Category Archives: Technology

From a FB Friend

I didn’t write the following. However, I think it adds to my last post about Sun Tsu’s admonition to know one’s enemy and know oneself. It’s well written and says much more than I did in that post of mine.

A big part of the freakout you’re seeing from Elon and the rest of the rightwing crowd is that they just ran a whole campaign against the “woke mind virus” and LGBTQ people in an electoral environment that should have favored them heavily–and they lost.

They thought they had a big popular majority for “anti-woke.” They did not. They lost. Elon is going anti-woke, and going broke. All their rightwing startups are going belly-up. They lost a Senate seat, and without new illegal gerrymandering they would’ve lost the House.

Normies voted against them. Women were more furious about Roe than they expected. Young people voted big against them. They’ve lost the culture, and they’ve lost faith in electoral solutions to it. Who is gonna save them? Trump 2024? DeSantis 2024? Lol.

Tech is stacked in favor of the GOP: the Facebook groups/algorithms & YouTube algorithms favor them. They dominate AM radio & cable news. Twitter was the most balanced & responsible, so Elon bought it because the far right couldn’t stomach even a hint of social responsibility.

But they still lost. They lost the popular vote in 2016. They lost in 2018. They lost in 2020. They lost embarrassingly in 2022. They lost in Brazil. Putin lost in Ukraine. White Christian Nationalism is failing. So they’re taking desperate measures for control.

As generational replacement continues and the failures of authoritarianism become more obvious, they will lose even harder. The desperation for control will increase. Times will get more dangerous. But as long as the rest of society resists, we will win.

This “rest of society” is what the far-right calls “The Cathedral” as if it’s some conspiracy. They see themselves as a brave rebellious resistance to it. But of course none of that is true. They are defending the hegemony of good ol’ boy power.

Meanwhile, “the cathedral” is no such thing. Creatives, the well-educated, scientists, real altruists and curious all lean left. Young people are economically disadvantaged, and lean left. The big problems like climate change do not have rightwing answers.

Now even big corporations seem to lean left in their public comms only because 18-45 year olds are the target advertising demo. And guess where we live, what our values are and how we vote? The Fox News audience isn’t the target demo anymore. Too bad.

So now you’ve got a coalition of theocrats with aging, declining followings, and megalomaniac billionaires who think only an dictatorship under their control will lead humanity into a sci-fi future of their grandiose and self-serving delusions.

But normal people aren’t buying in–especially the vast majority of people under 45. They’re going to lose. As for twitter? Either Elon gets bored and makes it normal again, or he turns it into Gab and destroys it as the people who actually provide value on twitter move elsewhere–to places like here.

And regarding Elon’s “longtermism”? No worries–progressives and ethical science will get us to a sustainable sci-fi San Junipero future just fine. And we’ll get there faster and more safely the more that Dunning-Kruger tyrants like Elon are sidelined from control over it.

D. Atkins

Bye Bye Twitter?

I first joined Twitter in March of 2006. At the time part of my job at Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, a division of The Boeing Company, was to examine platforms described as examples of what was then referred to as Web 2.0, as well as new applications being referred to as “social media.” I was doing this as a member of the Knowledge Management team for the division, and as the Knowledge Management lead for the Space Shuttle Main Engine team.

In 2002, I had been leading the team that introduced one of the earliest “social media” applications to the SSME team and the organization as a whole. We didn’t think of it as social media at the time, however. Our main goal was to provide a tool (we called it an “enabler”) that made it easier to locate subject matter experts (SMEs) and facilitate not only communication between those seeking knowledge and those possessing it, but to capture that knowledge and make it easily accessible for others who might need it at a later date.

The name of the tool we purchased 1000 seats for was AskMe Enterprise. It was, if memory serves, based on a former website of the same name, but was now a proprietary tool meant to stay within the firewall of an organization. Rocketdyne needed something that would be useful internally and had no reason to use something that was open outside the organization’s firewall. In fact, given the nature of its products being open to the outside was anathema and a matter of national security.

At the same time, we were looking for a communications tool that provided one-to-many capabilities and short-form text sharing and publishing. There were several tools that were coming online around that time, including Jive and Yammer, but Twitter seemed to be the most interesting. Nevertheless, it took me something like six months before I could identify a use case for it. At the time it seemed merely a tool for non-productive jabber and gossip.

What changed it for me was when I found out the team preparing the Space Shuttle Orbiter for the next launch was using it to communicate their activities and progress. There were something like two dozen people who were working on various tasks that were independent in numerous different ways. If you’ve ever done project management, especially if you’ve used a tool like Microsoft Project, you know there are several types of dependencies between activities, e.g. finish-to-start (the most common). The Orbiter team, much like many of the teams that organizations (not just Rocketdyne) have to accomplish their work, would meet every morning to present progress and discuss how to proceed with remaining activities.

Twitter changed the dynamic significantly. Now, instead of waiting until the team gathered each morning, team members who were out in the field accomplishing tasks could communicate in real-time with their colleagues (all of them) when they had finished a task which was a predecessor to another team member’s task. All they had to do was Tweet. They didn’t have to compose an email, direct an IM to two dozen people, or make a phone call. They just had to follow each of their teammates.

This may seem a trivial thing, but if a predecessor task was completed at, say, two in the afternoon and that fact could be communicated to the entire team, anyone who needed that information to know where they stood in the flow of activities didn’t have to wait until the following morning stand-up to find out what their status was. Work on complicated engineering projects can be expensive and even apparently small savings of time could add up to saving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

So, that was my introduction to Twitter. I never could get my colleagues at Rocketdyne to use it. I had a hard enough time getting them to use AskMe and soon after I accepted an early severance package in May of 2010 (as the Shuttle program was coming to an end) it became obvious without my constant agitating for its use it wasn’t going to survive. It didn’t.

However, I kept a kind of love/hate relationship with Twitter over the years. There were times I didn’t pay much attention to it, and periods where I was quite active. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, after nearly a decade and a half, I was permanently suspended after I suggested a certain former guy might benefit from a coronary episode (I was only looking out for his best interests!). I created another account, which I am still using. Actually, I created two more accounts, one of which was also suspended, but reinstated upon appeal, though I no longer use it. Now, instead of @rickladd I’m @retreado.

I really wish I still had my real name, but it looks as though Twitter may not survive the petty indulgences of the world’s richest 10-year-old. Toward the end, I found Twitter to be an invaluable source of news, not so much as a primary but as a pointer to in-depth analyses, opinion, and good, solid journalism. It was a great way to keep track of trends and what movers and shakers were thinking, as well as hints as to which direction developing issues might go in. If Twitter does go away, I will miss it, but it won’t be the end of the world. I’ve already created an account at Mastodon and am considering other apps. Time will tell. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind taking a break from the immediacy and constant movement of Twitter. I’m getting old and I appreciate moments of silence more than ever.


Booster #2 Was a Killer!

Last Thursday (April 28, 2022) I left work a little early to get my second Moderna Booster shot. The nurse who administered the dose told me the 15-minute waiting period that had been observed for all three previous inoculations was no longer mandatory and I chose to go straight home. I only live a couple of minutes away from the Kaiser location here in my home town of Simi Valley, CA., and I have never had a sudden, bad reaction from any vaccine in my nearly 75 years.

Image of syringe and vial saying "Common Sense."
Anti-vaxxers are Idiots

I enjoyed the rest of the day, slept well (my Fitbit tracker and app noted I slept well, giving me a score of 82, which is good, not excellent) and got up at 6:00 am to head off to work. I was fine until about noon, when my body started to ache a little I attributed it to the rather heavy packages I had assembled and loaded into a container to be picked up that afternoon by the USPS. I didn’t think too much of it, though I worried I may have injured myself in a way that would preclude my being able to do my job.

I began feeling uncharacteristically lethargic and my legs felt a little rubbery. Finally, after completing some tasks that needed doing, regardless of how I was feeling, I chose to come home early. When I arrived I was beginning to feel pretty bad, but I still didn’t connect it to the booster I had received the previous day. Friday evenings are normally reserved for a short trip to the gym, then an evening of dinner and craft beer with a couple of friends.

I decided to do something I hardly ever do; take a nap in the afternoon. By 6:30, a half hour before I normally go to the gym, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it and texted my friend and former colleague to let him know I wouldn’t be making it that night. I went back to sleep and, according to my Fitbit, slept for close to twelve hours.

Yesterday was absolutely miserable. I experienced both the chills and cold sweats. I was at times dizzy, nauseous, and had no appetite at all. At one point I experienced a strong sense of dizziness, despite my being nearly asleep and horizontal. When I opened my eyes, the room was shifting back and forth as though I was looking quickly from side-to-side, yet I don’t think my eyes were moving. It was one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had and I couldn’t help thinking it was a precursor to something I did not want to experience.

My wife, bless her heart, kept trying to get me to eat, but I wasn’t having it. I think I really pissed her off by asking her to leave me alone, that I would eat when my appetite returned. I can understand her worry, as I had slept nearly twelve hours Friday night and hadn’t eaten dinner. I ended up eating nothing all day yesterday and, after sleeping over nine hours last night, I finally had a half cup of coffee, a mini baguette, and a bowl of salad a few minutes ago. I’m still a bit nauseous and still experience dizziness, but it’s subsiding with each passing hour.

I finally got up this morning and am sitting at my laptop in my home office. I was able to do my daily bookkeeping, something I wasn’t the least bit interested in yesterday. I’m also taking the time to record my experience here. My youngest daughter, after asking me how I felt today, asked if I regretted getting the second booster, as I had no reaction from the first one. I told her I regretted that it knocked me down, but not that I received it.

I was diagnosed with Covid-19 on December 29, 2020 and spent the first week of 2021 quarantined in bed, miserable as can be – but I didn’t require hospitalization despite my age and numerous comorbidities. I received my first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine on 3/22/21 and 4/19/21, which was as soon as they were available. I experienced some discomfort and flu-like symptoms both times, but they only lasted a day. When I received the first booster on 11/24/21 I experienced nothing I would consider a side-effect.

I think what happened has to do with how hard I worked on Friday. With all three previous vaccines I was not working and was able to either stay home or stay in bed and was in no way exerting myself for a day or two. This time, however, I was at work climbing, lifting, and walking far more than I was doing before. I’m thinking all that extra effort sped up the internal distribution of the vaccine in my body, and it reacted in a way that I had not truly experienced before.

I plan on getting up tomorrow at 6:00 am and heading off to work. Monday is generally our busiest day and I’ll have lots of lifting and climbing to do. I think I’ll be up to it. That weird-ass feeling I had with my vision happened a couple more times yesterday, but it seems to have subsided. I look forward to discussing it with my doctor when the opportunity arises.


Gimme Some Skin!

This post reflects two basic “discoveries” I’ve made within the past couple of years. The first is the magnification my iPhone is capable of providing through its camera. I have been able to take some fairly spectacular pics of various items seen extremely close up and in sharp focus. I find the pictures I can take with it are (or can be) interesting and, at times, beautiful and ornate.

The second thing I discovered is that, although I come from a family whose elderly members weren’t very wrinkly as they aged, I recently began noticing I was developing “chicken skin” on parts of my body, most notably my arms. At nearly 74, I expect I can accurately be described as elderly, so I was a bit taken aback at first. I don’t recall exactly how I took the first magnified photo of the inside of my elbow or my forearm closely adjacent to it, but I found the contours and texture of my aging skin to be quite fascinating, if not at times somewhat freaky.

Here are four pictures—extreme closeups—of either the inside of my elbow or of my forearm just below it. I find the patterns both pleasing to look at and a bit mind-blowing to think of how evolution has developed this envelope for us to live in and be protected by. Its construction and flexibility are truly a wonder, especially when viewed up real close. We humans will no doubt one day be able to replicate human skin (we’re already getting there) and it’s fascinating to me to contemplate how we, in a matter of decades (centuries at the most, depending on how you define progress and accumulated knowledge) we’re creating analogues to naturally occurring physical elements that took millions of years to evolve. Don’t know about all y’all, but I’m fairly gobsmacked by the whole thing.


Perseverance Arrives!

A Blue Martian Sunset

I was raised in the San Fernando Valley. Sputnik 1 was launched exactly four months after my 10th birthday. I remember lying outside on our front lawn, watching it go over. It was exciting and mysterious at the same time. I have a vague memory of seeing the United States’ first satellite, Exlorer, go over and I have a real vivid memory of seeing Echo as it orbited our planet. Echo was a giant aluminum balloon that, when inflated in orbit, was 100 feet in diameter and reflected the Sun, making it the brightest object in the sky except for the Moon.

I also have vivid memories of rocket engine tests in the Santa Susana mountains, just slight northwest of where I lived. Many of the tests were conducted at night, and I could see the sky light up over those mountains. As I grew up, I had friends whose parents worked at Rocketdyne, the company that built just about every liquid-fueled rocket engine used to power America’s space program, including Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, not to mention the Space Shuttle.

Little did I know that many years later I would, quite serendipitously, get sent on a temporary assignment to work at Rocketdyne. I had been working at a company that manufactured what were, at the time, high density hard drives. This was in 1986 – 1987, and high density meant something like 5 Gigabytes! It was, for some reason I still can’t quite fathom, a seasonal business and when demand dropped all the temporary employees got laid off. That was me. I lost my job on a Friday. Later that evening I got a call from Apple One, the organization I was temping through, telling me to show up at Rocketdyne’s Canoga Park facility the following Monday.

To make an exceedingly long story short, I started work on the FMEA-CIL (Failure Mode & Effects Analysis-Critical Items List) the document that would prove Rocketdyne’s RS-25, SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) was safe for the Shuttle’s return to flight almost a year to the day after Challenger exploded during the ascent of STS-51-L. (For clarity, I think it important to note those engines were not responsible for the loss of Challenger; they had worked just fine.) I had long been a space cadet (in far more ways than one) but I never imagined I could end up working there, as I wasn’t an engineer. Silly me. I just hadn’t realized it takes a lot more than engineers to run a business that large and complex.

I was hired in after a year as what they referred to as a “job shopper.” I was forty years old. I retired 23 years later and it was the best, most fulfilling job I ever had, though dealing with a huge corporation (and “the Rock,” as we called it, was part of Rockwell International, the Boeing Company, United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney Division, and Aerojet) was why I left early. The Shuttle program was winding down and P&W offered everyone over 60 a severance package I just couldn’t refuse, even though it wasn’t terribly generous.

Nevertheless, I’ve remained deeply interested in space exploration. I have long believed it’s important to the survival of humanity we get off the surface of this planet. I believe we need to establish not merely a scientific, but also a cultural presence off-planet in case of an extinction-level event. Frankly, it’s my opinion if we don’t do something about climate change and our contribution to it, we may be the ones causing such an event.

At any rate, all this is to say I am happy Perseverance landed safely on Mars this afternoon (PST) and appears to be functioning as designed. I’m looking forward to learning more about the Red Planet. I’m especially keen on learning how well the Moxie instrument (see graphic, below) accomplishes its mission of producing oxygen from Martian CO2. Congratulations to JPL and the Perseverance team. Job well done!

PS – I’ve also posted a graphic depicting one of Perseverance’s scientific missions, the Ingenuity helicopter which, if successful, should dramatically improve our ability to send rovers to the most fruitful (scientifically) locations, after they’ve been scouted out by Ingenuity and its successors.


Is There A Doctor In The House?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I suspect just about everyone is aware of the flap over an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding our soon-to-be First Lady’s credentials. Written by Joseph Epstein, it’s entitled “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” and subtitled “Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.”

My most recent job was as the Business Manager for a Machine Learning (AI) Software Development firm, the co-founder of which had a PhD in computer science. When last I spoke with her, which was at least a year ago, she was not using her title, which she feared was seen as somewhat presumptuous. I’m not sure how she feels about it now, and I’m inclined to agree with those who see this op/ed piece as misogynistic and hollow. Frankly, I have often wondered if I could use the honorific “Dr.” in front of my name because I have earned a Juris Doctorate (JD) when I graduated Law School in 1976. However, I’ve never done so because the amount of schooling, and the quality of work, required for the degree don’t match up to that of a PhD or EdD. Actually, I tend to agree with those who suggest calling oneself “Dr.” when in possession of a law degree is ridiculous and pedantic.

It’s been discussed at great length by now, torn apart and analyzed by people far better at it than I, but I’d like to bring up what I think is an ancillary issue to that of the rank sexism and hypocrisy that exists wrt men and their seeming inability to accept women as their equals. What I’m referring to, which affects both men and women, regardless of race, creed, or color (though there are differences in degree and approach) is the depth of anti-intellectualism that has come to seemingly dominate our public life.

Just look at how many people are not only comfortable with, but are absolutely adamant about, ignoring science, facts, and reality-based analysis/synthesis. The number of people who believe most scientists are only doing what they do for the money is astounding. It’s likely one of, if not the, main reasons we’re doing so poorly in handling the pandemic here in the States.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Hardly! I recall deciding in the third grade (that would have been around 1955) I didn’t want to be seen by everybody as an egghead, which changed the trajectory of my life . . . and probably not in the best way it could have. I remember feeling at the time that I wouldn’t have any friends if I continued on the path of academic excellence I had been on. Part of me wishes I hadn’t made that choice, though my life turned out pretty well regardless. It’s just that, in retrospect, the decision was made because of the negative view most people I knew seemed to have about being too intelligent; or, at least, being willing to use that intelligence in a positive way.

I believe this is one of the reasons the United States is in the bind it’s in right now. We’re just coming off of a four-year bender with the sleaziest and dumbest President in our nation’s history. He came to power as the result of years of anti-intellectual posturing and reality TV-informed ignorance. I am thankful I have never watched one reality TV show, especially not The Apprentice or Celebrity Apprentice. It’s clear Donald Chrump managed to suck a large portion of the nation into believing he was a highly successful businessman when, in fact, he’s a serial fuck-up who managed to burn through tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars given to him by his father.

These past four years of the worst “leadership” of my lifetime has been brought to us by our nation’s well-developed sense of anti-intellectualism. This does not bode well for maintaining our position as a preeminent nation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Our quality of life in the United States is what it is in large part because of our scientific accomplishments. It amazes me so many people don’t recognize the value that science has added to our lives, be it at work, home, or play. Virtually every aspect of our lives is enhanced by science and the products and enhancements it brings to us on a heretofore regular basis. I fear we’re going to lose that edge. Perhaps we already have. More the pity.


Compensation? Maybe

Every since I developed my essential tremors it’s become increasingly difficult to type, especially on my iPhone. The tremors don’t affect me all the time, but often enough to be uncomfortable and, occasionally, they’re strong enough to make it virtually impossible to touch type.

GBoard Helps a Lot!

There are two things that make it easier for me. The first is using GBoard, which is an app that allows me to emulate Swype, which allows me to touch the first letter of the word I want to “type” and then move methodically to each following letter in the word, stopping momentarily on that letter so the algorithm can identify the letter I wish to use.

The second is its ability to predict the word I’m spelling out, which can be quite useful when I’m carrying on a conversation or responding at length to a tweet or FB post. These two things are truly valuable for my ability to continue using my phone to effectively communicate.

However, I’m beginning to think my phone is really getting to know me. The other day I wanted to type the word “cuck” into a tweet and it wanted me to change it to “fuck.” Then I went to type “dude”in a FB comment and, after I had only typed “du,” it suggested “dumbfuck.”

It’s nice that it’s getting to know my personality, but I’m beginning to worry I might be swearing a little too frequently. I’ll have to give it some thought.

Naaah! Fuck it.


Thread Embed (Test)

WordPress just added some new functionality to their platform, which is where you’re reading this right now. Now I can insert one tweet from a thread and there’s a command to “unroll,” which imports the remainder of the thread. With this test I uploaded the first of five and all were imported easily with the “unroll” button. I’ll have to try one where I first upload a tweet from the middle (or the end; maybe and the end) and see how well it works from there.

===================

I joined Twitter in March of 2008. Back then I was studying social media as a method for my organization (the Space Shuttle Main Engine team at Rocketdyne) to communicate more effectively. NASA was already using it for the teams that were preparing the orbiter for its . . . /1

next flight, and it was def saving them money and time. I never tried to get followers; they just followed naturally, esp since there were so few users at the time. When I retired in May of 2010, my use of Twitter changed and for a while I didn’t use it at all. Cue . . . /2

the election of the dipshit-in-chief. Everything changed for me. I wouldn’t say all my posts were political, but surely a majority. I’d like to see for myself, but a week ago—after 12 years—my account was suspended. My ~2700 followers gone. Everything . . . gone. I . . . /3

wasn’t even told what I did or said to have received such a harsh punishment, with absolutely no recourse other than a chance to send a short note defending I don’t know what. Perfectly legal, yet anathema to our way of life in the U.S. So . . . this is my feeble return . . . /4

to #Resist here on Twitter. I could use some followers (God! It pains me to even ask) and I will follow back if you’re not a Trump supporter. TIA! /fin

Originally tweeted by Izzy Wladovsky (@retreado) on 23 June 2020.


Working Remotely? Here’s Some Help

The need to address the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic may have done more to accelerate the digital transformation many have been working towards for years, than all of the bitching, moaning, hand-wringing, and pearl clutching heretofore expended on cajoling knowledge workers to adopt and adapt these technologies.

Five years ago I served as the developmental editor on the 2nd edition of “The New Social Learning.” I had the pleasure of working with the co-author of the 1st edition, who was the principal author of the 2nd, Marcia Conner. Marcia is one of a handful of people who recognized the need for, and the power of, such a transition . . . and this book was an attempt to help leaders and organizations move forward to adopt these new ways of working, and working together.

I recommend this book highly for everyone who is now finding themselves either working at home or dealing with today’s need to be more “distanced” from our colleagues. There’s a wealth of good info here. I urge you to check it out. It’s about far more than just learning.

“The Workplace Has Changed. At this moment, your people are already learning through social media. They’re reaching out and connecting in powerful ways. The question is, can you recognize, appreciate, and take advantage of the power inherent in this new level of communication? Do you want to facilitate or debilitate? Do you want to play a part in what and how people learn? Or do you want to try to stop them? Will you restrict them? Or will you free them to do the work they were hired to do—and will you do it with them?”


Time Stamp!

The RS-25, aka Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME)

Just thought I should mention today (Thursday, 14 May 2020) is the 10th anniversary of my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. I’m still not entirely sure it was the right thing to do (accept the early severance package they offered everyone over 60) but her I yam!


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