Browse Month: January 2006

01/31/2006

Jonathon Sharkey is running for the governor of Minnesota.

Most people (even those living in the great state of Minnesota) may not have heard of Mr. Sharkey– possibly because his political party is called the Vampyres, Witches, and Pagans Party. Go independents!

Sharkey’s platform includes the following:

  • emphasis on education
  • tax breaks for farmers
  • benefits for veterans
  • impaling criminals on the front yard of the State Capitol

Those first three are fairly plain-jane political promises we hear from many candidates, and cause a fairly “ho-hum” response from potential voters. But that last one– which is completely true– certainly warrants a raised eyebrow. Apparently he thinks terrorists and other violent criminals should be impaled. Nice.

Sadly, we may never see if the proud citizens of Minnesota will be able to elect a governor even stranger than Jesse Ventura, because Mr. Sharkey was arrested on felony counts from his days in Indiana.

Oh, and lest we neglect the legacy of Governor Ventura, it should be noted that Mr. Sharkey was a professional wrestler using the name Rocky Flash.

01/30/2006

“I had an epiphany a few years ago where I was out at a celebrity party and it suddenly dawned on me that I had yet to meet a celebrity who is as smart and interesting as any of my friends.”

— Moby

01/29/2006

Truly, genetics is a mysterious thing. How can someone as goofy-looking as me have a daughter who’s so completely photogenic?

01/27/2006

It’s amazing, sometimes, to consider the power of music. I listen to it almost every day as I work, and it strongly affects my mood… one day I might have a bunch of hip-hop dance music, the next I’m jamming to some heavy-beat trance music, and then I switch to soothing new age stuff. Soundtracks are a favorite of mine because– like trance– they don’t have words to distract me while I’m programming or writing an e-mail or proposal or whatever. Great background.

And there are certain songs, generally few and far between, that literally give me goosebumps when I listen to them. They either evoke a strong memory from the past, or they convey some sense of grandeur. I just bought the soundtrack for “The Island” (great movie!) and the final track, My Name Is Lincoln, which plays right at the very end of the movie before the credits, does this. It’s fabulous composition, and the scene in the movie is truly great. Before I bought the album I read reviews on Amazon, and everyone seems to agree that it’s a very moving piece of music.

It’s good for the soul.

01/27/2006

“America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week.”

— Evan Esar

01/25/2006

If you’re a law student, it’s quite a privilege to have the Attorney General of the United States come to speak at your school, in a room of perhaps fifty fellow students. It happened today for students at Georgetown Law School: Alberto Gonzales arrived and was talking about the justifications of the Bush administration to wiretap American citizens.

As he launched into his speech, the students rose from their seats and turned their backs on him. A few other students then trooped into the room carrying a banner with Benjamin Franklin’s oft-quoted saying:

Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

Following his (mercifully short) speech, there was a panel discussion where his arguments regarding Bush’s antics were shredded. David Cole, a Georgetown law professor, said:

When you’re a law student, they tell you that if you can’t argue the law, argue the facts. They also tell you that if you can’t argue the facts, argue the law. If you can’t argue either, apparently, the solution is to go on a public relations offensive and make it a political issue… to say over and over again ‘it’s lawful’, and to think that the American people will somehow come to believe this if we say it often enough.

If I ever need a lawyer, I want someone who was in that room today.

01/24/2006

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

— Peter Drucker

01/20/2006

Margaret Elizabeth Taylor was a 98-year-old woman who died last November. Her estate was worth just over a million dollars. Her husband had died twenty-five years ago, and she had no living siblings or children. The big question: who received her estate?

The federal government, of course. In her will, she bequeathed her entire fortune to the government and asked that it be used to pay down the national debt.

Although generous and most certainly original, I suspect that million dollars pays for a few minutes of interest on our $8.1 trillion debt. Shame.

01/19/2006

Laralee and I teach a weekly science class for second-graders, and a few weeks ago we put together a lesson about chemistry– specifically, how mixing different things together has some pretty interesting results. The highlight of the lesson was undoubtably when we mixed polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) with borax solution to make green slime.

We had a bit left over after class, so at home we mixed up a big batch and had some fun with it. Mmm, slime…

01/19/2006

It’s always fun to get goodies from clients as thanks for good work. In today’s mail was a huge envelope from my friends at ATO Records. It was a stack of ten CD’s… all of the latest stuff from the bands they manage. Sweet!

01/15/2006

For some reason this made me laugh.

01/12/2006

I just read an interesting article about the oil economy on Kiro5hin. One of the insightful commentators said:

One in seven barrels of oil globally, almost 50% of America’s oil consumption, are used by American passenger vehicles, which travel 2.5 trillion miles per year. Today, the average passenger vehicle gets 23.9 mpg. If that number were 1984’s peak figure of 27.5 mpg, almost 350 million barrels of oil per year would be saved without a scrap of inconvenience. By driving more sensibly, and purchasing more responsible transportation instead of SUVs, muscle cars, and other ridiculously wasteful vehicles, Americans can save at least a billion barrels per year or more with minimal change in lifestyle.

That’s impressive. Although the writer doesn’t offer any evidence to back up these statements, I see no reason to doubt them. It jives with what I see when I drive along the highway and look at the gas-guzzling vehicles surrounding my little plastic Saturn.

It continues:

You can take these actions as individuals. Americans are victims not of governments and oil companies, but of their own addiction to the product. To make change, you don’t need the cooperation of corporations, you don’t need government regulation, and you don’t need new types of cars and energy sources to be designed. They are already available, and the more you buy, the greater the demand, and the more options that will appear. It’s an easy and fun cop-out to debate what others should do and speculate about big problems with big solutions that require retooling the nation. Skip it. Just do something yourself.

Amen! People often discuss alternative fuels (solar power, wind energy, biodiesel, nuclear plants) but all of them have an array of problems. Most notable is the fact that– like it or not– our society is powered by petroleum. It’s not something that’s going to change overnight, and it’s sure easy to say, “Well, when they come out with a hydrogen-powered car I’ll think about buying one after my current Ford Explursion loses its resale value.” It’s harder to look at our own consumer habits and determine how we can make a difference right now.

Go on, get yourself a nice plastic Saturn, work in your basement, and bike everywhere around town like me. You’ll feel better.

01/07/2006

When I worked at Hughes and then Raytheon, one aspect of my job that I really enjoyed was the opportunity I had to work on many different projects. Since I was a systems engineer (read “analysis guru”), I was asked to support a lot of initiatives– whether they were new business ventures in need of flashy graphics, or established projects with some questions about coverage or availability.

I saw others (Laralee included) who were tasked with a single project for a long time– often years. On a few occasions I was asked to work on such projects, and I did whatever I could to avoid them. I would quickly become bored and uninterested doing the same thing day after day.

Now, all these years later, it’s clear that the joy in my job continues to follow the same lines. The fact that I can work on a myriad of projects keeps me interested and excited. Yes, there is the occasional project that’s just plain dull… but more often than not, when I get tired of working on something I can simply switch gears and tackle another project with a different challenge.

Thus, when I enter my hours for the week into the timekeeping system (so I know how much to bill everyone), it’s always interesting to see how many different projects I worked on that week. I just finished this week’s timekeeping, and it looks like I was involved with twenty-one different projects. Wow. Talk about keeping things interesting!

01/06/2006

A little over two years ago I wrote about the “felonification” of America– how minor crimes are increasingly being classified as felonies, generally at the whim of the corporations who want to protect their profits.

As we continue down this slippery slope, another splendid example of this trend has appeared. It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic.

In Canton, Ohio, a high-school senior had an idea for a little prank, and wrote it in his online blog: he suggested a bunch of friends all go to their high school web page and repeatedly refresh the page. This would, in theory, cause the web server to begin choking on requests– and thus become slower.

So they did it. And sure enough, the web site was slow. Ha, great joke!

But it didn’t end there. City prosecutors, aided by the school district, are charging the teen with a felony because he affected a public computer system. The city prosecutor said:

Michael said it was a joke. We showed him how we deal with this kind of joke.

Wow. Here’s a guy who has no grasp of reality, much less high school pranks. It’s hard to tell whether he’s trying to make a name for himself as “tough on crime”, or whether he’s really that unbelievably dense.

What’s more, there was a separate incident last year where several students broke into the school’s computer system (yes, the same school) and changed some grades. They were caught and charged with a misdemeanor. That’s right– a misdemeanor. But it’s a felony to simply look at a web page many times. What gives?

In a rousing analysis of the incident on Slashdot, there was a very insightful comment that perfectly echoes my sentiments of two years ago. I’ll quote it here:

There was a time when we made an important distinction between types of crimes. Misdemeanors were “minor crimes” annoyances that can be cleared up easily enough and are a) not worth making permanent and b) best forgotten once the problems is solved. A classic example is littering, or spraypainting something on a park bench. The former is solved by making the litterbug pick up their garbage (and maybe some other peoples’) and the latter by having the offender repaint the bench brown. In both cases the offense can be “fixed” and the individual can learn form a simple dressing down. In most jurisdictions misdemeanors are not even recorded (or didn’t used to be) and never ever became part of someone’s permanent criminal record (especially a minor). Moreover misdemeanors aren’t liable for jail time above and beyond “time served” (in the drunk tank).

Felonies are major or “permanent” crimes such as theft, maim, and murder. They connotate crimes that cannot be simply “cleaned up”, crimes that cannot be undone in any meaningful sense and crimes that may signal permanent problems for the individual in question. Felonies attach much stiffer penalties (for both juveniles and adults) as well as “permanence”. In some states felons lose the right to vote permanently. This is politely known as “Civil Disenfranchisement”. In Midevil times it was associated with the term “Civil Death”. Felons are also forbidden from obtaining some jobs (in government), and have to tell all other employers of their status. They are also often forbidden from obtaining some scholarships and grants. While not all of these attach automatically to juvenile felons many of them do. Increasing numbers of states are making no distinction between juvenile felonies and adult felonies. Unlike misdemeanor crimes felons are truly marked for life.

The basic upshot of this is that this kid could be harmed for life for what is, in essence, a nothing crime. He encouraged people to visit a website and thereby caused a server to run slow, not stop, not crash, not burst into flames, just run slow. This is a temporary problem, a fixable problem, and one that doesn’t even require two coats of paint.

This is a dangerous, vicious overreaction on the part of the city prosecutor, and the school officials. They are abusing their power and risk punishing a kid for life for something that should be handled by a stern talking to and no dessert.

Hear, hear. I hope this case goes up in flames, the prosecutor gets a stern beating with the cluebat, and people begin to wake up and realize that our justice system is slowly but undeniably being made to serve the corporations and those who would take away our freedoms in exchange for temporary safety. And we all know how Benjamin Franklin felt about them.

01/05/2006

Check out this awesome shirt Craig and Phoebe gave me for Christmas.

It’s Yoda’s famous phrase “Do, or do not. There is no try.” I love that– it’s a mantra for me.

01/04/2006

This morning I had my Comcast cable modem upgraded to a business-class line. For kicks, I checked to see what my download bandwidth is. I can get a fairly consistent speed of 4+ Mbps, and a few tests peaked out above 7 Mbps. Wow. I remember when T-1 lines were “da bomb” becaues they were screaming fast… and they’re only 1.5 Mbps.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

01/04/2006

In a delicious irony, here’s an awesome sign that warns you to watch out for… the sign.

01/02/2006

Another interesting 2005 statistic for me is the amount of time I spent working. Since I have a timekeeping system I use to track every hour I’m at work (so I can bill clients appropriately), it’s easy to run the full year and see how things went. This year?

2,520 hours

That averages to about 48 hours per week– definitely more than I’d like to be working, but probably not unreasonable in today’s workplace. Considering the fact that I’m running four businesses, I suppose this isn’t bad at all. But hopefully 2006 will see a drop…

01/02/2006

Well, the New Year is here and today happened to be my day of organizing stuff around the office. As such, I filed away the last of the 2005 e-mail messages and saw the total.

13,681 messages

Holy cow, I’m averaging 37 messages per day. That number continues to rise year after year, too. I suppose in a few years that’s pretty much all I’ll be doing: writing e-mail all day.