The scale of economics

Or a guide to getting the fuck out of West Virginia, or another similarly impoverished area with ultra-low paying jobs, and overbearing politics.

If you live somewhere like West Virginia (which there really isn’t anywhere else like), and you want to move away, you have to deal with what I call the ‘scale of economics’. That might be a real thing and I didn’t research it because I’m just simply refering to the differnce in costs between two places like California and the aforementioned impoverished place, and what it takes to move to CA. Yes, that’s probably just about the most extreme example I can give save for maybe Puerto Rico where they are poorer and you’d also have to add in a longer flight or boat ride to get you and your stuff out.

I’ve always used this concept to explain to people why it’s so hard to go from WV to CA even just to visit for a vacation. Visiting California is just not something you hear about much when you grow up there. The few people you know who have even visited California are either in the Navy, or just the coolest and most interesting people otherwise. California is a fantasy place in a land, far, far away and one you just don’t image yourself being able to afford to visit or even move to.

You have a few options and I mentioned the Navy already and there’s also the Air Force and Coast Guard which are great ways to get the fuck out. You can even get paid to go to school and unlearn some of the crap you thought you knew. The second options is couch surfing and that one is the most random, fly by the seat of your pants way of getting there and that’s how I did it. But, you can’t have a plan like I did because it just randomly unfolded in front of me and that is all about the luck you create. You just have to be able to spot the opportunities as they present and jump. I had a lady I met and we were interested in each other and that gravity made it so much easier. The random reasons I even met her were a crazy series of events that ended up with me in a chat room and an offer to visit California.

I’ll explain my journey later, but for now I want to talk about the other options and the saving money one is probably the only realistic route you have. It costs a lot out here. I pay $4.20/gal for diesel. I pay $40 for a steak from the grocery store that I still have to cook. I can take you down the street and get you a $9 beer and a $20 hamburger and they’ll be damn good, but nothing is cheaper out here than it is in West Virginia expect opinions. And before I continue, let me rant a bit: Californians who have never even visited KY, WV, TN, VA, AL, etc… know so much more about it than you do. Now, stop laughing and listen up, because when you come from somewhere like that, this shit is already obvious, but the jerk from San Francisco who has a never been there, knows how to solve all our problems, and won’t even listen to you explain whlie they anxious wait to blurt out their next ignorant and misguided idea. Out here, we have people who are more than activists, their what I refer to as ‘assumists’, and they assume they already know everything because they’re from California.

I won’t pick on California because I love it here and I’ve been able to reap the rewards and live a good life for a long time. I got out because I didn’t fit in and I never did. I think my greatest failure in life was not getting out earlier, but I don’t think I was ready and that’s attached to another failure I have, that I didn’t go to college, or should I say that I didn’t stick with it. I’ll have to explain that all at another point but I definitely think that young people need to travel a lot and see as many different places as possible. It wasn’t until I started traveling that I really started to understand a lot of the information I had accumulated from years of reading about all sorts of different topics. I think if I had front loaded the experiences that the information would have made immediate sense, even though at the time I read it, it made sense to me, I didn’t understand as much about perspective then as I do now. The flow of learning things naturally is often a lot about luck as well!

So, to suffice to say that the perspective is hard to explain to someone who lives here in California, but who has never visited one of these places and has never really seen a fifty year old house trailer on cinder blocks, with junk cars in the yard and kids playing about the broken down machines and what might appear as junk to you. That junk often provides parts and money to the people who collect it. It’s all about the perspective!

The price of rent really hasn’t increased much in the thrity years since I rented my first apartment. I paid $350/month back then and I can find places to rent that are equivalent quality and factors for $4-500 and then a range that’s just all over the place and I’m sure the quality and location as well. A trailer on a hillside, up some hollar with a dirt road is going to a lot cheaper than an apartment in the city but if it’s a new trailer and they have city water, then it costs more. You don’t hear that out here ‘city water’ and it’s been some time since I’ve heard it said, but I kind of miss it. So the rent has barely moved there in a long time but out here it’s ten times what I paid thirty years ago, and 8-9 times more than what I would pay right now if I were in West Virginia. I do see with the pandemic that there are some deals to be had and it looks like prices on apartments have dropped some out here but that will change and go back to normal in no time. Corporations are buying up all the houses out here and eventually will own it all and just rent it back to us.

What has gone up are utilities and the price of food, and guess what, they pay basically the same damn prices for electronics, cell phones, the service for them, etc… and they make a lot less money. Your new TV is the same price, the Internet sucks and is barely available and costs a lot. I have gig fiber at home and I’m super spoiled with it and don’t even have a phone line or cable. Internet is all I need but if you live in West Virginia, you have to get cable and pay too much for it because the Internet isn’t going to good enough to stream everything. You’ll still have to have a land line because you might live somewhere that doesn’t have cell service or Internet at all. Yes, in America that’s entirely true in many regions just like West Virginia. You’d think the east cost of the US would be all fiber and advanced like that but it’s not and more like a third world country in many ways.

So you’re going to move to California and get a job and live the good life for a while. You now understand that you’ll have to save first and last and the deposit, right? So your rent might be $3,000/mo so that will be $9,000 up front and you need money for utilities and the deposits. It really starts to go up and saving northward of 10k for anyone from those areas is a huge thing. Especially in an area where the minimum wage isn’t $15/hr. You need to start saving when you’re five if your dad can keep his job the whole time and your parents don’t need your money. It’s going to take a long, long time to save the money that you have no guarantee will be enough. You really need to find a job that will relocate you but that’s pretty rare unless you’re a highly educated, professional type or a programmer with lots of experience. You do not want to have a plan that involves you sleeping in your car because that will end up bad, every time. You’ll be robbed. If not while sleeping in it or when you’re not with it, someone will break into it or outright steal it. Cars with crap in them get broken into here. It’s a career out here so that’s the worst option. After the car is gone you’ll only have the street and it’s really, really bad out here right now if you live on the street.

It’s all about the money and when you’re from a place like I am, that money seems like it’s on another planet with California. You just daydream of getting out of there and seeing all the amazing things you’ve read about and seen in movies.

At this point you have few other options and I just want to stress again, that sleeping in your vehicle isn’t an option you want to try. There are so many that try and some that are successful at it, but they’re also usually the ones that are permanently living in their vehicles and they’ve got experience and wisdom from the road. They’re figured out a lot of the stuff that you have no idea about and they also figured that stuff out in a different time. California is way different than it was twenty years ago, and another twenty, etc… There’s always been a dangerous element and you know all the movies about serial killers, mad bikers, whatever, it’s just a lot worse these days and there are other, potentially more dangerous elements from the side effects of hateful politics, waiting to explode.

I think you can still manage to couch surf in this crazy, pandemic ridden world, but it will have elements that I never had to deal with. Maybe you can find someone that will let you pitch a tent on their deck or in their enclosed back yard. If there’s a will, there’s always a way to find something safe, or at least safer than the street. You have to remember, if you don’t live our here and have never been out here that there are elements you may have seen on TV but cannot begin to fathom until you experience them in person. Most homeless people do not want to be on the street but have no choice because of numerous factors, and mental health is often a big part. We do have a lot of pandemic displacement but oft times, a lot of that was a from a population of folks, already in tight situations with life that are easily disrupted. Then once they get out there, they’re just one of thousands in a line for soup, or another need. Once you’re on the street, a lot of normally available opportunities go away because or more than perception and bias, but prejudice. Don’t be quick to judge something you have no immediate knowledge or experience with and that’s a common misconception from West Virginians I hear about homeless people. There are a few in WV, and not many. My mother used to make blankets for them. It just gets too cold in the winter and you won’t see them as much, so you just don’t have perspective.

I met a lady online and she made an offer to visit. I took her up and immediately fell in love with it. I’m not saying that you should aim for the same place or ideals; there are many other states and locations where you could upgrade your lifestyle and not spend as much getting there like Florida. The only thing California has in common with Florida is palm trees and sunshine. Absolutely nothing else at all.

My advice is to get an education in the first place and pick a career that has jobs in the place you want to be. I was given my first job in California because they told me they were impressed with me because I just up and moved to California without more than a couch to sleep on. You see, out here, someone will look at that as evidence of ambition and desire. It also shows a ‘can do’ attitude and that you’re not afraid to take a risk. Out here, failure is seen as experience and hopefully wisdom gained. They look at people who don’t move around jobs a lot as though they aren’t ambitious. You have to show a career that looks like you’re eager to climb the ladder. Someone who just sits at the same job doesn’t appear to have ambition here and that’s so backwards from the notion I got growing up in West Virginia where you want to get a job and cling to it by all means. You don’t want to see too ambitious because they’ll fire you. You want to be plain and boring and just hard working.

Breaking into certain industries isn’t easy and many don’t want what they consider outsiders. Take the video game industry. Hard to get in if you’re never had experience! That’s a catch but you just have to get an opportunity and then be able to show them what you’re capable of and that’s not easy. That’s another luck thing and you don’t want to be one of those annoying people who have no real skills and persistently hang out around the game developer hangouts. They show up at all the hiring events and GDC, WWDC, you name it, if it has to do with video games, you can expect some of the same folks, over and over again, trying to get jobs that they just don’t fit. But once you have experience and if you’re a likable person, then there are a lot of opportunities and recruiters and HR managers are more willing to talk to you. Shit, they might even read your resume then. I know film and the music industry are the exact same way and you need a marketable skill and some experience to get in.

If you’re from West Virginia, you probably got pushed to go to some vocational program and learn welding or autobody or something like that. Those are useful skills that once mastererd can earn you a lot of money out here, but you need to be good because they get applications from all 50 states, all the time, from young, eager and ambitious people like you with mad skills.

I don’t know if many Californians know that West Virginias are some of the hardest working people on the planet, but if they’ve ever worked with one they would know. That could be a benefit to you anywhere that has that same experience. As a West Virginian, we are an esoteric anamoly. I think there needs to be a campaign to educate people about just how hard we work but then they might try to lure us all away! But isn’t that what we want? Not really as I would love to see my home state prosper, but until it does, the jobs and money are elsewhere.

It ain’t always about what you think it is

In my travels, I’ve learned a lot of things about people and their nature. I’ve learned that what I’ve learned is just based on my interactions with them and observations of them with me adding my bias and wisdom to sum them up in a way that probably only makes sense to me. From that I try to add some optimism and doubt so that I’m not so sure that I’m not entirely incorrect. What I’m saying is that we only see things from our perspective and we all wear self-tinted glasses, so-to-say. We have impressions we learn from our experiences which won’t match what most other people have. Sure, we will have a lot of common experiences, but there are always unique qualities. Think about two people observing an even take place from different sides of event. One person will see it happen from left to right and the other from right to left and there you already have the premise to make the observations different. Now take a car crash and the driver is killed on the side of the car you are observing. You see the driver die but the other person observing does not and walks away thinking ‘people need to learn to drive’, while you experienced death and a tragedy that you will never forget seeing. Now, let’s take a look at a place and try to think about it like the guy who saw the driver die and not the guy who saw the crash then walked away because he didn’t see the driver die and he was in a hurry anyway.

I’m going to talk to you about West Virginia and I’m going to talk about a few things that I don’t think are well known or understood and that I think need more talking about.

Every time I’ve met a Mexican who has worked with a West Virginian, they’ve offered to buy me a drink. You see, and I haven’t met everyone on the damn planet so I’m not really qualified to say who is the most or best of anything. I only offer up my opinion, from my experience, that Mexicans and West Virginians are the hardest working mother fuckers I know of, on the planet. It’s like a competition to us and if the guy beside us is busting his ass, then we’re going to work harder than they are. So when these two different gentlemen I encountered met someone just like them, they understood it. They had met someone else who has been shit on, used, lied to, abused, murdered and killed and tortured and exploited, since before the places we all name to identify our origins ever existed. We’re both hard workers with integrity that show up every damn day and don’t complain. We do our jobs and that’s just the way it is.

When I moved to North Carolina I got fired from a few jobs because I worked too hard. They even told me that and said that if they didn’t get rid of me then they worried that they would be expected to work as hard or that I’d just get promoted while they didn’t. I would imagine some places automatically rejected us West Virginians on that basis because we are some of the hardest working people on the planet. They had developed a working culture in North Carolina that was just plain lazy. I had never seen so many temporary job companies. It was amazing to me that I could just find a job and go work and get paid without driving two hours. I thought I had struck gold at first and got myself a temp job at a mill making carboard tubes. What a braindead thing to do and I quickly thought that there was no way I could do such a repetitive task for more than a few weeks. Fortunately, I worked too hard and they canned me in a few days. Then, I went to another place and it was the same thing. They didn’t like me because I worked hard and didn’t need ten breaks and then didn’t bitch about everything.

I think the lazy work culture was so bad there that the temporary companies came to be more of a need to fill jobs in a very lazy and unreliable workforce. Where I came from people kept jobs for life and clinged to them no matter how bad or toxic they were. But not in North Carolina. They even had all these colloquial sayings like “laying out of work” which took a while for me to understand. It just meant they skipped work that day and didn’t feel like going so they either called in sick or just didn’t go. I would also wager that this systemic laziness caused a lot of the mills and factories to just up and leave. When you don’t have a very reliable workforce that just bitches about everything and then collectively works to oust the hardest working people, you’re creating a scenario that will fail. Big companies are smart and get big by being smart. Places like North Carolina at that time in the mid ninties was difficult to staff and when they did, they had people who would willing cut their own fingers off just to make a phat paycheck and get disability. That’s actually a thing there. My brother used to joke that you could tell how long someone had worked at a mill by the number of missing fingers. And he had examples of people who bragged about doing it.

Had they put those mills and factories in West Virginia… But that state was hard to commerce due to the lack of highways and had huge hills that caused trucks to use a lot more fuel. Building I77 through West Virginia helped the state a lot and at the time was the most expensive road ever built per mile. That interstate was just a little too late and probably still just not enough to compete with areas like North Carolina for factories and mills. I think it was a stupid mistake on the factories and mills because what they ended up with was a lazyass workforce that they would eventually have to bail on. I still don’t think a lot of people get it, but let me say it again, West Virginians are some of the hardest working people on the planet. If you put factories and mills there, you’ll have lifers whose children will want to work the same damn job that their parents did. It’s like all those sad movies but it’s what we do. It’s an ethic that’s inside us and we see it all around us growing up of people who have to work way harder than average for way less than average.

Maybe if CEOs put factories in places where the people work hard, not just that are easy for management to visit… And that’s always been another problem. No one wants to move there and it is kind of depressing in some areas. I’ll even admit that West Viringia in the winter can be kind of ugly with the snow on the grey trees and all the dirty snow on the highways. I remember it more from days long gone where the pollution was a lot worse and the soot showed in winter from the coal. But far worse than that are the areas with all the runnoff from Mountain Top Removal and waste products from mining coal where people can’t drink their own water and can’t sell their house because of it. But, that’s still not as bad as areas like Lake Washington near Parkersburg or many others and potentially some really nasty ones we just don’t know of.

When you think West Virginia, I bet you think about coal. Well, maybe some dumb jokes as well but none I haven’t heard told to me thousands of times like it was going to be the first time ever. But when I think of home, I think of chemical companies. I didn’t have any miners in my family and we didn’t really live near any mines but for just a short time. But the chemical we had all over Parkersburg and in fact they made a movie about it. In the Kanawha River valley we had, and I’m just refering to my memory of 30 years ago but a lot of them are still there, all the big chemical companies. DuPont, FMC, Monsanto, Carbide, Corning, etc… I met a lady from Bhopal India and we had a lot in common considering what they went through. We supposedly had more MIC in Belle than they had in Bhopal and probably in very similar conditions. In fact, a number of years after the Bhopal disaster, a tank of something else exploded at Belle and a piece of it laded right beside the MIC tanks. I worked for a carpet cleaning company when I was 16 and we cleaned the carpet in the offices at that plant. It looked nice and clean but what the hell did I know at that age? Nothing.

If that tank had ruptured, it would have went straight into the river and then downstream to the Ohio, then to the Mississippi. As far as I know, that same scenario still exists today and there a shitload of highly toxic chemicals sitting on a flat beside the river. But they’re not the only ones in a similar situation that if disaster struck, it would be in the river, then down to the Gulf of Mexico. We’re just now learning about all the DDT that’s dumped off the coast of California and if they did that in fucking California, what do you think they did in West Virginia where a lot of toxic chemicals are produced? That’s a serious question I would love to have answered, but what hidden places do we have in West Virginia that are just the same or worse? I would be you any amount of money there are plenty, hidden away up some hollar or in an old coal mine or just plan buried somewhere. In the movie Dark Waters that’s about how DuPont poisened people in a hundred mile radius, including me — I have never been tested but we had a cabin at Lake Washington which was right beside that guy in the movie where they found levels of the chemical C8 was around ten thousand times higher than what even DuPont regarded as safe and you know that had to be ultra conservative. So there’s no way I was less than a mile from that and not exposed. My mother had a health monitor and enough said.

The chemical companies have been there for a long time and have left a less visible impression than the coal industry, and will be there long after the coal industry is gone.

Now I hear West Virginia has suffered the biggest loss of population of any state in the last ten years. It was over two million people when I left in the ninties and now it’s 1.79 million. People cite the same reasons I left which were jobs and pay and just wanting to see bigger and better things. West Virginia is at the bottom of a lot of bad lists and at the top of many others. None are good. It’s not an easy life and getting out of there isn’t very easy when you make so little money and the cost of moving to another state means you need to save up the rent and deposit for where you’re going, which is going to be a lot higher than where you ware. I’ve always said that from WV to CA was basically just adding a zero to the end of everything. I’ve paid more in rent in one month in California than I did for a whole year in West Virginia, granted that was 30 years ago, if you look now, the rent price hasn’t changed much in that time. I actually know one person who pays less in one year than I pay in a month. You just have to embrace the scale of economics to understand how hard it is to leave there and why then, everyone wants to get the fuck out.

Let’s recap my thoughts here:

West Virginians and Mexicans are some of the hardest working people on the planet.
West Virginia has as much chemical as coal and we’re ignoring that.
If you think the DDT off the coast of California is a problem, I’d ask you to kindly look at WV.
What hidden gems have the chemical companies produced in WV?
People are leaving WV because a failure of leadership that has been systemic for a long time.
If you put factories and mills in WV, you will get lifelong, hard workers whose kids will come work for you.

I love West VIrginia. I know people will claim I hate the state because of this, but I’d question anyone who uses that bullshit line that I just hate whatever it is I’m supporting because it’s wornout and braindead. You hear it all the time in policitcs that this or that person hates the country or whatever, but if you fall for it, you just didn’t think about it very much did you? I want to see my home state prosper but it won’t as long as it’s still held in the same train of thought and level of thinking that was created all its problems, and kept it there.

Listening to the news about a DDT dump being discovered off the coast of California and I have to ask what else is hidden in the hills of West Virginia? There were a dozen Superfund sites but you know there are more, undiscovered ones waiting to be found. I’m just glad the coal and chemical industries weren’t tighter!

Oh the times we live in…

EDIT: And the typos we miss…

I don’t know where to begin with anything these days. I don’t know where it ends or where it goes or where I’ll even be in a year from now. One year ago, I was still dealing with the loss of my mother and the brunt of consternation as an event that hadn’t happened in 100 years was unfolding all over the world. Now, we have light shining upon us that shows an eventual end to the pandemic and a return to whatever amounts to normal when all is said and done.

I was finally able to get my first dose of the vaccine and although I can’t shake the powerful impression that the sum of loss has given me, I do feel the beginning of hope and the idea of what I once remember to be relaxation. I can’t get comfortable or relax while I know I have some very big events in my immediate future but I feel tension easing and my expectations are slowly becoming …umm, rosy.

I did get laid off but that’s just a small hurdle to me and I always turn it into something positive. I now have time to tackle big, personal tasks that normally require long weekends or vacations. I can record some music which for me, takes extra focus and time and it has to be the only thing I have going on.

For now, I’m trying to sort out all the pieces and put something new together. I hear people my age in this industry are having a hard time finding work so I’m going to be open to more opportunities than before and maybe some that mean some really tough changes. I made it through most of the pandemic employed and fortunately have a cushion but I see that being used and me maybe leaving California. If it takes more than a few months to find a new job then I’ll have to have plans laid out in advance, meaning right now. Then the next big catch is that I won’t be able to find a new home to lease if I don’t have a job… Oh the catches are endless these days and I almost feel like a giant domino was just flipped over and a whole bunch more are about to fall.

Is it too late to become a musician? And be able to support myself? I missed that boat and sadly now it’s probably too late. But you know what? I’m going to try. I’m going to try to write some, record some music, and explore, all while still trying to find a new job. I don’t even know that I want to do the same type of work at this point. I spent the last three years learning as much about Kubernetes and related ecosystems, that I’m a big exhausted and feel like I need a little break. My skills won’t suffer as I am still learning, just not at a break-neck pace. Just yesterday I was learning how to do things in the latest version of Python versus what I learned ten years ago in 2.6/7. I even thought about founding my own startup since I’ve worked for a few and have a lot of experience with the inner parts. Then I can be like those obnoxious people I used to suffer in San Francisco, constantly reminding you that they, are a founder.

I’m going to hook all my social media up again and stop ignoring the only ecosystem of friends I have right now: online — that I’ve also had for many years before the pandemic, but over the last 2-3 I just stopped interacting and let depression take over. I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone but my son and then rarely got to see him. I think he has a deep affect on my depression and when I don’t see him, I’m affected. The sum of a few years of that has made me feel almost permanently depressed. I don’t know how else to get out of that because it’s not something I planned or expected. If I never had a child, I never would have had that little part of me; the part of me that loves and pulls me like a magnet. The pain you feel when you miss you child is one you know you will never get over. It’s not like some crush you had in high school, the love for a child is the deepest I think you can have. They are of our own.

What I fear is that my depression has become an unstoppable thing. Too many years of isolation and solitude to a person that never likes to be alone has long lasting effects and I know I have a really strong mind and I’ve always been able to beat my own demons. I just don’t know if I have the ability to even climb out of where I am emotionally and psychologically.

But I am still me and still not broken, yet. I’m going to try to pull a phoenix and see where it gets me. I might throw away everything I can’t fit in my van and just start driving with no real destination in mind — just go North until something interesting makes me go another way. Where that guy failed in ‘Into the Wild’, I know I could survive and mainly because I have better guns and a 4×4. I should probably get the snorkel installed and quit making fun of them but that wouldn’t be any fun. It just makes the Sprinter look like an elephant. Especially a 144″ wheelbase with a high roof and painted grey which a lot are. Okay, just typing this update cheered me up a bit and I have even formulated more plan while doing so.

I might even torture the world, or at least those who might ever actually read my blog, more frequently! I might even post music.

Some Tips…

My Grocery Store Shopping Tips

I’m trying to develop and evolve my routing so writing it down will help and I can share my ideas and get some tips and ideas from others.

–Bring my own bags that have been disinfected or isolated
–Bag all non-perishable items together
–Bag all perishable items together
–Place bags in a designated location upon returning home
–Clean up process
—-Wash hands
—-Remove clothes
—-Sanitized wipes to keys, phone, wallet
—-Clean door handles and entry items I might have touched returning
—-Clean perishable items and place in refridgerator
—-Put perishable items grocery bag in closet isolation

At that point I can either clean the items in the non-perishable bags or just let them wait it out right where they sit.

The Rest of My Routine

For my clothing I’ve been rotating jackets, pants and my hat. When I return home I place the jacket and pants in a specific spot, hanging on the corner of a shelf on the other side of the room. I have 3-4 of these separated by 4-5 feet while handing so I can go a week or so between wearing one set giving it enough time to hopefully, naturally disinfect. So I wear one set out, then hang it for a week in isolation before wearing it again.

I’ve always kept a container of sanitizing wipes and a large pump bottle of hand-sanitizer in the cup holder of the door in my vehicle. After living in SF and getting three MRSA infections from just living there, I became a bit paranoid about it and started disinfecting. So naturally for me to clean things upon returning to my vehicle after pumping gas or going to a store. I even clean the pump handle and buttons at the pump out of generosity.

As of this morning, I shaved my beard off so I can wear some form of respiratory protection. I have some N95 masks but I do not have a surgical style mask. I also don’t sew or having things to make them from so I’ll try to order a few and wait that out and use the N95 for now. I have maybe 25 N95 in a box that I purchased two years ago; I want to donate them but until our guidance on wearing them is clearer, I’ll keep them. If it gets real bad around here I have a few good places bookmarked to donate them. If the surgical masks arrive soon, I’ll donate the lot unless guidance becomes wear N95 only.

I’ve been getting a little takeout and mainly to help support local businesses but I am a little sick of my own cooking! With the takeout the routine is fairly similar but overall I’ve broken myself of touching my face and if I need to, I have either a single-use tissue or wipe to do it with. If I don’t have something with me, I grab my shirt collar or use the inside of my jacket but grabbing it from the outside, then wiping my face.

Equifax Should Go Away

As most everyone who absorbs a daily dose of news knows, Equifax got hacked and now the personal information for 44% of the US population has been stolen. Most likely, if you’re an avid consumer participating in the credit industry machine, your information got pwned. It’s likely that most of the people you know who work, pay bills, use the Internet, and buy things with credit cards or with loans got pwned.

This has got to stop. Equifax was hacked due to Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638, and a patch was available, but not applied to their web-servers!

I do IT stuff. So to say. I also know that no matter what operating system I use that there are automated ways of updating my OS and software. If there aren’t, then I’ll script something that will do it for me. I install security and functional updates as soon as they’re available. I watch the blogs, security advisories, email lists, news feeds, etc… And it’s probably still not enough. If I had the budget, I’d dedicate someone to security as I don’t think even a small company can afford the type of breach that Equifax will most likely weather and carry on, using our personal information as their product.

And we have to face it: we are their product. Our information is what they use to make money. How the hell is that even legal? Oh, probably because money. Money. That tends to drive most everything doesn’t it? Or at least the love of it and the greed for as much as possible. It’s worse than Heroin, as it seems.

The vulnerability that allowed Equifax to get hacked was specific to Apache Struts, a framework for running Java under Apache. It’s not super common because most people running Apache are using PHP — most new servers deployed on the Internet last year (2016) were supposedly using PHP. Anyway, my point is that you shouldn’t worry that it is a common exploit — it’s been patched and Struts is popular, but not used by everyone.

Still, you have to wonder about their architecture that allowed the balance of all their sensitive information to be plucked away so easily. Did they not perform Risk Management? I would think that such a company with such incredibly sensitive information would have. And if they did and it still happened then maybe they hadn’t implemented their plan to fix any weak parts? I just can’t believe that Equifax took information security serious enough. Equifax is a company with the EXACT information that hackers are always looking for — you’re a prime target! When I worked in the video game industry I found out that as developers, you’re targeted constantly and you have to always be proactive. You can never let your guard down. And in the case of Equifax, they’re probably one of the biggest treasure troves a hacker could ever hope for besides the keys to the bank itself.

When I hear about massive IT failures on this level, I first experience a bit of sympathy for the staff and people who have to work 24×7 until it’s fixed and they’re confident the intrusion has been contained. But, with this, their IT staff blundered in such a way that it will most likely affect me and cause me to have to spend my own time dealing with it. It’s a huge inconvenience to me, their unwilling product.

Deep in my heart, I’d like to see Equifax go away. I’d like to see it sued out of existence. I’d like to see the government step up and slap some hardcore regulations on the industry but there’s no chance of that happening right now. In fact, sad to say, all we can do right now is be mad and buy some credit protection. We don’t have a choice but to be part of this credit industry machine — there’s no way off this ride if you want to be an active part of society and buy things. Even greater is the affect the credit industry has had on renting property, leasing, and even employment — what happens now?

I want to see regulations that say they can’t keep my personal information at all. But you know that’s not going to happen — we have an established industry that has money to lobby and influence. I’d like to see regulations in place that prevent them from at least storing my SSN but that’s the key identifier in credit reporting. A number that was never intended to be used for it — but try to get credit or a loan without giving it up.

So the way I see it now is that they have us and there’s little to nothing we can do aside of hoping for laws and regulations to protect our information. When industry giants screw up it can hurt everyone and in this case, it probably will. We’re their product, unwillingly. And in America, corporations have more power than me or you.

Double Fine MEGA-FAN PACK!

I used to work for Double Fine Productions. I no longer want these items and I figured that someone, somewhere, a fan or not, might be interested in them so here you are. I want to sell these items as one lump lot. I will ship them, but only after I receive the payment and the buyer will have to pay for the shipping. I don’t want to take international bids for these items, unless they’re really good ones! If you’re interested in this Double Fine MEGA-FAN PACK, then reply to this post and I’ll get back to you — no replies will be made public.

I will include one surprise item in the pack that was not made available to the public.

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Moving Slowly – Hotel Utah Open Mic

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this song short of a few open mics. This was recorded recently at the Hotel Utah’s awesome open mic on January 7th 2013. (It really did take me 3 months to finish this post!)

Michael Beese was kind enough to improvise over it for me on his vio-fiddle thing.

Moving Slowly – Brent Shinn, Hotel Utah Saloon January 7th 2013 (Michael Beese – Fiddle) You can also hear more of my music on the site as well as an amazing archive of music from the performers as well as upcoming Utah related shows, tweets, and more!

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New song: Said and Done

It’s taken me some time to get around to making a recording of this – especially one that I didn’t screw up! I’m never happy with my recordings but I’m getting better with it. This song was written for an optional assignment for a songwriter group I attend – to write a waltz. I’m still not entirely sure about the arrangement in the end and I’m liking playing around with timing in certain parts for accents. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. I’ll record it again soon and hopefully even better!

PS – I’m going to make all the older videos private once I record new versions. I’ve only been writing songs and singing for around 3 years now and I think I’ve definitely improved and newer recordings would surely represent my work much better. I also need to hook up a better microphone – soon!

Brent

Gregg Allman – Trampled by Turtles – The Spazmatics!

Last week was a busy week for shows. A friend of mine invited me to see Gregg Allman – which I didn’t even know was coming to town and probably wouldn’t have went on my own but I’m certainly glad I did. Honey Honey opening for Trampled by Turtles? LOVE! and then a new discovery in the amazingly awesome 80’s cover band The Spazmatics.

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