I know that I haven’t posted much lately but life has been hectic. The wife and I have been packing up the house and parting with lots of accumulated stuff. Chief beneficiaries of this process have been the cancer society store, Goodwill, and the Kiefer landfill. We are going from about 2,100 square feet to 880.
The amount of photos, genealogy stuff, old yearbooks, and the like is ridiculous. In one room we packed six large boxes that weighed 30 to 40 pounds each. We still have to tackle one closet of photos plus the stuff currently hanging on the walls. For the sake of space, most picture frames are being discarded. Eastman Kodak had no idea what a mess they would be creating for my family.
Officially, we are whittling down the furniture to 11 pieces, half of which are for the bedroom. The rest are for sale or already sold.
Much of the rest of our stuff is books. We started with several thousand books in the house. I have parted with many that I have had for decades. A few are being packed but designated as a donation to the local church library at our new home. Our neighbor will be getting a box of vintage sci-fi stuff after the next garage sale. Goodwill will likely be getting a few hundred pounds of tomes as well.
XBOX is no longer part of our lives. The original console was traded for credit at a local store a few days ago. The 360 and One are going with my son to college–along with the remaining games in our house. I doubt they will survive to the end of the first year of college.
We are parting with more than half the clothing and linens in the house.
Two items remain in the attic, a red wagon and a dedication plaque for a bank that once existed in Elk Grove. (Update: The plaque left us last week.)
Many of the children’s school papers that we had saved have been sent to the landfill. We saved a few plus the usual—report cards and school photos.
Reducing the amount of stuff, we have is something that is long overdue. I’m glad we are doing it now. However, my choices of what to keep or part with have been colored by the stupid decisions that my son has been making lately. This will be a topic covered elsewhere on the blog. I just want to be on record that his bad behavior has consequences now and not just in the future.
The truth is that we should have left California many years ago. Due to stupid financial decisions, we probably couldn’t have done it but … I’m glad we are getting out now. Gavin and his fellow travelers are turning this place into a third world hell hole.
The purpose of this blog is to show the affect television and internet have on people’s lives in regard to natural disasters. These are the reactions of one man I work with.
First, we start with the Oroville Dam spillway several years ago in 2017. The CA Dept of Water Resources, when there was first reported to be trouble, downplayed it, or put out very odd press releases to re-assure the public there were no issues. DWR had to shut down the spillways due to damage, but continued to put out press releases that all was well. I do not know about you guys, but I have never heard of any government organization putting out a press release essentially saying “all is ok” when something bad isn’t brewing. When it comes to a dam, common sense says, if the spillways are closed, water is building up behind it. Put into English, the water will need to go somewhere, and the object standing in its way is causing it to build higher.
I casually mentioned this to a colleague, he shouted me down saying he saw on the news all was well. I Googled and found the clip on YouTube that he referenced. It was a man who claimed to be in charge of emergency services, not DWR, also the interview was taking place in Sacramento, not Oroville where the dam is located. But hey, “Honey we are fine, the man on TV says so.” “He is from the government, and he is here to help!”
Over the next 7 days, stories would appear on my Yahoo.com feed. The biggest was one saying “DWR was evacuating the fish from the hatchery located at the dam’s base. But again, nothing for us to worry about, this is normal…I guess? On February 10th crews began removing trees from around the emergency spillway. Seems really fishy because in CA I believe cutting down a tree may make you eligible for the death penalty. Also, the environmentalists were dead silent on this tree removal operation, telling me something was really not good. Not to worry, Alfred E Newman at my office said he hasn’t seen anything bad reported yet.
Two days later, evacuation orders were made for the counties surrounding the area near the dam. This happened on a workday around 10 am. The colleague of mine took a call from his spouse, in the breakroom, said “oh my God, we need to head for safety.” He walked out, and declared everything was ok, and he was going to work from home. On his way out, I said “hope you survive this Armageddon predicted by me earlier.”
Keep in mind readers, Oroville is 1.4 hours away from our headquarters by car. Moreover, the land between here and Oroville is literally flat, spread-out farmland. I dated a girl in college who was from that area, and when I visited it was yeah, flat farmland, it could easily flood and barely anyone would notice. Another pro tip, her father like many others in the area grew rice, a crop that quite literally can sit in flooded fields for months. My point being by the time the water reached Sacramento, let alone my office or house, the stream would be moving at a glacial trickle pace.
He freaked out, got into a car and decided to drive. Yup, Mr. I ain’t never scared, booked it out of town. Nothing ever came of this situation by the way.
The second scenario involves the “atmospheric rivers” our area has experienced since New Year’s Eve. There have been 3 in total. Prior to the first storm, my colleague made it clear he was very scared of the storms. As I tried to explain, the storm they are describing is mostly wind, the rain happens in large amounts very quickly, but it’s nothing our systems cannot handle. Of course, I’m not on TV so my words were not taken at all. Instead, he relied on meteorologists and articles written online, aka news. The news is supposed to do 1 thing, mostly like a shock jock of yesteryear, its job is to stir people up and create panic/ratings. If it bleeds it leads is still true today.
On all three occasions he freaked out, spouting cable news BS of the levees could fail etc. etc. etc. Keep in mind he is about 32 years older than me, yet he reacts like a toddler who dropped his ice cream cone. He packed his belongings, and headed to Patterson, yes as in an area that usually floods each time there is heavy rain and runoff. But its ok, the news people on TV told him to flee.
On all three occasions, we did get rain, but not too much. Yes, the normal areas flooded, Wilton, Discovery Park, and some other creeks in the area. The bypass area flooded, but all these scenarios happen each time we experience significant rains. The areas ordered to evacuate are very very rural and surprise, they have to evacuate every time this happens. Wind damage occurred, and yes trees were toppled, fences were downed, but no massive loss of life or damage.
My point here is the same one I have made quite a few times. Ditch cable. Look at the two scenarios again, in the first, TV said all was well, it was not. The second? Made it seem like we were in Biblical times and an ark was needed to survive this. Nothing happened. The freak out that occurred was unfounded and unnecessary.
Keep watching TV and the next thing to freak out about will get you scared. Anyone remember the “murder hornets” during the pandemic? I’m still waiting for them to show up.
By the time I’ve posted this blog, I will have two weeks until I kiss my state job goodbye. I think on my calendar at work, its marked as Bobby’s Johnny Paycheck Day or some such thing. Oh, Johnny Paycheck is best known for a song he did in the 1970’s called, “Take this job and shove it.” I doubt anybody but me knows or cares about this one last slap at my employer, but it’s intended as sarcasm.
Anyway, I’m making a bunch of decisions with little time to think about them. Thankfully my wife is in on my decisions and deliberations. As long as we agree, things should be OK. Oh, one benefit of retiring in January is that I have only one five-day work week during my last month of employment.
Just for entertainment value, I also got a jury duty summons for my last week. Since it’s a four-day work week, and my group number is just over halfway thru the pack, I doubt I have to show up but who knows? Whatever happens, its my last jury duty in California. I can’t wait to get out of this place.
Our new home, in a much more freedom loving place, is slowly coming together. The inside is warm and cozy but in need of drywall and finishes. Also, the wife seems to agree that we each need our own area to work so Really Right looks to be on track for a full-time office. No, I don’t plan on going full blogger 24/7 but I might finally write a book or two like I’ve been wanting to do.
The reduction in income is balanced against the payoff in completing the house. I’m looking forward to having more of a hand in completing our house. When I do work on projects, I harken back to some sage advice offered in one of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies; “A man’s got to know his limitations”. Sometimes I skip doing work due to a lack of knowledge and sometimes due to a lack of insurance. I’d rather let the guy with liability insurance do some types of work rather than do it myself.
Yep, today I have decided to clean off all the unposted things that I’ve been saving to write about but never got there. I hope you find a few funny and others interesting.
The following was posted on social media a few months ago. It is a news account of a Russian general being killed in the Ukraine war.
In the opinion of some, there was a shadow over this report. Some said the news was tainted. I sought the original post on the Ukraine news site but was unable to find it.
Sadly, it is indeed a forgery. The photo is actually from the Command and Conquer computer games series by Electronic Arts. Specifically in Red Alert 3, actor Tim Curry played Premier Anatoly Cherdenko. Other names you might recognize in the cinematic cut screens include Gina Carano, Jonathan Pryce, J.K. Simmons, George Takei, David Hasselhoff, Jenny McCarthy, and Kelly Hu.
Next is a meme that I found on the website Gab.
Microsoft has now confirmed signing a malicious driver being distributed within gaming environments.
This driver, called “Netfilter,” is in fact a rootkit that was observed communicating with Chinese command-and-control (C2) IPs.
Another Covid atrocity is this photo which I found many months ago. I call it “Really Wrong”.
I found this gem on my Microsoft account. Don’t know how they found me here.
Could this be the proof that I’m more Indian than Elizabeth Warren.
Here’s two stories from a different perspective that talk about Russia versus the West.
Apti Alaudinov, the commander of Chechen forces fighting for Russia, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “holy war” against the “Satanic” values of Europe and the United States as well as the LGBTQ community.
Alaudinov made the remarks during a recent segment of Russia’s state-run Russia-1 television channel. A clip of his remarks were shared to Twitter on Sunday by Julia Davis, a columnist for The Daily Beast and creator of the Russian Media Monitor. Chechnya, where Alaudinov hails from, is a Republic of Russia under the jurisdiction of Moscow.
In his comments, the Chechen commander praised Putin for standing up against the West and NATO, describing them as evil. He praised the Russian president for preventing LGBTQ rights from advancing in their country, contending that the fight in Ukraine was a war against the marginalized community.
Alaudinov noted that he is “grateful” that Putin is following the values of “the Most High,” referring to God. “We are not under the flags of the LGBT and as long as he’s alive, we won’t be under those flags.”
To my knowledge, I am the only culture war analyst in the world who contends that the current Russia/Ukraine war started not with President Putin’s Feb. 24, 2022. “Empire of Lies” speech, nor with the Obama/Soros-orchestrated Maidan coup on Feb. 22, 2014, to replace pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych with their own stooge, but with Vladimir Putin’s signature on June 30, 2013, making the LGBT propaganda ban the law of the land.
More than any other factor in the vast constellation of geopolitical rivalries and concerns, that single act declared the Russian Federation an enemy of globalism, and more importantly in the realpolitik sense, an enemy of the megalomaniac “closeted” homosexual Barack Obama who, even then, had done more to advance the global LGBT agenda than any other living man.
In other news, the “Velvet Sweatshop” a.k.a. Microsoft has digitized most of the world and made the data available for free. Sorry, I didn’t check for the accuracy of Area 51, but you’re welcome to look. However, I’m sure North Korea can now accurately target your house using these same geolocation tools.
Did you know that the first fatal nuclear reactor deaths were in the United States in 1961?
Yep, Jane Fonda was still in braces when this happened. This article is a good read. I think the Sith Lord would find it interesting. Also, any of you Navy Nukes that did prototype training in Idaho will find this of interest.
ATOMIC CITY, Idaho — People in this remote, high-desert town still talk about the alleged mysterious love triangle that, 60 years ago, triggered a murder-suicide — and resulted in the world’s first fatal nuclear explosion.
The accident never got the same attention as Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) or Fukushima (2011). But the sensational story behind it lives in infamy, even though some experts believe it may have been made up by government officials.
This single sentence is true: Army Specialists Jack Byrnes, 22, and Richard McKinley, 26, and Navy Seabee Richard Legg, 26, died violent, gruesome deaths on Jan. 3, 1961, at the US Army’s pioneering SL-1 reactor in Idaho.
More proof that the ancient world was not what they taught you in school. The gizmo in this article is super cool.
Great mysteries are meant to be penetrated and one of the most fascinating is the 2,000-year-old computing machine known as the ancient Greek Antikythera Mechanism.
This intricate, bronze clockwork device was first discovered by Greek sponge divers inspecting a Roman-era shipwreck back in 1900 near the island of Antikythera in the Mediterranean Sea. Since then, scholars and historians have speculated as to the exact nature of its precision Steampunk-like workings.
Now a team of scientists and researchers at University College London (UCL) has uncovered a significant piece of the puzzle that comprises this fascinating astronomical calculator, which is thought to be a hand-cranked mechanical contraption used to predict astronomical events and heavenly logistics.
The Antikythera Mechanism is considered to be the world’s first analog computer and perhaps the finest feat of engineering ever to emerge from that era of antiquity. No equivalent machine was created until at least a thousand years later when craftsmen built medieval cathedral clocks.
This 2,000-year-old device was fabricated using a complex intermeshing of 30 surviving gears and was harnessed to not only predict the positions of the Sun, Moon and the planets, lunar and solar eclipses, and astronomical phenomena, but also dates for the ancient Olympics.
If you aspire playing 4K Blu-ray disks on your computer, here’s some news you need to know.
There is no greater acknowledgement that we have moved on from physical media than Intel dropping support for them from their latest processors.
The first laptops without DVD drives were being released around 10 years ago, but until the 12th generation of Intel’s processors, the company still included support for the SGX (software guard extension) DRM technology needed to decrypt the discs.
This is no longer the case, as Intel confirmed in the spec sheet for the 12th Generation processor.
Last but not least are two stories on the financial failure that is the State of California. Yep, sorry Gavin lovers—not that I know of any—but all this talk of budget surplus is BS for gullible voters and the children running Silicone Valley.
Oh, the following is from a year and a half ago and its only gotten worse.
So we sued the State of California to get the records that are legally required to be made available to anyone who requests them.
Our initial request on Aug. 23, 2019 was ignored, and follow-up letters in October and November were finally acknowledged – 11 weeks after the first request, a violation of state open records law.
Our request was later denied, with Yee saying that they were “unable to locate” the evidence of payments that her office made and that it did not track payments that went through other state offices.
In 2018, Yee’s office paid 49 million bills totaling $320 billion in payments. While she made the payments, she claims she cannot track the payments.
The State Controller’s Office is the worst agency in the State of California. Trust me because I’ve seen this in the private sector. If you only count your revenue and don’t include all your expenses, you think you have a huge profit (revenue surplus). It sometimes takes an outside set of eyes to set the record straight. When government denies such oversight then it has something to hide.
In 2018, California resident Steven Childs wanted to know how much the state paid to a single vendor over a five-year period. Instead of the data, California Controller Betty Yee sent him an invoice for $1,250. Childs asked more questions and the Controller’s chief counsel, Rick Chivaro, admitted the state held electronic records and “warrant records” akin to “maintaining a checking account online.”
Today, in a Sacramento superior court, the controller denies having a checkbook and claims the warrant register doesn’t contain vendor information. The Golden State is the only state in the nation not to produce state spending under open records laws.
Our organization at OpenTheBooks.com is battling the controller in this case over our freedom of information request for the entire line-by-line state vendor checkbook. When the controller rejected our request, we sued.
Yee is claiming her office “couldn’t locate” a single payment. No, that’s not fake news, or a comedy punch line. California’s top financial officer actually argued this in court recently, despite admitting she paid 50 million individual bills last year.
Furthermore, the controller now claims that transparency itself is an “undue burden.” She swears it’s necessary to take 72,000 work hours to go through each of the 50 million payments by hand.
Here are some of the arguments Yee is making to stonewall our request:
“In order to produce checkbook level data as requested … staff would need to manually review the estimated 50 million transactions …” (Emphasis added.)
“The public interest served by not disclosing the requested records and data clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. As such, the [State Controller’s Office] is relieved of any obligation to produce the requested records.” (Emphasis added.)
Do we have a representative republic if the representatives get to hide all transactions from the people—and claim that it’s for their own good?
Controller Yee acts like she has something to hide. Here are just a couple items we learned during discovery about how taxpayer dollars are spent by the controller:
1. Using paper and string. An estimated 200,000 bills — submitted only on paper — were paid during the fiscal year. Incredibly, the justification for each payment contains even more paper — between 15-20 pages and is bound and physically tied together with string. It takes 7-10 minutes to deconstruct, copy, and reconstruct each file.
2. State agencies submit employee reimbursements and supplemental payments to the controller without payee information. The controller provides the money with no accountability and no auditing.
The controller makes state payments, is compelled by the state constitution to audit them, and therefore must be able to track those payments. Any responsible entity that makes a payment can track the payment. It is the minimum standard in any basic accounting system.
In California, the controller has frequently blamed their outdated systems that store records on paper, microfiche, and electronic tape. Yee even admitted that couriers with manila folders run demands for payments from state agencies. Is this ancient Rome?
Oh, by the way, I have been in the room where the paper and string claim schedules are processed. This is 100 percent true and as a State employee, I’ve made and submitted many of these during my time working for the state. Oh, the string must be on the correct side of the Claim Schedule packet, or it will be returned to you rejected and unprocessed. Also, the knot on the packet is a bow just like when mama taught you to tie your shoes. If the knot is wrong, it will be returned to you—again rejected.
This is how government in the heart of the alleged technology capital of the world is really run. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Besides dealing with my wife’s cancer, we have been going forward with our plans to exit California. As part of that process, we decided to buy a barn as an interim home. (More on that as this article unfolds.) Anyway, we needed to layout the interior design of the barn that we purchased.
I decided to look online for some software that was affordable that I could use to reproduce the barn floor plan that we had purchased and then insert furniture, plumbing fixtures, and do a basic electrical design. Also, we would need additional drawings to submit with our building permit application. I know that I didn’t want to spend several thousand dollars on a program like AutoCAD but making the design in 3D was a necessity.
Frankly, the search on the internet was frustrating because it was more about companies paying for endorsements and product placement than anything else. As a result, I decided to start checking out websites of various companies. Many of the programs offered online were very old and clearly not actively supported.
After much searching, I did find a company that was actively supporting their products but then I faced another question, were the lower priced tiers of the product worth it or just a way to make you upgrade to get the features that you really wanted—I’m thinking like software that lets you design but not print or save—if you’re tried enough limited demo programs you know what I mean.
Still unsure, I decided to view some of the tutorial programs available on their website. I also searched for reviews of the product.
First the reviews. The product reviews for home design software are often as useless as the ones on Amazon. A certain amount of the contributors are computer illiterate people that don’t know their right mouse button from their left. (Those with one mouse button are irredeemable.) Others said that the learning curve was steep but doable. These folks were at least trying to make the software work for them. On the whole, this group was satisfied or happy with the product.
The real selling point to me was the online videos. First, it told me the product was actively being updated and second that even without the software, you could follow what was happening as the program was demonstrated.
After several days of looking around, I decided to shell-out about $100 for the lowest tier of home design software by Chief Architect. Current price is $129.(Reader note: the Chief that contributes to our blog is not related to or being endorsed to support this product.)
Folks, the first thing you need to do is download this software and then go eat lunch or spend a long period on “the throne”. Trivia: On the throne is actually from the Old Testament. See Judges 3: 12-25.
You have been warned. If you try to install this program immediately after downloading it won’t work. Like a good apple pie, it needs to rest a few minutes. It seems that until Windows Defender has a good, hard look at it, Windows won’t allow it to install.
As with any software package, have the license key handy. By the way, this program allows you to have multiple copies of the program on various computers. Turn the license off on one machine and then activate it on the other. This allows me to switch from my desktop computer to the wife’s laptop and back. There are no limits on moving the license key, only that one device at a time can be active on the license.
I started to learn the program with a basic rectangular floor plan with doors and windows. It also had stairs and a loft. Placement of the stairs took a lot of trial and error to figure out. By the time that I mastered the program basics, my wife had seen enough to run the program too. To get the roofline and everything like I wanted was eleven hours, but the next day my wife was able to sit down and layout all the furniture, bathroom fixtures, and the kitchen in just a few hours. Then she went on to move stuff around, paint the inside and add floor coverings. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes fun.
You can place electrical outlets and fire alarms, sinks, bookshelves, granite or quartz countertops, and just about anything else you can think of. Some of this includes name brands of appliances, sinks, cabinets, hardware, paint, carpet, decking, doors, and more.
This tier of the program will do some remarkable things but if you want a full material take-off, floor joist and roof plan, or the ability to print formal blueprints then you need to step up to a higher version of the product.
The 3D views were nice to see but did seem to be limited in one important visual aspect. The program can show backgrounds and textured ground level, but when we tested it, the entire building foundation seemed to be sitting on the ground and not partially sunken into the earth. This makes any building on a stem wall look abnormally tall.
The best 3D view is from the Doll House perspective. In the actual program, 3D renders can be rotated by moving your mouse and/or changing the camera perspective.
You get a variety of textures and furnishings to put in your virtual home and have the option to buy even more on Chief’s website. The program will allow some colors and textures to be input into the program but frankly my wife can do that easier than I, because I never spent much time with this part of the program.
Oh, Chief Architect is based out of Idaho. I won’t say that the limits of this program are your imagination, but it gets really close.
Like the title says I went on what has to be the craziest first date I’ve been on in a long while. Not anything she wore, did, or ate/drank made it strange. What was wild was the look into her lifestyle and her definition of the word “busy.”
First some backstory. We had been texting for a few weeks and we had been in the “lets pick a date” stage for about 10 days. She was the busy one, I can respect that as my “busy” evolves from work, and extra-curricular events, such as church and gym. I figured she had legit reasons, so I let it go. D-Day finally came, I showed up early, as did she. Things got off to a good start but then things went awry. I inquired as to her work, and she obliged. She was a young professional working for the county; however, this is where things got odd. She was describing her job as a typical 8-5 desk job, while she was explaining her work, I noticed she appeared to be wearing some kind of war paint, as she had brown smears on her cheeks. Turns out after she realized her makeup malfunction that she excused herself to use the lady’s room. She did properly “put on her face” and then returned to our table. I guess no harm no foul. First dates can be hectic, and most guys have it pretty easy in this regard, as most of us don’t spend much time on getting ready. After she returned, we tried finding common ground but very little was found.
Then things took a turn for the bizarre in my opinion. I asked her what she liked doing for fun, and she replied, “she is always very busy.” When I asked about hobbies, I got the same response. Ditto for places she wants to go, and things she wants to do. That being said, I basically asked what goes on in your life outside of your 8-5? Keep in mind I already had mentioned all my goings on. She went on to mention she watches the SF Giants baseball team religiously, never misses a pitch. Also watches; The Voice, America’s Got Talent, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, America’s Next Top Model, Shark Tank, Top Chef, and to be honest I quit paying attention after that. This girl isn’t busy with life, she is busy with fantasy land TV shows. Just by my count, Giants games are roughly 3 hours, and the other plethora of shows are about an hour long each. While I will readily admit I doubt all these shows run on same days/seasons we can all agree that’s a lot of T.V. The night continued and after dinner she offered to pay, she actually insisted going as far as grabbing the bill. Her card was returned/declined/rejected twice. I picked up the tab.
The night ended with her driving me back to my car. I was parked about 3 blocks away. Her car was messy and trashed. I wished her good night and we exchanged “we both had a great time.” She texted the following day how much fun she had, but I could not let this go any farther.
To wrap this up, here is my reasoning and why I call it a bad first date. First, I don’t let the makeup thing become a deal breaker, I believe she was rushed; however, I think it was her “prep time” interfered with “show watching time.” The idea of all these TV shows paints a bad picture. It paints a picture of her being glued to the couch whilst watching one show after another. Embracing fantasy land as opposed to real world things. None of the shows she watched except maybe the ball game are even based on the real world. The cards being declined is a peek into the way she manages her life, no regard for money, buy now pay later. The car being trashed is just icing on the proverbial cake, she lives on an “I’ll get around to it basis.” If the car is trashed what does the apartment look like? Nice girl, but she comes off as a 24-year-old recent college grad as opposed to a working professional. The TV is always on, and personal finance and hygiene take a back seat. I wish her the best, but this was doomed to fail badly.
When looking for a match, having very little in common isn’t a deal breaker, but the “busy” in her life were things she has chosen to be busy with. I cannot fathom sitting in front of a TV with a messy car, and my financial house not in order while watching shows that are of little significance to my life. Not to mention the “after shows” that usually take place following.
This is just a quick note to explain why I haven’t been posting too much lately. Its not that we’ve run out of content, I’ve just been busy with life. I took a new job a few weeks ago and the learning curve is steep both in terms of learning new processes and procedures as well as a crazy amount of new jargon and acronyms. The job I took is with California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) and yes there will be some posts on my misadventures at EDD in the coming weeks. I also have enough material on Kirk Uhler to regularly beat him like a piñata until next Cinco de Mayo. In my spare time, I’ve been painting the exterior of the house.
The rest of the staff has been waiting patiently for the Chief to pony up at least two more articles on Dominic Foppoli. Sadly, we have agreed to hold much really damning stuff on Dominic until the court cases against him go live. Trust me, whatever you’ve read is just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, and accuser number seven has gone public with her accusations.
My family’s plans to escape California took several big steps forward this past week.
First, we are getting proper access to our property installed from the main road by a contractor that we hired. The driveway should be completed in a few weeks. The house plans are slated to be ready soon as well.
We also took steps to get utilities installed on the property. The final price is unknown but the local government overseeing everything has had their preliminary fees paid to do the necessary engineering. We also met with the person installing electrical service to the property. Unlike California, where we are moving, hydroelectric is considered a reliable renewable energy source.
As part of our plan, I have accepted a promotion with a new agency, the dreaded Employment Development Department (EDD). Per conversations with some folks working there, it’s supposed to be an improvement from where I was before. The only concerning part is that the interview process was very minimal which makes me think they are just throwing as many people as they can at their problems. It is a “limited term” assignment which means I could be there 12 to 24 months, unless they convert me to permanent. I’d settle for the 24-month option. It will be more pay which of course will allow me to get more when I retire in two years …such a bargain.
I find it funny that after all these months of working from home, two weeks before I leave my current agency, I finally was issued the official department laptop. This laptop from Dell is perfectly fine, or it was before the IT department got ahold of it. Folks, I’m a better IT guy than almost anyone they have on their payroll. After years of trying to get hired by them, I finally gave up. Anyway, the laptop that I was issued was missing the accounting program and the VPN (Virtual Private Network) software. I had to get our building’s IT guy to install the programs. When I got it home and tried to use it, I found even more problems. The IT department stripped out the default Windows Power Plans and set it to use one of their own design. The max CPU usage I can get out of the thing is about 15 percent. My Excel program tops out at 2 percent CPU usage when under load and running macros in Excel. My Windows XP box from ten years ago was faster. Due to all the Group Policies, poor patching, and other nonsense, this thing is 85 percent brick and 15 percent computer. Oh, i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM should be faster. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was a 32-bit OS. The IT guy tried to remote in and fix it, but he doesn’t even know that Windows has Power Plans or how to configure them. Oh, this thing is so slow that web pages won’t resolve because they time-out’ thus looking for help on the Internet is impossible with this machine.
Also, there is no antivirus program on the laptop. I should have McAfee End Point Enterprise AV but that too is missing.
When transferring to the laptop, I abandoned about 90 percent of the files on my desktop machine and only transferred a few working files, and my photos and podcasts that I had accumulated over the last ten years. It’s a good thing I didn’t try to transfer everything. I have about 250 GB of data on my desktop and the laptop SSD is about 250 GB so it wouldn’t all fit anyway.
In light of my impending move to EDD, my question was how to get my personal stuff off of the laptop. Over the years the IT guys have gradually blocked thumb drives, DVD burners, and cell phones. I tried file transfer via network and Bluetooth but that didn’t work. Since I can’t get webpages to resolve, I couldn’t even use email to move anything. I know BIT Locker has been hacked but I had decided not to brute force any solution. I had about 50 podcasts and about 25 GB in photos that I wanted to move plus a few other odds and ends. (In most cases, the photos were copies that I probably had elsewhere but I wanted to compare them to my master copy on my home computer before deleting them.) I did many web searches on my desktop computer before I found a solution that worked. Thankfully, the IT guys don’t run Windows 10 in the real world so what I did was use something already baked into the OS.
Here is the solution that I found:
On both your home computer and the laptop, go to Setting > Shared Experiences and turn on both sharing buttons.
Then in Windows Explorer you can select files and broadcast them from one machine to another. I found that this usually worked but I was limited to about 14 files at a time. To move 25 GBs of photos at this rate would take forever. As a workaround for this file limit, I found that I could zip a whole directory of photos and transfer them as one file. I was able to move 8.5 GB of photos in a single zip file. I then deleted the stuff on the laptop. I recommend that you add Shared Experiences to your toolbox of things to consider as a method for moving files. The speed is limited only by your Wi-Fi.
Say it isn’t so but here we go again. A New Year, a new president, and yet same old, same old, out of our favorite out of touch person. He came into the office proclaiming 500,000 had died of Covid and asked me if I still thought it was a hoax. With all the editorial crew of this blog to back me, I have never once said that. I believe, just like we all do here, that it was a harsh overreaction by a loud minority of folks who believe everything they see on TV. I heard about how 1,000 people had died in Sacramento County, a county of almost 1.8 million mind you. He hid in fear during this entire time, and yet he insisted young folks and “essential” folks report for duty in case he needed to spin the reels at the Indian Casino. My favorite was his explaining to me the different variants of Covid; CA, NY, South Africa, European, etc.…things I frankly could not care less about. Folks this virus has very similar characterizes to the flu in the opinion of my doctor and many other medical experts; sans Fauci. The flu mutates annually and as a result the flu shot is either a “hit” or a “miss” depending on science and research.
Just to be clear, I do not see much on Covid anymore, it must be since we have a new president or a Governor who is about to be recalled. But I used to look at KCRA or CBS local affiliate news sites for info on Covid and I see nothing anymore except for the rare announcement that a drive thru vaccine clinic is in town. Apparently, this info is readily available to folks who have nothing better to do. As a blogger who is consumed with work, church, politics, and other extracurricular activities, I cannot let Covid break or destroy my mind. I know it is there, and the vaccine will not be available to me for a great while due to my young age. I also know I cannot control things outside my control, I wash my hands, wear a mask as required, and generally live my life.
While 90-Day Guy was on his diatribe about the variants I asked if he enjoyed watching so much television and what he specifically watched. Predictably he got upset and proclaimed he doesn’t watch TV. He took a phone call and began to recap last night’s episode of The Bachelor and parlayed that into a discussion about The Voice with a client. When I casually brought up The Bachelorette, I was told that ended weeks ago and to “get with the program.” I don’t have cable, nor do I care about those shows. But it makes my point, he watches quite a lot of TV. He also readily admits to watching Hannity, Tucker, and Laura Ingraham daily, adding 3 more hours to the docket. He also brought up how he watched a Giants baseball game the same night. Folks, baseball is not in season, it’s Spring Training, and the players worth a rip are out of the game by inning 5, yet he is “so busy” that he watches no TV.
For the heck of it, I decided to play a game with him. I said name all 50 states, I could care less the order named, I just wanted to hear them listed off. He asked to write them down, I okayed it. He correctly listed 44, and included Washington DC, which will likely soon be a state. He left out of usual ones located in New England, left out Pennsylvania, and Illinois, which while forgettable, they are large states. Then I mentioned list all capitals. This was not a great look. He listed 20, and some of the “capitals” had me puzzled; Seattle, New York City, Tulsa, Miami, and Portland were listed. He gave up shortly thereafter and claimed again he doesn’t watch much TV. Yikes.
The point of this blog is not to antagonize but to point out how brain drain is a real thing. Liberalism is a disease, but at the same time look at what TV does to your mind. This guy could name off all the variants, and stats Covid related, were he found them I do not know. He could also give a detailed run down of reality TV to a point of obsession, and watching an entire preseason baseball game, whilst simultaneously saying he is too busy all the time. However, he could not pass a basic test of something that has not changed in our lives. This is brain drain. Stop worrying about Covid, it’s a tertiary thing in our lives right now, additional info will come in time, but to make it an obsession is not good.
Note: This blog is a place where I share how I feel or what I’m doing, often to let off some steam; however, occasionally, it’s just a place where I park notes to myself in case need them later. This article is one such note to myself; however, you still might learn a thing or two about how your tax dollars are spent. If you read on, remember that you’ve been warned.
Background—including Jargon and Vocabulary
In terms of technology, one of the most backwards places to work is the State of California. Yep, while the State may be home to Big Tech, your government is stuck in the past. In a sense, I can’t blame them. Government has zero incentive to become efficient, innovate, or do better. One reason is that everybody is represented by a union whether or not they are even a member of said union. As such, no jobs can be eliminated without their express permission—which never happens. Any media reports to the contrary are lies or smokescreens to trick the public—usually for sympathy to further the union’s grip on state government.
A legacy piece of technology which is the aging backbone of California’s finances is CalSTARS (California State Accounting and Reporting System). I have written about this software before. It is a Unix based mainframe system that was brought online when Ronald Reagan was President in the 1980’s. This is the same software that desperately needed patching as part of the Y2K scare. It is still in use today.
California has spent over a billion dollars of your money to try and get their new accounting system deployed to replace CalSTARS, but as usual, it is many years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. This gem is called FI$Cal (Financial Information System for California). The acronym is pronounced fis-cal [with short “I”) Think of it as pausing between syllables of the word “fiscal”.
The next thing you need to know is that within the State of California, there is no formal way for one agency to talk with another. Lazy people might blame the right to privacy in the State Constitution. This privacy clause was sold to voters as a barrier to keep agencies from sharing information and to cripple “Big Brother” from spying on citizens. Voters we told that by passing it, government would be prevented from compiling comprehensive files to track citizens. Think Soviet Union Politburo and KGB surveillance.
I have two comments on that promise. First, who needs government to do that when we have credit agencies and Big Tech to do it for you. If you want the goods on a conservative, just ask Big Tech; if you want the same info on a Liberal you better get a court order. Such is life in Biden’s America.
Second, somehow liberals argue the this right to privacy—banning the government from keeping comprehensive records on citizens—must also include a right to abortion. Abortion was never mentioned by the campaign advocating passage of the right to privacy back when it was passed in the 1970’s.
Anyway, it is impossible for peers within agencies to speak directly with each other unless you are a lifer in state service and happen to have a personal relationship with someone in another agency; usually because you were once coworkers. If my agency has a question for the State Controller, Franchise Tax Board, Dept of Motor Vehicles or any other state agency, we get to call the very same 800 number that you do as a member of the public to try and get help. Needless to say, with no way to prove who I am, where I’m calling from, or why my question is related to my duties as a state employee, I can get no help. Managers have no secret backdoor or liaison to go thru to get answers either.
This communication barrier extends to email also. Even when I have the email address of someone, say at the State Controller’s Office, my experience has been that email outside that agency is refused by the mail server and/or firewall. In the wake of Covid and other state activities, perhaps this will eventually change.
My point in bringing up communication is this, no one at my agency can get the State Controller to find a better way to send us accounting documents other than snail mail. The accounting documents that we get arrive in drips and drabs (when they make it to us). Each envelope or box has two copies of each accounting document. These must then be sorted and scanned into Adobe PDF files. These PDF files are then run thru an OCR program and then manually attached into our accounting system. My question, for the entire time that I have been a state employee (12 years), is why can’t we get this information in an electronic form?
The answer is simply that no one in my agency knows who to ask at SCO to make this happen or even if it’s possible.
Anyway, we typically get 2,500 – 3,000 unique pages, plus their duplicates, per month from the State Controller. When SCO screws-up employee payroll, then we get extras. Lots of extras. In January, we were supposed to get over 19,500 extra accounting documents (plus their duplicate copies). Snail mail being what it is, the documents did not arrive in a timely manner and yours truly was tasked with finding a way to get them from the old Unix system so we could manually attach them into our accounting system (not FI$Cal).
What follows is my account of how I solved the problem of getting these missing documents for my agency and making them usable.
Via the Unix/mainframe computer program mentioned above, we can log in to the State Controller system with Read Only access. In theory, users can go other places too, but you need user and firewall permissions which I don’t have. Oh, I don’t have access to the State Controller site either. I have to use some else’s account.
You see, the Information Technology people where I work never interact with actual users, just each other. They have no clue what we need, they just take their best guess, filtered thru the lowest bidder, and deploy it to us. We are expected to like it, even if it is outdated or underpowered equipment when its brand new. Ditto for software. IT doesn’t care what our job is, just that each budget is spent and not exceeded. Thus, about five or six years ago, they went from giving access to almost everyone to taking it away. Apparently, the per seat costs were too high so they cut to the bone and beyond.
Anyway, using the log in information that I possess, I went hunting for the missing documents. We use a terminal program to access the mainframe. This software is capable of being configured to do bulk screen captures. Screen captures are the only way to get the missing documents. The only option is whether to print to a file or a physical printer.
Using my three hour per day window to be in the office, I went in on consecutive days to capture our missing documents. The missing documents were on two different dates. With a practical limit of about 80 screen captures per batch, I did over 35,000 screen captures during my six hours in the office. Each batch was saved as a PDF file. The PDF batches were then merged so all those on the same date were in a single file.
My next step was to sort the pages by agency, a four-digit number on each page. By doing research, I found that Adobe Acrobat had no built-in way to do this. I tried converting the file into Microsoft Word, an RTF file and a few others only to have Adobe Acrobat crash completely after the better part of an hour. After crashing Acrobat about a half dozen times, I gave up on any type of file conversion.
After more diligent research on the Internet, I found a different solution, a Java batch file run in Adobe Acrobat.
Here were the steps that I followed:
First, I had to see if it was possible and if so, how? This thread said it could be done.
By looking at the below line of code, I found the missing thing needed above, parentheses.
var n = str.indexOf(“welcome”);
What the wonderful Java script mentioned above does is this; it looks for a string of text on the page and if it finds a match, it copies the page to a new file. Thus, I enter the agency number as the string to search for and then everything matching my agency is copied into a new file. As counter intuitive as it seems, I filter out what I want to keep and not the other way around.
The documents that were the result of the screen captures had only one problem, the font size was too small to be used in the macro process which I will describe below in a moment.
Increase Font in Acrobat Files
Once again, I found that Adobe Acrobat lacks a feature that I desperately need now. Acrobat has no ability to increase the font size of a PDF document. The reason for the need to increase font size is due to how the macro operates. The macro searches a location on the page for a document number. The margins on the page were too large and font too small. I felt that this would be a problem going forward.
Other than a few mentions about magnifying the size of a document on the page—which is not the same thing—I could find no solution. I came to the conclusion that improvisation was needed. I took the files created by the script above and then printed them to a new PDF file while increasing the magnification of the printed output to 115%.
The result was a page with a font size and page layout similar to the snail mail copies that we normally get. Once the font size was increased, I merged all files for the month into a single PDF.
Each month, I must take the existing PDF file for the month and run a series of macros on it. The end result of the macros is three parts:
First, is a list of comments that is bulk uploaded into the accounting program.
Second is that the merged file of all PDF documents is split into individual files that are labelled by document number.
Third is a list of accounting documents that need to be manually uploaded one page at a time into the accounting program.
As part of the Macro process, each page of the PDF file is imported into an Excel workbook as a separate worksheet. This was the largest Excel workbook I every created with over 20,000 worksheets. This baby took lots of CPU power but unlike Acrobat, Excel didn’t crash under the strain.
Sadly, the next two steps of the macro failed to find the needed document number to continue.
After a review of a few worksheets, I noticed that the part of the monthly PDF file created by the process described above were all the same, which was good, but the rows were not where I needed them to be. There were blank rows at the top of the worksheets. I thought, what if I can remove the top row of all these at the same time?
In the dark recesses of my mind, I remembered that this was possible, but I forgot how. After a quick Internet search and creative use of the Shift key, I deleted the top row of one selected page and after an interminable wait, the first row was deleted from all the other selected worksheets as well.
I reran the failed macro steps and found that everything worked just like clockwork.
Elapsed time for the above was a week of my life.
Now 18 of us are manually attaching all the documents created above. Each of us has 1,080 (or more) PDF files that we are attaching one at a time to line items in the accounting program. This takes about 12 hours per person of uninterrupted time or about 216 manhours just for this month.
I’m sure it is possible to do this entire process in a matter of minutes if the people controlling the budget layer cared about a fiduciary responsibility for taxpayer money, but we work for the union not you so such waste in baked into the system.
Stay tuned for more tales of how your tax dollars are spent.