Having all these boxes around is turning Brenna insane. She tears through the house hunting nonexistent prey amongst all the hiding places. Woe is my toe if I walk past where she is stalking, I get catnipped.
Packing is going according to schedule. I took my desk partially apart, emptied all my bookcases, and shoved everything into a corner. I’ll stack as I pack now that I have three quarters of a room to use for storage of the full boxes.
I emptied out my storage container but forgot to stop the checks. I called them to tell them I’d pick it up but they cashed it anyway. Fuckers. I better get it back with my deposit.
Dan in Real Life is one of the best romantic comedies I have seen in a long time. It is tragic in many ways, but they keep it light. Come to think of it, 40 Year Old Virgin was quite good also. It’s been so long I should qualify as a virgin again.
Bourne Conspiracy comes out for the PS3 on Tuesday. I played the demo and it is incredibly fun. I know one way I will be spending time I should be packing this month.
I bought a guitar; couldn’t pass up the deal last week they were having on Fender acoustic guitars; $200 for the guitar plus a hard case. I love the sound of a guitar, and it is about time I learned how to play.
I’m up to 30 WPM in my typing. It is long past the time I should be able to touch type, but there is no better time like the present.
I wake up, play with Brenna, eat some eggs, practice the guitar, pack, practice typing, study, eat lunch, play with Brenna, pack, play a video game, go to the gym, watch a movie, practice the guitar, practice typing, read, play with Brenna, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. Tomorrow I will do more of the same.
I’m back down to 18% body fat and up to 3.5 miles @ 5.5 mph and an incline of 5%. Hopefully by the time I move I will be back in the shape I was last summer. I slacked off during school.
I got some 20# dumbells to work out while I watch movies. Not enough to bulk up, but enough to keep my heart rate up instead of sitting on my ass.
Have finished season three of Battlestar Galactica, and now commencing season one of The Unit. I wish the next season of Rescue Me would come out already. Damn drunk Irish.
The Unit is kind of lame, I think. I made it through one disk. I am hard to please when it comes to military drama. meh.
I like the BBC; I get a lot of my news from them. I was suprised when I saw the headlines that the British Military is launching Skynet.
Now, I thought Terminator was a brilliant concept. And I am interested enough in artificial intelligence to stay abreast of the current (declassified) capabilities of it. I know it is probably not sophisticated enough to declare war on us yet.
However, they are already using artificial intelligence to man some weapons systems. They have since the early 90’s actually. The Patriot missile system relied on AI to shoot down SCUDs during the Gulf War. Those systems not manned by AI (in Israel) were not effective in stopping the SCUDS, which is why Israel got hit so often.
The new system is designed, in part, to control the armed aerial drones called Reapers. I just think that is too much responsibility placed into the circuitry of a machine. It makes killing too easy. It also makes the results of a computer glitch more deadly.
I am not (quite) paranoid enough to think that we are on the verge of a takeover by AI. But why would anyone want to name their network after the one in such a fine movie that was responsible for the destruction of the human race? That is like building a home service robot and calling it a Cylon.
First things first. But not necessarily in that order –Augustus de Morgan
Here in my car I know I’ve started to think about leaving tonight although nothing seems rightCars, Gary Newman
Grr, auto parts store clerks should be able to answer simple questions. I had a question about the firing order of my cars spark plugs because I thought I might have hooked them up wrong during my last tune up; it was running a bit rough. He gave me totally bogus information that made it even worse. Thanks gods there is the internet. The coil order is not the firing order of the coil but instead corresponds to the spark plug numbers, and so it was an easy fix once I knew what I was doing. Funny how that works, eh?
I love my little car; I really do. It is what we would have called in Germany in the 80s a ‘hooptie.’ This is an automobile that is neither stylish nor powerful. The beauty of a hooptie is that it does what a car is intended to do: it gets you from a to b. It does this without all the bells and whistles, and so is generally quite cheap. A lot of smart people in Germany drove old BMWs as hoopties. Ugly and old, yes, but reliable and functional. I was not so smart; I wanted a new car.
As a college student I look for things that I can do on the cheap. I have grown wiser about money than I was when I cashed my first paycheck. Not everything is worthy of scrimping on; some things are worth paying top dollar for (coffee beans, for instance) and other things should be purchased in a bargain basement or done without.
I have not used any credit in the last five years. If I want something I save up the money and buy it. It sounds like a lot of discipline but really it is just that I know my weaknesses. Credit was one of them; so I gave it up. I think it probably takes a stronger man to do things in moderation, but I decided cold turkey was the way to go for a while. I quit smoking and drinking the same way. I really don’t see the need yet to start using any of them again. Sometimes I think I am trying to trick myself by telling myself I am strong enough to use just a little. I tried to quit smoking many many times before, and I always started again thinking I would have just one.
Anyway, I love my car. It is a 5-spd 94 Saturn SL2. I bought it for $900 three years ago. I have put maybe $600 into it over the years; new brakes, new tires, oil, plugs and wires. But that is all, and it has served me well. My insurance runs just $250 a year. That gives me operating expenses (minus gas) of just over $700 per year. It is not pretty, but it is surprisingly peppy, and being a stick shift I can drive the hell out of it.
It’s not doing so well anymore; it has a blown head gasket so it leaks oil. It is not worth the cost of replacing the gasket since it is something I cannot do myself. I will have to find a new hooptie when I get to Alabama, I think. Plus the AC in this one is not too great and, in Alabama, AC is not something to scrimp on.
A while ago I got up the nerve to enter some of my writings into a competition at the University. One of my goals had always been to be published before I was forty, and the winners of this competition would be published. Even though it would just be a University publishing I know that many doctoral candidates get published the same way.
So, I entered three of my best essays. Two were research and one was personal. After a few weeks I was notified that one or more of them had placed.
I admit I am arrogant. I have seen the writing of many of my peers at this school and I don’t think they are in my league when it comes to writing a good essay. Most of them are smarter than me, it is true, but they can’t form a sentence to save their lives.
Pride cometh before a fall. I convinced myself that all of my entries had placed and at least one of them had come in first. I was wrong.
I only placed with one of my entries, and that one only placed third. I look forward to reading the book when it comes out, to gage myself against the other entries that beat me. I think I will swing by the English department before I take off and see if I can’t get some feedback.
It kind of hurt my feelings, but I know it is just my pride that stings. It was the first time I even got the nerve to enter, I should be happy just placing.
If you want to give me some constructive criticism, you can see the essay here. Be brutal; I might need to be taken down a notch or two.
In other news I spoke at length with my little brother who is currently studying for the DAT. He volunteered to come to Alabama with me and help me move. I love my brother.
I am watching Planet Earth right now, the BBC documentary. It is really the first Blu-ray film that has impressed me. Maybe it is just because it gets the hippy in me all excited about how awesome our planet is. Why didn’t I go into a natural science field? Nature is so cool. But I think it is easier to study natural science as a hobby than computer engineering; it is not like I have to NOT keep learning about this place.
I love documentaries. The History Channel and Discovery Channel are my favorite stations. I suppose it is rather lazy to do most of my learning through the television, but a good documentary is just a work of art. And sometimes I don’t even know I am interested in something until I see a good production of it. And BBC documentaries are the best; all narrators should have a British accent.
I am reading a biography of Gertrude Bell right now. She was a compatriot of Lawrence of Arabia. Quite astounding when you consider the normal role of women in the Victorian era. I think I will e-mail my old women's studies instructor and see if she has ever read the book. it is a great treatise on the state of gender roles one hundred years ago. Gertrude Bell also did one of the best translations of the poet Hafiz. I am not sure if he was a Sufi poet, or not. A lot of his writing seems to be along that line. I think I shall find a copy of her book when I get to Huntsville. Regardless, his words are beautiful.
The author of the biography is a master of metaphor. This was enjoyable for about the first hundred pages, but now it gets tiresome. Like when Steve Perry of Journey started showing off his vocal range in every song. We get it. After a while it is just a boor. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I am cleaning out my storage shed today also. I figured I would go ahead and live cramped for a month and save myself 30 bucks of storage fees. I am thinking of going ahead and packing up my office and just using the laptop. Then I could use the office to start putting all the boxes as I pack up. I am running out of places to put them right now.
Brenna loves all the boxes, though. Quite the forest to explore for her. I am going to feel bad when we get to Huntsville and she doesn’t get to go outside anymore. Hope she forgives me.
I am so glad I didn’t just go to Subway for dinner.
I ate there for lunch, on the way down to Huntsville and it was ok, but dinner was AWESOME. I ate at the hotel and it was so good it made me even sorrier I didn’t have anyone down here with whom to share it. I had a spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer and then a herbed chicken pasta for an entree.
I talked to a german guy from California who was here beta testing new lcd decoding chips for LG during dinner. Alabama sweet tea was just as full of syrupy goodness as I remember. I charged it to my room. I could get used to this whole corporate account thing.
When I was in the army we had like twenty whole dollars per day to eat when we were on the road (funeral details or TDY or some such). And we couldn’t tip unless we paid cash. Civilian life is so much better.
The day got off to a rocky start; I overslept and didn’t get out of town until 9. I had intended to leave out at 6 and get down here by 2. The person I was supposed to meet up with in St. Louis stood me up (or I didn’t wait long enough, depending on the story to which you listen) so I drove down here by myself.
My timing was all off. I hit St. Louis during lunch rush and hit Nashville during rush hour. That sucked. I hate traffic. It shows how thoughtless and rude most people are. But there are still some good people out there.
Other than that it was a nice drive. I rented a dodge caliber for the trip; no cruise control (I didn’t know they even made cars without cruise. How last century). But the sound system was good. I hooked up my Zen Stone to it and sang mock karaoke all the way. In a car is the only place I feel comfortable singing at the top of my voice.
Ha, stewie couldn’t get the plastic bag over his head. That’s just good TV. (I am multitasking)
I brought some movies down to watch at night, but my laptop doesn’t have the right decoder. No biggie, I got here late, and I need to get an early start. I found a townhouse for only $637 a month that is pretty close to the campus as well as AdTran. It is the first place I am looking tomorrow. I have a few others to check out.
I am gonna love being in a city again!
Well, the townhouse location was prime but the rent had gone up to 700 and they don’t even have a unit available. There is one that might come available, but I am not real keen on the idea of hanging my hopes on a ‘might be’.
There are no other two bedroom townhouses in my price range.
I found some two bedroom apartments that were upstairs which is my second choice. One place is really close to campus and has a lot of trees and so feels nice and secluded. The buildings are not all crammed together; there is a lot of grassy areas for Brenna to romp in. The rooms are spacious. I think it is the one we will take, but I am gonna shop around some more. The rent is only $525 a month, so pretty cheap. $200 more than I am paying right now, but still quite reasonable for this location.
So, not my first choice, but rent and location make it a very doable second choice.
Ironman is the best superhero movie I have ever seen. I was impressed with Spiderman and enthralled by Batman Begins, but good gods, Ironman was perfect. Purr-fect.
Ah, but the next Batman comes out soon, as well as the next Hulk; also, it looks like the Avengers will be coming soon. I can’t wait to see the Angel. Just a small part in X-man, but I hope they give im a bigger part in the Avengers.
Wire in the Blood is a brilliant, extremely gritty crime drama out of Britain.
Bones is an intelligent and witty forensics drama; I laugh and am happy to be a geek, but not quite that geeky.
The Big Bang Theory is hilarious and makes me feel even better about my relative level of geekiness. Sheldon has provided me with several witty quotes that might never be fully appreciated outside of Rolla.
Audioslave, Nickleback, and Seether make me happy when I listen, but my favorite song right now is Hey Delilah by the Plain White Tees.
Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
Politicians hide themselves away They only started the war Why should they go out to the fight? They leave that role to the poor. Yeah War Pigs, Black Sabbath
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. I am sure I am not the only one who was raised to believe this. It is a line from a poem by Horace which translates roughly to, "It is sweet and right to die for ones country." I don’t believe it anymore, but it took me 17 years three continents and two wars to fully realize the error of my ways.
I am not a pacifist. I recognize that there is a time and a place for the use of violence; but I also know that it doesn’t solve anything. You can’t change a man’s mind by beating him into submission. But there are some good reasons to use violence; in the defense of the innocent is one of them, in my book.
I joined the army right out of high school back when most of the people with whom I am going to college were not yet born. The Iron Curtain was still up and the Cold War was still really, really cold. We were still supporting Bin Laden’s troops in Afghanistan to help them repel the Soviet invaders. I had not yet met a soviet soldier. I was extremely idealistic about the moral virtue of my country.
When I saw the wall between East and West Germany, I got so very, very pissed off. I was 18. I vowed that I would devote my life to learning the art of war that I might be used as an instrument of freedom. De Oppreso Libre. To Free the Oppressed. I did not think I would need to concern myself with the rightness of the use of that force; I believed in my government.
I believed they would only send me to honorable battles. I believed they would use force only when force was necessary and that they would not shirk from using force when force was required. I believed that my country was worthy of the sacrifices I was making.
The first indication I had that I was wrong was Tiananmen Square. If there was ever an obvious oppression of the ideals of freedom and democracy in my lifetime, it was then. And my country did nothing more than offer a stern disapproval. Not so much as even a condemnation of the tyrannical actions of this despotic government.
Why? Because they were then and still are our most favored trade nation. Americans could not have their cheap wal-mart crap if it were not for the slave labor of China. For financial reasons, not moral reasons, we did nothing in Tienanmen Square. I was ashamed.
Then Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was no different from China invading Tibet, except this place had oil. Oh, and also the fact that we had put the ruler of Iraq in power as a buffer against Iran. Oh, and Ambassador Glaspie had told Saddam that we would stay out of his Arab conflicts. But then Saudi Arabia asked for our help. So this time we went to war. Again, for financial reasons.
I started to realize that wars are not fought for moral reasons but rather political ones. Like I said, I had been idealistic when I joined. Politics is war without bloodshed but war is politics with bloodshed. But you can’t change a man’s mind with a gun. The most you can do is to kill him. And they were asking me to pull the trigger.
When we went into Albania to fire missions in support of the air war on Kosovo I got a first hand look at what happens when violence is used instead of words. The conflict in that region (like the conflict between Sunni and Shia, actually) has been going on for over 1300 years. Atrocities have been committed by both sides. The only thing that changes is who is in charge.
We waded in on the side of the Albanians (Muslims, actually. The Serbs are mostly Russian Orthodox; go figure). The people I talked to we so happy that America was going to help them overthrow the tyrannical Serbs. The Serbs, on the other hand, had been happy that the tyrannical Soviet Union had fallen and let them overthrow the tyrannical Albanians. The Soviet Union had helped the Albanians overthrow the Serbs who had been in charge since the Ottoman Empire had fallen. And so on and so on ad infinitum. The violence never stopped.
So us going in with guns blazing was sort of like a parent catching his kids fighting and then holding the big one’s arms so the little one could kick him in the balls.
As soon as the Albanians had the upper hand, the atrocities and revenge killings started. It made me sick to see what I had been a part of. And I knew that it would continue to happen.
Nietzsche warned that we should take care when hunting monsters lest we become them. We ask our soldiers to live in the abyss of which Nietzsche cautioned. The only thing that a soldier has to guard against the ravages of what he has seen and done is the knowledge that it was necessary. That it was the right thing to do. If you ask a soldier to commit atrocities and then he does not have that knowledge, that certainty, that moral shield, he will go mad with the anguish of his guilt, if he is decent. Or, if he is not, he will become the monster.
I put in for conscientious objector status after my unit returned from Kosovo. I had been a soldier for 15 years and had fought on two continents. A diarist here recently commented that it might be fear that caused a soldier to put in for CO status after seeing war up close. She might be right. I was never afraid to die until I started thinking that I was killing for the wrong reasons.
I don’t really believe in Heaven, but I believe in karma. I believe that there are cycles of existence which we incarnate, playing different roles each time. As a warrior prepared to sacrifice myself for my beliefs (or make my enemy sacrifice for his, which was my first option) I felt that my death would be well purchased. I felt that I was making up for past transgressions; I was trying to be noble. Instead, I came to realize that I was no tool for freedom. I was just a tool. I was not willing to kill or die for the whims of a decadent nation.
How can anyone not fear for a life that is lost in vain? But more than that, how can anyone not shudder at the thought of killing for no reason other than politics? That is just not a good enough reason to kill. I cannot say, "My country, right or wrong." My country should make sure that it is right. Instead, my country has let itself become decadent. It let itself be led by its most base instincts into committing atrocities. Greed and Wrath are not good enough reasons to kill.
Applying for CO status seemed to be the only honorable thing to do.
I was branded a coward by those who had not never heard nor fired a shot in anger. But though I have done many things which make me ashamed, this was not and will never be one of them. It was the hardest thing I ever did.
I have only three more finals to take. I have already taken two, and in two classes my grade was high enough that I don’t even need to take the final. Those were my two Computer Science Classes, Discrete Math for Computing and Data Structures. I loved them. I am thinking when I get down to Alabama of changing my major to CompE/CompSci instead of CompE/EE. I love programming, I just want to do more than write code my whole life.
Til I get bored with this career and go off to be a hermit or something.
So I have taken two finals and today I have my Diff Eq final. Tomorrow I have my Circuit Analysis final and then Friday I have my Design of Digital Computers final. I could have taken that one last Friday, but I opted to have the extra week to study. It is by far my toughest class, and only the second upper level class I have taken. I have had one other 300 level class, but that was Philosophy, and I pwn philosophy. I make it my bitch, and it likes it. It asks for more.
Yeah, I have been up all night studying. I tried to get some sleep but I kept seeing equations behind my eyes so I gave up and watched some TiVo. Stewart and Colbert both had good interviews last night. Sometimes I think Jon is going downhill as far as how funny it is, but his interviews are getting better and better. Very pointed, very intelligent. For the most part.
I have saved up $1600 for my move, and I am trying to get my deposit back from the movers now. That will add another $600 to the pot. One of my friends is going to help me move if I help him move, so I don’t need to hire anyone. That is uber cool of him, I thought. His move is in town, and he is gonna go cross country with me. I am gonna miss this place. I finally have friends and now I am leaving. I try not to think about it, because I will likely start whining.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities –Voltaire
I watch with glee While your kings and queens Fought for ten decades For the gods they made Sympathy for the Devil, Rolling Stones
I like Pascal, I really do. He was a great scientist. But he was also, I think, a big pussy.
You heard me. Blaise Pascal was a big pussy and I don’t care who knows it. And it isn’t because math is not my strong suit. It has nothing to do with math.
It has something to do with what is commonly known as Pascal’s Wager. See, Pascal wasn’t just a mathematician. Like lots of people back in the day (it was a Wednesday, by the way) Pascal was sort of a Jack-of-all-Trades. I would say he was a Renaissance Man, but he lived after the renaissance and before the fairs.
He was also a scientist [indeed, it seems most all of the mathematicians back then were just scientists who needed better equations with which to model the universe] and a philosopher. Specifically, a religious philosopher. It was when he was wearing this hat that he came up with his wager.
I am not a mathematician, I can’t say it loud enough. I barely made a B in Calculus and Diff Eq looks like it will keep my GPA at a 3.0 when it comes to math. But I don’t give up. Pascal gave up, and that is why I think he is a pussy. He couldn’t figure something out and so instead of shelving it until he had more data or more time or just being content with not knowing, he laid out an argument for belief without proof.
Not faith, mind you, but a wager. Not that I am a big proponent of faith, but given a choice between faith and bullshit, I’d say faith is the lesser of the two evils. This wager didn’t take into consideration all the relevant data, and that is why it is bullshit. And yet, because it came from a genius, people assume it is a sound argument and a safe bet.
Pascals wager was whether to believe in ‘God’ or not. He made a four quadrant table, and listed the benefits and cost of each side of the story. He figured that if he believed and God did exist, the reward would be great. If he did not believe and God existed, the punishment would be extreme. If he did not believe and God did not exist, he would not gain much except his Sundays. If he did believe and God did not exist, he would not have lost much. Based on this, he rationalized it was better to believe than not to believe.
I think his argument is faulty in many ways.
First, he discounted the possibility that a god could exist that was not the god of the ruling party at the time. Hellfire and damnation might not be a punishment, and heavenly bliss might not be a reward. It might be based on things other than belief or disbelief.
Second, he discounted the fact that if he believed and God did not exist then he was blinding himself to the Truth. A willful ignorance of the truth is the greatest evil in my book, because it damages my ability to deal with reality. No scientist should thus shackle themselves.
Thirdly, he discounted the fact that if he believed only through prudence and a God did exist, then surely that omniscient Being would see through the ruse and no reward for faith would be forthcoming.
I am not against variations of Pascal’s wager. In examining upcoming battles one always looks at the enemy’s most likely courses of action and contrasts them to the most damaging courses of action an enemy could take. Only idiots plan a battle wearing rose colored sunglasses.
Risk management is all about reducing the consequences of necessary actions and of taking the most prudent action (cost versus benefit) given the data at hand.
But if someone is going to choose to believe in a higher power they should not do it just to hedge their bets. There is no reason to force oneself to believe. Doubt is not the enemy of faith. Certainty is a far more dangerous adversary.
So much atrocity has been committed in the name of some God. The final argument I have against Pascal is that he reasoned that nothing bad could come from believing.
I know better.
The world is full of people willing to use someone’s naivetè of faith to convince them that some course of action is what ‘God’ wants. The Inquisition, the Crusades, and the annihilation of the native American people (manifest destiny) were all done for the glory of some little tin God.
"I’ve got so much left to learn and no one left to fight” –SSG Mac
In the shuffling madness Of the locomotive breath, Runs the all-time loser, Headlong to his death. He feels the piston scraping Steam breaking on his brow Old Charlie stole the handle and The train won’t stop going No way to slow down.Locomotive Breath, Jethro Tull
Balance is a tricky thing. If it weren’t, of course, we could all be tight rope walkers (I never looked that great in tights, anyway). I always liked to watch the gravity defying feats of the acrobats when I was a kid. Even today Cirque de Solei can take my breath away with their grace and panache.
My balance has just never been that good. Maybe that is why the Middle Path appeals to me so much; perhaps I think it will keep me away from the edge. I like to be on the edge, sometimes, but only on my own terms. To find myself on the precipice without a plan scares the living daylights out of me. If I stay in the center most of the time then there is less of a chance that, should I doze off, I will wake up walking a tightrope.
Standing still has never been my strong point. I have yet to achieve that state of zen in which I can be truly content for a long time just existing, just being still. I always feel, if I stay still too long, like I am going to fall over; and experience has taught me that I will get kicked when I am down.
We can substitute momentum for good balance, I think. It is simple; it is a matter of inertia. Anyone who has ever learned to ride a bike can tell you that it is always hardest starting out when one is going slow. That is why parents who cared ran alongside giving a little push; it added momentum. Once you get going the momentum keeps you up and all you have to do is steer.
Inertia is that property which resists change, and is solely dependent upon mass. It takes Energy (force over time) to overcome inertia.
I think thought processes can become inert; habits form. I look at mass (as applied to psychology) as a factor of time. The longer a particular thought process or behavior has gone on, the more mass it has, hence the more inertia, hence the harder it is to change.
Even a small force though, over a long time, can move a mountain. Look at water… The Grand Canyon speaks of the power of water over rock. That is why it has to be rock scissors paper and not rock scissors water. Water would trump everything. It is relentless. Tiny force, but long, long time. It doesn’t take a lot of force to make a change. But the less force you want to use, the more time it will take.
I think that is why affirmations work. If given enough time. I lack the patience, unfortunately. I wish I could muster the relentless dedication to change it would take to make peaceful changes in my life.
Instead, I am a bridge burner. I have gone through my life like Sherman through Georgia and now I have no refuge to which I could retreat. I tell myself that it is better that way, that a drowning man swims harder when he sees no hope of rescue. I tell myself that a man trying to get through the desert would certainly die if he turned around three quarters of the way through, and has a fighting chance if he keeps on his path.
I think I might just be playing fast and loose with my metaphors.
I think that maybe I just destroy everything in my wake because it is faster and I am afraid of slowing down. I think maybe I am just afraid that if I slow down long enough to look around I will find I have been on a tightrope all along.
And when you wake up on a tightrope, everyone knows you are not supposed to look down, which would be a suitably cynical explanation for my optimism.