Friday, November 6, 2009

Perfect siliconn valley day

Only in the was typical silicon valley. Early morning meeting at work, interviewing someone at Peets in Willow Glen, then a taqueria lunch at adelita's. Then a leisurely stroll through the components aisle at frys for 90 minutes. Perfect.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CIA CIO: We Were Headed To Cloud No Matter What

The most anticipated talk of the day, at the Cloud Computing Conference and Expo, was by the deputy CIO of the CIA, Jill Sanger. Her talk was entitled, Enterprise Cloud Computing, the Infrastructure’s Final Revenge.

She acknowledged the problem with defining Cloud Computing, and then went on to give her paragraph-length definition of “the cloud”. Her talk focused on the part of the Cloud behind the firewall.

“Today’s CIO must increase the flexibility of the infrastructure,” said Sanger. “Today’s CIO must manage cost to free dollars for [other purposes] …and work to improve the competitiveness of the larger organization.”

“Faster, Better, Cheaper, and Safer” was the overall theme of her talk, and she pointed out that the good CIO should be able to get all four out of a cloud computing environment.

She then made parallels between an adaptable businesses and the various arms of business, comparing the business that responds to new realities quickly to FEMA, and businesses which reach out to customers in need like the US Department of State responding is with aid to countries that experience earthquakes and tsunamis.

She then followed with a definitions of clouds within clouds: “You need a storage cloud and a compute cloud on top of your network cloud,” said Sanger. All of this needs to be build on top of world-class processes and governance.

The CIA had been heading to an enterprise cloud whether it knew it or not. The agency, said Sanger,  has also been working on evolving an SOA architecture for 7 years. Gartner first published the notion of SOA back in 2003, which implies that the CIA was a very early adopter of the set of architectural principles.

Sanger focused on IT, but occasionally her CIA background came through. “The internet is the most perilous of attack vectors,” she said. She also used government-speak by using words like “Exfiltration,” which is the leaking of data outside an organization.

In a talk filled with cloud boosterism, Sanger was asked about what happens after the “cloud” craze.  She mentioned that they have been talking about “cloud” for about 18 months and the Cloud craze has not run its course, and will likely be around for at least another 18 months. She offered no indication as to what the CIA might use as an infrastructural organizing principle after cloud mania has run it’s course.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Long lines, No Parking: A Good Sign?


Day One of the Cloud Computing Conference and Expo is in full swing. First off, it took me nearly 30 minutes to find parking. For some reason the top level of the parking structure of the Santa Clara Convention Center was closed off. Not sure why. Then I walked through the San Jose Hyatt. At that point, I ran into the lines. The lines for registration we’re 50-100 people deep. And there was no special “press” registration. I waited 42 minutes to get my badge, and so did everybody else.

Was this an example of poor planning, or was there something deeper going on? Many people are touting “Cloud” as the next big thing. Larry Ellison not withstanding. The day 1 keynotes were over-full and there were overflow rooms for keynotes from Oracle, Amazon and Intel. There seems to be a lot on interest in this from both technical and non technical types, judging by the number of suits in the crowd. The always stand out. This is Northern California after all.

Could this be a sign that the Great Recession is over? Could be. All over Silicon Valley there are signs of hope. While SunOacle is laying off 3000-4000 this week, there are other companies are hiring. Companies are still having trouble hiring engineers, and VCs are doling out money to worthwhile companies.

That said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the afternoon, Oracle’s keynote was a standard Fusion pitch which mentioned cloud several times, all apparently irony-free. Intel’s cloud evangelist Jason Waxman give Intel’s vision of Cloud Computing, which seems to be very close to their virtualization story in years past.

It seems that while Cloud may be hot, it is not revolutionary, or even revolutionary. Or it could be I am jaundiced from having trouble marketing and having to wait 42 minutes to register.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Policy idea

I am sitting in the Decatur Township (Indiana) democratic meeting. There was a good speech by a doctor from purdue med. The idea is to have non-mandatory, school based annual flu immunization. It tuns out kids with flu infect 2 others, whereas adults only infect 0.8 people on average.

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Today's lessons

I am in ohio now, and you can learn a lot driving across the country. The first is that somehow West Virginia is between Pennsylvania and Ohio. The second is that this is a big country and nearly uniform, at least from pa to wisconsin. Third is that there is a starbucks about every 50 miles. Thankfully.
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Slideling hill, pa

Great call colors here, though this starbucks tastes kinda hinky. An hour into Lost Symbol.
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Today’s Nerd-out: Wiping a Blackberry Bold and deleting an old IT Policy


Just a quick post for those of you who get a Blackberry Bold (9000)in an company, and then leave, like I did. The problem is that Blackberrys(Blackberries?) have sophisticated IT Policy mechanisms that allow your company to route your internet traffic, deal with your email, and also things like disallow you from using a media card.

I have a Bold (9000), and my former employer had a weird policy around internet routing. So I did some research on how to delete that policy.

It turns out, no matter how hard you try using normal means, you can not delete an IT Policy. You have to use special means, and an extra scary hack to do it. Something hackishly named JL_Cmdr.

I got it working, and here is what I did. Special thanks to the authors of this article, and this one.

Several easy steps:

1. Download JL_Cmdr. I used the installer.

2. Run the utility according to instructions.

Warning: The JL_Cmdr utility is a command line  hack, and I have no doubt that under certain circumstances it will mess your BB up completely.

In other words, you are on your own. Don’t blame me if you end up with a doorstop. It worked for me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Of Bullies and Bobbleheads

In trying to refine my managerial style, I have taken to writing it down in order to force a clarification. Having been in the “world of work” for a while, I have been subjected to several kinds of management styles, from Laissez Faire to extreme micro-management. Some worked better than others for me. When it worked poorly, sometimes it was an issue with my managers, sometimes it was an issue with me. We all go through these phases. That said, I despise being micro-managed.

There is a lot of good writing on bad bosses. I am a fan of Jim Miller’s Best Boss, Worst Boss, which you can find on Amazon. I have been thinking about the parallels of two bad work environments I have been in, across the two decades of my career, lately.

In two notable cases, I have been in what I call toxic environments. These are work environments where the work and the management are punishing. In both cases, it involved bullies and bobbleheads.

Read the full article here...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What I Learned From Sun (and Others) DRAFT


I am feeling somewhat nostalgic now that Sun Microsystems is being swallowed by Oracle. Sun was a great place to work. But it was also a very hectic and unfocused organization. Sun was among the best and worst places I have worked.

That said, these experiences taught me a lot. In reflecting on the lessons I learned there, I have captured the following key points:

1. A Small Group of People Can Change the World(java)

2. Founder CEOs should have term limits of 10 year.

3. Bad executives do enormous amounts of damage.

4. Good executives can get organizations to achieve more than they were naturally capable of.

5. No amount of “vision marketing” can move you out of an uncompetitive position

6. Never take a job with “Strategy” in the title.

7. Bad organizations can make good people behave badly

8. Threats from Management Are Failures By Management

9. Beware the “game changing” new product release.

This is a preliminary list, and I will be updating each of these with a paragraph or 2 of exposition/explanation. If you are a Sun refugee and would like to add your 2 cents, please do.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beware the cobweb

One of my favorite writers is Neil Stephenson. His book Cryptonomicon is brilliant at both the technical details and character development. I am a fan of his early work, too, written with J. Frederick George. One of his novels is a story about the intelligence community in Washington, DC. It does the unthinkable. It makes bureaucratic struggles entertaining.

The title of the book comes from a bureaucratic verb “to cobweb”.  To cobweb someone or some initiative is to throw endless reviews. presentations, and documentation in the way so you effectively kill it.

This can happen outside of the government as well. I have seen it happen several times in my career. It will often come about when a new idea, or a fundamental changes, is taking place. Those in senior management who are opposed to change will throw a myriad of things at a “change agent” in order to slow the process down, or defeat it. If you hear any of the following phrases, you are most likely getting cobwebbed:

  • Operations Reviews
  • Review or Control Boards
  • The establishment of “Project Management Office”
  • In software: anything related to CMMI level 2 or higher
  • Strategic planning reviews
  • RACI or Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed
  • Work Breakdown Structure

It must be said that Six Sigma, for which I have a lot of respect, can be used as of the ultimate cobwebbing tools in the wrong hands/

There are rare occasions when these cobweb tools can be used effectively, but they should be used sparingly. Most of these are tools for large organizations, like government projects with thousands of people. I have not seen them used effectively in any organization of less than 1000.

In the end, the way to defeat a cobweb is to go around it if you can, or to get out of the organization you are in. It is important to think of any large organization not as a directed-graph hierarchy, but as a tree structure with cycles. The cycles are points in the organization which jump one or more levels, and may not always follow a linear hierarchy.

Read the book to see how the characters got out of their cobweb. While the book feels dated in its pre-September 11 America, its still a great read.

If you feel yourself getting cobwebbed, either break the web, or find something else to do. A cobwebbed environment is most surely a soul-sucking one. Life’s too short for that.

Prediction: Chicago will not get it

Watching MSNBC on selection day for 2016. My guess is the legacy of Bush and our current military adventurism will exclude us from consideration.

I would like to be wrong. I love Chicago.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Political Advertizing the in Philadelphia Market

One thing I will miss when I move back to San Jose is Philadelphia politics. Because of its proximity to DC, and the fact that it is a much more competitive state than California, make it a vastly more interesting place to watch politics.

Take for example the issue advocacy ads. The one running on MSNBC right now is one from Heath Care For America Now. The ad, which strikes me as overtly political, is actually from a 501c4 issue advocacy organization, the Health Care Action Network. Their key tag line is:

If Insurance Companies Win, You Lose.

Interestingly, no talk about a public option. They do not single out any politician or piece of legislation, but say “Call Congress….”.

Its a pretty good site. Its media rich, which makes it slow on my netbook, and they are using Google Analytics, which shows some sophistication.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Public Option Day

MSNBC is saying its Public Option Day.

Interesting fact, only Baseball and Healthcare have exemptions from the Sherman Anti-Trust act.

In my view we need a mild public option, like support for Kaiser-like co-ops.

We need to take an incremental approach. It seems to me that this year's healthcare solution should take the following form:

1. Eliminate pre-existing condition rejection
2. Some tort reform.
3. Either eliminate monopoly control in states where monopolies exist, or:
4. Allow healthcare companies to act nationally (with a limit on the martket concetration).

Key point being this is a big hard problem, and democracies can not often handle radical change without a non-existential threat.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Unable to Reach Google Tasks


I have been getting a lot of connection errors to Google recently, like from Gmail and Google Tasks. Anyone else seeing this?

Bill Safire, R.I.P, Vast Right Wing Conspiracy moves on

I mourn the passing of William Safire today. Like Nicholas Kristoff, I disagreed with many of his political views, but his writing was beyond reproach. His On Language column was amazing.

In other news,  President Clinton says the VRWC (Vast Right Wing Conspiracy) has moved on to attach President Obama. If this is the case, the VRWC is clearly fielding their second or third team. *Iam talking to you “Birthers”…..

Ordo ab Chao: Funny piece on Masons

There is a great piece today on the masons in Politico:

The Order from Chaos thing is a bit freaky though.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

2010 Midterm elections

They are predicting, on the Chris Matthews Show, that there is a good chance that Democrats will loose the House in 2010. In order to do this they would have to loose 38 house seats. Nate Silver and Charlie Cook are both predicting that there is a good chance that this will happen. But Stu Rothenberg has a point: This is like 2 tsunamis striking on after another.

We'll see.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Management Quote of the Day

I am in the middle of a job transition. It is a job transition that is mostly, but not completely of my choosing. This is mainly due to a different in managerial "styles". and it has caused me to reflect on what my "style" or philosophy is.

Believe it or not, I still used the the Franklin Covey planner, mainly because it leads to a well formatted diary. It also has a quote of the day. Today's quote comes from Warren Bennis, and typifies my philosophy of management.

The rarely the brightest person in the group. Rather, they have extraordinary taste, which makes them more curators that creators. They are appreciators of talent and nurturers of talent, and they have the ability to recognize valuable ideas.

In my view, the job of a leader is not just to manage, not just to "get things done". The job of a leader is to craft an excellent team where people are operating at their full potential. If a leader does their job right, people could be executing at a level beyond what they think they are capable of.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gmail Down

First day off work and Gmail is down. Is this an omen in the other direction?

The Perfect Burger King

I am reveling in in my first day of unemployment. I left my car to get serviced. It needs and oil change, and I want to make sure it will make it across the country. Since I have no other means of transportation right now, I have to wait for my car to be finished.
I decided to walk down the street and hang out at the local Burger King. Now, my impression of Burger King is not especially good, but it was the only place near Clark's Auto Repair in Phoenixville.
I think I have found the perfect Burger King. Its freaky. They seem to be targeting me perfectly. First off, they have a value menu so I can get something small and reasonably healthy (by my standards of course). Second, they have free wireless, asnd it was east to get connected. Finally, they have CNN on flat-screen playing all the time. Who needs Starbucks?
I think this is a good omen.
Update: They block Facebook....wierd.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Roth Colloquialism Collection

The Roth Colloquialism Collection

by Bill Roth


This page is a collection of colloquialisms that I have collected across the years. Most of them come from my family. In general, if a quote or saying appears without attribution you can assume that it comes within the Roth family.
Note: some of these are mildly scatological, so if you are offended by kind of thing, then you'd better not read any further.
My taxonomy of these sayings is in flux, if you have any suggestions for a better organization, please drop me a line at


I will gladly accept contributions to this page. I would ask that you mail them to me, and provide an attribution, and country of origin if not the US. The submission criteria are: the material sent should be original. That is, nothing from Bartlett's Book of Quotations, nothing from anyone famous, unless it is obscure. Material of an overt sexual nature will be rejected. I reserve the right to capriciously reject any submission. It's my page, after all.
Finally, a note on pronouns. By default, I will use the masculine pronoun as the default, not out of sexism, but out of parsimony, and due to the fact that english has no suitable neuter pronoun.


He's dumber than a fence post.
He doesn't have the sense God gave a cinder block.
This one comes under various guises. I have heard it used with a brick and a turnip as the object.
He's so dumb he couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.
He's doesn't know "come here" from "sick 'em".
-- Bill Clinton .
    He's so dumb he thinks a manila folder is a filipino contortionist.
-- David Foster Wallace, in Infinite Jest
    He doesn't have the sense to pound sand in a rat hole.
-- Harry S Truman


He's uglier than a mud fence.
She's cuter than a bug's ear.
You're so tired, your eyes look like two pissholes in the snow.


He's slower than molasses in January.
Don't celebrate the hammer because the house got built.
-- Bill Roth 9/25/97

"Excited Utterances"

Jesus Christ on a crutch!
Oh, for crying in a bucket!

Emotional/Mental States

He's happier than a pig in shit.
He's wierder than a $3 bill.
Finer than a frog's hair!
This is used in response to, "How are you?"
He's madder than a wet hen.


    Colder than a well-digger's knee


It takes a hell of a big dog to weigh a ton.
-- Ted Skemp
    What's time to a hog?
-- William G. Roth, Sr., usually in reference to "Do you have a minute?"
    Its drier than a popcorn fart
-- E.F. Roth
    ...hornier than a 3-peckered billy-goat.
    Don't bait a bear
-- William G. Roth, Sr.
    Non Escare un'orso.
Italian version of Ibid.


He's one bubble left of center
-- from Rosalie Busch-Roth
He's to the right of Atilla the Hun

Credibility full of Sh** as a christmas goose


    The vice presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.
-- John Nance Gardner.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Catholic Right is Missing An Important Opportunity

The Catholic Right is in a full lather about President Obama over some recent events. The shame of it all is that their intemperate reactions are actually damaging a golden opportunity to make serious progress on their own agenda.

The broader press has finally become aware of the sturm und drang that erupted over Notre Dame’s decision to ask President Obama to give the Commencement speech at its graduation. Peter Steinfels had a piece discussing the issue on
May 8th in the New York Times. Those of us in the Catholic Democrats movement have been watching with a mix of amusement and horror since the news broke in March. I first found out when a family member, an alumnus, started ranting about writing Notre Dame out of his will. The issue wasn’t partisan, I was told. It was because President Obama was so rabidly “pro-abortion”.

The Notre Dame incident is the symptom of a larger problem. I was recently at a Silent Auction for my children’s school. I began chatting to someone in the Parish administration. This is someone who very nearly voted for President Obama, and someone with whom I agree on many social justice issues. We talked about our families, and we talked about politics, since I was shamelessly pitching Obama during the election season. “He’s a radical abortionist, you know,” they said, meaning Obama. I was floored. This was someone who I know to be a "Moderate California Republican”, which means they would be a centrist Democrat in any other state but Massachusetts. This is someone who does good work for the Church and who I had previously considered someone who I could come to common ground on difficult issues. It was as if a Catholic version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was playing itself out, and the aliens had just converted another one, right in front of my eyes. (An aside: In her defense, we both had had a drink or 2. We are Catholics, after all.)

Let’s make one thing clear. No one is “pro-abortion”. It is a horrible procedure. The Right uses this to insult the moderate elements in society, and hurl their self-righteous attitudes in peoples faces. It is a shibboleth which identifies the speaker as a reactionary who is more interested in the correctness

I was also struck by the controversy around the Freedom of Choice Act(FOCA). Even before the inauguration, some members of the US Conference of Bishops we circulating the rumor that President Obama would be signing FOCA as soon as it came to his desk. In early January, I got a call from someone with works in the Church locally asking me if the rumor was true. Recall this was in the middle of a global economic meltdown and in the middle of two wars. I called around to a couple of my contacts in DC, and the response was “universal”. There were other issues taking a much higher precedence, and by the way, it had not even been introduced in Congress. They actually have to write legislation first, remember?

Candidate Obama and President Obama have been clear from the beginning. Abortion is a serious moral issue. He has stated clearly that our focus should be to look for new ways to reduce the number of abortions in this country. During the campaign, he frequently called for people on both sides of the issue to find common ground, and work toward solutions that will lower the number abortions in this country.

Rather than focus on reducing the number of abortions in this country, the Catholic Right would have us believe that there is only One Solution: Overturning Roe V. Wade. The focus strictly on legal means while totally ignoring innovative solutions for eliminating the number 1 cause of abortions in this country: Unintended pregnancy.

Democrats in Congress have a solid track record of legislation seeking to get at root
cause of abortions in this country. A recent example is Senator Bob Casey’s Pregnant Women Support Act legislation. In addition, during the 2008 legislative session, Democrats introduced “Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act” bill (HR 1074) and the “Prevention First Act” (HR 819) bill, which shows they are serious about finding new solutions to serious problems posed by the practice of abortion. Their new approach could be a forerunner of a strategy that hopes to avoid the divisiveness of the past.

For the first time since 1973, we have an excellent opportunity to reduce the numbers of abortions in this country through a mix of incentives and social programs. People on both sides of this issue agree that there are simply too many abortions in this country. If we find common ground, if we work together, we can pass meaningful legislation and appropriate for meaningful social programs that will make a serious dent in this on-going tragedy. Why can’t the Catholic Right see this?

Sadly, my fear is that the abortion issue is merely a proxy for the partisan control for power. The Notre Dame incident is more about a down-at-the-heals Republican Party attempting to inject wedge issues into our discourse in order to protect the size of its base. The conservatives prey on Catholics who believe that abortion is a grave moral evil, and they do so for partisan gain. My hope is that on May 17th, the President’s soaring rhetoric will rise to the occasion and bring us together as a people to work on solutions, not divisiveness.