Journies of a Wholesome Donut

I'm here to be nice to people and rant about problems that I can't fix

A brief talk on how we still use IRC principles.

Over the several decades I've been a part of I've seen the tech world grow and change significantly. One of my top “Wow, nothing has changed” moments is chat services. Allow me to explain.

Since 1988, Internet Relay Chat has allowed people from all over the world to connect in real-time using basic text and textual emotes. Before Discord, before TeamSpeak, before Facebook Chat and AIM, there was the simple idea that you logged into a server somewhere, chose a channel to talk in, and went to it. That was it. If you'll notice, the vernacular “server” and “channel” haven't really changed over the last 30 years. I could say “I joined server A and talk in channel B all the time”, and it could apply to IRC or any number of modern offerings. Even down to using #channel-name as a way to designate specific channels within a server.

Ergo: the organization of these systems is still, at least in principle, very similar to how it's always been done.

Admittedly, the technology that sits underneath these basic principles nowadays has improved. For example, it wouldn't be uncommon for IRC chatlogs to be digested by all present users who enable that option in their specific IRC client. As in, a log of every chat and every action taken by all users in the channel would be saved, from when a client connected to when it disconnected. There goes data privacy, or the hope of ever taking back that one stupid meme link you sent out. That one person may still have a log. (Yes, meme link. You think IRC did inline pictures or GIFs? Blasphemy! 56k was a dream when IRC was king)

Whereas nowadays, it's more common for chat services like Discord to handle chats as a sort of key-value base, where getting rid of the user who owned the key-value could coincidentally get rid of serverside access to all messages linked to that key-value. Even clientside, once a cache was wiped or refreshed. Not a 100% guarantee of data privacy (once again, logs are a thing), but it is easier to get rid of your information at the original source of its' storage now due to a wholly different storage mechanism. Which would prevent further, future gathering of data from the original source.

There are lots of other things like private messaging and even server roles (in some ways) that had their humble origins long before we had graduated from dial-up and grainy 144p camera phone selfies.

Yet, the basis of our chat systems has not changed.

And I'm curious to see if they ever will. Are you?

Catch you next time,

wholesomedonut

#100DaysToOffload 7 / 100

Note: Life's hit hard the last week and some. I kept a cadence of a post a day for almost a week, and then it's been a week plus since post #6 and this one. I'll be working on having more regular content posted, probably twice a week at least. They'll be easily-digestible pieces like this, with a flagship or three thrown in over time. Thanks for reading!

Something that will strike me as hilarious until the day I die is the rabid, undying American work ethic. Especially when I compare it to Europe.

If you aren't in America, maybe you've heard of the fact that we tried our darnedest to not even close down. If you are, and you aren't in New York or California, chances are you may have experienced that mentality.

I personally never stopped working throughout all of COVID-19's first wave. Neither did a majority of my friends and family. Some employers made the work-from-home transition more gracefully than others.

Some, like my current day job, decided somewhere along the way that they don't need me – or my compatriots – any longer, and are outsourcing. We have only a few weeks left before we are left to the beautiful, plague-ridden job market once more.

I believe that this line of thinking has come from two revelations that quarantine restrictions forced on businesses all over the US:

1 – Unless physical presence is required, like in construction, manufacturing, and other manual tasks, most companies can work from home without skipping a beat. After all, digital information doesn't need to live in an office space if it has a home in the cloud.

2 – Unless a physical workplace is required, like in case of a hospital, school district/corporation building, warehouse, or central government office, most companies don't strictly need a brick-and-mortar office space to conduct the majority of their business.

This leads to two conclusions, which I have seen manifest several times throughout the last few months:

Conclusion 1 – “When we go back to the office we won't offer as many amenities” – I paraphrased that from a recent press release Slack did. What company would pay the cost of a salad bar if they could just send their employees to work from home after 12:30?

Conclusion 2 – “Wait. If we can work these employees from home, and we don't need to give them an office.... do we need them at all?” This mentality is (according to me) the sign of a company that bled too much money and isn't quite willing to admit it yet.

Enter the sandman outsourcing crew. I am losing my day job to a faceless (and, having been in their call centers before, soulless) mass of underpaid, overworked individuals that looked much more attractive (and affordable) than our homegrown, individualized service representatives.

I'll spare you my opinions on that move.

So, having yelled my frustrations at the wall of text I'm slowly creating; sleepless, soon-jobless, overtired and chagrined, I ask you this:

Which is worth more? A man's soul, joy, and contributions to good; or the punches on his timeclock?

Again, and again, and again, I see people dream of the former, while accepting the latter as their fate.

I don't think I can last another day with the status quo. But the great question remains, laid out just like the logic blocks we all program:

IF

work-ethic != nine-to-five

THEN ...... what, exactly?

ENDIF

Let me know if you find an answer. In the meantime, I'll enjoy every last second before walking up to my desk and hitting “PUNCH.”

Catch you next time,

wholesomedonut

#100DaysToOffload 5 / 100

Ever heard of Git? Github/Gitlab/Gitkraken? Commits, Pull Requests, or 'push to origin'? Ever wonder what they mean?

If you have, I'm here to give you an Uber Quick Git Tutorial. I'll show you how to use the basic functionality of 'git' to make all of your projects more robust. You can share this tutorial with friends or coworkers who are just starting out.

If you haven't, don't worry! I'm gonna be keeping it so simple that anyone could read this and pick it up – no pictures required.

First, let's begin by asking: “What is git?”

Git is a 'source control' program. In other words, it lets you track and control the changes that you make to your source files – the code that you write that makes programs, websites, and anything else. You can even use it to track changes to Photoshop files, or text documents. No, I'm not kidding.

Git was created by Linus Torvalds in 2005. Yes, the guy who invented Linux also invented one of the most popular source-control programs ever. People use git as a way to keep track of their files' changes, growth, and deletion over time. It acts like Apple's 'Time Machine' backups, but for every itsy-bitsy change in every code file, image and folder structure for your entire project, for as long as you continue to use it. It can be very powerful, even with three simple steps I'll show you below.

Second: how do I use it?

Git works by having you choose a directory, using 'git init' in a GUI program or a command line. It will keep track of all of the changes (even down to the byte) that happen in that directory to every single file. The only ones it won't look at (including folders) are ones that you can write down in a clearly named file called ' .gitignore' . The dot at the front is important, because that hides it from your normal file managers so you don't accidentally mess with it. Same with the ' .git ' folder, which is where all of the changes and histories of your work are hidden away in case you (or git) need them.

So that's it! All you have to do to have Git track your changes is for you to do stuff after hitting 'git init'.

But it won't automatically save individual changes to files, like chapters in a book, by itself. Unless you do one more step, git will only notice changes, not save them for later. You tell git to save your work by making a 'commit'.

Let me define some simple terms for you, in order of when you'd use them:

  • stage (verb): to stage code is to tell git that you plan on saving all the changes to all staged files the next time you make a commit. What is that?

  • commit (verb/noun): to commit code is to tell git that you are done making changes for now, and that git should save a history of all the changes you made to staged files since the last time you made a commit.

  • push (verb): to push code is to take a given commit (as in, the state of your files at the time that commit was made), and then send it somewhere else. Often, places like Github, or AWS CodeCommit.

  • pull (verb): the opposite of push, obviously. This is when you take a given commit from somewhere else, and pull it into your own directory to work on.

Third, the TL;DR of this little article:

You 'git init', to start a new project that git will help you keep track of. Then you 'git stage', and list the files that you want to actually keep a history of changes for in your commit. Finally, you 'git commit', along with an optional message about what you did.

That's it! Thankfully, there are loads of GUI's for git on every OS – Windows, Linux, and Mac – that will help you do even these simple three steps, so you won't skip a beat.

Congratulations! You can now have version control in all of your projects. From coding, to art, to writing a book, you now can use git to keep track of all of your work. You can even 'revert', 'checkout', 'fork', and 'rebase' depending on different needs. But those are topics for another post. ;)

Catch you next time,

wholesomedonut

#100DaysToOffload 4 / 100

Religion isn't doctrine.

Allow me to clarify: there is a specific and clear line between what is created by a group of religious adherents as the rules, hierarchies, policies, and structures of their faith; and the actual ideologies, precepts and directions given to them by their chosen Deity(s). If Jesus were to say “Love one another”, that could be taken as a doctrinal statement. If Joel Osteen were to expound upon it in a TV special and say “Give to X, Y, or Z charities to show fellowship in our religion and follow God's law”, that could be taken as a religious tradition; a man-made construct draped over a heaven sent concept. Now that you have my line of thinking, let's dig a little deeper.

Something I'm noticing more and more nowadays worldwide is a blanket-judgement mentality against religiosity: “All Christians are hypocrites”, or, more pointedly, “Muslims hate freedom and want to destroy us.”

That last quote came from one of my last bosses. Not making that one up.

What bothers me about these blanket statements is (and this is common with many, many blanket statements): they simply are not true. I have had the opportunity to meet with people from all walks of life, and all types of spiritual and religious outlooks – including clear-cut atheists and agnostics. I sat down with them and heard their stories, experiences, and got to understand what led them to the belief system they currently embraced.

I would say a solid 9 times out of 10, these people were perfectly normal, good people regardless of their spiritual or religious sentiments. Some, perhaps, were even made better by it, by their own admission. Of course, you get bad eggs. That's true with any society, any culture, and certainly any religion inside those cultures and societies. Some of them were right awful to me, or at least hell-bent on proving my own beliefs wrong (upon pain of damnation) while asserting their own as the single source of all truth.

Once again, with feeling: religion isn't doctrine.

These people had their own opinions, beliefs, and questions. Depending on where I was, I would find two people from the same general faith system in a different congregation that had wildly disparate, personalized belief systems, while still willingly standing under the same religious banner with each other. In some cases, they even knew each other. Their commonality was the doctrine of their faith, not the strictures and common cliches of their separate religious denominations which both held those doctrines as equally sacred.

So what can we take away from this proposal?

If nothing else, I'd use this chance to shout into the great pixelated void of the Internet, and say: Give people a fighting chance to prove their own humanity, instead of delimiting it yourself by assigning the values of a large-scale religion to the deeply personal, intimate moral compass that every person carries within them.

I will make a disclaimer and say that I am religious. Christian, in fact. I adore my other Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, Rasta, pagan, and atheist friends and family that I've met over the years. Just to name a few of the more common religions I've come across. And (contrary to pop culture belief) I feel nothing but love toward people in the LGBT community.

I cannot say that I fully understand the belief systems of all my friends or family, even though I've taken time to read at least a bit of each of their texts and hear their beliefs from as close a source as I can. I can't say that I understand the sexual and cultural drives of LGBT people, considering I'm straight. I obviously don't think or feel the same way they do.

That doesn't stop me from loving them and wishing them all the best with whatever they do in their lives, same as anybody else. They are no different in my eyes because of how they choose to live their lives.

I feel like I'm going to get flak for this post regardless. People nowadays don't much like talking about religion, belief or the rabid politics of gender and sexuality nowadays. I'm doing it anyway.

I firmly believe in an absolute right and wrong, and I firmly believe in people facing the consequences of their actions regardless of any belief or moral standard. And I wish nothing but the best for each of you, no matter what you do (or don't) believe or feel.

The only thing I could ever rightfully ask of another human being (in terms of morals or religion) is to try to be the best version of themselves that they know how to be, with whatever beliefs or creeds they've got. And as far as the God I believe in is concerned, He'll sort out all the other details afterwards. I don't fancy leaving you lot behind because you believe different than I do, and I don't think any decent God would either.

Because at the end of the day, we're all on this pale blue dot together. And until old Muskie decides to launch us all to Mars, we are stuck here – and only here. Might as well be friendly.

Catch you next time,

wholesomedonut

#100DaysToOffload 3 / 100

Getting laid off is no fun, but it could give you some interesting opportunities. I'm here to tell you why.

Recently I've had quite an up-and-down adventure in terms of employment. In March, I started planning to leave a job that I'd been at for just under two years in a customer service position. Now, I've got a few years of customer service experience. This one had a work culture that was slowly devolving into micromanagement and distrustful relationships between staff and management. Not to mention that they were not willing to be flexible with my scheduling, as I intended to continue my education in some form or fashion as time went on.

We had talked about that desire to continue education from before I was hired. But, like I said, toxic work environment. Their opinions on what they would and wouldn't let me do changed, and I wasn't smart enough to get it secured in writing as part of my employment contract to begin with.

So in late April I left for a new job, which was originally marketed to me during the interview and paperwork as another customer service position of sorts. I'd be “helping customers on-site with their questions and maintaining equipment.” Alrighty then. I love helping people. This will be great!

They lied. Big time.

I'm not an old veteran of the job market. I'm learning new things every day. So in my naivete I took this job, and rapidly learned that I had been lied to, duped, and quite possibly, bamboozled. I was trained to essentially do a summer sales job, where I was to insert myself into homes by whatever means necessary and secure a sale through duplicity and guilt-trips. It wasn't honest, it wasn't ethical, and it wasn't even necessary.

So I quit after about a week. I couldn't even sleep at night with the thought that my entire employment revolved around lying to people.

Several “come-to-Jesus” talks later from relatives who didn't have the whole story (nor did I desire to explain it all when it wasn't their life), I spent most of May unemployed. It put a lot of tension between me and my spouse, and me and my relatives and friends. So I learned another lesson in conflict management along the way.

It was terrifying, confusing, and kind of depressing month, honestly. I'd always heard that people who lose their jobs take a hit to self-confidence... but I never thought I'd experience it. I hated myself for a while there for the mistake I had made of leaving a job that was stable, even if it was for the sake of having a healthier environment and better mental state.

I learned over time that it was okay to make mistakes. While I was out of a job I learned that honesty in all aspects of my work life was a 100% guaranteed requirement going forward. It was a great growth opportunity in terms of emergency budgeting, and a healthy reminder that credit card debt shouldn't be taken lightly!

Two weeks ago I started my new job.

And last Tuesday we all got emails from corporate telling us that by the end of August, our entire department – rank and file, management, the whole nine yards – would be let go, because corporate was outsourcing all of our functions to another company to “update their cost structure.”

My heart broke. I had just spent a month unemployed! I had just gotten my first new paycheck! Things were looking up! And now it's scheduled to be taken away. My mind raced, and most of that week was spent in a very somber mood.

Granted, the position I had taken on was a temporary position without a 100% guarantee of continued employment. It was a COVID-19 opportunity. I get that. I also was fairly confident in my ability to get and retain the job due to how my metrics and holistic performance matched up with my fellow employees. So it wasn't an alien idea that I wouldn't be keeping that job; but it was another thing entirely to actually be told ahead of time that I guaranteedly wouldn't be keeping it.

So here I am again, searching in the great pixelated yonder in the name of finding a job that can take my qualifications and offer the kind of modest payment I need to subsist in some semblance of my current, meager lifestyle. I'm not wealthy. I don't ask for much. But sometimes, it feels like asking for a simple life is like asking the world of the HR rep that's in charge of hiring or firing you.

So I want you to take away three things from today's rant:

1 – Be thankful for the job you have, and think twice about giving it up; even if you have a good reason to do so. 2 – You are worth more than your paycheck. Don't let money, KPI's and artificial job requirements define your worth as a person. You are important. I don't know you, and that doesn't matter. YOU ARE IMPORTANT. 3 – Make an adventure out of your life. This whole time of on-again-and-off-again employment have held some of the most dynamic days and experiences of my comparatively young life. It hasn't been all bad. It's not sustainable, and I intend on getting a good job ASAP. But for what it's worth, trying to keep a good mindset has let this course of events be a learning experience instead of yet another reason I need anxiety meds.

“You are braver believe, smarter than you seem, and stronger than you think.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

Catch you next time,

wholesomedonut

#100DaysToOffload 2 / 100

So the world is rotten to the core. It's slimy, mucky, ugly and greedy. Surely, at this pace, you could schedule the end of the world for sometime in 2021, if not sooner.

I'd be a liar if I said I didn't feel the same way sometimes.

But I'm here to invite you to reign it in a wee bit with me. Because it isn't fully true quite yet. And I feel like the only way to get rid of shadows is to turn the light on.

Hot take of the day: We are the most well-off we have ever been as a species.

Explanation of the day: No matter the politics and conflicts of today's world, I doubt you'd take

being stricken with famine in 16th-century Jamestown; battling the Celts in the mud and blood at Hastings in 1066; or laboring at a breakneck pace to bring up one of Pharaoh's new obelisks in 4000 BCE, upon pain of whipping and possibly death if you fail,

as a replacement for the way most of the 21st-century G20 live.

Don't downvote me quite yet. Let me counterbalance that audacity.

I am not attempting to minimize the problems that are plaguing us (literally) worldwide right now, nor am I attempting to downsize the systemic racism that has clearly been an issue for decades in the United States: a problem which is once again at the headlines without any large-scale, perceivable, positive change in the works to rectify the issue.

I AM, by all means, attempting to remind myself and anyone else that's reading that we still have been doing pretty well in the grandest scheme of things, and that all hope is not yet lost.

I'll channel my inner Carl Sagan (if I have one?) and say that we're all on this 'pale blue dot' together. We are a blink of an eye – a single frame in a universal movie that has played for billions of years. Ultimately, we have risen – not fallen – for thousands of years since the Stone Age began. Don't believe me? Read on.

70 and some years ago, the biggest war in known history ended, and thankfully has not met its' match since – not in Vietnam, not in the Middle East, and not in China, Russia, or anywhere else. Are countries' relations tense? Always. Has an atom bomb been used in warfare since Fat Man and Little Boy? Never.

We put men on the moon using less computational power than a digital watch from Wal-Mart, more than 50 years ago. Have we been back since then? No. Have we commercialized space travel to the point where Elon Musk could strap a car to a rocket and launch it toward Mars for no reason other than “WHY NOT?” Of course.

Thirty years ago, through the Internet, the world economy continued globalization, allowing the free spread of trade, information and ideas on a scale that was previously impossible. Has it led to new avenues of cyberwarfare, crime, and illicit activity? Yes. Has it jumpstarted the development of countries the world over, and promoted STEM education which will fuel our continued scientific progress as a species? Absolutely.

Today, I am writing this to you – and you are reading – on a machine that took more cumulative man-hours of labor, design, scientific research and production on a literally global scale, than the creation of penicillin, the Hoover Dam, the automobile, or the airplane.

This information is transmitted from my machine to yours through a vast network of cables and invisible pulses through the air so ubiquitous that you have to consciously and actively expend effort to keep it from maintaining a constant presence in your life. We are capable of being so connected we cannot stray from it unless we choose to.

We have international, crowd-sourced processing farms that allow you – yes, YOU – to participate in the processing of algorithms, simulations and formulae that help solve diseases like COVID-19.

Today, if you so desired, you could download all of Wikipedia, one of the most rigorously crowd-funded, crowd-edited and crowd-validated knowledge bases on the planet – for FREE.

Today, if you so desired, you could go online and buy virtually anything you can think of, and concievably see it in less than a week.

Every coin has its' flipside.

Many nodes of that processing farm that helps cure COVID could be powered by non-renewable fossil fuels, which by their very nature will eventually run out.

No matter how cool Amazon is, it's still a powerhouse of historically unprecedented size that has completely changed e-commerce, shipping, and cloud computing, to name a few.

And just because you could download Wikipedia, doesn't mean that a thousand years from now we could even access that hard drive's storage and view your newfound archive of humanity's sum-total knowledge.

But I hope you get the gist of what I'm saying: we have done, are doing, and will ostensibly continue to do awesome things in spite of every single obstacle. Why? Because we can. And until the day comes where we either annihilate ourselves, or at least our desire to progress in any meaningful way, we will continue to do so.

Share a meme with a friend. Complement that store worker on their service. Donate to charity next time you use Paypal. Go down a rabbit hole and learn something totally new on Wikipedia, Udemy, or a community college course. Share your passions with the world.

And most importantly, remember to keep looking up. Staring down will only tell us where we've been; the horizon is where we one day could be. All we have to do is chase it.

Catch you next time.

~ wholesomedonut