Category: Hobbies

menacing-bearded-man-angryNote: Comments are mine, unedited, and at times… stream of conscious. Not everything is researched as well as it could be. A lot is based on impression and what I have seen. So I expect people to complain about minutiae more than the spirit behind this posting. I do welcome ALL comments. I will respond to as many as I can. I will potentially disagree… or I may say, quite frankly… I didn’t see it that way. But I have a strong feeling on this and I need to put it out there, even if nobody reads it.

It is November, or as several misguided people are calling it Movember.

From Wikipedia: Movember (a portmanteau from moustache and “November”) is an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and other male cancers, and associated charities. The Movember Foundation runs the Movember charity event, housed at The goal of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health.”

I appreciate the fact that an organisation has decided to be YA (yet another) point of donation for Cancer research. Granted, like many of these organisations of late there are several immediate issues.

  1. Operating costs temper the amount that goes for research The American Cancer Society took in just shy of 1 (B) Billion dollars; over 25% went back into Management and Fund Raising.
  2. The average participant is in it for the coolness factor and not for the donation. This seems like an over generalisation but during this month, walk around your office. See how many men are growing their moustaches and ask them about it. How many really want to talk about Cancer? How many have made a donation? You may be upset to find out. And I’ve done this in past offices. The numbers are worse than some of the charities.
  3. We’ll get back to how this is a spin-off of Breast cancer month and my issues with that.
  4. And the thing that pisses me off more than anything about Movember

What kind of an ass thinks the best way to gain awareness for Cancer is to GROW hair?!?!

In the case of Movember, they are very clear about the rules (but not about what the Administrative expenses are.)

  1. Once signed up a “Mo Bro” must begin the 1st with a clean-shaven face.
  2. For the entire month each “Mo Bro” must grow and groom a moustache
  3. Don’t fake it. No beards, no goatees, no fake moustaches
  4. Use the power of the Moustache to create conversations about men’s health and to raise funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.
  5. Each “Mo Bro” must conduct himself like a true gentleman…

Let’s start with the spectacle of charity.
In Judaism Maimonides points out that one of the highest forms of charity is:

“…to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.”

Of course not everyone is Jewish, and (at least Orthodox) Jews aren’t supposed to shave… So I guess the attitude of not making spectacle really doesn’t hold water for most. However, this pervasive attitude towards, “Show me something in support” tends to show up as “Wear Jeans if you support, foo” in High Schools. So, whoever didn’t get the memo and wore jeans has just been labeled as ‘in support.’ And when that is “Teach the Christian Bible in our school” maybe you would have preferred not to.

But lets talk about the growing of hair for raising awareness for Cancer patients. Simply, it misses the boat. 100%. How many people have I seen die from cancer? One. How many people have I seen die from cancer? One TOO MANY. Let me tell you… growing hair and conducting themselves like true gentlemen? It’s not on their list. If you want to raise the topic of cancer… let’s shave everything. Including body hair. (And as a very furry man, I know what that would entail) And that means all of it. Or if you like, leave a few clumps. Then try reducing your diet down to about 200 calories a day. People see the happy, fun side of Cancer… Except when people talk about a lost loved one… But those are just stories. It can’t be as bad as they make it out to be.

One of the most supportive things I have seen for a recovering cancer patient is when friends and family shave their heads in support. This isn’t for discussion. This is to show the human being recovering person that they are loved, and should not feel embarrassed or ashamed. Because as corny as it sounds, love and support go further in recovery than ostracisation and embarrassment.

Cancer is a disease. Not a theme. Many of these people have lost parts of themselves in the hopes that they won’t lose more… like their lives. They pray for the words ‘benign’ and ‘remission’. But in the meantime as “Bro’s” once again stand up and say ‘what about us. We’re downtrodden too.’ Lest we forget Breast Cancer; or what has become the pink ribbon brand that far too many refer to as “Save the Boobies”

But this time, instead of being told to grow hair, now we are painting the disease in Pepto-Bismo pink. (I suppose at least this is closer to the cause because Pepto is designed to curb vomiting which for the cancer patient is pretty much the norm. Honestly, if you want a good colour, perhaps vomit olive and beige might be best. But that’s not exactly pretty and of course this isn’t women’s health; it’s more about ‘the pretty.’ (By the way, pink ribbons… stolen from a woman in 1979 who (inspired by the Tony Orlando song) tied ribbons around trees in the hopes that she would see her husband again who had been taken hostage in Iran. So, the next time you see a ribbon… it originally meant, “will I see you again?”

The ribbon isn’t the problem so much as “Once again” it’s using pink and branding the movement, not helping the women who are suffering, losing so much, and dying. Breast cancer awareness is more about getting people talking about Breast cancer than doing something about it and from a high percentage of actual people suffering from Cancer; it’s really not about their welfare. There are some excellent articles
– Wikipedia’s reference on “Breast Cancer Culture”
– – Save the women not the Boobies
– – The NFL’s Campaign Against Breast Cancer is a Total Scam

For as much as a man may be embarrassed to have to be bald. Women are not afforded the same social grace to be a recovering victim of cancer. Women are encouraged to hide behind wigs because the appearance is more important than the educating of others. And the worst part of all are the throngs of people so insistent on saving the boobies, that the numbers of people who a repulsed or push away a woman who has had to lose a breast. It was said that a fetish is having something one needs to be aroused. It is a sad concept to know the number of people who have breast fetishes.

Do I speak for any person who suffers from any cancer? No. Do I have any idea what it’s like to suffer from Cancer? No. But what I will do is see through the morass of pathos avoiding commercialism and put my money and time where it will do the most good.

So this year as you put away your pink… In Pittsburgh, there is a fountain downtown at Gateway Center where the water is tinted pink. I often joke that the irony is that the squirrels are likely getting cancer from the dyes. As you trade in your pink for moustache wax…

Stop, and consider just donating the money, spending time helping someone who is suffering or recovering from Cancer. And make the conversation about the people and the disease… and not about seeing pink-soled cleats, buying overpriced merchandise that donates 10 cents on the dollar, or how handlebars really will impress the gals.

I for one… will not be shaving for Movember. But I will shave for a loved one, a friend, or coworker, or just someone who needs the support and kinship. I am fortunate… I grow a full beard in 3 days. I do not have breasts; I have a working prostate and working testicles. There are others who have so much beyond what they are losing or have lost. Make them see what is left that is fortunate so that they don’t spend time suffering.


Dearest Chris… I gladly came to you in the hospital even though at the time the sight of dying scared me nearly to paralysis. At your service I cried for at least 15 minutes. I loved you in my heart more that I could ever communicate and more than you’d ever believe. I see your smile in my heart sometimes when I look in the eyes of my son who carries your name in remembrance.

I wish you’d had the medical coverage and care that would have detected this before it was too late. I’m glad that so many of your friends were around to keep a smile on your face for as long as we could. The number of people who shaved their heads for you; the number of clergy that you taught and guided who wanted to be the one to deliver you communion from masses.

I miss you so much.

Pleygo No More

madLegoAbout 3 weeks ago we were referred by a friend and fellow parent to a site called #Pleygo. An interesting service hailed as Netflix meets Lego. You subscribe and get a stream of lego sets sent to you. Depending on the plan (low, medium, and high) you can pick from different sets. Medium for example would be about $30 a month and sets would be about $85 on the shelf to buy.

Of course, handing a child a lego set has inherent risk. Pleygo advertises that the sets come with a side bag of extra common pieces; sets are completely sterilized between uses; they allow up to a certain number of pieces to be lost when being returned; and of course have a procedure to buy the set if your child absolutely doesn’t want to part with it.

All of this and a one month 30 day free trial!

Except… It didn’t work. It was a complete fail for us.

About a month ago, we decided to hand them a credit card and see what 30 days would bring us. After one week of Aiden checking the mailbox to no avail I called them. They told us that our wish list (viewing queue) wasn’t full and that they fulfill from the list in order of availability. I explained that there was no mention of requiring a full queue and there was no way to know that everything that was on our mostly filled (80%) queue was all unavailable.

While on the phone, I padded the queue to fill it and noted that it would be a STRONG suggestion to let users know what sets are currently available and which aren’t. I was told that I should see a set within the first 7-10 business days but there was a strong back log.

From here I explained that I was on the free trial. I wanted to emphasize that my interest here was “Trial” not “Free” and that I was evaluating their service. That to this point I had to explain to my seven year old why there was no mail for him on a daily basis and no way to know if there was ever going to be any. The person noted she’s take the comments down (but really gave an attitude of ‘this is just the way we work.’

Last evening, two weeks later, I got a general “Aren’t we great, New Sets” email from Pleygo. It saddens me that at this point they’d all but slipped my mind. I made a note to myself to do a followup call this morning. going to the website I was (less than) surprised that the support phone number is no longer there. There is a limited support section that is primarily driven by community postings. There is also a blog that primarily is proudly talking about their tie in to the recent Lego Movie.

A long time ago I might have had more patience for this. But now money is tighter. The idea of having a wealth of (fairly expensive) Lego open up to my child for far less (even though it was a subscription) seems like a fantastic idea. That being said, NOTHING is worth trying to comfort a crest fallen child every day for two weeks for reasons other than, “I guess we just have to wait, I don’t know what’s going on.”

Obviously, I cancelled my “Free Trial” as I take solace in the fact that at least it didn’t cost me financially to know that the service failed the trial. Honestly, I hope in the long run the idea succeeds. But for now… There is far too much broken in the system for a person to join that ecosystem.

ftp-big-iconI’ve been updating my web hosting customers WordPress this weekend. Partly to move them onto new servers with new updates. In doing so I got to learn about ftp configuration on unix. It’s a bit more involved that I was expecting. Quite the endeavor.

Just a short update. Tomorrow we hopefully wrap up the overhauled APIs on the project and move back up the stack.

Apparently, WordPress tracks how the blog does in a year. This was a good year for the blog.

The stats are here at this link.

javaNow, I’m honestly trying to not work on the project specifics except during the work week of Monday – Friday. Granted, like everyone else; I find a project I like; I dive in with both feet. Ironically, the average diver would probably hazard trying to go in hands first. But, then again; I’m not a diver.

What this means is that I spend the weekend trying to refine the work that needs to be done. I spend it learning technologies, experimenting with them and dreaming how they will incorporate. Despite being a holiday weekend (well, Yulishmash spill-over) I knew there wasn’t going to be much to get done. Also, with family in town, I really can’t kick them out of my home office when it’s also the guest room. (Yes, my home office has a Thinking-Queen-Sized-Bed)

So, it was down to sitting on the couch with laptop and hashing out the following. First was refreshing Java. I touched Java aeons ago. This was probably back when you could count Java’s age on one hand. Java is not yet 20, though it did become legal this year in the states. I’ve done a boatload of C and a shipload of Objective-C, and maybe a dinghy of C++. But Java was something that I kept getting pulled back from spending too much time in. Believe it or not; I’ve survived as a third-party Apple OS developer for over 25 years.

Java itself isn’t so much the problem. Object-oriented code with some syntax adjustments. Obj-C protocols are Java interfaces… sort of. The problem with most OO languages are the libraries and the build processes. In java is comes down to Packages, Jars, ClassPaths, and the like. So to learn Java I also brought in Eclipse. Eclipse is a popular Java IDE.  Well, after watching 5 horrendously painful lectures on the baby steps of Java for non-programmers, I was able to get the ever joyful “Hello World” up and running. But why stop there?!?

Next up was loading Tomcat. Tomcat is a web server that runs mini Java programs (known as Servlets). This allows me to do dynamic generation of content dependent on calls to a server. The server takes the request and passes it to the Servlet. The servlet uses java to parse the request, do stuff, and return data. So my next job was setting up Tomcat on my internal server (on the scared side of my firewall) and trying to write a Servlet.

This stage didn’t go quite as smoothly. Servlets have their own brand of packaging that goes even further into the world of Java. Thanks to some helpful folks at StackOverflow I was able to get a better handle on WEB-INF directories and my Java crashing web.xml file. Granted, after all that, the Servlet still wouldn’t run. After many hours it was sleep time.

Today, undaunted, I went back to the Servlet. I tried to figure out why the samples that came with Tomcat worked but mine belched “Resource not found” errors. Then I learned about how Tomcat Servlet paths worked and there was my happy “Hello World!” Servlet running on my Tomcat Server. (2 notches on the tinkerer’s belt)

So, obviously “Stuff” means fetching from the data store. We go to MySQL for that. This is a low effort relational database that will let me keep the data that I will pick and choose for my web requests. Client calls URL, URL hits Servlet, Servlet parses request, Servlet fetches from MySQL, Servlet pushes response out to client.

For those of you who do this all the time like it’s a piece of cake. Remember, some of us have been working on an entirely different kind of pastry. So, I salute the work you do so effortlessly. I hope to get there soon-ish.

Some fine tuning on a quick install of MySQL, a mini throw-away database and VOILA, Servlet is responding and showing a nicely formatted table. Now going back to the client; as previously mentioned I’m going to be using a data format called “JSON.” JSON has a lot of clients and APIs that can consume data in that format and turn it into something usable. So, next up on my agenda was finding a JSON library my Servlet could consume.

Remember, this is all seat of the pants, and I’m likely doing half of this all wrong. But if I can get a working proof of concept that looks good enough for seed money, then I can hire in people who do this for a living to do it right. So, I find an open source JSON java library. I even figure out how to turn it into a JAR (Java Archive) and soon was able to have a sample java program burping out my data in the much hoped for data format.

So, next up is moving this JAR and JSON code into the Servlet. Once that is there, we have an end-to-end request from MySQL JSON generator. But by then it’s the end of the weekend and it’s back to working on the client proper with the hand coded data set.

All this and I had a cold this weekend, too. It’s quite an adventure and I’m really thrilled with what we’ve accomplished so far. We being now a team of 5 contributors (including myself) even if half don’t really consider themselves contributors yet.

As we get closer to our Proof of Concept I will endeavor to get less vague.

Til next time…

Back to code!