Kenny Sahr

When The Police wrote the lyrics “Too much information running through my brain, too much information driving me insane” (from Ghosts in the Machine, 1981), the US had 3 TV networks and CNN was 1 year old. Not everyone bought into Ted Turner’s crazy idea of news around the clock. We watched the nightly news at 6:30pm and the 11pm late news broadcast was mostly a recap of earlier broadcasts. For me, the only time things got interesting was when there was a hurricane headed for Florida.

Today, it is hard to avoid the news and even harder to find the right balance. I am a reformed news junkie. I used to read more newspapers than I can count. Since then, I’ve learned how to filter information and get the best ROI (return on investment) for my time. Here are a few tips on how to keep up with the news without wasting time.

Focus on Hard News

When I see headlines on celebrities’ personal lives, I never click to read them. How will knowing about Oprah Winfrey’s latest diet or which rock star is in rehab change my life? I have over 100 Paul McCartney CDs and successfully skipped the news about his 2008 divorce. I’d rather listen to the end of Hey Jude over and over again.

I focus on the hardcore news. Events in Ukraine are interesting and so is the missing Malaysian airplane, though I skip the alien abduction theories. Unfortunately, garbage sells, so I don’t blame the media. You can waste an hour a day for the rest of your life reading gossip. Or not.

VOD = Violence On Demand

Reality horror isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t need to watch people suffering in order to have a deeper understanding of the universe. Lately, the mainstream media use gruesome video clips with tempting headlines in order to get attention. Of course it is important to know that people really are suffering in Syria, Iraq and wherever there is daily violence. Skip the VOD but read the deeper analysis of what’s going on.

Let Me Be Real Clear

A few years ago, I found RealClearPolitics. What a brilliant idea! Instead of spending hours reading the news, they collect the most important politics stories of the day in two editions – morning and afternoon. You’ll find articles from the NY Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Time and other news sites. Click and get right to the point. When a president, prime minister or senator writes an important piece, you won’t miss it. It saves me hours of scouring dozens of news sites.

Since then, they have added other topics – RealClearWorld, RealClearTech, RealClearScience.. In 15 minutes, I get all the news that I need.

Nothing Like the Real Thing

I often tell my friends, “Don’t go to a business meeting without taking a quick look at the NY Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.” In a world with billions of news sites, the big 3 still rule. Sometimes I am treated to interesting articles by Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and former presidents. Believe it or not, no one covers art, culture and music like the Wall Street Journal. The NY Times opinion page often has fascinating pieces by sci-fi writers and entertainers. The Washington Post gave us Woodward and Bernstein (the two journalists who uncovered the Nixon era Watergate scandal); the Post still blows my mind with deep analysis that no other daily newspaper can touch.

The American Interest has excellent analysis from “the deep center” (non-ideological) that gives me a perspective that I will never get from left or right leaning news sites. When elections approach, there’s no one as honest and accurate as Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia. He often appears on CNN and Fox News. Speaking of cable news, I stopped watching “video news” altogether. I sometimes miss the live action car chases that seem only to occur in southern California. Night time is music time.

A Lot of Help From My Friends

My friends are often the best source of news. They read things that I would never run into and I end up being exposed to new ideas and opinions. Whether it’s an email with a link or a conversation at lunch, I hear different views that shape the way I think.

How much news content is healthy? How much do we really need in order to understand the world around us? To be continued!

Israel Lifshitz

The government cloud is not as ominous as it appears. Despite its threatening appearance, the cloud offers security advantages over the datacenter. The government cloud has a number of challenges that smart IT teams can overcome.

Store Your Data in the Cloud

Let’s start with a given – the mobile device is the weak link in the government cloud food chain. This is self-evident to anyone who has ever worked in IT. What’s the point of using the cloud if mobile devices store the data? IT and vendors need to ensure that even temporary data and cache are stored in the cloud and not on the device.

Secure Your Cloud Connections

Untrusted networks (usually in the form of wifi) can be an issue. It is a fact of life that your users will access your cloud from the shopping mall wifi. How can you solve this problem? Make sure your cloud apps use strong encryption with technologies such as SSL pinning, which verifies signature hierarchy.

2 Factor Authentication

Two factor authentication is a must-have capability for every government cloud. This is just as self-evident as the mobile device’s status as the weak link. A password just isn’t enough. Two factor authentication forces your users to prove they are using their device.

Apps Are Not Inherently Secure in the Cloud

The cloud is a public space. Amazon and other cloud providers utilize a “vpc” (virtual private cloud) as a means of securing cloud space. Just as virtual private servers allow datacenters to create walls around data, the virtual private cloud separates clouds within a cloud service. Amazon has the most well known virtual private cloud.

Securing Multiple Cloud Locations

Here is an issue that is unique to government agencies and large enterprise. For most small and medium sized businesses, one cloud datacenter will suffice. Not so for the US government. When a government agency requires multiple cloud locations, a major challenge arises. How do you move data between cloud locations? The metaphor that comes to mind is from the 1997 Nicolas Cage movie ConAir. Data is most vulnerable while being transported from one place to another.

Your cloud service may not be of much help here (unless you use the same cloud service in both locations). IT should plan these moves carefully and know when to bring in outside help.

The Inevitable Cloud

Until recently, large government and enterprise organizations could avoid the cloud. That era is coming to an end. Small and medium sized businesses are successfully migrating to the cloud. 2014 will be the year that government begins its trek to the secure cloud. Instead of discussing the “ifs,” it is time to discuss the “hows.”

Kenny Sahr

I was up until 2 am last night playing The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim on my PS3. It is an epic treasure chest of content with some epic missteps.


From 2007 to 2013, World of Warcraft was my main game. Sure, I tried other games, but Warcrack (as addicts call it) was “home, sweet home” for me. I spent more time fighting PVP battles in Alterac Valley than I care to admit. I loved the differences between the classes – fighting and healing on my paladin, sword action on my warrior and shooting fireballs on my mage.

The dungeons in Warcraft are uniquely designed. Besides a few template dungeons from the Burning Crusade expansion, they are more complex than a basic “platform crawler.” I love the lore of Warcraft, walking through Stormwind and Ironforge and the many ways that I can level up a new toon (“character”) – via questing, multiplayer dungeons and pvp.

As much as I love Warcraft, I love my couch even more! I bought a PlayStation 3 in 2012 and haven’t looked back. I love being able to sit on my couch, pop in a game and play the night away. If Warcraft ever comes out for PS3, I’m in.

Skyrim – The Good

Skyrim is an epic game and deserves the high ratings it got on almost every site. It beats anything out there when it comes to immersion. NPCs (non-player characters) are at work in the day and home at night. When they’re not at home, you can find them in the local pub or inn. You just walk around, chat up a random NPC and go off on an adventure. I enjoyed leveling my “destruction mage” and will definitely play again as a warrior.

Skyrim – The Bad and the Ugly

After whacking Alduin the dragon last night, I also felt a bit disappointed. Here’s why:

NPCs talk too much – They’re more talkative than an unedited Woody Allen movie. They reminded me of Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit movie who wouldn’t shut up. Yes, lore is important in RPGs, but I kept clicking “x” to move on and stopped paying attention. Bob Dylan has earned the right to write long, descriptive songs, but most attempts at that style fail. They needed an editor to help them get to the point.

The last boss fight sucked – I had a harder time killing some bears than I did finishing off Alduin, the “world eating dragon.” Warcraft does this better with its “add fights” whereby you fight additional monsters sent by the boss. Crowd control can be exciting. Alduin went right after the 3 NPCs on my side, I hurled a few fireballs and he was down for the count. At least give me some eye candy during a boss fight and make me run around a bit.

Dungeons all looked the same – This is Skyrim’s biggest flaw. The same design team worked on all of the dungeons. Of course I expect recurring themes, but after the 5th one, they all looked the same to me. The colors were exactly the same in each one; it seems as if Bethesda used a basic template instead of going for variety. Many of the dungeons were “long and winding roads.” But unlike The Beatles song, they were forgettable.

Repetitive Content – This is the biggest challenge for game designers. How do you create dozens of hours of gameplay that isn’t repetitive? By the time I hit level 18, I was bored of entering a new town, meeting 3-4 characters who gave me “to do lists,” and then going off to deal with the local baddies. I don’t see how people did this to level 50 and beyond.

There were only 2 male voice actors for shopkeepers and 1 or 2 for female shopkeepers. Same voice, new city.

I still had a great time and am glad I bought Skyrim. After hearing so many friends talk about it, I had to experience it firsthand. Every RPG fan should play it and maybe you’ll disagree with my review!

PS – a week after writing this, I popped Skyrim back in my PS3 and gave it another go. I had a few more hours of fun, but it just didn’t cut it. I’d rather see new content, so I’m playing Batman – Arkham Asylum!