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Actual Data Analyst Spells Out Common Excel Support Challenge


Posted by Dave

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I sometimes get called up to fix issues with Excel running too slow or throwing cryptic error messages that not only confound my local user base, but, in checking, the entire Googlesphere of users which never arrives at a consistent definite resolution.  The rate of resolving these issues by simply manhandling the local PC or instance of MS Office is something like zero percent.

If an Excel instance is generally running fine, as is the OS as a whole, more often than not I wind up with the sense that whatever is being "Excel-processed" probably shouldn't be, or, if ever should have been and was, is beginning to reach its implied level of non-suitability for the task.   It's either beginning to work with a dataset that is increasingly too large for stability, or there has been an increase in the inter-dependencies of the specific worksheet as a whole -- usually both.  The issues sometimes affect just one user, a small subset, or everyone using the same "data solution" called Excel.

It's not my place to play role of "data analyst" in these situations, but, just in knowing how these things work over 20 or so years, my guess is always that an "Excel-centered solution" that at a lower scale was just fine, is being applied without check or re-analysis, as the larger scale use case begins to unfold.

Direct link to video if it doesn't play right here, is here instead.

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James W. Ricketts, Banker and Barber, Molested Me in 1979


Posted by Dave

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A one James W. Ricketts molested me for about a year in 1979-80 or so.  Not necessarily you, if you happened to be named James W. Ricketts, and not necessarily a James W. Ricketts that you may know.  There could be several James W. Ricketts.  

The James W. Ricketts I am outing today lived in Ft. Lauderdale Florida in the cited time period, on Southwest 19th Street, just ajacent to I-95.  For a year, he would pick me up from my then-home in the city, and take me to his house (and once his mother's) where he would go free, following a classical grooming process.  This guy from my perspective of him in this world, was a classical textbook pedophile.  

I believe I have a rich file on this guy chronicling a period from which he apparently left the VP bank position he held at the time, to opening and operating a barber shop in Dania Beach, Florida.  From there it's a little ambiguous what he might have been doing with his time but following what I suspect  to be the matched online records, he's done pretty well for himself financially. 

He married his husband, who I suspect is his one-time roommate from the period I knew him, but which is speculation and irrelevant.  I could reasonably assume the worst about him too since, while "sleeping over", I was in Mr. Rickett's bed while the roommate slept in the next room several instances over, but there's nothing to indicate in my mind he tangibly knew what was going on.  A different time that it was, one might believe it to be innocuous.  But of course, I'm probably being generous.

I believe my James W. Ricketts was the same person once criminally processed in North Carolina, and if so, I can certainly guess the nature of the crime.  North Carolina doesn't provide as many details online as so many other jurisdictions do, so I can only guess.  On the whole though, it is worth noting, he appears to have avoided any sex offender registry I've so far checked. 

This James W. Ricketts came into my (our) life following the very disorganized period following my mother's divorce during those years.  My mother had outreached to the Big Brother, Big Sisters program and tried to match us.  It was an  honorable and no doubt a fruitful move for millions of kids in equal situations, but in this case, it took a pretty dark and horrific turn.

The  organization could not match us immediately, so there was a waiting list.  Someone representing the program came to our home and interviewed each of us (meaning, my brother and my sister).  I remember being walked around the block by this person being asked and answering all types of questions designed to help the matching process.  Then he left and that was it.

While on the waiting list, however, the organization apparently ran intermediate outings and get-togethers such as cookouts and the like, and they sent invitations to myself and my siblings.  On the day "of" one of the people who was not "exactly" a participating "Big Brother" per se, but, was apparently helping to chaperone everyone, was James W. Ricketts.  We called him Jim.

Jim handled the day's events, but after, kept in touch.  Keeping in touch led to him developing a relationship further, that included taking me out on weekends.  That keeping in touch led to him getting physical, ever gradually, until all that keeping in touch led to touch, touch, touch.  

It was awkward, weird, uncomfortable, and I took evasive action every Saturday to avoid it.  He would try to schedule our outings or sleepovers together on that day of each week, but if I successfully managed to avoid doing that somehow, I might just as easily come home any given Saturday evening and find his car idling in our driveway, waiting ambush-style.  

Uck.  And as a 12-year-old (maybe 11) kid with the cordial blessing of the friendly interactions he had with my mother through his open car window, naive and blind to such audacious evil herself, I would go.

No I did not "tell" anyone then.  And through most of my early to mid adulthood I did not tell anyone in authority.  It was not until 2006 that I tried a round of calls starting with FDLE (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), the Ft. Lauderdale Police, and the Broward County Sherriff's Office.  I was inspired to finally act because at the time there was a political scandal involving a Senator I believe, and the details were jostling enough to make me realize how overdue for something so serious, and so potentially lethal to the well-being of another child, was. 

And, probably part more true-crime-story fantasy than pertinent, James W. Ricketts once showed me a pair of little boy underwear belonging to someone much younger than me at the time.  The thought crossed my mind while making these calls that this guy could be the Adam Walsh killer.  Same era, same place, same sick behavior, and apparently off anyone's radar, so, maybe.  Of course today they believe they have that guy, but, in 2006 I suggested it to one of the parties I had called. 

I sounded a little over the top to myself at the time, so I didn't press that angle, but I did want to let police know this guy existed.  I was a little over the top in suspecting an Adam Walsh tie-in, granted, but here's the thing: I remember the last day he picked me up from the hotel my family had temporarily moved into, just before we moved to Houston, Texas.  

He picked me up and he just drove.  None of the usual pedo-warmth, none of the engagement, just me sitting in the passenger's seat and him driving around the city to no place in particular.  He was thinking, and, looking back, to me, it seems clear about what:  It was the last time he would have access to and control over me.  Could he live the rest of his life knowing I was out there with the truth, or could something else happen to prevent that?  

Decisions, decisions.

So for me, the Adam Walsh potential connection wasn't entirely crazy, but I didn't want to eclipse the more actual and certain report I was making with a fantastical add-on.  What I know is this guy likes to play with kids, and only maybe thinks about murdering them.

The problem with action turned out to be that I would have to prove locations and times etc., and properly report to the right jurisdiction.  One particular deputy officer who I seemed to have noted as "Nitello" in my notes, invited me to call him back if I wasn't getting anywhere, and I am ashamed to say for all the time and focus it would have taken to do anything with, I did not accept that invitation when as it would prove to be, I didn't get anywhere.  

And so, while freely discussing it to my friends and family since that limp report effort, I decided it was otherwise best to avoid the work of it,  the legal trouble, and the risk of retribution that some upper middle class rich guy might decide to launch.

I still must feel that way because I am not waging a "campaign" against James W. Ricketts, even now in making this post.  Rather, I am taking note that a man of his age must be ready to check out soon.  At last check, yes, the guy is pushing his early-80s.  There's data lag of course, he might even be dead today for all I know, having checked out before the "BeenVerifieds" of the web have had a chance to update their records. 

I am taking note and just letting him know, or his legacy, that he didn't get away with it for all eternity, to the ignorance of everyone.  In his final years on earth let him deal with the potential for people to match this post specifically to him.  I might have just kept the lid on this, I am certainly not angry, and I don't feel "scarred" or permanently destroyed by him.  Not sure what's up with that, I always feel like I should have been shooting up with drugs of the heroin sort by now, or having long since committed suicide because something bad happened to me of such scale, but I don't.  

In making this post, I guess I just agree that I can't share the ambivalence to his favor.  Doing that somehow marginalizes me and makes me impotent for the real things we have to stand up against in this world, in the time we have.  I have to face the rest of my life knowing I matter and his crime selfish, and I have to advance the charge, risk and all.  Should I fall back and live blissfully shrugging as I have, or should I do my part to re-balance the universe, possibly even to my darkest peril. 

Decisions, decisions.  *click*


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I'm Lounging Around a Few Days Off Work


Posted by Dave

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I'm on vacation this week but it's a pretty dry one.  I've not arranged any trips, and I certainly wouldn't have the cash for anything too exotic in the first place.  

I go into this peeved because a presentation at work I was responsible for blew up just before I left.  I had spent weeks preparing for it, complete with redundancies, but in the end the technical gods had their say.  The key bomb was that the presentation computer rebooted on its own (peeling back this onion, I learned that the computer was inadvertently classified as one that should reboot, versus what I specifically coded it not to do because, hey, presentation machine), sending everything else careening.  There was a last minute requirement change that fell outside the recovery dry-runs as well that exasperated the situation, though fortunately there was enough of said dry runs that in fact I could recover and at least the presentation could continue in a general sense.  But, it was clumsy and we lost our remote audience.  Argh!  There were subsequent presentations which went smoothly but I didn't want to go into these days off grumbling over any of them, but here we are.  Grumble grumble.

 I'm on day 2 of the "days off" and so far I've spent most of the non-roosting time (read: sleeping, lounging, drinking coffee), coding improvements to how my One Minute Webcams refresh.  

Previously, my camera self-refreshing pop-out pages did a complete reload about once a minute.  I literally mean the whole box and its content refreshed.  That's fine but kind of cheap.  I wanted a cleaner more professional way.  

What I wound up doing was simply dropping in some JavaScript to only update the current snapshot by literally dropping in the latest image over the old one.  Now, if you're staring at the window (you sick bastard), every 60 seconds or so, the image itself changes, which is in fact much, much better.

I'm not a professional coder and the new process initially did not work.  I tested and proved that, mechanically insofar as the code was behaving, it was doing its thing.   But the image itself was not changing from the current to the new.  And there was nothing to explain it.

Something from my deep past in doing real JavaScript work nudged me from the bottom of the neuron pile and suggested it was because the two image file calls I was attempting, involved exactly the same file name.  And as such, in mysterious JavaScript land, the difference were thus not being detected.  To prove my theory I needed to somehow change the file names to make them different, yet, without actually changing the file names -- because the current image and the new image were in fact sourced from the same file name.  And further, the differences in the file name needed to persist; I couldn't just change the file name once, I had to change them every single time the image updated.  Yikes!

It actually was not difficult to do though.  I simply used a JavaScript Math.random(); function to give me a random number, then appeneded that random number to the updated image file name as a query parameter.  I realized that the addition of the query parameter to the file name would "change" the file name of the base image file, but the base image file name itself would stay the same.  When the routine hit the part of the code that placed the updated image, the query parameter information would simply be ignored but it will still be "seen" by my code as a valid change, and hence, a valid update action to fire.

The hunch was spot on and the trick worked.  You can see the results yourself by opening the Allen Street and Delaware Avenue One Minute Webcam pop-up refresh box at Buffcam, (or my own Live Webcam).  The process is much cleaner now. 

If this were a popular commenting forum with real exposure, chances are a lot of coders would jump in and try to point out a better, smarter, way.  I get it. But the fact is I gotta make do on the limited smarts I got, and this solution worked.  

Other than that gratifying evolution of one of my coding projects, I hit the bar downstairs for some social roosting.  I am "practicing", and with success, trying to moderate my behavior in bars while drinking.  This is to say, I am actually moderating any drinking that I do because what I have a tendency to do is to pick up drinking, or "binge drinking", the buzzier and more intoxicated that I get.  This leads to so many problems, starting with I hate being "that guy" in the bar, the spending that gets out of control, and a few other tawdry things which I am not compelled to willfully confess to a public blog, but yeah. 

Moderation is key because I so firmly believe in bar and "night life " culture, and it is something I deeply enjoy.  It fits with my social worldview and, no, the fact that I am an unappealing 55-year-old dude who traverses alone, usually, does not dissuade me in the least.  I enjoy the process as a tourist mining for serendipitous contact with people and bar-side friends.  It can be risky, but that risk can also be managed, and I know that I can, and seem to be proving it.

I'm also using the time to tighten up some organizational issues, personally, financially, household, and with Dave the Web Guy Innovations, LLC.  Organizing is also a cheap soothing fun it turns out, I just never get the real opportunity to do it.  Me organizing things with the sun beaming in and smooth jazz in the background is pretty nice.

And then, finally, I think there is the blogging.  I relaunched Wilkes-Barre Rail about two weeks ago and it, as well as Tampa Rail, need some serious updating.  Both websites deal with transit rail evolutions in the regions they cover, and there have been a lot of developments in wake of Biden's infrastructure plan, as well with private high speed rail connecting to Tampa via Brightline.  I suspect there have to be people in both areas wondering where I am with all those incredible developments, but unfortunately the challenge of not only monitoring all that stuff, simply finding the energy to write about any of it, is daunting.  I have picked up too much with too much youthful optimism regarding my ability to contribute to the "feed", and it's forcing me to either consider giving it up or doing it more efficiently and doing it. 

If you know me, one of my driving mantras is, I'm always the programmer, never the programmed.  In the end I will not be dictated by conventional weights.  If they exist, I will refactor them to my time advantage.  That being said then, which do you think I will do? ;) 

itsupport personal

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One Minute Webcam is Alive!


Posted by Dave

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A few months ago I contemplated how to pursue my passion for dotting the world with webcams. My first problem, aside from absolutely no-one demanding, if not avoiding, this sort of thing on the face of it, was how to package such a product. Turns out the tech community solved that problem with Rasberry Pi barebone computers, and specialized software.

This is a fresh static image from Allen Street and Delaware Avenue, in Buffalo, NY.

So I ordered one and went through the relatively simple assembly and configuration for use as a webcam, then began looking around for a place to not so much pilot the the unremarkable tech, but rather the concept.

It took a few months after the assembly before I lucked into a situation that enabled me to deploy the first pilot camera which overlooks my own eclectic neighborhood, the Allentown district. It's the perfect place to start!

If you are interested in a similar camera in your home so that anyone in the world can click in and watch you and your family, or if you have a business or venue of any sort for the same, review my pitch page at One Minute Webcam and get in touch. I am looking to launch a second as quickly as I can!

announcements oneminutewebcam

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Handing Police a Reason


Posted by Dave

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It's been years and years since I've had anything to grumble about regarding open police systems -- police radio systems that are left un-encrypted for the benefits of public consumption.  I was a lone nut back in the 90s crying online about the trend of trunking and digitalization, and advocating a movement against it, but these days, it's finally a big question given the demand for police transparency. 

My favorite perspective today is how anyone against the concept then must feel today when the actual debate has become about sticking cameras on the physical body of police officers.  If people were worried about a progression of my cause in the 90s, how do they feel now?

Many police officers themselves want the increased transparency given the campaign of backlash against their practices. Body cameras have protected them from false accusations.

But I took a stance of persecution assuming the "body" of law enforcement would be alarmed by my efforts.  I feared it would be nothing for police to begin taking note of any negative example of police scanner usage, no matter how rare, as ammunition to refute the cause.

And, in that department, this example takes the cake.  A guy regularly used a police scanner to patrol for incidents he could show up at (not bad itself under proper conditions and is something journalists have been doing forever) in order to "audit" situations. 

He did this in various other capacities outside things you might pick up on a scanner, but he really made a show of it on YouTube in his interactions with police and court officers under that guise of "public auditing".  Another weird concept not bad in principle, by the way, but alas, not with how this guy went about it.  In my view his point was to be obnoxious for clicks.

Anthony Michael Wicklace finally cracked, or finally showed his true colors -- when he showed up post-incident while following police calls, and picked up a female victim still in the vortex of some duress that had the police there in the first place, and then tried to engage in sex stuff with her.

Holy mother of Jesus.  She escaped the assault but Wicklace apparently allegedly tazed her when she was out of the car, seemingly angry at the rejection of his sexual proposition or advances.  Conveniently, a patrol car rolled up on the situation and found the tazer darts still in her.



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Let's Kick This Off


Posted by Dave

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I have a couple major fronts in my life I can talk about:  Work (largely talk-constrained because it's a corporation, but if I were free to, would dominate the blog with chatter about my daily strife, as just about anyone would);  my love life, in which I celebrate my singledom as victory, and otherwise tend to spend a lot of "fantasy time", mixed with indecision about the rightness of having destroyed my previous relationship;  and finally, my various "projects" which are more like little periods of episodic obsessions that quickly dissipate.

I am also very interested in the story leading up to me being here and now, and there are many aspects of that to share.  One would need a blog to do it, so... ;)


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