A fresh start?

So I'm thinking of moving away from LJ. Every time I glance at my ad blocker, there are an uncomfortably-large number of advertising and tracking companies in the list, and I'm a permanent(!) user. I shudder to think what free users have to put up with.

I'd probably move to Dreamwidth, or maybe to my own site, but I really like how commenting just isn't an issue on large sites. Those of you still reading, where do you spend most of your writing time nowadays? Do you still blog/journal/etc.?

Another advantage to Dreamwidth is that I can mirror back to LJ -- anyone still here can continue reading with no effort (literally, since I make approximately zero posts a year right now :/).

I'm also not really sure if I should import my LJ to wherever I move to, or archive it and start with a fresh slate. I'm leaning toward a fresh slate but I can see advantages to both. Thoughts?

-- Des

2012: Ramp It Up

It’s that time of the year again -- another year has passed, and as usual, I don’t finish reflecting on it until the first 3 months of the following year have gone by.

>>> How did I do in 2012?

  • Make my hands pain-free. I’m not totally pain-free, but I’m close enough that I’m willing to call this one “done”. I can accomplish all my daily tasks with a low, manageable level of pain, and that level stays constant over time.

  • Exercise more and stay healthy. I really haven’t done this. I’ve done some research, and there’s very little standing in the way except motivation and time. But I need to get off my butt and do it. This one’s “not done”.

  • Work on my people skills. This is an ongoing task and there is always room for improvement. I keep learning new things about people, especially through my relationship with R. This one is “eternally ongoing”.

  • Buy a house. Once I got my hands under control, I started looking in earnest. It’s been a long and harrowing process. This is still “in progress”, and I expect I’ll be the (proud?) owner of my own living space sometime in 2013.

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>>> Overall

If I had to sum up my feelings over the past year in a word, I think that word would be "driven". (I asked R that same question, and his suggestion for me was "stressed".) I feel like I have been falling behind in some intangible way, which isn't really true, but it still serves as a strong motivator to keep my butt moving on things I want to accomplish.

I expect 2013 will be much the same. I fully expect to buy a house, and once I have done that, a lot more things will get easier -- I'll have more time to focus on the other important stuff like my friendships and relationship, and on my health and the things I want to do in this life. There's no reason I can't be doing those things now, of course, but I always seem to be bad at maintaining any semblance of balance. ;-)

That, too, has been a source of stress for us. I'm not always the best at paying attention when I have something else on my mind. I often focus on one thing for long periods, to the exclusion of other equally important things in my life. I need to learn to balance better, and I'm going to try to do that this year.

>>> Plans for 2013

  • Buy a house. Carried over from 2012. I’m really ready to have a nice, “grown-up” place I can call home for a long time to come--not just a bachelor pad. And I want it to be in the south bay.

  • Exercise a healthy amount. This one’s going back on the list, because yeah. I really need to do this. I’m getting older and more out of shape.

  • Reconnect with my friends. I've done a terrible job of staying in touch with some of you, and whatever the excuse, I want to do better this year. You all deserve that.

  • First release of Dryice. It’s time to create something real out of this long-held dream.

I have 4 goals again this year. If last year was any indication, 4 is an overly ambitious number, but I think I will be able to make a good start on all of them, if not finish a couple. I know I can buy a house, and once I've done that, I know I can spend more time with my friends. The others will take discipline and creativity, and they are much less of a sure thing.

But, I think I can do it, and right now that's what’s important. Let's find out, shall we?

Further Confusion was a thing

I've been pretty sour on conventions on in general lately, because I'm just not a big-crowd kind of person, and the whole furry thing has been less and less interesting to me of late. At this point, cons are mainly a way for me to see people who live far away, and whom I otherwise wouldn't get a chance to see.

That's mostly what I did at FC this year. I went to a few events, but for the most part I just wandered around, catching up with people. It was good, and there was almost no drama for me personally, although some people close to me had some drama (it's a furry con, after all).

Now that FC is at the San Jose Convention Center, it's gotten progressively more annoying to get there and to leave. I can't complain too much, since it really wouldn't fit anywhere else at this point, but logistics were definitely annoying and took up more time than I would have liked.

We were also double-booked with VolleyballCon this year (as we were last year). I personally don't mind sharing space--it's a big world, after all--but there is always some friction. Last year, enough volleyball parents were butt-hurt that it made the newspaper (since they were also double-booked with HempCon 6 months prior). This year, a few of the volleyball folks were tweeting impolite things about furries. That's really not-cool -- we made an effort to keep things separate, and most of us try very hard to ensure we don't make non-furries feel uncomfortable.

What's even more not-cool, however, was a few furries' response to those tweets. There was some mockery, trolling, and general impoliteness on our side as well. There was even an unflattering picture of a dude making a stupid face wearing a T-shirt with some rude words about one of the volleyball players scrawled in Sharpie. That's pretty much middle-school humor and unacceptable coming from people who are (supposed to be) adults, especially when it's directed at teens who don't know any better.

So a few people from both sides got into it (virtually) when they really shouldn't have. But I feel like for the most part, everyone else was respectful of each other. A few bad apples won't ruin a con (or two cons), so I'm glad we managed to mostly get along.

Volleyball drama notwithstanding, it was a good con. I got to see most of the people I wanted to, and didn't get too overwhelmed at all the crowds and noise. And now I'm back at Boy's house, getting caught up on the rest of life and getting some quiet time in before I have to go back to the grind.

-- Des

Prop 35: More Internet Tracking That Doesn't Work

If you live in California, you've probably heard about Proposition 35, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation ("CASE") Act. For those not familiar with Prop 35, it purports to do a few things:
  • Strengthen the penalties for human trafficking (when convicted under state law).
  • Require someone convicted of human trafficking to register as a sex offender.
  • Requires sex offenders to provide all their Internet account credentials to law enforcement.

In the recent election, it passed with around 85% of the vote. It has since been challenged in court, and a judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Internet-tracking provisions from taking effect, finding that "Plaintiffs have raised serious questions about whether the challenged sections of the CASE Act violate their First Amendment right to free speech and other constitutional rights."

I think the court will eventually find that Prop 35 does, in fact, violate the rights of sex offenders, and should be partially overturned.

Prop 35's tracking provisions were ill-conceived by people who don't understand how the Internet works. Short of creating a wholesale surveillance state, there is no way to enforce its provisions in any meaningful way. The reason the Internet is so great for places like Iran, Egypt and China is because it is trivial to speak anonymously, and there is precious little the government can do to track your online activities.

Offenders who try to follow the law would have to bear the burden of reporting all this information to the government, and then suffer the government's monitoring and oversight. These are not the people you should be worried about -- they're already trying to do the right thing.

The people you should be worried about are the ones who would disregard Prop 35, and further, would continue to prey on others over the Internet. But Prop 35 does nothing to protect you from those people, because it can't.

It is not hard to open new Internet accounts and hide their existence from others. Normal people do it all the time, mostly for innocent reasons. And we as a society don't have the money to pay our local governments to scour the Internet looking for these nefarious accounts.

Basically, Prop 35 doesn't change the fact that our parents have a responsibility to monitor their kids' Internet usage, and educate them on the risks they face when going online. Indeed, short of banning the Internet outright, there is no conceivable law that could change that.

As for the other (human-trafficking) provisions, human-trafficking statute is mostly set by the federal government. Prop 35 does not apply in those cases, since federal law trumps state law. According to the voter handbook, there are a grand total of 18 people in prison currently for state human-trafficking offenses. Even if you believe that harsher sentences act as a more effective deterrent, Prop 35 does very little to achieve that aim.

Since most of the law's effect is centered in its Internet tracking provisions, and since the Internet tracking provisions themselves are both onerous and ineffective, I feel Prop 35 is on balance a bad law and should be repealed.

-- Des
Ranty Time!

Please oppose the Internet Blacklist Legislation (PROTECT IP and SOPA)

[Send your own letter to Congress]

Dear [Senators and Representatives],

I am a constituent and I urge you to reject the Internet Blacklist Bills (PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House). Please join Senator Wyden and other members of Congress, such as Representatives Lofgren, Eshoo and Issa, in opposing it.

As a Software Engineer and networking expert, I can assure you that this bill, if passed, would have devastating effects on the security and stability of the Internet. This poorly-thought-out legislation would allow a single individual to take down entire sites such as YouTube, Twitter or Flickr with one infringement notice concerning a single video or photo. YouTube has millions of visitors viewing millions of videos every day. Can you imagine what the Internet would be like if one person could single-handedly block millions of others from accessing legitimate content, with the force of law?

I was also very disappointed to learn that the hearing conducted earlier today consisted of 5 media witnesses and only one witness from the technology sector. This hardly seems fair and balanced; without a thorough understanding of the serious technical issues this bill creates, and the costs it would impose on nearly everyone but large media companies, Congress simply cannot make an informed decision.

Again, I urge you to oppose the PROTECT IP Act / Stop Online Piracy Act. Please protect our Internet from this very serious threat to free expression.

Best Regards,

Open Letter to Bay Area Rapid Transit

Dear BART,

I am appalled and extremely disappointed in BART's decision to terminate wireless service in some San Francisco stations and the Transbay tube on Thursday, August 11th, due to a planned protest. I have reviewed your press release concerning this incident (updated Aug 12, 1:08 PM) and I find your explanation wholly unacceptable, especially in light of the fact that the protest did not materialize. Indeed, the lack of cell service ultimately proved more disruptive to the evening commute than the non-existent protest.

While I understand and fully support BART's desire to minimize service disruptions and ensure the safety of its passengers, I remain unconvinced that interrupting wireless service is a reasonable means to achieve these goals. Rather than concentrating on the small minority of passengers intent on causing a disruption, you chose to impose a sweeping, over-broad restriction that violated the free-speech and free-association rights of every single passenger passing through San Francisco that evening. Worse, you provided absolutely no justification for the use of that specific tactic, saying only that it was "one of many … to ensure the safety of everyone".

Our court system has established many precedents on when, where and how free speech may be curtailed, and although I am neither a lawyer nor a judge, I believe such a broad action runs afoul of these precedents. Your actions set a chilling, contrary precedent -- one that aligns closely with the likes of Iran and China, which practice service disruption and censorship on a large scale.

Instead, you should have waited until the protest began to develop, using your agents and officers to observe the state of the protest. You should have targeted your response to the specific individuals trying to cause trouble, and managed the situation as it unfolded, only cutting cell service as an absolute last resort to contain an already-unsafe situation.

Finally, I find it extremely hard to believe you truly consider it unacceptable for individuals to engage in "expressive activities" in the paid areas of the station; as you must be aware, the 1st Amendment does not limit itself to so-called "free-speech zones". I am frequently approached by people on trains and in stations who are looking for donations to various charities, or signatures to various petitions, political and otherwise, and however annoying they may be, there is nothing wrong with this. I find your edict that "No person shall … engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of the BART stations, …" to be disingenuous and absurd on its face.

I call on you to swiftly:
  • Take a hard look at your Aug 11th press release, and revise both the content and the tone to reassure passengers that BART respects their freedom of speech and will do everything possible to accommodate it in accordance with our society's laws and values. Your release strikes a condescending and disrespectful tone that is inappropriate when addressed to the large majority of passengers who have done nothing wrong.

  • Release a statement apologizing for the service disruption, and explaining clearly and specifically why you felt disrupting wireless service was necessary, and who was responsible for making this decision.

  • Disclose all relevant internal and public-facing policies and documentation, and update them to ensure that intentional cell service disruption won't happen again. Such tactics are appropriate only as an absolute last resort to contain an already-dangerous situation.

Again, this was a shameful action that reflects poorly on BART and goes against everything our society stands for. I encourage you to take swift steps to correct this mistake and ensure you do not make it again.

Please reply at your earliest convenience.

BART Commuter
I am me

Fear, 3 years later

A close friend and I were chatting today, and the topic of homophobia came up. I remembered one particularly close brush with homophobes I had three years ago.

I'm a little surprised at how visceral the memory feels, even now. I still remember the frigid, dry air, the harsh fluorescent lights, fingering my phone in my pocket. I was quaking in my shoes, my heart pounding, wondering how it would end.

I hope nobody ever knows that fear again.

-- Des
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Shiro's 50,000th

Happy 50,000, Shiro! Thanks for all the fun drives, and getting me from point A to B.

Here's to the next 50k.

(I'm sorry I missed the photo op -- by the time I looked down, it was too late and I was in heavy freeway traffic anyway.)

-- Des
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Getting Things Done, sorta

Wow. Once again, it's been over a month.

I've been reading and working my way through Getting Things Done, which has helped me crystallize my thinking on how to plan things out and accomplish some larger goals. I've already implemented a lot of it at work, but work is easy by comparison to implementing it at home -- at home, I'm struggling.

How do you Get Things Done when your todo list consists entirely of unappealing tasks you'd rather put off?

Also, IMO there are no good tools available for managing projects and breaking them down into smaller steps. OmniFocus comes close, but it has a few deficiencies that make it awkward to work with, particularly for hierarchical tasks. (Also, why the hell would anyone ever focus on projects? Focusing on contexts seems more useful, but OF can't do that...)

I've been slowly working to put together my own tool, but ... getting it right requires a lot of time and energy I don't really have. It'll get done, eventually, but in the meantime I'm stuck with pencil and paper -- or at least, OmniOutliner.

So in short, rather than doing the planning I should be doing, I'm fucking around with tools. Hooray for being an engineer. ;P

On the plus side, the whole collection and filing process is getting me a lot more organized at home. I'm 95% of the way through the piles of paper crap that accumulated in my college years, and the rest of it shouldn't require too much effort.

My goal is to have a todo list that is empty of mundane, "maintenance tasks", so I can spend as much time as possible on creative and social activities.

I doubt that'll happen anytime soon, but one can always hope.

-- Des
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