Monday, July 27, 2015

What it's like to be a Mormon bishop

In Lloyd Alexander's story The Black Cauldron, the protagonist, Taran, embarked on a quest with several companions. The leader of the quest, Adaon, was a quiet young man, a little older than Taran. Taran often chafed under Adaon's leadership, because Adaon was more skillful, more competent, and more wise than Taran.

The source of Adaon's enhanced abilities was an iron amulet, or brooch, that he wore around his neck. This brooch gave him "uncanny insight and enhanced sensory perception, as well as prophetic dreams." (That's from Taran didn't know any of this. He was simply envious of Adaon's abilities.

In the course of their quest, Adaon was mortally wounded, and he gave the iron brooch to Taran and told Taran that he must lead the quest. Taran became aware of his increased skills, perception, and wisdom. He didn't let it go to his head; he was simply aware of it, but he clearly enjoyed it.

At a certain point in the story, Taran had to relinquish the iron brooch. He immediately lost all of his enhanced skills, and went back to being the clumsy young man he had been before he had the brooch.

That's what it's like to be a Mormon bishop. You are only a bishop for a short period of time - say between three and ten years. During that time, you are blessed with increased insight, wisdom, and perception, far beyond your natural abilities. People will constantly tell you how wise you are, or how far-seeing you are, but you can't let it go to your head. It is a gift that comes with the calling, That's all. You must enjoy it for as long as it lasts, and use it to help others and to lift them up.

Eventually you will be released from your calling as a bishop. When you are released, all of that wisdom and insight disappears, and you go back to being the same dumb guy you were before you were called.

Okay, you do get to keep some wisdom - but it's the wisdom earned the hard way, from trials borne and struggles overcome and tears shed and souls saved. And I hope you get to keep the love that has grown between you and the people whom you get to serve, and who mean so much to you for those few short years.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Election Day 2016 - Say It Isn't So

Please don't tell me that the next U.S. Presidential election will be a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oh, great. The idiot is running again.

While the spotlight has been shining on Hillary Rodham Clinton and her remarkable lack of Democratic contenders, Republicans have been quietly walking up to the Goblet of Fire and slipping their names into it.

The latest Republican to announce his candidacy for the presidency was our own Billionaire Clown, Donald Trump. He can't stand it when the news isn't about him. And he just can't stand to stay out of his own spotlight. I guess that's his right. He bought the spotlight, and paid for it, so he might as well shine it on himself. It's a pity he couldn't spend the money on a better hairpiece.

Clearly, he didn't learn his lesson from the "birther" beating he inflicted upon himself in 2011.

Anyway, in the latest installment in the comedy-cum-soap-opera that is his life, Trump invoked God Himself in promising:
I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
I remind you that in 2011, all of the Republican candidates, except for Mitt Romney, announced that God had told them to run for President. This statement sounds like Trump is telling God what to do, and not the other way around. Ladies and gentlemen, the Clown is back, and he's about to eat his clown shoes.

Reuters reporter Alana Wise wasn't too impressed with his announcement, as she makes clear in this report of the press conference announcing his candidacy.

Everytime I read or hear about Donald Trump saying something, I get this mental image of a donkey in a pasture, braying loudly because he loves to hear the sound of his voice, while all of the other animals grazing in the field ignore him or silently wish he would be abducted by aliens.

UPDATE, JUNE 17: Most of the news media didn't take Trump's announcement very seriously. One of them even accused him of "throwing his rubber nose into the GOP ring." This jesting at his expense, and lack of respect, hasn't sat well with Trump, who fired back in a fit of petulance: "Well, I'm rich and you're not, so nyah. Jerks." Now we can really take him seriously.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A road rage incident

Preface: This isn't very readable. I dictated it into my telephone while I was driving to work, and only superficially edited it once I got to work. Recording it here is important, because I've seen this guy before. I should have reported him the first time, but I didn't. 

Colorado takes road rage very seriously. The cellular phone number *277 (or "star C S P") is a shorthand number to report an aggressive driver to a Colorado State Patrol dispatcher. After three complaints, the vehicle's owner gets a letter. After more complaints, they get a visit from the CSP, often with more drastic results.

I called *CSP at 9:13 a.m. The dispatcher spent a couple of minutes with me on the phone getting all of the relevant information. I'm glad that this state takes road rage seriously.

Again, while this may not make very interesting reading, it's important to have it in a publicly searchable area of the Internet.

Notes on the aggressive driver, June 6, 2015

These notes are related to a call I placed to *CSP at 9:13 AM on Friday, June 6, 2015, regarding an aggressive driver.

The vehicle was a white Oldsmobile Bravada SUV, license plate was a Colorado "Pioneer" design, with last three letters YBA. The first three numbers might have been 236 or 238. I no longer recall the numbers, but I reported them to the CSP dispatcher as I was reading them off the license plate. The driver appeared to be in his sixties, Caucasian, white hair, no facial hair, wearing a baseball cap and his left arm wrapped in an athletic bandage - not a cast, but a wrap, with the thumb and fingers sticking out.

During and after this incident, I was calm and mellow. I never felt any tension or anger. I never feared for my life or my safety, although now I think that maybe I should have.

I was in the passing lane on 287, just south of Hwy 56 in Berthoud, southbound and passing slower traffic. The Bravada came up behind me and rode my bumper, less than a car length away, and as soon as traffic in front of me cleared and I could pull into the right lane, he rocketed past me. He was doing at least 80. I observed him driving aggressively for a few more miles, tailgating drivers, cutting drivers off, and changing both lanes and speed suddenly and erratically.

Further down the road, I pulled into the left lane to pass slower traffic and found myself behind him. I kept a safe following distance. He was on the rear bumper of a grey Honda Civic that was going about 60 in the left lane. When the right lane was clear he passed the Civic on the right, rolled down his window, and gave the Civic driver the bird. The Civic didn't move, so I also passed him on the right, more politely. The Bravada driver was watching me and the Civic in his side view mirror the whole time, and actually slowed down to match the Civic's speed, so that I was abreast of the Civic and the Bravada was in front of me.

When there was a large enough gap between the Bravada and the Civic, I pulled into the left lane to pass him. I was about 3 car lengths ahead of him when he finally decided to speed up. he stomped on his gas pedal, accelerated quickly, passed me on the right and shot a dangerously narrow gap between me and a truck in front of him. He shot the gap aggressively enough that the Bravada rocked wildly as he yanked the wheel first left, and then right, while still accelerating. He proceeded to flip me off, both in the rear view mirror and out the driver side window. After a half mile still in the left lane, he slowed down again to 65 or possibly to 60 miles an hour. As I came up behind him, I slowed down as well, and the Civic almost caught up to us.

I was endeavoring to maintain a speed of 69 or 70 mph, using cruise control as much as possible. So once again, I pulled into the right lane, and stayed there on cruise control. The right lane was clear ahead of me and behind me. The left lane was clear in front of the Bravada. The Bravada once again accelerated rapidly in the left lane and pulled several car lengths ahead of me. Then he changed his mind and slowed down to match my speed, about a car length ahead of me but in the left lane. This is when I called *CSP to report him as an aggressive driver.

By this time we were two miles north of Highway 66, still on 287 southbound. The Bravada slowed down further, falling back to get almost abreast of me. The driver rolled down both right side windows, and started video recording me, using his phone. He had an angry look on his face. He was in the left lane, & I was in the right lane, behind a brown pickup who was slowing down as we all approached the highway 66 intersection. Since I was behind the pickup, I slowed down also, and the Bravada slowed further in order to stay abreast of me and continued video taping me, while I was on the phone with CSP. At the highway 66 intersection, the Bravada stopped at the red light in the left lane. The pickup truck stopped in the right lane. I turned right onto westbound 66. At this point I lost contact with the Bravada, but I told the CSP dispatcher that I would be willing to sign a complaint.

As I write this report, it occurs to me that I have had a previous encounter with an aggressive driver in a white Oldsmobile Bravada. This was about a year ago, on 17th Street in Longmont, between Airport Road and Hover Road. Now I'm wondering if it was the same guy.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hello, Booz Allen Hamilton?

In my new position at work, I want to try out some software from a company called Booz Allen Hamilton. Using their own webpage, I've submitted two requests for either a trial copy of the software or a price quote. The first request was over a week ago; the second was this Monday, I think.

I've heard nothing. In the same time period, I have received and installed two competing software packages, and I've been contacted by a friendly and eager sales rep from one of the competitors.

Today I got junk mail from Booz Allen Hamilton. This is funny: they can't be bothered to set me up with a trial version of their software, but they've already harvested my address from my online RFQs so they can spam my mailbox.

Booz Allen Hamilton is a big company with big customers, and a gripe from one engineer in a medium-sized company won't make any difference to them. So I'm sure it won't bother them for a moment that I won't be giving their software any further consideration.

But at least I got this off my chest.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hey, that's me!

"The truth is, part of me is every age. I'm a three-year-old, I'm a five-year-old, I'm a thirty-seven-year-old, I'm a fifty-year-old. I've been through all of them, and I know what it's like. I delight in being a child when it's appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it's appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own."

That's from Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. It describes me perfectly: not my attitude, not my philosophy on life, but how I am programmed — how my brain is hardwired. I cannot be any other way, for this is who I am.

It is who I have always been, and it is who I always will be.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The IRS: No credibility at all, part 2

Yesterday, in my article The IRS: No Credibility At All, I said:

"The IRS expected the public to believe that the agency did not have a regular data backup plan in place, and that backup tapes of Lerner's hard drive did not exist. I find that impossible to believe."

and, speaking of all IRS email, not just Lerner's email:

"To suggest that the IRS did not have a backup policy for their mailserver is way, way beyond stupid. It's unbelievable. Inconceivable. Asinine."

It turns out that the mailserver backup tapes were safe in a storage building in West Virginia. Last July, a lawyer went to court to get hold of those tapes and look at them. The Department of Justice basically shut down that request. It took until mid-February this year to finally get the tapes. Everything I said in my previous article was true.

You know what's funny? Actually, it would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. The IRS treated everyone else like chumps - as if everyone else were stupid. But the IRS comes out of this looking ... well, looking stupid, idiotic, immoral, and any number of other adjectives you would use for a bunch of twelve-year-old boys who tried to start a fire on the gym floor, then cover it up and think they could get away with it. That is what the IRS, collectively, looks like right now.

Now I'll let somebody else do the talking. This is Patrick Howley, political reporter for The Daily Caller. The original article is at (I try not to copy entire articles like this, but they have a nasty habit of disappearing if I only post the links, and I don't want that to happen. I will remove the article and just write a summary of it if Patrick or the DC ask me to, but it's important enough that I'd rather leave the verbatim copy here.)

Here's the story about how the IRS and the DOJ tried to keep the backup tapes of Lois Lerner's emails from going public.

The Department of Justice blocked an attempt to force the Internal Revenue Service to search for Lois Lerner’s missing emails at off-site storage facilities, according to a lawyer pushing to obtain the emails.

The IRS never looked for Lerner’s backup email tapes at the West Virginia storage facility where they were being housed. Treasury deputy inspector general Timothy Camus told Congress that the IRS never asked IT professionals at the New Martinsville, W.V. storage site for the backup tapes. Camus only found the backup tape for Lerner’s missing 2011 emails about two weeks ago.

But the Obama administration knew that emails were stored at off-site facilities, and even shut down a legal request to send somebody to go look for them.

“We said in court that there are off-site servers where all IRS emails are stored,” lawyer Cleta Mitchell told The Daily Caller.

Mitchell represents the voter-ID group True the Vote in its lawsuit against the IRS over improper targeting. Shortly after it was revealed last summer that the IRS was missing Lerner’s emails, Mitchell petitioned U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton for an independent forensic examiner to be appointed to investigate the missing emails.

Mitchell referred to the IRS’ off-site storage facilities in West Virginia and Pittsburgh in court in July. But DOJ lawyers representing the IRS and the Treasury inspector general argued that Mitchell could not even discuss the existence of the storage facilities in her capacity as a lawyer.

“The Department of Justice lawyers objected to that and said I shouldn’t even be allowed to mention these off-site servers without sworn affidavits,” Mitchell told TheDC. “They meant that I was trying to testify to the judge without bringing in witnesses with sworn affidavits.”

Mitchell’s motion to get an independent forensic examiner was denied. The IRS’ internal investigation never headed to West Virginia, and the Treasury inspector general’s investigation managed to find a pertinent tape in West Virginia a mere two weeks before last Thursday’s House Oversight hearing. One of the IRS employees tasked with finding data on Lerner’s crashed hard drive was legally blind.

Mitchell’s statement about the off-site servers was clear as day, according to court transcripts obtained by TheDC.

“I’m advised that the IRS maintains servers that are in different states in different locations and that IRS employees are advised that their emails are never lost,” Mitchell said in court, according to the transcripts.

“That’s what I’ve been told as far as my emails here,” the court replied.

“And I have had individuals who worked with, for the IRS from all across the country who have communicated that to me,” Mitchell continued. “And they say — I hear from government employees, retired and active, who say what is being said is not possible. It is not plausible and it is contrary to what we are told as employees of the IRS.”

Mitchell requested “the opportunity to at least have some expert look at whether the perimeters of the investigation are complete and … will fully cover all of the potential ways or places in which this investigation should look or take into consideration.”

But the email tapes sat there in West Virginia, alone and unexamined.

DOJ did not return a request for comment for this report.

As TheDC reported, the IRS fired its email-storage contractor Sonasoft just weeks after Lerner’s email-deleting computer crash.