2016 was not the best of years. While my parents have told me that it wasn't a bad year, my "log line" for year was that this was the year I was under investigation, threat assessment, and who knows what other official review. These things kinda happen when you work in the civil service of a president who sometimes thinks he is a Stuart monarch and even worse acts like one from time to time.
Tonight I spent some time playing with a software-defined radio. A project in 2017 is to set up an automated recorder out in the garage to monitor the CBC Radio One outlet that is audible from the other side of Lake Erie in southwest Ontario. Right now there is a bit of a noise problem to overcome with some antenna construction as the waterfall display below shows I can barely even hear the local outlet of NOAA Weather Radio (KEC58) out in Erie, Pennsylvania amidst some broad-spectrum noise shown in yellow:
Even though it isn't funded, I'm still looking at the Outernet research project. By way of Joey Hess over in the pump.io spaces, I see I'm not the only one thinking about them either as there was a presentation at 33c3. Eventually I'll need to watch that.
I will note contra David Tomaschik that disclosure of employee information that is available under the Freedom of Information Act isn't really a hack. In general you can request that directory information from any federal agency including DHS and FBI. The FOIA micro-site created by the US Department of Justice can help in drafting your own inquiries.
The folks at the Ubuntu Podcast had an opportunity to prognosticate about the future. With the storm and stress of my civil service post, frankly I forgot to chip in. This happens increasingly. Since I used to be an Ubuntu-related podcaster I can offer some prognostication.
My guesses for 2017 include:
- I may not be a federal civil servant by the end of 2017. It probably won't be by my choice based upon the views of the incoming administration.
- 2017 will be the Year of Xubuntu.
- Laura Cowen will finish her PhD.
- Lubuntu will be subsumed into the Kubuntu project as a light version of Kubuntu.
- There will be a steep contraction in the number of Ubuntu derivatives.
- James Cameron will retcon the Terminator franchise once again and now call Skynet instead Mirai.
- The United States will lose a significant portion of its consumer broadband access. The rest of the world won't notice.
- I may celebrate New Year's Eve 2017 well outside the Continental United States and quite possibly outside US jurisdiction.
To all a happy new year. We have work to do.more ...
Nine months ago I had a blog post up about "Apologizing". This continues what was said there as the matter I was apologizing about then finally came to a conclusion. You can read that if you want.
Many folks who frequent a variety of "hacker" events worry about the so-called Five Eyes and, if they're in the US, the actions of "three letter agencies" towards them. I can nowadays say that I was under investigation for the vast majority of 2016 by "three letter agencies" as well as four letter agencies, five letter agencies, and bureaus you've probably never heard of. Those investigations are successfully concluded although they got really messy at points where I had to limit contacts with "non-US persons" and verify if people in the US that I came into contact with were US citizens or not.
When you're involved in Linux at large or even the Ubuntu realm more specifically, that's incredibly restricting. I could end up apologizing until well beyond the heat death of the universe to people I had to ask questions of so that I could be prepared for sit-down meetings with investigators. All of this came about simply due to a transfer request to move from one federal civil service job to another. That wound up on hold initially for an investigation that went 9 months overdue and then even as that is finally done the job transfer is stuck on hold for an additional fiscal year.
I had yet another co-worker literally carried out on a stretcher from the job last week. Our attrition rate at work has been phenomenal over the past several months. We're not BOFHs by any stretch but we're in a high pressure environment as civil servants handling the cases of citizens and beyond. The stress of our work gets bad enough at points that when we talk about "group rates" for counseling sessions it is more a form of dark humor than anything else. This is why the extraordinary measures were taken to even attempt the transfer request with all the restrictive hoops that cut me off from the community. The gamble was to get through processing things and then be able to re-join community activities. Sadly it didn't work and I've been watching crewmates get ground down.
As we've discussed in The Group, the plan for many of us is to leave the civil service. As I've been studying hard about mass care, the Incident Command System, as well as doing more to back up the ministry of West Avenue Church of Christ it seems that that is something to slide into. I could also concurrently pick the almost moribund not-funded research project up off the floor as the Outernet satellite effort keeps taking new directions but there is little external evaluation of it such as I propose to do. Getting out would allow me to be able to contribute back to the Ubuntu realm at least somewhat once 4 hours of the day spent commuting get reallocated to other uses.
For others looking at contributing, all I can say is not only am I not a lawyer I am also not your lawyer. For US tax guidance, Chapter 24 of Publication 17 Your Federal Income Tax may be quite useful to read as it talks about deducting contributions. If you look at Table 24-1 and decide that you want to support the "Domestic Mission Field Activity" at West Avenue Church of Christ that I already do work in, you can write to:
West Avenue Church of Christ
5901 West Avenue
Ashtabula, OH 44004
United States of America
I wish I could say the congregation has a website or an electronic presence but it doesn't so postal mail is it. The Field Activity has seen actions like me preaching in the woods as well as helping put together the church's outreach float in the Ashtabula City Christmas parade. When the regular pulpit minister is out, I'm the normal backup.
Unlike the "Holiday Hole" by the folks at Cards Against Humanity, I would say something productive would come out of funding me working 2017. External evaluation of the Outernet satellite effort can finally get underway. I would be aiding in the care of souls from a different perspective compared to metaphorically swinging the sword of state in my current job. I could probably sleep far more easily than I currently do. Some publishing work would be done as papers would be printed.
Since various efforts from the Software Freedom Conservancy, Free Software Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are also out there I'll say that frankly there isn't a fixed dollar amount sought. I don't hazard a guess what will come. Ohio will have an increase in its minimum hourly wage for 2017 and the Ohio Development Services Agency released an updated scorecard as to what the "median income" and other stats are for Ashtabula County. For far, far less than was raised for the Holiday Hole that was later filled back in by the Cards Against Humanity folks I can walk away from the conundrums of what it would mean to be a civil servant in the time of President Donald Trump.
If I don't catch up with you otherwise, have a merry Christmas. I've been "disappeared" from IRC for quite a while. I hope to fix that one of these days...more ...