the answer is forty-two

In the late 1970s, a British radio program, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduced me to brilliant satire, a science fiction story, and more of the British wit I already enjoyed in another British show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A book (Douglas Adams), television and a 2005 movie popularized the story for fans.

For those who are not fans, the story introduces us to Arthur Dent, an ordinary English guy, completely lacking in self-confidence, who finds one morning that his home is scheduled for demolition by the local government planning commission – to put a highway where it sat. He commiserates with a friend, Ford Prefect, who it turns out is an extraterrestrial who has come to rescue him. Apparently some galactic planning commission intends to destroy the Earth that day, to put through some highway of its own.

The story involves several humorous jabs at bureaucracy, technology, space travel, romance, and political incompetents. At one point, the plot story describes that some galactic beings – in the form of common mice – commissioned a computer to answer the question, “what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?”. The answer, “42” confuses them, so they seek a second computer to find the specific question that “42” satisfies. Before they could get a satisfactory answer, the computer – Earth – was destroyed for that highway mentioned earlier. At the end of the story, everything is made right again with a newly-assembled planet Earth, but the mice-beings and their quest for the eternal answer are thwarted by Arthur.

Sometimes I think that the eternal answer to the meaning of Life will continue to elude most people. For the rest? Love your neighbor, enjoy the time you have, and most importantly, do not misplace your towel.

Freddie Mac Announces Enhanced Relief for Borrowers Impacted by COVID-19 | Freddie Mac

This article discusses the availability of mortgage payment suspension that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Guarantor agencies. It has to be discussed and requested through your mortgage servicer. Follow the link via NPR.org

Additional information on foreclosure protection during this COVID-19 financial disruption is here.

Ask the Chief: we follow orders

“.we follow orders..Or people die”

A Few Good Men, (1992) movie, line uttered by Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson)

As a retired Navy Senior Chief, I spent 26 years following orders of those seniors-in-command, whether directly from Commanding Officers as their unit Senior Enlisted Leader, or indirectly, while carrying out my assigned duties, watches, or maintenance tasks during my career. As a civilian, I am trying to follow our State officials, medical experts, and emergency First Responders who have been asking the public to minimize their comings and goings. While the military has both non-judicial punishment and legal proceedings to enforce “social distancing”, in the civilian world, the public is “strongly suggested” to follow State Emergency guidelines for public safety. Some will always decide they know more than public safety officials. As we have seen during hurricanes, people who refuse to evacuate the path of the storm are frequently requiring rescue or hospitalization when disaster strikes.

Tonight, as I contemplate that the Governor of California has issued a Statewide mandate to limit public contact by restricting gatherings and use of public venues even further than two weeks ago, I think how an old veteran can be a model for others. It is the eleventh hour, and our political representatives have finally stopped fighting among themselves, and are seeking to do what is best for our citizens. Given the example of places like Italy which has been overwhelmed by the number of critically ill, we have only days till the numbers of the ill exponentially exceed our response. This thought about the eleventh hour, reminded me of the orders I learned in bootcamp forty years ago:

Eleven General Orders of a sentry

  1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
  2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
  3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
  4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guard house than my own.
  5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
  6. To receive, obey and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, Command Duty Officer, Officer of the Deck, and Officers and Petty Officers of the Watch only.
  7. To talk to no one except in the line of duty.
  8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
  9. To call the Officer of the Deck in any case not covered by instructions.
  10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
  11. To be especially watchful at night, and, during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

I have not practiced military drills in the ten years since retirement. I might leave the heavy lifting to younger service members. But I am observant as to what has been lacking in the years, months and recent weeks leading up to the coronavirus response within the United States. Clear direction, unified communications, and orderly process. Precision and calm, measured response to emergencies requires frequent practice. That is what our shipboard drills honed into us, Collisions at sea and terrorist attacks are not the time to practice. In the eleventh hour, the nation needs to heed the “best practices” to minimizing the casualties from this pandemic.

in a time of pestilence have no fear

Psalm 91

In California, as elsewhere, large gatherings are discouraged and even prohibited. Government fear COVID-19 will overwhelm the system’s ability to respond. In many nations, panicked people have been stripping store shelves. Some are violently confronting one another. Schools, meetings, and churches are moving to online service, to aid in slowing the number of potentially hospital-bound victims. Prudence in our actions, calmness in our dealing with one another, and prayers for wisdom for our medical professionals and our Government officials, are particularly needed right now.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

this business school is self-study

Getting started

Going into business for yourself is not difficult even in California. It is more challenging in California to be sure. Many industries are regulated, from massage therapists to for-profit education, automotive repair shops to metal fabrication. But in a tourist haven like San Diego there are no shortage of small retailers and cafes as well. Just like the rest of the United States, small businesses are the major employer in San Diego County.

From a 2019 article, a survey of five hundred small businesses in San Diego with fewer than 100 employees, found that more than a third were women-owned and ten percent of the total were veteran-owned. In another local online journal, in 2017 there were 60,000 businesses employing fewer than ten people. By the numbers, it sounds like starting my business as a both veteran- and woman-owned should have room to grow.

Our business is among the fortunate start-ups that earned a profit in the first year (2019), but we had a market that needed our particular service and skills. But this market has limited growth potential, so we may find we want to develop other services. One such service – that fit naturally in the market we are already serving, is fingerprinting. In California, as in other states, to work in education, in healthcare, in finance, and other specific industries require employees to undergo a background check including taking fingerprints. The process to start a business required six months including applying, obtaining a background check, approval and obtaining specialized equipment. At this point, we needed to get more business savvy.

In 2020, my business partner and spouse went back to school. It was a suggestion of a friend to seek advice from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office in the East County. From that first meeting, we realized that we needed to become educated in how to efficiently run and grow our businesses. Training is offered for free. That office, like hundreds across the country are funded by grants from the US Small Business Administration. Mentoring though, puts the responsibility on the business owner to do research, form theories, and then test them. Our first tool he provided – that I had never seen before – is the Business Model Canvas (BMI).

homework

A first lesson is learning potential customer segments for my services. And the value proposition for each potential segment.

BIRTH OF A VIRUS …

Regie's Blog

As I watched my neighbor put her dog’s poop in a single-use plastic baggy, I thought about split pants in China.

When my wife and I got off the plane, 18 years ago, to adopt our first daughter, we were taken aback by the split pants. Split pants are (or at least were, back then) pants the children wear that are open in the crotch area. That allows them to urinate or defecate unobstructed, onto the street or wherever they may be. The theory is that eventually they will learn to “aim it at the toilet” or something to that effect.

Either way, I distinctly remember my brand new Nike slip-ons (probably made not far from where I was standing) sloshing into a mix of urine and who knows what else, and continuing to do so for the next three weeks.

As I started feeling the cough coming on, I…

View original post 1,810 more words

the Space Force, or when science fiction expands

Many I know are outraged or at least mock the new United States military branch, the Space Force. But hang on a minute. Nobody even knows what the charter of this new branch is, or who and what capabilities the “force” will require. But once humans venturing into space number in the several hundred and then thousands, some military discipline may be needed.

While humans have been going into space for sixty years, it has primarily been the United States or the Russians. The International Space Station is still primarily a venture between several nations. And recently the Chinese indicated they will venture to the Moon. It has only been in the last ten years or so, that commercial exploration and development of space has been moving from science fiction into something people now living will see. (If we do not kill ourselves from a pandemic first.)

In popular culture, for more than forty years, various incarnations of a futurist “space force”, Star Trek, and blockbuster movies about space forces – rebels versus a militarist empire (Star Wars) – have captured the world’s imagination. If you have heard or become a fan of the television series, The Expanse, now filming its 5th season, you should be at least curious how life is imitating art. Without giving plot twists and turns away for those who have not seen this series, the premise of this show begins with an alien technology discovered and then manipulated by corrupt industrialists, politicians and military leaders. As the different plots are developed, it is apparent that the future is a lot like our present.

Forgetting for a moment about alien technology, impending death, romance, betrayal, and deceit, what has motivated me to support the real-life introduction of a “Space Force” is a historical perspective. When mankind set off in sailing vessels, like the Minoans in the Mediterranean five to six thousand years ago, or the Polynesians who ventured across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands a thousand years ago, or to South America as some suggest, in each society, military forces developed. When the Greeks, Ottomans, Spanish, French, and British, started venturing in search of trade, territorial expansion, and so forth, fishermen and merchants were not the sole adventurers. Military forces were also there, to protect the culture’s interests.

While people may still mock the introduction of a Space Force, the militarization of space has been unavoidable. This has been a logical step since science fiction first dreamed about living on other worlds. With human motivations ranging from curiosity to power lust, an altruistic policing of space is fantasy. Missile-launched nuclear weapons are in numerous arsenals. And once someone – a terrorist, a corrupt politician, or a loose alliance of rogue “Belters” have achieved an advantage in space, who will have the resources – and the quick-response positioning to protect individual, scientific or commercial enterprise?

“Trust but verify”

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

Albert Einstein, via quoteambition.com

After forty years employment, in the U.S. Navy and in industry, working with information and equipment that preserve the national security interests of the United States, I know a little something about “trust”. The selection of those who will be entrusted with protecting our nation is, and should be, as a result of a thorough investigation of personal history and sober assessment of individual character.

Investigating the “whole person”

To evaluate eligibility for positions of trust, the government uses a “whole person concept”. Revised in 2015, the Federal Government’s National Investigative Standards implemented a multi-tiered system of checks. These indicate the criteria a candidate will be evaluated prior to granting access to specific levels of “public trust”. Criteria are laid out in guidelines published in the (2017) “Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information“. These guidelines, evaluate an individual in several areas including creditworthiness, alcohol or drug use, psychological fitness, or any past criminal conduct. And any past or ongoing foreign contacts. Factors such as nature and extent of the conduct, its frequency, if a candidate completed rehabilitation, may restrict the level, or exclude a person from obtaining access to information that is in the national security interest of the United States.

Sensitive or Classified information

Some employees will have access to sensitive but unclassified information like that on many computer networks used by government employees and contractors. In industry, much of this is proprietary internal company information. On Federal Government contracts, documents containing unclassified, but sensitive information bear “For Official Use Only” markings, abbreviated “FOUO”. For this level of access, a candidate’s creditworthiness or spending habits are not reviewed as part of the overall process. This level of investigative review is called the National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI). However, for those whose duties will require granting of a federal government security clearance, the National Agency Check with Local Agency and Credit Checks (NACLC) is initiated. This reviews seven years of a person’s prior residences, work history, and creditworthiness. The Law Checks portion reviews any criminal or civil actions over the immediately prior five year period recorded in law enforcement or other public databases. This involves checks of a person’s fingerprints in local, state or national law enforcement archives. Investigators look closely at the issues, corrective or rehabilitative measures, and make judgement on the likelihood for further recurrence of those issues.

An SSBI is for personnel requiring a Top Secret or special access Government clearances

A more thorough investigation is the Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) which is the process by which a candidate is authorized access to TOP SECRET classification information and special access programs such as Secure Compartmented Information (SCI)). Formerly, the investigation began with a candidate completing a Standard Form-86 (SF-86), that lists a person’s residence, activities, education, travel, work history, personal contacts and references for the past ten years or to age 18, whichever is earlier. If the candidate has a co-habitant, his or her information is gathered and is as thoroughly investigated also. All listed information will be corroborated. Further, the SSBI will have personal interviews with the candidate’s neighbors, employers, coworkers, friends, as well as by telephone. For the last dozen years or so, an online form, e-QUIP, has replaced the SF-86 paper form. All of these clearances are of a finite term with a periodic re-investigation for continued access. And all cleared individuals acknowledge they are to never divulge what was entrusted to them without obtaining permission from the original Government agency which classified such information.

human beings are flawed

The reasons are obvious why the Government takes stringent measures (the glaring failures by certain politicians and bureaucrats notwithstanding) to protect national security information. One of the creeds that we had made into an sew- on patch in my early Navy career was “In God we trust; all others we monitor.” The reality is that all human beings have flaws. Some of these flaws, under certain conditions, can turn a trusted person into a liability. People commit espionage, bribery, careless or deliberate mishandling of information and equipment. An adversary of the United States can manipulate a targeted individual’s illegal or improper behavior, debts, sexual relationships, or other potentially embarrassing personal life, to make a host of bad decisions.

The news reports incidents where sensitive or classified information is conveyed to a private server of a government official. A contractor or military member steals information from a classified network and releases it on a public forum, which damages national security and reveals methods of collection or sources to adversaries as well as critics. Of course, not everyone reported in the twenty-four hour news cycle violates the national security interests of the United States. Congressmen embezzling campaign funds; sexual impropriety between senior managers and their subordinates; government officials, military members and DOD contractors who take bribes to steer lucrative contracts to domestic and foreign suppliers may not have compromised national security but have demonstrated the character failures that compromise public trust.

How Long Before the Regime Falls in Iran? – Quillette

Art Keller has written an article, published in Quillette, that introduces some of the complex issues inside Iran, that the New York Times, Washington Post, and MSNBCs of journalism have overlooked. His introductory paragraph is poignant.

The death of Iranian Quds Force commander General Quassem Soleimani has produced some truly bizarre media coverage. Some Western media outlets are framing Soleimani’s death as the loss of a deeply beloved hero, such in this January 7th episode of the New York Times The Daily podcast. The podcast spends more than 20 minutes describing how Soleimani was a beloved totem, a living security blanket that Iranians believe protected Iran from instability (by fostering instability in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, apparently). The closest thing in the podcast to an acknowledgement that Soleimani led a group of armed thugs that viciously suppressed dissent in Iran, including turning their guns on Iranian protestors less than two months ago, was a single sentence in the podcast: “To be clear, there are plenty of Iranians who did not love or respect Soleimani.”

Read the article here.