Michael J. Thom Father. Nerd. Race fan. Musician.


Poorly Organized Thoughts on Guns and Society

So I've been fairly quiet on social media lately… well actually, not just lately -- always. I am indeed a consumer of social media and not much of a publisher, you could say.

But also it's in part because rarely does a social media post about any controversial issue accomplish anything other than further deepening the reader's existing inclinations. And most often, it spurs division among people who might have a reasonable conversation in person, but who happily resort to extremes and straw man arguments with the anonymity or at least separation afforded them by interacting via a web browser or an app.

However, even if for mere catharsis, I've felt compelled to commit a few [Editor's note: gazillion] words to page. Feel free to agree or disagree with me, and to comment below or not comment. If you want to grab a beer and talk through this stuff, I'd love that. But I'm not likely to engage online with anything other than genuine, factual discrepancies.

With all those disclaimers said, I want to discuss some things that have been in my mind lately. As you've probably guessed, it's mostly related to the murder of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on Valentine's Day.

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Indiana SB 101 – The “Religious Freedom” Bill

Oh, Indiana. Le sigh.

So here's the thing.

I'll start by addressing the aspects of this (overall terrible) bill that do make sense to me (don't worry, there are very few).

I do not want the government to tell me how to conduct my private business. That is indeed a basic tenant of a free market, free speech, and a free people. For the government to essentially force its private citizens and private businesses to conduct themselves a certain way is not okay with me.

However, it is SO NOT OKAY to say "oh, please, by all means -- discriminate away!" In effect, that is what this bill is saying and ensuring that all Hoosiers can (and should!) do.

We simply need no legislation on this topic.

Individuals who want to do business at a given company are already free to do so, or not. And businesses are already free to do business with a given individual, or not. That is our collective perogative in a free society.

Neither side needs to be coerced into action it otherwise would not have taken.

(Point of clarification: The unstated phrase in all these sentences is "by the government." I would, in fact, like to coerce my fellow Christians to stop judging and discriminating. I just don't want my government to do it, because it crosses so many lines, even if well-intentioned.)

The flip side of this law is bad too, so don't hear me wishing it was written 180° the other way around. I don't -- just as I have the right to walk out of any establishment I no longer want to patronize, I should also have the right to end a business relationship with anyone, anytime, for any (or no) reason (barring contractual obligations, of course).

Therefore this bill basically continues to solidify institutional discrimination. Oh and gives "religion" a bad name. A well-deserved one of late, if you ask me.


Addendum. This is particularly frustrating for the maybe-just-right-of-center among us (or the libertarian-leaning, if you will). This, just like the gay marriage issue, is so unfairly polarizing that it's hard to take a position on. You're damned if you do (support it) and damned if you don't. I don't support the bill, but it's not because of "gay rights" -- it's because I don't want the government having the power to tell me what I can and cannot do.

Filed under: Religion, Society No Comments

Windows 8

Editor's note: This was originally written in August 2013... but for some reason was never posted. I'm posting it now, despite it being slightly out of date. Oh well!

I've used Windows 7 since its pre-beta. I used Windows 8 on a Surface Pro tablet. Now I run Windows 8.1 (beta) on my primary work laptop. And yet I'm writing this on a MacBook Pro, my personal computer. So I get around, as operating systems go, and I am in no way married to one platform. The count at home right now is actually: 3 Android devices, 2 Mac OS computers, and 1 Windows PC. If you count my work laptop then that's 2 Windows machines.

All that to say, as an operating system, I love Windows 8. Well, 8.1. Though on principle I don't love that Microsoft kow-towed to all the complaints about Windows 8 not having a Start button on the taskbar or letting you boot straight to the desktop, I do feel like it's the OS Windows 8 should have been. Windows 7 was awesome right out of the box, the first version. But Windows 8... not so much.

Will Windows 8 Save the Windows Platform or Kill It?

Look, anyone who asks this question has missed the truth about Windows's place in the world of computing. One single version -- almost regardless of how great or how terrible it is -- is not capable of singlehandedly derailing the whole ecosystem. Users may complain, businesses may hold off on upgrading (I'm looking at you, Vista), and the "state of computing" may not be furthered, but then they'll fix it (or just move on to another version altogether), and those businesses will then go ahead and upgrade and move on. We saw this with Windows ME, and then Windows XP got everyone basically back with the program (though some of course stuck with 2000). Windows Vista was definitely a "skip" version, but then Windows 7 came along and has proven to be a venerable option.

So will Windows 8 continue the good-bad-good-bad pattern of late? I truly believe the answer is no, but not because it's an overwhelmingly needed upgrade.


Google Glass – A Brief Review

Google Glass Explorer. Glasshole. Michael.

Google Glass in its boxCall me whatever you'd like, but I just got done living with Google Glass for about three weeks, and I have a few thoughts to share. (Why only three weeks? That mess is $1500... so I just played with it while still within the window to return it, and I have now sent it back for a refund.)

Overall impression: WOW. The UI, the UX, just the overall usability of it is actually pretty stunning. They've really spent a lot of time refining the experience of wearing and using Glass, and it shows. We've all seen the videos online that show how it's supposed to work, but when you put it on and find that it actually works as well as the videos show, that's something.

Coolest feature today: Translate This. Really the only augmented reality app so far, the Translate app takes whatever you're looking at, translates it, and replaces it on-screen with the new text, in a font and color that closely match the original. It's a bit sluggish and finicky, but it's so impressive when it works. And yes, I said replaces -- it's not a subtitle, it completely deletes the original word from the live-view image and replaces it with the translated word. Too cool.


Interop 2013 – Wrap-Up

Back in May I was fortunate to get to attend the Interop Las Vegas IT conference. I've already discussed my trip as a whole and the Principles of Effective IT Management workshop in the previous two posts. I wanted to take one more post to describe briefly the rest of the conference.

Wednesday, Thursday, and the first half of Friday comprised the main part of the conference. Wednesday and Thursday each began with keynotes, and then the rest of the time was filled with breakout sessions and time in the expo hall.

The breakout sessions were a definite mixed bag. Some of the ones I attended were frankly fairly boring and generic -- nothing I couldn't have stepped up with about a day's notice and presented myself, and I'm an expert in almost no relevant areas. But others were in fact quite interesting and well-presented.


Interop – Principles of Effective IT Management

This post is part 2 in a 3-part series. Check out the first post if you haven't yet.

I want to review a workshop I attended at Interop Las Vegas in May called Principles of Effective IT Management. It would be tough to recap all my notes from the 2-day workshop in blog posts, simply because they're so exhaustive. I would however like to highlight a few of the key takeaways, at least from the perspective of my experience and current situation.

We Are a Value-Add, Not a Cost Center

One of the main precepts that came up again and again was that of providing value to the business. "We are definitely not a cost, we are a value," Tom Randall kept reminding us. Most businesses have a tendency to treat IT as a cost (both as viewed by Accounting but even just as a general feeling), and it's completely in opposition to the way we should function. But beyond simply convincing the rest of the business to see us "properly," it also affects the way we treat ourselves. If we just consider everything as a cost, we'll be driven in decisions and approaches by the simple dollar amount -- the bottom line -- more than we should. When we think of ourselves as providing value -- regardless of the dollar amount -- the way in which we spend those dollars becomes considerably more impactful.

He also had this wonderful nugget to share, regarding the trend towards consumerization of IT and so much hardware: "It was a lot easier when what we did was effing magic." So true.


Interop Las Vegas

During the last six months of my time at Slingshot SEO, I was fortunate enough to get approved for my first work trip. And catch this -- it was to Las Vegas!

Interop logoInterop is the world's largest independent IT conference (put on by UBM Tech), and they have a few different venues each year. The Vegas conference is the primary show, and it is attended by tons of IT pros, CIO/CTOs, and other interested parties.

First, I'll just be honest -- I love traveling by air. I love the airport experience, I love being in the air, and I love getting to stay at a cool hotel. Specifically, I got to stay at the Mandalay Bay resort on the South end of The Strip. For more on the venue and my time as a tourist, check out an upcoming post over at my video and photo site.

The conference has a few different options for attendee passes, including expo-only, main conference passes (Wednesday-Friday), and "All Access" passes, which adds all-day workshops on Monday and Tuesday. I had the latter.

Though there were many one-day workshops to choose from on Monday and Tuesday (and a few half-day 'shops as well), I chose one of the most popular sessions, the only two-day workshop offered: Principles of Effective IT Management.


The Only Constant is Change


Two years.

That's way too long to go between posts. Accept my apologies?


Two years ago I was just coming up on one year at Slingshot SEO. In January 2012, I moved into a new role at Slingshot -- IT Operations Administrator. I am hugely grateful to Don Kane (then CEO/COO) and the rest of Slingshot for taking a chance on me and entrusting to me all our computer and network systems. Under the guidance of Deanna Mettler (then VP of Finance), I grew so much in the year and a half that followed. I matured as a person, as a professional, and as an IT administrator.

So much so that an industry contact reached out to me in early 2013, and long story short, I was fortunate enough to find a great match in a company that was looking to begin a new role -- Director, Information Services. Apparently the positive feelings were mutual, because they hired me and I began work at DK Pierce and Associates in June. There are many amazing people and great friends I miss from Slingshot SEO (ahem, DigitalRelevance), but this new chapter of my life has been terrific so far.

DK Pierce and Associates is a healthcare reimbursement consulting firm based out of Zionsville. Currently with 19 employees, DKP was started by Denise Pierce nearly 15 years ago to help clients navigate the complexities of the current healthcare environment, particularly working with pharma companies as they go about bringing new drugs to market. It is an incredibly bright team of mostly women (seriously -- 16 of the 19 employees are women, and DKP is a certified Women's Business Enterprise). One thing that makes us unique is that about half of our workforce -- the Away Team -- work remotely from all along the East Coast. The rest of us work in the Zionsville office.

Well, most of the time. We're currently renovating and expanding our office -- we own the whole building! -- which is exciting to be sure. But it means that none of the Home Team is working in the office; we're working, more literally, from home for the summer. I really shouldn't complain about not having to shower for work, but in all honestly I'm ready to be back in an office with people around during the day. I get so stir crazy!

I intend to highlight some more details of my new role in future blog posts. My intention is to make this blog a personal blog, yes, but also to begin discussing IT industry topics and my perspective on them. We'll see how that goes.

For now, I'm just so blessed to be where I am professional as well as personally. Cheers to a great 2013 so far!

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K6MJT is On the Air!

Ham radio. Amateur radio. I have seen no recent survey but I would imagine that few people my generation even know what amateur radio is. At best, maybe "isn't that something grandpa used to do?" Or, "yeah is that like CB radios?" These are a couple of responses I've gotten from friends... in addition to several blank stares: "What's that?"

To me, amateur radio is in fact a bit about the nostalgia. Do I fancy myself a tweaker? Yes, of course. However, I don't imagine I'll be building antennae and radios in my (nonexistent) "shack" anytime soon. It is true, though, that I have always found physics, wiring, electricity, radios, microphones, sound waves, and like all very fascinating.

Grandpa with my sister and me, July 1991

In truth though, I have joined the likes of the great Gordon West (WB6NOA) due largely to my family, specifically my late Grandpa Thom (WA6BLC). He was a ham for many, many years, and (among other activities of course) he used to communicate around Seal Beach, CA, with my Uncle Dan (WB6DYN). My dad is a ham (KB6FWM), and my mother even had her license for a while (though it's now lapsed). Though I can't say it was huge in my upbringing, it always existed, and I always thought it was so cool. Plus, Grandpa did it.

In the late '90s I got some of the Gordon West literature and studied some (and practiced my Morse Code, as that was still a requirement back then!), but for some reason never got around to actually taking the test. I suspect marching band and general high school busyness is largely to blame for that.

When my Grandpa passed in 2005, for some reason that I truly can't explain, I determined that I would pass my ham test. Even if I never did much with it, I wanted to honor my Grandpa by doing so.

It may have taken an additional five years for me to get around to actually doing it, but I have, and I know my Grandpa would be proud of me. My uncle was also a big help in getting back "into" ham radio, so I definitely want to thank him a bunch too. Plus, he's kept my dad and me supplied with radios and batteries 🙂

Does amateur radio service a daily purpose? For many, it sure does. The community they have built among hams is really cool. While I have not really dived in and joined that at this point, it's neat to know that the community does exist. And in times of emergency, I have the license as well as know-how to be able to assist.

Say hi if you see me on the road!

Since rediscovering my desire to get my license, I've been mildly surprised by just how many hams there actually are all around me. While I don't operate daily, I'm looking forward to meeting many more in person and on the air.

Initially licensed as KC9UQE (what a mouthful!), I knew (regardless of what random call I was assigned) that I wanted to apply for my vanity right away. My family runs the Bay Area Radio Fraternity - Beach Area Group ham radio club in Seal Beach, and the club has/had a handful of signs used at times by my Grandpa, by my uncle, and by others. K6MJT was one of these that was used by my Grandpa -- he and I both share the initials of MJT, so, to me, this was perfect for me. I get to carry on one of his signs, but it's also specifically meaningful to me (having my initials in it). Also, it has the region code of "6" in it, paying homage to the fact that I was born in California and that's still "home" for the Thom family, despite the fact that I was living in Indiana when I was licensed. I even went so far as to get the vanity plate for my car, I was so proud of the new call sign!

I will also add that the main reason I specifically had ham radio brought back to my attention was by none other than Leo Laporte... I've been a big fan and follower of his shows for years (dating back to the Ziff-Davis TechTV days), and when he started a new show on his network with Bob Heil called Ham Nation, I was hooked. I knew I needed to get serious about my studying again and finish what I started so many years ago. Though as any ham will you tell, you never truly finish.

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Well, the day finally came. On Monday, October 3, I had microdiscectomy surgery to attempt to repair a 3+ year old herniated disc and associated pain.

The disc between L5-S1 is degenerated, and you can see the herniation out the back side clearly.

The injury happened when I was laying floor tile at the Christian Campus House in July 2008. I was working by myself, lifting improperly, and working quickly to get the whole job done in a matter of just a couple days. I learned a lot about laying ceramic tile (and for the most part the job turned out really well), but I also learned a lot about how to lift properly.

After this initial injury, I let a couple months go by without doing anything about it. I finally told my mom (who works at a Sports Medicine office in Indy that also has a Muncie office), and I got in to see the doc in the Muncie office. He prescribed a muscle relaxant, and I headed off to some physical therapy (also in Muncie) to try to straighten out my badly torqued torso.

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