What’s wrong with the sound in movies

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My wife and I saw the new Star Trek movie in Imax 3D last night.  It wasn’t too bad.  She complained about it being too loud (fuddy duddy) whereas I was impressed with the acoustic treatments in the theater and the clarity of the low end frequencies.  Imax has always been cool with the large screens, but I have always been more impressed by the sound.  Incidentally, I was really disappointed in the screen size.  I was expecting the huge 4:3 screen that I used to watch documentaries on.  This was just a slightly larger 16:9.  When I go to Imax I expect to feel like barfing.

But the thing that got me was the nature of the sound effects.  Here you have these massive, epic sequences and they just didn’t sound right.  Why it didn’t sound right hit me during one seen where the camera shot was on the ground and the Enterprise is careening through a series of sharp-peaked mountains.  Every time the Enterprise hit a peak (It’s brave new mission to be destroyed during the filming of each movie) the sound was immediate.  You heard the hit, and felt it, thanks to the amazing Imax subs, exactly as it happened.

Come back in your imagination with me to somewhere around 1995.  I was at my first air show, the Winnipeg International Air Show.  I was with a friend and we spent an hour or two shopping the grounds for a new F-14.  I remember being amazed as I walked through the belly of a C-5 Galaxy and around a B-1 Lancer.  The show was about to start so we mozied to the show grounds and waited for it to start.

We waited for a bit, with some of the requisite ’80’s music playing over the loudspeakers.  I had seen a CF-18 take off and was looking around the sky for it.  I suddenly saw a small speck out in the west that was not moving like a bird.  It flew in a straight line and came closer and closer.  I could soon make out the tail fins.  And it was coming in fast.

I was a little apprehensive.  I’m a farm boy and I’d seen a CF-18 once flying over a field, but this was the first time I’d seen one flying like this.  It was flying like it wanted to show what it could do.

It entered the airfield with the mach indicator reading all 9’s with a dot in front of it.  It was flying like an arrow.  A 0.999 mach arrow.  With increasing velocity it slid through the air faster than I had ever seen before.  And what did I hear?


I didn’t hear anything.  And I became nervous.  I like loud things but I didn’t know what to expect because it was acting in a way that I had not expected.  I expected it to be awesome.  I did not expect it to be silent.

Then I heard a ripple making its way across the crowd.  It was almost like the pressure wave was surfing the heads of the people to my left.  It didn’t get louder, but I could hear the wave coming to greet my ears with utter disregard.

And then it hit.  It was a blast of sound like I had never heard before.  I had heard jets, but I had never heard the sound racing towards me before.  It was amazing.

That is what is missing in many movies nowadays.  There is sound, and the guys who do the sound are, literally, amazing.  But there is one thing that is missing.  The experience of being in the movie.  Sound is the conduit for that.  When everything is experienced as if you were in the middle of the action, even when the camera isn’t, lessens the immersion.

There are a few movies that do it well.  I think that I remember Saving Private Ryan having sound like this.  The end of Aliens, when the processing station blows up on LV-426, is another one.  Ripley sees the light, covers Newt’s eyes, and, then, you hear the explosion.

When making a movie, if you really want to bring the audience in and immerse them in the experience you need to do this.  It is the anticipation of the noise, not the noise itself, that makes it memorable.  In Mythbusters when have you ever heard the shock wave exactly when the explosion happened?  Nope.  And what is Adam and Jamie’s level of anticipation each time?  Epic.

Shutting down Magium (and (eventually) looking for a new awesome company to work for)


If you don’t know what Magium is, it is a Selenium based testing framework for Magento and other platforms that makes it much, MUCH, easier to test those applications.  I’ve been working on it since December and it is now 7 months out.  7 months of very little income (thank you to MagentoU for having me do some training work for you).  And after 7 months of working on Magium with little by way of progress (as a business.  The technology progressed quite nicely) I’ve decided that it’s time to throw in the towel.

It is, perhaps, fitting that I post this the week of the July 4th holiday as it was exactly a year ago where I was working through the holiday on building browser tests for a customer module for the Expert Consulting Group.  It was then that I discovered the horrid nature browser testing for those who are not QA professionals.  And while it was several months before Magium started to take form in my mind, the July 4th weekend of 2015 is when I was convinced that there had to be a better way.

Magium still is the better way, but it will not be a business for me.

Something like this of course requires some level of reflection.  This is now the second venture that I’ve folded in the past decade.  The first was trying my hand at mobile apps after I burned myself out at a previous job.  This time it was actually something that had, and still does IMHO, a lot of potential.  80% of Magento developers (and developers in general) do not execute automated browser tests with difficulty being the primary objection.  The approach I took for Magium significantly reduced the investment required to automate your browser testing, especially if you were not a dedicated QA person who knows what you’re doing.

But for whatever reason I was not able to make it stick.  I’ve been watching the installs on Packagist stay relatively stagnant and after switching to a services based method over a month ago I have not been able to drum up any paying significant  gigs.  It’s hard to try and build an open source project that few people show up for.  There have been several people who have expressed interest, and I’ve even had a few contributions.  But this is prima facie evidence that the mantra of “if you build it, they will come” is utterly false.

Not that I ever believed that anyway.

So, what to do?

Right now, nothing.  I burned myself out.  And it’s the middle of summer.  And I’m pretty sure I need some time to rest.  Shutting it down after I was so utterly convinced that there was business potential here is like a giant kick in the gut… or lower.  At least I can still tell inappropriate jokes.  Run for the hills if I ever lose that ability.

So right now I’m going to be staying put.  Maybe do some renovations.  Do some writing.  Do some work on Magium.  Hopefully do some recording.  Really hopefully do some recording.  It’s one of the only things I’ve ever done that has brought me no money but gobs of joy.  I still listen to my last two albums and love them, even though they aren’t as good as a lot of stuff out there.

Another thing I intend to work on is building my wife’s eCommerce empire.  By “empire” I mean the hundred small decorative accessories that she has accumulated over the past few months and are sitting idly in my dining room.  She has an excellent combination of eye for quality, eye for design, and eye for value.  She is quite talented in that regard.  I, on the other hand, can architect any website except the really big ones.  So, empire it is.

We’ll see how that goes.  Hopefully it goes well.  At worst my wife gets to exercise her gifts and you’ll get a wonderful little accessory for your house.

You’re going to buy something, right? 🙂

If you want to get on her New Product Newsletter, feel free to do so here.  We’re still a little ways from getting it up and running but hopefully it won’t be too long.

Here are the kinds of things you might see.

In the meantime, if you are a company who would like someone who has been a (in no particular order)

  1. Conference speaker (several times over)
  2. Conference MC (twice, I think)
  3. PHP Architect
  4. Magento Consultant/Developer/System Administrator
  5. PHP Consultant
  6. Sun System Administrator
  7. Linux System Administrator
  8. Book Author (3 books on PHP)
  9. Trainer
  10. Course Developer
  11. Product Evangelist
  12. Technical Salesman
  13. Sales Engineer
  14. Blogger
  15. Business Owner (failed, but who’s counting?)
  16. Member of the Zend Certification Board
  17. MCDPlus Certified Developer

… don’t hire me quite yet.

I need some rest.  Though it won’t be too long; I’m running low on Cognac and my Cointreau is gone.  But in the next month or two I will be looking for something to fill my time in exchange for gargantuan sums of money.  Product Marketing and Architecture sound interesting.  Having adopted my three children I have some unique family circumstances which causes me to lean towards a position where I can help at home here and there.  That’s not to say I would say no to an office position, but if given two equal opportunities and the only difference were working remotely I would take the remote position not because of the typical benefits of working at home (which I think are often exaggerated), but because of those unique familial issues I have.

I would be most interested in working for a (funded, or on its way to be funded) startup.  Creative established companies interest me as well.

I would love to do work with a music-based company.  Not required, but it would be nice to have both software and music as part of my career so the two could stop fighting.

If you are looking for a cog for your wheel I am not your guy.  A lot of companies need a lot of those, and many people dig that kind of work.  I have no quarrels with them.  But that’s not me and you wouldn’t be getting your money’s worth if that’s what you needed.

If you want someone who occasionally takes stupid risks that looks like genius in hindsight, and thinks about technical problems in a market-oriented way and writes gluten-free code, then I’m your guy.  Many companies claim to want people who “think outside the box” but don’t really mean it.  Not only do I think outside the box, but my box is a 10 dimensional chiliagon.  It’s scary in there but oh, so interesting.

If you would like to talk to me, drop me a line at [email protected].  I’d love to hear from you.

I will still be accepting consulting work for Magium, or anything PHP related, really, while I try to figure out the best place for me to land.

Metaphysics and Software Design

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When I say that this is an experimental blog post I mean it.  I’m thinking out loud here.

Those who know me know that I am somewhat critical of some modern advancements in software design.  It’s not that I’m a Luddite or anything but the root of my discontent is that software and real life often do not match well.  Inbox by Google is a good example of this.  They refuse to put an “unread” feature into their software.  It messes with their blessed workflow.  Never mind that sometimes real life breaks the workflow, like if you accidentally click on an item. In the case of Inbox that accident means that you either have to open up other software (Gmail) or snooze the item you accidentally opened.

That’s an example of a mismatch of UX and reality.  But it also deeper than that.  Essentially any place where there is an interface between the human and the machine, from the user interface all the way to an API, there is going to be a mismatch between what the machine needs and how the human needs to interact with the machine.  And our response is often to make the human match the machine instead of the machine matching the human.  And given that the machine is often the interface between two humans, this seems backwards to me.  But I digress.

Consider the old interface with Magento 1.

class ArbitraryClass
    public function doSomething()
         $request = Mage:app()->getRequest()->getQuery();

How in the world does this break with metaphysics?  Well, one of the principles of Aristotelian metaphysics is that an object cannot actuate a potential that it does not possess.  In other words a ball cannot make water because it does not contain the potential for water.  But Oxygen and Hydrogen do contain the potential for water.  (Remember we’re talking about METAphysics, not physics.  It is very easy to get hung up on that.)

Going back to the example it could be argued that the code is bad code insofar as it breaks from metaphysics.  ArbitraryClass does not have the potential for a request.  How do we know that?  Because it’s Formal Cause (or Form) is not request-like, or request-ish.  And because there is a dissonance between its formality and efficiency, it is broken insofar as that dissonance occurs.  That’s not to say that it won’t work, but it’s workability will be a function of its alignment with its form.

Consider a triangle.  Have you ever seen a triangle?  No.  Never.  “You’re insane, Kevin,”  You might be thinking.  “I have seen triangles all over the place!”  Yes, you have seen examples of triangles, but they have never been perfect triangles.  A perfect triangle exists only in the immaterial sense.  What you have seen are objects that represent triangularity, but due to slightly curved lines, shifts on the paper, variations in the molecular density of the lead, among other things, you have never, ever in your life seen a triangle.

But you can still recognize a triangle based on its resemblance of triangularity.  In other words, it will still work as a triangle just like our code will still work like our code should.  But the degree of its success will be based on how well it confirms to its reality.

You might be thinking that this is all crap.  But let’s look at a more current implementation.

class ArbitraryClass implements DoSomethingInterface
   protected $request;

    public function __construct(RequestInterface $request)
        $this->request = $request;

    public function doSomething()

$object = $dependencyInjectionContainer->get('ArbitraryClass');

This example follows the principle that an object cannot give what it does not have.  As a result it is also “better” code.

But it also does a lot more than that.  It actually demonstrates some of the fundamental parts of Aristotle’s philosophy.

  1. It has an Essence or Form.  The DoSomethingInterface is its form, like triangularity.
  2. It does not have “request-ability” and so it must be given by something that does (the Dependency Injection Container).
  3. It has its material cause in its instantiation.
  4. It has efficient causality.  It “does something”.
  5. It has final causality.  It has a purpose.  (nobody intentionally creates un-purposed code)

And so forth.

This does not mean that you are required to code according to philosophy.  What it does seem to show is that the quality of code can be measured against how well the code fits against a logical metaphysical framework.

Bear in mind that this idea is new to me and there could very well be some disqualifying concept that renders this moot.  I’m, in a sense, debating myself in public.

But the flip side of this is that if this is correct, and good software does seem to follow good metaphysical flows, that may be able to be a framework for people to write code that is not only better, but works better in the real world.

But then again, this would turn programmers into Philosophers and God help us if that happens.  🙂

We don’t need better authentication



I saw a tweet today concerning authentication.

When reading that the first thing that came to my mind was “with what?”  When will that one be hacked and then replaced by something else, which will then be hacked and replaced by something else?  For all of its faults a good password is already stored in the most secure storage repository around; your brain.

The problem, however, is that our brain is really good at remembering concepts, abstractions, gists, it is horribly bad at fine precision details.  When it comes to identity, I know who I am and you know who I am (if you know me).  On the other hand, computers are really good with precision information but really, really bad at concepts, abstractions and gists.  And so when we identify ourselves to the computer we have to stoop to its level.  And so we need to continually improve our techniques to identify ourselves to these dumb machines.

Multi factor authentication is a good thing to examine.  However, it has a flaw.  It requires two or more means of authenticating yourself.  You need something you know (a passcode), something you have (a phone) and/or something you are (biometrics).  This is all good stuff.  It really is.  But what if you were out to dinner and you were about to pay and you realized you forgot your phone (because you were so engrossed in the conversation that you even forgot to check email or to Like your accompanying’s checkin at said restaurant).  What biometrics would you use to authenticate yourself?  Eye?  Biochip?  Anyone seen Demolition Man?

“Would you leave me alone, I’m trying to go to the bathroom here!”

Perhaps what we should be doing as well as looking to increased authentication criteria is building a system that is expected to fail.  So if a company is storing credit card information and it leaks into the public have a second methodology that invalidates fraudulent activity and resets the account.  Have the proper security, but also know that security alone is insufficient for dealing with the modern world.

In truth I don’t know what that would look like or how it would operate.  But I don’t think that the problem of identity management is going to be solved by providing more complex authentication methods.  I honestly think that we need to presume failure in security as one of the layers of defense in depth.

Note, again, that my title is link-bait.  Yes, we do need better authentication, but we also need better corruption recovery methods.

Net Neutrality is about money and power, not openess

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For all the talk of getting money out of politics we don’t really seem to understand what draws it there in the first place.  Why does money funnel into politics?  Because in politics there is influence and power.  Influence and power gives you control.  It helps you get what you want.  And those in power don’t mind utilizing their power in exchange for some money.  If we really want to address the question of money in politics, we need to remove what draws it there in the first place; power.  But yet for some reason I do not understand we keep on handing more power to those in government and then complain that the money follows there.

Consider some of the most heavily regulated industries in the US.  There is a strong correlation between regulation and lobby spending.  The top 6 spenders are Pharmaceuticals/Health Products, Business Associations, Insurance, Oil and Gas, Computers and Internet, followed by Electrical Utilities.  The total money spent by the top 6 was $936 million.  All except Computers and Internet are heavily regulated entities and Computers and Internet wants to be.

Why would that be?  Recount the number of new businesses in the Pharma, Insurance, Oil and Gas, and Utilities sectors that have been started over the past 10 years or so.  I can’t.  Regulation allows stasis.  Stasis is great if you are the incumbent.  That way you can focus on your front lines without having to watch your supply lines.  If someone goes after your supply lines all you have to do is tell your lawyer to file suit and tie them up in court until they run out of money.  You, as the incumbent, have more money and better lawyers than they do.  Rather than defending your position you can simply get the government to do your dirty work.

Think this is fantasy?  Consider this quote from an article in the WSJ featuring the CEO of Goldman Sachs.  I quote it at length.

“More intense regulatory and technology requirements have raised the barriers to entry higher than at any other time in modern history,” said Mr. Blankfein. “This is an expensive business to be in, if you don’t have the market share in scale. Consider the numerous business exits that have been announced by our peers as they reassessed their competitive positioning and relative returns.”

Longer term, Mr. Blankfein sees more opportunities for global giants like Goldman to grab even more market share, as “only a handful of players” will likely be able “to effectively compete on a global basis.”

While the Goldman boss wasn’t endorsing all of the added directives from Washington, he said his bank is “prepared to have this relationship with our regulators”—and the regulators are prepared to have a deep relationship with Goldman—“for a long time.”

Is that really what we want for the Internet?

You might be wondering how this applies to Net Neutrality, and how it affects you.  Why should you care if the rules around big business make big business’ lives more difficult?  Beyond the assertion that regulation stymies innovation there is a very real, practical side to this.  In a WSJ opinion piece on Feb 8, 2015 the author quoted a 2005 statement by the Supreme Court that if Internet Service Providers are regulated under Title II by the FCC any service provider on the Internet is subject to the regulators.  In other words, if you provide a service on the Internet it is possible (likely?) that you will be subject to the regulators whims.  If the FCC deems that it has the power to regulate how service providers provide bandwidth it has the power to regulate anyone who can be called a service provider.  Who will be called a service provider?  Anyone whom a large company with sufficient lawyers and a judge agree to be called one.

Given how regulation tends to favor the incumbent why is it that Net Neutrality detractors are smeared with cozy-ing up to big business?  Comcast and Time Warner suck as ISPs (I have Time Warner (I don’t any more.  I switched over the weekend)).  Do we really want them cementing their hold on the Internet?  Do we want that to stay the same?  The FCC promises, cross their heart and hope to die, that they will only use 1% of the power that they have under title II to regulate ISPs.  And we can be assured of this because other government organizations, such as the NSA, the IRS, the CIA, etc. are all such warm and fuzzy operations.  Don’t get me wrong.  They’re all needed in our modern world.  But they all wield way too much power and operate with way too much impunity.  But the FCC will be different, right?

Proponents of Net Neutrality state that they do not want ISPs to have the power to manage this content.  I quote an article from The Nation at length.

Without net neutrality, your Internet service provider could block or slow online content, depending on which websites or apps they wish to preference. For example, an ISP might speed up your access to NBC.com, but slow or degrade your access to AlJazeera.com. They could also charge different prices for different content. An ISP might charge NBC.com more to host last week’s episode of Parks and Recreation than to feature an article about it. Internet service providers could also charge fees to Internet companies for providing that content to you. They might, for example, begin charging Netflix a fee for carrying online video over its network, which it likely will pass on along to its customers.

Is that a possibility?  Yes, it is possible (though more likely they will charge Netflix.  More on that later).  And the article goes on to highlight several times when this has been the case.  Interestingly enough, in most of the cases highlighted the ISPs lost.  But how is this possible given that we have very limited Net Neutrality protections in place?  In its attempt to defend Net Neutrality the article ends up making the case that Title II regulations are NOT required to force access to services because, in large part, the services were restored.

But if existing conflicts were largely resolved without Net Neutrality why are these issues used to argue for it’s necessity?

I wonder if the proponents of Net Neutrality have noticed that the companies in favor of Title II regulation are companies that use gobs of bandwidth, but don’t actually pay for the infrastructure itself?  In many cases they build out large, concentrated data centers whereas the ISPs build out vast networks.  Netflix consumes a reported 35% of ISP bandwidth, but wants to only pay for their datacenters and media licensing, as if that were the only costs.  Might that explain why they are so vocal about it?  Did it not occur to anyone that Netflix became a vocal proponent of Net Neutrality AFTER it saw an 88% drop in profitability and public outrage over their change in packages?  Do you really think that Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc. are in favor of Net Neutrality out of a spirit of goodness and Comcast and Time Warner are against it out of greed?  Do you really think that Netflix is concerned about bunnies and lollipops but Time Warner is only concerned about shareholders and 3 martini lunches?  (mmmm, Martini)

If it is bandwidth that we are truly concerned about why not, instead of tying the hands of those providing the bandwidth (a massively expensive endeavor), make it easier and cheaper to increase bandwidth?  Instead of regulating the size of the pie and who controls the pie why don’t we make the pie bigger so all can enjoy its sugary goodness?  Does that mean that Comcast is innocent in all of this?  By no means.  But be careful about who you blame.  What Net Neutrality really is is proxy fight between large corporations with one side simply having a stronger rhetorical high ground.  “Freedom!  Openness!” vs. “Margins!  Cost!”

If you are prepared to hand over regulatory power to the FCC you also need to understand that the regulated companies will be “prepared to have this relationship with the regulators”—and the regulators will be  prepared to have a deep relationship with the regulated—“for a long time”.  What this means is that Comcast and Time Warner, because they are smart companies with smart lawyers, will find ways to use this regulation to their advantage.  Why not?  It’s worked for Goldman Sachs.


If you question this premise (which you are free to) I have a chart that is worth looking at.  I did some searching on the WSJ website to see what the earliest mention of Netflix and Net Neutrality is.  I found a video from April 17, 2012.  The following chart shows Netflix’ margins.  The arrow is the rough approximation of the date of the video.  Correlation does not prove causality, but that’s a whole lot of correlation there.


3 things to do that can make you completely successfull


We all have important things to do but some things are more important than others.  Using these 3 strategies you will find success to come easier.

  1. Find something you love to do – it’s easier to do something you love
  2. Do things for other people – blah blah blah
  3. blah blah blah

Things that are worth pursuing cannot be accomplished by reading stupid lists, nor writing them.  What they really are are pointless marketing.  In other words

Worthwhile things are hard and require internal fortitude, not external well-wishing.  In other words,

  1. Work on your internal fortitude
  2. Do something you hate
  3. Work with difficult people

Force yourself to do that and you will come out stronger.  Stop reading those stupid lists.

Wait a sec…

Why I’m not for Net Neutrality

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I’m not necessarily against it either, which makes that one of the more passive-aggressive titles I’ve written in a while (that, or wildly successful link-bait).  But while I’m not really for or against; I tend to be wary of calls for more government control of something.  But the truth be told, I almost did come out in favor of Net Neutrality when I saw this graphic over at Re/Code.


Being an avid user of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video this graphic kinda pisses me off because I have been experiencing poor streaming speeds for a while.  I pay for more than enough bandwidth to cover my streaming needs.  Since I pay for it why shouldn’t I get it?  That’s essentially the crux of the complaint.

But here is the chart that shows the other side of the issue.


And so here is why I’m not quite on board with Net Neutrality.


There is always a cost.

The only thing in your life that does not have a monetary cost directly tied to it is the air that you breath.  Unless you are living naked at the mouth of a natural stream in the mountains EVERYTHING ELSE has a price.  The clothes you wear, the food you eat, the car you drive, etc.  It’s just a question of who will pay for it.  Up until I became a grown-up my parents paid for a lot of that.  But as a grown up I have had to learn that I need to pay for the things I use.  The same thing goes for Internet service.  That 50% of traffic that is going to streaming services?  Someone is going to pay for it.  Hint: it won’t be the broadband providers.  Why not?  It’s quite simple.  They don’t have the legal authority to print money.  They have revenue and they have costs.  If things are working as they should the revenue will exceed the costs.

But what happens if costs start exceeding revenue, particularly if increased costs are expected to be long term?  There are two general options.  1) Increase income to cover costs, or 2) decrease costs to cover lost income.  Granted there will be a lot of variables in there but at the end of the day it will be one, the other or both.

While it may sound like I’m on the side of the cable companies, I’m not.  I’m not particularly satisfied with my Internet service but I am aware of the economic realities of it.  The US in particular has some unique challenges.  Geography being one of them.  Things that work a certain ways in other countries may not work here.  Things that work here may not work in other countries.  Things that work on the East Coast may not work in the South, where I live.  And things that work for someone who watching Netflix for 8 hours a day will not be the same as someone who uses their Internet connection for getting pictures of the grand-kids.

We will be incredibly short-sighted if we just say “don’t throttle my Internet connection because it annoys me.”  SOMEONE is going to be paying the costs of an un-throttled Internet connection, and with something like Net Neutrality my concern is that the costs will disproportionately go to the people who are not responsible for the bandwidth usage.  It so often seems that as soon as someone says “someone needs to do something about X” everyone gets thrown in the boat whether they want to be in the boat or not.

Is it greed on the part of the cable companies?  Perhaps.  But no more so than Netflix, me or you, the person reading this.  But we need to be cautious before we start waving the magic wand of government to make our lives easier.  Like magic, everything comes with a cost, deary.  Before we wave the magic wand of legislation and regulation we need to make sure we know what the costs are going to be when we get what we ask for.

So before picking up a magic wand of your own, it is worthwhile to think through what the effect of it will be.  Buffering-free episodes of Once Upon a Time will be only *one* of the effects.

What being a foster parent is really like


I wrote this many months ago but never published it.  It’s a bit of a rant and I apologize for that.  To be honest I don’t really know why I’m publishing it.  Maybe it’s cathartic (the emotional definition, not the medical definition).  These are some things that I’ve wanted to say for a long while.  This is my opinion.  It is what I believe.  But I am open to the possibility of error.  This is my take on well over a half decade of trying to have children which ultimately culminated in my adoption of three children whom I love.  It was and still is the most difficult thing I have ever been through.  I hope that by sharing these thoughts you might walk away changed, if only a little.

Additionally, if I have written something here that offends you, bear in mind that you probably have not gone through what I went through.  This post is not shiny and polished.  It’s fairly raw.  Sometimes polish is needed and sometimes rawness is needed.  Would the Gulag Archipelago been as powerful if Solzhenitsyn had run it through the marketing department?  This post has currents upon under-currents which you probably will not understand.  So bear that in mind before sounding off in the comments section.


Normally I write about tech stuff.  This time you will find no code.  (I also apologize for the lack of rigid structure in the writing.  This was somewhat of a brain dump).

My wife and I are watching the TV show Once Upon A Time on Netflix.  I wouldn’t call it great, but it serves as entertainment when my mind has crapped out at the end of a hard day of typing.  The premise is that some evil queen in Storybookland curses the whole place and all of the characters end up in Maine not remembering who they are.  Snow White and Prince Charming, whose real name is James, apparently, hide their new baby in an enchanted tree where it is protected from the effects of the curse.  The down side is that the baby is transported to the same area and appears on the side of a road where someone picks her up and she is placed into foster care where she is bumped around from home to home until she ages out of the system and becomes a bounty hunter.  The show has spent some time throwing poo at the foster care system.

Before I was a foster parent this stuff didn’t really bother me.  Then I became a foster parent.  Now it does, a little.  What I would like to talk about in this post is what the foster system is like from the perspective of the foster parent.  Because, quite frankly, we get shit on a lot.

We have all heard horror stories about children in the foster care system.  They get bumped around from house to house.  They get split up from their siblings.  Evil foster parents use the children to get state money to support their gambling habits or worse.  I have also read stories about foster parents who have locked kids in refrigerators, closets, bathrooms or other places for extended periods of time after which some child is injured or worse.  I would not in any way justify the actions that lead to harm for the children, but I will tell you quite truthfully, almost every foster parent, save for the most saintly, has had to push aside rash thoughts for the sake of trying to get a moment’s sanity.  A very slim number of people actually do the rash things that we hear about, but every foster parent has had the moment when the temptation for rashness would have liked to take over.  Yes, I know that regular parenting has that too but for those who are doing foster care the levels of stress, regulation and frustration are much higher than with regular parenting.

Would you like to know why?

If so, continue reading with an open mind.

Getting Started

Many foster parents already have parenting experience, though many, such as my wife and I did not.  I was quite adept at getting children riled up before sending them home with their parents with the special needs ministry my (old) church has, but had no real parenting experience.  The kids loved me, the parents… well they put up with me because I gave them time away from their children to have a date night.  That was the extent of my parenting experience.

When you first sign up to be a foster parent you go through a bureaucratic anal probe the likes of which is only legal for the state to do.  They want to get to know the most intimate details of your life.  And rightly so.  You may have children who come into your home who have been physically or sexually abused.  So when they ask you if you are a sexually satisfied individual (and they will) or if you are in the middle of an adulterous relationship it actually is the business of the state to know.  Your spouse is not allowed to see your responses and I have heard of instances where a couple is denied a foster license because one of the marriage partners is having an affair and refuses to stop.  The application is denied with the other party not knowing why.

You go through other things like background checks and such, home inspections, fire inspections and a couple of other things.  But no significant problems notwithstanding you get approved and you are on your way to making a difference in these children’s lives.

And then you wait.

During the waiting period you need to keep up with your state training, .i.e. your State Mandated Indoctrination.

Does this training help you to be a  (foster) parent?

Heh, you could be so lucky.  The training is on state standards that you are expected to follow.

For those of you who are parents you may have taken some parenting courses that help you to understand how your child we be developing, dietary needs, when they should be approaching which milestones in their life, etc.  As foster parents we go to courses that teach us how to properly restrain a child.  I’ve had to do it (twice, I think).  Then you have a multi-page form to fill out where you explain what it was about, what alternate strategies you tried, why you thought that the child needed to be restrained.

The  medication training is perhaps the biggest time waste out of all of them.  8 hours of training once per year, probably on a Saturday.  Some people like to take their kids  to the park on the weekend.  Maybe the swimming pool.  Foster parents often spend a decent number of evenings and weekends attending useless training.

During the training I got to learn about the anti-psychotics and psychotropic medications that I probably will never be giving to children in my home.  And I don’t remember any of it.  Actually, that’s not true.  I have taken the course 3 or 4 times and here is what you will learn; 1) read the pharmacy information sheet, 2) lock up your meds.  That’s it. 30 hours of training and that is what I learned, remembered and have implemented.

Then there is the cultural sensitivity training.  This is presumably because a lot of foster parents are white (I have met several black foster parents, but where I live they are mostly white) whereas the population of the foster care system is largely Black or Mexican.  Yes, I didn’t say “Hispanic”.  Very few Spaniards are in the Texas foster care system.

Now, I am white.  I live in the suburbs (yuck! really).  I own a gas guzzling SUV that s bigger than I need (and smile every time I push the accelerator harder than I have to).  I have two big screen TV’s which I brought back to my larger-than-necessary house in my gas-guzzling SUV.  But I started out relatively poor compared to where I am now.  My parents provided a comfortable childhood and I had no want of anything.  But when I left home I lived month-to-month and had to hope that I had enough in the bank to pay rent.  I didn’t go to college but worked hard and eventually got married, moved to the U.S. from my home in Canada, started a business, failed at it, but kept working hard eventually landing some good contract work which led to a good job, which led to recording two albums and writing two books, which led to another job, which led to starting a business, failing at it again and landing another job for a great company.  I had great parents who set me up to be able to work hard and go from my rather modest first shot at living on my own to being relatively successful.

Until my world came crashing down and I found this out about my life


I had been wrong all of those years!  It wasn’t my hard work and long hours after all!

And not only had I received a benefit from racism, I found out that I was racist too!


Now, if you believe that all of this is true that’s fine, I won’t argue with you (you’d be wrong, anyway).  My purpose in writing this is to help you see what things are like as a foster parent.  In our state-based training I was being accused not only of having benefited from racism but as being racist simply because I am white.

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

Raise your hand if you like paperwork!  Each child requires at least one sheet of paperwork each week that shows daily progress.  These are called progress reports.  You are supposed to note pretty much any thing that happens to the child during that day.  This is because that paperwork is used to determine their level of care.  Their level of care determines what their subsidy is and what services are available to them.  If you get this wrong they may end up being mis-categorized and end up losing out on qualifying for services that they need.

And then you need to have medication logs.  Boys in the foster care system tend to be on medication, especially once they get past 5 years old. And for each of the medications that they are on you have a medication log.  One per medicine per child.  And if you screw up that is called a “medication error”.  And that’s bad.

Oh, and those one page progress reports I mentioned earlier?  That is only if your child is listed as basic.  Moderate and above you have three sheets of paper per child, per week.  In our case it was about 10 pages of documentation each week.

When normal parents have finished their day with a somewhat strong-willed child they might rest.  Read a book.  Watch some TV, maybe.  Well, with foster parents we are often dealing with children who are stealing, lying, fighting, self-injuring and a host of other things before breakfast.  And at the end of the day we do paperwork.

In theory.

In reality, paperwork is the last thing on our minds.  Because of the stresses that the children put you under along with the stress of knowing that what you do is under the eye of the state, at the end of the day you fall onto your bed, turn on the TV and hope that the next day is better.

You just drug the children up to make them more manageable

Yes!  In every way, yes!  Not as a default measure when they come into your house, but yes!

This is because many (most?) children coming into the foster care system are, in many ways, un-manageable.  Consider that these children come from environments where they rule the roost.  Many children brought into foster care were allowed to do anything they wanted as long as it didn’t interfere with what their parents were doing be it Meth, Cocaine, partner abuse or simple neglect.  From a child’s point of view, these kids have it made.  They can eat what they want, drink what they want, sleep when they want, do what they want.  As long as they don’t interfere with the caregiver, they can do anything they want.

My wife and I watched a documentary on Meth abuse several months ago.  The filmmaker got a surprise when a family of addicts allowed them into their house.  They were nice to them and honest about what Meth did to them.  They were actually quite contrite about what Meth had done to their family.  Their kids weren’t well behaved but largely did what they were told.

But it turns out that the parents were high during the interview.  A Meth high lasts about 6 hours and when you crash, you crash hard (apparently).  The parents slept off the high until 11:00 in the morning.

But their children weren’t high.  At 7:00 in the morning, the director cut to the two year old who had just woken up and whose diaper was sagging to his knees.  He walked over to the trash and pulled off some stuff on top and pulled a half eaten bag of popcorn out of the trash.  He also went to the fridge and got out a gallon of milk and did his best to feed himself.  A two year old.

Let’s presume that their parents have now been caught, the children have been removed and placed into a foster home.  Foster homes will probably have some kind of schedule because one or both parents work.  So the children will not be fending for themselves anymore.  They won’t have to dress themselves.  They will have meals at predictable times.  They will get tucked in at night.  They will be read stories.

Sounds like they should just take to it.

But they won’t.  This world is completely foreign to them.  The children have learned that in order to get a parent to do what they want they need to yell, scream, fight and hit.  Siblings do one of two things.  They either fight like maniacs because there is no parent to stop things before they get out of hand or they are incredibly close because they need to in order to simply survive.  Both are actually bad conditions.

The first is bad for obvious reasons.  With no parent to stop things they have not learned how to control themselves and God help you if you get in the way of a child who has needed to be narcissistic in order to survive.

The second can actually be just as bad, particularly for the eldest.  This child’s identity is as the provider for the family.  With the foster parent in place that child’s identity is removed and they, quite literally, do not recognize themselves and can react violently due to that loss of identity.

The way a lot of these issues work themselves out is into various psychological disorders such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder (think of the worst 3 year old ever in a 7 year old’s body), ADD/ADHD or Reactive Attachment Disorder are pretty common.  For boys in the foster care system the ADHD is virtually a given.  Each of those disorders I listed are have some basis in a lack of self control and are reactive in nature.

Drugs help smooth out the highs and the lows; that reactive nature.  It helps them become more manageable both for the foster parent and for themselves.  These children have had years in a toxic environment, the effect of which is often one or multiple behavioral disorders, they were just ripped from the people they love and put them in some strange house that actually has defined rules.  Before that their rules were do whatever you wanted as long as you don’t get beaten.  Now they’re expected to have self-control and they won’t have a fist print on their fact if they accidentally do something wrong.  So compared with the situation they came from, more is expected and the consequence of not doing what you’re told is much less severe.

Weeks, Months, Years

So you get one or more children in your home and it’s a matter of having the parents go through the treatment plan, passing an exam and sending the kids on their way, right?  Not even close.  Remember, many cases that CPS works with involve highly addictive substances.  Or in some cases the parents “really” are trying to get a job but just can’t quite get one that sticks.  But they have good intentions.

All of these things translate to delays.  Lots of delays.

And how much does the foster parent get to know why?  Zero.  For example, say you were planning a 10th anniversary weekend trip to Napa because you were told that the children would be back in their home weeks before then.  But they stay.  Then they stay a little longer.  You ask what is going on and you are told “oh, the parents are still working the plan.”  (You hear that a lot)

Your life is basically on hold while you have foster children in your home.  If you want to leave the state you need to get a judge’s permission.  We never had that request denied but it’s still a pain in the butt.  Say there was a family emergency and you needed to drive to the next state to help out.  You won’t be going until you have permission to take the children with you.  Respite care is, in theory, available.  But that often takes even longer to get than judicial permission.

So you wait and wait with no information about what is going on.  This is actually one of the hardest parts about the whole process.  Then at some point in the future you are told one of two things.  Either a) parental rights are going to be terminated and they are going to start looking for family members, or b) these children who you have been loving and parenting for the past year are going back, probably to a situation that is less than ideal.  If it is termination then family members have 90 days to come forward and claim the children.  Each family needs to get a home study done, which takes several weeks.  And if they pass (they often don’t) then you start preparing the children for their move to the family member.

But if nobody comes forward and the 90 days pass then you, as the foster parent, are first in line.  If you choose to adopt then you get the case file where you find out that the parents weren’t actually “working the plan”.  They didn’t stay clean, they weren’t attending parenting classes (like that would help), they were still hanging around with the people that they got caught with and there really was no chance that the case would be resolved.  But, a year is a year and you wait the year because that is what you are expected to do.

But don’t they love their children?

Ah yes.  Don’t these parents love their children and children need to be with their birth parents?

I have kept every Adoption or Legal Risk broadcast I have received and it is in the several hundreds.  In preparing for this blog post I read through the removal documentation for some of them.  I couldn’t read through them all because of the disgust in reading what those parents did to their children.  Here is a sampling, redacted.

  • Parent was robbing a store while intoxicated and on drugs.  Children left in car
  • Sexual abuse by boyfriend.
    • This comes up a lot.  Boyfriend or family members.  Often the reports provide details of who, where and with what.  Think about what it’s like to read the “what”.
  • Mother tested positive for Cocaine during delivery
  • Neglect, parents engaged in drug abuse and domestic violence (this one came up a lot)
  • Physical abuse (broken bones, burns, cuts)
  • Was pushed on the ground and rolled over by their parent with a stroller
  • Mom threatened bodily harm against a newborn
  • Abandoned
  • Parent convicted of human trafficking

And when I say “sexual abuse” let your imagination run wild.  Think of the worst things you can think of and much of it is in there, sometimes done to babies.


Read that sentence again.


Now, stop and consider that those kinds of things are probably happening to real children within driving distance of your home.  Go to Google Maps, put in your address and look in a circle about an hour or two around your house.  It is likely that in that circle there are several young children who are being sexually abused, more that are physically abused and many more who are neglected due to parental drug use.

This leaves behind all manner of disorders.  Compulsive masturbation.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Self-Harming.  Sexual Acting Out.  Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  Developmental Delays.  Never mind the burns, the scars and the broken bones.

These are not examples I came up with off the top of my head.  I read through several of the broadcasts and wrote them out in that last list.  This is real life for many children.

And during all of this you are supposed to be talking up their parents so the children won’t have a negative view of their them.  You know that woman who was caught having sex with a child molester to pay for the drugs she needs to buy from the drug dealer who is also the father of her first child who isn’t around and now has 4 other children with three other women and who has regularly beaten her for non-payment?  Ignore all that.

Let’s talk about money

Foster parents do it for the money.  Yeah.  To pay for the anti-depressants and therapy you need from dealing with the children (that’s a clumsy attempt at a joke).  A basic child gets you several hundred dollars per month.  Moderate children get above $1000.  Truth be told, yeah, foster parents actually get paid pretty well.  Too much, in my humble opinion.  But I can tell you that from all of the people I know who have fostered exactly none of them (as in zero) did it for money.  None of them needed it.  Outside of our foster group my wife and I had around a half dozen personal friends who were fostering.  None of us needed the money.  In our foster group, none of us needed the money.  We all fostered (and adopted) for various reasons of which money was never even a factor.

It is true, though that many foster parents need the compensation.  But taking a second job is a lot easier than taking on more children.  You have to get to three children or above if you want it to make a significant impact on your budget.

And it still doesn’t cover the cost of hair transplants to replace the ones you’ve lost.

Losing it all

The people who are lowest on the totem pole are the Straight Adoption people.  These are often people who are dealing with infertility, just want to provide a child a good home without going through the pain of fostering.  My wife and I were straight adoption for two years.  We even submitted for a group of 7 children at one point.  Thankfully we were not approved for that one.  But we submitted for several others.  In two years we came close maybe two or three times.  But we never wanted to go the foster route.  We did not want to fall in love with some kids only to have the state place them back with their parents.  Or have the parents fail and then have the kids placed with a relative.

Because, you see, straight adoption families are lowest on the totem pole.  The order goes

  1. Parents
  2. Close Family Members
  3. Out of State Family Members
  4. Current Foster Parents
  5. Satan
  6. Straight Adoption Families

So we decided to switch our status to foster-to-adopt.  We went for a little while but then got a temporary placement with a boy before he was adopted and did respite for some kids.

And then December 24th, Christmas Eve, 2010 came.  We got the call that a baby with a leg cast and a fractured skull needed a home.  I told my wife “my first inclination is to say no”.  I didn’t really want a baby.  But I acquiesced.  We agreed and a few hours later a car arrived.

When most people become parents they have about 9 months to prepare.  Our average time is around 3 hours.

I opened the door for the investigator and he said “here, hold this” (I actually really liked this investigator).   I looked down at “this” and saw the biggest, bluest eyes I have ever seen.  I went from wanting to have nothing to do with babies to being wrapped around her little pinky finger in about 3 seconds flat.  In that moment I became the Dad of a beautiful little baby girl.  She was our Christmas Eve miracle.

She had us both.  It didn’t matter that we didn’t have 9 months of anticipation.  We were so love-struck by this little thing.  We loved her like she was our own.  We got up at all hours of the night to feed her.  We changed her.  We wiped the poop off of her cast (due to physical abuse).  We would sit there and rock with her and just enjoy her presence.

But we knew that we were still just foster parents.  And what do you as foster parents do when you get a child you fall in love with?  You get on Facebook.  You try to find who the parents are.  You try to find out who the relatives are.  You try to figure out which family members are bums and which ones could possibly be a threat to the child.  You check online court documents.

I was actually pretty good at it.  I figured out who the parents, grandparents, baby-dads, former baby-dads, cousins, uncles and aunts were.  And when it comes to people with CPS records, that is not easy to figure out.  I figured out all of the possible avenues that our little girl could be taken away from us.

In all my searching I found only one person who could possibly take our little one away.  But we were told by CPS that there was a person but that nothing really promising was there.

But then on Feb 18 at 10:37 I received a reply to an email to our caseworker asking what happened to the person .  Our caseworker said that she was out but that another person wanted to be considered.  I, quite literally, was on a knife edge.  I was about two seconds away from picking up my desk and throwing it out the front window of my house (no joke).  We had worked through almost all of the potential people and they had all fallen through and then this new one came up.  I tell you the truth when I say that I almost destroyed my office in a fit of rage.

Later the caseworker came to our house for our monthly visit.  The first thing I asked her was “Is it X?”.  Her jaw dropped.  The one family member who I was most worried about was the one who had come forward.

It took about a month but it wasn’t long before our little Christmas miracle was gone.  And we were devastated.  I was in the middle of a work project and I couldn’t leave work, but we held it together for three weeks and made a bee-line for Breckenridge, CO where a very nice couple allowed us the use of their condo to recuperate.  But instead of recuperating we got, ahem, slightly inebriated, and had to head home early.  Apparently if you’re drinking to forget you shouldn’t do it at 10,000 feet.

When you are a foster parent be prepared to be devastated.  Devastation will occur at some point.  This is doubly true if you are hoping to adopt.

As difficult as that was we actually ended up becoming good friends with the girl’s new parents.  We go and visit them any chance we get.  In retrospect, our home was the wrong home for her.  And if she had stayed with us we would not have taken in any more children and we would not have gotten to adopt the kids we now have.  The bitterness is gone and in place is a new friendship with a very good family.  However  the road there was quite dark.

Do you want to be a foster parent?

I hope not.

I really hope you do not want to be a foster parent.

If you want to be a foster parent then you should not be a foster parent.  What happens when your “want” changes?  You need to believe that it is your duty to be a foster parent.  From the state’s perspective we were the worst kind of foster parent.  Our reports were always late, often in-accurate.  We (mostly me) left our training to the last minute and sometimes afterwards.

But from the moral perspective we were the best kind.  For every child who came into our home, few though they were, we committed that as far as it depended on us, we would be their last foster home.  We invested emotionally in their lives and paid deep, deep prices for that investment.  We are emotionally scarred and beaten.    We made ourselves vulnerable so our children can heal, grow and prosper.  We have fallen short of this ideal many, many times (and still do) but we have kept at it.  And we are not unique in this regard.  Every family we know who has fostered has had this kind of attitude.

If you are not prepared for that level of commitment and having your heart broken by child, parent and state, multiple times over, then you should not be a foster parent.

Likewise, if you are unwilling to commit to that level and having your heart broken by child, parent and state, multiple times over, then you have not earned the right to criticize a foster parent when you hear that someone did something horrible on the news.  Foster parents, even the bad ones, have had their life disrupted in ways that you cannot imagine.  They are put under scrutiny and pressure like you will never have to deal with.  Acknowledge those incidents for the evil that it is but know that there is a back story that most probably consists of pain and frustration that will never get reported.

What needs to be done?

That is always the question isn’t it?  “How do we fix it?”  Well, in many ways you can’t.  Evil exists in the world.  Evidence of it fills a folder in my email that has those broadcasts, named “Adoption”.  It will always be there.

But while you can’t fix it here are a few suggestions that could reduce it.

(Actually) do something about poverty

In almost all of the documents I have, poverty is a significant factor.  Not in all cases, but in many.  But the underlying problem in almost all of them is not the poverty itself.  The poverty is a symptom, but it is not the cause.  Almost all of the cases I have in my email folder are people who come from broken families.  In many cases there are not fathers, there are boyfriends.  When there are fathers they are usually not married.  See, what we’ve done over the past 50 years is do our best to destroy the one social institution for which the absence is virtually guaranteed in all of these cases.  You may say that I’m attempting to prove a negative here, and you might be right.  But almost every bit of social science shows that a strong family is one of the best stabilizing factors for children.  I know who my Dad is and where he was for my childhood.  Given the immense effect he had on my life (despite my stubbornness against it) I cannot even imagine the person I would be today if he was not committed to the death to my mother.  And I am committed to death to my children’s (adopted) mother.  My kids will never have to wonder if I will come back if I leave, or if they might have a half-sibling out there (due to me).  Just like I didn’t have to worry about it with my father.  My father worked for his family as I work for mine.  Why?  Because my family is my personal responsibility.

But seldom (if ever) do the CPS treatment plans include this kind of training.  To my knowledge (and I could be wrong) the information about what happens to children when father’s leave them is not presented.  Maybe it is.  But in the training material that, as the foster parent, completed there was no mention of the the stability that a strong traditional family has.  That stability may not solve the problem of poverty; there will always be poverty.  But what it does is keep poverty from being a sentence handed down.  Poverty, itself, is a problem.  But a bigger problem is the recurring chain of poverty.  “Programs” will have only a minimal effect on that.  And given the focus of those programs, if I were a betting man, I would bet that in aggregate they do more harm than good.

Put poison pills in CPS treatment plans

A poison pill is basically a guaranteed consequence.  For example, in Texas parents have a year to get their act together and do their treatment plan with the judge having the option to push it to 18 months if they “just need a little more time”.  But CPS says that if parental rights need to be terminated that they(CPS) have failed.  In that case, they have a 70% failure rate.  30% of removed children go back to the parents and do not re-enter the system after 12 months.  That is the extent that CPS monitors the family.

In the case of drugs they usually need to be clean for a minimum 6 months before re-unification.  Perhaps for something like Marijuana nothing needs to be done (I’m not personally convinced that it should be outlawed, but don’t care much either way).  However for Cocaine, or especially Meth, if they fail after 6 months there is almost no point in continuing.  The Meth relapse rate is officially 92%.  If they fail in that 6 month time period they will likely not succeed at all.  Why put their children through a minimum of 6 months of additional uncertainty?  In our situation the last 6 months were filled with the most promises, the most lies and the most damaging behavior from the children because of that.  While I am personally in favor of re-unification in a general sense, I also don’t think that drawn out treatments that are virtually guaranteed to fail should be pursued.  It’s not fair to the kids, the parents, the foster parents and the CPS workers who have to deal with this.

The other side of this is that most CPS workers are massively overworked.  If there are cases in the system where failure is virtually guaranteed then let’s get those failures out of the way to reduce their caseloads.  One of our caseworkers had 70 open cases.  The CPS case worker has something like a 20-30% turnover rate year over year with most case workers not lasting 5 years.  We really need to make their jobs easier because good case workers are really hard to find.

Put kids in the bestest, quickest home, fast

This notion that kids automatically do better in a family placement is ridiculous.  Several of the cases we were involved in were failed family placements.  But going beyond that consider how far removed someone needs to be to escape the culture of poverty.  The state has what is called Minimum Standards.  For kinship placements, those standards are very low.  Yes, the children may be familiar with the people already (definitely not a guarantee) but that is exactly the problem.  How many of the children in these kinship placements end up being in CPS cases in the future?  I understand that we want to minimize the placement disruption but we can’t do so to the long term detriment of the children.  How many of these children could be truly given a new lease on life by removing them from the culture that would have doomed them.

And do it quickly.  If a caseworker has a file in hand of a willing family who is unrelated and there is an out of state family member who needs to get a homestudy done (who probably has never had significant contact with the children anyway), just give the children to the willing family instead of waiting months to satisfy the mumblings of some psychologist.

Seriously, don’t treat Foster parents like babysitters

As hard as caseworkers have it they have one benefit.  In the 70 cases they have, they have the luxury of not developing strong emotional bonds to the children.  That’s not to say that they don’t feel for them, but they don’t bond with the children in their cases.  Foster parents get emotionally invested in their foster children in a big way.  For babies we are up several times a night to feed and change a child who is not our own.  We deal with children who have behavioral issues that kids from solid backgrounds do not.

Yes, we get paid to do it.  But if a babysitter screws up they might lose a client.  Maybe two.  Foster parents lose their license and quite possibly the ability to adopt in that state and maybe the country.   CPS does not need proof to revoke your license.  The children we eventually adopted were brought to our home because there were “suspicious” bruises from the first foster home.  There was no direct evidence of abuse and there was never any “outcry” but they were removed anyway.

Be careful what you believe about foster care

Remember that reference to Once Upon A Time where the main character was bumped around in the foster care system for 18 years?  Bullshit, I say.  She was a white baby girl.  She would have been adopted before the week was out.  That NCIS shrink who complained about the “cash checkers” who were his foster parents?  1-6 months, depending on his age, level of care and expediency of the court.

Kids get bounced around the system because foster parents get burned out (yes, I am sure that there are negative examples in many cases).  In many cases they have their existing children that they need to care for.  Sometimes they may fear for the safety of their own kids because of the children they are fostering.  Often they don’t have the necessary support.  Often they are simply unprepared for the level of care that these children need.  It is not some diabolical scheme to hurt these kids.  Foster parents get burned out, hard.  Siblings get broken apart because taking on multiple children is an immense drain.  My wife and I took on three at once, whom we eventually adopted.  When you get those kids you are not simply babysitting.  You are taking them into your family.  These kids, at best, will be developmentally delayed.  You will have a 5 year old acting like a 3 year old and a 2 year old acting like a baby.  That is, in every way, exhausting.

Then you also need to work your schedule around parent visits, therapists and home inspections.  Home inspections happen at least once a month by both your agency and CPS.  Parent visits are where you drive the kids to either a CPS office or some other place and drop them off, find something to do for two hours and then pick them up.  The kids are all excited because they got presents and played the whole time, probably getting totally sugared up and you get to hear about how wonderful the bio-parents are for the next day or two.  And parent visits are inevitably followed by a day or two of acting out, whatever that means for the child.  Could be defiance, pooping in strange places or sexual acting out.

Then you have the therapy visits.  When we were doing the most we had at least 5 therapy visits per week.

Foster parents don’t sit through that bureaucratic anal probe with a smile on their face because they like it.  They do it because they really want to help these kids.  Foster care is one of the hardest things you can do.

And you go through it hoping that whatever little contribution you provided will be enough to keep the cycle from repeating.

The First Annual Report on Programmer Ass-hattery

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Taking a cue from TIOBE, where you can take Google search results and make them mean anything that you want them to, I decided that I was going to try an experiment and see if I could discern, from Google search results, how likely a programmer for a given language would engage in ass-hattery.

In short, this is the most important programming index you will ever see.  And unlike many other indexes I will put my hastily concocted formula up front and center for your enjoyment and ridicule.

The formula is

(“Google search for ‘X rocks’ / “Google search for ‘X sucks’) * (language score sum / X language score)

I got Google results for PHP, Ruby On Rails, Java, Python, C, C++, Objective-C, C# and JavaScript.  I took the language score from Lang Pop.  The language popularity values for each of the programming languages is

PHP Ruby On Rails Java Python C C++ Objective-C C# JavaScript
5591 667 6930 4240 9948 5584 352 429 1572

The sum of all of these is 35313.

To illustrate the formula the Python Programmer Ass-hattery score is 20.6387.  “Python rocks” results are 11,300, “Python sucks” is 4560.  So the formula would look like this.  (11300 / 4560) * (35313 / 4240).  Generally, the higher the score, the more likely you will want them to wear there ass as a hat.

The theory is that the louder one talks compared to their actual popularity the more likely they will engage in ass-hattery.

The results for the First Annual Report on Programmer Ass-hattery are:

The 2013 Kevin Schroeder Report on Programmer Ass-hattery

It’s math so it can’t be wrong.

Comments proving ass-hattery will either be deleted or ridiculed.  This was meant as fun (unlike some other indexes).