The Hourlings Podcast—Episode 3: Finding the Time

For this episode, I’m back, but our intrepid host Martin Wilsey was unable to attend so the Toastmaster extraordinaire David Keener to host us as we talk about how to find time between work, and home, and all the other things you have to do with life. Believe me, I barely even find the time to update this site, never mind write.

Another Finely Structured meeting, if I do say so myself.

I hope you find the time to watch it and keep writing. I hope to see you next week!

Jeffrey’s Jammin Birthday Bash

Join me to find out how I like my new job, the exciting plans I have for the upcoming year, and so I can give a personal thanks for your personal friendship!

Please note, the official start time is 20:00 because I want to make sure not to start it before I finish my first full day of work at the new job. If I finish sooner, I will open the room earlier. This is, after all, an exciting time for me. My first new job in 18 years, and the first of four steps on the route to make me a better man, and much, much happier!

This event is opened to everyone who claims to know me! All of my software colleagues, all of my fellow authors, fellow science readers, fellow Doctor Who fans, fellow cosplayers, fellow Electric Car drivers and enthusiasts, all of my Equal Rights Amendment sisters and brothers in arms, all of my National Popular Vote Interstate Compact supporters, all of my avid gaming friends, all of my friends abroad except those in Europe—have your kip, mates—all of my fellow Toastmasters, all of my fellow aviators, all of my fellow musicians, tous mes amis qui parle français oder Deutsch или по-русский o italiano, my acting friends and my friends who eschew meat!

The only thing I ask is you be respectful, kind, and know that I hope you all consider any friend of mine a potential friend of yours!

There is a password to this event. It’s not hard to guess if you know me but if you want to know, and you are reading this on from Twitter, message me, on Tumblr, message me, on LinkedIn, again, message me, or join me via the Facebook event. Or, just comment on this blog, with your email address, and I will mail it to you.

See you all next Wednesday!

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18 Years and thanks for all the Fleets

Today I tendered my official resignation with the Naval Research Laboratory. I worked at the Laboratory for 18 years, under three Presidents and many Congresses. In that time, I pushed for at work EV Charging in the FAST Act, I started the NRL EV Group (link accessible within NRL), I sang with Polly and the Saccharides (no link available), and I even gave some Toastmasters speeches (NRL Link).

I very much enjoyed my time there and really am sad to go but I have been having so many problems paying for #CO2Fre and its maintenance that I have no choice but to accept a new job in the private sector. My only other solace—besides finally getting to write code again—is that I can finally use a part of my McGill degree that I’ve not been able to exercise beyond writing fiction.

Thus, it’s not so much an end, but a new beginning. And who knows what the future may bring! After all, I would like to return to Federal Service on day and accrue at least two more years to get my FERS to 1.1%. The only thing for sure is I’m a lot less available as a coder now.

Tesla OS 2020.16.2.1

Finally!

TeslaFi had been spamming me with news about TeslaOS 2020.16 for a while and I’ve been itching to see what, after giving us the amazing stop at a stop sign in the last minor update.

Turns out, not much. I am mostly unimpressed by Tesla with this update, though nonetheless very appreciative. Autoformatting a DashCam drive—I wonder if it supports 2TB yet—and a better layout for Easter Eggs are, after all, improvements, even if the Easter Eggs aren’t really hidden gems anymore.

The coolest new feature, though, is the new SuperCharger filter, allowing the driver to only see Version 3 stations and filter out all the slower ones. I love the fact that I have free, lifetime SuperCharging, and one of these days, I’m gonna cross the continents with that perk.

Overall, I’m not disappointed despite being underwhelmed. And one rumor is that this, or a soon to be released version will add V2G to the Tesla. I can’t wait until that rolls out as the Tesla Battery Pack may make for a new, mobile Powerwall. Mind you, even if #CO2Fre could do V2G, my house isn’t equipped for it anyway. So, even if it doesn’t have V2G, it’s still a cool update!

Tesla OS 2020.16.2.1
Tesla OS 2020.16.2.1 adds a new toy box interface, a SuperCharger filter, and auto-formatting of DashCam media. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Gentle reader, if you have been keeping up with me since 11 February of this year, you know that I have been posting once a day since then. As such, today marks a hundred days of a hundred daily posting. Through that, I’ve shared with you exciting electric car news, updated to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, my struggles to get the Equal Rights Amendment to be our Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, written about my many works of fiction, and the many books of nonfiction I voraciously read to be a better scientist. I’ve shared with you my cosplay adventures, and my love of Doctor Who, my love of games, and a bit of my speaking in tongues as well as delivering speeches and singing to my heart’s content. I’ve talked about international travel and how I love to fly there in my own plane, discussed my acting and my dietary needs. And most of all I’ve told you I’m an excellent coder who is always keen for new work. Thanks for riding with me as we cruise upon the cloud to another one hundred posts!

The Green Card

A Timer Most Colourful

Today, I will be the official Timer for tonight’s Loudoun Toastmasters. Last time, I was on hold to do an Evaluation but the speech maker was ill so instead I was instead without a role. On the upside, it gave me time to consider using my Zoom background to enhance the effect of the Timer role. I was therefore anxious to try it out as soon as possible.

Originally, my dear friend Capt. Laura Savino was planning to be Timer, but, since SARS-CoV-2 she’s been busy hanging out with her wonderful boys as she’s hunkered down, sheltered in place. Hope to see her again after Covidapolis is over. But, in the mean time, for tonight, I’ll be stepping into her role.

The role of the timer is to time how long speeches are and to indicate when time is running out to the speaker. Each speech has a minimum time. When that time is hit, I indicate success with a green background.

The Green Card
The Yellow Card in Toastmasters means you’re met the minimum time requirement

Next, when a speaker is half-way through her or his allotted time, I flash the yellow background.

The Yellow Card
The Yellow Card in Toastmasters means you’re half-way through your allotted, acceptable time

Finally, when the speaker is out of time, I flash the red background. At this point, the speaker has thirty seconds to wrap up or be disqualified because his or her speech ran too long.

The Red Card
The Red Card in Toastmasters means you’re out of time

I time all speeches, which range from 5–7 minutes for a standard speech, 4–6 minutes for an Ice Breaker speech, 1–2 minutes for a Table Topic speech, and 2–3 minutes for Evaluations.

It all happens tonight. Stand up straight and deliver my friends!

I Am Irate

Google ate me email

From about 2020-03-23T14:30:00Z (10:30 am, Monday) to about 2020-03-23T23:30:00Z (7:30 pm, Monday), Google was redirecting all my email and either bouncing it or deleting it.

I Am Irate
Too angry for words!

Let me repeat, google deleted or bounced my email for Nine Hours, as a part of the setup of my setup for a paid Google Apps account. The setup for these accounts are a bit weird. They require you to create a new google entity with your own company URL. Fortunately, I have multiple domains I own and maintain, including this one, TimeHorse.com.

I probably should have used my writing group domain, RestonWriters.org. After all, the whole reason I wanted to get a paid Google account is because Meetup was moving to Online-Only meetings, following the outbreak of SARS-COV-2, and I needed a tool that allowed for video conferencing.

Skype was a non-starter. For one thing, it’s great for person-to-person communications, but for group chats, it has this annoying habit of muting everyone except the current speaker and you have to wait until that speaker stops to get a word in edgewise. My understanding is WhatsApp has the same problem.

Meetup actually suggested using Google Hangouts or Zoom. I happen to like Zoom. I use it for my regular NPVIC Grassroots strategy meetings and for Toastmasters and it’s always worked great. Zoom does support up to a hundred participants, both free and Pro. The only problem is, each of those Zoom sessions are either limited to the free forty-minute block or are using an up-to-24-hour Zoom Pro Account. Since most of my Meetups are at least an hour, breaking meeting up into forty-minute chunks would be tedious. And, at $14.99 a month, the professional account is well out of my price range.

Just before the first week of Virtual meetings began, my writing colleagues and I, including Elizabeth Hayes, who runs The Hourlings, tested both free Zoom and Google Hangout. Despite being limited to ten people, we decided on Google Hangout and I mapped it to our official Virtual Meeting URL.

Ten people worked fine for Reston Writers and for the Saturday Morning Review. The Saturday Morning Review actually worked out quite well because Meetup, despite suggesting we move to a virtual platform, still won’t let you delete the venue from your event and mark it as virtual, which, when editing events can cause some confusion. But when the Library cancelled all our events, I just deleted them all from the Meetup Calendar, and recreated them with no Venue and just announced them as occurring in Cyberspace.

Stay with me folks, I’m getting to the email…

As Sunday approached, I new ten participants wouldn’t be enough. Google Hangout would be fine for Bewie Bevy of Brainy Books and Saturday Morning Review, and likely The Science Book Club, as they all usually have fewer than ten participants for each meeting. The Hourlings, on the other hand, often had twelve, and sometimes as many as sixteen!

I new Zoom was $14.99 a month, but I read that Google App accounts could up the number of participants to twenty-five. Unfortunately my 2TB Google Drive account didn’t qualify. I had to get a Google Apps account.

And that’s where my troubles began.

At first, I could only sign up for the $12 per month account, even though I’d read it could be had for $6. Since the setup has a fortnight trial period, I didn’t worry about the financial discrepancy. I set up the account with my business email address for TimeHorse, LLC. I associated it with with that email, it connected to my Gandi Registrar, and my account was ready to go. I created a Google Hangout and assigned it to the Virtual Meeting URL, hoping it would allow twenty-five. The plan was to use it with the Hourlings to verify that fact.

It failed! We still could only get ten people into the meetup despite it being a paid account.

Unfortunately, since Monday I’ve been on Weather and Safety Leave from work because my Telework agreement was revoked, but that’s a story for another day as this post is long as it is! However, it did allow me to speak to Google and they suggested I try Google Meet. Meet was included with all Google App paid accounts, and it would allow for up to a hundred people and could be as long as I needed. Also, I could downgrade to the $6 per month account and I would still be able to use it. I thus downgraded.

We tried it with Reston Writers Review and it worked wonderfully. We had up to twelve connections simultaneously! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At around 10:30 am, that Monday, after chatting with Google, I was examining my Google Apps account more closely. It was telling me I had one last step I needed to complete: integrate me email with Gmail.

Stop
Stop, do not pass Go. You’re done!

That’s when my troubles began. You see, what this innocuous, turn-key step says it does is it says it sets up GMail for your company. What it actually does is obliterate all the MX Records (email routing information) of your DNS (Internet routing information) Zone File (routing configuration file) on Gandi and replace it with MX Records that point to Google. The setup wizard doesn’t actually tell you this and I’m totally oblivious.

At current writing, I have 188 forwarded email addresses set up on Gandi with their MX Servers. One of those is my business email, the one Google took over and is my Google Apps login. That’s the email google set up as the official email address used in GMail. Once the GMail setup goes through and I send an email from the GMail interface to my personal email address on the timehorse.com domain.

It never arrives. All day long, I watch my email and, strangely, nothing arrives after 10:30 in the morning. I refresh and refresh, and it’s still nothing. Where have all my emails gone?

It’s not until I’m setting up for Reston Writers that I decide to contact Google about this. I’m crazy-busy setting up the Google Meet, opening up the pieces we’d be reviewing on my computer, and, simultaneously, chatting with Google, trying to figure out why I’m not receiving any email.

Eventually, Google Tech Support starts talking about MX Records and a chill runs down my spine. As you probably gathered by now, I am well versed in DNS records and Zone File manipulation. I even have a Python script which updates my DNS A Record when the IP Address for this server changes.

With trepidation, I logged into my Gandi account and saw the damage. Google had modified my Zone file and added a bunch of strange new MX Records pointing to Google. They had nuked all my Gandi Email forward since they’d redirected all email traffic to google. As google only had one account registered on the domain, timehorse.com, namely my business email address, every other email address I possessed was either being deleted or bounced by google!

Fortunately, Gandi’s Email Forwarding page provides a warning when the Zone file doesn’t point to their email server, listing the correct MX Record settings to use Gandi as the mail hosting server. I quickly commented out the Google MX Records and pasted in the Gandi MX Records around 7:30 pm, in the middle of my Reston Writers meeting.

Needless to say, I was miffed that I could not give my full attention to my writers during our weekly writing gettogether. But it’s good I finally did figure out the disastrous actions committed by Google after only nine hours, and not a day or more.

I may never know what was contained in those nine hours of lost emails. I suppose there is one blessing, though. I get too much email already and still have dozens of unread messages I’m desperately trying to catch up on. One Covidapolis, novel-length email after another from every business under the sun. STFU companies, you’re all doing the same thing and I don’t like reading the same message again, and again, and again! You have a plan, that’s all I need to know!

Maybe Google was doing me a favor?

In the end, I was able to solve the problem because I got skills and I’m available for hire!

Listener in Cyberspace

Today we had our first Loudoun Toastmasters meeting in Zoom. And my good friend Leigh-Ann, or Toastmaster of the Evening, asked me to take on a new role, the official Listener. My job is to pay attention to each story and find an interesting fact about it, then pose it to one of our members without a role.

What kind of seed did Kevin pull from his back yard?

From the Garden of Gethsemane, Kevin delivered a charged speech about believing in oneself and growing to attain a higher power. Much like his Black Walnut seed, he wished give us inspiration to help us achieve more.

Black Walnut
These are black walnuts. You can find them on Amazon.

Who wrote the passage Jill shared with us?

Apsley Cherry-Garrard was an impressive Zoologist who wrote about all creatures great and small from the lowly diatom to the enormous Blue Whales which roam the antarctic seas. He wrote about all the animals he saw in both poetry and prose and was thrilled to be a part of Scott‘s expedition to the South Pole.

Apsley Cherry Garrard
Apsley Cherry-Garrard was a Zoologist who accompanied Captain Scott on his Antarctic Expedition and composed wonderful poetry based on his experiences.

What animal did Apsley Cherry-Garrard most want to see?

Garrard loved all animals but he was especially fond of Penguins. Although Adélie Penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula fascinated him, his real quarry was the 1 meter tall Emperor Penguin.

Emperor Penguins
Emperor Penguins are the coolest of Penguins. Nearly a meter in height as adults, the male birds are the ones who protect the eggs while the females spend the winter hunting for food. The adorable grey chicks with their grey, downy feathers, then spend most of their time with the mother as she feeds them and teaches them how to fish.

What are the two llama communication skills?

Don’t just expectorate, take the high ground, stand tall, and be the big llama on campus. And while spitting is something the 1918–1919 Flu taught us not to do, making yourself known by taking the higher road and not sinking to the your base instincts is a good form of management.

Spitting Llama
This is a Spitting Llama, trying to act tall and take the high ground, his main way of expressing his feelings. © 2020, Vice News

What did Ursula Burns suggest you do more of?

Ursula Burns was an amazing President of Xerox who learned early on that the it was best not to speech too much, and that sometimes you need to listen. Very sound advice indeed, as my role was indeed, to listen!

Ursula Burns
Ursula Burns was the former head of Xerox but found that she needed to talk less and listen more. This was what propelled her to the top.

Persuasive Influencer: Level 1: Evaluation

Today I evaluated an absolutely wonderful fellow Toastmaster. Rick Halstead is no novice to Toastmasters, but today was his Ice Breaker. That’s because anyone in ToastMasters these days is now using the Pathways system to progress through their journey and Rick, though an old hand and excellent Toastmaster, had yet to start his Pathways journey. I was very honored to be his evaluator when he took this first step in a new direction.

I took an Uber to the meeting as I had leftover credits from Tesla and #CO2Fre needed an update, but I’ll write more about that tomorrow. It was close, but I arrived just on time. I was able to convey Rick’s wishes to make sure he didn’t embellish too much and advised him afterwards how you could use a little more embellishment to his advantage, including a summersault. But overall, Rick was very hard to evaluate as there was so little fault with his to all intents and purposes perfect speech. Spend most of my time in fact rattling off all the things he did right like dynamics and gestures and our shared love for New Zealand.

My friends Laura and Leigh-Ann were both stiff competition as wonderful evaluators today and I felt sure one of them would get the ribbon for best evaluation. But to my surprise…

Best Evaluator, March 2020
For the 5 March Meeting of Loudoun Toastmasters, I delivered an award-winning evaluation for my friend Rick Halstead. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

…it was in fact me! Wow! Thank you Loudoun Toastmasters!

Talk to you again in a fortnight my fellow orators!

Who is the TimeHorse

I joined Toastmasters last year to both practice my public speaking and to lear to be a better performer when acting. I enjoyed answering Table Topics and being challenged to come up with a spontaneous speech—at least when I knew what the topic was—but when it came to my own Ice Breaker speech, I kept putting it off.

The thing is, I don’t like talking about myself. I love writing fiction and talking about Science but when it comes to my personal life, I get embarrassed and ashamed. Much of my personal story is really not for public consumption and is rather confounded with emotional difficulty and lack of self-worth. I do hope through Toastmasters, to overcome that, just as I have found Cosplay to help with my self-image, but that journey isn’t the subject of this post.

Instead, I want to talk about my Ice Breaker.

I decided to cover my digital self. As you can see from the side menu in the upper-right corner of my site, I have a lot of social networks accounts! Indeed, the currently 26 or so I have listed there are only a fraction of the dozen or so twitter accounts I have, the half-dozen Facebook pages I run, the three instagram accounts I control, the dozens of meetups I’m in with my two accounts, one professional, one personal. Or even the fact that I have a separate blog for Reston Writers and one for the Affordable Electric Car NOW!

The long and short of it is, I wanted to talk all about these accounts, right back to the Original George Harrison and Tomorrow People home page and MINITEL in France and 1200 Baud Modems. I wanted to covey my diverse interests in so many subjects, and I planned a 6–7 minute speech to do it.

Of course, seasoned ToastMasters will know that your Ice Breaker is actually 4–6 minutes, not 5–7, so my speech ran long. And I did tend to lose my place as I spoke, having had no time to memorize it word for word. Nonetheless, I did my best and delivered my speech and got some great advice from my friends and colleagues at the Loudoun ToastMasters, club 5154. My mentor Jonathan gave me some amazing and helpful advice and I am so thankful to all of my fellow Toastmasters!

What do you have to say?