Tales from the Technoverse

Commentary on social networking, technology, movies, society, and random musings

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Firefly Is Everywhere

January 25th, 2015 · Firefly, Serenity, tv

Some blog posts I write are actually written hoping someone will read them, in particular when I discuss technology or sometimes political topics. Some blog posts are random musings on some aspect of entertainment and while I am unsure as to whether I add serious value to the public square they are least are comprehensible. Some blog posts are just self-indulgent, this one is self-indulgent.

As those of you who know me are aware, I really like(d) the TV show Firefly and its spin-off movie Serenity. Every year I go to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse and, along with many other Browncoats (do not ask) or Browncoats-to-be, watch Serenity (again) as well as Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and often live entertainment such as Marian Call singing Firefly inspired songs.

In addition to Firefly, one of the other long-canceled TV shows that I very much liked, was Dead Like Me. Dead Like Me, a Showtime carried show, followed the life, well death, of Georgia “George” Lass who died in the first show when she was hit by a toilet seat from the Space Station. She finds herself a part of a group of reapers led by Mandy Patinkin. The reapers job is to remove the souls of people before they die and then get them so they can move on to their destination.

That off-putting premise led to a creative dark-comedy with some pretty nice moments (at least in my opinion). Enough so that I added it to my Netflix queue to watch during my morning elliptical-walking sessions.

So, the reason I am mentioning all this is that I just finished Season 1, Episode 14, which focused on George’s family having a headstone made for the unveiling at her gravesite. During the course of the show however one of the fellow reapers meets a goth girl at a retail store. The girl was played by Jewell Stait who ALSO played the beloved Kaylee Frye in Firefly and Serenity. It made my day.

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It Turns Out You CAN Go Home Again – A New Job

January 1st, 2015 · education, technology, University of Maryland University College

Slightly over forty years ago, I received a B.S. in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland College Park (the major had just been created). It started me off on a random walk through the continually changing Information Technology field.

When I first wrote a computer program to bid bridge in high school and later shortly after graduation used punched paper tape output from digitizers to merge census and election data, the modern-day impact of ubiquitous mobility on organizations and personal behavior was not even a glimmer as a possibility. Now my daughters Facetime with their grandparents while they travel in Europe and no one considers it particularly out-of-the-ordinary.

Starting January 12, I will start a full-time position at the University of Maryland University College as the Program Chair of The Undergraduate Schools’ (TUS) Major, in of all things, Information Systems Management.

I do not know whether to be more amazed at the circular nature of this career arc or at how much Information Systems Management as a major has changed. I do know that I am lucky to have been asked to serve in the role and thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to give back lessons from having made pretty much every possible mistake that any one individual can make (lately I have had the feeling that I have been reduced to repeating old mistakes in new ways).

In the mean-time, later today, New Year’s Day, I and the rest of the family will go to our second Winter Classic. The first was in Pittsburgh, this one will be at Nationals Park in Washington DC. I continue to live a lucky life, I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope 2015 will bring the largest amount of joy and surmountable challenges as possible.

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Of All Things – Stamps

December 30th, 2014 · General

A while ago, I looked through the desk in my home/office and collected all of the stamps that I had laying around.

It turned out that I had two partial rolls of stamps, neither of which contained stamps equal in value to those I needed to mail envelops. I went to the post office to get some small denominated stamps to solve for that (I needed different stamps since each roll was for a different value).

It turns out I cannot count correctly so I had to go to the post office a few additional times to buy additional small denominated stamps. I have had the sense that I have been doing the functional stamp equivalent of sawing the legs of a chair one at a time to get them all to the same length (and failing).

Having said that, I use stamps sufficiently infrequently that I wonder if I will have to add one or both of the stamp rolls (and the other loose stamps) for my kids to inherit.

I mention all this to explain to anyone who receives something in the mail from me as to why there will likely be two (or three) stamps affixed.

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Next AFFIRM Lunch Focuses on IT Budget Priorities, December 18

December 11th, 2014 · General

The next AFFIRM lunch, and the last one of the 2014 calendar year, will include highlights from TechAmerica’s 50th Annual Federal Market Forecast relating to Budget, Acquisition and Technology and will include presentations from a number of invited speakers: Karen Britton, EOP, Sonny Hashmi, CIO, GSA, and Tom Sasala, CTO, US Army Information Technology Agency.

As usual the lunch will be held at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, 707 7th St NW and will start at 11:30am with networking opportunities.

AFFIRM will be supporting the Marine Corps’ TOys for Tots campaign, accepting donations of unwrapped toys at the lunch.

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The Beginnings of Information Technology 3.0

December 8th, 2014 · government 2.0, technology

In order to talk about Information Technology 3.0, it is necessary to explain what I mean by Information Technologies 1.0 and 2.0.

The first generation of Information Technology focused on replacing what was already in place by something more efficient and faster, but substantially the same in function. Thus computers initially, even though the beginnings of personnel computers effectively faster typewriters (word processing), faster calculators (spreadsheets) and bigger file cabinets (disk storage). The functions that were automated were in large part functions that were accomplished from combinations of those three things. While the result often, but not always, were improvements in the efficiency of performance of functions like payroll or accounting statements, and while the role of staff often were impacted by those changes, in general the new version of the functions looked a lot like the old version.

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My Interview on WFED Radio

December 6th, 2014 · cyber-security, government

Here is a link to my interview on WFED radio by Francis Rose, broadcast Friday during the In Depth radio show.

I provided some thoughts about the role of the Inspectors General relating to cybersecurity, and other IT, oversight.

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Oversight in the Federal Government – The Underutilized Part

December 5th, 2014 · cyber-security, government, technology

One of the things I learned during my time as the Chief Information Officer at the US Department of Transportation is that one of the core competencies of the Federal Government is looking over someone else’s shoulder, that is the provision of oversight.

The CIO has three major organizational best friends providing helpful advice. First there is the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) which has the added lever of having a big impact on how much money you will potentially get in your budget in coming years. Second if you are associated with a big program, and at DOT there was always something going on at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which was a big program, then the Government Accountability Office (GAO) got involved. Often, by the way how OMB rated programs and how GAO rated programs were slightly different so fixing for one did not always fix for the other, but that is another story for another post.

And finally there was the internal to the Department based Office of Inspector General (IG).  IG’s investigate many things but one of their required areas of focus relates to how Information Technology is provisioned within an agency or department.

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My Political Theory Class

December 4th, 2014 · education, globalization, politics

This semester I am not only teaching classes, two IT related classes at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), but also taking graduate classes, two Government and Politics graduate classes at the University of Maryland College Park.

So every Tuesday afternoon and evening I attend two almost three hour classes, the first focusing on Political Institutions (which I will talk about in a later post), and the second focusing on Political Theory, specifically about human rights. These are both seminars associated with getting a PhD, so in large part I am surrounded by young people, almost all of whom are younger than my two daughters, who are extremely bright and already know the difference between positive and negative rights, natural law, the implications of the Enlightenment, and so on, all of which I had to look up to understand when I came across all of these terms in the weekly readings.

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Having Pride in Your Children

November 26th, 2014 · family

It is a very natural thing for a parent to feel pride in your children’s accomplishments. As both of my daughters remind me, I am biased (they are, of course, wrong, I am totally objective about each of them; I just happen by coincidence to have the best two daughters ever) and my job is to be proud of them (I do agree with this one).

But sometimes your children do something a bit more special.

Miriam and Tamar have talked about running a marathon together for a while. Over the last year they decided to be more serious about it, both doing a regular training routine, one in Northern Virginia and one in Brooklyn. They both submitted entries to the Philadelphia Marathon, held the week before Thanksgiving.

So this last weekend, I drove Ellen and Tamar up to Philadelphia Saturday morning, while Miriam met us there, taking the train from New York. We stayed in a bed & breakfast located a mile south of Independence Hall (a place Ellen and I found the last time we visited Philadelphia).

Saturday the girls picked up their packets and wandered around the Philadelphia Convention Center for the marathon exposition. Aisle after aisle of special shoes, special socks, belts, GPS time pieces, books, energy bars, and thousands of participants and friends-of-participants and family-members-of-participants.

At the Marathon Convention

At the Marathon Convention

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Article on the Panel I Moderated at the Federal Health IT Summit

November 22nd, 2014 · atarc, healthcare, technology

Nice follow-up article in Fierce Mobile Healthcare regarding the panel I moderated here.

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