Internet Defense League

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Burn 'em or not

One must wonder at what point does it make sense to hire another employee. Is it when the person is clocking more overtime hours than regular hours? Is it when the person is so tired he or she is wearing two different shoes or sleeps at the office? Or is it far sooner than those scenarios?

This happens throughout the commercial sector, I imagine. However, I frequently see this happening in the government. One person, a good friend of mine, is working three jobs with barely any compensation and has been in this situation for years. How he still works there and hasn't flown off the handle, I am not sure. And he's not the only one, just one of the more extreme cases.

In all honesty, I am not even sure where this topic came from, but I was thinking about the situation and the topic just popped into my head. The people that I know that are working far more than their job calls for typically are extremely hard, competent workers. I mean, as a boss, to whom are you going to assign the extra work--to the competent hard worker or the lazy, shiftless bastard?

There are a number of ways this affects employees. According to researchers, excessive overtime (working more than 12 hours per day), can increase the likelihood of injury by 37% (see Occupational and Environmental Medicine). I am not sure if that's limited to workplace injuries, but if it doesn't, think about that commute home during rush hour traffic where that employee is tired, frustrated, and dealing with incompetent drivers.

Further research shows that there is a 60% increase in heart disease by those people working more than 10 hours per day (see The Guardian). A number as high as 60% is no joke. However, even with these statistics, employers seem not to be dissuaded from overworking their employees.

Beyond the injuries, is the general morale and attitude of employees. When employees feel like they are being taken advantage of, even if they are being duly compensated (and government workers rarely are) their morale tends to nosedive, in turn reducing productivity. This is where you would think eyebrows get raised. If John is working 12 hour days, but only producing 10 hours worth of work, you would think that management would notice. However (and this is another area that encourages my soapboxism), employers rarely have quality defined metrics in which to determine whether their employees are productive.

Until the government (and other organizations, I suppose) get their heads out of their ... shoes, well, I imagine that we'll see an increase of stressed, frustrated workers making bad decisions. With the hiring freezes, the furloughs coming up, and the focus on reduction through attrition, I see no improvement in this area.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Weight Loss Progress

Near the beginning of this blog, I started by setting some goals for weight loss. My original goal was to hit 210 (from 233) by the end of March followed by another 10 pounds by roughly April or May. I wasn't setting too high of goals. Anyway, I hit the first goal with ease. I was actually down to 208. Two months later, I am still at 208. Of course, I suffered a herniated disc at C5-C6 (the cervical part of the spine) and that kept me from pretty much doing anything for a couple of months.

Well, that time is over. My neck and all of the associated pains are gone -- at least for now. It is now time for me to return to the gym and get back to exercising. I haven't weighed myself in a couple of days, but I believe I am running around 209, which isn't too bad since my dietary habits plummeted as well. Started off with a short run during the late evening. I plan on a light gym day tomorrow perhaps followed by a 30 minute quick walk for the fat burning efforts. And I will follow that up with a greasy, no, no, a healthy salad.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Self Preservation

The human body is a miraculous thing. One of the really cool things that the body has the ability to do is identify is when there is a problem and the general location. Okay, there are some exceptions, such as a pinched nerve that radiates pain in alternate body parts. However, most times, the issue can be easily remedied with exercise, diet, or medication.

This comes up because of an issue I had last week where I wasn't listening -- though my wife tells me that all of the time -- to my body. The kids and I were at a friend's farm hanging out watching a movie while the wood-burning stove. As we were watching the movie, I started to get cold, so I moved closer to the stove. After I'd warmed up, I moved back to the movie where I would soon get colder than before. Repeat about five times. I spent the night freezing and with a massive headache.

It wasn't till 5 AM (0500, for those that know how to tell time properly), that it occurred to me that I was in the midst of dehydration. It was the classic example: headache, abnormally cold, and parched. Of course, I wasn't paying attention. Eight glasses of water, a couple of Tylenol, and a number of hours later, I was feeling close to normal.

This leads me to paying attention to those things, not only in you, but around you as well. How frequently are the winds of change around us, but yet we hang on for a bit longer, usually until it's too late. Perhaps you're risk averse, just really content where you are, or are confident that your organization needs you.

If you are in a situation that is getting worse with time and is unlikely to improve in the relatively near future, you need to consider your alternatives. Perhaps those alternatives include minor adjustments such as leaving for work earlier to avoid traffic, having a talk with your boss/spouse/friend, looking for a new job, or even considering a complete career change. It seems to be too rare that waiting it out is an effective tactic. You'll end up bitter and frustrated, which doesn't only effect you, but those closest to you. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Motorcycle Safety

I have been an avid motorcyclist for the last 11 years or so. During this time, I have always admonished cars for not looking before changing lanes, not giving the right of way, and the like. There are countless articles that bemoan the same type of thing.

However, one thing that is rarely mentioned is the motorcyclists' responsibilities. Yes, you will hear stuff like don't ride too fast or too close, slow down before entering the curve, and watch where you want to go because that's where the bike will go. What is missing is the appropriate location for a bike to ride in the lane.

Motorcyclists have a tendency to ride to the far left so they can easily see around the cars in front so they can take evasive action, if necessary. That places them in a blind spot as depicted in the right drawing. A motorcyclist riding like this was nearly squashed by me on I-270 this afternoon because of this technique. I know to look for bikes, but was not able to see him through my mirror or through my window. Fortunately enough, I saw him early enough on that went back to the right lane before he developed a severe case of road rash.

By riding towards the center of the lane or closer to the dashed lines, he likely could have avoided soiling his shorts. So I ask all riders, do your part in riding safe. And keep the rubber side down.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Who gets the benefits?

Having worked in and around the federal government for nearly two decades both as a contractor and a government employee, I've had the opportunity to see how contracts work and, closer to the topic of this posting, who is considered important within the corporate structure. Years ago, the company I worked for was bought over by a larger, beltway bandit. When that happened, most people kept their jobs, but there were a few people who were made redundant. When I look at who lost their jobs, it wasn't the money makers, but those who facilitated the business, e.g. the project managers who were non-billable. All of the folks that were creating new business or were billable kept their positions.

This makes sense for a couple of different reasons. As a retained employee who saw layoffs, your efforts increase to ensure that you are not ousted during a future round of layoffs. Further, the work of the employees that were not retained can typically be divvied among other employees. A group may not have a manager, but a Lead Engineer who now has responsibility for ensuring time sheets are submitted in a timely manner.

As a student and husband of a teacher, I see one arena where the hiring and benefits practices are quite the opposite. The post-secondary education group, instead of taking care of their money makers, they are, for lack of a better term, screwing them. In effort to save dollars, many schools have severely reduced the number of full time faculty and have replaced them with adjunct professors.

ad·junct - /ˈajəNGkt/
Noun: A thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part. (See source.)

There are two significant issues I think. First, schools are downplaying the importance of their teachers. I will give you a second to digest that. The role of teacher/instructor/professor is no longer the important position in a school. They have an abundance of other staff such as human resources and information technology personnel that are all benefited positions. However, these positions are not the money makers. Which employees should have the benefits? I would think that you want a content faculty that looks forward to coming to work rather than a bunch of people that feel they are getting taken advantage of.

The other issue is the quality of the instruction that the students receive. I am not suggesting that all adjuncts do not teach to the best of their ability. I know quite a few that are phenomenal instructors. However, I have had the displeasure of being a student of lousy instructors. I believe that in many cases they are distracted by their full time profession.

It would be nice if schools would revert to the old standard. Bring back the professional teachers. And I say this at the risk of reducing my chances of teaching as well as losing my wife's employment as an adjunct professor at a nearby college.

Update: Changed secondary to post-secondary.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wasted dollars

Sometime last month, I took the kids to the Motor Trend International Auto Show - Baltimore where we had a pretty good time. Not the best car show as there were no major releases happening there. However, Ford had a nifty display set up. They had a computerized electronic racing game there. And it broke as the prior to me got off. To make matters worse, the guy running it was not equipped to reset the system. He had to call a technician in. To essentially reboot a computer. Riiiight.

Anyway, as a part of the display, Ford had their Shift into $50 program running. The premise is that they get my email address, verify that it's accurate, and I take a printed sheet to my local Ford dealership to test drive a car. Following the test drive, the dealer would fill out information on my printed sheet and I would enter the info into a website in return for a $50 gift card.

Well, that's not such a bad deal. I can give them any one my email address (how about and never have to deal with the onslaught of craptastic messages. In return, they get me behind the wheel of one of their cars and try to seduce me into buying one. Now is not a bad time for us as our Mazda is nearly seven years old, about to flip 100,000 miles, and is showing its age -- ignore the sequestration as a deterrent.

Ford is relying on dealers to sell these cars. And this is where it all begins to break down. As soon as the salesman saw me come in with the printed sheet, he immediately brought the sheet to the manager, they filled it out and sent me on my way. I didn't have the opportunity to talk to anyone nor go for a test drive. Was I going to purchase a car today? No, but I might be in the market in three to six months. I now have no intent to go back to that dealer. I feel as if there is no interest in building a relationship with potential customers -- only with those that they are guaranteed to get a dollar from.

Is this my loss? Perhaps, since Ford has a lot of nice offerings out there. However, there are other Ford dealers within 20 miles of here. And there are other brands with just as good or better offerings. Oh well, such is life.

And that brings to a close this moment of preaching on my soapbox.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Building a competitive edge at what cost

I had the opportunity, as I did last year, to proctor Frederick County's Challenge 24 Math Competition. This is something I always enjoy as I love seeing kids using their brains to excel. This is the somewhat rare opportunity for kids to be cheered on for the their ability to think rather than for their physical speed, strength, or agility. It equalizes kids of different stature.

This is also a time for parents, instructors, and coaches to embrace a competitive spirit within their charges. However, this competitive spirit must be cultivated in a fashion that also teaches fairness and keeping within the spirit of the tournament.

Allegedly, it is in this vein that one of the competing schools failed. Perhaps the facts were relayed wrong, but three parents and a competing student corroborated the story and only one parent defended the school's modus operandi. It is because of the dissenting parent that I began this paragraph with allegedly.

To understand the issue, you must first understand what 24 is. The player(s) are shown a card similar to the one on the left. Based on the number displayed on that card, he or she must form 24 using addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. In this case, one possible answer is 4 * 3 = 12; 12 * 2 = 24; 24 * 1 = 24.

Instead of the students learning to use their math facts, the students memorized the numbers on the cards along with the solution. The students were reaching to tap the cards before the cards hit the table -- before it is even possible that they could have seen all four of the numbers. This is not the intention of 24 or of the competition. The intent is to place an "emphasis on the process and patterns, what [Robert Sun] likes to call 'the method behind the math.1'" Rather than learn the method, the focus for these kids was on rote memorization skills.

Until the end of the tournament, when the trophies were distributed, all of the students were having a great time. It was when they heard that one specific school won 15 of the 18 trophies that they realized something was amiss. And the disappointment set in. Granted, the kids still had a good time. However, realization set in that all of their practicing was fruitless as they were studying the wrong thing.

The bright side of this story is that all of the students I worked with increased their math capabilities tremendously. For that I am happy. But I am still frustrated.

Isn't that the same as studying really hard? Perhaps. However, I would be willing to put money on these students coming out near the middle of the pack or lower if new cards were introduced or if a different solution was expected, e.g. 16 or 32 instead of 24. They may have studied hard, but it wasn't to get better, but to win.

Is this just the ramblings of an upset parent of a losing student? I would say no. While my daughter did compete, neither she or I had any expectation of her coming home with a trophy. She was there to be with and to support her friends as was I. Further, I will volunteer to proctor again next year even though I will have no children eligible to compete.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Homeopathic (holistic) solutions?

Back in 2006, I was diagnosed with gout, a temporary, but recurring disease that is debilitating  Gout is a disease in which your body fails to dispose of uric acid appropriately. Very simply put, certain foods and drinks such as processed meats, beer, and asparagus have high levels of purines. As the purine is broken down within your body, it is converted to uric acid. For most people, the uric acid is sent to the kidneys and is then passed via urine. However, in some cases, too much uric acid is created. The excess uric acid tends to collect in joints, frequently the first knuckle of the big toe, in the ankle, or one of a number of other joints.

As stated earlier, gout is debilitating. The first attack that I had sent me to the hospital where I was explaining to the German nurses that I broke my toe, but didn't know how. I am sure that they were thinking that I was a complete idiot and represented the stereotypical drunk, American soldier. I was out of work for three days taking a couple of different medications to reduce the swelling, alleviate the pain, and get rid of the uric acid. Just the breeze caused by my daughter walking buy caused me to double over in pain. When I did return to work, it was while wearing a pair sandals.

The doctor gave me a list of foods to avoid or, more realistically, eat in moderation. However, over the course of a couple of years, my dietary habits returned to normal and I had a couple of more gout attacks. The last one that I had led me to realize that I needed change. I saw a doctor in the US and he was surprised that I opted to modify my diet rather than have him prescribe my way out of gout. However, he gave me an updated foods list and I implemented a strict diet which saw the end of the gout attacks.

You might think this is the end of he story, but that would make for a relatively boring story -- one that is certainly not worthy of this exciting blog. I found that a couple of friends in the area have gout and we discussed our symptoms and triggers. This really surprised me that purines and uric acid did not behave identically in different people. My buddy, Butch, can drink all of the beer and eat all of the meats he wants. However, one stalk of asparagus will have him down for the count. For me, it's the nitrates and nitrites that are commonly in bacon and sausage.

Finding these differences led me to additional research where I found a couple of fly-by-night conspiracy theory websites touting the benefits of eating cherries. Cherries!? Why hadn't I heard about this? It was on too many different sites to be mere coincidence. I figured that I would give this a try. After a month of eating 20 dried cherries per day, I slowly reintroduced my favorite foods back into my diet. I haven't had a gout attack in nearly three years.

So I started wondering why doctors weren't touting this as a simple, inexpensive, drug-free solution to gout. Of course! The answer was right there in front of my nose. Pharmaceutical companies cannot regulate the production of cherries. There is nothing to be gained by conducting this research. So why hasn't the FDA latched onto this? Likely because it's not in pharma's interest to do so. That said, cherries are getting greater publicity in the mainstream media and medical sites alike.

In the mean time, this has given additional credence to homeopathic holistic solutions to issues commonly treated medicinally. I am more willing to accept or review things I would have laughed at in the past. I recommend you do the same. Don't accept these at face value, but do some research and evaluate it to see if it works for you.

I think that holistic is a more appropriate term than homeopathic is. Actually, alternative medicine is probably the best term.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coming up with a topic

As a part of my degree, I am supposed to write a dissertation. I had always assumed that writing a 100+ page document would be the hardest part. I have learned that I am way off. For me, the most difficult part is coming up with a relative, interesting topic.

I've had a couple of ideas that I have gone through without much success. Perhaps it has to do with my initial lack of understand of what a dissertation is. A little research brings me to Purdue's definition (somewhat paraphrased):
A dissertation is a lengthy formal document that argues in defense of a hypothesis. The research performed must be original and substantial and that its essence is critical thinking and not experimental data. Every statement in a dissertation must be supported by either a reference to published scientific literature or by original work. Each statement must be correct and defensible in a logical and scientific sense.
Before I started talking with professors, I had the grand idea of writing an application that would data mine publicly available social networking sites and develop a somewhat intricate picture of the person a forensics team was evaluating. However, that is just software development. It's not moving the science of forensics ahead, so the school's advisers shut that topic down.

The I realized that children of today are getting on the internet at progressively earlier ages. However, parents and schools are frequently not equipped to engage children and explain to them the dangers that could lurk on various websites. However, what Purdue's document doesn't mention is that completing a dissertation is frequently a lock into a specific career field. And I don't want to be the guy that teaches Facebook to elementary school for the next 30 years. That topic even came up indirectly with a former professor of mine:

Now the goal is to identify a topic that I can write about, enjoy, and make money on during the next 30+ years of my working life. Ideas?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Getting fit

My initial post alluded to my goal to get fit. There are a few impetuses bringing about my change of heart, so to speak. During spring of 2012, I went to a Frederick Keys baseball game with some friends and family. Dean posted a picture on Facebook that included me. Yes, the pic to the right. Damn I looked dumpy, but even that wasn't enough to get me motivated, though I did get a haircut.

Two of my close friends, Christopher and EJ, started fitness routines. Both have dropped a tremendous amount of weight (100 pounds between the two of them), are feeling better, and are looking good. That got me thinking that I should do something for myself. I tried to get myself psyched. I went to the gym once, ran a couple of times, and then found excuses to sit on my ass. Nothing changed.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was my fat ass. I was tying my shoes when I found myself breathing heavy. From tying shoes. Do me a favor and read those last couple of sentences again. It wasn't the cardiovascular effort involved in tying shoes, but that my fat, bulbous stomach was getting in the way. Wow! That's when I realized that a complete change was needed.

I started watching my eating and am going back to the gym. As can be seen on the chart above, cutting carbs resulted in a massive drop in weight and then a somewhat extensive plateau. However, there were a multitude of reasons for that including an unexpected, impromptu mini-vacation as well as a long-term (6-weeks) visitor. Now that I am back at the gym combining a lifting routine and cardio exercises, I am confident that my weight will drop like a rock.

Today's workout:

Exercise Repetitions
Dips 4x10
Dumbbell Bench Press 10@40 10@50 10@60 8@60
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 10@40 10@50 2x10@60
Dumbbell Flys 3x10@50
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press 10@40 10@50 2x10@60
Tricep Press Downs 10@30 10@40 10@50
Run 30 min @ 5 MPH

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tragedy nearby

A lot has been weighing on my mind lately. However, this morning I heard about a tragedy not too far from home. A home caught fire causing two children to die so early in life. At ages 6 and 3, they had barely begun to live.

Thinking about my children, ages 10 and 7, I could not imagine the pain that these parents are enduring. When my two come home from school this afternoon, there will be no play dates. At least not until I have the opportunity to give them likely the tightest hugs I can imagine.

From Facebook
Following that, I am going to ensure that all of our emergency plans are up to date. Do the kids know what to do in the event of an emergency? Are the batteries still good in our smoke detectors? I have never even checked to see whether our fire extinguishers are good.

I don't know what caused this fire nor am I aware whether the parents could have prevented the lifetime of pain they will surely sustain, but you can bet that we will be as prepared as possible.

What can you do to help the family?

  • A drive has been established for the family of the victims. Their home was a total loss, so they are starting from ground zero. All household items are needed as well as clothes size 6-months and size 8 (children's). Other sizes can be found on the Frederick News-Post page listed below. Donations can be brought to:
  • Chick-fil-A on 5501 Urbana Pike will be holding a fundraiser on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 from 4 PM - 8 PM. 25% of all proceeds will be donated to the family.
  • Frederick County Bank has created the Lillard Family Recovery Fund.
  • Donate through Give Forward.
  • Attend PicStamatic's photo fundraiser. 100% of all money will be donated to the Lillard family.
What can you do to help your family?
  • Ensure you have smoke alarms installed. See Home Depot's site for guidance.
  • Check to ensure you have a fire extinguisher and that you know how to use it.
  • Speak with your family, especially your kids on an emergency action plan.
From Facebook


Posting by CCMPCS -

So many related things have been floating through my head, but this is where I will leave off.

Good night and love your family.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


I have been toying with writing my thoughts down for perpetuity for quite a while. Oddly enough, I do think once in a while. However, a goal over the course of the next few years is to increase my ability to think and respond quickly. I hope that this outlet will provide a means to that end. Though this is short, I have a lot of work to do to make this my blog versus a generic template provided to me.


Some of topics/rants will be on my health status, e.g. weight loss and lifting; computer security; politics; general news; and family news. Basically, whatever strikes my fancy. The goal is to write 500-1000 words per week.