About Mark Cathcart

I was formally an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, Formerly I was an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice (RUFN) while I make the move to Louisville CO. I organised and was ride leader for Jack and Adams Bicycle shop rides for 8-years; I own ATxD Multisports, a boutique sports management company; I'm an adviser to the Professional Triathletes Union, and to the Executive Director of Tri Equal, which aims to level the playing field and grow opportunity for professional and age group women in triathlon.

She said, he said

Friday evening we were waiting for a table for dinner, or a place at the bar, everything was looking pretty busy. I stood at the bar by a couple that looked like they were finished eating, but couldn’t get the attention of the bar staff. “She” spoke up to get the barmans attention. I thanked her and after we’d got our drinks, and cleared up that I wasn’t from Australia, the conversation went like this:

Her: How are things in Europe?
Me: Not so good, Nice sounds terrible. I suspect though at 7pm tonight, at a bar somewhere in Europe a couple were chatting and saying “what about all the gun violence in America, it’s not safe to go there anymore”.

Her: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that perspective.

War and BREXIT

I wasn’t surprised to wake-up this morning to an email from my regular “hater” Rick. Back when I lived in Austin I’d regularly get anonymous letters, sometimes just pages from magazines with words highlighted to make messages. Much more often than that though, I’d get emails from Rick.

Today’s email Rick said:

As I’ve told you before, you should get off your high horse and stop blogging; you are just conflating two things to suit your own agenda, I just wish you’d go away, no one cares about your opinion.

While the Iraq war might seem to have little to do with the BREXIT vote, it actually has everything to do with it. Last nights Panorama, where reporter Adrian Chiles goes home to the West Midlands to meet Leave voters. [Currently(Rick) you can watch it here and here on youtube, but neither are official and both likely to be taken down].

Listen for the causes for the justification to vote LEAVEs, lack of jobs, lack of school places, problems with Doctors and Medical, Pensions and more. All of those things have been hit by the austerity required to attempt to address the debt occurred from the British involvement in recents wars. Rather than discuss wars, the blame is squarely put on the EU and the open borders, thus the immigrants.

Typical of the people interviewed is Tracy, she says she isn’t racist and that a few racist people are giving the leave voters a bad name.

It’s got nothing to do with race, I mean, immigration is what makes the world go around, it’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. To me that’s how the world should work.

I feel like this country is falling apart, I voted leave because I don’t feel like the government isn’t putting enough back into the community, our councils, our housing situation. We are helping everybody else yet we are forgetting here.

For the record, I totally believe Tracy when she says she isn’t racist, but what she is confused about are the causes of her anger and frustration, and simplistic reasons for believing LEAVE will solve her problems.

It isn’t that the immigrants have been taking what’s “theirs”, it’s that along with an overall decline,  it’s that with the increased cost of war, the British Government cannot afford to invest to keep up with demand, and hence even maintaining levels of spending leads to austerity.

As a follow-on from my post of yesterday, Blairs willful denial of the true cost of Iraq, I went to look for the cost to Britain of some of the recent wars and on defense spending.

So while Britain now spends 3% annually of GDP on defence spending, and notionally the UK will now no longer have to pay and annual £12.9Bn to the EU, that is less than half defense and war spending. The UK though has the 3rd largest defence budget, larger than Russia, Germany, France, India and everyone except the USA and China.

The British Pound has now fallen below the Argentinian Peso as the worst performing currency, and the consequences of this, plus the other financial issues, will mean that the LEAVE voters will have to get used to things getting worse with little outlook for them getting better. OK Rick?

The Post BREXIT Pound Era

Watching former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speak in response to the Chilcot report, was depressing. Blair clearly hadn’t grasped, or at least wasn’t prepared to acknowledge the sheer cost in lives and money of going to war. Wars are expensive, very expensive.

As of writing this morning, the UK/British Pound is worth $1.2989. Essentially an all time low. My prediction is that it will settle around $1.25. That is a staggering decline over the last 100-years from all time high of nearly $5.

I’ve been sorting through my archives over the last 5-months, written, photographic and audio. I’ve even spent a few days building shelving to organize it, from scrap wood discarded by the local construction projects. I came across the WQXI Atlanta news piece last night, and it reminded of the first time I became aware of the exchange rate.

I was only 10 years old at the time, but I can still recall to this day how serious the devaluation of the pound was at the time. The devaluation was done over the weekend and in a broadcast at the time, Prime Minister Harold Wilson said this, which I can still hear in my head and a phrase that came to Haunt Wilson.

It does not mean that the pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalue

The Pound has declined in lockstep with the fall of the British Empire. The first major fall was post the failure of the classical Gold standard in 1914; when the cost of entering the World War meant the British had to assume massive debt. and as a result, devalued the pound. After the war was finished, Britain spent 10-years trying to return the pound to it’s prior value, using severe fiscal and monetary austerity. In 1925, Britain returned to the Gold Standard for a short time until 1931, post the great crash, when Britain again devalued the Pound.

The Pound bounced back again shortly later in the 1930’s, but rather than being a strength of the pound, it was actually due to the weakness of the US Dollar following the 2nd FDR New Deal reflation.

With the start of the Second World War, Britain again took on great debt; by 1944, that debt, combined with the debt from the First World which they’d never paid off, forced another devaluation and for Britain to join the Bretton Woods Exchange rate system which fixed the pound to the US Dollar, and the dollar was still linked to the Gold Standard. While the British could argue they’d defeated the Germans and ensured the freedom for all Europeans, it was at a massive cost that Britain has never recovered from. Politicians of the time tried, they’d set the exchange rate too high for a damaged economy. By 1949, they were again forced to devalue by 30% and the pound fell for the first time to sub $3.

For the next 18-years Britain struggled, and the government had to go to the IMF more than once for help. The Pound was finally allowed to float freely against the US Dollar in 1979, but only after 1978’s winter of discontent. What followed for the next 30-years was increasingly futile efforts through the disastrous entry into the ERM, informally linking the Pound to the German Mark, and more, all to no real effect.

Britain has consistently failed to recognize the real impact of the fall of British Empire, and the loss of the Pound as a reserve currency. Prior to World War 1, Britain, and by implication the pound was the dominant currency. It has gradually declined  since then and while Britain still likes to think of itself as a global economy, but it really isn’t.

When politicians like Andrea Leadsom, Former Economic Secretary to the Treasury and leading contender for next British Prime Minister, deny the financial impact of BREXIT, she clearly hasn’t learned the lessons of the past. Prime Minister Wilson’s government denied devaluation 27 times the same year they went on to devalue the pound. If Britain were in a fixed exchange rate system, BREXIT would have been another devaluation. The fall of the Pound since the BREXIT vote is the biggest since  1967 potentially. Welcome to the era of $1.25 and pray the Pound never falls below the mythical $1.00 rate.

Making Britain great again… didn’t happen under Blair, won’t happen under Leadsom.

 

 

*Footnote – This is of significant interest to me as I have an inheritance in the UK that I’d like to transfer to the US, and a former employer’s pension is both impacted by BREXIT and will be paid in UK Pounds, so it’s already worth less, and given the exchange, has probably halved in value this year.

Making Britain “Great again”

One of the more visible memes in the “Brexit” campaign, apart from the overt racism and lack of genuine empathy over immigration and the refugees, “make Britain great” and “take back control” was regularly heard and claimed.

Much like Trump in America, there is a notion that you can pull up the drawbridge, build a wall and everything will be OK. Well we are no longer in 1605 or 1776, global trade has stalled and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future, 150-years of tinkering and artificially manipulating and imposing borders in the Middle East has lead to turmoil and the disruption of the lives of millions, and the deaths of tens of thousands.

It’s worth remembering what made Britain great, because if you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where to go next. The foundation of modern Britain was created in the 16th and 17th century through trade and colonization. Almost all the wealthy families in the UK, the UK’s largest institutions can trace their wealth and power back to then.

What that really meant:

  • Enslaving millions of people in Africa and shipping them around the world
  • Helping to Colonize America, and in the process slaughtering millions of natives
  • Colonizing Australia  through the first effective industrial prison complex
  • During the 19th century, indenturing their own citizens in prison and workhouse like complexes in drive the so called “industrial revolution”
  • The forced separation of India and Pakistan which directly caused the deaths of 11-million people
  • Pillaging the world through it’s colonies of almost any natural resource that could become useful, starting with sugar, tea and tobacco, and continuing to this day with oil.
  • Being the joint protagonist in the world’s two biggest wars, leading to the deaths of tens of millions of ordinary people and soldiers.

So when Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson say let’s make Britain great again by taking back control, I don’t know what the fuck they mean.

Corrections: 6/24 19:30 changed enslaving to indentured which is what I meant

Open letter: CD Recycling

I don’t reblog often, but when I do, it is something important.

Adventures in systems land

Dear IT Industry Colleague,

I’ve just moved house. In the process I realised that I had hundreds of old datas CD’s. Some of them with old backups, many of them used to copy copies of other CD’s some DVD’s with dumps of system folders and so on a so forth.

I figured I’d just dump them in the recycling, which gets collected bi-weekly. On checking though, not only are these not recyclable, but they are actually pretty hard to completely destroy. They also contain a large amount of toxic chemicals, and unless they are sent to a specialty recycling center, most end up in incinerators or landfill, neither is a good thing.

There is a good article here on the general problems with the creation and disposal of CD/DVD’s, from 2013. It says, among other things:

The discs are made of layers of different mixed materials, including a combination of…

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Commiserations are due

My namesake, TOM, didn’t win the Republican primary for South Carolina district 42. As always, you get what you vote for, and the voting numbers were pretty low.

The victor, Mann’s total vote district-wide was 1,245 while Cathcart’s was 770.

 

Mark Cathcart for SC House 42

If you arrived here looking for the website of Mark Cathcart, running for South Carolina House of Representatives, district 42, you’ve arrived in the right place.

Before you take the link over to the actual website of my namesake, full of the usual rhetoric, unsubstantiated claims, and factless assertions, have a read of this.

I emailed the other Mark, hence forward referred to as TOM(The Other Mark) and asked him for his position and action on one, relatively simple topic, Civil Forfiture.

For a candidate for State office, would he work to eliminate or seriously improve civil forfeiture in South Carolina? Reading his website, you’d think this should be a cornerstone of his campaign.

In December 2015, the Institute for Injustice gave South Carolina a D- (one of the worst) for the protection of property owners. The Police only need probably cause to seize property,Law enforcement agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures, they keep 95% of forfeiture proceeds, with 75% going to police agencies, and 20% to prosecutors. Let’s remember, guilt not required, they can take and keep your stuff irrespective.

You’d think that someone who was campaigning on all these “issues” would be right on that, wouldn’t you?

  1. Over burdening government legislation
  2. Taxes, regulations and overextending laws are stifling our business community
  3. Unreasonable search and seizure, private property rights

Instead of being just-another-republican who preaches the same old rhetoric, ask TOM what he is going to do about South Carolina’s unfair, unjust civil forfeiture? If he isn’t going to do anything about that, he’s just looking to join the gravy train of politicians who while away their time, collect their salaries, and the daily allowance but don’t do much of anything but complain about Government overreach…

ps. If you are going to head over to his website anyway, ask him precisely where and how God gave Constitutional rights? As we all know, the constitution he so rightly swears to uphold, was in fact written and agreed by Men. The closest God came to giving constitutional rights were the 10 Commandments, by which TOM’s proclamation falls foul of the 4th commandment, taking God’s name in vain, to make something seem true, this obviously isn’t.

I don’t want to sit here

*The inspiration for this post and the words and comments came from the excellent Strongtowns blog, and a post written by Gracen Johnson.

One of the more interesting challenges of living somewhere that is a high development area, is not the density, construction, or traffic, it is trying to ensure that in the rush to build, there is more than a hat-tip to quality of life.

Boulder and surrounds are synonymous with open space, and trails. All the developments adjacent to my neighborhood has trails and reasonably close access to open space, usually via trails. However, in a development with more than 120 single family homes, our developer has provided nothing to build or foster community, a far as I’m aware not a single swing or slide has been added.

Immediately adjacent to our development, North End Phase II/III, the same developer is applying to build another 78-dwellings, including single family, duplex and triplex homes. The development will for sure attract families.

I reviewed the plans, and there it was, adjacent to the power line trail, a lonely out-crop of the development, and almost immediately under overhead power lines, a “covered picnic area and table”. I thought this would be a good opportunity to challenge the developer and Lafayette Planning Commision to provide something better.

This is especially relevant, as the developer is seeking reduced lot sizes, and higher density. Meaning the back yards will be smaller, with less room for children to play.

Using pictures of what the developer has done on our development, I spoke before the planning commision last Tuesday (May 24th).
“Mr Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Commissioners, thank you for taking time to let me speak tonight. I’m Mark Cathcart, a new resident of Louisville CO. I live in the North End Phase II Development, just 250 yards immediately west of the proposed Blue Sage development.

As you know, North End and Blue Sage are from the same developer. At least in the North End Phase II development, the Public open space and community assets are disappointing.

While I’m sure the developer would argue otherwise, realistically I doubt any of the residents would. Not a single swing or slide has been added, we have Hecla Lake, which would have otherwise been difficult to develop, mostly due to the adjacent power lines. We have a drainage ditch that masquerades as an open space, and a pocket park, similar I would guess, to the one being proposed for the Blue Sage development.

Slide2The question is why would you want to sit here? Would you let your toddlers and young children play on the Boulders, helpfully surrounded by bark to break their fall?

I admit, this isn’t finished, the pictures were taken this afternoon. There is no allocated public parking, and no play area, it is adjacent to the water pumping station and to North End Phase III, and what are likely to be the 10-most expensive houses, I would guess over a million dollars each, in the entire North End development.

Allowing pocket parks like this stay under HOA control, limits almost any future improvement.

In some circles, this would be called defensive architecture, deliberately unappealing.

Slide3The top picture is from Blue Star Lane, south west of the Blue Sage development, looking into the open space to be developed.

We (often) demand developers throw some cash toward green space or public amenities in order to get approval for construction. You see it all the time in subdivisions with exquisite landscaping, pocket parks, and benches that are only appreciated from behind a car window or on the planning application.

The bottom picture is taken from the north west of the open space, looking south east to South Boulder Rd. We should spend our time obsessing why there are no people here, rather than what they might do wrong if they showed up.

Yes, Waneka Lake Park is just over a mile away from the development via the trails, but how much parking does it have and how many children can the play area take?

I’d ask you to reject the current proposal for reduced lot sizes, and increased lot coverage and ask the developer to produce a more useful community based amenity open space.”

Although the sketch plan proposal was approved, enough members of the planning commision asked for a better park that the developer will be expected to make some changes. We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with.

Does the Austin Mayor use Cabs?

NYC-Taxi-Drivers-2014-Calendar-9[1]In the fallout from the withdrawal of Uber and Lyft from Austin, following a defeat on Prop-1, Mayor Adler has come up with his 7-point plan to manage the vacuum.

He, along with many others are hoping that Austin is such a jewel in the Uber/Lyft crown, that they’ll soon be back, tail between their legs asking to be allowed to operate in Austin again. I’m not so sure.

This farce could have been completely avoided if Austin, and by implication Mayor Adler, and more importantly his predecessor, Mayor Leffingwell, had actually been planning for the future rather than retrospectively legislating for the past.

What I find staggering about Adlers 7-point plan is that it contains NOTHING that addresses how shitty the current taxi cab service is in Austin. There is nothing magical about Uber and Lyft, or for that matter other transportation networking companies (TNCs).

Instead of focusing on issues which, while valid, are not a major problem, Austin should have renegotiated and mandated the cab companies have to deliver the innovation that the TNC’s have bought to transportation.

I’m sick of getting a cab at Austin Bergstrom airport with a driver in a cab who doesn’t know where the address is; doesn’t understand my accent; and misses the turns that I’ve told him to make; and then says can’t do anything about the fee as its “on the meter”… How about we legislate to make transportation modern and efficient… I could care less if the drivers can’t speak English, or can but don’t understand my English…

There are way too many other many things like this… credit cards… “yeah sorry, my machine isn’t working”…. stinky cars full of trash and worn out seats, worn out suspension, no real ability to feedback or rate the service; no feedback; no drivers ID’s displayed, and buttons clipped all over them… when you get out the car after a disagreement, no way to track or feedback about the service, the list goes on and on…

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

The following is a pretty hard to believe story of what happens when you subscribe to the Apple Music service. This isn’t new, back in 2008, I got a call from Cassidy, she couldn’t find any of the music on her PC after installing iTunes to sync to her then, new ipod.

It was partly what I learned then that convinced me to never ever install iTunes or use Apple devices. I admit I was pre-disposed to not using Apple anyway.

Recently I’ve been backing up my digital music collection to Amazon Cloud Drive (unlimited everything) service. I’ve had lots of problems backing up 2.5Tb of music from my NetGear ReadyNAS RAID Array to the Amazon service via an intermediate PC. I’ve not got to the bottom of this yet, but the good news is the intermediate PC only has READ access to the music, so the original files cannot be deleted by the Amazon Windows app. However, I’ve got a lot of empty folders on the cloud service that are not empty of the NAS, and lots of directories that simply don’t get backed up.

The following article has some important lessons for anyone who deals with or creates their own music. Backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup.

Read on:

“The software is functioning as intended,” said Amber. “Wait,” I asked, “so it’s supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?” “Yes,” she replied. …

Source: Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously. | vellumatlanta