A 2022 Update & Things to Come!

Hello Internet! I realize I haven’t posted anything to my personal blog here in…a while…but that will change soon! I’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes and, most importantly, refining my writing craft. (My professional content has done well, but let’s face it — my previously personal content here has been crap, hence the hiatus). So here’s what’s been up and what’s coming up —

First, I’m one of three hosts in a soon-to-go-live weekly podcast! The first episode of Little Podcast of Horrors hits the interwebs air next month to kick off Halloween. In the meantime, check out our trailer here!

Second, the drought of content here has largely been due to my focus on building up my new freelance writing business over the past two years. I’m proud to say it’s had a humble bit of success and is continuing to grow over at Panetti Tech Insights.

A lot of my recent work has been as a contributing author to ransomware.org, the latest of which was my three-part series on how the zero trust model can be applied as a ransomware defense strategy: Can the Zero Trust Model Prevent Ransomware?, The 3 Principles of ‘Zero Trust’, and Microsegmentation: Trapping Ransomware Before It Can Spread.

Third, I’m slooooowly working on growing my Discord gaming community. It’s being going strong for nearly a decade now (hit me up in the comments here if you’d like an invite).

Fourth, you may recall from my 2019 post, I’m Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, and “Panetti” was Made-Up (one of my better pieces, if I do say so myself), I have never known my father’s identity. My mother took that secret to her grave, and other family members have only been able to offer hypotheses that unfortunately never produced any real leads. That being the case, I finally took the dive and had a DNA test done via Ancestry.

Those DNA results are in and have led me to a whole new list of 1st-2nd cousins. Most of them do not appear in my mother’s side of the tree in any way and the last names are all foreign to me, suggesting likely relation to my mystery father. This has produced the strongest lead I have to date, but I’m still not holding my breath.

I’m happy to say I can die happy never knowing — I live an awesome life as-is and am blessed with financial security so that I have no need nor desire to chase down any possible inheritances or the like. It would just be a nice bonus to meet new family peeps if the opportunity ever arises.

That’s it for now — Going forward, I intend to post more often then every two years. Drafts are in progress!

Fox News Lied About my Church

Quick post today.  I need my conservative/moderate/centrist friends to understand this.

(Disclaimer: I offer no partisan bias.  I am a passionate, party-less independent.)

I attend an Episcopal church here in Dallas, which has been my happy church home for  a few years now.

This week, St. John’s Episcopal church in D.C. suffered a basement fire during protests.  So that we avoid any news bias, here’s the official word directly from the church itself.  That link was posted by the church’s official Twitter account.

Dear Parishioners,
We are writing from the Parish House where we’ve been able to fully assess the damage from last night’s protests.
As we know many of you have already heard, there was a small fire in the parish house basement. Thankfully, it appears to have been contained to the nursery—though, as you might imagine there is smoke and water damage to other areas of the basement.
We’re very happy to report that the rest of the church and parish house is untouched except for some exterior graffiti, which the city’s graffiti team has already covered up.
Fire investigators are still working, but once they are done, we have a crew standing by to secure the buildings.
Please know how grateful we are for the support and messages we’ve received in the
past days. Please continue to pray for our community and our country.
In peace,
Rev. Rob Fisher, Rector
Paul Barkett, Senior Warden
Jeff Hanston, Junior Warden

Here’s another official post from the church on the matter:

The protests that began peacefully grew to something more, and eventually a fire was lit in the nursery, in the basement of Ashburton House.

Like many of you perhaps, I had little access to information about how bad the fire was while it was happening. It felt horrible to see glimpses of smoke rising by the stairs to our entrance on national TV, and then to have it confirmed with an up-close video showing the flames in the basement.

Fortunately, it was in fact completely extinguished. I just assessed the damage as best I could, in the semi-dark and with a flashing, bleating alarm system that I could not figure out how to shut off. My ears are still ringing, and I am still coughing a bit from various fumes I inhaled. But I am happy to share with you that I could see no other real damage besides that one room, and quite a bit of graffiti and debris around the exterior of the church. Protestors easily could have done a lot worse to our buildings, but they chose not to do that. (The damage I saw to other nearby buildings illustrated this point.)

None of this changes our purpose to be an instrument for God’s work through all of this, and in fact now more than ever. I pray for our collective wisdom, grace, courage and compassion as we move forward into what God is calling us to do and be next.

You see acknowledgement that, yes, this was a result of protests, but nonetheless protests the church supports, and look — the damage was mitigated and minimal.  The church has no ill word to offer protestors in the wake of this.  Fair?  If you suspect I’m being biased, look over the church’s statements on  your own.  Don’t take my word for it.

Now look how Fox News twisted this event to fit their partisan narrative:

As authorities clashed with demonstrators for the third straight night, the parish house connected to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street from the White House was set on fire late Sunday. The parish house contains offices and parlors for gatherings. The basement, which was also torched, is used for childcare during church services, and had recently undergone renovations.

What was a minor fire quickly put out is now phrased as the church being “torched”.  Interesting word choice.  But hey, maybe I’m being picky — fair enough.

But wait — Fox News included a link in that statement above.  Click the “set on fire late Sunday” part.  It leads to this post on  Twitter:

Antifa is burning down the historic St. John’s Church by the White House. It’s completely up in flames.

Fox News officially linked to a Twitter post explicitly blaming Antifa for burning down the church.  Well.  That description escalated quickly.  Wait…Antifa did it?  We Episcopals said nothing about Antifa.  Why did Fox News add that (in addition to staying the church burned down, which — um….You guys realize it’s still there and just fine, decidedly not burned down)?

Let’s see where this goes next.  From the same article:

Separately on Sunday, Twitter suspended the account of Antifa, the left-wing group that Trump branded a terrorist organization earlier in the day. The suspension came after Antifa urged members to go into “white hoods” and “take what’s ours.”

Click the link on the word “suspended“.  The post states:

As of right now @twitter is suspended @antifa_us.
Thing is, “antifa_us” was a fake account…created by white supremacists, specifically the group Identity Evropa.
Fox News lied — not only lied, but lied in an unapologetically hateful manner.
Look, I don’t endorse Antifa.  As I stated in my previous post, I advocate nonviolence.  But this wasn’t Antifa.
I want you to understand how real and — in my case — how personal this is.  The Episcopal church itself spoke out against this twisting of the narrative:
This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, lifted up a bible, and had pictures of himself taken. In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us.
Fox News used what happened to the church I belong to to create a false narrative — “fake news”, to borrow a popular term.  This narrative ironically and tragically goes directly against what the very mission this church is all about.  This is overt, purposeful deception for the purpose of propaganda.
Friends, it brings me no joy to share this stuff.  I was once a hard-right conservative, Republican, and a huge Fox News fan.  The process of learning the truth was painful and I grieve to this day.  I was fooled for years.  We have been fooled.  We have been played for fools.
(Apologies for the bad spacing/formatting on this one — WordPress is being weird with how it’s handling line breaks and <br> tags at the moment.  I haven’t quite figured out how to sort that.)

Sharing Some Creative Writing!

Thought I’d share a tidbit of creative nonsense: I recently attended a local writers meetup group that met at the Nerdvana coffee shop up in Frisco (a favorite haunt of mine).  The challenge of the evening was a simple free-write assignment in which we were given around 20min or so and nothing but a blank page.  We were given three words, and then were to write a scene about it.  No looking back, no editing, just straight writing for 20 minutes.

Those words were: “return”, “wear”, and “theft”.

Being the snarky sort I am, I just made that my title, and now I give you my 20 minutes of random, entitled:

Return-Wear Theft

“It’s called Return-Wear and it’s taken the nation by storm!  For the first time ever, enjoy a worry-free try-before-you-buy clothing experience!  No more gazing longingly through storefront windows wondering how that cocktail dress might fit you, or if that tuxedo really matches your eyes for that upcoming best friend’s wedding.  With our patented –”

“Freaking proximity ads!” Dex growled as he fumbled for the flashlight he had dropped from the startle.  “How do you shut these damn things off?!”

“Like I know?” Paz shot back in a strained, tense whisper.

“It’s all about the nanomachines, friend,” the ad cheerfully continued.  “Tap your Return-Wear ID into the store display’s Cybertech RealYou Input Reader, and in a flash your Return-Wear Nanosuit will take on the form of that dashing outfit in the store window!”

“Stop talking.  Sign off.  Skip ad.  SHUT—”

“Dex!” Paz snapped as a blonde strand loosened and swept across her sharp blue eyes.  “Just ignore it!”

Dex grumbled.

They were both shoving as many of the “Return-Wear” nanosuits as they could clumsily grab into their black duffle bags.  Displayed in the default storage setting, the nanosuits took up only a few square inches of space each, folded impossibly neatly and stacked 20-30 per pile.

“Dex….” Paz squeezed between hurried breaths, “why the frickin’ frick did we decide to bust into a Cybertech store for our first score again?”

“Do big if you’re gonna dream big, kid.  Wasn’t that the line that overpriced prick’s book fed you?  So…”

Paz’s young eyes narrowed in warning.

“…we’re doin’ big.”  He shrugged, deciding wisely to cut himself off short.

“THANK YOU, VALUED CUSTOMER!”  jolted them both upright as the suit Dax just grabbed shimmered and shifted to life.  “Your 30-day Return-Wear trial starts NOW!!!”

“Oh cra—”

The neatly-folded square of default-gray expanded, pouring itself off the shelf and up Dax’s arm like a tiny reverse waterfall.  Less than a second later, he was sporting a default-gray skin-tight bodysuit.

“Dax Lars, your trial RealYou ID is 127-XJ44!  No commitment required – If you don’t submit a form of payment in 30 days from today, your Return-Wear Nanosuit will disengage and return itself!  Simple and hassle-free, the Cybertech way!”

“What the –”

“Dax Lars, do you consent that your unique biometric data be tracked along with your geo-location implant chip by Cybertech Industries for the next thirty days?”

“What do you mean ‘consent’?!  I didn’t –”

“THANK YOU VALUED CUSTOMER!  Don’t worry about finding a return drop-off – we’ll find you!”

He turned with a knowing wince to meet Paz’s piercing, damning stare of needles, which he could only meet with a sheepish, defeated chuckle.

“It’s not that I’m angry,” her typically mousy voice stated quietly and cooly, “it’s that I’m just really disappointed.”

Bonus Audio Feature!

While I’m pursuing my dream of scifi writing, my best buddy is pursuing his dream of voice acting, so he offered to lend his talents to my amateur-hour piece here for his own practice, and thus I give you the audio drama version.  <— Click it!

It’s Been a Year?

Whoa! My last post was in January?? And it’s December now?!

So…oops.

Thus this post is going up to (a) promise I’m coming back with future posts and (b) haven’t forgotten about the loyal few of you who actually read this!

First and foremost — Gina! You commented on my post back in January, then I never responded because I’m horribly ADD about keeping up with comments. Better late than never: Heck no I haven’t forgotten you, and I can’t put into words how much what you said meant to me. No joke — it’s stayed on my mind all year.

Now, for everyone else — Here’s what’s up:

All the Projects!

I have mostly retreated from both online and real social life this year so I could really, really hardcore buckle down and engage in some deep self-reflection, skill-sharpening, and serious exploration of some personal visions. Life has changed in big — and good! — ways over the past couple of years, especially with my mother’s funeral behind me, which means my family-crisis-managing and family-care-giving days are likewise behind me. That has…opened doors deep within that I didn’t expect.

I have a LOT more physical and emotional energy. I’m in a really good place, so I’ve been capitalizing on it. I started by revisiting some old dreams that I had unconsciously let go of.

Taking a Stab at a Book

So I’ve always wanted to write a book. Science fiction. Weird stuff. If you look back at my previous posts, I have a crap-ton of experience writing right-brained stuff. Believe it or not, I do have a left side, and I’ve been working on waking it back up.

I have no delusions of grandeur or mid-life-crisisy-type vision of being the next big thing or whatever. I just always wanted to do it for funsies, see what happens, so what the hell, gonna take a stab at it. Thus far, it’s mostly been a lot of creative writing courses and book reading and story architecting so I have the fundamentals (structure, narrative voice, themes, etc.) down first.

It may very well suck and you may never see it. But its’ a good exercise for the soul.

Learning to Code

Once upon a time, early-20’s-me waltzed into college with high dreams for a computer science degree. I then took several semesters of C++ and bombed my first attempt at Data Structures (which I’ve learned — way too many years later — is more or less a rite of passage). Growing up always acing classes and not knowing how to cope with not doing so, I immediately gave up and switched majors. As you do.

(Hmm. Future blog post maybe? That topic’s got some history to it.)

Since then, I’ve been doing fifteen years of tech support. Which — don’t get me wrong — hasn’t been all horrible (especially in the higher-end niche areas I’m in now) and the pay has been really dang good…but nonetheless, I didn’t start this journey with dreams of tech support.

I’ve been revisiting (and forgiving) my younger self on this one. I’ve actually picked up a lot on the job over the years, so getting back into coding has been a pretty speedy ramp-up. Earlier this year I released my first-ever application that I developed for my team to use to ease a complex manual process we were having to perform at the time. It was a small amateur-hour little thing written in Python, but it worked (works!), and so that was a major milestone.

Since then I’ve been delving further into Python and Java, with some JavaScript dabbling here and there, all the while fending off imposter syndrome every step of the way. (I may need to blog about that too.)

Currently I’m learning to develop an Android app for myself that I could really make a lot of use of. (I’m a believer in learning by solving actual real-life problems.)

Technical Writing

Certainly the most boring-sounding of my endeavors, but I’ve really developed a knack for tech writing. In its most default form, tech writing is just whipping up software manuals left and right, but I’ve been exploring it in the broader sense in which it can be a real educational tool with some creative personally added for pizazz (I’ve heard the term “content engineer” floated about as an alternative). I won’t bore you with the details here, but I’ve been acting as the unofficial content lead and (only) dedicated tech writer for the product I currently support with hopes that I can sooner than later finally transition from technical support to technical writing. For me, it’s all about making something as opposed to fixing something.

It seems a logical step while I’m pursuing the other loftier grander goals above. It’s fun.

If you want to see what that looks like, you can find my name plastered all over https://guide.blazemeter.com.

I was also featured on my company’s blog here recently.

Tech for Good

Speaking of lofty goals, I’ve always wanted to save the world for as long as I’ve drawn breath. While that’s not gonna happen, I have been researching and learning about possible ways I can perhaps find a way to combine my passion for nonprofit (and profit-for-good), morally-crusading service and my love for technology.

I’ve spent the last year discovering what that landscape looks like (and being pleasantly surprised it actually exists!), which has meant learning about the good work some organizations and companies like the Mozilla Foundation, DuckDuckGo, the Tor Network, Brave, and others have been doing.

And That was 2019

So that’s why this blog went dark for the better part of a year. 2020 is going to be all about taking eeeeveeeeeryyyything I learned this year and making a real action plan out of it. I’m excited.

It’s also been an exercise in trying to learn to quiet myself and listen for what I believe is God’s calling — what exactly that calling is and what a proper bringing-to-life of that calling could look like.

I turn 40 this year! Which, what? I’m pretty sure I’m still waiting to grow up. But I figured, hey, good round number — good a time as any to do some looking back for the sake of moving forward!

Lots more to come! Bear with me! In the meantime, let me know if you’d be interested in me rambling about anything particular on here in the future.

 

I’m Pro-Life & Pro-Choice, and “Panetti” was Made-Up

First, to the few of you actually reading this thing, my apologies for the extended lull in posting. I’m working on multiple projects at the moment, for which blogging has temporarily taken a back seat.

Today, though, I want to present to you my take on a topic because of how it hits particularly close to home for me.  It is not an I’m-write-and-they’re-wrong stance, but rather an invitation to deeper reflection and discussion of the topic.  For the sake of ethos, I want to open this with a personal anecdote.  It’s probably going to feel a bit off-the-rails going in, but bear with me — this will culminate to my point regarding the topic at hand.

My mother was pressured to abort me.

During the ’70s, my teenage mother was a bit, shall we say, promiscuous, for lack of a better word. (To be a teenager is to be riddled with impulses, regardless.) One such fling resulted in my fetus announcing its arrival early in the year of 1979.

Now, an important side note: Be aware of the the culture of the ’70s, even the early ’80s that followed. To be a single unwed mother back then was to be more of a pariah than even today. It was even more so of a scarlet letter on the forehead that what we’re accustomed to.

With that in mind: My arrival was not just a damning visible scar on my mother’s reputation, but it was a disgrace to my entire family’s honor (again, seen via their cultural moral filter of the day).

My grandmother, a highly-revered matriarch in my family, wanted none of this and pressured my mother to abort me.  My mother — all her other faults notwithstanding — refused.

There was a whole chain of shame-driven events that followed like dominoes, none of this which I’d learn about until my mid-20’s.  This progression of bad decision followed by worse decision culminated into a deceitful narrative I grew up my entire youth believing that all revolved around a fictional, murdered father figure who never existed.  This whimsical narrative (a topic for another day) to cover up a past they were collectively ashamed of went so far as to provide me with a fictional legal last name.  (Yes — “Panetti” is made up.  Were convention followed, my last name would be “Barton”, after my actual father, who is in fact still alive, though denies relation.) 2022 Update: Haha just kidding on that whole “Barton” thing — Years of detective work since this post fully disproved that previous lead (insert facepalm).

Where am I going with this?  Two personal conclusions:

One – I enjoy being alive.  I am not a fan of the idea of having been aborted.

Two – The dominant norms of fundamentalist evangelical Christian conservatism leaned in favor of my abortion.  I understand my anecdotal experience to be a microcosm of the culture of the day.  Before you rise to debate that conclusion, consider: were fundigelical conservatism not driving societal morals, there would have been no shame in being a single mother to begin with.  That much is undeniable.  Catalyst.  Reaction.

If you doubt the influence of conservative fundigelicalism even still, then I present anecdotal Exhibit B: when I finally learned of this in my mid-20s, that truth was accompanied by a rather cutting claim from another paving-hell-with-good-intentions family member that the “sins of the father” (in this case sex outside of marriage) are a curse carried by the son, and that I myself, by extension, was ripe for sexual sin because of theirs.  This was in the early 2000’s, not the ’70s.

Now only was it their shame then, it was my shame now.  What?

My story is not unique (save the over-the-top fictional dad part).  My story is shared by countless others of my generation, else I wouldn’t dare suggest my anecdotal experience is adequately instructive.

Today, fundamentalist evangelical conservative Christians are insisting that abortion is murder and must be illegal.  Full stop.

Something doesn’t add up here.

To put it another way: the need for abortion to arbitrarily save face — a problem created by fundigelicalism — is a problem that must be solved by fundigelicalism.

We have a word for that in psychology when such a claim is made to an individual: gaslighting. “It’s your fault I made you do that, and only I can fix this by punishing you.”  This is gaslighting on a macro level, moving across multiple generations.

2022 Update: So, funny story — the entire 2nd half of this post vanished into thin air, never to be seen again. No idea what happened, though I suspect my recent WordPress migration might be to blame.

Anyway, the short-short-short version: “Pro-choice” doesn’t mean “pro-abortion”; no one actually wants more abortions. Abortions are always unfortunate, but (a) are sometimes medically necessary and (b) the abortions-for-birth-control archetype is a strawman. I’m pro-choice in that I support a mother’s choice based on her own best discernment and I’m pro-life in that I support building a community that provides access to women’s healthcare, including affordable-if-not-free after-birth childcare so, that they can make the best choice possible. 

The two are not at all mutually exclusive. The controversy was fabricated for political gain and nothing more. I’ll write a new piece on this to go into detail. (Mind you, what I’ve said here still paints this too simply, but it’s the short-short-short version.)