hours, and 40 miles, of cell dead zone; with no way of getting information about what was happening, or why; and no information about the incoming weather.
The rental truck was supposed to have weather radio, and it does, sort of. Unfortunately, it's not NOAA weather radio, it's satellite weather, and is dependent on the Sirius working. For some reason, it wasn't. We got several sirius stations, but not weather or traffic; and we couldn't call them to fix it. There was no AM or FM local traffic or weather coverage either (thank you very much clear channel), just sports talk, top 40, and spanish language; with no local news, traffic, or weather.
So, I'd made myself blind and helpless, with the wave of a hand.
If I'd been able to listen to the truckers, I could've got off the highway, turned around, and taken an alternate route... or just gone back to El Paso to hang out with Rod. And when it came time for the I-20 split, I could've heard their reports about the nastiness that was coming, and continued down the I-10 down to San Antonio, which stayed clear.
Yeah, it would've added miles, but they'd have been safe and clear miles, and I would've at least been able to make Dallas (or maybe stayed south for Houston) by stop time tonight.
Point two: Internet connected apps are great. Use them, enjoy them... don't depend on them. 5 hours in a dead zone, with no information, NOT FUN.
Similarly, and related, OnStar, SyncServices and other connected vehicle systems that offer emergency assistance, information, weather, traffic etc... don't work in cell dead zones.
We were using an android weather app for weather mapping. It's awesome. We can see realtime weather maps, radar, forecasts etc...
... except when there's no data connection, for hours...
Point three: Pack the Gear, Check the Gear, Maintain the Gear; so that when you NEED the Gear, you HAVE the Gear.
Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
When making long distance, cross country, or back country trips in rental/borrowed vehicles, make sure to prep the vehicle, with at least the critical elements, of the same gear and supplies you prep your own vehicle with.
If I get into trouble with my truck, I know that I have the gear and supplies to get out of all but the most severe situations. I can self rescue, or safely wait out to rescue. With this rental truck, as is... we've got SOME of the gear and supplies we normally have, but not enough to be confident.
Yeah, we'd be safe until rescue under normal circumstances... but what about abnormal, but reasonably possible, and easy to prepare for, circumstances?
... Like, oh, say, an ice storm in northwest Texas maybe...
So, first thing I did after we ate dinner, was hit up wally world for supplies and gear we'd neglected to transfer from our truck (just a few little things. The one thing I'm unhappy not having is some recovery gear, but it's a rental. If it needs recovery, I shouldn't be doing it, I should be calling someone from the rental company to do it).
Second thing, was to go buy a CB/weather radio, a 12v power lead, and an external magnetic mount antenna (factory rubber ducks aren't worth a damn, particularly in rough country. We radio geeks call them "portable dummy loads" or "flexible test resistors" for a reason).
I will not be blind and helpless again like that if I can avoid it.
So, we slept in a little bit this morning, thinking we'd be well ahead of the weather, and still be able to make Little Rock, or at least Hope or Texarkana, before we wanted to bed down.
.... and we would have been.
But for this:
Which, by the by, is nowhere near the full or true story. More on that in another post, another time.
What it came down to, was that we were at a dead stop, or slow crawl on I-10 for about 5 hours.
Even better, we were in in a cell and data deadzone for most of that time. Thankfully we had plenty of gas, plenty of drinks and snacks, and audiobooks (and didn't need to use the bathroom).
We first came to a stop a couple miles past Texas state road 34, mile 87. We had literally dozens of emergency vehicles, mostly border patrol, but some county sheriffs and texas highway patrol, and some local ambulance and fire; racing back and forth by us for hours... Even worse, they were inspecting trucks and trailers for the first few of those hours (which, I suspect, is WHY it was hours, not a few minutes).
... as I said, more on that another time, in another post.
After crawling our way a few hundred yards at a time, with 2-20 minutes stops in between, up to mile 107; we were shunted off I-10 onto Texas 1111 in a "town" called Sierra Blanca.
It was after 3pm at this point, with over 4.5 hours spent moving those 20-ish miles.
Even better however, was that they were not allowing access to the eastbound lanes at all. They forced us into a diversion route. It took us almost 20 minutes just to make the turns from the off ramp, onto the state road, under the highway, then onto an unmarked road paralleling the highway, for 13 miles; with a Sheriff's vehicle or Border patrol vehicle blocking all egress from the road, and all access to I-10.
So, we made those 13 miles at about 30mph, in convoy with the hundreds of trucks that had been stopped, finally making it back onto the highway at Van Horn, about 40 miles from the I-10/I-20 split.
By now it was 3:45, 5 hours from when we had first come to a stop.
Now... the whole idea of leaving Friday night, had been to get through Texas before the nasty weather hit Saturday night; then through the southeast before the nasty weather hit Tuesday; and into New England before the nasty weather hit Wednesday.
Basically, were trying to run between the storm systems.
Unfortunately, by the time we got back on the highway, and particularly by the time we hit I-20 around 4pm; the weather had overtaken us, and we started to get some pretty nasty wind, ice rain, hail, fog etc...
By 4:45, we had passed 4 major injury or multi-fatality crashes (a couple we could see directly, others... I've seen a lot of accidents... barring a miracle, they were not surviving those), and the weather map looked like this:
On the ground, it was a hell of a lot worse. We were alternating between torrential rain, frozen rain, and near whiteout conditions; with over an inch of ice, slush, and hail on the roads, high winds, driving frozen rain, and ice fog. Our windshield wipers could barely keep up (though the heater had no problem keeping us comfy... It dropped from 39 degrees to 23 degrees in a matter of minutes).
So, the second we got data signal back, we booked the next hotel we could get into (in Pecos), and white knuckled it the remaining 15 miles or so.
Between the I-10/I-20 split, and our hotel (a total distance of 43 miles), we passed a total of 7 major injury or multi-fatality accidents, including 5 rollovers, and a three car multi-rollover (with one vehicle over the guard rail between the travel lanes of an overpass, crashing down to the roadway below). That doesn't include the half dozen cars we saw off the road (including one in front of us, and one across the median) , two we saw actually spin (one in front of, one across the median from us) and the several wrecked semi's pulled off into the median.
They closed both the I-20 and I-10 behind us, a few minutes after we got off the road. A T-Dot official came into the hotel while we were checking in and told everyone. Their crews were filling up rooms quick.
Every hotel room in Pecos was full before 6pm tonight; and the 18 wheelers are filling up all the local parking lots. There's at least a dozen of them in the Wal Mart parking lot alone; and there must've been 100+ in and around the flying J.
I found out later that they had pulled so many wrecks off the road in this sector of the I-20 alone, that their tow yard couldn't handle them. They used that same local Wal Mart as an overflow. I counted 11 total writeoffs in the Wal Mart parking lot when I went by there later... and who knows how many in their local tow yard(s).
I can say without any exaggeration; that was the single worst day of travel I have ever had, that didn't involve the death of someone important to me.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Starting out in El Paso this morning, 410 miles down, about 2500 to go.
As soon as I finish writing this we're going to head to the car and go, so we can figure a 10am start. We slept in a bit (since neither of us managed to fall asleep 'til 3 or so), and took the time for breakfast.
We're going to decide on the road whether we're stopping, or pausing, in Dallas. If we hustle, we'll make Dallas for dinner time, depending on traffic. Unfortunately, then there's dealing with Dallas traffic.
Basically, if we stop for dinner in Dallas, we're probably stopping for the night.
Otherwise, again if we hustle, we can get to at least Hope Arkansas, and maybe as far as Little Rock. That would be nice, since it would make tomorrows run to Johnson City a much more pleasant, short day.
Meanwhile... it's nothing but 800 or so miles of Texas...
Friday, November 22, 2013
Well, we'd planned our trip to be Sunday through mid-day Thursday, arriving in Weymouth, MA in time for Thanksgiving dinner, then heading up to my Aunt Helens place in New Hampton, NH.
Further, we were planning on staying on the 40 through to eastern Tennessee, and stopping at Mels aunt and uncle in Johnson City, so that her uncle can see the baby (he's in ill health and can't travel anymore); and stopping in to see my Aunt in New Jersey (again, so she can see the baby).
...looks like nature has other plans...
If we followed out original plan, we'd be driving up the I-95 corridor in the worst part of this weather, for three days (a 5 day total trip, of appx 2900 miles).
Yeah... no... we're not going to do that.
Well, first thing, we've decided NOT to drive up with the trailer first time up. We're going to drive up bare vehicle, leaving the trailer and the dogs, with Mels dad. This will make our trip faster, with better fuel economy, and, given the weather... not suicidal.
I REALLY do not want to try to haul 20,000lbs and 60ft by 8 foot 6" of combined vehicle on northeastern roads, on a holiday week, in that weather.
... and in the long run, it will be easier to find a house without having the trailer and the dogs to worry about.
We'll come back after Christmas, pick up the trailer and the dogs and do the trip all over again, only slower... but at least we should have a house to take the trailer and dogs too by then.
Second... we're not taking OUR truck. We rented a brand new Explorer (the company is paying for it, not me). It'll be comfortable, safe, 50% better fuel economy (using much cheaper fuel. Diesel is NOT cheap in the northeast, and can be a pain to find off the major highways), it'll save the mileage and maintenance on our truck, and it should be a faster drive in it.
Plus, we'll have it the entire month, in Boston and New Hampshire, and it'll be a lot easier to get around Boston with than the 23 foot long 7 foot tall Truck of Doom.
Third.. we're not leaving Sunday anymore. We're leaving tonight if we can manage it. We've already done all the prep work we need to do in Phoenix, we've just got to finish packing, and packing the truck.
So, tonight, we scoot out of here, and drive until we need to stop to make sure we get a rested and early start tomorrow.
This should give us all day Saturday and Sunday, and most of Monday, before the bad weather hits.
When we were going to take the trailer, our route wasn't even really a question. We were going to have to backtrack from Kearny to the I-17, then north to I-40.
Without the trailer, we're a lot more flexible. Right now, we're trying to decide if it's quicker/safer/easier trying to take the backroads through the mountains of eastern Arizona and New Mexico up to Albequerque to take I-40; adding 200+ miles to the trip backtracking to I-17 and going up to the 40 through flagstaff; or adding 150 miles and taking the southern routing across Texas.
Right now, we're leaning towards Texas; because it's been raining hard all night and all day, and 385, or 585 miles of mountain roads, in the wet, to get to ABQ, vs the broad, straight, fast highways of Texas... yeah...
If we want, and the weather is good, we can still visit Mels family in Tennessee. Depending on how far we get tonight, we could be there Sunday night, or Monday morning.
... Or we might just push straight through, take the midwestern route splitting off I-40 in OKC, straight up into New Hampshire; and try to get to New Hampton on Tuesday, instead of Weymouth mid-day Thursday... we'll decide while we're on the road, based on conditions and the time we're making.
Ok, we're definitely leaving tonight, and we've got our route and schedule planned out:
We're leaving in an hour-ish (around 1800 mountain), and will be aiming to hit somewhere around El Paso before we stop for the night on day 0.5.
Full day one (Saturday): It's on to somewhere around Hope Arkansas... we may stop in Dallas for dinner with Mels brothers (she hasn't seen them in like 4 years, and they haven't seen the baby yet). We may even stop for the night, and just accept the 4 or 5 hours lost travel time.
Day two (Sunday): We head to Johnson City TN. If we stop in Dallas for the night Saturday that's a bit far, so we may not make it to Johnson city, in which case we'd stop in Nashville, or Knoxville, and head to Johnson city in the morning, stopping there for lunch, and doing an overnight rest, making it day two or three.
Day three or four (Monday or Tuesday): It's on to Medford, NJ, and my aunt Maureen, who hasn't met the baby yet either. That's a relatively short day, for flexibility.
Day four or five, (Tuesday or Wednesday): It's just a six hour ride from NJ to New Hampton, NH., or just a four and a half hour ride to my dads place in Weymouth, MA.
If we push, it gets us off the roads entirely before the snow starts Tuesday night... and gives us a day of flexibility if we have any problems, or if we want to take some time to visit with family, before the snow gets really bad on Wednesday night. If we relax, we're still off the road before things get bad on Wednesday night.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
So, I start the new job December 2nd with a few days in Chicago for orientation, and they're working on my first engagement already. I may be traveling right back out the following Monday to a client around DC.
Which leaves us with a difficult decision...
1. Wait to move to NH until I get a free week or so, living in AZ and flying to clients out of PHX in the mean time (which means we'll still need to move... find a six month short term rental; because we're 2 hours from the airport where we are now), then take a week PTO to do the move
2. Pack up and drive to Weymouth in the next few days, to be rested enough to fly to Chicago on Monday the 2nd.
After careful consideration we've chosen option number 2...
Which is going to be fun lemme tellya.
The GOOD news, is that we've been living out of one small room the last couple months, so it's a matter of hours to repack the truck and the trailer, and head on out.
The BAD news is that I need to put two new tires on the truck, and fix or replace a trailer tire (it's losing air... I'm probably going to do both; get a new tire, and get the old one repaired to serve as a second spare). I also need to do a full fluid change on the truck (and no, it's not something we can put off 'til after... I should have done it before the trip from Idaho to AZ), and I need to get my power steering rack inspected, because it's being wonky.
So the next few days are going to be crazy.
With a loaded trailer, it's a 4 day drive pushing hard, or a 5 day drive taking it easy... we're going to take it easy.
That means, in order to get to Weymouth in time to eat thanksgiving with my family, we need to leave Sunday morning at the latest.
... I swear, I'm not a masochist...
Thursday, November 14, 2013
We're working on a start date now.
At first it looked like they were shooting for December 2nd, but now they may need me to start as soon as the paperwork clears (maybe as soon as the middle/end of next week). They may need me on a clients site on the east coast, for December 2nd.
Either way, Mel and I really can't wait to get moving. We've been in a holding pattern for a good long while now, and we're both really looking forward to getting back on course.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The final interview today went well, and the hiring manager is making me an offer. It has to be approved by the CEO, but he expects that tomorrow or Friday, Monday at the latest.
Big changes in living situation coming, as said new job will have us moving back to New England. Eventually I can be based anywhere with a hub airport, but for at least the next year or two, they want me working in the east coast from DC north market.
So, we'll be moving to southern New Hampshire some time soon (as opposed to Boston... no income tax, more freedom, lower cost, less enraging stupidity).
Not sure yet when we'll move... I will start the job immediately and just fly out of Phoenix when necessary... we may still be in Phoenix for a few more months, or we may try to move in December.
That said, we're going to try to get back to Boston for Christmas no matter what (so the boy can have his first Christmas with the family).
I'll be a principal consultant, and as we build the team (they're trying to grow from 50 to 200 over the next two to three years) consulting manager; working primarily in governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and enterprise security architecture.
This of course is what I've been doing for a while, I'll just be doing it for a growth phase startup now.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
90 minutes to the airport, then 90 minutes IN the airport, then being fondled by the TSA, then a 55 minute flight (it would be shorter, but from PHX you basically climb out, then as soon as you finish climbing, you descend into LAS immediately... and all well under cruising speed... under 250 knots for much of it in fact) then 30 minutes getting out of the airport, to get a car or a hotel shuttle, then 20 minutes to the hotel... Call it 5 hours...
Or, a 381 mile drive (6-7 hours), hotel and mileage paid for by someone else...
Did I mention that yesterday was our 8th wedding anniversary?
...Hopefully a job offer, and a free anniversary trip to Vegas out of it?
...Yeah, no brainer.
So we packed up the kidlet, loaded up the truck, pointed it northwest, and boogied.
We took the "back way" through the western Arizona mountains (which are absolutely gorgeous by the way) and just relaxed, cruising and enjoying the scenery and the quiet.
... though surprisingly, we had 3g most of the way, even 4g... so no escaping the phone or email completely...
We hit town after almost exactly 7 hours (we made 3 stops, about 90 minutes total, for gas, food, and pictures. Actual drive time about 5.5 hours, net avg 69mph, gross avg 55mph), and watched a beautiful sunset on the way in to the hotel.
As if all that wasn't nice enough, when we were checking in I told the nice young man that we were here for our anniversary, and that it was Mels first trip to Vegas (she's driven through it, never stopped).... and he did something VERY nice...
He upgraded us to a nicer room (hot tub in the room... very nice), with a great view...
...and then he comped us a second night stay.
There are times I really love Vegas.
I meet with the hiring manager in the morning. Mean time, we're relaxing and enjoying ourselves.
The Mirage has a Carnegie deli... Mels never had a REAL New York Deli Sandwich... we're correcting that now:
Update: This is the Las Vegas version of the Carnegie Deli pastrami and swiss on a kaiser. It's pretty damned good... it's not QUITE as large, and not QUITE as good as the real deal in NYC... but it's better than just about anything else (though I actually think pastrami club does better pastrami.. or at least did in the late 90s/early 2000s last time I was there).
He was just back from the hospital, having fallen down a flight of stairs and broken his wrist in 5 places.
He's gonna be out of work for a few days, and in painful recovery and rehab for a few months. He's in his 60s, and a master stonemason... Thankfully he's mostly a shop manager now, so it's not going to stop him from working, but still, ow.
I've been through three interviews with them, all went very well. Within a few minutes of the final interview they contacted me and said "the hiring manager is going to be in Vegas next week, can you go up and meet with him". Then they emailed back and said "oh and we're checking your references".
It's not 100% yet, and of course is contingent on background and reference check etc... but it looks like Wednesday morning I will be offered a job as a sr. architect and principal consultant for an information security consultancy and managed service provider.
They're based out of Chicago but have offices nationwide; and are in growth mode (currently around 50 people, targeting over 100 by end of 2014, and 150-200 by end of 2015).
They would initially want me to be based out of Boston or Seattle, but eventually I could go anywhere; and when I'm not on a client site (appx 25-50% travel generally, up to 75% at times) I can work from home.
We're still deciding what to do location wise... but if we went for Boston, we'd live in southern New Hampshire, with an official work location of my home office (no income tax that way).
I don't know what their exact offer is going to be, but we talked ranges and the money is in my range; with excellent benefits, and an ownership position and profit sharing.
Most importantly, I like the job, and I like the people, a lot; and they can really use someone with my skills and experience.
Anyway, Mel and I are driving up to Vegas today, staying overnight (on them of course), for my meeting with the hiring manager Wednesday morning.
Friday, November 01, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Since Y2K the Patriots have won 3 Super Bowls, the Red Sox have won 2 World Series, the Celtics won the NBA Championship, and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. In addition since 2000 Boston College won 4 NCAA Hockey Championships and Boston University added another.
The above doesn't even count this year's Red Sox team which is currently leading the World Series 3 games to 2 with the Series returning to Fenway Park.
...since Y2K every major sports team in Boston except the Red Sox has also lost in the finals of their sport. If the Red Sox end up losing you won't hear me complain. The team has already delivered way more than any fan had a right to expect his season.
Besides - given all that has happened in recent Boston sports who would have any sympathy for us? When it comes to sports opulence - we has it.The title of the post reflects the three primary success vectors of a game, and thus the primary missions of a game designer: player acquisition, engagement, and retention.
While they are important to any game, player acquisition is the most important success vector for "one shot" games (also called "standalone" games). These are games where you pay for the game up front, and then don't pay again, so it doesn't matter how long, or how often you play.
Of course, in these games, engagement is still important; because having a "good game" with an engaged user population means that you get good reviews and word of mouth, for a longer period of time; increasing your player acquisition (and thus sales).
With very good engagement, you may be able to create a franchise; thus increasing your success with other installments in the franchise (sequels, expansions etc...). However, in creating a franchise, you effectively change your standalone game into a persistent game.
Persistent games, are a somewhat different story. These are games where the player is expected to play many times, for an extended period, or both; and whose success depends on having a large player population These would include casino gaming (particular slot machines), free to play games (which earn money by either advertising or small in game premium purchases), "many replay" casual games (candy crush anyone?), and persistent world games like MMORPGs.
Both acquisition and retention are particularly critical to these games; and retention is achieved through engagement.
The way game designers accomplish these missions are with spectacle, and reward psychology (positive and negative reinforcement through anticipation, reward and penalty; with a very strong bias towards reward, leavened by the occasional penalty), particularly competitive reward psychology.
Something spectacular engages you for the duration of the spectacle. You are a passive participant. It attracts you, and fascinates you; but only for that moment. Retention requires maintaining engagement over time... becoming an active participant, either directly or as a metaparticipant.
So... what does that have to do with sports? Or with spectator sports fans in particular?
Simple... Sports fans are players in a metagame.
Spectator sport fandom, although passively received (the fan isn't an active participant in the games they are watching); isn't a passive, receptive, entertainment experience (like a movie or television).
However, much as television shows retain viewers by emotional engagement in the story (thus making them metaparticipants in the narrative); spectator sports retain fans by persistent emotional engagement with the sport, and particularly with their team (making them metaplayers in the game).
Sports fandom, is a kind of play by proxy; much as horse racing, and other betting games (roulette for example) where the players interaction with the game is not part of the gameplay. This makes it a metagame.
And metagames have the same success vectors as any other game.
One of the things that makes Boston sports fandom so... passionate and crazy I guess is the best way to put it... is that a Boston fan is being fed with a near perfect reward psychology cycle.
Boston teams win often enough (and often quite excitingly) to attract attention and generate spectacle. This acquires new fans (or brings back those whose engagement has weakened); and it presses the "happy button" in existing fans, engaging their reward pleasure mechanism.
Importantly though, Boston teams don't win so often that fans get victory fatigue, and need reward escalation to maintain engagement.
When they're NOT winning, Boston teams are rarely just mediocre... they tend to alternate between "oh God so close..." and "total abject failure" (at least psychologically if not objectively). It may seem counterintuitive, but this is actually far more engaging than consistent high performance or even consistent victory.
In terms of gaming theory, this 3 point cycle (victory, near victory, failure) helps create spectacle to attract and acquire participants; and helps create, reinforce, and increase engagement.
Very importantly, it also helps maintain engagement (and thus retention) by reducing victory fatigue, anticipation fatigue, and expectation escalation.
So... getting into that second and third part...
Retention is achieved through continued engagement. When engagement is weakened or broken, you lose participants (gamers, fans).
Engagement is created, reinforced, and increased; with spectacle, novelty, fascination, and competitive reward psychology as described above.
Engagement is weakened or broken and you lose participants (gamers, fans) through frustration, demoralization, boredom, and fatigue.
So, the challenge is to maintain or increase engagement over time.
In general, you deal with boredom and fatigue, through novelty. Change things up, so that a participants experience, expectations, and emotional engagement with the game are maintained, and thus they are retained.
I mentioned victory fatigue above, but didn't define it, I should probably define the three elements of "game fatigue" now.
Victory fatigue is what happens when a player receives too many rewards, or wins too much too easily. This tends to cause boredom, and frustration; because the rewards no longer feel like rewards. This weakens or breaks engagement.
In an interactive game you can deal with victory fatigue (and to a lesser extent anticipation fatigue) by varying gameplay (introducing new and different ways of earning rewards) increasing challenge (NOT just increasing difficulty, though that is one way of doing so), increasing penalty for failure (though you can't do that too much or you break engagement through frustration and demoralization), varying rewards (making the rewards new, interesting, and different), or by increasing intensity or spectacle (making the rewards bigger or more desirable). These mechanisms keep the players anticipation and pre-reward engagement high, and their reward pleasure mechanisms responding strongly to the rewards.
In most spectator sports however, you don't have those mechanisms available to you (or they are severely limited). The difficulty and rewards do escalate somewhat over the course of a season, but are basically fixed year to year (win a game, win a conference, win a division, win a playoff game, win a championship game). So, frequent and consistent victories, particularly championships, result in expectation escalation.
The three major expectations to this issue of fixed challenge and fixed rewards by the way, are motor racing, premiership style football (soccer), and NCAA football and basketball. Not surprisingly, the first two are the two most popular spectator sports in the world; and the third creates a degree of unreasoning passion far greater than any other sports in America.
Anticipation fatigue is a more interesting issue. When you get that "so close" feeling too much, it actually tends to discourage and disappoint you, which increases frustration and breaks engagement i.e. "they get our hopes up every time then disappoint us every time... what's the point".
Expectation escalation, is what happens when performance or rewards consistently exceed expectations (or consistently exceed the mean performance of a peer group).This causes people to "reset" their emotional expectation of what poor, acceptable, and excellent are, such that their median level of performance, even if it is objectively far better than average, is simply "expected".
So, a team that wins 80% of the time, year after year, will eventually be expected to do so. If that team starts to win consistently less than 80%, even if they are still better than most teams and win 60% of the time; the emotional reaction of their fans will be the same as if they had objectively poor performance, rather than simply "less good".
Lesser success can feel like failure, when you're used to greater success.
Cycling between "not quite great", and "really bad" (even if "really bad" is actually mediocre statistically, the victories and near victories redefine emotional expectations such that mediocre FEELS like abject failure), actually creates and reinforces engagement, and passion; far more, and far more intensely, than consistently high performance.
This by the way, is the exact same reinforcement cycle that creates and reinforces addiction. Reward (the high), anticipation (the process up to the high), and penalty (the come down and the jones).
So... for Boston fans, it's like vegas slot machine designers were controlling things for optimum fan acquisition, engagement, and retention.
It's an almost perfect metagame... arising without design... which is kinda neat.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Many libertarians... and these days many conservatives... have a problem with public education.
I'm one of them.
But unlike a lot of libertarians, I don't have a problem with the CONCEPT of public education... or at least publicly FUNDED education.
Public education, truly is (or should be) a public good, and is of significant benefit to all in society. A free society, that respects the rights and liberties of all, requires an intelligent, educated, and productive populace. History has shown that a poorly educated populace is the largest step down the road to tyranny.
So, I have no problem with the concept of publicly funded education.
I have a HUGE problem with the execution.
Or rather, I have a number of huge problems with the execution.
Like the fact that at least 3/4 of the dollars spent on "education" don't end up in the classroom.
Like the fact that DC public schools spend $29,409 per student (for the 2009-2010 school year. 2012 info in the link below) yet are among the worst in the country.
More money won't fix the problems.
Every additional dollar we spend on education, gets soaked up by the large mass of the public education industrial complex rather than actually being spent on educating students. Just like with federal financial aid for college... the more dollars the feds pump in, the more the schools raise their tuitions.
Oh and lest my liberal friends think the source for that almost $30k number is biased, here's Huffpo talking about how D.C. lied and said they only spent $18k per student in 2012 when in fact they spent $28k... HUFFPO...
From that same article, you can see class size is NOT the problem. Staffing is NOT the problem.
In D.C. public schools (which have among the highest teacher and administrator salaries in the country), there are 11 students per teacher...
11? What about the "if republicans had their way there would be 40 students per teacher" crap? about "Our classes are so big students can't hear the teacher?" Absolute garbage. Pure fraud.
The 50 state average for public school spending today is $12,500. Many states spend double that. DC is spending almost $30,000 a year.
Most private schools don't cost that... Sidwell friends, the most exclusive high end private school in D.C. costs about that much actually...
Public education in this country is not UNDERfunded... it's MISfunded. The money isn't going where it needs to go. It's subsidizing failure, and punishing success.
You probably won't notice anything that's worse, and you probably WILL notice a few things are a little better... and a couple things that are a LOT better.
Those couple things are the finder (tabbed finder FTW), the activity monitor (WAY more useful now), much better power management (a little to a LOT longer battery life, and less fan time at lower speeds; though they still don't allow granular control over sleep and hibernation. I use SleepLess for that), the slightly less irritating notifications; and the slightly to considerably lower cpu, memory, and power usage, in high overhead situations (when you've got lots of stuff open and idle in the background).
It also seems to boot a tiny bit quicker, and the virtual memory access patterns seem a bit better (my disk I/O indicators aren't flashing as much in low-medium workload situations). Scratch that... after a few hours, my virtual memory utilization is WAY better, as is my overall memory utilization and management.
Oh and multi-monitor setups are WAY better and more useful now, particularly if you're using an HDTV as a monitor.
I use Chrome and Firefox not Safari... if Google would make a native OSX 64 bit Chrome that would support appnap and sleeping idle plugins and tabs... that would be really nice. Until then... meh.
Also, iWork for free with new Macs.. cool I guess... I don't use it, again, can't give my opinion
Oh one bad thing...
On my wife's mid 2010 13" MBP the install was so slow, with so little feedback (it stayed at "about 7 minutes remaining" for over 20 minutes), that I thought it had frozen, and I restarted it. It turns out it was just in the middle of uncompressing a REALLY large file, and it took like 15 minutes to do so.
I figured it out because my early 2011 top end 15" MBP uncompressed the file in like 5 minutes and then moved on. So I started the install over on the 13" and watched the install log. I let it keep running and eventually it finished the install just fine.
Actually two things...
Downloading it sucked. It took 2 days to download 5 gigs, and I had to restart the download multiple times. Mac Appstore downloads in general are slow and glitchy, especially for apps over a few hundred megs.
Oh and a feature request...
Apple, next time include a free program... in fact make it an option in the installer... to create an installation USB drive or somesuch?
I have no problem donwloading a third party app (DiskMaker X works great), using a commandline hack, or extracting the install image from the app and imaging it onto a USB drive... but I'm a technology professional. Most people don't know how to do it, and they don't want to have to download 5 gigs for every computer they own, or when their computer dies have to download the OS again from the recovery console (allowing a reload from disk there would be nice too).
Thursday, October 24, 2013
...And even then it will be cracked, because GPU based cracking and cracking method optimization, have reduced the time required to crack the entire passwordspace for most passwords down to a matter of minutes, or at worst hours.
According to several recent articles in various industry publications and websites, approximately 85% of all Windows passwords can be recovered in less than 60 minutes, and more than 90% within 24 hours, using only a single multi-core cpu, multi-gpu computer (basically a high end gaming rig).
Using small clusters of multi-cpu many-gpu systems (basically, spend $20,000 on off the shelf hardware) the entirety of the 8 character Windows passwordspace (all possible 0-8 character Windows passwords) can be cracked in a few days, or less.
With the computing power available today, the only useful thing high password complexity does, is make your password harder for a human to guess.
...Unfortunately, the bad part is, that also makes it harder to remember, and harder to enter.
Here's the level of minimum password complexity that is actually useful:
8 or more characters, not forming any dictionary word or combination of words (including letter substitutions), and including at least one special character.
Anything else is just making your users life more difficult, without actually making them any more secure in the real world.
Ok, so... why is this the "useful level of complexity" ?
Because in the real world, an 8 character password, without any dictionary words or variants on dictionary words, and including at least one special character, requires a cracker to use the entire characterspace to crack your password.
Wait... what? No, that's wrong isn't it? There's 128 ASCII characters, or 255 in the extended character set right? Upper and lower case alphabetic characters, numerals 0-9 and a whole bunch of "special characters"... All of those can be used in passwords right?
Well, yes, theoretically the possible characterspace is 255 characters (or 256 for ISO-8859/UTF-8 encodings).
In reality, it's not. First thing is that most password systems don't allow the entire 8 bit characterspace.
While it is theoretically possible to use the entire 8 bit U.S. character set (extended ASCII or UTF-8) in a password (or even to use a multibyte character set), it requires special keyboard codes, and these characters are difficult to enter. Further, most mobile devices do not allow you to enter characters other than those on the standard keyboard (or make it very difficult to do so).
There are 94 or 95 characters available on a standard US keyboard (depending on whether you count the nonbreaking space i.e. the space bar): 10 numerals, 32/33 special characters, and 52 letters (upper and lower case).
By the by, these are generally referred to as the "printable characters", with the remaining characters referred to as "non-printable".
Even if you wanted to use them, accepting that they are difficult to enter and mobile devices may not be able to enter them at all... most password systems exclude unprintable characters, leaving a maximum of 95 possible characters.
For those password systems which allow the non-printable character set, they generally limit passwords to the 7 bit basic ASCII character set (or sometimes ANSI-1 or UTF-7, which are technically different, but include the same characters), which is 128 characters.
... but no-one does.
Even computing systems that accept large character sets for text input (those supporting the Chinese GB18030 standard for example, or a full implementation of UTF-32, with over 1.1 million possible characters), generally only accept a limited subset of characters (usually UTF-8) for passwords (because you can't guarantee compatibility with large character sets across all hardware and software combinations).
So yes, the theoretically possible characterspace is actually many more than 255 characters, but the 95 keyboard characters comprises the entirety of the passwordspace most people might actually use.
Oh and many password systems exclude some or all of the characters !@&*$?/|\ and almost all password systems exclude the nonbreaking space (the space bar), because they can cause problems with parsing. Some actually exclude all special characters, but this is rare now.
What it comes down to, is that the "normal" characterspace is 94 characters.
That would seem to make it even MORE important to use case shift, and numerals; as they comprise 38% of the available characters.
In theory just using lowercase and special characters takes 36 of those 94 characters out, meaning that crackers only need to use 72% of the characterspace to crack your password.
...In theory, it would be better to make them need to use 100%...
...but in reality it doesn't work that way.
Okay... why doesn't more complexity increase security?
At this point, the computational power of multi-gpu cracking system, is enough so that in any serious cracking run, crackers can include the entire alphanumeric space without undue penalty; so including numbers and case changes can help a bit, but not much.
The first cracking run on a password will be optimized for high speed, and will include an optimized dictionary, and tables of common dictionary variations and substitutions (substituting 3 for E, @ or 0 for O etc...). Combined with a full lowercase alpha only run, that only takes a few minutes, to at most a few hours, for the entire 0-8 character passwordspace.
From there, crackers go to brute force, with or without optimizations. The first thing they're going to do is add in the full alphanumeric space, before they add in special characters; and any run that includes special characters will therefore almost certainly include mixed case and numerals.
That means that in a bruteforce attack, whether you included mixed case and numerals in your password or not, the cracker will still try all of them as if you did, and therefore it will take just as long to crack your password as if you did include them.
Yeah, it MIGHT take longer to bruteforce your password if you've got all 3... but your password is going to be one in a hundred, or a thousand, or a million, the cracker is trying to crack all at once; and they're going to run the entire mixed case alphanumeric space, before they even start adding special characters.... and these days "longer" is a few hours, or at most a couple days, not "more than 30 days".
So, unless your password policy is that users change their passwords every week (and that would be a huge support nightmare, causing more lost productivity than any value doing so might provide)... adding any more complexity doesn't significantly increase the security of a password; but does significantly increase the trouble to your users.
Include more complexity if you want to... but don't make it a requirement.
My personal recommendation for how to create good passwords?
Using the first or last letter of each word (or better, both the first AND last letter) in a phrase, poem stanza, song lyric, or other memorable passage, combined with special characters; is generally a good way of producing a pseudorandom non-dictionary string that is of sufficient length to provide reasonable security, but which you can still actually remember.
Include more than one special character, and don't make the specials ONLY the first, last, or middle/joining characters in the password. Also, don't make the only special characters you use, common letter substitutions like $ for S, ! for I etc...
All of these are common optimizations which crackers use to reduce the time it takes to bruteforce a password by the way. Not doing them forces the cracker to bruteforce the entire passwordspace, not just the MUCH reduced optimized space.
Going to more than 8 characters is actually useful, if the password system doesn't drop or ignore the extra characters (many do).
More than 16 characters generally isn't useful for a pseudorandom password, because 16 characters using the 94 character passwordspace, is essentially uncrackable at this time (it's computationally infeasible within a reasonable time horizon). Really any complex pseudorandom password with 12 characters or more is likely to remain computationally infeasible for at least 10 years.
Telephone company studies to determine the ideal length of phone numbers, figured out that human beings are pretty good at remembering strings of 1, 2, 3, and 4 characters, and combinations of those strings (2+3=5, 3+4=7, 3+3+4=10 etc...); with 3 and 4 character strings being the easiest to remember due to something they called "memory chunking" (the human memory seems to run 4/4 time).
Those same studies showed that humans are generally bad at remembering strings of other lengths, more than 4 strings total, and more than 13 characters total (with optimal recall at 3 or fewer strings, and 10 or fewer total characters).
Given that, I say make your passwords 9-12 characters long, with at least two special characters. You can improve your password strength dramatically with every additional character up to 16, but you trade off on memorability.
The standard recommendation is to use a different password for every account; but given the huge number of accounts people often have these days, it seems unrealistic to expect them to remember that many different passwords.
One solution is to use a password manager, which will create a unique strong password for every account, and store them, requiring you only to enter the strong password you created for the password manager itself.
Another solution is to create unique strong passwords for your high security impact accounts (those with banking, credit, legal, and healthcare impact for example), and then to have several other passwords that you use for other security levels, having just one for each level, but changing them at least every 90 days.
Whatever you do, it's always a tradeoff between length and complexity (increased entropy), and memorability and easy of entry.
Speaking of length and memorability... passphrases?
If the password system in question doesn't drop or ignore characters beyond 8, 12, 16 etc... you can also use longer passphrases instead of pseudorandom passwords.
At first glance, this would seem to be an easy way to have a memorable password that is still very long; which is true, but there are some major issues with passphrases that make each character in added length of much less value than in a pseudorandom password.
Multi word phrases using common dictionary words are less secure for an equivalent length, than pseudorandom passwords with special characters, simply because the possible solutionspace for each is very different.
With an 8 character password, in a 94 character passwordspace, there are 6,095,689,385,410,816 possible combinations of characters. There are only about 30,000 8 letter words.
There are between 250,000 and 400,000 words in the english language (depending on what words you count and whose estimates you believe). The average English speaker however only knows 20-40,000 words, and only uses about 2000-4000 words regularly.
Further, English words exhibit very strong letter frequency patterns, which are well understood in statistical analysis (in fact that understanding is critical for cryptanalysis). For example, the average english word is 5 letters long, and more than 80% of english words contain at least two of 6 most common consonants, and at least one of the vowels e, i, or a.
Reducing the dictionary set to common words of 8 letters or fewer, brings your wordspace down from 400,000 to something like 100,000.
These characteristics dramatically reduce the total entropy of passphrases; and dictionary optimized bruteforcing, based on common words, and english letter frequency, can be many orders of magnitude faster than a straight bruteforce.
Essentially, each word in a passphrase provides less than the entropy of a pair of pseudorandom characters.
In fact, given the reduction in entropy inherent in using dictionary words; if you are going to use a passphrase without increasing the complexity, I would recommend at least 8 words and at least 32 characters (not including the non-breaking space. Longer words are better).
... which really means you should be increasing the complexity.
The first and most basic thing, is to use at least one word 8 characters or longer, preferably an uncommon one (say... antidisestablishmentarianism for example). This makes the wordspace required to crack your passphrase DRAMATICALLY larger (the average English word is 4.5 characters long. Going from 4-5 character words to an 8 character word increases the cracking space from around 40,000 to over 150,000 words).
Passphrases should include as much of the full 94 character passwordspace as possible; using mixed case, multiple special characters (punctuation is good for that, but because spacing between words is common, it has a lower expected value than other special characters), and if it is easy to remember, and makes sense, numerals. Also, using a special character substitution in more than one word here provides a dramatic increase in entropy that is very worthwhile, particularly if it's not a common substitution.
I would also recommend replacing (os letter substitution with) one or more dictionary words in the phrase with a pseudorandom string. For example, use the first two and/or last two words of the phrase to create a pseudorandom string with the first and last letters.
Increasing word complexity and adding pseudorandom strings to a passphrase of any length more than 5 words or more, and at least 20 characters should make it functionally impossible to bruteforce.
Common words of 3 characters or fewer are actually easier to bruteforce than single additional pseudorandom characters. So you want to average at least 4 characters per word... preferably 5 or more (more than the average word length).
Oh and as spacing is predictable in standard English phrases, make it unpredictable. This results in combination words that together are harder to brute force than the multiple individual words with spaces would be.
Basically... if your pass phrase includes "the" and "end" you should make sure that you've got two 6 letter words in there and make it something like "Always-beTTer intheenD!" (which would be functionally impossible to bruteforce any time in the forseeable future).
At that point you have the same entropy as a pseudorandom string of the same length... it's just easier to remember.
Friday, October 18, 2013
You can't fairly characterize doing what they always intended to do, and everyone who knew anything about the situation other than slogans knew they were going to do in the first place, "caving".
This whole "shutdown" exercise was nothing more than a PR and fundraising exercise for the 70% or so of each party who have completely safe seats; and an attempt to "challenge from the right", the 15% or so Republican seats that are completely safe for the party, but for whom the voters may be persuaded to choose a different Republican.
This is not to say that U.S. federal debt isn't a serious problem, of COURSE it is... just that no-one in Washington was ever going to try to actually do anything about it.
To do so would require cutting spending; and regardless of what voters claim to be for, very few of them would stomach actual cuts to actual programs they like or approve of "only those unnecessary things the other guy likes".
Congress is not there to govern, they are there to acquire and spend money, in order to get votes. If you don't understand this by now... you probably shouldn't bother reading the rest of this.
They are SUPPOSED to be there to govern yes, but they pretty much gave up on that, some time between February 3rd, and May 31st, 1913 (look it up).
So, to be clear, the alternatives here were not "raising the debt ceiling" or "cutting spending"... because no-one was ever even approaching the idea of making meaningful cuts in spending.
The alternatives were "raising the debt ceiling", and "continuing to manipulate the currency and using accounting tricks to pretend that we aren't raising the debt ceiling".
Oh yeah... the fourth option there, "government default" wasn't ever going to happen either. The likely consequence of the federal government defaulting on debt right now, would be a global financial panic followed by a global depression.
Ok... so, given that what's the basic situation right now?
As of today, the U.S. federal debt stands at $16.75 trillion USD, and increasing about 2.7 billion every day. We've actually technically been over the debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion for about 4 months, but we've been using accounting tricks to avoid "officially" breaking it.
Right now, we're taking in about $14 billion per day, and spending about $17 billion per day.
That's in direct spending of course, and doesn't cover unfunded liabilities (those are MUCH larger).
Given today's "budget" (we haven't had an actual budget in 4 years, just long series of continuing resolutions and special appropriations... but that's another post) they're going to have to increase the debt ceiling 1.6 trillion to get us through another year.
So, this time next year expect the debt to be $18.3 trillion.
How exactly did we get here?
The short version?
Spending more than we took in... in some years only a little more, in a couple years slightly less, but in many years FAR more than we took in.
The long version is very long... but I think very illustrative and useful to know.
The LOOONG version
Ok guys this is a really long post full of mostly numbers. If you want the upshot, it's at the end. But if you would like to know just how much we've been screwed, and just exactly who did the screwing... Well, the devil is in the details.
First, the earth cooled, then Woodrow Wilson came
The U.S. Federal Debt ceiling was originally established in 1917 as a check against war spending for WW1.
WW1 was a war most of us didn't want to be in in the first place. Woodrow Wilson basically defrauded the country to force us into it, because he wanted to have the whip hand in post war negotiations to fulfill his grand design of a "league of nations".
With the debt ceiling legislation, congress were in theory, trying to keep the war spending under control, and to keep it from becoming a much larger war (and specifically to keep us from bailing out the British, French, and Belgians financially, or taking on the majority of the warfighting and war materials procurement).
In practice, they didn't actually do much to control the costs (though we did stay the "minority partner" in the war, as the U.S. electorate, and congress, intended; much to Wilsons disappointment).
In 1917, the debt ceiling was set at $13.5 billion dollars ($247 billion in 2013 dollars). It was quickly raised through the course of the war to $43.5 billion in 1919 ($590 billion).
That's more than doubling the debt in 2 years.
From 1919 through 1941, it grew to 50 billion ($800 billion). That even including the government spending of the "New Deal" years, which far exceeded our depression diminished revenues every year.
Between the wars debt grew considerably, but not at a ridiculous rate... about 30% in real terms, in 22 years. That's not all that bad considering the government growth after the 16th and 17th amendments, and particularly the post WW1 expansion of the executive branch (thanks again Wilson), and then the mother of all government wealth transfer programs, "the new deal".
Then World War II happened
From 1941 to 1945, US federal debt rapidly increased, from $50 billion ($800 billion), to $300 billion (4 trillion).
So, in 28 years, and two world wars, U.S. federal debt multiplied by a factor of 16; and in 4 of those years, it multiplied by a factor of 5.
That's a lot of debt... but hey, wars are expensive right?
Well, for the next 18 years, the debt stayed almost completely flat... actually it was reduced several times. It stayed around the 300 billion mark from 1945 all the way to 1963.
1963 was both the last time it was reduced, and the last time it was at 300 billion. However, because of inflation, that wasn't actually flat debt; it was in fact a significant reduction from 1945s $4 trillion 2013 dollars, down over 40% to $2.3 trillion 2013 dollars.
That's still 4 times the debt at the end of World War 1 of course.
Oh and by the by... throughout this explanation I'm going to use the debt limit, and the actual federal debt, as if they were the same thing... because for all but 8 years during this time period, they WERE the same thing. We have generally run either just under, or actually in most years jsut OVER the debt limit, but used accounting tricks to seem like we were under it.
Wars are expensive yes, but through the Viet Nam years, federal debt grew far slower as a percentage than it had during WW1 or WW2.
It took 'til 1967 to get to $350bb ($2.45tt), and 1970 to get to 400bb (2.41tt); really a very small increase from 1963... and again, still a significant reduction from the end of WW2.
Overall, there was a less than 5% constant dollar growth in the debt through the entire 1960s; and that is coming off of a large drop in the debt from the end of WW2.
Now, inflation started rising rapidly from 1968, particularly from 1970-1984, so you can't really compare the raw year to year numbers from here. You need to compare the inflation adjusted numbers from here on out.
We hit $450bb in '72 ($2.51tt), $500bb in '74 ($2.371tt), $600bb in '75 ($2.608tt)... You can see again, slow growth or even shrinkage in constant dollar terms.
We hit $700bb in '76 ($2.9tt), $800bb in '78($2.9tt), 900bb in '79 ($2.9tt), and 935bb in '80 ($2.7tt), a big jump from '75 to '76, but then flat to a even a small reduction for 2 years.
Note, that was during the Carter administration, with a Dem controlled house and senate.
During the entire 1970s, we increased the debt by about 25% in constant dollar terms.
Then we hit
...the Reagan years...
Except the Reagan years really weren't the Reagan years; they were really the Tip O'neil years (speaker of the house from 1977 to 1987).
Everyone remembers Reagan as a big spender on the military... because he was, but also because that was the media portrayal of him, but they forget that for every dollar Reagan got added to the military, O'neill and the democrats got $2-3 added to other government spending; and Howard Baker and Bob Dole (the Republican Senate majority leaders from 1981 through 1986) were happy to go along with it.
In 1981, the U.S. federal debt hit $1 trillion for the first time, ending the year at $1.1 trillion ($2.83 trillion)... but in constant dollar terms, that was actually less than 1979, and only slightly more than 1980.
Really it's not all that much more than 1963... only about 22%, in a period where population had doubled, military spending had quintupled, social security had jumped from insignificant to 15% of the budget.
It took 'til 1983 to get to $1.5tt ($3.5tt), and then to '85 for $2tt ($4.35tt), just two years to double the debt in absolute terms. Though that was "only a 22%" increase in constant dollars; that's almost exactly the same amount the debt increased from 1963 to 1983 in constant dollars.
20 years debt in 2 years. Way to go guys.
Post 1984 inflation slowed dramatically, so the constant dollar differentials year to year are considerably less.
Oh and for you history buffs, 1985 was the year we equalled, then exceeded, our national debt levels at the end of World War 2 (in constant dollars).
So... we come to 1986 and at $2.3tt, we manage to double the 1966 debt, at $4.9 trillion in 2013 dollars (though only a 12% year over year increase from '85).
In '87 we went to 2.8tt (5.8tt) a 20% increase from '86, but managed to not increase the debt ceiling in '88... Unfortunately we made up for it in '89 moving up to $3.1tt ($6tt).
So, across the Reagan years, we went from $1 trillion ($2.83tt) to $3.2 trillion ($6.1tt)... More than tripling the debt in absolute dollars, and more than doubling it in constant dollars (117% to be exact)
Hmm... 40% debt shrinkage in the '50s, 5% debt growth in the 60s, 25% in the '70s... 120% in the '80s.
.. well, at least we slowed inflation down...
And hey, we're getting into the '90s right? I mean yeah there was the '89 to '91 recession... and the first gulf war... but then there was the peace dividend and the .dot com boom, and the "surplus"... the '90s were prosperous years... we had surpluses... we shouldn't have increased the debt too much in the '0s right?
In 1990 alone, we increased our federal debt from $3.1tt ($6tt) to $4.2tt ($7.5tt) a 30% absolute increase, and a 25% constant dollar increase.
In constant dollars, that's also more than triple the 1960 debt
...and more than triple the 1970 debt...
...and more than triple the 1980 debt...
Once again... way to go guys...
But, by some miracle, during an incredibly expensive but incredibly short war, we managed not to increase our debt for 3 years... The entire rest of the first Bush presidency in fact.
On that one, seriously, way to go GHW Bush.
But we started spending again the second Clinton was elected, and by the end of 1993 had increased the debt to $4.9 trillion dollars ($7.9 trillion in 2013 dollars).
Then we had our "surplus years"... all two of them (actually we never really had a surplus, but they made it look like we did by ignoring a bunch of stuff and some accounting tricks... it WAS however the closest we had actually come to a balanced budget since 1958, when we started using the social security taxes as part of the general revenues). We didn't increase the debt ceiling during 1994 and '95..
... but again we made up for it in 1996 by increasing it to $5.5tt ($8.2tt) and '97 to $6tt ($8.8tt).
Then the Republicans got serious... for a second... and we managed not to raise the debt ceiling again until 2002.. when the NEXT war started.
So, we went from a 120% debt increase in the '80s, down to a... 50% increase in the 1990s...
Those were the "surplus" years? The "peace dividend"? Really?
Yeah... not so good...
Bush the younger
Now, all you Bush haters... all you folks claiming Bushes spending is what ruined us etc... etc...
In the first 18 months of George W. Bush's presidency we increased the U.S. federal debt exactly...
We didn't increase the debt ceiling at all from '97 'til late 2002
Then, as I said, the NEXT middle eastern war happened. And, as we know from earlier, wars are expensive.
Now, if you like, you can blame Bush for the wars... Though really, no matter who was president, we were probably going to have a war in Afghanistan, and a war in Iraq during the 2000s was a near inevitability as well. They certainly could have been run better and been over quicker however.In 2002 we increased the debt to $6.7tt ($8.71tt), a $700 billion, or 12% absolute increase from 1997...
Only in constant dollar terms, guess what...
It was actually a $100 billion dollar decrease.
In 2003 we went up to $7.4 trillion (9.4tt), another $700 billion increase... both in absolute and constant dollars since inflation was pretty much flat.
In 2004 it was an $800 billion increase to $8.2tt ($10.1tt) and again inflation was pretty flat.
These numbers by the way, are also the approximate annual costs of the war.
We didn't increase the debt during 2005... which was actually our highest spend year of the war in absolute dollars by the way; and in 2006 increase it another $800 billion to $9 trillion ($10.4tt), but inflation had increased so it was only a $300 billion constant dollar increase.
... though I should point out, the INCREASE in debt from 2004 to 2006, was 20% more than the ENTIRE debt in 1917 (in constant dollars)
... and the increase in previous years was more than the entire debt in 1941, at the outbreak of World War 2.
In 2007 we went up another... hey it's our friend $800 billion ($900bb) again... to $9.8 trillion ($11.1tt), another $700bb in constant dollars.
And in 2008... yup, another $800 billion to $10.6 trillion ($11.9tt), which was also an $800bb constant dollar increase.
Again, these numbers correspond roughly to the annual cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So for Bush BEFORE the 2008 financial crash we went from $8.8 trillion to $11.9 trillion increase, while fighting two wars, about 35%.
Not spectacular... but a hell of a lot better than it could have been
Except that in the last few months of the Bush presidency, we increased the debt another $700 billion, for the "bailout", bringing us to $11.3 trillion or $12.3trillion in constant dollars.
$8.8 trillion to $12.3 trillion... about 40%.
And finally we reach...
Yaknow... I'm not even going to bother going year by year for this guy.
Barack Obama was sworn into office on January 20th 2009.
It's October 18th 2013.
That's 4 years, and 10 months. Let's round up to be generous call it 5 years.
In less than 5 years, under this president and this congress, we have increased our debt from $11.9 trillion to $16.8 trillion. Actually a bit more without the accounting tricks.
So... 5 trillion more or less.
Bush pushed the debt up 3.9 trillion in 8 years, or just about $500 billion a year.
Obama pushed the debt up 5 trillion in 5 years... about $1 TRILLION a year.
In constant dollar terms, that's more debt INCREASE every year than we had TOTAL before December 7th 1941.
In constant dollars it's 60% MORE THAN THE ENTIRETY OF WORLD WAR 2
Minute by minute...
As I am writing this, Obama has been president for 4 years, 271 days, 17 hours, 48 minutes, and 10 seconds.
That's 1733 days, 17 hours, 48 minutes, and 10 seconds.
That's 41,609 hours, 48 minutes, and 10 seconds.
That's 2,496,588 minutes, and 10 seconds.
That's 149,795,290 seconds.
That's a $33,378.89 increase in the U.S. federal debt EVERY SINGLE SECOND HE HAS BEEN PRESIDENT.
That's $2,002,733.40 every minute.
That's $120,164,004.00 every hour.
This guy has 3 years, 93 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes, and 50 seconds left to be president.
At this rate, that's another $3.5 trillion dollars.
Oh and in the decade of the 2000s, we went from $8.8 trillion to $13.5 trillion constant dollars; about 55% growth.
From 2010 to today, 3.8 years, we've increased the debt from from $13.5 trillion to 16.8 trillion or $3.3 trillion. Basically $900 billion a year more or less. So, we're on track to finish the 2010s at $22.2 trillion in constant dollars.
... To put it another way, in 2017, 100 years after the debt ceiling was first written into law; we will have increased our debt to approximately 100 times what it was in 1917.
The 2010a are on track to go from $13.5 trillion to $22.2 trillion is an $8.7 trillion increase, or about 65%
The final breakdown, decade by decade
40% debt shrinkage in the '50s
5% debt growth in the 60s
25% debt growth in the '70s
120% debt growth in the '80s
50% debt growth in the 90s
55% debt growth in the 2000s
65% debt growth in the 2010s (projected)
Well... to simplify, and to keep things more comparable, let's keep it post WW2. As it happens, debt stayed relatively constant in absolute dollars from 1945 to 1963 (though dropped in constant dollars), and 1963 was the last time the debt ceiling actually decreased... plus it's 50 years, a good round number... Let's take it from 1963.
Total debt growth in the last 50 years, in constant dollar terms?
Debt went from $2.3 trillion, to 16.8 trillion, a multiple of 7.3.
In 1963, the debt to GDP ratio was about 40%.
In 2013, the debt to GDP ratio is 101%
In 1963 the U.S. population estimate was 189,241,798
In 1963 the per capita U.S. federal debt was $12,153.76
In 1963, the mean salary for a full time worker was appx. $44,000
In 1963 the federal debt to personal income ratio about 28%
--all constant dollars. Note these are means not medians.
In 2013 the U.S. population estimate is 316,882,000
In 2013 the per capita U.S. Federal debt is $53,016.58
In 2013 the mean salary for a full time worker is appx. $47,000
In 2013 the federal debt to personal income ratio is about 115%
Note: If you take it by median individual income it's about twice as bad (the mean full time is only full time workers between 18 and 65. The median individual income includes the unemployed, retired, part time workers, under 18 and over 65 etc...).
So, our debt has increased by a factor of more than seven; and our per capita debt has more than quadrupled, as has our debt to income ratio.
... and yet... some people say "we aren't doing enough, spending enough..."
Thursday, October 17, 2013
CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #422Doctor:
Your adrenals are under-functioning, your thyroid is flat-lining, your pituitary is DOA, your testosterone levels are below those of a twelve year-old girl, and your body is sadly lacking in almost all the critical enzymes that make life possible.
Give it to me straight, Doc. Don't pussyfoot.My doc said pretty much the same thing to me.
So, to Chuck Lorre I say... enjoy the music: