Category Archives: Opinion

So that’s what a tank slapper is…

(Originally posted on 2007-06-21 as /archives/22)

I experienced my first tank slapper on 2007-06-20.  That’s when a harmonic instability causes the handlebars to swap from side-to-side as far as they can go (AKA full lock).  I purchased a Suzuki SV650SA7 one month earlier (2007-05-19), and I already have over 1200 miles on it.   Anyway, I was coming out of the parking lot on the NE corner of Iowa and 23rd in Lawrence, KS after lunch.  These cars were coming at me pretty fast so I wanted to accelerate out-of-there.  I gunned it while I was leaned over.  First the rear wheel starts spinning, or I hit a false neutral, or who knows what (VROOOOOOM), and then the handlebars are doing a high speed dance (JIGGY-JIGGY-JIGGY), and left foot comes of the peg.  Afraid?  HAH!  Danger is my middle name!  Embarrassed?  You bet.

Here is a video of a tank slapper that looked like mine:

Here is a much-worse-ending one:

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Find Your Next Job Online: Even In A Recession

(Originally posted on Apr 20, 2009 as /archives/2531)

I had this experience back during the dot-bomb bust. Obviously I need to paraphrase here, because this conversation happened long ago.

By Tulane Public Relations (Career Day Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“How are you doing your online job search?”

I then describe how I search for positions via friends, Monster, etc.


“That will never work. Those ‘known’ positions potentially have hundreds of applicants. It doesn’t matter how good you are. There are just too many other applicants.

Here is how I find potential applicants. One of my clients contacts me directly to fill a position. These are typically not positions that are widely advertised. My client wants to interview a small number of highly qualified people. I go to one of these Web sites (she then shows me Monster).

Then I search on the keywords that are in the job description, the potential applicant’s location, etc. Then I contact the folks on the first page. I am almost always able to fill the position for someone near the top of my search results.

So, the most effective way for you to find a position is to be on that first page. You don’t look for positions, because too many other people are applying for those very same positions. You simply position yourself so that I can find you.

See this? The results near the top were edited recently. Make a resume. Put it on here.

Put all the technologies that you know on it, and update it every single day, even if you simply add a space somewhere. Editing it every day puts it near the top of the search results. This advice will help other recruiters find you. In the meantime I will see if any of my clients need you now.”

Needless to say, this turned everything upside down. My job wasn’t to look for a job. My job was to market myself.

The advice above eventually generated many leads over the next ten years: long after I stopped updating my resume online. So this plan did work.

That said, you never know where your next offer will come from. I met a Walmart recruiter at a Diversity Job Fair during the dot-bomb implosion.

The Dallas Metro area lost over 78,000 IT and Telecom jobs during the 12 month period prior. Many of those folks were at this job fair.

There were two extremely out-the-door lines to the only two tech companies present, and a lot of empty booths for non-tech companies.

One of the tech companies was interested in applicants with flight simulator engineering experience. The other said, “Go to our Web site. We are not taking resumes.” O… K… I was near the start of the line, so I let others know what I learned, and I heard a lot of, “Thanks, now I don’t have to waste anymore time here” in response.

So, I introduced myself to a Walmart recruiter at her empty booth, because why not? She took one look at me and said, “I am not recruiting computer programmers. I am recruiting night stockers in Dallas for the holiday season.” I reply with, “That’s OK I was a Night Stocker at Ames Department Stores. I like retail, and I like stocking shelves. Also, I would like to move to Bentonville Arkansas to be a computer programmer.” She took my resume, told me that she would bring it home, and give it to a tech recruiter. That led to the highest paid position that I have held.

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Loud Parties, Playing the Bass

(Originally posted on 2016-05-29)

Author: Ethan Prater Source: CC License: Attribution 2.0 Generic
Author: Ethan Prater
CC License: Attribution 2.0 Generic

The guy below me (at 30 Larnard St, Potsdam NY, in the early 90s), had a loud party, and played metal and classic rock records, real loud. Did he invite me? No.

Kids: if you are going to have a loud party, then you always invite the neighbors. In most cases they won’t come, but they will appreciate it, and they won’t call the police. Here endeth the lesson.

So I invited myself by plugging in my bass amp, and playing along with all of the songs. He eventually turned it down.

Did that end it? Not exactly: this started to become a regular thing, but at least he turned it down much quicker.

So one day his girlfriend stops me in the store, and says, “Hey, you’re the guy that lives above us. Every time that we have people visit, my boyfriend turns up the stereo, and then lowers the volume so that he can show everyone how you play the bass!”

All righty then…


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Amanda & Jack Palmer: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

(Originally posted on 2016-05-05)

Amanda & Jack Palmer cover Richard Thompson‘s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning if this video. The video is quite good. The art is by David Mack of Kabuki fame. Watch it.

I was aware of the Dresden Dolls, but I didn’t start listening to Amanda Palmer until after she married Neil Gaiman, because: Neil Gaiman. I suspect that this true for many people. Most of her music is pay what you want so there’s every reason to buy it if you like it, and pay exactly what it is worth to you.

Here’s what a stock Vincent Black Shadow looks like. The image is by brett Jordan:

brett Jordan’s Vincent Black Shadow, licensed via Creative Commons

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Build a Wall? Part Uno

(Originally posted on 2017-01-18.)

Politics is a football game, where winning is everything, and there are no stable values. What about the religious right? In the south, they used to vote for Democrats. What about free market capitalism?

By Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The GOP was free-market right up until this election. Now there are Republicans that say, “We want protectionist economic policies. Build a wall!”

Protectionist economic policies will increase the cost of every item that comes from Mexico and China. (Whether that increase takes money away from the manufacturer, the import company, or the end-consumer, depends on the elasticity-of-demand.) Every person’s dollar will buy less, and Americans will be that much poorer, but the next president will still be able to afford a $650 iPhone.

People said that your future president was lying about getting Mexico to pay for the wall, but he actually did mention tariffs during the campaign.

Here’s the thing about tariffs: if you raise the price of imports, then people will buy them from some other place, and then the tariffs won’t generate money to build the wall. In that case, you won’t have a wall, and you won’t have inexpensive goods either.

Mexico and China are in an industrial revolution. At the end of an industrial revolution, you end up with a large middle class. Large middle-class people generally want the option of desk jobs. The USA is in between industrial revolutions.

But there’s a completely different way of looking at trade deficits, and it’s simply this: the trade imbalance just means that the US dollar buys more, and that means that people in the US, on average, are better off, than people in other countries, and USA-first people like trump shouldn’t want to mess with that.

Me? I think that people are people, and I don’t care whether they live in China, the USA, or most other places, but that’s a “Paul opinion”. It’s not liberal, and it’s not conservative.

By Crossswords (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Cumulative current account balance per capita 1980–2008 based on International Monetary Fund data. Emilfaro [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The two charts above show that the USA currently has the greatest trade imbalance, while simultaneously making more protectionist policies. Here are a few possible explanations:

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Aspergian Prosopagnosian

(Originally posted on 2016-02-21 as /archives/10770)

At least I don't have that Aspergian glassy stare. Oh. No. There it is.
At least I don’t have that Aspergian glassy stare. Oh. No. There it is.

Naturally I have some reservations about sharing this information, because people have prejudices, and prejudices can keep you from getting jobs. Also: most social interaction makes me uncomfortable, and putting something like this on the Internet? That’s a big deal. That said, John Elder Robison did it, Temple Grandin did it, and Dan Aykroyd did it too. It’s not like my introvert-ed-ness is some kind of dark secret, but where does it come from?

I recently learned that I was born faceblind (congenital prosopagnosia). I also learned that I have Asperger Syndrome. These two facts explain a childhood of wondering why “complete strangers” insisted on talking to me.

I made a long list while reading John Elder Robison’s (JER) Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. This was a list of “things that JER says are Aspergian, but are true of most introverts, computer programmers, engineers, and cats.”

A few years later I took one of those screening tests, and scored way into the you-are-autistic range. I was surprised, because I answered all of the list-making questions with the equivalent of I’m-not-Rain-Man, but as I later realized I actually do keep lots of lists.  From time-to-time, I wonder, “Who will maintain my lists when I die?” (The answer should be: who cares.)

The irony of keeping a list of all my attributes, that in my opinion at the time, were not actually related to autism, is not lost on me now.

This Asperger’s thing also explains why, in the past, female friends have asked me “why don’t you like me”, or told me, “you are not like other guys.” They could never tell me how I was not like other guys. Well, “It’s not you; it’s me,” is not a cliche in my case. I really am different from other guys, and no, there’s nothing wrong with you at all.

How about those Mets?

None of this stopped me from being successful, JER designed the first fire-spitting guitars for KISS, and that Dark Tower game, and shot a snake with a pistol… or something: you don’t get more successful than that.

But really the only thing keeping me down is the CFS/ME. It’s like being drunk and having influenza all the time. I have been sleeping 20 hours per day most days for a few weeks, and 16-20 for more than five years.

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My Coursera Accomplishments —and— thoughts about MOOCs

(Originally posted on 2016-06-09, 2016-06-19, and 2016-07-28.)

I recently participated in online non-credit courses (MOOCs), and I did well. This gave me a real sense of accomplishment. That’s something that I miss from my software development days.

I have a college degree, but my disability makes homework a real challenge. This format allows me to study, and attend lectures, when I am at my best, which is rare.

That flexibility makes online lectures better than live college lectures. Although, yes, you would also want access to your instructors.

The first course was Survey of Music Technology.

Dr. Jason A. Freeman taught the class. He is from the Georgia Institute of Technology. I completed it on June 1, 2016.

This was like a recording studio engineering course that I took at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam (back in 1990?). Back then we did the recording on tape, and when we needed to splice it? We used razor blades, and we walked uphill, both ways, and we liked it!

Here is a video that shows what we did in the Crane class. We also spent a lot of time doing wacky things with analog synthesizers. I was always able to figure out what the sound would be just by seeing how the modules were hooked up.

The course had one quiz each week, and two projects. The first project involved using the Reaper DAW as a virtual recording studio. For the second project we did something similar, but we used the EarSketch instead.

EarSketch allows us to write software in place of the DAW. It’s a Python API and runtime environment.

I earned 100% on all tests and assignments.


The second course was The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form.

Dariusz Terefenko taught the class. He is from the Eastman School of Music, the University of Rochester. I completed it on June 8, 2016.

This was like a Jazz Improvisation course that I took at at SUNY Plattsburgh back in 1988. 

Dr. Terefenko’s version was much deeper with regards to composing and improvising on the piano. I suspect that he has covered everything. If you are a piano player, and you love the blues, then you need this course.

It’s pretty amazing how much information was in the lectures. This would have been difficult to do in a live classroom setting. The logistics of getting everyone into the class, out of the class, and on the same page, eats up way too much time in a traditional setting.


The third course was Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)

This is a basic beginner’s programming course taught by Charles Severance from The University of Michigan. I would recommend it to any beginner. You really need to take all five courses in the Python for Everybody specialization, in order to get the full benefit though.

What’s “For Everybody” mean? For some reason, in academics, there’s a stigma attached to anyone using relational databases to create computer programs. Outside of academia? Everybody does this, but inside academia, there’s Computer Scientists, and then there’s “everybody” else.

I believe that this is a bad name for the course. It makes it look as though it’s not as serious, and the name itself undermines the accomplishment made.

I earned 100% on all tests and assignments.


Lastly there’s Python Data Structures.

This was about how to use the data structures built-in to Python’s standard API.

It was very different from my previous data structures courses which involved using pointers, and other techniques, to build our own data structures.

I earned 100% on all tests and assignments.

Python Data Structures

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