On Political Parties, Politicians, and Other Controversial Issues


It saddens me that in an age where we have more ways to connect with more people than ever before, people are choosing to isolate themselves. Given all the vitriol and hatred expressed at those who appear to have a different point of view, I'm not surprised.

Many issues these days, particularly in the mainstream media, are portrayed as us versus them, you're either with us or against us. People are forced to choose one side or the other with little room for a nuanced position. Further, people who support Political Party A, Candidate X, and/or Issue N must also support these other positions for these reasons, even if that's not the case.

Once people have chosen a side, they often share material that promote their particular agenda. Someone posts they disagree with your view? They're one of "them," someone who doesn't support Issue N, and must obviously support Political Party B and Candidate Y. Worse, they make remarks denigrating and/or vilifying "them."

As someone with Aspergers, I am prone to thinking of things in black and white terms. In reality, I know things are rarely that way. My unique life experiences have shaped my views on a wide range of topics. They rarely fall into one of the two extremes, and I'm sure my views are different from yours for different reasons. I accept that I don't have all the answers. I accept that I may be wrong more often than not. I'm just trying to make sense of the mess the world has become.

I have yet to find someone I agree with 100% of the time. Therefore, I expect to disagree with everyone on something. If I challenge or question your views, it's to try and understand why it is you hold that particular view and help you understand why I hold mine. Maybe I'll learn something and I'll change my views. Maybe you'll learn something and change yours. Or, maybe, we'll agree to disagree.

Sadly, with increasing frequency, discussions involving controversial topics devolve into denigrating a bogeyman, directing vitriol and hatred at "them," i.e. those who do not support their issue or their candidate. You either support their issues, candidate, or party 100% without question or you're one of "them" with little room for discussion or nuance.

Political candidates and political parties often serve as convenient bogeyman in these discussions. While you can certainly influence who gets elected through voting, you have limited ability to directly influence what these politicians do in office, particularly as a group and especially at the national level. Likewise, they have limited ability to influence you, at least day-to-day.

Particular laws, Executive Orders, or policies can impact you, of course. And sure, if you're 100% against that law, Executive Order, or policy and maybe if you show up in person and protest in numbers (without damaging other people's property), a few politicians might change their minds. The odds of that happening, however, are not very high.

Given that I have a limited amount of energy, I choose to focus on the things I can directly influence as a result of direct actions I take to promote the things that matter to me. This means focusing more on the people I interact with, be it in person or online, where I can have a direct impact.

I recognize to advance a specific goal, I may have to support a specific organization, a specific candidate, or even a specific political party, i.e. one of "them." The support I provide is commensurate to the influence I have over that entity, which for national political parties and politicians, is practically zero. Even when I do provide support, it's specific to the issues I care about and it's not unconditional.

If you wonder how we got here, why there is less and less reasoned discourse in the world, if you wonder why there is less and less compassion and understanding in the world, if you wonder why there is more and more hatred and vitriol in the world, consider how your own actions have contributed to this reality. I'm by no means a saint in this regard, everyone can and must do better if we are to remain a civil society.

You may disagree with the things I choose to support and why. Likewise, I may disagree with the things you choose to support and why. Provided we can express our preferences and differences without vilifying and remain accountable for our actions, we can continue to be friends. If you feel or demonstrate otherwise, you have no place in my life.

Photo Credit: Eugenio Siri
Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/redmondbarry/45534059/

A Tale of Two Glucometers

In addition to struggling with my weight, I have also been struggling with Type 2 diabetes the last couple years. I realize it's nothing compared to what I've seen Type 1's have to go through in terms of calculating how much insulin to take and when, but it's frustrating when I find out I'm not doing quite as well as I thought I was.

When I first got diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes two years ago, my A1C was 7.9. It had went down close to 6, but it's now back to a 7.1 based on a recent blood test, which I will be discussing with my doctor as I go in for an annual physical.

Among the many other stats you get on a blood test is your current blood glucose level. Since I had to go in fasting, I checked before I went in. My meter gave me a 104 mg/dL. The blood test said 143 mg/dL, which is a huge swing! Another data point: my 3 month average on my glucometer was 126 mg/dL. The "estimated" average from my A1C number, which is supposed to reflect a 2-3 month average? 157 mg/dL.

All of that suggests my meter might be at fault. Given that I was having some technical issues with the iHealth meter I acquired a couple years ago, namely that it would lose track of which vial of strips I was using and, very recently, completely lost sync with my phone, I decided it was time to try a different meter. And, re-reading that old post, it seems I should have expected inaccurate readings might crop up again.

Rather than get another "smart" meter, I opted for something a bit lower tech based on a recommendation from Larry, a fellow diabetic: The Contour Next by Ascensia (formerly Bayer). It lacks Bluetooth, but I can plug a Micro USB cable to pull the data off of it, if I so choose.

The other redeeming quality of this meter: the strips are even cheaper than the iHealth meter, which is why I chose that meter in the first place. I actually bought 200 test strips and the Contour Next meter for about the same price I pay for 200 test strips from iHealth. And the Contour Next strips are much more widely available. I should check and see what they cost if I go through my insurance.

Since I still had a couple iHealth strips left, I figured I'd do a side-by-side comparison of the two meters from the same drop of blood. From Thursday night:


And from Friday morning:


How can two meters get such wildly different results? It's hard to say, but it turns out, such inaccuracies are actually within the US FDA Guidelines for Self-Monitoring Blood Glucose (SMBG) Test Systems:

Blood glucose test results are used by people with diabetes to make critical decisions about their treatment; therefore, it is important that the results are accurate so that nutritional and drug dosing errors are better avoided. Your studies should demonstrate that your SMBG is sufficient for this purpose by showing that 95% of all SMBG results in this study are within +/- 15% of the comparator results across the entire claimed measuring range of the device and that 99% of all SMBG results are within +/- 20% of the comparator results across the entire claimed measuring range of the device

I suppose if my results were really high, a +/- of 20% wouldn't be that big of a deal. On the lower end of the scale, where I am, that +/- 20% can make the difference between being normal and not normal, either mildly high or possibly hypoglycemic (low blood sugar, potentially very bad).

Regardless, I think I will stick with the new meter. Ascensia, which was a business unit of Bayer before it was sold to Panasonic Healthcare, has probably been making glucometers a bit longer than the iHealth guys have been in existence.

Edited to add second test result on 6 Jan 2017

On Medium and Compensating Authors For The Value They Provide

Medium has always been a curious service for me. It provides a nice place to publish your stuff--for free--as well as find an interact with content others write. Each comment in itself becomes its own post, which can be quoted and responded to. For example, the basis for this post originated as a comment

It's not clear to me what Medium's business model is, since the average Joe doesn't pay for it. Clearly they're not happy with the direction things are going and have announced layoffs as part a plan Renewing Medium's Focus:

We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention. We believe there are millions of thinking people who want to deepen their understanding of the world and are dissatisfied with what they get from traditional news and their social feeds. We believe that a better system — one that serves people — is possible. In fact, it’s imperative.

So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.

As someone who has written a couple of books published through a traditional publisher and paid blog posts for blogs, I didn’t find the traditional methods of compensation all that profitable.

Given that plenty of people write for the sheer joy of getting their ideas out there and the fact relatively few people want to pay for anything on the Internet, I don’t see a way to build a closed system that directly compensates creators in any meaningful way.

Where the real compensation will come from, in my experience, is outside the system. For example, my work, published for all to see in the late 1990s, essentially turned into my resume that allowed me to make a pretty comfortable living in Information Security.

That’s just my take. I would love for the Medium folks to prove me wrong, but I am not optimistic. Meanwhile, I will continue to use Medium as a place to syndicate content, but I probably won't use it as a place to originate anything. At least until they can figure out their business model.

Those Funny Aspergers Traits I Have

​I'm not even sure I should post this. That said, I've definitely posted my share of "too much information" posts over the years and this one is no different. However, attempting to explain what's on my mind helps me to make sense of things, and what I'm about to explain will probably make no sense to some of you. For others, it will make total sense, because you do some of these things, or because you know someone who does.

The impetus for this post came from post made by Randolph about his life with Autism. It got me thinking about my own life with Aspergers, which is "in the spectrum" as they say. In my case, there was never a formal diagnosis, and as far as I know, having a formal diagnosis doesn't really do much good.

The one thing I've learned about anything related to the Aspergers or anyone that is on the autism spectrum is that while there are some similarities, everyone is different. For example, Randolph says "Airports are thus incredibly stressful, so I don’t enjoy flying." For me, airports aren't as stressful, though they are a stressor.

The same can be said for large crowds of people, I can handle them for a period of time because it's mostly background noise. What presents a bigger cognitive load for me is trying to comprehend multiple people at once, for example, in a conversation that includes a handful of people. It requires far too much concentration for me to understand what's going on, particularly if it's a long, protracted affair.

I'm sure has a bit to do with why I rarely watch TV at home unless no one is home (that and most TV shows are boring, predictable, or not appropriate for children). The one thing I will watch on TV is either NFL or NBA--I am a San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors fan, after all. Given my teams aren't local teams and I refuse to spend obscene amounts of money on cable, I rarely have an opportunity to see them on TV.

Which, come to think of it, is fine with me. I am quite happy with simply listening to games. In fact, if the NFL offered something affordable like the NBA Audio Pass, which is a very reasonable $10 for the entire season (including playoffs), I'd shut up and give the NFL my money. They used to, and then they rolled it into NFL Game Pass, which meant paying them $100 for the season. If I wanted to spend that kind of money, I'd have the kind of cable that'd let me watch the games.

My primary form of consumptive entertainment is listening to podcasts, preferably at 1.5x speed because that's the speed I naturally talk and think in. Unlike other forms of entertainment I might undertake in any given environment, it has the lowest cognitive load. I will frequently shut it off if I find other things in my environment are causing my cognitive load to increase. For example, I was briefly listening to a podcast while editing this piece and I turned it off.

At the end of a day, particularly on days where I spent a lot of time around other people or subjected myself to a significant cognitive load, I need some quiet time with minimal sensory input before I got to sleep. While I can have trouble sleeping at times, like Randolph, if I really need sleep, I will get it. Doesn't matter where I am or what circumstances. I am also dead to the world when I sleep.

Emotions, I have them, but processing them limits my ability to speak or process other sensory information. Likewise, meltdowns are a thing for me. The trick to get out of the downward spiral of emotion is to shift my focus elsewhere. Meltdowns happen more when I don't sleep enough. Or spend too much time around other people. Sometimes, these two things are related.

Very early in my career, I managed to get myself into a position where I did not have to go into an office on a regular basis. I suspect this has had a lot to do with my professional success as I don't have the stress of being in an office environment day-in and day-out and the meltdowns that can and did happen when I was. The trade-off is, of course, I have to travel from time to time, which, thankfully, doesn't present too many challenges that I can't handle. It probably helps I have developed somewhat of a travel routine.

Speaking of routines, there are many tasks which I always do a certain way. If I am interrupted (either internally or externally), there's a good chance that task will be entirely forgotten and be entirely undone or left partially done, with random items left around my house. Frequently, I will find my coffee cup in the bathroom or some other place. More recently, I left a camera tripod on the cat tree.

One thing I almost never forget to do, unlike Randolph, is eat. Sometimes, I eat too much because emotions. When I do forget to eat, it's because I'm hyper-focused on something. Maybe that's one key to getting my weight (and my blood sugar) under control.

If this post seems like a stream of consciousness, it is to an extent, and it's somewhat on purpose. It was not written in one sitting, but it reflects the way my mind meanders.

I do have a way with the written word and am generally able to convey complex topics in a simplified way. That is one of my talents. Sometimes, though it takes a very long time to come up with the right words. Yes, I've spent more than an hour writing a three sentence email. It's also sometimes like the JPEG compression algorithm for pictures when the compression is set too high: I lose important bits.

Yes, I'm good with computers and more recently, smartphones. Always have been. Always try to help people when I can, but I've learned to be a little less pushy about it. Honestly, if computers didn't exist, I don't know what I'd be good at.

I'm sure I'll have more to say on this, but for now, this is where I'll leave it.

Photos in the Hallways

It seems there are so many photos being taken these days, but what becomes of them? They're probably sitting somewhere on a hard drive that will get bit rot. They might get shared on a social network or three, but that's it.

Meanwhile, my employer is just about to finish their new building in Tel Aviv, which is attached to their old building. They're asking employees to submit their best photos for potentially being hung in the halls. They've done this in the past, and there's some pretty neat photos my (ex) co-workers have captured. Here is a few of my own, all from 2016:


Maybe one or more of these photos will live somewhere in the Check Point offices in Tel Aviv rather than just sit on a hard drive somewhere getting bit rot.

I do have a couple other favorite photos while I'm at it. I would have submitted these, but they don't meet the requirements (they were taken in 2006 with a Nokia E70 and are not big enough):

child-like-wonder_4966528673_o.jpg child-like-wonder_4966528575_o.jpg

And the only photo of mine that I know was printed in a magazine that I took in 1997 when I briefly worked at Netscape:

2116016112_97457cbe3d_o (1).jpg

Should We Trust The American Media?

From Watching the Election from The Post-Truth Future:

In China, that foundation of reality is eroded alongside trust in institutions previously tasked with upholding the truth. Contrary to popular sentiment in the US, Chinese readers don’t blindly trust the state-run media. Rather, they distrust it so much that they don’t trust any form of media, instead putting their faith in what their friends and family tell them. No institution is trusted enough to act as a definitive fact-checker, and so it’s easy for misinformation to proliferate unchecked.
> This has been China’s story for decades. In 2016, it is starting to be the US’ story as well.

For me, my mistrust of the media started with getting angry about what the news media chooses to cover. Things that, in the grand scheme of things, make no sense based on who is covering it. Why does the local newscast get something I know a thing or two about completely wrong? Why should a nationwide newscast spend any time on what new things are being added to the McDonalds menu? Why are celebrities discussed on anything other than TMZ or Entertainment Tonight? How come no one covers anything other than “fluff” pieces for GE, Disney, Comcast, or Viacom?

The media is bought and paid for pretty much everywhere in the world. In China, it’s obviously the government as media is state-run. In the US, it’s the owners of the major TV networks (NBC = Comcast + GE, ABC = Disney, CBS = Viacom) and the underwriters, sponsors, advertisers, call them whatever you’d like. Coverage of stories (or not) is dictated by those paying for airtime. Ever wonder why the national nightly news casts never cover drug-related issues, or even broach questions about whether drugs are involved in the latest gun-related incident? See all the pharmaceutical ads between the native ads for McDonalds that run as actual news stories.

At least I have some idea what’s going on thanks to No Agenda, which I discovered more than eight years ago. I’ve learned how the media works and the games they play. And I’ve learned: it’s a scam, but it’s an important signal about at least one of the potential narratives in play. The truth is out there to find if you’re willing to look for it. Just be careful of confirmation bias, which is also out there.

Why is Voting in America So Hard?

From At least 42 percent of Pierce voters had turned in ballots by Saturday:

Statewide, as of Friday, about 1.7 million of the more than 4.2 million ballots sent had been returned by mail or drop box.
> Record turnout for the state came during the 2008 election, when 84.6 percent of voters participated. In 2012, turnout was 81.3 percent.
> While election analysts across the country dissect early voting patterns in various states, the effect is muted in Washington, one of only three states that vote entirely by mail, along with Oregon and Colorado.
> That means no long lines at polling places and no corresponding legal tussles over access to polling places.

Seriously, this is the way it should be everywhere in America. Everyone gets an voter information pamphlet and ballot mailed to them. You drop off your ballot at a central location free of charge or you mail it for the cost of first class postage. No finding your polling place or waiting in line for hours on end, as some people are reportedly doing in other states.

The result? People actually vote. During the last couple of Presidential elections, Pierce County had above 80% participation of registered voters. This means just about everyone who wants to vote is voting and there's little stopping the other 20% from turning in their ballot.

Can someone tell me why more states aren't looking to implement similar systems? I mean, beyond the obvious, rhetorical reasons.

It's Not Just About The Sportsball

Many people I know into tech are not into sports. At all. In fact, they tend to refer to all sports collectively as sportsball:

Sportsball…is an Internet slang term used to describe any competitive sport that revolves around a ball, particularly the ones that end with the suffix “-ball” in their names, such as baseball, basketball and football. As implied by its generic name, the word is typically used in a derogatory manner by those who either dislike or has little interest in sports fandom.

I am probably in the minority among my community in the sense that I actually like some sports, particularly the NFL and the NBA. I'm not nearly as deep into it as some fans, but I do have teams I follow: the San Francisco 49ers (NFL) and the Golden State Warriors (NBA). I will occasionally pay attention to baseball, and I've been to a couple of hockey games, and I will entertain other regional sports when I am abroad.

If I had to pick a favorite sport: it's football, hands down. I've liked it ever since I was a young kid. Probably didn't hurt that I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area while I was a kid and watched the 49ers during their glory years. I will watch NFL, College, high school, and even the younger kids play. It requires a huge commitment and 11 players to work together towards a common goal. There are different things to appreciate about this sport at all age levels if you know what to look for.

Living in the Seattle area does not make me popular during the NFL season because the local team (the Seahawks) are in the same division as the 49ers. Between that, the absolutely miserable play by the 49ers over the last few years, and the recent success of the Golden State Warriors (colloquially known as the Dubs), I've started following the NBA again. Thankfully, unlike the 49ers, the Dubs do not have a rival based in Seattle, unless of course various parties can bring back the Seattle Supersonics.

To people who don't follow sports, professional sports seems absolutely ridiculous. It's an activity undertaken by highly paid athletes who work for teams and/or sports leagues mostly interested in making as much money as humanly possible. The impact of a team win or loss on a fan is mostly psychological. One's beliefs about a team's ability to win can appear similar to a belief in God, something a lot of tech people don't believe in, either.

Then again, that nerdy thing you like and will spend hours on end talking about seems absolutely ridiculous to most everyone else who isn't a similar sort of nerd. Sports (in general) is one of those things that the vast majority of people are interested in. As such, it serves as a useful way to relate to people who aren't your kind of nerd.

For example, even though I am not a Seahawks fan, because the majority of people around where I live are, I follow them enough to be able to talk intelligently with anyone about how they're doing. Same with basketball, I follow the Dubs and have a cursory knowledge of other teams and players. Baseball, I'm less into, but I get mildly interested in during the postseason and know who's playing who in the World Series.

When I travel, I find sports is a great way to relate to people, even if they like a sport I don't know much about. I've learned a bit about hockey from Canadians and about various forms of Rugby from Australians and South Africans. Even though it's unlikely I will get into these sports, I find having at least a perfunctory knowledge of the locally prevalent sports helps in all manners of conversation.

Bottom line: People appreciate when you show interest in something they are interested in. Sports is about as close to a touchdown, slam dunk, or home run as you're gonna get in this area.

Creative Block

I seem to have hit a bit of a wall in terms of my creative endeavors. Maybe all those reports I'm writing for work lately have a lot to do with this. Maybe it's all the time in shiny metal tubes. Not entirely sure. But when your creative pursuits involve more than just writing, you can't really call it writers block, can you?

The good news is that I've recorded a new podcast for the first time in over three months, starting with a big new toy which I'm sure I spent far too many minutes talking about. I'm also writing something small here, but where I really need to kick it up a notch is over on PhoneBoy's Security Theater as that advances my professional image.

The question is: can I maintain the creative momentum? I go in spurts, sometimes a few days, sometimes a few years. Consistency is key to honing your craft and while I can do it for a time, I eventually run out of steam.

It's self-sabotaging, quite frankly, and I need to figure out why I do that. Not just in my creative pursuits.

About That A1C

As part of a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, and just generally getting older, I have to give regular samples of my blood so I can be evaluated for many things. This time around, I got it in just under the expiration of the orders, about three months past when I should have. It resulted in me learning I needed a doctors visit to get my medications refilled while being close to running out.

Sadly, the last several months of heavy travel have not been good to me. I've ate and drank a lot of stuff that, quite frankly, I probably shouldn't have. I stopped walking (for exercise) regularly. As a result, I gained back most of the weight I had lost and my A1C number went from a 6.1 to a 6.7. Also, my fasting blood sugar spiked to around 130 mg/dL (at least on my meter).

After I saw the results of my blood tests, I redoubled my efforts to eliminate the evil carbs and to quit putting food in my mouth when I'm not hungry. The funny thing is it seems to have resulted in an immediate drop in my fasting blood sugar: below 100 mg/dL, which is where it's supposed to be.

The doctor wasn't too concerned with the increase. His prescription, of course, is to make better dietary choices and get exercising again.

Sadly, over the next couple of weeks, I will be away from home again. Plenty of restaurant food, but minimal time in shiny metal tubes. After that, I should be home for a few weeks. We'll see if I can keep things under control.