London 061A few days ago we were told officially we will be moving back from Reading, England to our home town of Cincinnati, OH. While I was hoping to write this post on our 2 year anniversary of moving to the UK, I know I will be swamped with the move and ensuing chaos that accompanies it. Writing this post hopefully will help anyone crazy enough to move to England from the US in the future.

In this hastily written post, I hope some of the most common questions we receive should help guide you through the process:

Why did you move to the UK and is it worth it?

Besides being told England is easy island living (great weather, rum drinks and palm trees), we as a family decided to see the world, and I professionally wanted to stretch myself and help the company during transition.

Read the rest of this entry »

We have reached the point where private unions should switch their allegiance from the Democrats who have only made workers’ plight worse to the libertarian Republicans. Now that would have sounded ludicrous 6 years ago, but today it makes perfect sense. I’ll try to explain why with a bit of history, analogy and stats.

The Democrats have done a wonderful job raking in campaign dollars from the unions regardless of what the workers believe. Union dues going directly to a single party is a bad idea b/c it will breed division. Division has been sown between the unions and the Republicans, and between unions and their employers, meanwhile cheap imports have flooded the US market in automobiles, electronics, clothing, furniture and damn near everything else we use to make. This division has also fueled employers like the meat packing industry to hire illegals to drive wages down…this has also occurred in non-unionized industries like technology as well. Both outsourcing overseas and HB1s have also driven wages down (albeit much slower). Divisions between US citizens does not help us win against a flood of cheap labor and cheap goods from abroad, but it does drive campaign funding.

My father worked at Cincinnati Gear for 25 years, and was a proud member of the AFL/CIO. He went through a number of strikes with the union to try to drive wages up. I remember the 2nd to last strike where they actually lost ground on wages and that hurt our family a great deal. The last strike they went on was after my father lost his sight and had to go on disability. This last strike was during a recession. Cincinnati Gear warned the workers that if they went on strike they would go bankrupt. The division between the union and the company caused distrust between the two…the strike happened, the company folded and ultimately only the workers were hurt. The AFL/CIO had the auto plants, and GE to keep paying off their political stooges…the workers…were screwed.

The typical talking track of old school Republicans would be that the union was greedy, while Democrats claimed that the company was unpatriotic or greedy. Neither talking track helps the workers, but it does drive politics. In the grand scheme it wasn’t either the union or the company that was the problem, it was distraction driven by division. The distraction is simple: The US under both parties has devalued our currency thereby making our money worth less and your salary worth less. The distraction is: The US has driven up taxes and regulations to the point where you cannot compete with cheap foreign labor, and cheap foreign goods b/c your dollar doesn’t go as far at Walmart. The distraction is: We have entered into agreements with the World Trade Organization and NAFTA that we cannot tax cheap, low quality goods costing us good American jobs. The distraction is: the Divisions keep us occupied pointing fingers at each other while China gets the upper hand, and our parties move farther from the middle.

42% of Americans now identify themselves as independent. Not Republican, not Democrat…Independent. Why? B/c the parties don’t represent the great middle, but instead the fringe of both sides and Division sown between workers and companies run and worked by Americans drives politics. The politics of division and distraction offer workers nothing but empty promises, empty paychecks, and no future.

This is why the unions need to turn their back on the Democrats and support libertarian Republicans. The new libertarian Republicans want to end the IRS and income tax and replace it with the FAIR Tax. I won’t get into great detail here, but read up on it at FAIRTAX.org. Think of this. You get taxed somewhere between 10-38% in Income Tax, 15.1% in FICA (yes your company pays about half of that), X% income tax at the state level, 2% in Obamacare tax, your benefits that you have fought for in the way of good healthcare has or will be eliminated/taxed in favor of crappy government mandates. Now the company you work for also pays 38% in corporate tax, plus 15-35% in Capital gains. How can you compete again with cheap overseas labor and goods?

Yes, there are write offs and tax deductions, but there is a phenomenon called “good enough.” Americans with their reduced income and buying power are happy to buy something that is “good enough.” I am continually told that Americans want to buy the best American made item they can…sure. We buy the cheapest thing that meets the need, fully knowing the cheap good from overseas will break and we can buy the next cheapest thing with more features next year. The division mentioned above also drives some Americans to deliberately buy foreign almost as retaliation. Both scenarios help no one but China.

Let me give you 2 more examples. When I was in college studying broadcasting, we were told that when HD came out no one would watch anything again in low quality analog. The quality would be so good people would forsake their old TVs for HD. Years of delays, and government subsidizing people did buy new TVs but did so b/c they were flat….most cable channels are still broadcasting in low Def. To make the point even more so…look at YouTube, Vine and other online videos taken on phones. Low quality is watched more than network TV. Even the News has video taken from phones, Skype and other low quality devices b/c the market seems to still cater to “good enough” which is even lower quality than old standard TV. And now all the TVs and accompanying devise are made abroad…no more RCA.

Another example is the housing industry. Gone are craftman homes, and instead we have pre-fabbed junk going up as McMansions. Low skill labor can insert tab A, into slot B and put these things together. People buy them knowing they will move in 5-7 years when they begin to fall apart. Forget repairs, just build a new one farther out where the schools are “better.”

logoTo level the playing field for both our workers and companies we need a FAIR TAX. The FAIR TAX works similar to a sales tax, but only applies to new goods which are non-essential. If you buy a new car, it’s taxed. If you buy a used car there is no tax. If you buy food at the supermarket, there is no tax. Buy food at a restaurant, it’s taxed. Items coming from overseas are taxed when they land b/c transactions occur here. NOTE: this is not an import tax b/c the above WTO and NAFTA treaties forbid import taxes, instead it’s a transaction tax as the cheap goods are purchased at the docks. The combination of no Income tax for workers and companies make us competitive again, and the FAIR Tax ensures that cheap labor and goods have to pay to have access to the US market.

Now I understand entrenched loyalties in the unions and the Democrat party would prevent such thinking. The media would tell you that the FAIR Tax would cost jobs…but the CBO says it would greatly enhance our domestic output and bring in the same amount of tax dollars to the Treasury. There is even a prebate refund in the tax to pay for low wage earners rent and food. Labor used offshore would be treated as a good and taxed as well, driving good paying jobs in Tech back to the states as too. Keep this in mind, the CBO has estimated that over $3 Trillion dollars are being held overseas by US headquartered companies b/c the US has the second highest corporate tax rate…that is almost double our current budget deficit. How much of that money would come back in the form of investment and new jobs if we were no longer punitive and instead had a FAIR TAX (estimates are almost 90%)? We are a connected world, we need to acknowledge this and play the correct game.

Division based on politics, salary, and greed would disappear with the introduction of the FAIR TAX. The unions should break their single party policy and support the goals of bringing manufacturing and manufacturing jobs back to the US instead of policies developed in the 1930s which have only driven jobs out of the US. It’s time to partner instead of divide and distract. The game has changed, our allegiances should as well.

 

http://qz.com/166728

From January to August of last year, John Bohannon submitted an academic study to 304 peer-reviewed scientific journals. All of the them were open access journals, a newer breed of digital-only academic publications that are free for readers but often charge researchers to publish. Bohannon’s study concerned a molecule, extracted from a lichen, that appeared […]

Link  —  Posted: January 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Many customers ask me what is driving Cloud adoption.  When you look around the trade blogs tell you Capex shortages, applications, mobile, big data, etc are driving cloud adoption.  While these factors are driving much of cloud adoption, especially from the developer community, we are also seeing the expiration of Windows 2003 support also driving IT groups to look heavily into cloud.

win2003Yes, the now 11-year-old operating system is driving IT orgs to move to the cloud.  Windows 2003 was launched when my now 19-year-old son who is in the military was playing with his Legos in 3rd grade…  Why?  Many of our customers are still running physical servers which are aging, or they have already virtualized but the gear VMWARE is running on is also aging and the versions of VMWARE are also ending EOS.  If you can send a copy of the server to the cloud, build another Windows 2008 or 2012 server alongside you can test that application which was written in-house and long since forgotten without much expense.  As there is no direct upgrade path from Windows 2003, you have to do a migration.  It tends to be much easier for an IT staff to spend a few bucks in the cloud than it is to stand up a new VMWARE farm, upgrade the VMDK files, build new OSs and get the approval to spend money in-house.  The risk is much lower in the cloud.

Do all applications work in the cloud?  Depends…do all these aging applications work on a new OS?  Some do and some don’t.  So another good testing ground in the cloud is Citrix or Microsoft Application Packaging and streaming of old applications.  For many organizations, Citrix is a place for old, poorly written applications to die.  They package the app in the OS that they were written for, and sit it in the cloud on Windows 2012.  Application Virtualization holds the promise that virtualization is all about, reducing applications down to simply consuming CPU/RAM/Disk.  Cloud is giving customers the opportunity to test their processes with little to no risk of migrating applications to new more secure Operating systems.

ITILSo, is this easy?  No.  I suggest determining a repeatable process that includes everything from the technical part of migrating, to updating your ITIL processes including financials.  While at GE, I worked as a consultant for their Rationalization and Obsolescence team. This team was in charge of migrating applications and data from old servers, to new servers.  Back then we migrated old Unix and Windows-based servers to new hardware.  The processes I developed had to incorporate different workgroups (usually contracting companies), technical areas (Servers, DC, Storage, Networking, Accounting, etc), needed automation so was built into the ITIL CMBD and discovery tools, and needed reporting mechanisms back to the business units as they had footed the bill.  IT billback drove everything at GE and if you couldn’t document how you were saving them money…you didn’t get it done.

In all there was a possibility of 67 individual steps in the Rationalization process, but upfront after discovery those steps were whittled down.  If you were simply getting rid of old hardware that already was off you had about 9 steps.  If you had a server with multiple applications, SAN connections and you needed to upgrade to a new OS…you had many more steps.

The process ran as such:

  1. Create a project that has funding for a server or servers.
  2. Run discovery on the assets.  Are they on?  What is on them?  What is the attributes (Windows/Linux/SAN attached/etc).
  3. Fill out the info you learned into the workflow, it will build the Change Requests and  the WO steps including who has to do the work.
  4. If you are replacing, you follow the build process.
  5. Allow the application team to test on the new platform.  Make them sign off.
  6. Migrate.  This is the most intensive part, but if you did everything above correctly…you are fine.  Again, make the application team sign off that all is working.
  7. Ice the sever(s) and wait.
  8. Decom the server(s) and return all related assets back into inventory (HBAs, network ports, licenses, rack space and power)
  9. Dispose of the assets.  Get them off the books in accounting and process any regulatory procedures like wiping disks and disposal.

In all, once these processes were defined and automated my team of 5 technical PMs went from replacing 150 machines per year on average to over 1600.  We also could easily bring in less technical PMs to do the low-level work.  The processes were even modified for Virtualization which was adopted during that time.  DevOps can feed into these processes and will dramatically increase your productivity as well.  In all, we achieved a repeatable process that increased yield, and we developed reporting mechanisms back to business CIOs.  We reported which Applications teams were helping us migrate the fastest and who wasn’t, SLAs and total costs.  CMDB info was improved due to discovery, automation, using monitoring tools, and the repeatable process including naming conventions.  And of course, the accounting team was happy b/c we took thousands of assets off the books which they had been paying tax on and saving of expensive DC space.

Ultimately, we also began combining similar servers and services.  Web servers were consolidated into farms, file/print was consolidated onto cheap NAS storage, DNS, AD, and other services were consolidated and we even gave data to the WAN Optimization team to pull back services easily handled by the network.  In all, a small investment in consulting and programming saved GE $12.7 in hardware and double that in maintenance alone over a 2 year period.

So, as you look at your inventory of aging Operating systems ask how you can move them to the cloud and how you can migrate those applications.

Now what I have written above is the basics.  Each company will have nearly identical steps, but each will need to be customized based upon your working groups.  If you want to know more, contact me @davespiess on Twitter or find me on LinkedIn, uk.linkedin.com/in/davespiess/.

http://davespiess.wordpress.com

ITIL vs. DevOps

Posted: January 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

In the land that invented ITIL, I am beginning to hear that ITIL is too restrictive and is going to die in favour of DevOps.  DevOps being the automation of IT though tools like Puppet and Chief.  As a former ITIL consultant and proponent, I would tend to disagree and note they the too disciplines are not mutually exclusive, just as I have previously written Six Sigma and ITIL work extremely well together.  DevOps and ITIL can go hand-in-hand.

Let’s imagine that a mature development company decides to move to the cloud and completely stop using internal IT Infrastructure resources.  This Dev company wants to speed up deployment of new applications and features and is tired of waiting for internal IT to procure equipment, obtain enough IOPs to make the application function for a SaaS customer, and to have staff to implement.  This is a valid reason to not only move to the Cloud but to also put in place DevOps.  DevOps can automate provisioning of servers, applications, Firewall and Load Balancing rules etc.  Our Cloud platform has APIs exposed to do all of this.

The trap most development teams fall into is simple, previously the IT Infrastructure team tended to be the location where resources like AD, SMTP, enablement tools, monitoring, backup resided.  The same group tended to also house the CMDB, the Change Advisory Board, the helpdesk, IT Accounting and other functions to approve expenditures.  Someone in this group tended to obtain approvals, thus slowing deployment but ultimately controlling cost and risks for the business.  The enablement tools and services also have to be sized for growth as the applications depend on them.  This is where ITIL, LEAN Six Sigma, and DevOps can walk merrily together into full business, IT and Application Automation.

One of the biggest reasons to move to the cloud and to use DevOps is for applications which have promotional or flash events/sales.  Two examples are eCommerce sites which have a large product launch, and sites which have large numbers of user hitting it at one time (think Fantasy Sports sites).  One of my previous customers on average has 130,000 unique visitors a day, when they launch the release of a very desirable product at midnight twice a year, they have over 3 Million unique visitors in the first 15 minutes of the promotion.  There is no reason for this customer to build all the capacity for a one day event and keep it running all year, so they use DevOps to expand the footprint for promotions, and DevOps to spin the footprint back down as the demand subsides.  This is a fairly predictable event, and they use ITIL to approve expenditure, rollout and build, and LEAN to measure the results of the promotion.  DevOps feeds the other processes.  Without the measurement, there is no way to determine SLA, and profitability.  DevOps is fed by the ITIL process.

Another customer is a large provider of Fantasy Sports.  This customer has 90% of its users sign in 2 hours before the start of the weekend games.  They use DevOps to automate building of the infrastructure as well.  The difference for them, if a particular high calibre player is injured during the week, their usage also swells unpredictably.  They use DevOps to scale when they see thresholds being met.  In both cases ITIL approvals are auto-set based upon CPU/Disk/Memory thresholds being monitoring by standard ITIL monitoring toolsets.  Lean was used to determine the fastest methods to spin up resources and fed the DevOps efforts.

DevOps can integrate into Business Approvals, and ITIL tools and Lean can be used to streamline and measure.  There is a reason ITIL is used in every large enterprise, SI and service provider it’s make sure everything is documented, profitable and efficient and that what is promised is delivered.

Guy Fawkes Mask

(Photo credit: Metal Chris)

Last night I celebrated bonfire night with friends.  Now for those of you unfamiliar with bonfire night in England it refers to Guy Fawkes‘s unsuccessful attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605.  See (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes) for more info.  This is a fairly diverse group of Englishmen and women, 2 Irish wives, 1 Scot, a woman of Indian descent among other nationalities and myself an American.  Everyone enjoyed the night, and the fireworks.

Flag of Scotland. Ratio 3:5. The blue used is ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the evening, one jolly fellow who had a little more to drink than he probably should began to poke at the differences.  To be clear, he was being silly but was asking some good questions.  He first took aim at the Scot, who has lived in England for 32 years, and is married to an Irish woman as well.  He asked, “what do you think about Scotland voting for Independence  next year?”  To which my Scottish friend replied he had his own opinions, but he was grateful for the hospitality he has received for the last 32 years he has spent in this country.  He continued to note that England has been the most welcoming place he has ever lived (including the USA, Scotland and a few African countries).   He did point out a general pompousness, but then again many Scots are arseholes.  His response was graceful and designed to defuse the conversation.

Belfast peace wall graffiti

(Photo credit: photographphil)

When the music shifted to traditional Irish music so the girls could dance a bit, that is when this same jolly fellow, shifted to making fun of the Irish and more specifically the Catholics.  Now granted, this national holiday is to commemorate the failed attempt of a group of Catholics to blow up Parliament and King James I to restore England to a Catholic nation…but still…  The discussion turned to the walled neighborhoods of Belfast (which I have never visited) and the continued unease in Northern England.  Two of the other men joined to note that recently they were in Belfast on business and still saw English armoured vehicles and tanks in the Belfast streets.  While there is a cease fire, the resentment and will to fight is still there.  The men concluded its “just the Irish” or the fact they are “Catholic” for the violence.  Obviously the Irish women took offence but also gracefully shook off the conversation.  I simply sat there and took in the conversation.

The Gadsden flag

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The conversation then took aim at me.  They pointedly asked me my thoughts about England vs. America.  I noted besides the fact I can’t get a decent steak, its a pretty great place to live.  Of course, they wouldn’t let it stay there.  I articulated that there are many differences, mostly that people in England tend to defer more to the government and seem to not want to make a decision, but instead allow higher ups to decide or further defer…while people in the USA tend to try to make the decisions at a much lower level.  In particular the responses “Its not possible I’m afraid,” and “I can’t help you, I’m afraid,” are way too common of responses in any customer service or government situation.  It is a designed circular process so no one makes the decision to help or say no…  They asked where I would prefer to live as well  My response was equally PC, “America is my home, but I would love to have a UK citizenship so I could pay a lower tax rate and not be double taxed.”  They laughed and moved on, but noted the reluctance to do anything and to defer is b/c if someone did the wrong thing in the past they were severely punished…see Guy Fawkes…so they tend to have been bred to just give in to the government.

EU NO

EU NO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was my turn to ask a question.  Do you want to leave the EU?  Remember the conversation started with the Scot’s referendum to leave the UK, which they joined in 1707 basically to help stem impending bankruptcy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_Union_1707).  Most thought Scotland leaving the United Kingdom was nuts b/c they couldn’t survive on their own.  When asked they all said the UK should cede from the EU, minimally  just from putting UK money into the EU coffers.  The vote is scheduled for 2017 (or possibly sooner).  They talked about not consenting to being ruled by Brussels, having to allow people in from the EU to take their jobs, and generally the fact they are a proud nation with the 6th largest economy.  Now, Scotland wants to leave b/c they are taking in so much money in fish, natural gas and oil and feel that they donate to the UK…the English tend to believe they send welfare money to Scotland…  Does anyone besides me, think Texas and North/South Carolina eerily similar here???

English: Flag of England and the Union Jack fl...

Flag of England and Union Jack(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At some point, I was asked if we celebrate Guy Fawkes in America.  I answered no, and in fact I really didn’t know anything about Guy Fawkes until I moved here.  Cheekily, I was asked if there was anything we shoot fireworks off for.  I said, just the Fourth of July and New Years.  Also cheekily, “so what is the Fourth of July about,” was asked.  My response, “We celebrate the Fourth b/c we don’t have your tanks in our streets and that we aren’t sending our tax dollars back to a smaller economy.”    The Scot, the Indian and the Irish all smiled while the English booed and hissed through their laughter.  In reality, the only ones who do not have a history of fighting for their independence is England…so I’d like to say welcome to the club.

Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad.

Freeeeedommmm(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one wants a remote government of people you didn’t elect ruling you.  Whether that be Scotland, Ireland, England, Texas, the Carolina’s or Afghanstan, Iraq, etc.  The closer the government is to the people, the easier you can sway and influence (maybe except here :) ).  It is good to have a conversation where all can agree/disagree yet continue to enjoy each other’s company, and its good to see we are all the same.  The upside of democracy is you can elect who you want but majority rules, the downside is identical.  The upside of a republic you don’t have protection of majority rule, the downside is you have little control who represents the whole.  Voting to succeed is happening everywhere….even the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and a few counties in Colorado are talking state succession.  The group found this amazing!

One last thought, while there was fighting in India, they eventually won their independence through peaceful disobedience.  I do enjoy the fact both Scotland and England are looking to votes, considering their histories, its nice to see they are taking notes from one of their former colonies as opposed to their own histories for resolving their disputes.  And in doing so, we could continue to enjoy more fireworks, music and cheer.

photoMy father grew up dirt poor.  The room he shared with his brother was not insulated, was simply lifted off the ground by blocks and did not have any heat.  They grew up with a cow in the front yard and an outhouse in the back.  As one of the youngest of 7 kids, he was not afforded glasses for his eyes, nor did he receive hearing aids for his ears.  This was life in Appalachian Clermont County.  They made due.photo(2)

His mother was a frail woman, and his father was abusive.  My dad told me of how his father regularly beat him and a select few of his siblings.  Once, he hit my father in the head with a cast iron skillet.  This was the moment where my father noted his eyesight was no longer right, and he could no longer hear properly.

Somehow my father managed to finish high school while never really being able to hear the teacher, or see the board.  The abuse and lack of being able to hear in loud settings made him socially awkward.  He managed to find a job at a Big Boy cooking, then he worked on the line at the Keebler plant, and finally for 33 years he worked as a Union machinist at Cincinnati Gear.  He even became the union representative for a few years within the local UAW chapter.   His proudest moment was when he became a Gear Master.  I can still remember him practicing his speech which he did humorously noting he didn’t have much to say, then unfurling a ream of old school computer paper.photo(1)

As a child I never fully understood how difficult it was for him to relate, or to comprehend what was going on.  He worked a lot of hours to get overtime (which I didn’t understand as a child) so I did resent the fact he didn’t toss ball with me.  He wasn’t athletic and by extension, neither was I.  I treated him poorly, mostly because I was ruthlessly bullied in school, and regret that to this day.  He was working his butt off for our family to provide, and I realize that now as a father myself.

The overtime is what allowed my parents to afford mine any my sister’s tuition at the local Catholic schools.  My father never made more than $12/hour and after the union went on strike, it dropped to $10/hour.  My mother had to babysit to help ends meet.  For the majority of my childhood, we only had one car.  They sacrificed for our education.  They always fought about money, and if they could continue to afford to send us to a private school.

One memory that stands out in my head is a bike ride my father took me on.  I probably wasn’t more than 8 or 9 years old.  We rode up to and around the local public high school.   It was summer break and the day before my mother had taken us to visit my dad at work and have lunch with him, we even got a tour of the factor.  As we rode our bikes I told my dad I wanted to work at Cincinnati Gear with him when I grew up.  He stopped the bike and told me, “I don’t ever want you to work in a factory!  My body aches when I get home, I have metal splinters in my hands and even in my eyes.  I want you to learn so you can work with your brain.  Give your children a better life than I could give you.  I want you to remember this.”  I promised I would remember, and we rode off.

He was once hospitalized for months.  I was too young to understand, and to this day I don’t remember what it was for.  We did have to take assistance for a time, but we were luckily didn’t have to go on welfare thanks to the kindness of relatives and our church.  Even if we needed welfare, we wouldn’t have been eligible at the time b/c we owned our home.  My father didn’t want a hand-out, and my mother increased the number of kids she watched to make ends meet.  When I was a freshman in high school we learned my father was going blind from glaucoma and he continued to work until the doctor no longer allowed him to drive.  This was devastating for him.  I still remember him waking in the middle of the night screaming for my mother to take the wheel, as the nightmares of what was to unfold came to him nightly.

While my friends parents bought them cars, paid for their insurance, bought them stereos and cool clothes; I worked.  I delivered papers, cut lawns and eventually worked cleaning dishes.  I bought my own TV, stereo, gaming system and my first car at 16.  When my friends were out partying on weekends, I was putting in double shifts at Kings Island amusement park.  I managed to hold down jobs while attending school, wrestling, and running track.  My mother was forced to shutter her babysitting business to take a low pay job at a grocery store running the register simply to have insurance.  I only was home to sleep and eat missing much of the agony my parents were going through.

My first year at the University of Cincinnati, I bussed tables at an Applebees, worked the register at a department store, worked at a telemarketing company and  managed a Little Caesers.  My good friend Dwayne told me he could recommend me at a Circuit City and I started there selling phones and computers.  That year, I made a little over $18k and my parents made $16k.  I somehow had become the breadwinner and I found out the University of Cincinnati and the tuition assistance program had no common sense.

When I applied for financial aid when still in high school, the University told me my parents made too much money.  The year before my dad was still working and my mother was babysitting, therefore I was ineligible for help.  That year I made more money than my parents, therefore I was ineligible for aid.  The hard work ethic I learned from my parents was actually hurting me.  Thanks!

While working the register my mother was appalled to see people perfectly capable of work coming in using their food stamps month after month.  They were buying leg of lamb and the expensive milk with those stamps, while we were eating store brand mac n’ cheese.  They came through with the expensive name brand prescriptions, while my dad had to wait for the generic drugs to become available before our insurance would pay.  These people didn’t pay for their homes, food, medical care, phones, anything.  Meanwhile, Social Security was not yet paying as they evaluated whether my father was disabled enough.  The social safety net we paid taxes into for years supposedly to help people like my family was ripped wide open to provide a hammock for others not willing to work.

I will never begrudge anyone who needs help.  People, who have worked their whole life and suddenly are laid off, downsized etc, need that social safety net.  People who are born with needs or become disabled need that net.  Why do we give a hammock to people who do not take advantage of the education we provide and try to work their way up?  Why do we subsidize the lazy to vote for the placating politician?

The union helped my family survive, and allowed my parents the ability to pay for our education.  Unions are needed for dangerous back breaking jobs, but not for while collar jobs where the threat of stubbing your finger on a keyboard is the only threat.  Government unions only feed the politicians and starve the funds for the safety net.

As we have seen from these two recent studies welfare pays more than work in many states, including 9 states which pay more than a teacher’s salary and 6 which pay more than a computer programmer:

http://www.cato.org/publications/white-paper/work-versus-welfare-trade

http://dailycaller.com/2013/08/20/study-welfare-pays-more-than-work-in-most-states/

We still say if my father didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all…yet his hard work is what kept us afloat without taking hand-outs longer than needed.  Blindness, hearing aids, diabetes and allergies to insulin, skin cancer, neuro issues, heart attack, hip replacement, getting run over by a car, all couldn’t stop him.  No excuses just do what you can and make due.

We need to acknowledge that people can, even with poor and abused backgrounds can make it in life if they put in the effort.  We also need to recognize that the untaxed nature of benefits and the taxation of work disincentives moving from the dole to work.  We should simply get rid of the income tax in favour of a FAIR TAX to help speed that process and continue to enforce work requirements as Clinton pursued.  Even through illness and adversity, people can succeed if they simply make due and try.

While the 2 party system and the media try to pit “the working class” against the “rich and business” Americans who work should be focused on those who choose not to work.  Again, the social safety net is needed, for those who ACTUALLY NEED IT and we should help them FIRST.

45455_426911218350_6662844_nAt this phase in life my parents are both retired, they have long ago paid off their house and while still in poor health are managing to enjoy life.  They are strivers and survivors!  They are people you should admire, look up to, and teach your children to be like.  I have parlayed my interest in computers into a great career; I am the beneficiary of my parents’ life lessons and work ethic.  From poor, abused Appalachian child to wonderful provider and father is an accomplishment.  All the while, with all the hardships and a few weeks of assistance, he accomplished what he wanted and I have accomplished what he asked.

davespiess:

Great Article by John Biggs

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

The Internet is broken. It is burning. Facebook and Twitter fiddle while it smokes and we, the sapped members of the Internet class, watch the flames and wonder what’s next. Say what you want about the politics of whistleblowing or the tendency of the exhausted sysadmins to finallygive up, now is the time to fix this before all we hold dear – the freedom that NSA snooping was ostensibly designed to protect – is gone.

Ignore this moment at your peril. To be clear, what the NSA is doing is far from technologically advanced. It is simple signals intelligence. It is grep writ large. However, the degree to which it has ensconced itself into the fabric of the Internet is breathtaking and the nonchalance and ignorance of the government officials involved is stunning. Now is the time for the nerds – and I mean this with all…

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Aqueduct of Segovia

When I was young I enjoyed reading about the Ancient Greeks and Romans.  I found the early democracies and republic fascinating.  The Greeks were great inventors of the Olympics, theatre, nautical and land warfare, mythology, etc.  The Romans were great engineers, nation builders, diplomats, etc.

One persistent notion always pervaded my thinking which I am revisiting as an adult.  The Romans didn’t necessarily invent much, but they did take what they discovered from conquered lands and they used it as their own.  They didn’t invent arches, the Etruscans did.  They took much of the mythology and stories of the Greeks and simply changed the names.  They didn’t discard what they found in their conquests; they embraced those discoveries and in many instances improved them.  Romans took roads, wine, concrete, aqueducts, theatre, gods, republic, Romans citizen legal rights, and distributed them throughout the known world by institutionalizing them and making them part of the process.  As their legions moved across the map, they built these modernizing concepts making the local people almost happy to become Roman.

When I was young it bothered me that the Romans didn’t invent most of these ideas.  Now, I understand you don’t need to invent to be disruptive.  You simply need to take good ideas, never be dismissive of them, incorporate them into your process, and when you can improve them as you expand.  This is a lesson we can all learn from in business and IT.

Downtown Cincinnati

English: The Clock Tower of the Palace of West...

One year ago today I moved from my comfortable life in Cincinnati, Ohio to a suburb of London called Reading, UK.  While I had no illusions that moving myself, my wife and 2 of our 3 kids to England would be easy I have been surprised to find what has been difficult.  There have been many lessons learned over the past year both from a professional and personal level.  I’d like to take a moment to write about some of the differences, challenges, and entertainingly fun things about England.

 

IT Business:

IT business is the same here as it is in the USA.  A geek is a geek worldwide and the Star Wars action figures on guys desk is a universal symbol of geekary.  In all seriousness, most businesses are trying to accomplish the same things: efficiency, growth, market dominance or niche, etc.  IT serves a function to help enable said business reach their goals regardless of location.

The main differences I see in Europe vs. America are based upon employment laws and local protection of data and business laws.  Employment laws differ state to state in the USA, but IT staff generally are considered specialists and therefore exempt (http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/fairpay/fs17g_salary.htm), and fairly easy to hire/fire.  In most countries in Europe once you hire someone, they can be with you until they retire.  Consequently, many mid-sized to enterprise sized customers in America have a much larger percentage of employees to contractors then do European companies.  In Europe most companies tend to buy IT services which have full management, versus having internal staff manage b/c of the cost of employment and lack of ability to downsize without paying out huge redundancy payments.  This difference in employment law tends to drive European customers into a Managed Service model rather than an Unmanaged gear or consumption model.  This benefits System Integrators, Outsourcers, and Managed Providers vs. the old guard of selling Tin.

Local protection laws and data regulatory laws also affect Europe.  American’s tend to think of the EU as a cohesive regulatory unit.  Well…that is not true.  France and Germany for example have very tight data protection laws (Safe Harbor) which do not allow lots of data to leave their border.  They also have laws which allow data to cross border but must stay in the EU.  Most companies are not exactly sure what data is what, so they take a very precautionary view on data and want to keep it close.  Some would use the PRISM controversy to also keep American businesses out (regardless if their countries are doing the same thing).  They also use these laws to prop up small local businesses competing in Cloud, Managed Services and System Integration.

European flag outside Barnet Council, London UK

Another set of issues are upcoming referendums in England, and Scotland.  England has an upcoming referendum to leave the EU.  Scotland has a referendum to leave the UK.  If I am a business in the UK and I have considered moving my data to Datacenters or Clouds outside of the UK, I may be looking to keep them here instead.  Scottish companies have the same decision.  Of course other European countries are outside of the EU (Switzerland, Sweden, among others).

Many companies tailor their marketing and products to regions and countries specifically.  An example would be Nestle.  I had the opportunity to see how many different ways they market NESQUIK globally and it was astounding.  IT tends to think of itself as a global product, but in many ways regionalization can help win market to market.

You will have to have a contract and a business entity in each country.  Each company will ask you for some standard exchange rate from dollars, to Euros, to Swiss Francs, etc (hopefully adoption of P2P currency should help eventually).  If you have team members in the USA, be prepared to scold them for not putting a +1 in front of their contact cards and not having a European dial in for conference calls.

Family life and adjusting:

Many expats send their kids to American or International schools.  Whether good or bad, we decided “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  So our kids are in English schools.  Besides the obvious differences in dialect and structure, we were surprised to find enrolment as a huge issue.  You cannot register for a school until you have an address.  Well, you cannot evaluate whether the local schools are good or not until you move.  This is completely backwards from the US where you tend to move where the good schools are and you get in…here you must hope you get in otherwise you drive your kid potentially far.  The secondary school our 17 year old attends is amazingly good, we are lucky he can bike there.

Religious schools are funded by the State, so your local Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or CoE school is essentially getting vouchers (they call it locally assisted).  So in this respect, England has school choice where most of the USA does not.  You don’t get taxed for schools your kids don’t use and still pay tuition.

There are tons of things to do with the family.  Loads of castles, historic sites, cultural things to see and do.  Buy an English Heritage pass, Royal Palace pass, and a Merlin pass.  The English Heritage pass gets you into Stonehenge and loads of other cool sites.  Royal Palace pass gets you into the Tower of London, Hampton court, etc.  The Merlin pass gets you onto the London Eye, London Dungeon, Legoland, Warwick Castle (awesome) among other attractions.  Spend a lot of time in London, it’s a cool city with loads of things to do and see and much of it is free including museums and parking on Sunday.

American’s have 1 year to take a driver’s test, but can drive with the wheel on the opposite side during that year with no training.  Canadians can simply turn in their license in exchange for a UK license.  Guess that is the benefit of not winning 2 wars against England…

Everyone belongs to a gym, plays some kind of sport, and/or are trying to be certified for some activity or sport.  They are very keen on Levels…  Learn to sail.  Sailing clubs are everywhere and cheap!  When the sun is shining (or its not raining), go outside as you don’t know how many days you have with sun.

My family is everything.  I always felt like we were close before the move, but there is nothing like adversity to bring you together as a unit.  My wife and kids have been wonderful, strong individuals and have shown tremendous personal growth.  I can’t thank them enough for going along with this crazy idea.

Everyday dealing with customer service:

There isn’t any!  You will quickly get used to hearing the saying “It’s not possible, I’m afraid,” and “No there is no manager.”  When you find good customer service here, you will essentially always go to that shop because it’s the exception.  Everything has a fee attached from changing your address at the post office, to changing addresses with insurance, to parking at the grocery store.

People are friendly and inquisitive into why in the world you moved to England.  They continually put down the weather even though it’s consistently moderate and fine.

Banking is possibly the worst run set of intuitions in England where no one wants to help you the minute you give them your money.   The credit system is not linked in any way to the US, so you will feel like it’s your first year of college again.  You have no credit, you have no age to your place of residence, and you have no history…therefore having your employers backing to get started is essential.

If you rent your house, the landlord has all the rights.  You will be screwed if they want you to move and your deposit will not be returned.  My previously landlord is an asshole and the management company lied to us and there is nothing we can do about it.  Thank you Davis Tate for screwing us out of £800 plus the expense of 2 moves.

Driving:

Wanted to hit this again as people frequently ask me how it was to switch sides of the road and sides of the car.

  1. I have driven a manual since I was 16, so this was a concern for me.  Well, luckily the brake, accelerator and clutch are all placed the same in the States.  The stick is easy to adjust to with your left hand.  This took really a good week to get adjusted to.  I am thankful my feet didn’t need to learn anything new.
  2. Driving on the left is really an adjustment that takes a good month.  You mentally have to think about it a lot, but eventually it becomes normal.  Although you will hit curbs for the first month b/c the site lines are different.
  3. The roads are typically 15 feet wide instead of 20 feet in the US.  The size of the road is a bit scary.
  4. Motorcyclists and cyclists pass you on both sides, and weave between the cars in between lanes.  If there is a wreck even if they ran into you…it’s your fault.
  5. I am sure roundabouts are the reason the British Empire no longer exists.  Once introduced everyone decided to get out (ha).  Supposedly they make traffic flow better but I think all they do is wear out your brakes, clutch and cause you to use more fuel by continually changing speeds.  They are even in the highways…odd.
  6. If you drive into Europe, it’s really odd to have a right hand drive vehicle on a right hand drive road.  Your blind spots are everywhere.
  7. Get ready to be taken advantage of by insurance companies.  I haven’t had a wreck since I was 19, but I am still considered a risky driver b/c now that I finally have a UK driver’s license…I start over.

Food:

As a Midwesterner, I am never surprised by the cost of living outside of the Midwest.  I had lived in New York on the late 90’s so I expected huge cost differences.  While the cost of beef and turkey are astronomical compared to Ohio, the cost of fish, vegetables, lamb and venison is actually less expensive.  I am not a prepared food eater, so I can’t comment on this.

Everyone talks about how bad the food is in England but we tend to find it’s very similar to food in the USA.  There are lots of good restaurants and the pub food is typically very good.

By the way fries are chips, crisps are chips, biscuits are cookies, cookies are cake, and tea is actually some form of meal.  Coffee is terrible as for some reason…instant is all that exists.

Beer/Wine

The beer in England is considerably better tasting (even luke warm), but the alcohol %age is much lower.  The wine is all from continental Europe and priced wonderfully.  California and South American wines are expensive…so pick one from Spain, France or Italy that would be $50 in the US, but £8 here.

Tips for you other brave fools:

  1. Assume your VISA will take a longer time than you expect to get through, especially if you have Step-Children.
  2. Negotiate that your company buys your car(s) and pays insurance.  Buying insurance and getting credit is a huge pain.  Most companies pay a car allowance, but if you can’t buy a car…
  3. Negotiate that your company buys your cell phones for the family.  Again, you don’t have credit.
  4. If you want to have your kids in International/American school, get this done by the company too.  They are expensive but easier to get into than dealing with the local authority, and the schools are a crap shoot.
  5. Take pictures (lots of them) of the property you are renting the day you move in.
  6. Pack light!  Do not bring all of your stuff, the residences here are small or choppy.  For some reason they like lots of rooms, vs an open floor plan, so nothing will fit.  That plush couch you love will need to stay at home.
  7. Your electronics will fail and regional controls make them useless.  Your DVD/TV etc will die and when you replace them your media is pretty much useless.  Digitize and watch that way.  PS3 games are fine, but Wii and XBOX are reginalized.
  8. Audit any electronics you bring for voltage, amps, and Hertz.  You will invest in lots of convertors.  You will be surprised by how many accept 120 or 240volts, just adapt the plugs.
  9. Buy a bike here, and start walking now.  Learn to take public transport.  Parking costs are everywhere.

 

Would I do it again, and do I want to go home

This is easy.  Yes, I’d do it again.  And I don’t get a choice; England kicks me out in 3 years if I don’t apply for a VISA extension and 5 years no matter what.  I perhaps would move farther away from work than I did and live in a smaller village.  I definitely wish I had known the area better and found a reputable rental/relocation company (Cartus was of no help at all).  All in all the experience is something that will benefit the entire family long-term.

We have made good friends here, and the number of other transient non-Englanders is astounding.  There are people from Ireland, India, Pakistan, Bulgaria, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, the Caribbean, Croatia, Germany, etc that live here and call it home.  America calls itself a melting pot, the London area is too.

Do I miss home?  Yes, I miss extended family, friends, and how much easier it was at home, but after a year it has started to feel like home.  Every day we miss our son back in the States and worry about him potentially entering the military but are proud of his decision.  At the end of the day, home is where my family is, and we have been here…in England exactly 1 year.