Finally, a REAL FACT!!

Speaking about his failure to address the death of American soldiers in Niger, Trump said he’s mailed / is mailing / will mail tomorrow (yeah) letters. And defended this method of communication saying “Other presidents did not call, they would write letters, and some presidents didn’t do anything”. Most certainly, he is correct that some presidents did not call the family of deceased service members. The first telephone was installed in the White House in 1877 – and even then, I don’t know that phone service throughout the country was advanced enough to warrant phone calls from the chief executive.

Statistically, I am certain some presidents did do nothing too. Over half a million Union soldiers died in the Civil War — penning an individual letter to each family (even if you could combine a couple of siblings into one letter) would have been unrealistically time consuming.

We’re ten months into the administration, and I think we’ve finally gotten a fact fact!

Aquarium Decorations

We’ve had goldfish in an outdoor pond this summer, but will bring them indoors for the winter. It’s starting to get cold at night, so seems like it is about time to get the aquarium set up. Anya picked this bag of day-glo rocks. The bag says you need 1-2 pounds of rocks for each gallon of aquarium. 30 gallon aquarium … and a 25 pound bag of rocks. So we needed a second bag. Talked her into mixing colours because I couldn’t imagine being a fish and looking at such bright stuff all day. Every day. (And then going into the completely earth-tone pond!). She picked black.

While shopping, there were a lot of plastic-looking decorations … but we’ve got rocks everywhere around here (and Scott’s got a collection of rocks too) and decided to build a cave and add some smaller rocks for decoration.

We took a two gallon pail and mixed the aquarium gravel. She ended up using about 80% black rocks and 20% bright, and it looks quite nice. I used two large rocks from Scott’s collection as pillars along the side. Then stacked some slate for a back pillar.

Placed a large piece of slate on top. Voila, a little fish cave.

Finally, we all selected some favourite rocks. Anya chose where they are placed – the smaller ones at the front centre are sofas and chairs for the fish 🙂

The rainbow under the tank is a quick runner I made for the top of the bookshelf. I didn’t want the piece damaged by the tank, so Anya picked the fabric (puzzle pieces). I cut two pieces, added a really thin quilt batting that isn’t thick enough to use for a bed quilt, made a quick quilted runner to place under the tank & ‘stuff’ (air pump, power strip).

Tips For Avoiding Unpleasantness

Mayim Bialik has offered her tips for avoiding sexual harassment and exploitation. This would be like me offering tips to avoid police brutality — be polite, be deferential, don’t make sudden moves, keep your hands visible. Or my tips for avoiding traffic stops in the first place – drive the speed limit, control your vehicle, signal before turns and lane changes. Not bad advice per se, but it completely ignores the fact that my skin tone and gender play a significant part in my success in achieving positive interactions with police officers (or avoiding the interactions to start with). Ignores that, in areas I frequent, police don’t encounter a lot of dangerous traffic stops.

The fact is, her real secret to avoiding harassment wasn’t her clothing or her mannerisms – it was her situation. As others have pointed out, sexual assault is about power. I didn’t wear demure clothing, I had a very open and solicitous personality, but I wasn’t harassed until I needed the job. You need the job to feed your kids or to keep your apartment, then casting directors have a lot of power over you. To start out with, even a lot of skeezy guys stay away from statutory situations. But ignoring age. Get into acting to earn rent money, to feed yourself … that’s a different scenario than Mayim. Get into acting for something to do – you can tell a guy he’s gross. Or refuse to continue the discussion at his hotel restaurant. Then his hotel room.

Corporate Expense Reduction: Customer Service

We analyse calls to both our internal and customer-facing support desks all the time in an attempt to identify what causes the most calls. Theory being that fixing whatever-it-is would significantly reduce call volume and thus expenses. But do we ever analyze who is calling us? It may be a single problem that reoccurs. It may be ten little problems indicative of a bigger issue. It may be someone who is trying to avoid work and booking offline time on the line with the help desk (it’s been 20 years, but I used to generate a report for each call center manager of their director reports’ tickets & resolutions each week because it was so common a technique for a freebie 20 minutes off the phones and the manager didn’t have visibility into the ticketing system to determine if the calls were legitimate or not).

Multi-million dollar accounts (or senior company execs) get dedicated liaisons who walk issues through support channels. What if we had a small team of transient white glove support liaisons? People who have cultivated the same process knowledge and contacts that major accounts managers and exec support managers have. The top five callers for the week/month get rung up and their issue fixed. That may be calling around to get the proper support organisation looking at the issue. It may be replacing the thing that keeps breaking (replace the employee’s PC, replace the customer’s DLS modem). Even if you break even, there’s a much better experience with “yeah, I called in five times. But then so-and-so rang me up, took ownership of the issue, and fixed it” than “I have called eight times a week for the past month, had to explain the problem two dozen times, and these dolts finally managed to fix it”.

The other thing the metric could give you – and maybe a company would never use this – is how much a customer is *costing* the business. 800 charges, support staff man-hours … someone who has a 5$ a month account but uses ten hours of customer service time is costing the company money.

Exchange 2013 Calendar Events In OpenHAB (CalDAV)

We’ve wanted to get our Exchange calendar events into OpenHAB — instead of trying to create a rule to determine preschool is in session, the repeating calendar event will dictate if it is a break or school day. Move the gymnastics session to a new day, and the audio reminder moves itself. Problem is, Microsoft stopped supporting CalDAV.

Scott found DAVMail — essentially a proxy that can translate between CalDAV clients and the EWS WSDL. Installation was straight-forward (click ‘next’ a few times). Configuration — for Exchange 2013, you need to select the “EWS” Exchange protocol and use your server’s EWS WSDL URL. https://yourhost.domain.cTLD/ews/exchange.asmx … then enable a local CalDAV port.

On the ‘network’ tab, check the box to allow remote connections. You *can* put the thumbprint of the IIS web site server certificate for your Exchange server into the “server certificate hash” field or you can leave it blank. On the first connection through DAVMail, there will be a pop-up asking you to verify and accept the certificate.

On the ‘encryption’ tab, you can configure a private keystore to allow the client to communicate over SSL. I used a PKCS12 store (Windows type), but a java keystore should work too (you may need to add the key signing key {a.k.a. CA public key} to the ca truststore for your java instance).

On the advanced tab, I did not enable Kerberos because the OpenHAB CalDAV binding passes credentials. I did enable KeepAlive – not sure if it is used, the CalDAV binding seems to poll. Save changes and open up the DAVMail log viewer to verify traffic is coming through.

Then comes Scott’s part — enable the bindings in OpenHAB (there are two of them – a CalDAVIO and CalDAVCmd). In the caldavio.cfg, the config lines need to be prefixed with ‘caldavio’ even though that’s not how it works in OpenHAB2.

caldavio:CalendarIdentifier:url=https://yourhost.yourdomain.gTLD:1080/users/mailbox@yourdomain.gTLD/calendar
caldavio:CalendarIdentifier:username=mailbox@yourdomain.gTLD
caldavio:CalendarIdentifier:password=PasswordForThatMailbox
caldavio:CalendarIdentifier:reloadInterval=5
caldavio:CalendarIdentifier:disableCertificateVerification=true

Then in the caldavCommand.cfg file, you just need to tell it to load that calendar identifier:

caldavCommand:readCalendars=CalendarIdentifier

We have needed stop openhab, delete the config file from ./config/org/openhab/ related to this calendar and binding before config changes are ingested.

Last step is making a calendar item that can do stuff. In the big text box that’s where a message body is located (no idea what that’s called on a calendar entry):

BEGIN:Item_Name:STATE
END:Item_Name:STATE

The subject can be whatever you want. The start time and end time are the times for the begin and end events. Voila!

A Welfare Queen Among Nations

Trump is (what’s the 140-character limit version of bloviating??) about not funding rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. No idea if the same goes for Texas or Florida, but either way. The thing of it is, someone will fund the rebuilding. Oxfam is already going in to help. Yeah, the same Oxfam that goes into third world countries following disasters. I guess we could save money by letting some NGO mange the rebuilding efforts.

But isn’t that the nation-state version of Reagan’s welfare queen? Someone who has is capable of self-sufficiency but instead goes the easier/cheaper route of letting “us” pay for their lifestyle?

I’m not claiming astonishment Trump would suggest this – his companies, after all, went the same route. Why undertake painful cutbacks or difficult work when you can just stick investors with the debt and stiff contractors? What does bother me, though, is that no one draws the parallel.

 

Trump & The NFL

An interesting observation:

The section in question is U.S. Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 11, Section 227. If any player is damaged (in the legal sense — loses money because they are benched or terminated for protesting), they should have standing for a complaint. It’s not civil, so the president is not sheltered whilst in office.

Trump is a covered person. (b)(3) specifically lists the president. So there’s no quibbling on this count.

(a)(2) is a point where linguistics can be argued. “influences, or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another,” — he has threatened to eliminate tax exemptions which is threatening to influence the official act of another to eliminate {not withhold, the term used in (a)(1)}

And the big argument – (a) “with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity” (emphasis is mine). Is his threat solely on the basis of political affiliation?

News organisations targeted by Trump may have a case under the same law. It’s a reach, but they may have a better case for Trump’s threats to be based “solely” on political affiliation (although Trump isn’t doing anything from political affiliation. He’s doing it from Trump affiliation). I don’t think any network has been sufficiently harmed (yet) so as to show damages, so that argument is moot. He pulls a Nixon and starts challenging licenses, though … there’s precedent that legal fees and such don’t constitute damages. Loss of advertising revenue?

 

The Nuclear Arsenal

Just round numbers here – in 2009 there were like 6,400 megatons yield in the world-wide nuclear arsenal. Keep in mind this doesn’t include conventional bombs/missiles/rockets, which are also quite adept at wide-spread death and destruction. Or bullets, for that matter.

Quick math: 6,400 megatons * 1000000 to get us into tons and then * 2000 because I assume they don’t mean metric tons gives us the equivalent yield of 1,280,000,000,000 pounds of TNT. World population in 2009 was, what, 7 billion? That’s around 180 pounds of TNT per person *JUST* in nuclear weaponry. More people today, and a lower total yield. Doubt 2017’s yield is half 2009’s though. And at half (3,200 megatons), we would still have 84 tons TNT equivalent for each of the 7.5 billion people on the planet. How will 300 or 400 pounds per person make our country stronger?

I saw a chart in the early 80’s that represented the world nuclear firepower (18,000 megatons) in terms of WWII (estimated at 3 megatons). The dots were overlaid with a grid – 11 x 11. 120 squares full of little dots (one square in the center was *just* a single dot representing WW2). Two squares on the grid was sufficient to destroy all of the large and medium size cities in the entire world. We had 118 more squares. Each representing another 150 megatons of firepower. And I doubt that was 10x what we have today (sorry, not *nearly* 10x what we have today).

Now I’ll grant you all seven point five billion people won’t just clump themselves into nicely bomb-able circles (why the nuclear arsenal is measured in warheads, making a pounds-TNT-equiv / person calculation for 2017 rather difficult). But ‘fucking moron’ is an understatement for someone demanding any sort of increase in the nuclear arsenal!

If we “need” more warheads, and I don’t think we do … but let’s pretend there’s a point to all this senseless murder, the problem isn’t a lack of nuclear firepower. It is that highly concentrated firepower is terribly inefficient. Estimate the number of people we plan to off in the next world-annihilating war (round numbers, let’s say all of em). Scale up by 20% or so, then make conventional micro-bomb drones with, say, the equiv of 2.5 pounds of TNT each. That’s not even 2% of the 2009 nuclear arsenal’s firepower. And you could literally eliminate every person on the planet. With a 20% margin of error (more people,drones that fail, whatever).

Licenses

How long before someone manages to explain the FCC to Trump? Because NBC? Not actually licensed – if you don’t believe my knowledge of communication regulation, check out the FCC’s own web page! The station that is using a specific frequency to magic NBC’s content through the air and into my home, now THEY are licensed. Tenga (here in Cleveland) could have their license yanked. Court would stay the order about eight seconds later, and I doubt even having Gorsuch puts the SC in a position to uphold a license revocation over a free speech issue. But they *have* a license to revoke.

And? If you are going to attack someone for reporting on your vastly lacking knowledge about laws and such, maybe do a little research to make sure your threat itself doesn’t demonstrate said vast lack of knowledge.

Corporate Expense Reduction: Energy

One of the things we’ve done with our home automation is tracking energy usage – partially because we want to size out a solar installation and the net metering in Ohio is awesome unless you produce more electricity in a rolling 12 month period than you use. So the installation has to be really close to your actual usage. But also because electricity costs money. Similar approaches may be beneficial to corporations. I’m using our 11 cent per kWh rate as an example. Actual rates depend on location and usage.

Does a company want to devote resources to “office automation” like we have home automation? Coupling motion detectors with smart outlets {or even just office schedules – if the last person is off shift at 7PM, dropping some device power at 8 should have no impact} to turn off power might save a lot in standby draw.

Even without home automation, companies can gather usage data to allow resources to be devoted to their biggest energy draws. The first step is identifying the big draws. We use Aeon Labs zwave clamp on home energy meters, but there are stand-alone energy meters. I’ve seen DIY Arduino based ones (https://olimex.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/energy-monitoring-with-arduino-and-current-clamp-sensor), or high end Fluke devices with clamps do the same thing (@5k+ for the Fluke … that’s a bit of an investment, but if someone’s got an energy metering capable fluke for other work ‘stuff’ … they may just need the 10$ clamps). Whatever equipment – clamp it on one circuit in a panel for a few days. Get a number, move it to the next circuit. Eventually you’ve got daily usage numbers for different circuits and just need to look at what is on those circuits to narrow down potential saving points.

We found obvious stuff – HVAC uses a lot of power. If a company leases a building with outdated equipment, use firm numbers in lease negotiation. The HVAC draws x kWh per year which costs us y $. A middle-road new system should draw z kWh which means we’re spending some concrete dollar figure per year because this system is so old. The same information can be used to cost-justify upgrades/replacements for company-owned buildings. Measure usage on lighting circuits. An office with old ballasts and florescent bulbs – what they are costing to run tells you if switching to LED {and there *are* LED T4/8 tubes that don’t require fixture replacements} makes any sense.

But we also found things I would never have even considered if I made a list of all of our non-trivial electrical draws. 20% of our annual electrical usage is the septic aerator (it literally uses more energy than the geothermal HVAC system in a year). We can get it down to 11% of our projected usage by cycling the thing on during even hours and off during odd (or on/off in twelve hour chunks, or 4 on / 4 off / 4 on / 4 off / 4 on / 4 off … new aerators have scheduling and do this themselves). Now that septic aerator savings is only like 250$ a year. Not a huge amount of money, but it’s 250$ I would never have realized we were spending otherwise.

From an IT perspective – if a server supports wake-on-lan … does a backup server and tape library need to be running 24×7? If someone kicks off a restore, can it be powered up (adds a minute, but saves power whenever restores aren’t running) and can it be programmatically powered on maybe half an hour before its backup jobs are scheduled to kick. Then power back down when no jobs report as running or scheduled for x hours. As a company, we mandate that all computers be left powered on so patches can be deployed overnight. What if the nightly patch check-in then powered the computer down (either because there are no patches or after installation in lieu of a reboot)?

Or a printer — there is no need for the printer to be in standby mode for the 15 hours a day no one is around to print. Or the weekends when no one is around. Or company holidays. One of the fairly large Xerox printers we have draws a continuous 11 Watts in sleep mode uses 71 kWh each year between 17:30 and 07:30 M-F and all day Saturday and Sunday. Maybe 72 kWh if you add company holidays. That’s not quite eight dollars a year in savings (and power consumption won’t be 0 if the device can be woken remotely) – but saving 6$ per printer in a company with 2000 printers is 12,000$ each year. Some of the older printers don’t even have a lower power sleep mode and draw 95 Watts in standby mode – 620 Watts per year when no one is around, and just under 70$ in electricity. Even better – HP offers an auto-off / auto-on on activity feature that allows energy to be saved during working hours.

Are there intangible benefits to energy saving initiatives? Get into the automation side of energy savings, would some tech magazine profiling the effort (free publicity, and tech magazines are a good place to advertise a company offering network services)? Can companies form partnerships with geothermal / solar / wind / whatever manufacturers to get cheap installations + publicity? Sadly, in some markets that may not play well (what, you don’t want to burn coal!?!) … but it might not be seen as a negative if it approached as a “save money, do right by stockholders AND customers” message instead of a “green, save the planet, global warming is bad” message.