Wednesday August 9th, 2017 13:03 Stop the presses: changing thing changes

It’s an unholy rite of passage for a New Yorker. Once you’ve been around for 20 years, you’re obligated to blather on about how the city is changing for the worse.

Gentrification. My favorite store closed. Younger people have different expectations from restaurants or retail outlets. The rent is too damn high.

THINGS THAT EXISTED DECADES AGO ARE NOW DIFFERENT. CALL IN THE NATIONAL GUARD.

garth_change

Myself, I’m only around the 10-year mark here in the city*. I too have noticed that things have changed. But what I’ve noticed most is that things always change. Constantly. It’s a feature, not a bug.

So, when I read something like this [from the venerable LongReads, no less], I can’t help but think the author an imbecile for not realizing they’re penning the exact same swan-song bullshit that every single era before them has written. If they take the time to look around (or possibly stop shoegazing for a minute and listen to the constant stream of complaining all around – which is our right as New Yorkers), they’ll find their story not as original as it may feel.

Because here’s a fun fact: the neighborhood you’re whinging about, the very buildings and stores and restaurants you strive to keep around – were all, at one time, instruments of gentrification themselves.

New York City was founded in 1624. That ‘indispensable’ neighborhood locale that’s been around for 50, 75 or even 100 years only ended up there after 300 years of change. There’s an excellent chance it used to be the location of someone’s home or another much-beloved neighborhood staple that the New Yorkers of the time were thoroughly pissed off to see replaced.

Now, gentrification is a very real thing and certainly no laughing matter. A lot of these chain businesses are vastly inferior and are unfairly supplanting their predecessors, to the detriment of all. That said, gentrification is a complex situation and not every Starbucks (pronounced ‘The Devil’s Failing Kidney Piss Dispensary’) that replaces a bodega is a pure travesty that sucks the ephemeral ‘soul’ out of the neighborhood.

Change is the soul of New York. Your favorite deli, no matter its fascinating backstory, is not.

*If I try to pull this crap next decade, feel free to force-feed me a printout of this little ditty.

In: OtherNo Comments

Monday July 31st, 2017 15:02 A preparatory ponderance on Mooch’s next CV

mooch

Might also want to warn the next guy not to trip over the bar he set for performance.

In: Other, PoliticsNo Comments

Friday January 20th, 2017 16:12 Post-inauguration soother

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

fox-jumping-over-dog
In: OtherNo Comments

Thursday September 15th, 2016 12:32 Apple is everything I hate about brand worship

iphone-7-and-iphone-7-plus

One of the most annoying questions/comments one gets as an IT person is some iteration of ‘Bet you have all Mac at home’ or ‘What kind of systems do you use? [insert shock at anything not made by Apple here].’

Putting aside the fact that most IT people don’t go for anything Apple besides their phone and maybe a tablet because their desktop OS is a walled garden where the wall is 75 feet high and lined with armed guards…

Or that the question suggests that they don’t know the difference between IT and design or dev, who are the ones more likely to go Apple in hardware, nor that all three groups hate being mistaken for each other…

It’s annoying because that question makes it abundantly clear that they don’t give a flying fuck about the actual operation of the product. All that matters is that it has a logo.

Motorola put out a new ad about these kinds of users. Whether the people in the ad are actors or not, I can confirm from experience that they are perfectly representative of real people. People who just buy whatever the hell is new from Apple, which is a huge segment of their customer base.

Proof of concept: Google “complaints about” followed by any iPhone model or iOS version. The hardware is savaged by the “fans” the instant it’s announced and the software is similarly panned the instant it’s pushed out to the hardware.

This is entirely normal.

The nerds and the geeks and the freaks do that with absolutely every company’s products. It’s practically a Constitutional requirement for anyone with a keyboard, internet connection and entirely too much spare time. Nothing can ever be seen as perfect because there are simply too many people to please.

The difference for Apple is the percentage of people who are directly opposed to a feature (or lack thereof, in the Case of the Missing Headphone Jack) will just buy the damn thing anyway.

It’s like a pizza joint that forces you to have anchovies on every pie, no matter what you ask for, and that store doesn’t just avoid immediate business collapse, but has incredible sales, thousands of franchisees and an army of rabid followers that will instantly attack you for the mere suggestion that maybe some people just don’t like a bunch of weird tiny fish dribbled on their damn pizza.

That Motorola ad should be quite powerful. Showing that, hey, there is already a product that does these things that you really want it to do. You just have to look up from your Apple Bottle Feeder® for half a second.

That stuff is located just next to that group of people whose tech suggestions you typically ignore despite the fact that they have far fewer complaints about the things they decide to buy.

In: Computers, OtherNo Comments

Friday June 3rd, 2016 09:33 Cyberpunk posterity

Inspirational quotes should be purged from the intertubes, lined up and shot, then have their bodies lain in a field of constantly-renewed Amaterasu.

Quotations that actually inspire should be kept for posterity’s sake:

It just occurred to me that one of the most basic, prosaic, everyday things I have to protect my (nanotribomechanical test equipment manufacturing) company’s network against is stateless hackers using semi-autonomous swarms of zombie computers to launch distributed attacks via an underground, anonymous alternative to the web with a goal of encrypting and holding users’ files hostage in exchange for untraceable cryptocurrency which will then be used in money laundering operations for the benefit of obscure terrorist groups.

When you break it down, most of our jobs can be seen as pretty fucking cyberpunk.

Just another day over at /r/sysadmin.

In: Computers, OtherNo Comments

Tuesday May 19th, 2015 11:31 The rules of breaking the rules

Reading this article on the problems with school dress codes and their enforcement landed me in one of those ‘I thought one thing and after reading think another, but have gone the direction opposite what the author intended’ situations.

Of course these arbitrary, often overly-conservative school dress codes are stupid. But I also see them as serving a completely unintended function that is increasingly critical for children, especially considering the state of the nation’s education system.

2000px-Gonzo.svgConsider for a moment that so many of us that have already gone through the ‘growing up’ process faced similar types of arbitrary rules as children. In many cases, that involved a dress code.

That forced us to do two different things:

1) Question the rule. Is this fair? Is this just? Does it serve a purpose? Someone told me to do something and, instead of just doing it, I am going to try to evaluate whether or not it is something I should do or should have to do.

Admittedly, the conclusions at which the adolescent brain will arrive are not necessarily correct, but it is the process that matters.

Terrifically useful life skills: To actively decide which rules are worth following. To frame the existence of rules in context of those who issue them. To consider the ramifications of not following those rules. To learn how to subvert rules even when their violation is obvious to the enforcer.

2) Construct an argument. Okay, you’ve got your reasons for making this rule, and here are my counterpoints to your argument (hopefully with evidentiary backup).

This particular example is a wonderful opportunity to hone such abilities, as neither the pro nor the con has any particular advantage by way of available studies or statistics on the matter. Much of the research leans towards dress codes and uniforms being a positive thing, but studies are thin and sometimes the results go in a different direction.

Terrifically useful life skills: Find and use evidence to support a position. Argue a point that cannot be definitively proven. See something wrong with your situation in life and do something about it.

There is, additionally, an important life lesson to learn: sometimes you gotta do shit you don’t wanna do. It’s part of being human.

In: OtherNo Comments

Thursday August 21st, 2014 02:10 I will say one thing about Michael Brown

I have heard a number of Very Serious People and seen innumerable internet bloviators repeat a particular thing about the Michael Brown case that really deserves a response. It’s all some derivation of:

‘I’ll bet that, when all the facts come in, we’ll see a much different picture of what happened than what the [insert racist code word or direct epithet, depending on commentator’s current forum (also accepted: Librul Media)] say happened.’

98929-oh-well-allow-me-to-retort-gif-jLE0

I’ll take your wager if you take mine: that when all the facts are presented, they will show that a police officer shot and killed an unarmed person.

Double or nothing that another cop will do the same thing, somewhere in this country, within a week of that incident.

I understand if you won’t accept the second part because, in fairness, I already won: Andrew Gaynier, August 10; Dillon Taylor, August 11; John Winkler, August 11; Ezell Ford, August 11; Armand Bennet, August 11 (technically, he didn’t die, but he was shot in the head, so A for effort).

Double or nothing again if you can resist the urge to comment on race and stick to the fact that it took me 2 minutes on Google to find the names of 5 unarmed people that were shot dead by the police in a matter of 48 hours, and perhaps we should be focusing on the systemic problem of cops using disproportionate deadly force – not the details of what happened minutes before the latest body dropped.

In: News, Other, PoliticsNo Comments

Monday July 28th, 2014 19:56 Mars Mission Now! (because I need to get outta here)

I try to avoid consecutive ‘minor thing that annoyed me’ posts, but I’ve been left with little choice today.

All you have to Google is the phrase “education system” in order to get a healthy helping of articles and studies about how ours sucks or other nations’ are better – quite true by the way. Thus, they say, the youth of today will be very noticeably dumber when they come of age.

But there is one thing missing in the discussion. I do believe this a cultural omission, as we are among those taught that our elders deserve respect and that they are imbued with the inherent wisdom of age (note: it is apparently fine and dandy to shit upon them financially, despite all that).

That missing piece is that old people can also be really stupid. The education system was supposedly better, but it’s not as if dumbasses magically sprang forth from the ground sometime around the mid-70s and started going at it like rabbits.

For example:

I stood in line for 10 full minutes at the drug store today. Why? Because the two twits at the counter took that long to return some dude’s money after he was overcharged for a bottle of Sparkling Ice.

While I was supremely impressed that anyone would wait that long to get back whatever pocket change might have been lost in this transaction – especially given that it required him to very publicly disclose that he’s the kind of incredible douchebag that drinks Sparkling Ice – it did little to calm my annoyance.

The brains of the outfit, stage right, stopped after each customer to spend an equal amount of time failing to help the brainiac on the left, eventually taking over after 4 attempts. Four.

Guess who I got when it was my turn.

Yes, the prodigy of purchases, scholar of scanning and bluestocking of buys: twit on the left.

In my hands, I held two boxes of popcorn. I placed them on the counter. They were scanned. Things were progressing nicely. But I was also there to buy smokes.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t be smoking. That’s not the fucking point. Contain yourself.

Before she read off the total, I said the following words: “I also need two Salem gold hundreds.”

The first thing out of her pie hole was “Marlboro?”

Things had taken a nasty turn.

I repeated the exact same phrase, but this time more slowly and as clearly as I can muster.

She repied “Salem?” and I believed that progress had been made. I began to get excited when movement was made and she arrived at the correct area of the wall behind the counter.

The immediate, pathetic, horrifically confused look that I then received, crushed that hope once again.

Still, at this point, we’ve only done slightly worse than other cashiers. Most of them force you to guide them to the thing you want because remembering what you just said three seconds ago and then reading the words printed on the front of the boxes to see if we can possibly find a matching set is too much to ask for.

I’m already pretty pissed off at this point, so something I knew would insult her intelligence just came flying out before I could censor myself: “It’s the light green box. The one in the middle.”

Aha. There was naught to insult.

She grabs the dark green box. I’m handicapping the odds that I can hop the counter and flay her before anyone has time to react.

I make it as absofuckinglutely simple as I can: “There are three light green boxes in that row. I want the one in the middle.”

I realized immediately that I hadn’t said it quite that much simpler. Then realized that it’s because that’s impossible at this point. She should have already stopped what she was doing and come over to slap me for treating her like a moron.

Then she grabs a silver box and I stop giving a shit altogether.

I reached into my pocket and retrieved the one I already had as a visual aid, saying: “This is light green.”

Fuck a duck, she figured it out without me having to draw even a single chart.

After first grabbing at one of the two light green boxes that were not in the middle.

trolledhard

The idea that our school system was better way back when is a myth. This person was probably in their mid-50s. Maybe a bit older. That puts schooling time somewhere around the late 60s. The education that one got back then is pretty much the same as a kid gets now. Unless they’re in Texas.

I’m just going to keep getting older, and that same idiot is always, always going to be there waiting for me.

And you.

So, who’s up for Mars?

In: OtherNo Comments

Friday April 11th, 2014 02:29 Jury duty: a review (part two)

Time for the trial.

ace

On the very first day, it became clear that this was going to be a painful process. In a lamentably logical continuation of the jury selection process, the attorneys kicked the party off by each devoting a significant chunk of their opening statements to regurgitating the same civics lesson that the judge had taken such delight in boring us all with just days prior.

Now, I should note here that I never mentioned the bit where the attorneys get to ask questions of potential jurors. I will tell you why.

I’m the kind of person who watches a crime show and, after a decent number of episodes, can identify the guilty party almost every single time, and do so about 1/3 of the way in to the story. During a few particularly predictable movies, I’ve been able to guess, verbatim, the next line of dialogue at certain points.

As I’ve been told the same by others, it’s typical for the attorneys’ empaneling questions to be incredibly leading. They not-so-indirectly lay out their entire case by way of asking the jury if they can get on board with each individual concept upon which that case is founded.

For example, the prosecutor did a little bit about someone walking in the door, wet, and wearing rain gear. Thus, she said, we can infer that it is raining outside. The defense attorney countered that during his floor show by suggesting that it might in fact be snowing and the snow had simply melted (he was pretty clever).

Okay guys, I get it. Something happened for which you don’t have any hard evidence, but it has a strong circumstantial implication.

The reason I digress to this point is simple. Without preparation, it is very difficult to imagine a grown human being, standing in front of the exact same people to whom they had so clearly telegraphed their entire strategy, repeating that exact same strategy with the addition of a few particulars and doing so as if they didn’t look like someone’s 4-year-old cousin fumbling through a magic show in the back yard. For two fucking hours straight.

That done, we moved on to things that can be considered by a jury during a criminal proceeding. Believe the word is “evidence.”

In the whole of this trial, there were seven witnesses called. That took – you guessed it, didn’t you? – seven days.

This is when my hatred of the judge thickened to the consistency of ice cream left three years open in the freezer.

He barred us from taking notes, but kept extensive ones for himself. Only he was a bit hard of hearing. And couldn’t write very fast. Or understand people who don’t share his enthusiasm for enunciation as a marathon sport.

His other favorite past-time was clarifying things for the record. Every thing. Whether everyone else and any literate person reading that record could have understood it or not.

The one incident that I have yet to properly repress for all eternity went a little something like this:

Cop 1: He (Cop 2) got out and started following her down 142nd St.
Prosecutor: Then what did you do?
Cop 1: I followed them in my car.
Prosecutor: Did they stop at any point?
Cop 1: Yes. They stopped at the corner of 142 and Sutter.
Judge: Just to be clear, for the record, where were you when they stopped?
Cop 1: On 142nd St.
Judge: And you were still in your car?

That’s where the sweet release of an aneurysm took hold.

That exchange took all of one minute. If anyone was unable to figure out where Cop 1 was, they wouldn’t be in that courtroom. They’d have yet to traverse the deep intellectual water of putting on pants, and would be stopped at the door.

And what in the holy fuck…were you still in the car? At what point did following someone in a car no longer require a car? Or are you just running down a list of all possible human activity on the off chance that he forgot to mention something here? Perhaps he accidentally discorporated and was replaced by an oddly even-tempered terminator between the first and second block of pursuit. One can forget such things so easily.

Seven days.

As far as content, the entire affair was pretty much a non-event.

The prosecution story: Cop 1 and 2, both undercovers, are out doing buy-and-bust when they spot a scraggly-looking woman and decide to give her a run. Cop 2 hops out and follows on foot, with Cop 1 in the car following. Cop 2 asks for crack, hands over some cash, then gets back in the car, as she says she’s going to the middle of the block to get it. They follow and see her stop in front of the defendant’s house. He comes out, takes the money, then hands her something. They try to turn around and get in an accident because Cop 1 wasn’t looking where he was going. Cop 2 jumps out, runs down the opposite sidewalk to beat the woman to the corner. He meets her again, accepts the drugs and walks away. They call in the team and both parties are arrested.

The problems: 1: Cop 2 says he has his eye on the woman the entire time. If you think I’ll believe that you crossed the street, got in to a car, subsequently got into an accident, ran half a block and never for a second broke eye contact then now is the time to tell me about that bridge you have for sale. 2: Cop 1 says he couldn’t actually see the defendant give the woman anything. Cop 2 says he did, but is unable to describe any of the physical properties of the object. This while they’re sitting across the street in a car with heavy tint when the sun was nearly down (they claimed 7:30 p.m. in the middle of April to be “daylight”). 3: They only recovered $60 out of the $100 they gave to the woman.

Bam. Case closed. There were no fingerprints or other physical evidence linking the defendant to the drugs, and no one can even claim that they saw those particular drugs being exchanged for money. Plus, the woman with the drugs obviously had some time to herself, unless they gave her $40 made with disappearing ink and paper. Reasonable doubt. Let’s all go home.

Though it’s against procedure, I knew this guy couldn’t be found guilty after day two.

Seven days.

The defense story: I could not have cared less. All I gleamed from it was that this dude makes way more money than I do. Construction foreman is apparently very good work. The attorney made plenty of suggestions that the cops planted the money because they just assumed he was part of the game, but there was zero to back it up. They trotted out some kid who they claimed was the driver of the other car in the accident, assuming correctly that no one would notice the complete lack of evidence that he was even there and very well could have just been some guy the defendant knows.

I also tuned out the closing arguments, excepting the fact that the prosecutor was talking to the jury like she was scolding an errant schoolboy, which pissed me right the fuck off.

During those and the parts of the trial I didn’t spend attempting to burn a hole through the judge’s skull with the power of my mind, I kept thinking what a disingenuous farce this whole procedure is.

I don’t have the slightest clue what I did the Wednesday before this whole thing started. I have a calendar with what I did at work that day, which would remind me a bit. Might even remember physically being at one or more of the locations I visited. But there is no way in hell I could tell you what someone was wearing or the background image on their computer.

This incident happened two years before the trial. The witnesses are little more than unpaid actors in a terrifically boring play. They recite the story of things they ‘remembered’ by going over the case just before the trial, and we all sit back and act like justice was done.

In this case, and I’m sure thousands of others, the cops could have brought a camera or a video camera and captured some real evidence. Something solid. But they didn’t and they don’t.

I cannot help but wonder how many cases don’t see a good lawyer at the defense table, with the word of policemen, who could not possibly have a direct recollection of the events, acting as the deciding factor in putting them in prison.

That’s when I truly decided I hated that judge. Watching him smirk and tell little jokes and try to be clever while some guy is sitting not 25 feet away from him, hoping that his life won’t be completely fucked up by this thing that the man in charge uses for his own amusement. Going on about the nobility of a system that presumes a man innocent and showing absolutely no respect for the fact that he just might be and just might not find anything funny about what’s going on at the moment.

Everyone in that room was going right along with him too. Except the defendant and me. Not because I’m so high and mighty. Because I think I was the only one pondering the fact that it could be me there, as innocent as that guy might be. It must be torture to see the judge and jury laughing it up in that situation. A mind desperately grasping at the sand of an explanation for why everyone seems to be having a good time while he stands on the brink of an entire life ruined.

Seven days.

Even for someone who is guilty, only the most hardened individual is sitting there without a worry about being sent to jail.

I was to learn later that, upon hearing the precinct in question, another NYPD cop – a friend of one of the jurors – instantly assumed that it was a frame job. Seems that south Queens has quite the reputation. Put that together with the powerful gasp the defendant took upon hearing his not-guilty verdict and the tears that flowed after it, and it’s not an unreasonable explanation for the whole affair.

Not me know. At that point, my only connection to that defendant was that we were both done in court and on our way home.

In: OtherNo Comments

Whois

IT guy, dev, designer, writer.

Got a degree in print journalism from UF but history dealt some bad cards to that industry, so I moved back to an earlier love: the computer.

Was recently at ZMOS Networks, but am now the Senior IT Associate at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

My name is moderately common, as are a couple screen names, so always look for the logo to make sure you're reading something with official Km approval.

You can get to me directly with kyle(@)kylemitchell.org