Monday, November 28, 2016
Someone asked me what it was like to be diagnosed as terminal and told that only months separated me from The Thin, Dark Veil. So this is what was on my mind and I want to share it with you. Maybe it helps someone else facing the same thing. Maybe.
Let me tell you what being diagnosed with terminal cancer taught me. it's deceptively simple.
There is not an asset or physical object in the universe that is more valuable than time. You cannot purchase it. You cannot steal it. You cannot manufacture it.
When you can see the finish line rushing to meet you...There's nothing you can do to stop it. That boring conversation with my baby brother that seemed to go on forever?
Let me have those moments again and let me really hear him instead of contriving a way to get away. His death strikes the very center of my being and at times, I anguish over the things that should have been. Let me put my hand upon his shoulder and meet his gaze. Let him know that I am listening. Let me laugh with him at his terrible jokes. Let me put my arm around him and pull him close when he tells me that he just lost his job. Let me weep with him. Tears are powerful if they join and flow with others. Together they form resolve. This is what I considered to be important, seconds after being told I had 8 months to live.
My failings came in a rush. Things that I had an opportunity to do but chose not to...things I did do that hurt others terribly, deeply....things that I cannot believe The Universe could forgive, or would. It was those things that battered my psyche almost to the point of screaming out in agony. So many things...
So. Many. Things.
Just one more hour to finish my childhood scrapbook I was working on to give my daughters. Just 15 more minutes to help my wife find her glasses. Just 10 more minutes to give my friend a ride after I made the excuse that I was "too busy". Just 9 more seconds to backtrack and duck my head back into the kitchen and say "I love you too honey", as I made my way to work.
I wish I had lowered my fat backside down and sat on the floor to spend more time with my best friend.
I want time to be with him on his level. To let him know how much I love him. He was painfully bonded to me and even me going on a trip to the store sent him into anxiety and then depression. Diane said he would go to his bed and pout. But then, he's at the door to greet me, his hearing is tuned to the sound of my car door closing. For the next 45 seconds he is a puppy again. He crouches with his hind end up in the air, as if ready to pounce. He loses his little mind as I come through the door. I kneel to hold his head and massage his ears. And I kiss his cold, wet nose. I needed to hold him and love him more. He was an old sick guy like me and he had a bad heart. He wasn't with me near as long as I needed him to be. It was my duty to do these things and I wish I had done it more. When you can see the end taking dead aim at you, it becomes clear that you get none of this back.
Not one hour...
Not one minute...
Through my despair I was reminded that it's never too late to search for and regain hope. Being diagnosed as "terminal" by one doctor prompted a 70/30 survival prognosis by another. The brutal treatment regimen I chose saved me but made me horribly ill for months. It forced me to question my choice for this particular treatment and I thought of quitting. It reduced me to a pile of skin and bone...a lump of nausea, fear and disconsolation within my sweat-stained bed sheets. It took me just over 19 months to struggle up the sidewalk and turn the key in the Reglue shop door.
But through it all, here I am.
Here I am, telling you what is important. Not to me precisely, but to you...to a generation of kids who will go through the most important years of school without a computer. Or a Mom. Or a place (s)he can lay their heads without fear of dying by a stray bullet of a drive-by shooting. Here I am, telling you that the life which promised a coughing, gasping, bulging-eyed choking end, was revived by hope. By people who care enough to look past your bank account. By those who told me that hope would keep me alive, if I allowed it do do so.
Make no mistake here. Not many people with late stage cancer survive this level of treatment. And if they do opt for it, most often they quit 30% through the regimen. It can and often does cause cancer in the same parts of your body a scant few years later. It comes back, enraged that you chose to stand up to it then. Doubling its efforts to wipe you from the living face of the earth. But it kills the cancer for Now.
So it's Now, in which I live. It's Now that I share this with you.
Take stock of all around you allow yourself to see things through my eyes, or the clear, bright eyes of any cancer survivor. Then and only then may you think about the unknown time ahead of you. Use it wisely and to the love and understanding of others. Because you'll never get that opportunity again.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 4:56 PM
The past 19 months have been brutal for us, equipment-wise. Between 2 floods-of-the-century less than a year apart, and an unprecedented demand for computers, our inventory has dipped lower than it has ever been. For the first time in our history, we are out of machines while 17 Taylor Texas kids are still in need of computers. Diane and I dug into our savings and donated Reglue 2K in order to get on track, but the more kids we helped, the more requests came in. We are both living on extremely limited incomes. We cannot do that again.
And it wasn't anywhere near the holiday season when this happened. But it is now and all we have is a handful of woefully under-powered computers left in our make-ready shelves. Unfortunately, about half of those just are not up to the demands of today's high school students. And while many will suggest that we simply use a lighter distro, that's not going to help. Sure I can make a computer work, but in cases like this, even a light distro cannot make it useful. You can go as "light" as you want but when you find the need to use LibreOffice or The Gimp, all of those miserly intentions crash around your feet.
So here's the deal. We're asking for those computers that are sitting in your closets and under your company's tech support benches. Ideally, we are asking for machines that are six years old, maybe seven. It's not only computers we need. The last flood completely filled a plastic bin with 2 dozen laptops that were ready to go. Your hard drives, speakers, mice and keyboards can be put to work immediately...
If not sooner.
And while it seems that we were taking right hooks to the side of the head, both left and right; we recently received a donation of 49 extremely useable flat screen monitors, of the 17, 19 and 21 inch variety. We're good on monitors, for now anyway. And that donation came from one of you. Holy frickin' cow. I'm afraid to ask what the shipping costs were. They came in via the back of a Yellow Freight truck on pallets, so it was probably less than the everyday carriers, but not by much.
Should you have any of the things we need, we will try to scrape up the money to help you with shipping. We'll do our best to offset those costs the best we can. If you are in Travis or Williamson county, I can arrange to come to you. I'll buy us lunch while we're at it.
We want to get this campaign underway before we start the main fund raiser. This way, we'll know a bit more about how we are going to address the 17 student's needs from a hardware point of view.
The greater Linux community has been the driving force behind our efforts. From our beginning, you people are directly responsible for over 1600 computers being placed into the homes of kids that needed our help the most, and we never forget the people who help us.
You can contact me personally ken at reglue dott orggg or go to reglue.org and click the "contact us" button. That will go to my or Pete's inbox. As I try to do as often as I can, I want to personally thank you for helping us do what we do. We could have never done it without you.
All Righty Then...
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 2:40 AM
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Diane works with color sets. The one pictured here is a red and gold color set. But just because it's the same color set, doesn't mean it will be identical to other red and gold color sets made later on. She's pretty fussy about the materials she uses and flammable stuff won't make the cut with her wreaths. When possible, she uses only made in the USA materials, although that is getting harder to do these days. She does blue and silver, turquoise and silver, red and silver, and gold and silver. If the colors are available, she will do special orders.
She ducked her head in the office a while ago and asked me when the fund raiser would begin. I've put it off due to medical reasons but it should be ready to publish in the next couple of days. She wants to extend her talents in helping Reglue raise a bit of money with her work. Now that's a good idea, but she will only be making 6 of them this year and they will all go to the Reglue cause.
Folks, we've had a harsh couple of years and we're going to need a lot of help in getting operating funds for the next year. Diane has been generous with her offer and I agree, six of them should be all she does. Her arthritic hands won't let her do more than that.
So the bottom line? 75.00 packaged and shipped. And yeah, you can probably buy holiday wreaths a lot cheaper elsewhere, but you know the person, at least by proxy; that made your wreath and you are guaranteed there will never be another one like it. This is a donation item but paypal can get crappy about items selling as donations. You'll probably be better off by marking it a donation item and that will keep us all out of trouble.
It don't take much for Paypal to pull the rug out from under you. They are truly evil incarnate, but their the only real game in town, so there's that. Ken@reglue.org is our paypal address. For those who rather deal with check or money order, let me know and I'll send you the shipping address.
We didn't use these as holiday perks on Indiegogo because we rather work with you folks face to face, as it were. You have made Reglue a known entity in the Linux World and without you, there would be no "Us".
Regardless of your religious or political beliefs, you can always purchase one and give it to another family that might enjoy it. Diane wanted me to tell you that she enjoys making them for our community.
And if you know Diane, that's saying a lot.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 3:54 PM
Friday, November 04, 2016
A guy who works as the technical support company for a communications firm contacts me from time to time. He usually has a decent amount of fairly good machines for us. Not too long ago, I received one of those communications. He told me he was glad that he looked at the year these laptops were made because he had come close to shoveling a bunch of junk at Reglue. A recycle company picked them up a few days ago.
That "junk" was a partial pallet of Dell Latitude 6410's
Those laptops are solid gold here at Reglue. They for the most part, were i7 quad core laptops with 8-12 gigs of RAM. They also provided the Latitude E6520s we readied in 2013. For those going on to college or graduate studies, as a rule, we'll max them out at 16gb of RAM and send them along their way. We have grad students at this moment, still using those computers.
Earlier in the year, Reglue took on a project for the Taylor Housing Authority. They asked us if we could provide computers for the kids living in these housing projects.
Well, I guess we could, it's kinda the reason we're here. Systems Engineer Director Pete Salas and 2013 Reglue volunteer of the year, James Lantch dove into our inventory and were readying those machines as quickly as I could install them. When the dust settled and we had a chance to catch our breath, there was a collective "uh-oh" from the inside of our Reglue facility.
As of October 29th, we have less than 2 dozen serviceable machines on hand, and many of them are going to need hard drives and/or RAM upgrades. That's not to mention the RAM, Monitors, hard drives and speakers that will be needed after those are gone.
So that being the case, we want to ask folks to help us get some of these items. If you are in IT for your company or know who that might be, please put in a good word for this 501(3)(c). We are not going to be able to even consider the Christmas rush this year, and this will be the first year we have to turn these kids away. Ever. Our paypal account is also open for your consideration - firstname.lastname@example.org. That is our Paypal donation address...should you feel you would rather just give us the money to buy the stuff we need. There are 3 local monthly or bi-weekly auctions that have some killer hardware for next to nothing. That is how we've been handling current needs but Diane and I have used 3K of our savings to do so, and we cannot do that again.
For those of you who donate to us monthly, you are just fine. You have seen yourself clear to give us the monthly donations that keep the lights on and fuel in the delivery truck. We cannot or will not ask more of you. You are just fine.
For others, I would ask you to consider a monthly donation of 10 or 20 dollars. Your monthly donations will allow us to meet our current overhead, allowing us to use the rest of our money to do the job we're suppose to be doing.
Our Indiegogo fund raiser will start on Monday, and I will repost this on Monday as well. So if you have hardware 6 years old or newer, we would deeply appreciate you donating it to Reglue. You have no idea how much your help is appreciated.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 4:24 PM
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Fact is, something happened to Diane and me 2 months ago that can be described as no less than an "Oprah Moment"...a number of circumstances that accumulated into nothing less than a True Magic Moment. Stick around...Linux is a part of this, albeit just a small part. But in all, it has acted to remind both of us, that good things truly happen. Sometimes way ahead of the Karma Curve, if such a thing exists.
Let's talk about the good.
After being injured on the job and no longer able to do that job, I took a position for an in-state truck route. Same thing every day, varying little at best. It got to the point that I could have driven it by braille. During that time, I became good friends with the dispatcher for the trucking company and we became friends off the job as well. We would visit each other often, she would come to my house and I would visit her. We're going to call her Angel. Obvious reasons for that choice will become clear in time.
Angel had been working in that position with the trucking firm for several years, so it was no surprise that a lot of locker room talk would bounce from those walls from time to time. Angel was considered one of the guys so there were no limits to how rowdy or off-color the banter would be traded on any given day. It was during one of those times when Angel said something that could only be construed as an admission that she was gay. Everyone laughed and business carried on until quitting time, then Angel was called into the manager's office at 5PM.
She was summarily "terminated for cause" and escorted off the property.
Angel filed appeal after appeal only to be denied on every attempt. Texas is an "at will" employment state so being terminated for cause can mean anything. Over the next few weeks, Angel became more and more fearful of losing her house, as she had just purchased it a year before. On top of that, her HP desktop had taken a nose dive into severe brokeness and that made it extra difficult for her to look for work. I put together a decent desktop for her and installed it that day, and yes...it was a Linux computer.
Angel didn't have even the slightest problem with the new machine, and she wasn't particularly good at using one. So, let's put another slash in the falsehood that Linux is too hard for the everyday user. Most of them anyway. YMMV.
To her glee, the OS picked up and configured her Epson all in one without her lifting a finger to do so. She almost clapped for happiness, stating that in Windows, installing that printer had been a nightmare, even with the included driver CD. And just to pinpoint the time frame for you, it was the summer of 2006.
Angel had several job interviews over the months but none of them resulted in employment for her. She began applying for just about any job that she could reasonably do, even to the point of applying for an animal control officer. Her job was euthanasia officer. Fortunately she turned that job down, on principle alone. Ironically, that was the only offer she got in all that time.
The beginning of her 4th month of unemployment, she called me just to vent and have someone to listen to her. She was despondent to the core of her being and for the first time, she wept as she told me of her experiences in an unsuccessful job hunt. She also said her savings were running out and she would be $400.00 short of her mortgage. She was in fear of losing her house. Angel wasn't asking me for money. She knew that I was behind on my bills too, being off work for so long. It was just a statement of fact. I promised to come and visit her the following weekend and we hung up.
I pulled up my paypal account to check my balance and sent Angel the $400.00 dollars she so badly needed. That was "incidental money" as far as I was concerned anyway. I wrote a note telling her the money was a gift and not a loan. I told her that if she ever tried to pay it back, I would use it for lewd and lascivious past times.
Fortunately, at the halfway point of her 5th month of unemployment, she got a decent paying job and we celebrated by ordering pizza and drinking beer at her house. I passed out on the couch and she just let me sleep.
Time passed into years and Diane and I had been together for almost 7 years. Angel had been promoted at work to a supervisor's position and the pay was fantastic. She had already gone on a 7 day cruise with her current significant and hiked the Grand Canyon. She wanted to know if she could come over for lunch the next Saturday and not to worry about fixing anything, she would bring it with her. Diane and I told her that she was more than welcome.
Angel arrived at our door precisely on time and carrying a bucket of chicken under one arm and a six pack of Shiner under the other. I took the beer and she came in and closed the door behind her. We hugged each other and gathered around the TV, watching a DVD movie she had brought along. She joked that the beer was to offset how terrible the old Robert Mitchum movie was. Soon enough, Diane suggested that we take a seat in the dining room and eat. I didn't have to be asked twice.
So the beer flowed along with the KFC cole slaw and chicken. She stood up and offered a toast to the announcement she was about to make. We figured it was concerning her recent raise so we all stood and toasted to our friendship. No sooner had we taken our seats, Angel made her announcement.
"I'm giving you guys ten thousand dollars".
The room went completely quiet. Robert Mitchum eventually broke the silence by starting a fist fight in the living room. I cleared my throat to assure I could speak. "What did you say?"
I knew perfectly well what she had said. It just seemed like the thing to do, asking her to repeat the fact that she was giving us ten thousand dollars. Tears welled and streaked down Diane's face as Angel went further with her explanation.
"Kenny, you gave me money when I was days away from losing my home and you saved my ass. You were just as broke as I was. Look, I know you guys struggle and that old Explorer is on her last legs. Let me give you enough money to at least buy something that will last you a few years.
As it turned out, Angel had filed a lawsuit against the trucking company that fired her for being gay. The first thing she did with her settlement money was pay off her house. The second thing she did was give us ten grand.
Diane's quiet tears erupted into a full force hurricane of sobs, gulps and intermittent nose-snuffling, and all the while trying to talk. And a piece of advice to the ladies. If you are immersed into a full scale sobbing jag, please don't try to talk. You sound like Laura Petrie right after she says, "Oh Rob..."
Angel hugged Diane and told her everything was fine. She told Diane her bladder was way too close to her eyes and even I laughed at that. When we were all able to sit down with at least some semblance of normalcy, Angel suggested that we begin car shopping immediately. THAT dried up Diane's tears immediately. If there is anything Diane loves dearly. it's shopping. She is infected with the the SSG. short for Super Shopping Gene. But let me use this time to warn anyone who may ever consider purchasing a vehicle from a private party, with cash...tread carefully.
So the "reported limit" that can supposedly be withdrawn without the government stepping in, and from a personal bank account is $9999.00. However, the US Government has been busy arm-twisting said banks and credit unions to fill out a form, reporting anyone drawing large amounts of dollars that seem suspicious. What deems someone as suspicious? Who knows. You can read up on this further government intrusion if you like, but be prepared, the lengths our government will go to, in making an innocent withdrawal from your bank to buy a car will piss you off to the nth.
We looked around and around for two hours, taking notes on the different cars we might be interested in. Our guy Mac ran us down and invited us to the main used car office complex. When we turned the corner, there it was. A 2009 Chevy HHR. dark gloss mercury in color, the body was flawless and the certified mileage was 58,500 roughly Several years before I worked an Avis car rental kiosk located in the Austin Lexus dealership. When they ran out of Lexus loaner cars for customers in for lengthy repairs, they sent the customer over to us and we would fix them up. I ended up falling in love with the funky HHR and told myself if I ever bought another car, it would be the Chevy HHR. There was an almost surreal aura around the entire experience and I wondered if the universe had arranged this, silly me for thinking so.
Mac knew that we could only spend $8.5K on a vehicle so when I asked him the price, he told us it was ten grand out the door. I wasn't able to fully stem my anger when I asked him why the hell he was showing us this fantastic car when he knew we couldn't afford it.
He held up his hand and grinned sheepishly, motioning with his head toward the door. We followed him inside and to his office.
"My manager has authorized me to get you into this vehicle for $8300.00 out the door". The Sales Manager had looked up our reglue website provided on our info sheet and knocked the price down to almost the price they paid for it. It was later told to me that they tried to work out a donation to our non profit but they had already donated their dollar amount for the year. The way it was, there was just enough on it to compensate Mac for his work. Less than an hour later, I was handed the keys, temporary registation tags and wished the best.
Diane and I gave Angel big hugs and we parted ways for the day. Diane and I sat in our new car and neither said a word for 3 minutes...fooling around with the radio, fiddling around with our courtesy 90 day free trial from SiriusXM, playing with the device that would give us wall to wall internet hotspots. We basically flipped, twisted and turned every button or switch we could reach. I started the car and we drove off the lot, beginning our hour-long journey home. I was surprised at how quiet the engine was.
When we pulled into our drive, it was hard not to notice our old Explorer parked there, ready for the next Reglue mission. There were six on the calendar already for the coming week. A stroke of luck had befallen us earlier in the year and we had the transmission rebuilt for pennies on the dollar. That way, we didn't need to purchase a vehicle for Reglue. The Explorer was rock solid for a car with over 300K on it. Yet, going from the HHR into the Ford was a bit of a shock. The poor old girl had given us everything she had and was ready to give us more.
So looking back on the entire sequence of events, it's difficult to track all the little things that had to come together in order to make this happen. Diane and I went into the house and she fixed dinner. We sat in the living room for an hour, fidgeting, and trying to concentrate on the show in front of us. Neither wanted to be the one to say it. I finally broke week and broke the silence.
"You want to take a drive this evening?"
Diane smiled widely.
" I thought you would never ask. Let me get some shoes on".
All Righty Then...
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 3:07 PM
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
I've linked to some of the horror experienced first hand. NSFW at present volume. headphones or mute. Visual is fine if others pass by your cube.
I want to pass along an incident between one of our hardware donors and me a few months ago. And no worries, we've discussed publishing about the incident and as long as we do not divulge their company name, it's fine to pass along and they now see the value such hardware brings to our efforts.
I received an email from the tech guru of one of our most generous hardware donors and he talked about this and that, then told me that he almost dumped a bunch of junk laptops on us. He went on to say that during an inventory, he discovered 23 "old" laptops at the back of the pile. He stated that he was glad he did not encumber us with that kind of garbage. They were early win7 Dell Inspiron 6510 "dinosaurs" and when he got enough "decent" laptops to donate, he would forward me the time and date to pick them up from the trucking terminal where they were delivered.
At first, I thought he was kidding. This grade of laptop is considered to be solid 24K gold to us. When or in what world is an i7 core dual or quad laptop considered "junk"? I responded (as civilly as possible) that in the future he could feel free to ship us that kind of "junk". Honestly, I felt that I could just sit and cry about such a loss. Especially given our current circumstance.
So this is what we would like to happen. If you cannot donate to our organization at this time, take a look around on your closet shelves or under various desks and see if you might have the mentioned "junk" hanging around. We can use it for either Reglue needs at present or we might offer a decent laptop as one of our perks for the upcoming Indiegogo campaign. And don't fret the overall condition. We can refurbish or use your donation for badly-needed parts Feel free to specify if you want your hardware donation to go to either one of those places.
All I am trying to do is keep an organization afloat, an effort to help insure that every child within 50 miles has a fair chance at accessing technology via Linux computers. And yeah, the welfare of gorillas might be important to some...but I am doing my best, cheating Peter to pay Paul and working 60 hour weeks to get computers into the hands of tomorrow. unfortunately, the Silverbacks won't be in our sphere of influence. Unfortunately. We'd surly receive funding then, or so I'm thinkin'.
And that, being the fact, it has me second-guess myself. Is it overflowing ego on my part? Is my organization and mission really that important in the scheme of things? Maybe not.
And I cannot express it enough, just how important a $10.00 or $20.00 monthly donation is to our efforts.
Please don't post this to LXer. They refuse to post any stories that are fund raising in nature. That's fine, Linux Today is a great vehicle for this story. And I don't bear any ill will toward LXer. That's how they operate and I respect that. If you need additional information or have questions, you can email me at the above address as well.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 12:26 AM
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Watching my father physically drag my mom out of bed, her body thumping onto the floor, and him throwing clothes at her while screaming. Every few words, he would hurl an item of clothing at her.
For Christ's sake Lois, get out of the *** ****** bed and take care of this ******* house. He stood over her, glaring while my mother curled into a fetal position and sobbed. He turned around and saw me in my doorway across from their bedroom. Fear raced to the pit of my stomach and ballooned out from there. I quickly pulled my arms around myself in a protective posture and dropped my gaze to the floor. The hard slap to the side of my head never came.
He didn't say a word to me. He left the bedroom, slamming the door behind him and stomped down the stairs and out the kitchen door. The glass in that outer kitchen door shattered violently as he slammed it for punctuation. I waited to even move an inch until I heard the engine of his old truck fire to life. I slowly lowered my cramped arms when I heard the sound of tires on gravel as he left our driveway onto the main road.
Only when I turned to go back into my bedroom, did I realize I had urinated in my pajamas.
This memory played and replayed over and over and over...while I laid in my bed for the 6th day in a row...only leaving it for the 10 steps or so it took to get to the toilet. I had thought about bringing in a plastic milk jug to urinate into so I would not have to leave the bedroom. I would cringe and pull the comforter over my head if someone rang the door bell or knocked at the door. Many years later, my mom explained it to me as being lost in desolation and never having even one tiny hope of getting out. Diane knew not to bother me, unless she needed help doing anything, but when she truly needed me, I was there...she knew not to bother me with anything trivial. I just wouldn't respond.
I had long since turned my phone off. I had not set myself at my computer for over a week. And then it was only to answer the most important of friends and family. It had been over a week since I had properly bathed. My beard had gone wild in the two weeks before this. I know what what the problem was. And I knew it was something that wouldn't get better until I decided to do something about it. Diane made an appointment with my GP. The psychologist who had diagnosed me as bipolar was full of crap. My reluctance to see him again was substantiated by my medications not really doing anything to help me. Come to find out, they had probably heightened my condition.
I washed the most likely parts of me liable to offend any surrounding olfactory
Talking to people.
My hands trembled on the steering wheel as I backed our car out of the garage, taking much more time than necessary to insure the roadway behind me was clear. It felt like I had never drove in my life. After three hours and four doctors, I set off on my trip home. Armed with a hand full of doctor's prescriptions, I made my way to the pharmacy on the way. Every doctor who examined me that day, assured me that the chemical cocktail of pills would have me back to normal in no time.
Well, it's no time and what in the hell did they know about "normal"? And while I am beginning to feel better, I know the task ahead of me will be worse than anything I will have to face otherwise. I have to tell you that I'm sorry for just dropping out of sight. There are some of you that I've failed in the past few weeks. I've failed you greatly, friends and family both; and while telling you how sorry I am to have failed you, it doesn't seem like nearly the amount of recompense due to you. Some of you counted on me heavily and many of you will say that just an email explaining my circumstance would have been nice.
I'm sure it would have. It's due to one of those emails that I am writing this. You have no idea of how much your words hurt me.
If I had not been frightened out of my own wits to even answer the door or answer the phone. If it didn't frighten me to go creeping out of the bedroom at 3 in the morning to take a bowl of cereal back with me. Or just by the act of turning on my computer. Never in any of my day's past would I have thought a day would come when I would be frightened by the act of turning on my computer. My computer is the Third Hemisphere of my brain...and I've only turned it one twice in a week.
So while my doctors figure out the right ratios of the right medications it will take to make me "better", I will ask of you some tolerance. Especially from my family. Just as my father couldn't understand why my mom could not bring herself to get out of bed for days, I get the feeling that some of the closest of my family might fail to understand what is happening to me. I didn't do this to myself. And while I may deserve the cancer that attacked my body...this mental aberration was a sucker punch to the side of my head. The only thing I can say is to be aware. It appears that someone pee'd in our gene pool kids, so forewarned is forearmed.
My most sincere thanks go out to Pete Salas and our great volunteer James Lantzch for keeping the fires burning and and the wolf from the door. I would be facing insurmountable tasks without these two guys keeping the Good Ship Reglue afloat.
Of course, my deepest thanks goes to my partner Diane. For her understanding. For her love. For her care.
I'm back to work tomorrow. There are over 300 emails I have to answer and over a dozen phone messages, and I've lost count of the text messages that have yet to be answered.
So for those I've failed in the past few weeks, I'm sorry. Some of you will understand, but many of you won't. You won't understand the total fear that clutches at your guts when someone rings the doorbell...or calls your phone. The best way I can address those people is to wish this black blanket of terror upon you. But I cannot do that. Anymore than I can wish upon you the plague or leprosy.
And if I don't answer your email for the next few days, all I can do is to ask you to understand. Hopefully, those most important to me will be able to do so.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 3:52 PM
Friday, June 17, 2016
The last thing he remembered was me laying on the floor next to his bed, holding him close and whispering and stroking his silky ears. He fell into a deep, deep sleep. He never felt the needle that sent him home.
My heart is terribly, terribly broken this time, I'm not sure I can do it again. Twice in 6 years, I've had to make the same horrible decision for two little guys I loved deeply. Astro was so bonded to me, it was heartbreaking. I can't even talk or think of him without tears rolling. As much as I fight them back, they won't be held.
So yeah, it's been a tough week or so. I've went through the motions of my life, getting the important things done, and pushing the other stuff to the back, until they become important stuff. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I'm not in the best frame of mind at this time, but that doesn't stop bad stuff from happening. Bad Things don't take a break just because my emotional stability may not be able to cope. My friend and the creator of Foss Force, Christine Hall; emailed me and told me she had cut her stay short at the SouthEast LinuxFest better known as SELF. And while she did not say so, I get the impression that she did so because she felt threatened. I would have felt threatened too.
Some passive-aggressive-mama's-boy, Some dweeb, feeling threatened or insulted by a strong,
confident woman chunked a brick through the back window of Christine's car while parked in the parking lot of her lodging choice.
"Well Ken", you might say, "What's with all the name-calling, especially when you don't know anything about what happened?"
Well pal, I'm going to tell you. It's been talked about ad nauseam, the problem many women face within our world. The Free Open Source Software world and in the BSD/Linux Communities. From Caitlyn Martin, to Deb Nicholson, my friend Beth Lynn Eicher and many more. They have all suffered psychological, emotional and physical assault from men who are not balanced or mature enough to accept women as their peer, and God forbid, their superior. This has been going on for almost from the beginning.
Christine Hall is one of those women. She learned early in life, how to work and succeed in male-dominated workplaces. She has worked as a Journalist and within and around the tech field for much of her adult life, and to quote a current television commercial, she knows a thing or two because she's seen a thing or two. And she isn't shy about letting that be known. Not in a brash or offensive way, but in a way that says, "If you can't get that done, step aside and let me do it". Christine may have one fault many confident and assertive people have. They don't suffer fools gladly.
The rock throwing thing...can I prove this happened the way I believe it happened? No. Can I for sure say that someone did this fueled by misogynistic rage?
I'd wager about 80 percentage points that it was. There were a number of vehicles in that parking lot and given the place her car was parked, someone went out of their way in choosing to damage Christine's car. They risked being seen or heard throwing that brick in that location. Right next to the main entrance. Many suitable targets were parked much farther away if the purpose was just mindless vandalism. Her car wasn't randomly vandalized.
This was a direct and pointed attack.
So, when it comes to women being accepted in The Tech World, sure it's gotten better. A lot better. But that strong dislike for women in our field exists just under the skin of some men. They know they can no longer gain the support and the 'at-a-boy' slaps on the back for approaching and demeaning a woman in public. In fact, they know they well be rejected and punished for doing so. The only difference between then and now? They do it in the wee hours of the morning with bricks, knowing that they would be rebuked by their peers for assaulting a woman in public...like in The Old Days.
And to me, that is more frightening than it ever has been. I now understand why Christine left SELF early. Her fear was real. She did the only thing she could do to protect herself. I hope the little maladjusted twerp feels good. I am sure he does. I hope he slips up and brags about it.
I can only hope.
Christine lives on Social Security retirement and she cannot afford to replace a back window or pay for the treatment needed to kill the bedbugs she picked up at the flea-bag motel in which she stayed. Oh and just sayin'...You might want to bypass the Econo Lodge and Suites in Charlotte North Carolina.
If you can help her in some way to get these things behind her, email her email@example.com. I would consider it a favor. That could come in handy some day. Just sayin'.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 7:20 PM
Monday, March 14, 2016
It was a month ago, give or take a sol or two, since the Taylor Housing Authority contacted us at Reglue to ask for our help. Seems that there are a lot of school-age kids living in that government housing tract and as we might imagine, a computer isn't one of the things you might find in that household.
Now this is where I had to just shake my head. In 2013, someone from that neighborhood contacted me and asked if I might be able to assist them in providing a computer for their kids.
"Well sure, that's the job Reglue came to Taylor to do"
We went on to make an appointment for the first of the week and parted ways until then. When I showed up at the door, I was invited in but told that the housing authority had to ok all major appliances before installation and that included computers.
Really? Appliance inspections for a computer? That was the last I heard from her or anyone at the housing authority. Until about a month ago.
It was then that we were asked to provide computers for the kids in that exact same tract. At first, we were informed that we could plan on doing about 40 in a year's time. Yeah, we can do that. But after The Taylor Housing Authority did a door to door inventory on those with families that need a computer, we're now looking in the neighborhood of 125 machines.
"Houston, we have a problem."
Time Warner has agreed to provide these housing units with "adequate" wireless connections and from what I am seeing, these folks are getting a bit over 20Mbps down and 1Mbps up. And that's being provided as a service to the community. Just about the time I'm ready to declare war on Time Warner, they go and do something nice like this. And that's not all. They tripled the speed for Reglue and set us up a hotspot for our neighbors...and they did this to retain our contract without us paying a dime extra. Did I mention that they tripled our speeds?
So with Time Warner providing these folks free wireless service, it's up to Reglue to get them hooked up. Without the adapters, we can't do that. So if you can help and send us a couple, we would more than appreciate it. the wireless adapters we use can be found here.
The speakers we use are pretty good, given their size and cheap price, but these found on Ebay are excellent as well...for the price anyway. So either Ebay or Amazon have the speakers we need
Our shipping address, should you want to purchase from Amazon or Ebay and send them directly, is:
319 Sloan #110b
Taylor, Tx 76574
If you would rather just leave a donation, you can do so via the Donate button under our thermometer at the top left of this page. Or, just paypal us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Any amount will be greatly appreciated.
So, finally...after a tough couple of years with health issues, it feels good to be back to work on a daily basis, even with jarring surprises like this. I attribute my high spirits and outlook to you folks. You've helped me when you didn't have to and I appreciate that more than you know. So yeah, stuff just got real for us in Taylor Texas. This is the way it's supposed to be. I'll show you in dead-tree print in the coming days.
For now, thanks for all that you do for us. These kids wouldn't have computers without you. I don't think many of you realize just how important your contributions are.
Stand by for NEWS!
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 1:02 PM
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Free. From an early age we all know what it means. It means that you can obtain something at no cost to you. Mostly anyway. In the past few years, some businesses and people have tried to tempt us with a "free offer", only to demand a credit card number in order to qualify. Then you have to jump through a bazillion hoops to cancel the "free" offering, before the small print and the automatic bank drafts kick in. Free credit report anyone?
But in a simpler day and much simpler time, free was a good thing. We all want something for free. And me, being no exception, discovered in 2002 that there was indeed free software. However, I discovered that in the free software world, the term "free" has multiple meanings. How so? Let's see, channeling W.C. Fields as the carny barker.
"Step right up folks. We got'cher Open Source software… free as in beer
However, the deeper meaning of free is what is important here. It always has been the most important thing. Getting the everyday computer user to understand the whole GPL thing can be a challenge. In my experience, if we get one out of ten to understand the concept and become interested, we are doing good. The whole "free as in freedom" thing? Most people don't know how their software works.
"Computer code? Universal access? Sure. Great. Now can I go back to my leased copy of Windows solitaire?"
Sigh. Another day, another dollar, right? When I finally did grasp the immensity of Free Open Source Software, I wanted to announce it from the mountain tops. The revelation hit me deep, and it dawned on me just how important this whole FOSS thing is.
And that's when it all started going south on me.
There was a huge disconnect within me regarding all the hard work the FOSS community or individuals put into a FOSS project and and that overall effect it had on the community. That didn't come close to entering my awareness. All I knew was that FOSS was indeed free and screw paying for anything when it came to software. Or anything within the FOSS community or Linuxsphere at large. If it was in the Linux Community or within the community purview, it had to be free. As in beer. Yeah, as in beer. It had to be free as in beer.
This is a good time to pay attention. This particular span of time can be the moment for many of us when the FOSS well becomes poisoned.
I try to stay active in the Google Plus community. You know…that huge fail that was supposed to compete with f̶a̶c̶e̶p̶l̶a̶n̶t̶ Facebook? That "ghost town" that shows 5 million page views in my profile? Yeah, that "ghost town". There isn't a day goes by, that I am not spending time with astrophysicists, engineers, professors, artists, actors, scientists, political leaders or friends that span the globe. The one thing that many of the people in my circles share, is our involvement and use of FOSS. It has indeed a global reach and impact.
In the beginning, at least for me, it was these protracted spans of time when I grew aggravated at the amount of advertising that actively found a way to get in between my line of sight and the things I was trying to read or see. I mean, like some 300 pound drunk that crashes in between you and another person at a party having a discussion, just to tell you that his car is for sale and would you like to come outside to look at it?
Uh, no. I would not like to come outside and "look at it". I'm not in the market for a car, and even if I was, I sure as shipping ain't gonna buy one from you, the rude, unaware jerk that you are.
However, in the realm of ones and zeros, I can do something about the rude, line-of-sight-blocking advertisements that pop up on many pages when I am trying to read something. You know…those ads that follow the track of your mouse? The ads that defeat every attempt you make in pushing it out of the way or closing it. Some of those ads open anyway when you click the x mark on the top right. But let me tell you something that you may know, or may not. That ad that opens does not have the decency to open another tab. It over-writes the page you are on and no amount of clicking the back button or machine-gun clicking the X at the top of the browser does a bit of good. Finally, you go all nuclear on it and drop to terminal with the command killall firefox. That's how competitive things have become, vying for eyes on web pages, multiple click-throughs that rack up stats to impress firms to advertise on your website.
I put up with it long past the point of being a good netizen. Adblock Plus became my best online friend and from then on out…it didn't matter what advertising it was or how little real estate it took up on an unobtrusive part of the web page. If it was an ad, it was gone. That's how angry I was when it came to internet ads in my line of sight. Even on my blog site, I included a link on the side to allow visitors to temporarily turn off their ad blocking software. It would turn itself back on once you left my domain. My offer went largely ignored. over 80 percent of my visitors utilized ad blocking software of one sort or another.
Those checks from Google came fewer and far in between, not like they amounted to much but I donated any income from my blog to Reglue. But it was a recent event that prompted me to re-evaluate my iron-clad stance against advertising.
One of the good guys I associate with on Google Plus is Jake Weisz. Jake's a good enough sort. He's extremely good at what he does in the fields of technology and he's not shy about sharing his opinion. I posted an article that Forbes.com featured in their technology section. It asked a question.
"Should people who use ad blocking software be blocked from using that website"? That infuriated me. How dare they even suggest such a draconian measure. By Deity, it's my right to be able to visit any website I wish to visit and they can stuff their ad blocking policy into uncomfortably close quarters to their mid-bottom.
Jake took me to task on this stance fast. If I am offering interesting or important data and I choose to ask for a few cents to access that data, that is my right. As a producer of said data, if I plan my production carefully, I can at least impede the spread of that data to other web sites. I spent my time and my money in order to bring you this information. I should be able to gain a few cents from each person who accesses that data, even if it's in the form of allowed advertising.
As a culture, we've become all too accustomed to "free as in beer". Information flows in every direction and for the most part, that information can be accessed at no cost, but there is some data that took a lot of work to bring up and into the public awareness.
I spend my time and talent in investigating, writing and presenting this data to the world. Is disabling your ad blocking software for just a few minutes too much to ask? I thought so, screw advertising. It's a blight on the internet. Uh, no…it's not. Jake Weisz took me to school on this issue and he was right in doing so. Here. Let me show you. You see the web page presented a few paragraphs above?
Those are ads that the publisher of that site decided to make you look at. They purposely block your vision and impeded your ability to close that ad. That way, it extended the time that ad was active and in front of you, regardless of whether you read it or not. The obstacles the web master threw in front of you took just long enough for the statistics to show that you actually read the ad. Is that back-handed? Well sure it is, but keeping any website open costs money, and when the cost of maintaining the website becomes more than any incoming revenue, well…the website disappears into digital history. Now you see it, now you don't.
Now let's look at another picture. My friend and associate, Christine Hall is the publisher and maintainer of the excellent website fossforce.com. In the interest of disclosure, I contribute to FOSS Force on a weekly basis. Christine has spent years building her website from the ground up and she works 16 hour days to cover the news and do the interviews that are important in our world of FOSS. She is tireless in her pursuit of getting it right and getting it to you first. The only income Christine receives is via ad-based income. So, if the advertising on a website sits to the side or between the paragraphs of the text, it really does not stop me from reading the content that interests me.
Does it cause you not to be able to read the content? No, it does not. And sure, some will argue that having to jump over an ad in the middle of the page might be distracting, but for Pete's sake, it's not blocking your view. Fact is, an ad recently led me to purchase a particular stick of RAM that I had been looking for. So at times, it might be useful. Most times…? Probably not, but every now and then it can provide a service to you. Every now and then.
It's been an interesting few months, getting used to this whole advertising-among-the-stories thing. But in the end, I have come to realize that everything being free might be good, but there are times when all of that free stuff can bring an end to things we've come to count on. It was mentioned to me just a day ago, that if a news website like FOSS Force goes under, then there are a lot more to fill that space. I asked him what sites he was speaking of and he pointed out two of the biggest, those being LXer and LinuxToday.com. I then asked him just where he thought those two website got their news. He's probably standing just where I left him. The same deer-in-the-headlights look. Like I had explained quantum mechanics to him.
I might want to stop by there later today to make sure he at least has water when he comes around. All that confusion can be dehydrating.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 1:18 PM
Monday, November 09, 2015
Yep, this just went from zero-to-holy-frickin'-cow-stupid in a hurry. Why?
Perks offered in our fund raiser to get a decent delivery vehicle for Reglue and our Reglue kids. Y'ever see one of those bench-clearing brawls where both teams come out of the dugout and there's a melee that encompasses the whole infield?
Then how about that cartoon where it involves a number of fist fighters inside a dust cloud, with just a fist or a leg or other appendage showing every few seconds? Y'ever see that one?
Yeah, thought so. That's what my email inbox resembled in the past few days. It's slowing down now, but for a while, I thought I'd need to strap on my kevlar and drop my face shield just to answer my emails.
Here's how it started.
We are offering some sweetheart deals for donating to our vehicle fund raiser. We are using an online fund raising site that makes it fairly simple to raise money. We use Indiegogo.com because we are not offering a tangible product. Kickstarter is for production of solid, material items to be manufactured and sold. We aren't making or creating any product, so we don't qualify for a Kickstarter fund raiser. And to emphasize, we've used Indiegogo to raise decent amounts of money for Reglue in the past. So we opened our fund raiser there in order to gain enough money to buy a decent vehicle for Reglue.
It's not going as well as I hoped it would but we've got just under three weeks to go. We want to raise a minimum of $5,000.00. At the time of this posting, we have just broken the 3K mark. My thanks to all of you, regardless of donated amount. Thank you for helping us when we really need it. It looks like it's gonna take a hail Mary pass to pull this off.
But to the point...
I began getting the emails after the first week of our campaign. Messages asking if Windows was on the computers we offer as perks. If you have not seen the offerings, you might want to take a look. These laptops are nice and some are touch screens. The 15.4" Samsung is especially nice. I don't have the need for that much horsepower but many of you do. That computer is in refurbished condition and is a luxury laptop in my eyes. Of course, I'm used to my old IBM/Lenovo X60s and T-500 ThinkPads, so imagine my surprise when I opened that monster Samsung for the first time. Luxury laptop indeed.
And the price? We just dropped it to $500.00. That's embarrassingly low for a laptop of this quality.
I was emailed in the second and third weeks and asked if I was going to put Windows on these laptops. I answered promptly that no, we would be using Linux on these offerings. About the forth email I received that first week, asking about Windows installs, I rang up our Chief Hardware Engineer, Pete Salas, and asked him if we could put Windows 10 on some of these Samsung machines. He answered yes and two days later, four of those extremely nice Samsungs were sporting brand new Windows 10 operating systems. If people want Linux on them, we will include a bootable flash drive with the distro of their choice at no cost to them and they can do with it as they wish. The motivation behind such a seemingly drastic move is success. A few people walked away from these perks, when they believed there would be no Windows option for their donations. That would have been $1,100.00 in donations.
Mentioning that we had taken this route on my G+ page drew criticism from some and sharp criticism via my email. A couple of those emails were from people I have associated with for a number of years and one of those decided that it was the time to label me as a "sellout".
A Sellout. Really?
Seems the harder I try, the more I alienate some people. See, here's how it goes boys and girls...
I am the Executive Director and Founder of a non profit. I started this effort with abouit 300 dollars in the bank and an idea of what I wanted to accomplish. We exist for one reason. One single mind set. We exist to help every disadvantaged kid we can. We want to make sure they have a computer and an internet connection so they can compete with their peers. It is my job to insure that we have the means to do all the things mentioned above. I have to raise funds to do all of that. I despise fund raising but it's what I have to do. We are perilously close to scaling back by 75%, our operation because we do not have a vehicle in which to do our job.
I'm not going to let that happen. I will sell my blood for Pete's sake, in order to keep our doors open. If the market is asking for a certain configuration and system, then we meet those market demands when necessary. So if you want to criticize me for putting Windows on some of the computers we are offering, You go right ahead, but remember...it's not you that has to answer to your community when you cut back on production. It's not you that has to look that kid in the eye and explain that (s)he may not be getting that computer that was promised.
It's not you that has to stand by and watch a decade of work dwindle to nothing. I've divorced since taking the helm of Reglue. I've seen every one of my siblings die. My doctors have fought off stage 4 cancer and all the while, nursing my life partner back to health after two strokes. Through it all, the doorway to my organization remains open and we remain an active and vibrant part of this community and the Global Linux Community at Large. So, if putting the Windows operating system on a few computers in order to raise money we need prompts you to cut ties and leave...well, you just go right ahead. I suppose we'll see you sometime down the TimeLine, But take heed...That door closes abruptly so mind your backside as you exit.
And for those of you who have helped us toward making our goal, I cannot thank you enough. And yeah, I've had a couple of rows that were tough to hoe, but no worse than many of you have experienced. The Global Linux Community. We all struggle at times to do the things we love to do. Things we have to do.
You people rock and I make sure every recipient of a Reglue computer knows that. Every one of them. It is I who is humbled to be in your midst and to do your bidding.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 11:31 AM
Monday, November 02, 2015
Sometimes we plan to do things based upon forecasts such as the weather. Being a stats guy, I banged all the numbers together and came out with a favorable time to begin our vehicle fund raiser.
Reglue was counting on being farther along than we currently are... the halfway point of our effort. I crunched the numbers from our last three fund raisers and being a stats guy, I thought the timing and amount we need to raise was do-able given the variables. I must have forgotten something...left something out.
We need a vehicle.
A month ago, I announced our Indiegogo fund raiser, in hope of raising at least $5,000.00 going toward a serviceable vehicle for Reglue. At the moment of writing, we are just under $2,000.00 from Indiegogo. With Paypal donations included, that number grows to just under $2,600.00.
The first 19 days of a 45 day fund raiser produces the most productive block of donation time. I'm beginning to get a bit nervous. So I want to clarify some things and maybe make this happen, one way or another.
Some of you may know or have contact with someone who is capable of donating a vehicle. I would most certainly fly to any reasonable destination, complete the transaction, pick the vehicle up and drive back. And of course, we are a verified non profit so any donation, be it a vehicle or cash, is tax deductible. Our EIN and letter of IRS 501(c)(3) award is available upon legitimate request.
We are already beginning to get trickles of "computer for Christmas" requests. In past holiday seasons, we have averaged 6 installs a week. I don't even have a reliable way of going to see these people and qualify them. So yeah...As of now, Reglue is pretty much at a standstill.
And just so you know...out of the past 7 years, there has only been 1 year that I did not deliver and set up a computer on Christmas Day.
But speaking of holidays. With the holiday season approaching, we have some excellently priced "perks" offered in return for your donation dollars. Some of these are $200.00 to $500.00 under market average for the release year of these laptops. Most of these would make a fantastic present for the holiday season. You can see what we offer here. If you are a Mac or Samsung fan, you have most certainly come to the right place.
As far as the vehicle goes, we're not looking for anything luxurious. What we need is something along the build and size of a small Ford Transit van. Even a good-sized minivan would suit our needs. Something that is decent on gas mileage and will last us at least the next 3 years. I always felt bad while driving that Explorer all over Texas doing our work. The best mileage we ever got was around 17MPG. That bothered me. But hey...we work with what we have and deal with it.
the Big Rip sequence, shredding the universe
from the sub-atomic level. The Universe will continue to accelerate at unimaginable speeds. Stocks will be traded, we will go to work, come home, we'll watch the world burn from our living room easy chairs on the 6 O'clock news, and create even more ways to stay sane, working from day to day. We will raise our kids, mow our lawns and watch the calendar days go by.
Reglue will do its best to do the job we promised you we would do. For a decade we put your money to work for those who had been passed by. Via your dollars, we put computers into these kid's homes. With your backing, Reglue built this computer and technology learning center In the memory of Bruno Knaapen. Reglue has established 11 of these computer centers in Central Texas. Several of them right here in Taylor. These Reglue Kids to your right are the generation that will set foot upon other worlds. They will drill through miles of ice on other planets and moons, searching for life under those frozen crusts. Life that may dwell deep in the seas of those worlds. They will find a cure for diabetes and make cancer an inconvenience instead of a death sentence. Maybe, just maybe, on their way to terraforming Mars; they will find a way to make RealPlayer not suck.
So...Here we are. We have 20-some days to get an additional 3K raised. Hopefully more. The more we raise, the better vehicle we can purchase. But that's in your hands now. And for those who have already helped us or will help us...thank you. Some of you have been jaw-droppingly generous and we appreciate you recognizing the importance of our efforts. And as always...
Thanks for helping us do what we do.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 11:16 AM