Category Archives: Off-Topic

My Coffee Journey

Chemex urn (source: Wikipedia)

My earliest memories of coffee are of my parents using their large Chemex coffee urn to brew coffee in “pour over” style.  I think they brewed 3-4 cups, and kept the coffee warm on their electric cooktop with a star-shaped wire thingy that kept the borosilicate glass from directly contacting the electric burners. In those days, I had little interest in coffee: I didn’t care for the smell, and it seemed to be one of those things adults liked that children did not.

Fast-forward to the early 1990s. I was in a new job at World Vision, helping them move their computer programs from old mainframe computers to new ones. They put a bunch of us in a class on network technology fundamentals. I had already mastered this knowledge but wanted to attend to know what my colleagues were being taught. I was hired as a technology mentor, familiar with the kinds of computers new to the organization.

The class was painfully dull, and I was literally head-bobbing. I recalled a coffee maker in the back of the room, and I thought that perhaps this magic potion would help me stay awake.

By my current standards, the coffee was terrible, but it did have the intended effect.

Later that year, I met a friend who liked to patronize Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a coffee shop chain in malls and airports. I found their mocha java coffee delightful with a healthy (?) dose of cream. My coffee senses were awakened.

For the next few years, I was drinking coffee at home with a lot of cream (or you might way, I was drinking cream with a bit of coffee).  But as I came to love the taste of coffee, I gradually reduced the cream dose and switched to half-and-half, which I use to this day.

In the mid-1990s, I moved to Seattle and discovered Starbucks Coffee. I gravitated to their Café Mocha, and drank them daily for years.  My standard order became “double tall 175 degree non-fat mocha with whip,” which rolled off my tongue as easily as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But that was not the end.

My work situation changed, and my daily Starbucks mocha became my weekly Starbucks mocha. At the same time, I began to buy Starbucks Italian Roast coffee for brewing at home. This, too, would last for many years.

A few years ago, I decided to venture forth and try other brands of drip coffee. On a particular business trip, I was traveling through the Silicon Valley with a couple of colleagues one afternoon, when one of my colleagues asked, “who wants coffee?”  We stopped at a small Philz Coffee stand, where I ordered a cup of Ether blend coffee.  Philz is a pour-over coffeehouse, no espresso. And Philz makes the complete cup: if you want cream or sugar, they add it as they make it. Imagine my mild embarrassment when I ordered my coffee “with a little room,” to which they replied that they add all the fixings.

This cup of coffee was the best tasting coffee I had ever had in my life. Believing it to be the coffee itself, I bought two pounds on the spot and took them home. And indeed, this was delicious coffee, but it was not as good at home. Then I recalled that the brew method at Philz may have played a part. Remembering my parents’ Chemex coffee, I purchased a 3-cup Chemex coffee maker and soon mastered the art of pour-over.

I switched back to Starbucks Italian Roast for a while, but soon tried other brands, including Black Rifle Coffee, Peet’s, and others.

About two years ago, I was on a business trip to Marina Del Rey and was having breakfast on the restaurant patio. The server asked if I’d like some coffee. Again, this coffee was wonderful, among the best that I had ever tasted. I asked the server what kind it was; he wasn’t sure and went back to check. He brought back a large bag of Lavazza Intenso – a rich, dark blend that induced Handel’s Halleluiah Chorus in my brain with each sip. I sourced this myself, and a pound of Lavazza Intenso was waiting for me when I arrived home two days later. This is my daily coffee to this day.

I generally have two cups of Lavazza in the morning, and a cup of coffee in the afternoon. My afternoon coffee is locally produced, Blue Star Espresso Roast. This blend has some high notes absent from Lavazza and is a welcome afternoon flavor.  I make Blue Star with my Chemex using the standard method used for my morning coffee.

On business travel, I sometimes patronize Starbucks. But my sweet tooth has waned, and I rarely order a mocha. Instead, my choice is a cup of dark roast drip, to which I add a dash of half-and-half. Today, I patronize Starbucks less than one visit per month: I work from home full time and do not frequently travel, and the nearest Starbucks is 25 miles from my house.

Thankfulness is a choice

Thankfulness is a choice, and it is about perspective.

If you are not thankful, then perhaps you are not seeing the complete picture of your life.

Are you bitter about a job with pressure, deadlines, and quotas, or are you thankful that you have a job?  Are you bitter about family relationships, or are you thankful that you have a family? Are you bitter about your living situation, or are you thankful that you have a roof over your head? Are you bitter about your health, or are you thankful that you are alive another day?

Thankfulness, like gratitude, is a choice. Thankfulness should come through any circumstance, not just when things go your way.

Do you notice that one or more of your co-workers always seem to have a good attitude? I doubt it is because their life is perfect and everything for them is going great. Instead, I propose that they have simply decided to be thankful, regardless of their circumstances.

An old saying comes to mind as I write this: “I cried when I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

Disruption of branch banking is of their own making

An experience late last week was an epiphany for me.

While managing the financial affairs of a relative, I needed to get a one-page document notarized. I live in a small town, where there are only two or three local bank branches.

One of the branches is K** Bank. On their website, K** Bank makes available the capability of making an appointment at a nearby branch. I filled in the appointment form, including the specific nature of the visit. Another relative who was visiting a few weeks ago got a document notarized there, so I knew that this branch of K** Bank had a notary.

I showed up, was greeted by branch staff, and invited to have a seat while someone came to assist me. Soon, another branch employee came over and said she was ready. I presented my document and my photo ID. The employee asked for my K** Bank account number, and I replied that I was not a customer. She replied that Key Bank only notarizes documents for customers. When I asked whether K** Bank would notarize my one-page document for a fee, the answer was, no, sorry. The branch was not busy: there were six employees in the branch, and I saw one or two customers come and go in the ten minutes that I was there.

I left and drove two blocks to the town’s professional building, where a lawyer, an accountant, a marriage counselor, and a financial advisor have small offices. I poked my head into the CPA’s office and asked, do you know of a notary here in town? The CPA got up, greeted me, and took me across the hall to the financial advisor’s office, where she introduced me to an independent financial advisor. He gladly took a couple of minutes to notarize my document. He refused to accept a fee. Since he was conversational and polite, I asked him about his business, asked for some business cards, and may have some business to refer to him.

Branch banking is going the way of the bookstore. Key Bank had an excellent opportunity to take a few minutes to meet a new potential customer by showing a bit of goodwill. Instead, they turned me away, and frankly, I will probably never set foot in that branch again.

Where Are You Going?

While hiking in the hills near our mountain cabin one day, I realized that I was looking down at each step. The terrain was unlevel, full of brush, rocks, critter holes, and other obstacles. In a moment of realization, I stopped and looked out in front of me. I realized that, for several minutes, I was not looking at where my walking was taking me.

Our jobs and our careers are like a hike on uneven ground. We make small and large decisions, interact with people, often only in the moment, without pausing to look up to see where these daily activities are taking our careers. When working only in the moment, we are surrendering control of our careers to others and to chance, rather than taking the reins and going where we want.

Like walking or hiking, it’s essential to make good in the moment decisions, but we must occasionally stop to see where our steps are taking us, and change direction when needed.

Also, remember to stop and enjoy the view.

DSL Hell

I am a CenturyLink DSL customer in Seattle, WA. CenturyLink advertises 1 Gig Internet, but in our neighborhood, 10MB is all that is available.  Countless inquiries to customer support and tech support have not identified a soul who knows if or when faster DSL is coming to my neighborhood.

Often, the DSL is so bad that simple tasks such as loading web pages often times out. Speed tests typically show < 1MB of download speed. Here is a typical test from earlier today.speednot

CenturyLink techs have been out to the house numerous times. I’ve tried several different modems. I’ve bypassed my internal wiring altogether. Nothing they have done has made any difference.

I am a work from home (WFH) security consultant. However, on bad days, WFH is more like “wait from home”. Some days it seems like a miracle if my VPN connection stays up for more than an hour.

Here in Seattle, my only choices are CenturyLink for DSL and Comcast. CenturyLink has had two years to get the DSL service working right. Comcast, you’re next. My neighbors all say their Comcast Internet rocks and is really fast. Let’s hope so.

Reno, Nevada

I am visiting Reno, Nevada after quite a long absence. I’m here to speak at a professional event on the topic of human factors and data security (in other words, why we continue to build unsecure systems).

My IT career started here in Reno, with on-campus jobs in computing (operations and software development), and later in local government, banking, and casino gaming. Each job built on the last, and I gained positions with greater responsibility, creativity, and rewards of various sorts.

ImageI buried my young son in Reno – it seems like many lifetimes ago. He was my first stop. Time is a great healer – you’ll have to trust me on this one, if you have recently suffered a big loss.

I looked up a couple of long-time friends, but waited until the last minute. They’re probably busy with their own lives today.

Done with my coffee stop and time to check in to my hotel. My talk is tonight, and then I’m back on the road tomorrow with other stops in the Pacific Northwest.

The end of an era of East Side living / working

I relocated to the Seattle area in mid 1993 and took a job in Kirkland. From 1993 until 2013, I have worked for three different organizations and reported to work in Kirkland, Redmond, and Bellevue. These are three cities in the area known to locals as “the East Side” – meaning the East side of Lake Washington, which separates Seattle from these other communities.  For about ten years, I lived on the East Side as well. Today I live in Seattle.

Starting today, I am neither living nor working on the East Side, but living and working in Seattle. My daily sojourns to the fair city of Redmond are over and likely to never recur. The prospects of my returning to Redmond, even for a visit, are slim. Even towering Bellevue will see me perhaps twice each year.

I’m back, after a year off

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After teaching the UW Information Systems Security certification course for two years, completing CISSP For Dummies (3rd edition), CISA All-In-One Exam Guide and CISSP Guide to Security Essentials, I was burned out and needed a year off. I didn’t do any public speaking either, which means interrupting an eight year run speaking for SecureWorld Expo in Seattle and other cities. But, I needed time for my family and for me.

Earlier this year we purchased an RV and spent about 40 nights in it all over Washington State, including American River, Whidbey Island, Vasa Resort, Ames Lake, Alder Lake, Riffe Lake, and Kitsap Memorial State Park. We spent much of this time with good friends whose company we enjoy very much.

My wife and I went on several motorcycle rides, although none were overnight trips as I had hoped. Still, we were blessed with great weather and safe riding.

One one particularly nice weekend day, I took a very early morning ride up Mt. Rainier, arriving at Paradise Lodge at around 8am. There was practically no traffic on the way up the mountain – the entire two lane highway was mine.

After writing twenty-two books in ten years, my list of honey-do’s around the house was growing, and I got a lot of things done in this department.

We have also become parents – of four lovely society finches that are the offspring of a mating pair we purchased last year. We also have zebra finches, parakeets, quail, and an african weaver. None of these others have had chicks yet, but we’re still hopeful.

We also had an exchange student from the Czech Republic stay in our home for a year. She arrived in mid August 2009 and returned home in July 2010. This was a great experience for everyone. She was a member of our family and she participated in everything we all do together.

Today I completed the draft manuscript for a book on security technology that will be published in December or January. This was a short project that took just a few weeks.  Today I met with my literary agent to plan the next five years of my writing. My business manager and I are both quite excited about the next few years.

While I took the year off of bookwriting, I was still involved in some other things. I’m a member of the Cloud Security Alliance and contributed to its Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing V2.1, and am a member of the Cloud Security Alliance Certification Board. I also earned the CRISC (Certified in Risk, Information Security, and Control), a new certification offered by ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), which I’ve been a member of since 2002.

Time Magazine – Google Earth mystery solved

Time Magazine Google Earth mystery photo

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Time Magazine recently ran a “Top Ten Everything” series of articles. One of the series is entitled “Top Ten Finds on Google Earth“.

Finding number three is an interesting array of geometric shapes within a rectangular area on the ground, shown here.

Time Magazine reports that this was found on a military base in England. Military officials called it a motorcycle range and is apparently not saying any more about it.

I immediately recognized the pattern.

It is the standard template used by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for its rider training drills.  Various parts of the painted patterns are used to guide riders through different maneuvers that simulate different situations while riding on roads and highways.

The course shown in the Time Magazine article is the same layout as the course I took at Cheney Stadium’s parking lot a year ago, and also the same as the course used at the Church of the Nations in Tacoma. “On the ground” photos of an MSF training course with the same layout can be seen below.

(off-topic) LinkedIn Miata group

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Announcing the creation of a worldwide Miata enthusiasts LinkedIn group.  Click here to join:

The LinkedIn group is just that: no discussion, no e-mails, nothing else.  Just a “merit badge” on your LinkedIn profile to show that you are a proud Miata owner.

My Miata: 1991, silverstone, 1.6L, hard top, 65,000 original miles (in 2008), Clifford alarm, Pioneer CD, otherwise all original.

Our 91 Miata, Mt. Rainier in background, day after we bought the car

Our 91 Miata, Mt. Rainier in background, day after we bought the car, 5 miles from home

I say “off topic” because I usually write about data and business security and rarely talk about my personal life. Today I just can’t help myself.  🙂

One thought more than any other keeps me awake at nights… how much longer do I have?  We each owe a death; there are no exceptions.  But, O God, sometimes, the Green Mile seems so long.

The Green Mile

Books that I did not write

Searches on and other online book retailers show other books by “Peter Gregory” – but I did not write these.

Japanese MaplesJapanese Maples

Timber Press Pocket Guide to Japanese Maples

Transitions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism

Religion and Society in T’Ang and Sung China

Buddhism in the Sung

Plant Roots: Growth, Function and Interactions with the Soil

Inquiry into the Origin of HumanityInquiry Into the Origin of Humanity: An Annotated Translation of Tsung-Mi’s Yuan Jen Lun with a Modern Commentary

The Allman Brothers (Classic Rock Legends)

Court Reporting in Australia

Fall to Glory: Theological Reflections on Milton’s Epics

Industrial Wages in Chile

Let’s Look at Trucks

Noah and the Tubes

Soils in the Urban Environment

Heroism still favored because it doesn’t require a budget

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How many times have you heard this: a company doesn’t have the budget to make much-needed improvements to IT systems, but the company will allow people to work long hours fixing outdated or ineffective IT systems.

Remember, you gotta count man-hours as part of the TCO for IT systems. Man hours are not free.

Companies that spend time and effort to identify heroes are missing the boat. Instead of rewarding heroes, companies should be rewarding people who make processes and systems more efficient and effective.

Disclaimer: no I’m not ranting about my employer, whoever that is. I heard comments at a lunchtime event that made this clear to me in a new way.

Update on Mt Rainier’s Carbon River Road

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The Carbon River Road at Mt. Rainier National Park suffered severe damage in November 2006 as a result of torrential rainfall and high winds. What follows is an update, directly from the National Park Service, on the status of the road repairs.

“The repair work that was recently accomplished was actually very limited stabilization work to hopefully be able to protect some portions of the road corridor that were not damaged during the November flooding ……… and to hopefully lessen future flood damage in some areas that were damaged. Due to Threatened and Endangered Species issues and the immense damage that occurred, we have very limited access to stabilize all the damaged sites.

The park carpenters are disassembling the historic Ipsut cabin, which will be protected and stored at Tahoma Woods until which time
we can identify an appropriate relocation site. We are clear that the current site is not sustainable, given that the complete Isput area is
located in the main deposition zone of the Carbon River (ie. just downstream of the Carbon River canyon where the river bed opens to
wider/flatter floodplain and deposits a significant amount of bedload)! Consequently, upstream of Isput, the Carbon River actively braids across the floodplain and severs the Isput Creek campground, as well as damages trails upstream of Isput and the roadway downstream!

This is a very dynamic area and a huge challenge to address its future! We will be developing a range of alternatives that will address this situation this winter and be requesting public input.”

Gloria Strauss

Gloria Strauss

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Gloria Strauss’ life touched many, including mine.  It broke my heart to see an innocent child, especially one who was so concerned for others, suffer as she did.  Her family’s unwavering faith is also an example that we should all follow.

Seattle Times photo gallery

Gloria Strauss

Hollywood Squares revisited

I loved the old Hollywood Squares game show and watched it often in the 60s and 70s. Peter Marshall hosted it in those days.

The questions posed to the stars were not scripted as they are now. Here are some examples:

Q. Do female frogs croak?
A. Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q. If you’re going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be?
A. Charley Weaver (aka Clifford Arquette): Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q. True or False, a pea can last as long as 5,000 years.
A. George Gobel: Boy, it sure seems that way sometimes.

Q. You’ve been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
A. Don Knotts: That’s what’s been keeping me awake.

Q. Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?
A. Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.

Q. In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to say “I Love You”?
A. Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a twenty.

Q. Paul, why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?
A. Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q. Charley, you’ve just decided to grow strawberries. Are you going to get any during the first year?
A. Charley Weaver: Of course not, I’m too busy growing strawberries.

Q. It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics, what is the other?
A. Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Q. Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?
A. Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A. Paul Lynde: Make him bark?

Q. According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?
A. Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army.

Q. Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?
A. George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.

Q. Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?
A. Charley Weaver: His feet.

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed?
A. Paul Lynde: Point and laugh.

“There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.”

~ Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe

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the 10,000 year clock

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Imagine a clock that ticks every 30 seconds and chimes once per millenium. A clock that will last 10,000 years.

The prototype of such a clock has been built. It is housed in the Science Museum in London in the Making of the Modern World exhibit.

10,000 year clock prototypeThe real clock will be much larger, large enough to walk through. It will be powered by the energy produced by the footfall of visitors and changes in ambient temperature, and it will self-correct via the sun passing overhead at noon.

The 10,000 year clock was developed in 01996 by The Long Now Foundation.

Free speech a misnomer

Experiences and readings, in particular this lucid posting from Stanford Law School, have made me re-think free speech. By this I mean the constitutional right outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

And I’m not talking about speech that is damaging in any way, but the simple voicing of one’s opinions and points of view.

Yes, you can stand on a street corner and say just about anything you like (with certain exceptions). And you can publish books that say just about anything you like, as long as you own the printing press. Getting someone else to publish your ideas is, well, an exercise in free-market economics (in other words, a publisher will publish your work to the extent that they feel they can make a profit).

In today’s marketplace of ideas, in most cases the publishers (those who take your words and convey them to readers, by whatever means, whether broadcast radio, newsprint, or blogs) are private organizations, not the government. Those private organizations have a right to censor one’s material, based upon whatever criteria they choose – and they are not accountable to anyone for those criteria. Again, the organization that publishes peoples’ ideas probably has a service motive or a profit motive, which means their rules for censoring had better be ‘acceptable’ or else they will lose readers and, hence, profits (or goals).

There is much more to say on this topic.

blog acknowledgments

WordPress – for building a fantastic blogging platform

Akismet – for filtering out the comment and trackback spam

Electronic Frontier Foundation – for helping define first amendment rights in the context of blogging