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We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. — Will Rogers

On Christmas Day in the Evening 2004.12.26.07:44

(Technically, it's after midnight here in Oklahoma. But on this machine, the clock is still in the Pacific zone, so this entry will bear a Christmas Day timestamp.)

My flu/fever/low-grade-infection/whatever seems to be pretty much gone, thankfully. Still have 4-5 days' worth of horse pills to take, yet, but at least I'm feeling better. Last night, I ran down to Norman to drop off some gifts with a friend. Hung out, ate chips & queso, and sat through a hard-sell Christian-conversion effort from my friend's mother. I have so few people I deal with regularly in California who are even Christian to begin with, let alone driven to aggressively convert everyone they meet, that I forget what it can be like. Lots of lecturing on how Jesus is the basis for the season, for the holiday. Not wanting to turn the evening into a shouting match, I just smiled and nodded and let her speak her mind. It's her right, after all. To have pointed out all the Pagan trappings of the holiday, and recount the history of how the holiday was essentially a "compromise" between the invading Christian Romans and the Pagans of the lands they were trying to conquer and integrate into the empire, that would have led to madness. I really had better plans for the next 3-4 hours, and they didn't include a history/theology debate.

Instead, I drove over to campus and found a good hotspot and checked e-mail (and uploaded yesterday's entry– since I'm not consistently connected, I'll be periodically posting my entries in clumps). I hadn't slept Thursday night, between doing laundry, packing, burning some data CDs for friends out here, and pushing out one quick update to one of my Perl modules. So I slept pretty soundly once I came back here and crashed.

Today started off with an actual breakfast, early no less. Two concepts that are generally pretty alien to me while home in California. We went over to my brother's place and exchanged gifts with him and his family. It's hard to believe my niece is already 11, nearly 12. Well, hard to believe until I actually get there and see her. She's at least 5'6" already. Definately takes after my brother on that count (he's about a half-inch to a full inch taller than me). They all liked their gifts, him especially (I got him the first season of Monk). I got clothes, some clothes, and then I got some more clothes. Later, I went down to Norman to my friend Pasha's parent's house, and had dinner with them and their family. She got me a spice rack and a crème brûlée set (of which I am far more likely to use the torch on my modelling projects than actual crème brûlée). And her son did this amazingly-cool piece of AutoCAD work on a section of clear plexiglass, engraving my name. When the light hits it right, it reflects off the opposite face of the glass. I guess you gotta see it to understand. It's cool.

All in all, a very nice Christmas day, indeed. I'm closing it out with a homemade peanut butter & chocolate brownie, and the Bond Live DVD playing on my desktop in a separate window. If there's anything better than four lovely women, it's four lovely women who are amazingly talented at their chosen craft.

(Oh, I took in two movies, as well. I'll cover those in a later post.)

# amazon (and on) [/thoughts]

Dateline: Dallas 2004.12.24.21:13

On layover (abbreviated because of lateless out of San Jose) in Dallas, waiting for my flight to OKC to board. It's Christmas, so it must be Oklahoma. It's funny to be back so soon, since I was here in October for OU's homecoming. Of course, I haven't been writing much these last few months, mostly because it turns out I've been sick for quite a long time and just ignoring it. Finally broke down and went to the Dr. this past Monday, and was given (in addition to a stern talking-to over taking care of myself) a course of antibiotics in the form of pills. Pills, I might add, that are almost the size of the last digit of one of my fingers. Horses would have trouble with these, and for the first few days I had a nasty sore throat. But as always, these things, they pass.

I'll be back in the habit of regular writing now, especially on my vacation. However, this time around I'm not wasting any money on the over-priced wireless access at the airports. With whole cities now blanketing their streets with free WiFi, it's just that much more obvious what a rip-off this "Wayport" access is. My university has campus-wide WiFi (well, for some generous definitions of "campus-wide", but I know where the strong spots are), my old fraternity has house-wide in their new digs. Oklahoma, or at least parts of it, are teetering dangerously on the brink of the 21st century. Well, the elections notwithstanding. But more on that in a later entry. Plus ça change, and all that, I suppose.

Ahh... the cattle call is going out...

# [/thoughts]

Here We Go Again 2004.12.01.03:29

As the saying goes, it's déjà vu all over again:

You're making one of your little points again, aren't you?

# [/politics]

The Conclusion of the Cake Saga (with a picture) 2004.11.03.00:26

It is done. It's been done for a few hours, but I'm also trying to set up my new laptop to replace the one that died while I was in Oklahoma, so I'm up way later than I should be. But it is done (click for a 1200x800 version):


Learned a few valuable lessons on this stage, too:

  • Cake decorating is a fuck of a lot harder than it looks, and it's always looked pretty damn difficult.
  • There are few dextrous challenges that can't be helped along with a good bottle of Guinness.
  • Guinness and cream cheese cake icing are a wretched taste combination.
  • Icing a cake is a lot like trowelling fresh cement into a smooth surface. Something else I've never done before.
  • But like I said, Guinness is a magical elixer of many uses.
  • Until I lick more of the frosting off of my fingers, that is.

The light flecks of green aren't image-compression artifacts, they're bits of the colored sugar like you put on cupcakes. I wanted just a light sprinkling, so as to not distract from the rest of the decoration.

The sentiment may be optimistic, but damn if it isn't sincere.

# [/thoughts]

I Voted (LiveJournal Meme Bleed-Over) 2004.11.02.21:24

I voted at 12:40PM, in Campbell, CA.

I Voted
# [/politics]

If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Cake 2004.11.02.08:13

For an Election Night party tomorrow, I promised to bring a cake. It seemed like a fair offer, since I was just going to get the bakery at Safeway to do it for me. Only, it turns out they don't do yellow cakes, only various flavors that are white, pink, brown and dark brown. No yellow. And this needed to be a yellow cake. So I thought to myself, "Hey self, let's just do it, you and me! Then there will be extra love baked into that cake!"

My Self is a snarky rat-fuck bastard, is what he is.

Lessons I have learned as I try to make my cake (more or less in order):

  1. Cakes require a small-but-significant set of specialized hardware. Most people have these things around their homes. I don't.
  2. When the cake-mix calls for softened butter, brace yourself...
  3. Butter doesn't really soften very quickly just sitting on the counter.
  4. Butter softens pretty fucking quickly in the microwave.
  5. 30 seconds is too long, unless you are making butter soup.
  6. It really suck ass when you realize that previous point, at the same time you realize that's your last stick of butter.
  7. 10 seconds (after the 10-minute run to the grocery for more butter and for the non-stick spray you forgot) feels about right.
  8. As Bill Cosby once said, you have to be careful with the eggs. Generally, when a recipe calls for eggs, it is assumed that no shell is to be included. Expect them to be specific about the shell if they want it in there.
  9. Thank god one ingredient was a single cup of water, so that I could do one thing right the first time.
  10. Just because you're making two cakes at once is no reason to try and mix them both at the same time. No matter how big the mixing bowl you got was.
  11. Because, see, you didn't buy an electric mixer, you bought a whisk. And mixing that much batter by hand requires the arm strength of a Major League Baseball pitcher and the stamina of a Major League Soccer forward.
  12. And guess what? Just because the butter felt soft earlier, doesn't mean it actually is. In fact, it isn't.
  13. Even after 5 minutes of beating my batter, there are still lumps of butter in it. The butter, it haunts me. The butter, it taunts me.
  14. Remember the athletic qualifications for working this much batter by hand? Well, I possess neither. I have, however, given my left arm the strongest work-out it has had since probably right around the time I was going through puberty.
  15. (Relax, that last bit has nothing to do with the cake.)
  16. Now I see why my grandmother would never intentionally leave more batter in the bowl for my brother and I to scoop on our fingers and eat. After you've suffered for that cake, you're damn well going to bake absolutely as much of it as is possible
  17. Luckily, that figure never quite reaches 100%. And the batter does in fact taste sweeter when you've made the cake yourself. That also explains why grandma usually got first dibs on the bowl before handing it over.
  18. However, you may find that you still, after over five minutes of beating, didn't get all the butter smoothed into the batter. I fear I've developed a butter fixation, now. A butter-phobia. It may be months, years even, before I can butter so much as a slice of toast.

So, it's in the oven now. Next up, adventures in icing and decoration...

# [/thoughts]

Hallowe'en in the Office 2004.10.29.20:23

Dear Die-ary,

Today is the Hallowe'en celebration in my office. Many people are dressed up, and there is enough candy floating around to induce diabetic coma into a small but significant percentage of mainland China's populace. Even my manager, who is old-skool-enough to have been coding on Lisp machines before I was born, is dressed for the occassion. I chose not to, as I don't really have much skill or knack for costumes that don't involve large quantities of fake (no, really, I promise it's fake) blood. And I do have to work here after Hallowe'en, after all.

The problem is, there was a calculated, concerted effort among a large number of the female office demographic to dress as devil-girls. That's right, I'm surrounded by literally dozens of women in red, wearing horns, some with pitchforks, even.

My concentration is pretty much crap.


# [/funny]

Mosh The Vote 2004.10.29.01:04

Damn that Eminem. I've done a great job of writing him off as being either extremely offensive on purpose, or carefully crafting his "counter" image for the sake of record sales, either of which is just as bad in my book.

Then he goes and writes a song like this.

It's called "Mosh", and is featured in an animated video created (primarily) by Ian Inaba. And it's top of TRL on MTV. As one of the diarists on Daily Kos put it:

I felt this powerful sense that I had just seen something calibrated exactly for this moment, something hopeful and disturbing and honest...something spoken from the crux of this hour in our history and yet resolutely looking forward.

(I encourage you to read the full article, as it's a very detailed analysis of the imagery throughout the video.)

Spread the link. Spread the love. Spread the spark.

Come along follow me as I lead through the darkness
As I provide just enough spark that we need to proceed
Carry on, give me hope, give me strength
Come with me and I won't steer you wrong
Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
To the light at the end of the tunnel
We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march
Through the swamp, we gonna mosh through the marsh
Take us right through the doors
# [/politics]

This Is No Drill: The Red Sox Have Indeed Won 2004.10.28.05:40

The Boston Red Sox have won their first World Series since 1918.

I'm not a big sports fan, and have no opinions on pro baseball at all, but they really are an example of the scruffy just-will-not-quit kid down the block that everyone laughed at. They deserved to win this, and winning it so decisively is just icing.

# [/entertainment]

A Tale of Minor Celebrity 2004.10.21.21:50

Wow. I'm flabbergasted. People in the band office still recognized me after 14 years. I mean, I remembered them, but they've seen literally over a thousand other faces since I left.

And then there's the trip I made to see my old academic advisor. He remembered me, too. I had brought him a copy of my book that I wrote a short note in. He took me over and introduced me to the current department head, who asked me to be part of a mailing-list/advisory kinda group. Not only that, both suggested having me come out sometime in the next 6-8 months to give a little talk to the current crop of undergrads, a kind of "pay attention, because you will use what you learn here in the real world" kind of thing.

It felt so, well, weird.

And I can't even begin to start on the cosmetic changes around here. The area that my office used to be in when I worked for the ECN are no longer there– it's a student-services center, now. I just looked around, dazed, until someone asked, "Can I help you find something?" "Yeah, my old office?" What was ECN has transformed into more of an IT, services-oriented division. One person left there that I'd worked with 14 years ago, and she remembered me as well.

This is definately the most interesting trip back I've had in a decade or more...

# [/thoughts]

It's Foreshadowing, I Tell Ya 2004.10.20.01:33

Went to get my hair cut in preparation for my trip. Stylist convinced me to get some color added, mainly to mask the gray. I balked, since previous attempts have failed to match the natural color, but she was hella cute so I folded like a hopeless poker hand.

Now, while she was cutting it, the radio station they had on was playing a pretty good (albeit eclectic) selection. Then they played an old instrumental called "The Horse". Whoa! I played that in high school band. What are the odds? Well, a little later they played the theme from the old Clint Eastwood western, "Hang 'Em High". Which I had also played in high school. This was immediately followed by "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", a jazz/soul classic, an arrangement of which I had played in jr. high. And as if that weren't enough, there was a fourth tune that I'd played in high school. It, too had a western feel like the Hang 'Em High. Indeed, my marching band had used the two together for our parade performance one year (the year we went to Pueblo, Colorado for the Apple Blossom Festival). I'm about 95% sure that the fourth tune was called "Apache". Or at least had "Apache" in the title.

Four songs (all instrumental arrangements, even the soul song that actually has lyrics) that I'd played, on the sound system, the day before I leave for my college band reunion. Huh.

Update: It is in fact called "Apache", and is an instrumental by a British group called The Shadows. I must now find this.

# [/thoughts]

Sometimes You Can Go Home After All 2004.10.19.03:01

I'm headed to Oklahoma later this week. I'll be there for OU's homecoming football game. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Pride of Oklahoma marching band. They're having a large-scale gathering of alumni, and I'm on my way.

I was in the Pride from 1986 to 1989. My freshman season was the band that was awarded the Sudler Trophy, leading us to label everything with a "Sudler" prefix in the 1987 season. It was like the '60's Batman utility belt, only with better music. I went to two Orange Bowls and a Citrus Bowl before the 1989 recruitment scandal led to NCAA suspension and Barry Switzer's resignation. Those trips also meant three trips to New Orleans the days right after New Year's. Not to mention New Year's Day usually spent on the Florida beaches. It was a pretty good couple of years.

Well, mostly. This would be years before my thyroid problem was diagnosed, before my depression was diagnosed. Looking back on it, I can see now that a lot of what I went through, a lot of the negative, was due at least in part to that. Not all, mind you. Somehow I angered my section leader my freshman year (and don't ask how– I don't know, nor could any of my friends figure it out either) which made that year really tough, and made me appear to the rest of the band leadership as a troublemaker. Even by my senior year, there were people in the band who would rather see me not there at all. But I made it through the auditions year after year. I was no where near the top of the heap in the French Horn section; right around the time I enrolled at OU, they had gotten a number of exceedingly good hornists. Any ensemble that only needed 2-4 horns was pretty much a lost cause to the rest of us. And I wasn't even a music major, so I was no where near the running. But for the Pride, which took 24 horns, I could make it. And I had friends there, and I had a love for the band that wouldn't let me give in to the people who didn't like me. But I have to take some part of the responsibility, even if I didn't fully understand why at the time.


# [/thoughts]

It's Done 2004.10.14.02:33

It's over, the last closing statements have been made. Both closings were solemn without being somber.

I'll write more over the next day or so, but my take is this: initial reaction will place them as essentially a tie. But things like the OBL lie and the Roe v. Wade cut-off of the moderator will turn that opinion against Bush and towards Kerry over the next few days.

# [/politics/debate2004-3]

A Truly Quotable Moment 2004.10.14.02:19

"[Faith-based initiatives] unleashed the Armies of Compassion"

What. The. Hell. Is. That?

But then, Kerry followed up with the lovely, "I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do." Yeah baby!

# [/politics/debate2004-3]

WTF? 2004.10.14.02:07

Dude, WTF?

Bush just totally cut-off the moderator in mid-question to answer. It seems that he answered the question that was going to be asked (well, for some values of the word "answered"). But geez man, let the guy finish.

And no, he didn't answer the question. The question was "Do you want to overturn Roe v. Wade?" The answer has nothing to do with a litmus test for judges.

And he is awfully fond of that phrase, "a liberal senator from Massachusetts."

# [/politics/debate2004-3]

Halfway There 2004.10.14.02:00

OK, a bit past the halfway-point. Looks pretty even in terms of general performamce, except that several of Bush's blatant lies are going to come back to haunt him over the next few days. Expect to see that old film clip at least a few times.

Bush has jumped in a few times out of order, and hasn't gotten called on it. The chuckling is still creepy, and he's still much more fidgety when Kerry speaks than vice-versa.

# [/politics/debate2004-3]

Caring About bin Laden's Whereabouts 2004.10.14.01:47

Here's a link, from a March 13, 2002 press conference transcript on their own website:


Dude, try to limit your lies to those not provable on your own office's web site.

Update: Better still, here's a segment of video.

# [/politics/debate2004-3]

That Was Scary 2004.10.14.01:35

The chuckle Bush just made leading into the question on rising healh care costs was just plain scary.

# [/politics/debate2004-3]

And They're Off 2004.10.14.01:18

The final debate has begun. C-SPAN2 is doing the split-screen thing again, and again has adjusted the relative centering of each candidate so that they appear to be the same height. I guess, as a tall person, I forget that this sort of thing can be an issue to people.

Neither person has wasted any time attacking the other. But Bush is also off to a bad start. Kerry has called him on his statement about not being so concerned about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. He was way too glib about trying to laugh through his answer, to make it look ridiculous. Unfortunately for him, he said it on tape (looking for a non-blog link to the quote, a real news source link).

Bush is still having trouble with the tendency to smirk and fidget. He's just plain trying too hard.

# [/politics/debate2004-3]

That Second Debate; Thoughts 2004.10.14.00:46

After such diligent attention to the first presidential debate and the VP debate, I didn't actually see the second one. At least, not completely. I was late coming into it, and had to head home and stop by the pharmacy en route so all in all, I saw or heard (on NPR) about half of it.

From what I heard, I thought it was about a tie. I thought that Kerry was giving better answers, but that Bush was playing the crowd better. However, after reading the reports of others over the weekend following it, and fact-checking since, I guess I just missed the really juicy bits. I missed Bush lose his cool and rattle on out-of-turn, completely ignoring the moderator. And from what I read, that was the worst of the anger-management issues, but not the only.

So, rather than drive myself nuts trying to sift through it all, I'll just do my best to keep up on the final debate, here in 15 minutes or so.

# [/politics]

Pax Christopher Reeve 2004.10.11.08:54

Superman has passed away.

Understand, for many people in my age-bracket (+/- 10 years or so), Reeve was as much the embodiment of Superman as any paper rendition in a comic book.

Christopher Reeve 1952-2004

He made us believe a man could fly.

# [/entertainment/movies]

Why I Left Oklahoma, #3 (Race-Baiting) 2004.10.06.21:25

The National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) is running an ad in an Oklahoma Senate race that they're currently losing. The Republican candidate has, among other offenses, been found to have sterilized a woman without her consent 20 years ago during his medical practice.

So, the logical response is to employ race-baiting. Atrios has the details and a link to the ad.

Sadly, this tactic will almost certainly shift some votes in Oklahoma. Hopefully, not enough to matter.

# [/politics]

Poll Dance 2004.10.06.20:05

Apparently, CNN pulled down their initial poll on who won last night's debate. They've since put it back, but between the two polls the VP's support managed to double.

How terribly inconvenient those initial numbers must have been. (I'm pretty sure that their polling software uses IP-logging to reduce fraud.)

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

I Am So Cursed 2004.10.06.08:37

It's not enough that I'm still in financial straights over the car accident I was in a month ago. It's not enough that I've been waiting to get paid by Yahoo for some consultancy for over 70 days. It's not enough that my laptop's hard drive started throwing r/w head errors a few weeks ago. No. None of that, apparently, was enough.

Tonight, my main desktop system started going haywire after I'd done some DVD, errrr, backing-up. Since DVD drives can sometimes cause trippy-ness in Linux kernels, I opted for a reboot.

Two of my filesystems were fucked up, /opt and /usr/local. The former seemed OK after a manual run of fsck. The latter simply will not fsck at all. Of course, I stored things like the ZIP files for my current Eclipse configuration on that partition, but I can do without it, since the other one (where Eclipse and my Java environments live) cleaned up OK.

But it didn't, completely. My installation of Eclipse has vanished. Well, sort of. The superblock that contained its inode is gone. So I have a goat-choking assload of files in the lost+found directory with catchy names like "#4849867", and with content ranging from executables to images to HTML text to other directories. But, of course, this isn't the real problem.

No, the real problem is that these two filesystems are on the same physical disk, which is clearly not much longer for this world. Unfortunately, a lot of other things are on this disk, as well. I only have two actual physical hard drives, after all (the other two IDE devices being a CD-ROM and DVD-ROM). The whole O/S is on this disk, as well as most of my web-work (thankfully, most of that is also CVS-managed, and the CVS repo is on the other disk). So, broke that I am, I have to plan for a new disk drive and a clean re-install of the O/S in the (very) near future. Right now, I can't even work effectively on my personal projects. Especially with the fear that another partition (or god-forbid, the other disk) fails.

Just fucking shoot me now.

# [/thoughts]

"The First Time I Ever Met You..." 2004.10.06.04:02

Cheney was very pointed in his criticism of Edwards' attendance record as a Senator. His words (from the MSNBC transcript):

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.

The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.

How short his memory: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/10/5/234647/200

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

Aprés Debate 2004.10.06.03:44

So, who won? In the words of Eve, "Gee, that's pretty hard."

I think one caller to C-SPAN after the debate summed it up well: "I think we just saw who the real president is." (Emphasis added based on the caller's voice.)

The CNN poll is already showing Edwards as the winner, 82% to 14%. Even the Fox News poll is (currently) favoring Edwards, 17% to 13% with 67% saying that neither won it. (I expect the strongly-Repub Fox demographic to change this within a few hours.) (I've since seen polls with even wider gaps, some placing Edwards with over 90% support.)

As for myself, I don't think it was that big of a slam-dunk. I do absolutely believe Edwards took it, hands down. Cheney completely brushed aside the issues of the administrations's support for the Constitutional amendment against gay marriage, the issue of Halliburton illegally doing business with Iran. He used the tired argument of the weapons-systems Kerry opposed in the '80's, only to be reminded that he, too, had opposed them (and, ultimately, killed several of them). It wasn't a slam-dunk, but that was largely because Cheney is the actual brains in the pair. It wasn't going to be a slam-dunk unless Cheney, too, cracked under the lights the way Bush had.

I think Cheney was, as is their usual mode of operation these days, relying on fear-mongering. He went almost directly into invoking 9/11. He made several (at least two, maybe three) inferrences that the danger of a terrorist attack with nuclear or bio/chem weaponry was imminent. Let me say that again: We are to believe that a "wrong" vote next month will mean a nuclear or biological terror attack. Cheney dodged any real responsibility for the statement he made a few weeks ago to that effect, but the implication was clear.

I've seen several people say that once the American people get to see the candidates face-to-face, the race will widen considerably. They were right on that, but they all thought that Bush/Cheney would be the ones gaining the double-digit leads. Instead, their lead was erased last week, and at this rate they'll be trailing by Saturday.

(Update @ 20:42: The FOX News poll is no longer showing such a large chunk of undecideds. Now, it's 52-47 for Edwards, with less than 400 for "didn't watch" and less than 500 for "none of the above".)

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

Closing Statement Discrepancies 2004.10.06.02:39

Edwards went first. Thanked the moderator and the V.P.

Cheney's turn came up. Thanked the moderator and ignored his opponent.

Edwards talked about the culture of opportunity he remembered as a child, and how he and Kerry wanted to restore that.

Cheney focused on the the on-going threat of terrorism, with extra-special focus on the hypothesis that terrorists might strike within the U.S. with a nuclear or chem/bio weapon.

Hope or fear. These are our choices on Nov. 2.

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

Bad John, No Donut 2004.10.06.02:24

In a simple question, to define the differences between each other without invoking their presidential running-mates name, Edwards flubbed it. Twice. Tsk, tsk.

But he turned it into a good jab in the next question.

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

FactCheck.org Update 2004.10.06.02:16

FactCheck.org is responding again. The only two documents I can find that refer to Halliburton refer to the validity of the no-bid contracts, and pointing out that a Kerry ad mis-characterizes Cheney's last payments from the company. I agree with the latter– it was an unfair ad. But neither of these offer a dispute or defense of Halliburton having used off-shore subsidiaries to do business with Iran. Remember, if you you do business with terrorists...

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

The Real Smokescreen 2004.10.06.01:48

Cheney is accusing Kerry/Edwards of using the Halliburton link as a "smokescreen" to cover their own poor records. He then goes on to dissect Edwards' senate record.

Tell me again, how does Edwards' senate record relate to Halliburton's fraud, or the dealings they had with Iran while Cheney was CEO?

Which one of these arguments is the smokescreen?

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

The Halliburton Albatross 2004.10.06.01:45

Edwards has itemized Halliburton's involvement in doing business with Iran while Cheney was lobbying for reduction in the sanctions. Pointed out their fines when caught doing so. And again, the no-bid contract issue is coming back to haunt them.

Cheney countered with a reference to FactCheck.org, which is now getting the Cheney-equivalet of being slash-dotted. I'll check on that when I can.

Interesting note: Edwards says that companies under gov't contract that are under investigation for fraud, are not supposed to be getting monies until the investigation is completed. But Halliburton is still getting paid while being under investigation for defrauding the gov't on billing.

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

Cheney's SecDef Record 2004.10.06.01:28

Finally, someone has countered the criticism of Kerry's opposition to weapons systems in 1984. Edwards just pointed out that all the systems they attack Kerry for opposing, Cheney himself opposed at the same time.

He went on to attack the no-bid contracts that have fattened up Hallibuton.

And in his rebuttal, Cheney dodged both of those subjects entirely.

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

Out of the Starting Gate 2004.10.06.01:19

It's taken Cheney less than 30 seconds to invoke 9/11, and within the space of his first answer, he's re-asserted the myths that Iraq had any connections to Al Qaeda (and by extension, 9/11). Despite the fact that all the recent reports from CIA and other sources have shown this to be false.

Edwards wasted no time in pointing this out, aided by the well-timed remarks of Paul Bremer yesterday.

Cheney tried to re-assert in his rebuttal, and Edwards came straight out and told him to his face that all reports have made it clear that there is no link.

(Follow-up: In the next question, Cheney did say that they never believed Iraq as linked to 9/11. I'm pretty sure that they have, but I can't google that and listen and comment all at once.)

# [/politics/debate2004-vp]

Some Afterthoughts 2004.10.01.06:58
# [/politics/debate2004-1]

The Eyes Have It 2004.10.01.02:45

Four years ago, everyone was up in mock indignation at Gore's audible sighing.

This time around, Bush was rolling his eyes as often or more so. Will we hear about this? Or will the "liberal media" overlook it?

# [/politics/debate2004-1]

Fact Check: No. 4 in a Series 2004.10.01.02:39
# [/politics/debate2004-1]

The Real Way of Measuring Score on the Debate 2004.10.01.02:38

A caller to C-SPAN after the debate:

"The final score was three glasses of water for President Bush, one drink of water for Mr. Kerry."

# [/politics/debate2004-1]

Some Quotes I Missed 2004.10.01.02:28

Because of my spotty stream at first, I missed these gems from Kerry:

"We didn't need that tax cut. America needed to be safe."

"I made a mistake in how I talked about the war. The President made a mistake in how he conducted the war. Which is worse?"

(Found at http://demwatch.blogspot.com/)

# [/politics/debate2004-1]

Fact Check, No. 3 in a Series 2004.10.01.02:17
# [/politics/debate2004-1]

Fact Check, No. 2 in a Series 2004.10.01.02:00
# [/politics/debate2004-1]

Fact Check, No. 1 of a Series 2004.10.01.01:58
# [/politics/debate2004-1]

Access Restored: Thank You C-SPAN 2004.10.01.01:50

Thanks to C-SPAN, I've got a good feed that is both audio and video. And this has led me to two interesting observations:

  • C-SPAN is showing both candidates in a split-screen format. I suppose it's because of the stringent rules of the "debate", but they're showing Kerry's podium clearly 6-8 inches lower than Bushes. God forbid anyone should see that Kerry is taller than Bush.
  • When Bush is speaking, Kerry looks forward, or looks down and writes notes. Occassionally looks to his left (probably looking at Bush). When Kerry is speaking, Bush is fidgeting looking all over the place like a bored, schoolkid waiting for the bell to ring.

Currently, Bush is waxing nostalgic about a specific widow he can mention by name. But then, Kerry's is making oblique Vietnam references in his response, so that point has got be called a draw.

I thought Bush would be more eloquent. Debating is supposedly his strong suit. This is looking a lot more like Kennedy-Nixon '60 than Bush-Gore '00.

# [/politics/debate2004-1]

First Debate Nugget 2004.10.01.01:29

I'm not going to be able to get the whole of the debate, because I'm at my office. The demand for streaming audio seems to be high, because my RealPlayer client keeps losing its place in the stream. So I'll have to rely on what bits I both get and get clearly-enough to reliably repeat.

Here's the first:

BUSH: "If you harbor a terrorist, you're as guilty as a terrorist."

15 of 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabians. This must be bad news for them, no?

# [/politics/debate2004-1]

Salon on the Cowardly Broadcasting System 2004.09.30.00:23

Reading this will require either an existing subscription to Salon.com, or willingness to watch an ad for a one-day pass. But for this story, I felt it was worth it to spread the word:

Sept. 29, 2004 | By relying on documents that could not be absolutely authenticated from a blind source to make the otherwise irrefutable case that George W. Bush shirked his National Guard duties in the early 1970s, CBS anchor Dan Rather dealt the credibility of journalism a "body blow," according to Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler. But just how damaging was that blow?

One measure of the debacle is a "60 Minutes Wednesday" segment that millions of viewers now will not see: a hard-hitting report making a powerful case that in trying to build support for the Iraq war, the Bush administration either knowingly deceived the American people about Saddam Hussein's nuclear capabilities or was grossly credulous. CBS News president Andrew Heyward spiked the story this week, saying it would be "inappropriate" during the election campaign.

The importance that CBS placed on the report was evident by its unusual length: It was slated to run a full half hour, double the usual 15 minutes of a single segment. Although months of reporting went into the production, CBS abruptly decided that it would be "inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," in the words of a statement that network spokeswoman Kelli Edwards gave the New York Times.

Sorry, but in my opinion the gross inaccuracy of the reasons for invading Iraq is especially appropriate before the election. And if Rather is the target of scorn for reporting documents that may have been forged, why isn't Bush? Rather reports on possibly-invalid documents, people want him fired. Bush reports on proven-invalid documents, those same people want to see him given another term.

# [/politics]

Word for the Day: Kakistocracy 2004.09.29.02:12

kak·is·toc·ra·cy    (kăkˈī-stŏkʹrə-sē, käˈkī-)
n. pl. kak·is·toc·ra·cies

Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. [Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad; see caco- + cracy.]

# [/politics]

Forget Rather, Fire Rooney Instead 2004.09.27.21:42
# [/politics]

Job in Jeopardy 2004.09.15.23:22

Once upon a time, I was good. Real good. Really, really good. It may seem to anyone reading this that I'm stressing that to the point of maybe over-compensating. No. I'm just trying to get across the point that there was a time once when I could pretty much do whatever I set my mind to. In terms of coding, I wrote stuff that people liked. Several people have used my code in books they've written, boosting the user-base. I recently started a project with a different ISP, and learned that they have some of my code in their installed base, available for their clients to use. There was a time when I could pretty much do whatever I set my mind to. I spent time on my crafts hobby and finished things– airplanes, cars, etc. And those things I finished won awards in local contests pretty regularly (though I've yet to win anything on a national level). There was a time when I could pretty much do whatever I set my mind to. I made it to appointments, to meetings. I could be counted on to be at a place when I said I'd be there. I'd help people move, do housework, run errands on their behalf. I'd organize things for groups. I was an officer in a national scale modeling organization, and I actually did what was needed of me. The thing is, I didn't always do everything I wanted to, but I got things done. I certainly got the important things done.

Not anymore. Not for quite a while, now. And not really having anyone to blame, I'm blaming me.

My ability to sleep at night has all but disappeared over the last few years. These days, I'm rarely asleep before 5 or 6AM. I try to sleep– I lay down at a (fairly) reasonable time each night. But when I finally fall asleep, I sleep so soundly as to miss my alarms (that's plural, yes, there are three of them total) and wake up at a fairly-natural eight hours or so after I've fallen asleep. More like seven, actually, since here lately I fall asleep somewhere between 5 and 6, then wake up between 12:30 and 1:00 in the afternoon. Of course, at that point I've actually been in bed for nearly 12 hours, when you include the time spent staring at the ceiling.

And because of this, I have practically no spare time for anything, anymore. My personal open-source software projects are languishing, with features waiting to be added and bugs waiting to be fixed. I haven't finished a model in over a year. I haven't been able to get into a relationship at all. Any time I've managed to connect with someone on any level, I end up going days or even weeks without trying to contact them, because not only am I lacking in sleep, but my short-term memory is wrecked as a side-effect of it all. But the worst part is, I get in to work so late that it has finally started to affect my performance. And what's worse, it's not just my performance that is affected.

In plain terms, I'm in danger of losing my job. During a one-on-one today, my (recently-appointed) manager finally told me in plain terms that I needed to start getting in by noon, consistently, or it's my ass. Of course, the real problem for me here is that he's 100% right and reasonable. I can't claim any kind of unfair treatment. I have no identifiable medical condition causing this, and whatever psychological component there may be, it's not his job to accomodate me beyond a level that is reasonable and fair to the rest of the company. It's not that I'm not working an honest week's hours, it's that I'm not there when people need me to answer their questions or attend their meetings. I may be fretting, but I have only myself to blame here. The added stress sure isn't going to help me sleep any better at night, but he's already extended me more slack than just about anyone could ask for.

Thing is, I've never really been a morning person, but it's only been the last 3 years or so that it's gotten this bad. And I'm plum out of ideas. But I better think of something.

# [/thoughts]

Help Identify This Man 2004.09.07.00:33

Of all the pushable buttons I have, the biggest, brightest, reddest one is the one labelled, "Violence Towards Women". I guess it's the result of living with a domestic violence counselor for five years.

The following first seen in James L. Grant's LiveJournal:

But only if 3 Secret Service Agents are holding her down.

Watch him do it.

He is still unidentified. Have you seen him?
If so, reply here.

# [/politics]

Fishy Follow-Up 2004.09.03.22:43

Apparently this morning when she got in, all three fish were pining for the fjords. Witnesses say the water was very murky and the stench was impressive for such small fish.

(I, unfortunately, missed it all because a power-outage this morning killed my alarm clocks and made me later than usual.)

# [/funny]

The Fallacy of Fish as Pets 2004.09.02.23:23

The co-worker who's desk is to my immediate left recently got a Tetra in a glass jar as a "pet". I use the word extremely liberally here. Our boss (we answer to the same manager) got her two more, so that the one would not be lonely.

Understand, first off, that this isn't a very big container. It's a perfect cylinder of heavy glass, with no top. Like an extremely unimaginative drinking glass (if you were, say, André the Giant). Probably holds about a pint and a half or so (judging by my first-hand experience with pints). It's about 3/4 full with water, so we'll call the actual water-area one pint. In this, though, there is about an inch or so of bright blue gravel at the bottom, and a plastic plant of some sort that curves in on itself within the confines of the glass. And the fish. The three fish.

Fish are not pets. You can't take them for a walk, they don't come when you call (of course, neither do my cats, but in their case it's clear from the look in their eyes that I'm being purposefully ignored). You can't play with fish the way you would a reptile, unless the fish are piranha and your idea of a pet reptile is a Komodo Dragon. But this subtle distinction is lost on my co-worker.

She's like a child with its first kitten. She can't leave the poor fish alone. How they must gurgle a watery sigh of relief when she leaves for the day. She'll tap on the glass. She'll spin the jar around one way, then the other (something I compared to her riding out a 5.0 earthquake in her apartment). And once in a while, she'll just pull the jar closer to her and, well, almost hug it, for lack of a better descriptive. I don't think she's really hugging it in the sense you'd hug a puppy, but she's clearly taking some degree of comfort from the presence of the little fishies.

God help all of us within earshot if she comes in one morning to find any one of them floating. I'm just not sure how you explain the cycle of life to a 30-year-old married woman.

# [/funny]

In Which I Visit FactCheck And Am Surprised– Twice 2004.08.22.22:52

I really recommend FactCheck.org to anyone interested in the mud-slinging in the current campaign. And I do mean anyone. Because during a recent browse there myself, I was surprised, not once but twice, in ways that I'm a little embarrassed about. It goes a little like this:

Embarrassing Surprise #1
FactCheck.org is not MoveOn.org. By this, I mean that it isn't focused on just one side or the other of the issues. I had presumed that, since my introduction to the site was in the context of the Swift Boat Veterans for Revenge, the sight was pro-Kerry, or at least pro-Democrat. That was Embarrassing Mistake Number 1: assuming that any voice in the conversation must be absolutely on one side or the other. In fact, this site covers more than just the vets story, and covers misleading ads and statements from both sides of the campaign. Which leads me to...
Embarrassing Surprise #2
The Bush campaign does not have a monopoly on distortion of facts. This is by and far the more embarrassing of the two surprises. I'm not actually naïve-enough to think that the Kerry campaign wouldn't lie or at least exaggerate– really, I'm not. Or at least, I'm not usually. But I was in fact surprised to see bullet points on the site that addressed either cases where the GOP statements had been true, or where pro-Kerry ads were just as misleading as anything the pro-Bush camp had produced. And believe me when I say that I am at least as bothered by this as I am when the Bush camp does it. And not because I have some silly notion of the GOP being less-honest than the Dems.

Simply-put, I don't like it when either side does it, but when I've chosen a side, I like to think that they're a little more above-board than the other guy. And I realize that such is more than a little hopeful, to say the least. But it's like my complaint with so-called historical dramas like Titanic or Pearl Harbor (which is a whole separate journal entry for another day) that are themselves misleading: there is more than enough truth for them to avail themselves of, it seems incongruous to me that they would instead play fast and loose. But then, I know people who continue to support the swift-boat guys, even though the counter-arguments to their ads are all over the net.

So, if you've thus far dismissed the FactCheck guys out of a presumption that they're just a tool of the evil blame-America-first commie lib'rals, give them a look. You may be just as surprised as I was.

# [/politics]

The Veterans Versus John Kerry 2004.08.11.08:27

There is a group of Vietnam veterans, calling themselves Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, that has been lambasting John Kerry over his claims regarding his own Vietnam service. Problem is, it isn't going over too well.

For one thing, Lieutenant Commander George Elliott has called his signing of the affidavit a "terrible mistake". Even the leading urban legends web site has chimed in (here, as well). Probably the most significant and revealing detail, though, is this bit noted at FactCheck.org:


# [/politics]

A Different Kind of Strap-On 2004.08.05.18:44

[image] In Arizona, horses are still very common-place. Because of this, you might think that this is a sign directing you to a place where you can get your horse a nice meal. You might think that, but you would be wrong. This is a place where you go to eat like a horse. This is a chain in the Phoenix/Mesa metro area. I've seen at least three locations so far this week.

As to whether you actually strap a bag onto your face, I cannot say. I haven't had the courage to actually venture into any of them.

# [/funny]

Fry's in a Different Valley 2004.08.02.22:47

Fry's Electronics now has two stores in the Phoenix metro area– one in Tempe and one in Phoenix itself. I went there today, because I left my cell-phone charger at home when I packed for this trip.

It would seem that the general surlyness and un-helpfulness of the average Fry's salesdroid must be part of the training manual. Were it not for the excessive heat ("but it's a dry heat") and the license plates on the cars, I could just as easily have been in Cupertino.

# [/tech]

Firefly 2004.08.02.06:13

I have hooked my Mom and her husband on Firefly. Who have you converted, today?

# [/entertainment/tv]

Here Safely in Mesa 2004.08.01.22:44

Made it to Phoenix just fine, and am now with my Mom and her husband at their house in Mesa. It's hot, but you all knew that. They have six, yes six Yorkshire Terriers, including two pups that are just over eight weeks old. Even though I'm not a dog-person, those puppies are pretty damn cute. And playful. Really playful and energetic.

# [/thoughts/travel]

On My Way to Phoenix 2004.07.31.18:50

God help me, but I'm headed to Phoenix at the height of Summer. I'm going mainly for the IPMS/USA 2004 National Convention, but since my mom lives in Mesa, I'm going out a few days early to visit her for a bit.

I really hate high temperatures. Dry heat, humid heat, I just don't care for it.

But I'm heading for Phoenix, the first week of August...

# [/thoughts/travel]

OK, Who Stole July? 2004.07.31.18:47

I haven't had a single month fly by so quickly since, well, probably when I was in college and facing down my last set of final exams. I seriously feel like I blinked on the 2nd or so, and now it's the 31st.

# [/misc]

That 20-Questions-to-a-Better-Personality Thing 2004.07.02.00:08

All the cool kids are taking that 20-questions personality quiz thing, the one on the web site of usual name. Since I'm a sheep, I did too. I'd say the results are about 60%-70% accurate, but I'm not inclined to say which 60%-70%.

You are a WECF–Wacky Emotional Constructive Follower. This makes you a candle burning at both ends. You work until you drop, and you play until you can stand to work again. You have so much enthusiasm that you can find it hard to control on your own, and you appreciate the guidance that channels your energy and lets you be your best.

In a relationship, you require lots of attention and support. You often over-contribute and end up feeling depleted and cheated. You may benefit from more time alone than you grant yourself.

Your driving force is the emotional support of others–especially affection. You can run on empty for miles if you have positive energy behind you. Without it–as it occasionally must run dry–you are depressive, listless, and difficult to motivate.

You need a lot of affection. Get it any way you can, but never at the cost of your self-respect or well-being.

There. Wonder no more about the mysteries of my psyche.

# [/funny]

Supreme Court Upholds Pledge 2004.06.15.01:35

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Monday allowed millions of schoolchildren to keep affirming loyalty to one nation "under God" but dodged the underlying question of whether the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional blending of church and state.

This is going to come as a shock to many people who know me, but I am very heartened and supportive of this decision. I felt like the initial ruling by the district court was over-reaching in its definition of state-sponsorship of religion. The fact that it painted the bay area in an even more-kooky light than we're already viewed in didn't help, either. I felt like the father in question was looking for an excuse to make a highly-media-visible case.

More to the point, I agree with Rehnquist (and check your calendars, because this happens so rarely it could be a trivia question if I ever become famous). I feel that the phrase itself, "one nation under God", is largely (if not purely) ceremonial. It has no more specific endorsement of Christianity than having "In God We Trust" on our currency. (Granted, I know of elements who are just as adamant about removing that as well, though not so devoted as to take their protest to the point of shunning the currency itself.) I think that if you could demonstrate that any children really and truly associated the pledge with promotion of any church, that might be different. But I know that as a 10-year-old in 1978, I was way more aware of "Star Wars" than I was the words of the pledge. It was just something we all stood and mumbled our way through each morning in class.

I will accept that there are people who do stop and consider the words. But we already have precedent-setting rulings that allow a child to not say the pledge if they choose not to. But then I read that the father has custody only 10 days a month, and that the mother actually prefers that the girl be allowed to go on about day-to-day school without the pledge being an issue. And I read that he argued that each day the girl hears the pledge, "a teacher tells her, in effect, that her father is wrong." That's just too much like an ego issue for me to feel very sympathetic. The mother has it right– that the father is free to fight the pledge on his own, but that he shouldn't be dragging their daughter into it.

As a self-identifying agnostic, his brand of atheist just annoys the hell out of me.

# [/politics/religion]

Bad Cat Habits #1 2004.05.26.18:18

It's not that I mind my cat cleaning himself in the middle of the bathroom floor while I get ready in the morning, cats do that after all.

I just wish he wouldn't make those slurping noises when he reaches his ass.

At least he doesn't sing.

# [/funny]

I Couldn't Have Said it Better 2004.05.18.22:21

"It's very difficult, once a right has been claimed in law, to reverse that right, but we're going to try," said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

If ever you doubted that the opposition to gay marriage was about anything other than denying gays the same rights as everyone else, let this put your doubts to rest. Church officials want to fight in order to revoke the rights that gays now enjoy in Massachusetts. Never mind that the earliest-known church-sanctioned wedding were between same-sex (male) couples. And never mind that the most-cited scriptures condemning homosexuality are right next to other damning scripture that most "modern" clergy choose to quietly ignore.

It's all about rights, and control. And the control of people's rights. This is the biggest shift of power-control away from churches and into secular law since the legalization of birth control and non-emergency abortion. And they aren't going to give up that kind of power without a fight.

# [/politics/glbt]

Movie Review: Van Helsing 2004.05.12.06:47

I went to see Van Helsing on opening night. What can I say? I'm gullible for vampire flicks, and this one had several actors to offer that I enjoy watching. Indeed, this film would make a good Kate Beckinsale double-feature along with Underworld. I'm also a big fan of Elena Anaya ever since I saw her turn in Lucía y el Sexo ("Sex and Lucia").

That all said, I didn't have my expectations too high, so I wasn't as disappointed as I have been in other movies in the past. The story isn't too bad, and I don't think that the plot devices to bring in both Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolfman were too contrived (as some have suggested). Alas, I felt like Hugh Jackman was a little too Logan-like in his performance– it really felt like Wolverine versus Dracula but without the claws. Probably the best performance of the cast was from David Wenham as Carl, the Vah Helsing equivalent of a James Bond "Q". Of course, the three brides are all hot, as is Beckinsale in her busty costumes.

For me, one of the most disappointing areas were the computer-generated effects. In particular, the rendition of Mr. Hyde in the opening sequence. It felt almost like the same half-assed work as in LXG. The werewolves were probably the best-done of the effects, though the wives had, well, "interesting" harpy-life forms that allowed them to fly around like bats, but with the ability to grab at and drag things around, as well as taunt. Taunting is generally important when you're a villian. One thing I noticed about the harpies, though, was the conspicuous lack of nipples.

Anyway, I'd say the movie is a worthwhile matinee, and since I'm such a vampire-geek I'll probably get the DVD one day. But since I haven't even gotten around to acquiring the Underworld DVD, I don't see being in a great rush.

# [/entertainment/movies]

Passing the Abu Ghraib Buck 2004.05.08.02:04

Another great bit from Respectful of Otters, this one shows the various theories on the real source of blame for the prisoner torture:

Who's ultimately to blame for the atrocities at Abu Ghraib? Various conservative commentators are rounding up the usual suspects:

1. Women.
2. Feminists.
3. Muslims.
4. The academic left.

(Courtesy of Media Matters, plus alert Respectful of Otters commenter pepi.)

5. Lesbians.

(Courtesy of Kathryn Cramer.)

6. Feminists and gays, acting in cahoots.

(Courtesy of World O' Crap, who has also been all over the "it's women's fault" argument.)

And of course, ultimately,
7. It's Bill Clinton's fault.

(Courtesy of Atrios.)

And thus we see the lengths it's possible to go to in order to avoid having your worldview shaken.

All of the number-points are linked to stories at the RoO site. The ones on MediaMatters.org are good, as there are some other really good related links along the left-hand column (including some data on how Rush Limbaugh is defending for the fifth straight day his assertion that what happened at the prison was nothing worse than a fraternity prank-gone-wrong).

# [/politics]

Michael Moore is Still an Ass 2004.05.07.01:59

Has anyone actually seen Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh in the same room at the same time? Because I'm beginning to think that the only "vast conspiracy" is coming from idiots like those, who try to leverage their notoriety into convincing the rest of the world that they are actually at all representative of people's views. Rather, I think both are gassy wind-bags who do more for the opposite political side as the one they profess to believe in.

Less than 24 hours after accusing the Walt Disney Company of pulling the plug on his latest documentary in a blatant attempt at political censorship, the rabble-rousing film-maker Michael Moore has admitted he knew a year ago that Disney had no intention of distributing it.

Granted, this doesn't mean that his "understanding" wasn't based on the same set of data– this being an election year, Disney CEO being a big GOP supporter, etc.– but he clearly has been whining far beyound any right he has to be. And because of crap like this, and the "creative editing" he employed in Bowling for Columbine, I don't know if it will be worth going to see the new one, since I won't know how much is fact or fiction. Because if I want fiction, I can find much, much more entertaining cinema to see in the months ahead.

# [/politics]

Over One Billion Served 2004.05.03.20:28

Today, at approximately 1:13PM (PDT), my company's data-centers received and handled their one-billionth call. We celebrated appropriately, with McDonald's and Finger Blaster rockets.

Being a (relatively) recent addition to the company (less than two years on staff, at a company slightly over 5 years in age), I don't know how long it took us to reach 1,000,000,000. But I'm told that we expect to cover the next billion within eight months.

# [/tech/work]

TrueMajority 2004.04.28.00:29


Nifty Flash applet hosted/narrated by Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's. It will eventually lead you to the main site, http://www.truemajority.org/.

# [/politics]

Wal-Mart: Life is Too Short to Spend on Health Care 2004.04.22.00:49

The weblog, Respectful of Otters writes an interesting bit about Wal-Mart's provision of health care to full-time workers.

"A social worker told me," she said to me indignantly, "that I'd be better off if I quit my job and went on welfare. I'm not doing that!"

I haven't shopped at a Wal-Mart in at least six years, not counting when I am out of town and don't have ready access to alternatives. But the lack of alternatives is usually the result of Wal-Mart's presence. I know and understand that they provide a service to lower-income families by making some staples available that might not otherwise be affordable. But they do it at the cost of their employees, as well as at the cost of diversity in the neighborhoods they set up shop in. And the buying power they wield is what bothers me the most– they can have more effect on the content of records just by refusing to sell them, than any number of "parental advisory" stickers could ever hope to.

# [/politics/walmart]

Pat Boone on Censorship 2004.04.22.00:33

A healthy society needs censorship to survive, 1950s musical icon Pat Boone said yesterday. He added that he would welcome strong content restrictions governing movies and other artistic works.

Just another in the growing field of the arduously religious, convinced that their particular interpretation of a given book should bind us all, whether we particularly believe in that book or not.

(Put under 'religion' since Boone is so open about his faith, and many of his comments are related to that.)

# [/politics/religion]

Re-Enter the Matrix 2004.04.20.00:39

I'm back. I've caught up on most e-mail, and select weblog entries. I am very, very tired.

# [/misc]

Short Trip to Maryland 2004.04.14.12:40

Going off the grid for a few days. I might find some source of internet connectivity while gone, but I haven't on any previous trips. A few days in Aberdeen, Maryland, with some time on Sunday to visit the new National Air and Space Museum extension at Dulles Airport.

Sadly, this is my first journal entry for the month of April. To call my current circumstances hectic would be a fair evaluation.

# [/misc]


Google is preparing to launch a search-based e-mail service. They are planning to call the service "Gmail" (not actually up yet).

There's a somewhat more detailed story on this at the New York Times' website (note that they require registration, and most of the "universal" IDs such as freethepresses no longer work). It's what the stories don't mention that worries me.

There is no mention of what Google plans to have as a Terms of Service agreement, or privacy policy. You'll be able to store up to a gigabyte of email and search it as though it were a well-indexed website. But what will keep others from searching and indexing your mail? And more to the point, even if Google does promise privacy, what guarantees will there be that any such promise would be upheld should they get acquired? After all, once they go public, they are just as much a target for acquisition as predators themselves.

# [/tech]

Job Loss is Apparently Good For the Economy 2004.03.31.01:13

Treasury Secretary John Snow Treasury Secretary John Snow illustrates with gestures just how much he cares for the plight of the non-CEO workforce in America:

Asked in a newspaper interview whether he thought outsourcing of jobs to other countries made the U.S. economy strong, Snow replied, "It's one aspect of trade and there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes ... America strong."

Outsourcing only benefits the highest levels of management at companies, by letting them get work done for a few dollars per hour as opposed to paying an actual living wage (or a few dollars per day, as is still the case in a lot of offshore manufacturing factories). In the case of tech outsourcing, it's certainly true that the overseas workers are compensated handsomely with regards to the local cost of living. But manufacturing is still utilizing a lot of unfair labor practice in places like Central America and Indonesia. Almost certainly in China, too, but our "fact-finders" seem to be content to see a few token factories and praise China's progress on work conditions. Either way, no one in the U.S. could work for the same wages (so as to reasonably compete for their job to return to the U.S.) and actually survive.

Until someone decides to push a great big economic RESET button and make it possible for U.S. workers to support families on $2 an hour, there is no way to compete with outsourcing. Of course, wherever the rank-and-file workers are located, the company CEOs are still reaping U.S.-economy-sized bonuses for producing products cheaply.

# [/politics]

I Am Shocked and Dismayed at the Sexism at Hooters 2004.03.26.22:21

Waitress Applicants Videotaped Naked

At the interview they were told to change into the uniform of bright orange shorts and a white tank-top bearing the Hooters logo and were surreptitiously videotaped, he said.

This pisses me off, and the guy (if indeed guilty) should be punished as any sex-offender would be. But don't try to convince me that the whole "Hooters" atmosphere doesn't foster this sort of mind-set. Anyone who's seen their ads or bus-side billboards knows better.

# [/misc]

Good Thing Microsoft Has Learned Their Lesson 2004.03.26.09:47
# [/tech]

I, For One, Welcome Our New Giant Robot Rescuers 2004.03.25.23:30
# [/tech]

Buggered Motherboard 2004.03.24.07:59

My #1, ass-kicking desktop box has been locking up at random intervals over the past few months. Now, it won't recognize anything on the first IDE controller.

Looks like I need a new MB. Crap.

# [/tech]

Sometimes Bill Only Needs to Sit and Watch 2004.03.23.02:40

Last night, I caught a re-airing of Friday's Real Time With Bill Maher. I've been watching the show a lot more lately, since I wasn't too impressed with it at first. Maybe that first episode that I saw was just a bad one for making a first impression. The show itself has started to find its own pace and flavor. Unfortunately for me, this week's show is the last new one for a while– they'll be on hiatus until June or July (I forget which he said, I think it was July).

Most of the time, the panel is reasonably-balanced, though I have seen some panels that didn't really represent the conservative side on a given issue. Then there were panels like this week's, where the conservative side is in attendance, but the representative is just... broken.

Two of the panelists this week were David Frum (ostensibly representing the conservative/Republican view) and Gore Vidal. Mr. Vidal was clearly the most liberal of the three, even more so than the middle-person, Eddie Izzard. And to be frank, Mr. Frum was seriously out of his league when trying to face off against Vidal. He made a remark comparing the current occupation of Iraq with the liberation of Paris and the rest of Europe in World War II. Vidal countered by pointing out that he (Vidal) had been in combat in WWII Europe, and that he didn't feel there was anything common between the two. A few statements later, Frum commented on the fact that Vidal was criticizing American foreign policy while living in Italy. Vidal reminded him that the Hollywood Hills were, last he checked, still in California. (Frum tried to brush this off, saying that he wasn't in the business of tracking Vidal's address, but if you're going to use someone's living-abroad status as an attack, the onus is on you to make sure you're correct.) It really only got worse for Frum the longer it went on. By the end of that segment, he was barely saying anything at all.

# [/politics]

Just Say No. No, Really. 2004.03.17.03:25

(This is another one that could just as easily go into "religion" sub-category.)

A co-worker pointed me towards a friend's web site: screwabstinence.org. While it's no godhatesshrimp.com, the message is just as important: the current administration is gutting programs left and right, but doesn't seem to have any problems sending money to "fath-based initiative" groups to promote abstinence-only education.

Among the links of various usefulness on the site is this link to an article from Salon.com, posted last month:

In a 2002 story, Newsweek quoted a top Bush adviser who dismissed the data showing that the only effective sex education programs are those that teach both abstinence and contraception.

"Values trumps data," the adviser said.

(Note that Salon.com requires a paid subscription, or that you accede to viewing an ad/commercial to get a one-day "pass".)

I suppose that "Values trumps data" could also explain the easing of environmental restrictions, the changes in energy policy, and so many more.

# [/politics]

A Merit Badge in What? 2004.03.16.00:04
# [/twisted]

Happy Pi Day 2004.03.14.09:59

Today is National Π Day

This post made on 3/14, 1:59

# [/funny]

Why I Left Oklahoma, #2 2004.03.10.01:24

Domestic Violence TV Show Leads to Shooting

I initially looked at this as funny. In a way, I still do. I mean, in the same sense you chuckle at the absurdity of a dog shooting its owner. Not that you are laughing at the loss of human life, but rather that when whatever forces govern the universe see fit to pull these kinds of strings (presumably for their amusement) you want to not think that it could happen to you.

My favorite passage is probably:

Cecil then struck his wife, fetched a handgun and fired a shot into the bed's headboard near Teri to show that he did not like his wife calling him a violent partner, police said, citing a statement the wife gave to investigators.

Striking your spouse, striking anyone, is inexcusable. But doing it in retaliation for being called abusive is, well, just moronic. So, while this isn't necessarily funny, and while domestic violence is by no means limited to Oklahoma, this goes down as yet another reason I'm glad I managed to escape.

# [/twisted]

Ordnance QF 2 pr on Carriage 2 pr - Part 2 2004.03.07.10:16

Since posting the first part of this project, two good things have happened: firstly, a friend with a much better camera than I had was willing to take some snaps for me, all of which came out considerably clearer than my Ricoh 4200 was capable of. Secondly, I got a new camera. So future projects will feature better pictures, as well.

[image] In the first part, I showed two views of the carriage at an interim stage. This photo shows the completed carriage in travelling order. One of the things that has always attracted me to this subject is the odd image the front legs make when they're folded upwards for transit. It was here that I first started having some problems with the instructions, in the form of omissions.

Note the white metal arms that hold the folded sections of the legs in place. These hook on to small hooks formed from brass wire, attached to the folded sections. The instructions tell you to make these hooks and where to place them (the wire is provided in the kit). However, there is no mention of the hooks at all if you are building the gun in firing position. If you don't at least look over the instructions specific to travel position, you might not know to put the hooks there. To make matters worse, the ends of the metal arms that hook onto the brass don't actually have hooks; they're solid. I tried drilling the ends out to be more hook-like, but they became too mangled to be usable. I instead snipped them off and replaced them with hooks made from small-gauge lead wire.

[image] This picture shows the gun assembly itself, on the platform but minus the chair and the adjusting wheels. There were no surprises here, thankfully. The barrel is nice and straight, and wasn't too hard to drill out. When I build another, I will probably replace it with an aftermarket part (lathe-turned aluminum) simply because the drilling will be more precise and it will be less vulnerable to heat. Getting the breech part against the back-end of the gun was a little work, as cleaning the casting block off of the breech left it a little uneven. The hardest part to fit was the white metal piece that goes along the side of the gun itself, up to the breech. It was hard to tell what angle it should be at, so it was hard to get lined up. The rest of the parts shown were no trouble at all.

[image] The next part to feature for now was also the single hardest to get right, with the possible exception of aligning the folded front carriage legs. This is the sight assembly. The picture is small because it is the only one we were able to get of the assembly that has the open sight (the brass wire part) in focus. The assembly itself is fairly straightforward. The two problems that took the better part of an evening, are the open sight and the alignment from the mounting brace. And the fact that the mounting brace is never actually mentioned or referred to in the instructions.

The brace is part number 22. It's shown in the parts layout photo, but is never called out anywhere else. However, when you're assembling the gun sub-assembly, it is pretty clear where it goes. And the half-circle opening at the bottom is perfectly-spaced to fit across the side braces on either side of the gun itself. However, at the other end of part 22, the nub onto which the sights are mounted, the angle is completely wrong. The sight assembly should be perfectly horizontal with regards to the gun itself. But the nub is at an angle of about -40°, which would cause the whole sight system to be at that angle. To solve this, I used a simple sanding stick to level off the top of the nub so that the sights were level. The reason this was such a problem was that it was so difficult to test-fit this, to be certain that the angle was correct. I didn't want to permanently attach part 22 to the gun, since it would make painting more difficult.

[image] The last element for now is the open sight itself. This was especially tricky to do, since all they tell you to do is to make a rectangle of wire 5mm by 3mm. This will not fit on the sights. Do not do it this way. The open sight has to fit to part number 30. There is a very small nub where the two join, about 1mm wide. As you may guess, this 1mm is actually part of the rectangle. I drew up this pattern (using the GIMP) based on what I did. Rather than making the rectangle, I made what you might call a highly-stylized "C". It is 5mm on two sides, 3mm across the top, and has two 1mm stems pointing inwards on the bottom. The stems sit snugly on either side of the nub, and the sight assembly is complete.

Since taking the pix and doing the work detailed above, I have finished the basic construction of the detail parts (ammo shelf, cleaning up the ammo boxes, cleaning up the gunshield, etc.). I've painted all of them their basic British Green color, and am about to do the rubber effect on the tires. I'll post more pictures and details when I've gotten a little further.

# [/hobby/modeling/Two-Pounder]

OK, I Was Kind Of Unfair 2004.03.05.21:53

This isn't to say that my birthday magically became better after I wrote the last entry. However, I have to be fair: both my mom and dad made contact the next day. I got a card from my mom, and a call from dad. And of course, the best part of it all was that I decided on my own to not go out and be sociable because I was afraid someone else would get all the attention, and I'd end up being ignored. Guess what? He didn't go either, but for much, much better reasons than mine. So, not only was I being shallow and immature, I was just plain wrong on top of it all. Go me!

I guess the worst part is that I was so fixated on the negative that I completely overlooked the good things that happened. Several of my co-workers did come by my desk and wish me well. My company gave me a $20 gift certificate for Amazon.com. Several people around here besides co-workers sent me good wishes. And one very dear, long-time friend not only was the first person on that day to wish me a happy b-day, she even sent me a (slightly embarassing) FAX here at work that provided a great amount of amusement for my co-workers. And no birthday can be all bad when you've helped others to laugh.

Thank you, Pasha. I'm sorry that my sour mood Wednesday let me forget you like that.

# [/thoughts]

Go Randy, It's Your Birthday 2004.03.03.19:45

As far as birthdays go, this one was no gem. Maybe I expected too much of others, but very few people seemed to remember. My best friend didn't even drop an e-mail, and neither of my parents called. I know that Orkut would remind some people (because a few people did send me well-wishes), and I was hoping that a few of the people on LJ might have had some flag or something.

The worst part wasn't about anyone else, though. I was the worst part. I could think of nothing better to do than come home and watch TV. And eat. I ate an entire large pizza for dinner. There was something else I could have done this evening, but it would have meant being in a larger group of people, some of whom I've come to feel don't really like having me around. So I chose to stay home and hypothesize, rather than go out and risk being wrong. Or right.

# [/thoughts]

Feeling Perforated 2004.03.03.01:19

To paraphrase a recent strip from my Get Fuzzy desktop calendar:

There's a fine line between genius and insanity, and mine is getting more and more perforated.

I'm on my sixth or seventh can of caffienated beverage already, after less than six hours in my chair. Not counting the 30 minutes or so that I fled the office after finding out that one of the machines I need, a machine that had been sitting untouched over a week because no one told me it was in place and hooked up to our net, I'm not to use after all. They'll have a different one lined up for me, "probably within a day or two".

This project is already launching a full-frontal assault on my sensibilities. It's proven to me beyond a doubt that I will in fact respond to "Jump!" with "How high?", despite any illusions of self-preservation or self-consideration. The worst part of it all, is this: by actually getting what they want into their hands by the deadline, I'm just guaranteeing that they'll do this to me again. After all, it's not as though this is the first time.

# [/thoughts]

Vote (To Silence) Nader in 2004 2004.02.23.09:11

(Thanks to Mactavish on LJ for the link)

Ralph Nader announced today that he really, really wants Bush to win in November.

Let me be up-front and direct about this: I think that Nader is largely to blame for Bush winning in 2000. That he steadfastly refuses to take any of the blame only underscores his egotism and disregard for the direction the country is going in. Yes, the political system is currently stacked against outsiders. Yes, this sucks stronger than a brand-new Hoover. But when you enter something as important as the race for the presidency, and you are pretty sure from the outset that you can't win, then what you are doing is trying specifically to make someone else lose (start at paragraph 17, the interview question that begins with "Is victory then a Democratic loss?").

So if you're going to support Nader, be in the closet about it. At least around me. I don't want to know, because it's my opinion that a vote for Nader is an indirect vote for Bush. And I'll respect you much more highly if you just vote for Bush outright.

# [/politics]

Not Yet Convinced I Was Wrong About Arnold 2004.02.23.08:27

Just after the recall vote was done with, I promised I would admit to being wrong if Arnold worked out. Well, to be frank, I don't expect to be dining on words, though there is still time for things to work out.

Just take note that equating gay marriage licenses with licenses to sell drugs isn't going to change my mind. Neither is trying to strong-arm the state AG into intervening in the SF situation directly, as opposed to following the normal course of these things through the courts. This isn't the movies, and catchy quips are no use to the citizen on the street. If you don't approve of committed couples getting equal rights under the law, start preparing your case and present it when your day in court arrives.

Until then, ask yourself how many hetero couples you know who've lasted 50 years or more, the length of time the first couple to get married have been partners. Don't try and fall back on the concepts of "threatening" or "devaluing" traditional marriage. Your hetero marriages are just as valid and secure as they were before this started. If they aren't valid or secure, you aren't going to save them no matter how many gay couples you thwart.

# [/politics]

Ordnance QF 2 pr on Carriage 2 pr - Part 1 2004.02.12.01:30

[image] The title is the official designation for this petite weapon. The "Two-Pounder" was the general anti-tank ordnance for the British forces at the outset of World War II. Like the U.S. and German 37mm AT weapons (the 2lb was a 40mm calibre), it was practically out-classed against the armor of tanks before the war even started. By 1942, it was completely ineffective against German AFVs, but remained useful in the anti-tank role in the eastern theater, where the Japanese AFVs were still lightly-armored.

[image] This kit is a little jewel from the Kent, U.K.-based company, Sovereign 2000. I got the kit at the IPMS/UK National Convention in 2002. I paid £25.00 for it there, but I also bought the ammo set at the same time. I forget exactly what that was going for at the time, but the current price sheet has the gun for £27.00 and the ammo for £8.00. It's a somewhat high price to pay for such a small kit, but the quality of the kit makes it worth every penny, to me at least. And I will be getting another one to do after this one. There are some gotchas to watch out for, which I'll detail at a later time.

The only realy problem thus far is that the thing is so small, I can't get good in-progress photos, due to my digital camera's lack of a real depth-of-field. The shots above are from the first night's work, getting the basic carriage parts together. At this point, I have most sub-assemblies done, but haven't been able to get any more pictures to come out.

(For scale note, the keyboard it is sitting on is a laptop, not a full-sized keyboard.)

# [/hobby/modeling/Two-Pounder]

SA-2 Guideline Surface-to-Air Missle 2004.01.28.08:59

This kit a fairly-recent release from a Chinese company called Trumpter. Unlike the Cromwell project, I'm building this one just with the parts that are in the box. Well, except that I lost one of four identical, really, really small parts. Since I couldn't fabricate one that looked exactly like the other three, I had to fabricate all four of them. It's what I would normally do, if I were set on super-detailing this project. But I didn't plan to initially, for two reasons: (1) I wanted a nice quick build I could put on the shelf quickly, and (2) it's really a nicely-done kit, and doesn't really need extra work. Well, unless you lose a piece.

So, this is where it's at prior to painting. All the principle assembly has been done. In the above picture, I've put a simple, unfinished figurine in the shot to give a sense of scale to the missle itself. The figure can be regarded as a roughly 6'0" male. In the second shot, to the left, is the launcher base with the blast shield in the foreground. The darker plastic doesn't show up as well (and it doesn't have the contrast of brass that the Cromwell has), but the nice thing is that most of the launcher is divided into about six sub-assemblies here, but the parts are so nicely-engineered that they hold themselves together without any glue (at least long-enough to take the picture).

More on this once I start getting paint onto it. Primed most of the parts this evening.

# [/hobby/modeling/SA-2]

Cromwell Mk. IV - Part 1 2004.01.28.08:44

My first project to spotlight is a Cromwell Mk. IV, in 1/72 scale. The kit is a fairly inexpensive offering from the Revell GmbH company. The detail on the parts is fantastic, and the kit itself could be built straight out of the box with no extra detail work, and produce a great model. But, I stumbled across a nice photo-etch set from Part designed for this kit. The picture to the right shows the model where it currently stands on my shelf. You can see the Part photo-etched replacement fenders in place, and the engine grille work at the rear.

Unfortunately, this is where it's been stuck for several months. I ordered some additional detail parts from a place in England called PDI Model Supplies. I got one item in the mail from them, sent by airmail. But there were a lot of other items in the order, and it didn't show up. Nor did it the next week. I asked the owner, and it seems that the order was large-enough that he thought the shipping cost for air-mail was too high. So he decided to send it surface-mail. Without asking me first, if I would be willing to pay the higher shipping costs (I would have). This was at the end of November, and I'm still waiting. I might order from them, again, but I'll be much more explicit about shipping.

# [/hobby/modeling/CromwellMkIV]

Introducing My Obsession 2004.01.28.08:20

Some of the behind-the-scenes work I've been doing on the weblog software I use is designed to let me show some in-progress work on my modeling projects. I will eventually be integrating some sort of gallery plug-in, but I'm still choosing between a few different options for that.

What I have, though, is a way to create separate topic-areas for each project without the category-list in the right sidebar stretching down to a ridiculous extent. It sounds small (and in fact, once I found out the way to configure it, it was pretty simple), but over time it will help. I can add as many of these as I want, the sidebar stays reasonable. You can view all the projects via this category, or you can look at an individual project by clicking on the category link at the end of an entry, and see just that project. Without it showing up the sidebar, though, that's the only way to get to an individual project.

So, um, anyway... here's some recent stuff.

# [/hobby/modeling]

Should I Stay or Should I Go 2004.01.27.07:57

(With sincere apologies to Joe Strummer, R.I.P.)

Something that has been gnawing at my mind for a long time, is the thought of working outside the United States for some period of time. Mostly, I've been interested in the United Kingdom. London preferably, but not exclusively. I've even gone so far as to put my name and CV in to a few openings in the UK. To be honest, though, I wasn't that sure about whether I'd actually accept and move, were I to be offered a reasonable position and salary. But the job market is (albeit slowly) starting to rebound, and there are gradually more and more openings. Some of them are outside the US, and it's making me think about this more.

First of all, this isn't a statement on the government or crap like the USA PATRIOT act. No, I've been thinking about this since at least 2000, if not earlier. I'd always wondered wistfully, but it was spending two full weeks in London, in November of 2000, that really made me feel the pull. If this were really about being dissatisfied with the reign of "King George", I'd have been more vocal about it before now, and I would probably be trying a lot harder to find some opportunities elsewhere.

No, one of the most motivating factors for me, is the fact that it was so late in my life before I actually visited another country. Now, I understand that there are a lot of Americans who have never visited another country, and almost certainly never will. I'm not complaining when I say that. What I am saying is that now that I've had a taste of it, I know what I've been missing all this time. Had I grown up in Europe (UK or mainland), I would have almost certainly visited at least 2-3 other countries by the time I graduated high school (or the local equivalent). With so many countries so close, that's just the way it works. Here, in the US, visiting other states is almost the same thing. And there are differences in culture to be found in different states, just not as much as the differences between countries. (Well, having grown up in Oklahoma almost my entire life, my first visit to New Orleans almost qualified as visiting a foreign country.) And there is so much more of the world to see, than I have had the chance to. I likened it to our citizens visiting other states, and I have been fortunate-enough to visit 26 of them so far, even if only passing through en route to other places. I don't have to go overseas to explore new ground, but I'm just as interested in experiencing the new cultures (and my trip to North Carolina doesn't count).

To further complicate things, I've now been in California long enough to feel like I should buy a home. Indeed, I probably should have before now, but I've been telling myself that I wasn't really sure if I would stay here long-enough to get the kind of return on investment that I would need. I've been here over six years, now, and short of moving to Europe I don't see myself leaving the bay area anytime soon. But even as I talk to a mortgage broker, there is still this little tickle in the back of my brain. It's saying, "Are you sure you want to purchase and settle down? What about London? What about Europe?" I don't have an answer to the little voice's questions.

Part of it would feel like I was running away, and in a way I would be. Each time before, when I've made a drastic relocation, I've looked at it as a chance to start over. To leave behind the embarrassing and humiliating things that I associated with the previous place. Even more, I look at it as a chance to try again for romance, to find a life-partner. When I was going from middle school to high school, I was just looking to leave behind the stigmas of not being very popular or athletic. When I went from high school to college, I was hoping to leave behind the sting of having little or no social skills and having barely dated. When I left Oklahoma, it was again a chance to start over, to leave behind a lot of regrets, shame and painful memories. And so on, and so forth. I'm finally starting to catch on that just moving (even 1300 miles) isn't enough to overcome these things. But I can't help it if part of me thinks that 10,000 miles might do the trick, even though I know on an intellectual level that it won't.

But I have always loved travel and exploration. If I don't move, I will have to figure out a way to travel more than I currently do (and that's saying a lot, since I do travel a fair amount each year as it is). It's just my old indecisiveness: I can't tell if it is practicality or timidity that prevents me from just diving into things and aggressively pursuing a job overseas. I generally leave bigger things like this up to chance; they work out, or they don't, and either way I adapt and move along with things. But this one is so big, it seems like I am short-changing myself to leave it to so fickle an authority as fate.

I really shouldn't be thinking this much, or this hard, so late at night.

# [/thoughts]

Most Misleading URL? 2004.01.27.04:49

Is this, or is this not, the most misleading URL you've seen?


# [/funny]

A Vulture Goes Duck Hunting 2004.01.24.00:19

I don't really like Mike Morford that much, anymore. He was fun to read at first, but his brand of humor is very limited in scope, and one gets tired of reading the same over-the-top invectives over and again. So, when I post this link to his column for today, understand that it isn't to promote Morford, but rather to bring attention to the subject of the column: Dick Cheney's recent "duck hunting" expedition:

Even real hunters cringe at canned hunts. It is not a sport. It is not man versus nature. There is no nobility, no honor, no sportsmanship, no instinct, no luck...

For those who just want the highlights, it boils down to this: the VP went on a "hunting" trip with a few (9 or so) closest friends. They were flown in Air Force Two. The "hunt" consisted of them waiting patiently in a blind while someone released birds from a net, birds that may have been artifically hampered to ensure that they were easier targets. When it was over, some 400 or so birds were dead, and the party returned to AF2 in a Humvee.

I can't think of a more apt real-world analogy for the way this administration regards the "unwashed masses" in general. No, I don't really like hunting in general. But at least people like Ted Nugent hunt for food, and actually hunt, as opposed to just reclining back and motioning for the house-boy to drop the nets. And what better way to show your care and regard for the environment, than to leave the scene of a canned hunt in a Humvee?

# [/politics]

Batter Up! 2004.01.24.00:03

Practice your batting skills.

My personal best was 320.2.

# [/funny]

Mind You, I'm Planning to Be More LJ-Visible 2004.01.22.02:15
# [/funny]

Hmmm... You Know... 2004.01.16.23:54

I think it's about time I got back into the game.

(This probably won't make sense to many of you. That's OK, don't feel bad about it, or worry about me. I know what I'm saying here, and that is what matters at this juncture.)

# [/thoughts]

Rocket Scientist on the Daily Show 2004.01.14.07:55

Tonight's guest was Dr. Catherine Weitz, a scientist from the Mars project, who explained a little bit about the mission goals, the rover tech, etc. One thing I noticed, that Stewart never asked about, was the she was wearing a second watch on her wrist.

# [/tech/space]

Imminent Death of "rjray_rss" Predicted 2004.01.14.00:23

If you read this via the rjray_rss feed on LiveJournal, you get many, many opportunities to read each entry, as something in the RSS causes LJ to periodically decides all of the previous 40 or so messages are new.

Someone has written an blosxom-to-LJ gateway, which I will be installing and testing in the next few days. When that happens, I won't actually have rjray_rss killed, per se, but people will be able to keep track just using my plain old normal LJ account. Heck, I might even upgrade to a paid account.

# [/tech/blosxom]

Introducing Atom Support 2004.01.13.06:43

I have now installed a plug-in for blosxom to support the Atom Syndication Format Specification.

Of course, I have no direct use for it personally, and I have no idea what tools or such are out there that use it. But the plug-in was there and enticing me with its beguiling simplicity. So, there it is.

# [/tech/blosxom]

Because Obesity Isn't Really A Problem 2004.01.13.01:31

The International Federation of Competitive Eating.

As is often the case in matters like this, I am at a loss for words in my attempt to comment any further...

# [/funny]

The Shy Spirit of Mars 2004.01.05.23:19

There are a flood of images coming in from the newly-landed Spirit rover on Mars. However, I am striking out in my efforts to find pictures of Spirit itself.

Any pointers to pictures, even if only illustrations, would be greatly appreciated.

# [/tech/space]

Department of "Huh?", #1 2004.01.05.23:18
# [/politics]

A Look Back at 2003 2004.01.01.11:08

Taking a look back at my plans and goals for 2003, let's see how I did:

Things I Hoped to Accomplish

Listening to more classical music
Overall, I did this well. There's a nice classical station here in the bay area (102.1 KDFC), which I listen to when I'm not interested in what's on NPR. I also listened to a lot more material on CDs and in ripped files both at home and at work. As far as getting to know new material and composers, I only did so-so. Some of the new stuff I tried, I just didn't like. Some of it, I really liked. I have some leads on new composers/material I'll be trying out in 2004.
Write another book
Pretty mediocre progress on this front. I have an outline about 80% done, and a lot of ideas. But according to my contacts at ORA, the market for both Perl and Web Services is a little dry these days, and those are the elements I had in mind (I was planning an advanced volume to go with the first book). So I'm not sure where this will go, if it does at all.
Get to know certain people better
Alas, I don't recall exactly who all I had in mind when I wrote that, but I have a few ideas. In most cases, I didn't really manage it, though a few exceptions almost make up for the missed chances. But, as a counterpoint, I also met a number of new people this year, as well.
Improving life, health, etc.
Whatever I'd accomplished, I would be sitting here wishing for more, and that is in fact the case. But I did lose weight (enough for many people to comment on when I went to Oklahoma and Colorado), I'm practically down a whole waist-size in jeans. That is, the 42's I currently wear fall off without a belt, but going to a 40 is still a bit snug. My apartment is still in pretty bad shape, but I have done a lot of cleaning. It's just that the pack-rat in me doesn't want to let go that easily. I've thrown a considerable amount of cruft away in the last few months. Other health issues are still being worked on, but I seem to be on a better course of meds than I was a year ago, so there is definately some progress there as well.
Travel more, see at least one new place
This worked out, but not the way I had in mind. I went to Portland (Oregon) for the first time in July for the Open Source Conference, but I had been thinking in terms of Europe. But I didn't even make my usual trip to England due to trying to budget my vacation time for a friend's wedding. I went to Maryland in April and Oklahoma in July, both for national-level scale modeling shows. And I went to Colorado over Thanksgiving and (back to) Oklahoma for Christmas. So, no complaints. Europe will still be there this year...

Things I Hoped to Avoid

Falling back into depression
Of course, depression is a tricky and slippery eel to keep a hold of, but over all I think this went well. Changing my meds helped a lot, and I think that the medical side of my diagnosis has improved. On the mental side, I'm making progress, albeit more slowly than I'd like. I hope to see more strides in that area this year.
Re-gaining any of the lost weight
Hard to say– I'm quite sure I've ended 2003 weighing less than I started it. But I do think there was some fluctuation along the way. I know that if I have my size-42 jeans on without a belt, I can push them down over my hips without un-fastening them, so there's visible progress.
Increasing personal debt
Blew this one pretty badly. That's all I'll say, except that what I've done was (in my opinion) the right thing to do at the time, given the circumstances.
Wasted evenings
This got better, for certain. That isn't to say that it doesn't still happen, but it happens much less often. I finished a few models this year, and I've started going out and socializing more often, both of which are much preferred to sitting at home staring at the TV.
Other people's drama
Again, fairly well. Helped by the fact that most of my friends had fairly good years themselves. Those that had issues come up, they were legit issues, not just superfluous drama. Some of my friends weathered difficult times, and a couple of my friends survived complete life-changing events. As far as I know, all of my friends ended the year on a (reasonably) positive note.

So, there is is. Not as much as I would have liked, but more than enough to be happy about. Later, after I've slept some, I'll look ahead to 2004.

# [/thoughts]

Who Am I:
Randy J. Ray
Software Engineer


Buy my book!

Programming Web Services with Perl

I've also contributed three chapters to:

Computer Science & Perl Programming

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Apr May Jun
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Oct Nov Dec

Reading and Re-reading
· The Annotated Thursday: G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Would Be Thursday, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Gardner
· The Feeling Good Handbook, David D. Burns
· Organizing From the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern
· XML Schema, Eric Van Der Vlist
· BEEP: The Definitive Guide, Marshall T. Rose

High in the queue
· Silk, Caitlin R. Kiernan
· Coldheart Canyon, Clive Barker
· Idoru, William Gibson
· Shared Source CLI Essentials, David Stutz, Ted Neward, Geoff Shilling

Recently finished
· Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century, Warren Ellis, et al

Recommended favorites
· The Cowboy Wally Show, Kyle Baker
· Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
· The Alienist, Caleb Carr
· Quarantine, Greg Egan
· The Authority: Relentless, Warren Ellis et al.
· Planetary: All Over the World and Other..., Warren Ellis et al.
· American Gods, Neil Gaiman
· Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
· Neuromancer, William Gibson
· A Philosophical Investigation, Philip Kerr
· Say You Want a Revolution (The Invisibles, Book 1), Grant Morrison et al
· You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of..., Oswald T. Pratt and Scott Dickers
· Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson
· Rising Stars : Born In Fire (Vol. 1), J. Michael Straczynski

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