Monday, December 17, 2012

Girls in Tech Los Angeles STEM Workshop

Students & Girls in Tech LA volunteers - Valor Academy
The Girls in Tech Los Angeles volunteers spirits were not dampened on this rainy day in Arleta, CA (December 1st, 2012) as they arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed to teach & mentor 95 girls in STEM workshops.  The workshops are put on by the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles and the volunteers staffed from the members of Girls in Tech Los Angeles chapter.  With curriculum developed by AT&T we were set up for another successful event.  

The morning started off with a motivational speech by Veronica Garcia who grew up in Arleta,  and is now a rocket scientist with the space shuttle program at Pratt & Whitney.  Veronica went to MIT after being encouraged by a speaker when she was in high school.  Her story was compelling and revved all of us up for the day.  We ran four workshops - technical product development that included an investor pitch, electrical engineering (hands on circuit design), bio engineering with some actual DNA (not human!), and environmental engineering which involved an oil spill clean up.  I was in the Computer Science/Product development workshop where over the course of the day I was constantly amazed at innovation shown by these girls.  The ideas they came up with were amazing and I'm sure I was looking at more than a few entrepreneurs there.  

During our break for our yummy lunch that was donated by El Pollo Loco the volunteers had a chance to mingle and chat one on one with the girls.  I'm not sure who was inspired more, the girls or the volunteers.  I know I was inspired by Kim Vawter and Valor Academy's approach to motivating their students to attend college.  More on that in another blog.

As we all look forward to 2013 - remember - there is nothing more satisfying than giving back.  Join Girls in Tech today and get involved.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Community Builders Award

Last night was our company holiday party and I was surprised with the Webcor Community Builders award.    This is presented to the individual in the company that for that year exhibits outstanding and ongoing commitment to charitable and community service efforts.  It was nice to be recognized for what I do but I was a little uncomfortable with it.  I do the things I do because I enjoy helping people not to be recognized.  It feels good to help others and I guess once in a while it can feel good to have someone notice what you do.  So, thank you Webcor and my peers who nominated me for the recognition.  Here's a couple pictures of a few events I did this year. 
Me and Michelle @ Habitat for Humanity Build

Mark Turner Senior VP presenting award

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sexiest Job of this decade?

What is the sexiest job of this decade?  It's called a Data Scientist. They are few and far between, often have PHD's in advanced mathematics and/or statistics and the thought of Petabytes of raw data turns them on.  Currently, East and West coast major metropolitan areas (i.e. tech company areas), a data scientist is making between $300,000 and $500,000 per year.   I bet you wish you would have paid more attention in that abstract calculus class now!

What is a data scientist you ask?  They take Big Data in its rawest form and create connections, models, predictions - predictive analytics.  Take for example the now infamous story where Target was using the habits of its shoppers to predict based on what was in a woman's shopping cart if she was pregnant or not.  Often, even before she knew herself.  Check out this article to see how and try not to freak out.  The bottom line is that they assign everyone, yes, everyone a customer ID tied to your credit card and other data that you are providing.  They are then mining that data to predict certain patterns one of them being pregnancy.  It turns out that by tweaking the predicative formula they could time a women's due date to within a week.  This allowed Target to send out coupons to the woman at specific pregnancy milestones to earn her business and loyalty.  Coupons for prenatal vitamins, unscented lotion, cribs, diapers, you get the picture.  If this is what can be done with a company not really knowing who you are imagine the data collected about you if you use a customer loyalty card.

If you're interested in learning more details about how a data scientist does this work check out the Forbes article. 

Here are a couple buzz words to learn:
Hadoop architecture -- an open source architecture designed to map, crunch and qualify tons of data
Big Data -- is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools
Data visualization -- is the graphical presentation of information, with the goal of providing the viewer with a qualitative understanding of the information contents Examples
Advanced Analytics -- is a grouping of analytic techniques used to predict future outcomes

Monday, November 05, 2012

California Propositions 2012

This is my first big election as an American citizen and I'm taking it seriously.  It is daunting being a California voter.  We have 11 propositions to vote on that are California wide and then in Los Angeles county there are three Measures.  This KQED website has a basic rundown of the propositions.  Here is the basics of my research and while I'm trying to be fair, it is MY blog so there may be bias in these descriptions.  The opinions are my own.  Make your own decisions, you're adults.

Prop 30 - Tax increase for > $250k earners and what is interesting is that no one is talking about the .25 cent sales tax increase it also calls for, this is for 4 years.  The money collected will benefit education and public safety.  In my opinion adding .25 cents to state wide sales tax is too much.  It taxes everyone.  We have the highest sales tax in the country now, enough is enough.  This would raise it to over 10% in some counties.  Oh, and interestingly enough, there is a similar proposition, Prop 38.  If both pass  by state Constitution if proposition measures conflict the one with the most votes wins.  You know that will end up in court.  Sadly amusing.

Prop 31 - is confusing.  In a nutshell it establishes a two year budget cycle and allows for more local monetary control.  Its confusing.  I have no idea how I'm going to vote.  If you look at who is for and against the proposition its even more confusing.  For example, both the democratic state party and the tea party are against it.  Strange bedfellows.

Prop 32 - in listening to the ads this seemed a no brainer to me but after reading the proposition itself it is not so clear.  Yes, unions cannot use payroll deducations for political purposes but it also exempts the "super-pacs" from anything.  It seems unfair to me that unions can do nothing but super pacs can do anything they want if this prop passes.

Prop 33 - Allows insurance companies to give us discounts if we have continuous coverage for five years, BUT it also allows them to raise rates without the California insurance commissioners approval if we haven't had coverage.  The proposition is funded entirely by Mercury insurance.  I think that says it all.

Prop 34 - repeal the death penalty.  It is retroactive.  What you don't hear about is the fact that this proposition creates a general fund of $100 million for law enforcement to solve crimes quicker.  So any savings in court costs goes right back out the door.

Prop 35 - Increases penalties for human trafficking.  This seems a no brainer especially when you see the major opponent to the bill is the Erotic Providers Legal, Education and Research Project Inc.

Prop 36 - Revises the 3 strikes law so that if your third strike is stealing milk you don't go to jail for life.  Seems logical to me.  Basically, the punishment fits the crime.  Violent crimes like murder, rape, child molestation are exempt, meaning its life in prison regardless.

Prop 37 - To label or not to label genetically engineered foods.  It is amazing to me how misleading ads can be.  If you read the measure it is not anywhere near the opponents ads.  Read it and understand it before you vote. Seems clear to me.

Prop 38 - The second income tax proposition - increases taxes on most Californians from 2013 through 2024.  Supposed to benefit education.  You know and I know that they will forget they did this and raise our taxes somewhere in between 2013 and 2024 a few more times, right?  The link at the top has the tax rate chart for each income class.  Generally speaking its somewhere around 1% except if you make < $7,000 per year, then it's zero.

Prop 39 - This is a bit confusing - it changes the way taxes are levied on companies that do business in multiple states. In my 15 minute perusal its not clear to me whether this would be good or bad.  This obviously increases taxes because, let's face it, they never go down; the revenue generated would go to clean energy jobs, training, etc., for five years.

Prop 40 -  This one is just stupid.  It was proposed by the Republicans to get old senate district boundaries put back in place and this proposition was posturing for a california supreme court bid.  The court through out the request and the citizens commission that adjusted the district boundaries based on 2010 census figures stands.  A Yes vote leaves districts as they were decided a couple years ago by the commission.  A No vote means more $ will be spent in courts and for another panel to do the same bloody thing all over again.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Google sponsored Geek Girls Dinner

I had the pleasure through Girls in Tech Los Angeles to attend last week the first Geek Girls Dinner in the LA area.  Geek Girls Dinner is a global movement getting us geeky gals together to network and be inspired by motivational awesome women in our fields.  This first event in Los Angeles was no exception. 

First of all, it was at Google's campus in Santa Monica.  You truly are a geek if you get excited just walking up to Google's offices.  As I signed in I could see the couches in the employee work area were in the iconic Blue/Red/Yellow/Green colors of Google's logo.  I so wanted to go wander about their work area but alas, it was blocked by big burly security guards.  No worries, the Google hosted bar stopped me in my tracks  - with drinks like "Rover on Mars", "Solar Flare" and "Curiosity" calling my name I probably wouldn't have made it past the bar.

After mixing, networking, yummy appetizers and cocktails we all filed into the Google auditorium to be inspired by Nagin Cox of JPL/NASA and Maja Mataric, professor of Neurological Robotics from USC.  Nagin Cox has been involved with the Mars Rover project from the beginning and is a fantastic engaging speaker.  It was so fun to move with her through the evolution of NASA's exploration of Mars from the orbital satellites to the first Rover, Spirit and Opportunity and finally, Curiosity. She is an inspiration to us all and one picture in her slide show struck me as the epitome of exactly what we women face in this man's world - it was of Nagin Cox with her arms in the air in victory as Curriosity landed in the mission control room surrounded by men.  Nagin - the lone woman.  A victory in so many ways.

Maja Mataric's talk was very different from Nagin Cox's in that some of her points were how she balances between her children, her research, her classes, her grad students and the politics of being a tenured professor.  Maja Mataric is plowing new ground in robotics and how these human size robots will be caregivers for stroke victims, physical therapy and all sorts of age related issues.  I'm paraphrasing here but she drove home the point to us that you don't have to make a choice between work and family.  Just make it work and do what is right for you.  If you can't make a 9 am meeting with your boss because you need to take your kid to school, just say, "Hey, that doesn't work for me, I'll be there at 10"  I'm sure that being a published, tenured brilliant robotasist who has spoken in front of congress gives you a lot of power to make those sort of statements without being fired - but the point remains. 

The picture is of the yummy little 'droid cupcakes there were our post talk dessert.

What is the main take away from an event like this? There is no limit to what we can do as women!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Space Shuttle Endeavour's Final Flight

What an amazing day this was.  I quickly drove home from work and scooped up Dena who had a picnic lunch, the dog and lawn chairs waiting.  We raced off to Kenneth Hahn park in Baldwin Hills and had a very easy time of getting a primo spot.  Not too many people were there.  I chatted with other people and the excitement in the air was thick.  We were expecting the 747 with the shuttle on top to come in from Santa Monica Pier after its fly by on the San Francisco bridge, then go down Wilshire, do a circle around city hall, up to the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood sign and then make a circuit back out over the ocean.

The pilots of the 747 had no real flight plan to adhere to and as long as they kept in touch with air traffic controllers they could do whatever they wanted, and they did, much to the delight of people all over the southland, including Disneyland where tourists from all over the world got a once in a lifetime sight.

Here are some shots I took as we were startled as Endeavour flew right over our heads.  We had no idea it would be so close, we were busy looking much north and had to do a quick one eighty as the roar came overhead.  Click on the pictures to make them larger.  Yes, those are fighter jets escorting the shuttle.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Microsoft Training Today

I was very happy to receive five of my companies Microsoft Training Vouchers for an authorized course which gives me five days of training.  I went back to New Horizons where I originally got my MCSE and my CCNA training and talked to a rep. I noticed that now they have three methods of training delivery - Instructor Led, Mentored Learning and remote learning which I think is watching videos from home. I made absolutely sure that I signed up for IL training (Instructor Led) as I do not want to sit and watch videos, I would be asleep in minutes.

I'm taking Windows Server 2008 Configure & admin class which was supposed to start at 7:30 this morning.  On Friday I received an email confirming the class and I noticed deep in the email that the class was from 8am to 4pm.  What?  Just to be sure I arrived at 7:30 am to a room with a TV, microphone and one other student.  It appears that instructor led no longer necessarily means the instructor is actually in the room.  I was pretty peeved for the first 45 minutes because grand assumptions were made that I'd attended classes before, I knew how to log in to the New Horizons portal and Illuminate, etc.  I told the guy I didn't even know what that was.

After he got me all settled I put on my headphones and tried to settle in.  Fortunately, the instructor is fairly interactive.  He makes you answer questions, put check marks, happy faces and raise your hand in the video session area, etc.  So it actually isn't too bad.  So far, today has been a review of old material - after all, the original concepts of Windows servers are still the same but the devil is in the details. 

We'll see how it goes but it appears you can teach this old dog new tricks but I'm still not on board with this new learning style.  I know its the way of the future but I'm not too happy about it.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Thanks to Tony and Dante

It's almost never that I cannot think of a title for my blog.  Often it starts with a title and builds from there.  Tonight, I am having troubles.

It started innocently enough with an evening walk with Geppetto.  A beautiful evening, nice and cool, a quiet city, peaceful.  Just me and my dog....until we rounded a corner and then, there he was.  A Cholo looking hispanic guy with the telltale tan kahki's, white t-shirt and which socks way up the calves.  Hey, we live in a good neighborhood so I wasn't nervous.  Lately, Geppetto has become a little leash aggressive.  Most dogs he'll give a little nip too.  Needless to say, this pisses off the neighbors although they would never say anything.  I don't want our dog to be ostracized. 

It's quite dark on this part of the street, Geppetto and I pull over and the guy says, "is your dog friendly?"  "No", I say, "he seems to be a little aggressive with black dogs."  "My dog is very friendly, do you think they can try it?"  "Sure, why not."  They sniff around each other and then Geppetto does his typical ignore the other dog stance, turning his back and pretending to be interested in something across the street.  The guys dog, Dante (black 17 lb cocker spaniel) , comes up to me and gives me a lick.  I pet him and Geppetto give a little whine.  The guy says, "the pound told me not to take this dog because he was so aggressive and by the time I picked him up I was terrified of being bitten.  I cradled him in my hands and could feel his ribs, I cried.  He had so much hair you couldn't tell how skinny he was.  I nursed him back to health.  He saved my life."   I looked up and studied my new friend Tony.  He lives a couple streets over and I've not seen him before.  He looks like a guy that needed saving but was on his way back.  He talked a little about his ex-girlfriend and I wondered if that was his downfall or if it was something else.  Dante knows, that's for sure.

Amazing how many people say that.  "My dog saved my life."  I have a bumper sticker on my truck that says "who rescued who?"  It's very true but lately I've been guilty of forgetting that.  We got Geppetto in August of 2011 - just a few weeks before my cancer diagnosis.  After my surgery I walked that dog every day, sometimes twice no matter what.  It started with half a block.  I barely made it home.  I broke out in a cold sweat but vowed to try again.  I guess I lied, one day I just couldn't do it and called Eco Wash and Karen sent someone over to walk Geppetto.  That was the only day though.  I built up that half a block to 2 miles before I went back to work.  It's important to keep perspective during our busy lives.  I forget that quite often.   Thanks Tony for reminding me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Core Foundation

I've been slapped around repeatedly by the lesson that you must have a core or base foundation of a skill before learning the more advanced skill associated with it.  The first realization or major slap in the face of this was University calculus.  I cruised through high school and as a result didn't have to work too hard or do too much extra studying in order to get A's.  This bit me in the proverbial ass during university abstract calculus.  Doesn't that sound like a fun class?  Abstract calculus?  I mean, WTF is that anyways?  Well, turns out I had no idea because I was weak in calculus basics I could not grasp the abstract concepts.  Funny how things haunt you; as an adult I purchased several books on calculus and always meant to go back and redeem myself in my own eyes.  I never did.  Besides ego and astro-physicists and perhaps the Mars Rover team, who really needs calculus let alone the abstract kind?

The strong foundation lesson continues to resonate and haunt me even today.  I'm one day away from starting my second class on virtualization.  This is what we would call a "disruptive technology".  The iPod was a disruptive technology for instance, a game changer, something that changes complete industries and destroys others.  Virtualization is the current technology of servers, the foundation of the cloud and the future of networking.  In a nutshell and in its simplest terms it allows you to put multiple computers/applications/operating systems on one computer but each computer/app/OS thinks its on its own piece of hardware.  The underlying virtualization software "fools" each of them. 

The strong foundation I seem to be missing is a deep understanding of CPUs and their advancements over the last few years.  I've pretty much ignored reading and keeping up with it as it didn't seem that important.  You always buy as much as you can afford and the rest will sort itself out.  Not true with virtualization.  Now there are dual core, quad core, terms such as Symmetrical processing (SMP), multi-core and hyper-threading.  It is necessary to understand all of this in order to understand vSMP, logical cores, virtual cores, etc.  Consider myself slapped....again. 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Canine Good Citizen Test - Take One

Geppetto, Dena and I ventured out today to try our hand at the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test that was being held as part of the practice match at the WLAOTC in Rancho Park.  The CGC is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. All dogs who pass the 10-step CGC test may receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club and as of January 2013 are awarded official AKC title for same.

There are 10 test items:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger  <-- PASS
Test 2: Sitting politely for petting <-- PASS
Test 3: Appearance and grooming  <-- PASS
Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)  <-- PASS
Test 5: Walking through a crowd  <-- PASS
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place  <-- FAIL
Test 7: Coming when called  <-- FAIL 
Test 8: Reaction to another dog  <-- PASS
Test 9: Reaction to distraction  <-- PASS
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.
Test 10: Supervised separation  <-- we never got this far
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, "Would you like me to watch your dog?" and then take hold of the dog's leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. This test is joked about as the longest 3 minutes of the handler's life.....

I knew Geppetto wasn't ready but today was the match so I wanted to give him and I the experience of being in the "ring".  I took him out for a good long walk this morning to tire him out and off we went.  He did fairly well in the test but did not pass.  He was extremely preoccupied with where Dena was while we were in the ring.  This served two purposes - the first was that he didn't care when they groomed him and touched him as he was busy looking for Dena but the downside was that he was not focused during the obedience portion and failed that.  I thought for sure he would fail test 3 as he doesn't like other people touching him but was shocked when he failed test 6 and 7.  He was just too preoccupied.  In all honesty though - it is always the handlers fault.  I was nervous - at one point one of the evaluators told me to breathe.  Why in the world would I be nervous?  Strange.

Off we go to practice - until next time.  And we will go alone next time and leave Dena at home!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Girls In Tech Los Angeles

I'm sure I've told a few of you but I've recently taken a position as the Mentorship Director at the Girls in Tech Los Angeles organization.  Obviously a volunteer job to occupy me in my ample spare time, but sarcasm aside, mentoring women is something I'm passionate about.  There were no role models for me growing up as a female tech geek in the middle of Canada.  Certainly no female techies of any sort let alone a CEO or CIO of a tech company.  Role models abound nowadays and I want to help women get ahead and get connected in these male dominated technical fields.

To that end for the last week I've spent time connecting women to girls in a number of different ways and I'm pretty stoked about it.  Most of these opportunities have come from our relationship with the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles and we're thankful for their referrals.  I've managed to find two mentors for two girls going for their GS Gold Award.  This is the highest award in Girl Scouts and only 5.4% of girls trying to attain the goal, do.  The mentors are two female rocket scientists from the JPL Mars Rover teams and will be working with the girls on robotics.  I'm also working with a female video game developer to help the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles finish developing their video gaming badge.  And you thought that Girls Scouts was just cookies.  No more - they don't earn badges in cooking, baking and camping, they earn badges in financial planning, robotics, recycling, and the list goes on and on.

My next project is seeing if getting on the GS Gold Award committee would help them in any way and would possibly also be a great way to continue to connect engineers with girls needing mentors.  

Stay tuned for what we have planned next as the train has begun to roll out of the station and is picking up steam!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Patience Constantly Proves The Adage

Once again events prove that patience is truly a virtue.  I cannot believe how much patience I've developed over the years.  I've been waiting since mid April for my new work vehicle - a Ford 2013 Escape - Kodiak Brown with what I think is the Eco Boost/Titanium package.  It's coming directly from the factory.  Of course, when you order something like this through your fleet manager you never really know exactly what you're going to get until you get it.

Today's news however made me thankful that I do not have it yet.  This link has the story of the fires in the Escapes due to the fuel line cracking.  That's pretty serious stuff.  It's so serious that Ford is telling their owners NOT to drive it and to call the dealer who will come out with a flat bed, take it away and give you a loaner.  Here's a shot of my new vehicle....someday soon. Pretty color eh?

Here is the funnest (is that a word?) feature of the vehicle - Intelligent Assist lift gate - . just kick your foot under the bumper and the power liftgate will automatically open, providing easy access to the cargo area. And both this liftgate and the available power liftgate allow you to adjust the liftgate height, which is helpful for lower overhangs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

STEM, Girl Scouts and Girls in Tech LA

Saturday was a big day for me.  I was at Rio Hondo college @ 9am with the rest of the volunteers from Girls in Tech Los Angeles ready to start my day by teaching some girls about electrical engineering that mostly included hands on lab type work.  I was a little apprehensive as I had not practiced any sort of speech/lecture material, I was going to wing it.  After all, I can build a simple circuit in my sleep.

It was a good day.  It was so unexpected to see girl's faces light up when they made a circuit and they got pretty stoked buzzing it for our game show.  My favorite comment of the day?  "I thought this was going to be boring, but it's really fun!"  It turns out that the majority of the attendees were brand new girl scouts and this was their first event.  They received a three month free membership and could pay the $12 a year after that to join.

We were written about in the Whittier Daily news, yes, small little local rag but hey, any publicity is good publicity, isn't that what celebrities say? The San Gabriel tribune also picked up the story.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Geppetto and Agility Training

Geppetto and I are signed up for Agility class.  Here is a picture of him traversing the teeter totter.  I think this is the second hardest trick for a dog to do.  They are not comfortable on unstable ground.  The hardest seems to be the weave poles where dogs weave in and out.  Agility class probably teaches the humans about 75% and dogs about 25%.  It is about human positioning, body language and confidence.  Your dog takes those cues off of you.   I'm hoping that we can enter the Beginning Novice competition on August 4th at WLAOTC

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Affordable Health Care Act - aka ObamaCare Part 2

This is Part 2 of my personal discovery of what all the hoopla is over ObamaCare.  If you haven't read part 1 - please do so - scroll down to the next(aka previous) blog post.  The first 5 points below are 2011 changes.

  1. Medicare-covered preventative services were exempted from deductibles and the co-pay was eliminated.  - OK, this seems good
  2. Insurance companies must prove they spent at least 80% of the premium payments on medical services, rather than on things like advertising and executive salaries. Those that didn't were required to provide rebates to policyholders.  -- Hahahahaha - I bet those insurance companies hated this one!
  3. Provided grants to states so they could require health insurance companies to submit justification for all rate hikes. - ok, whatever - I suppose you have to police them since they are liars anyways
  4. Additional funding to increase the number of doctors and nurses, and more community health centers -- enough to double the number of patients they can treat in the next five years. -- ok, well, we have an aging population that is living longer - this seems like a good thing.
  5. The Senate must still approve higher taxes to pay for the additional benefits. Specifically, the 1 million people who make more than $200,000 and the 4 million couples filing jointly who make more than $250,000 would pay 3.8% Medicare taxes on dividends, capital gains, rent and royalties and 2.35% (up from 1.45%) Medicare taxes on income.  <-- ok, well think of this - there is currently a 15% tax on capital gains.  Most capital gains taxes are paid by really rich people who don't really make a traditional salary but get 99% of their money from investments.  This is how rich people get away with paying less taxes than your average middle/lower class American.  Regular people pay around 28% or higher.  So, I have no problem with increasing the tax in this manner. 
  6. 2012 changes - this is where it seems to get complicated.
  7. Health care exchanges - apparently all states must set up some sort of health care exchange - kind of like a state run health insurance program, which is weird because isn't that what Medical is (in California)?  So I think this is a federally subsidized stop gap insurance for people who don't qualify for MediCal (poor people) and people who don't work for companies that offer insurance.  It seems like the payments to providers will be lower (so that makes doctors very unhappy) and the coverage won't be as stellar as that provided by a big employer.  
  8. Fines for people and companies not buying health insurance.  This is a weird one - so if you make ~ $30,000 or less a year (and I'm ballparking here) then you can buy health insurance through these state health care exchanges.  If you don't, the government will send you a bill for $325 as a fine.  I don't know about this.  Wouldn't it be better to just say that if you don't buy insurance then don't go running to the emergency room cause we're going to kick your ass out without treatment?
Basically - the American health care system is set up so that your quality and level of care is directly dependent upon how much money is in your bank account.  The ObamaCare Act tries to remedy that.  Does it do that?  Well, that remains to be seen, probably not but I suppose its a step in a direction and better than nothing.  Can anyone really fix the American health care system anyways?  Doubtful.  It's a big machine moving along, unstoppable, especially by a democratic government that is more worried about entitlements for themselves, re-election, speaking engagements and their bank accounts rather than the people they are supposed to represent.  

Monday, July 02, 2012

Affordable Health Care Act - aka ObamaCare Part 1

Since I'm an American now and the SCOTUS (Supreme court of the US) upheld the constitutionality of this act I figured I should understand it.  In the past year I've listened to nothing but outrage and dissent about it and how it was going to bankrupt America and basically fuck the whole system up. I thought the latter part of that sentence was amusing since the American health care system is generally f'ed up anyways....  I had also heard that as an employed American working for a midsize company with health care as a benefit this Act would not affect me at all.

So what are the actual facts?  Not the Fox News "facts", not the 7 second Republican sound bite "facts" - the actual, for real facts....

In my research I've discovered this:

  1. Its called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 - ObamaCare was coined as a way to demonize it.
  2. In 2010 as part of the Act - small businesses received tax credits to cover up to 35% of their total employee premium payments. This increases to 50% in 2014 <-- this seems good - health coverage expenses for small businesses is brutal often resulting in those workers not getting any coverage - then going to emergency room for every single thing.
  3. 2010 - Children were allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26 - since unemployment is so high especially of recent graduates, this seems like a good idea.
  4. 2010 -Insurance companies were prohibited from dropping coverage if someone got really sick. They couldn't create lifetime coverage limits. They could no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. The same will apply to adults in 2014. Until then, adults with pre-existing conditions who have been denied coverage will get access to temporary health insurance coverage until the exchanges are set up.  <-- this seems logical.  It was a terrible thing for some big profit insurance company to drop you because you got sick, terrible and very common.
  5. New private plans were required to cover preventive services with no co-payments, and they are exempt from deductibles.   Consumers who applied to new plans have access to an external appeals process if coverage is denied.  - I noticed that we got this benefit on my insurance at work last year.  I didn't realize why, I thought the insurance company was being nice but really, they were required.  Imagine going for a check up and not paying anything!  If you catch a problem early the costs to solve it and the morality rates are way better.  Hmmm another logical point.

    Ok, wow, there are so many things - tomorrow I'll cover the changes in 2011 that took effect.  To me - so far these are not bad things.  I can't really see anything horrible thus far.  You might say, well, how are we supposed to pay for all this?  Well - if you fix people in a doctors office rather then an emergency room, its cheaper.  If you cure someone of stage 1 cancer its cheaper than curing them of stage 3 cancer - called early detection.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Social Networking Symbol Primer

I've been asked this a few times lately over the past couple weeks so I thought I would give a short primer on special symbols on Twitter and Facebook.

The @ Sign:
Facebook - Tagging  -->  On Facebook when typing in your status @username where username is someone you know - as you type @, no space and then the first character, your friends names that match will start to populate as a drop down.  As you continue to type and the auto complete finds the friend in question, just mouse down and click the appropriate name.  The "@" symbol will not be displayed in the published status update or post after you've added your tags.  Friends you tag in your status updates will receive a notification and a Wall post linking them to your post. They also will have the option to remove tags of themselves from your posts.

Twitter - Reply -->  The @ sign is for replying to a tweet.  If you receive a tweet from someone you are following you can reply to them by typing @username comment.  No space between @ and username.  An @reply is "heard" by followers of both you and who you replied to.  If you want your reply to be private then that would be a DM (direct message) - from your SMS client - d username - yes, there is a space between the d and the username.

The # Sign:


Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.  Here are some general guidelines courtesy of Twitter Help:
  • People use the hashtag symbol # before relevant keywords or phrases (no spaces) in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search. 
  • Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category.
  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet – at the beginning, middle, or end.
  • Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.
Facebook - What # sign?  There is none....unless Google+ adds it, then maybe there will be.

I hope that helps!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Expo Line Experience and Roger Waters

This past weekend we were fortunate enough to have tickets to the Roger Waters, The Wall, concert.  It was a perfect storm in and around downtown Los Angeles.  Kings, Clippers, Lakers playoffs, concerts, Dodgers, etc etc. makes for a very busy weekend for our already stressed freeways.  Emails went out from all the ticket providers and venues to take alternative transportation if possible.

Dena and I decided to check out the new Expo line.  It currently goes from Jefferson and La Cienga to the Staples center connecting with the Red, Purple and Blue lines.  It appeared by the terrible Metro map that it stops quite close to the coliseum, the location of the Roger Waters concert.  Saturday night, we parked at the park and ride at La Cienga and were a little taken aback at how many people were in line at the ticket terminals.  It turns out that they have 2 terminals on the East side and 2 on the West side of the street.  There was only one working on the Park and Ride side - East.  So I quickly dashed across the street and bought two one-way tickets.

As an aside - here are some ticketing lessons - a one way ticket is only good for 2 hours therefore, if you're going to a concert or what have you, you need to re-ticket on the way back as buying two one-way tickets at your starting point will mean the 2nd will expire.  You could buy a round trip ticket for $5, giving you all day, however, they expire at midnight - we caught our train home at 10 minutes to midnight.  Buying a round trip ticket would cost you $2 per person but save you from standing in line on your return trip.  Perhaps worth it depending.  Also, currently and stupidly, the Metro system is on the honor system.  So, you could just jump on and not buy a ticket depending on your ethical and  moral compass.

Our trip to the coliseum was a piece of cake - took 10 - 15 minutes and dropped us about one block from our venue.  Very easy and we enjoyed walking by the line of cars waiting to park for $25 in the lots.  On the way back we had to wait 10 minutes for a train as they run less frequently at night.  The first train passed us by as the platform was packed and the train that went by was packed.  We were all quite bummed when low and behold, the Metro people had the foresight to double up and another empty train arrived 3 minutes later.  The entire packed platform got on the four cars and everyone was happy.  We were home in 20 minutes.  Actually home, in our house.  What a wonderful change, less stress, enjoyable.

Information regarding Phase two of the Expo line
Expo Timetables and Maps  <-- and btw, the Trip Planner on the Metro website sucks!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Last Day

Here's a picture of us on the way out of Hanalei Bay.  No picture can ever do this place justice for its beauty and lushness but, I try. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weird Ride for 7 days

Since I've been here in Kauai I've had 3 migraines, lower back tightness and all muscles are so tight that it is driving me crazy, and restless leg syndrome - the worst I've ever had. I've had no diet anything, nothing with artificial anything in it. We've been to the farmers market and have been eating tons of fruits and vegetables and mostly locally grown or caught sustainable food. My body probably has no idea what to do about all that wholesome goodness. We've even had a Lomi Lomi 90 minute massage.

You would think after 7 days of all that I would feel like a million bucks. I definitely feel better than we got here, for sure. But I am not to where I would like to be. I'm taking a yoga class at noon today in the hopes that some of this muscle tightness will subside. I've been religiously taking magnesium, vitamin D and omega 3's. Ive even been drinking alcohol very little, having multiple alcohol free nights/days. I mean what the fuck else do I need to do??

Do you think this is all from one diet red bull a day? Or is it stress build up? Or is it a combination of stress, burnout and artificial sweeteners?

**Update**  Well duh! I figured this out finally.  I'm supposed to be taking one medication daily.  I packed it in my bag and for some reason when I hit the shores of Kauai I completely forgot to take it again.  I would have to say now, after some internet research on withdrawals from this particular medication, that 90% of my symptons were from that.  So back to the Red Bull and stress!!!  LOL, just red bull for me

**Update #2 **
Having a vacation has been so rejuvenating for my mind.  It feels so free, creative and focussed.  I've come up with two business ideas since being back on the mainland and I've only been here for < 8 hours.  Like I need more work....but hey, creativeness comes in many forms

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vacation update - well maybe it started that way

It seems to me that we've probably had what some would term a classic vacation. So unlike us. I slept quite a bit the first few days, probably a result of burnout I'm sure. Dena has read 3 books and counting. We swam at least once a day in the bay here, but usually twice. Dena just made me a detox tea which we've been having twice a day. I'm trying to clean my system out from artificial sweeteners.

It might sound odd but post cancer surgery; after the pain, fear and exhaustion subsided a bonus of the whole affair was coming out the other end of it all completely diet soda pop free and feeling pretty awesome physically. My migraines hadn't shown up in months, my energy level was even keeled, and a host of other things that I didn't know you didn't have to live with we're gone.

At the time I didn't know if these benefits were derived from having no cancer or from the lack of artificial sweeteners or what, but frankly, I didn't dwell on it much. I was just happy to get back to my normal life. After life just sort of chugged along for 6 months I started to get the occasional migraine, feel a little crappy, fatigued, etc. But of course, I thought this was life and the effects of stress. I believe now that some, if not all of these symptoms are the effects of NutraSweet and diet sodas.

I cannot be sure of course if stress aggravates them or visa versa as we all know that stress comes with a physical cost. So much to Dena's dismay I have spent the vacation cleaning my body up.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Vacation - How do I do this again?

It's been a long time since we've been on vacation. I mean a vacation of the type where you are supposed to relax and recharge. This means not an adventure vacation which was 4 years ago - Antarctica. Not a family visit vacation which was just this past Christmas. I mean one of those vacations where you do Hawaii.

We've been to Kauai so many times in our 21 years together that it is no longer one of those vacation spots where you need to sight see or explore. It's a recharge, swim, sunbathe, chillaxing type spot for us. It's been so long since we've been here I cannot remember how to do it.

The first full day we were here we slept until 1030 am PST, we're up for an hour, had a papaya and then went back to bed until 230 PST. I mean wow, that's a lot of sleeping. I just have been a little burned out eh? We capped off the day with a swim in the breathtaking Hanalei Bay and then a yummy dinner at Dena's favorite restaurant in the world - The Dolphin.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's this month's most common question?

What the hell is the cloud?  Well, it's not those white puffy things in the sky.  Wait, maybe it is.  The cloud, in it's simplest form is a repository of computer stuff that is not sitting at your business or house.  Let me expand - iCloud for example, is Apple's cloud offering and it allows users of Apple products to backup and synchronize their songs, pictures, apps, games to all devices, wirelessly.  Every time you turn on your iPhone, Mac or iPad it send your latest purchases, songs, videos and/or pictures to an Apple datacenter.  So if you turn on your iPhone and buy a new app, the next time you fire up your iPad it will magically be there.  This is all protected in Apple's cloud with your Apple ID for your security.  If you lose your iPhone at least you won't lose that cool video of your dog you took and your custom ring tones and your 10 GB of songs.  They will magically be synchronized back to your new iPhone when you can actually afford to buy one.  As an aside to that - if your Apple ID password is insertpetnamehere1 then CHANGE IT.  It is not secure.  Anyone can figure that out.

Cloud in relation to business is essentially the same concept as Apple's iCloud except with additional options.  Instead of synchronizing my songs in the cloud, as a business, I'm storing my data there.  This is called Cloud Storage or Cloud Backup.  All kinds of companies sell online backup solutions; Jungle Disk, Mozy, and Carbonite just to name a few.  These online backup companies can be used to backup the server of a small business or your home PC.  Doesn't matter.  You pay by the Gigabyte.  That's the beauty of cloud services.  They are mostly a sort of pay-as-you-go or pay by use model.

As we go higher up in business size we get in to even more types of cloud offerings.  There is SaaS, PaaS, IaaS just to name a few.  The acronym is blank as a service, where I is Software, P is platform and I is infrastructure.  You can probably come up with many more blanks but these are the big 3.  The best example of Software as a Service is Microsoft Office 365.  It's all of Microsoft office offerings, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Email but not living on your computer that you or your company loaded on your desktop with a CD, it lives in the cloud.  When you launch a Word document, it's launched from one of Microsoft's humongous datacenters.

Platform as a Service is the ability of a software developer or company to "spin" up a server in minutes in the cloud, test their software over a course of time, then turn it off.  They pay for only that time the server was in use.  Amazon's EC2 is an example of this.  (EC2 = Elastic Compute Cloud)

Infrastructure as a Service is for an IT department of a company to deploy servers (normally virtualized), business applications and other resources to it's users but the actual equipment isn't in a server room in the office, it's in the cloud.  This hot new IT offering is supposed to save money and save on personnel costs.  Just think if companies didn't have server rooms with equipment in them and everything was in the cloud.  You could fire all your IT people and they would be replaced by one bill from the cloud provider where one guy walks around a huge datacenter managing 100's of companies servers.  Concerned about security?  You should be.  Concerned for your job?  You should be.

My favorite cloud computing term - Cloud Washing -- Where a company re-brands their old application or product offering as Cloud something, making it look like its a cloud offering to capitalize on the buzz.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Remodel - the Tile Incident

My contractor had made some deal with the granite fabricator to do the kitchen backsplash tile in the guest house.  I received a call asking about our tile for the backsplash and it came out that the tile guy was only going to put one row of tile up.  Backsplashes don't have one 4" row of tile - they usually go up 1/2 to the cabinets or all the way up.  I raced home from work as Dena was out and laid out a pattern for the guy.  He seemed dazed and confused but I went to lunch with full knowledge that I would be back to check on the guy.  While at lunch I received a call from my contractor telling me that he fired the tile guy and not to go in the back house.  He said that his tile guy was going to re-do the backsplash.  How could I not go into the back house now?

Here is a picture of the shitty ass job that was done first - notice how he's using cardboard for spacers and how the space between the tiles is all over the place.  Also, it's hard to see in the picture but he was putting thinset on just the middle of the tile instead of all over the entire field.  This caused the tiles to bow inward at the corners since there was no thinset there as there was an uneven field.  Good thing the idiot wasn't there when I got back as I would have ripped his face off.  The 2nd picture is Dena and I standing in the completed kitchen with a nice, professionally done backsplash.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest House Remodel - Home Stretch

We're so close I can feel it.  I think all in all this has gone off pretty well.  No real snafu's on the cabinets or tile and just a redo of water/gas line to main house, which was partially expected.  So all in all we are lucky.  Here is a picture of the kitchen - just waiting for granite.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bathroom Tile in the Guest House

It's all a process.  Tomorrow is big day.  HVAC goes in, tile gets finished in the bathroom, maybe some outside painting.  Lots going on. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Remodel - Serious Plumbing

What I love about my contractor is that I can trust him.  Not too many contractors you can say that about.  While I was at work they worked on the bathroom and discovered some seriously corroded pipes, replaced them all which involved jack hammering up some of the concrete pad in the bathroom AND, the best part, they moved the toilet over a little to conform to code.  Love it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back House Remodel Part 3

What a mess!  I cannot believe they are beginning to drywall already and that they've worked all 7 days this week.  Progress is quick.  I'm very worried the cabinets are not going to come in time.  Dena and I spend our Saturdays running around to tile stores, Home Depot, Lowes and Ferguson plumbing.  Yes, every weekend.  You would be amazed at how much there is to buy, and that means decisions have to be made often clouded by the price and availability.  We cannot wait 4 weeks for something to come in!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Back House Remodel 2

The contractor is making amazing progress.  It's only been a week and already 90% of the electrical is done, insulation is started, the new bathroom wall is framed and the windows that are going away are framed in.  Plumbing has started - a new drain has been put in for the kitchen but alas, as any old house there are issues.  A few foundation cracks but fortunately, not as bad as originally thought.  These can easily be fixed.  But the second issue is the gas line.  It's apparently been leaking for G-D knows how long. We've never used the gas line out there - it was run to the fireplace and the old kitchenette thing but we never used it.  I wonder how long we've been paying for gas that was just going up into the atmosphere.  So, I guess the yard will be dug up next week for a new 3/4" water line and gas line from the main house to the back house.  Here's a few pictures for you.  One is of the new kitchen - that is the top picture, the bottom picture is the new bathroom and main area.  The new bathroom is bigger.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Remodel of the Guest House

Thanks to the dropping interest rates we were able to refinance the house and work out a deal to remodel the guest house.  We are going to get renters in there and it will help with the mortgage.  We think this is sound financial planning.  I'll post pictures of our progress.  Here is step one, demolition.  It looks bigger already.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The New Dog House

Geppetto wasn't quite down with the whole, "get in your dog house" thing - he was more into the "I'm getting on the dog house" game.  He has always been a jumper. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Another Trip to the Doctor - Knee Pain

I popped in to see Dr. Wilson yesterday so he could have a look at my knee.  I just wanted to be sure nothing was seriously wrong with it as I was having extreme pain on the right hand side of the joint.  Dena and I are starting training this weekend for our 1/2 Marathon in Pasadena and I guess I just wanted a blessing.

He said I have Chondromalacia.  This is basically rough cartilage under the knee cap, it's either hereditary or has arose from age/menopause and aggravated by 45 days of relative sedentary life imposed by post surgical recovery.   I'm not convinced that is what I really have, but regardless, whatever it is, it is not something that requires surgery so that's good.
Here's the prescription:

Wear soft cushioned shoes with no hard sole and take Glucosamine chondroitin and MSM or whatever it is. He mentioned that there are mixed reviews on these supplements but he admits that they help some people tremendously and some others not so much.  My mom takes this supplement for her knee and says it really helps.  Oh, there we go!  I get to blame my mom!  It is genetics....

I'm not allowed any weekend warrior type exercise.  I must exercise with consistency, equally all the time, at least 4 times a week.  As for the 1/2 marathon if I really, really want to I can run but he would prefer if I speed walk it.  That seems fine with me as running hurts and I'm sure that is how I've pissed off the knee to begin with, running with our dog, Gepetto.  He also said that low impact exercise is important and wants to see 50% of half marathon training to be on low impact machine, aka elliptical or stair climber or bike, etc.

Couple other tidbits I've learned today - 4 Aleve equals one Celebrex so take 2 Aleve in morning, 2 at night when it flares up. Don’t take for any more than 4 days in a row.  Celebrex is an expensive anti-inflammatory that insurance companies don't like to pay for anymore. 
5 pounds of weight loss equals 15 pounds of pressure off knee.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The New Year

The whole cancer scare was quite a wake up call for me as you can imagine.  As I slowly healed plans formed in my head.  Plans of health, self care and fitness.  How was I going to do it?  Besides sheer will power what motivates me to exercise and eat right?  I don't know.  I suppose if I knew, I'd be healthy and fit.

This is what I've decided to try this year.  I've started back with my trainer, Christie.  She's wonderful and will adjust my work out routine based on any issues I have.  For example, when I first started with her my shoulder had a couple little tears in the rotator cuff and major inflammation in the AC joint.  She researched and got a routine going for me that eventually healed all of that, without surgery.  Now, after the hysterectomy I'm weak.  I'm trying not to be frustrated by that but it is hard.  I have to rebuild my entire core muscle group since they cut them right down the middle and I have to build up my stamina/heart health again.

I've bought myself a "fitbit".  This is a cool little gadget that tracks every step you take, calorie you burn and all the shut eye you get.  It didn't take long to figure out I wasn't getting enough sleep.  I had no idea I was only getting about 6 hours and 30 minutes a night.  For some reason I'm awake for 8 minutes in the middle of the night, every night.  Not at the same time each night but it's still 8 minutes. I wonder what I do in those 8 minutes?  Am I sleep walking?  I don't remember going to the bathroom.  Maybe I should put a nannie cam in my bedroom so I can figure it out.  Because of this little device I've made a concerted effort to get more sleep.  I can feel a stronger energy level the last few days.

All of these statistics are logged on a secure website that I can access anywhere, even from my phone with the app.  Everything has an app now.  I just got my 50 mile badge.  I've walked or ran 50 miles since January 3rd. Not bad, eh.  I'll expound on other things I'm doing to try to motivate myself in the next blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Politeness and Common Courtesy in Today's World

I know we live in a fast paced world.  I live here, you live here and it's hard to keep up most days.  But with that said; why is it that common courtesy seems to have just been thrown by the way side? Are we too busy to be polite?  I doubt that.  Or perhaps we are just too lazy?  Or perhaps just so tired of the humanity all around us that we don't care.  

I say "thank you" all the time.  I was raised to be polite.  You would say, please, thank you, pardon me, etc or you'd get a whack up side the head.  What bugs me is when I say "Thank you" and some one says "umm hmmm".  What is that?  Does that mean "piss off, you're lucky I helped you"? Or does it mean you're too lazy to say "you're welcome"?  I first noticed this years ago in Los Angeles whenever I said "thank you" to someone black.  I know, you're all saying "that's racist", no it's not racist, it's a statement and an opinion and using the term black allows me to identify a segment of the population.  I've just started noticing white people doing that "umm hmmm" thing.  Clearly this problem is spreading and we need to stop it. 

The origin of the whole "Thank you" and "you're welcome" back and forth began in the middle ages with "wilcume" meaning "I'm pleased you came"   That morphed into when someone arrived at your home they were "well come", i.e. we're pleased you came.  Somewhere in those centuries it morphed as a response to "thank you".  They might not have had proper hygiene and plumbing back then but at least they were polite.  And just to clarify - "No problem", "think nothing of it", and "it was nothing" are not equivalent nor appropriate responses to "thank you".  The sense in you're welcome is one of "it was pleasing to me to do" whatever it was that you were thanked for.

Now is that so hard?
Today - practice your common courtesy.  A warm smile, holding the door open and a "thank you" and "you're welcome" goes a long way in making it just a little easier to get through the day.