27 November, 2008

Why I don't shop on Black Friday

The consumer appetite in America is rather sickening to me quite often. This once great country reduced to a mass of hysterical jackals who clamor for the newest or the shiniest or the cheapest is saddening at best.
But when people die because my countrymen are so greedy, it makes me bitter that I spent half my life protecting people like that.

23 November, 2008

Why there are checks and balances

I am not a fan of pure democracy.  I never have been.  I have never believed that an opinion, just because a majority felt it was right, was a moral certainty.  I have always held my own rationality as the highest authority to which I answer.  I have not always been right in my decisions, and I have caused harm, no matter how hard I tried to do good.  Sometimes I have been wrong on purpose or through neglect.  But it is I who will answer for those things, and not the majority. 
In the end, we all stand alone.
In a group of one thousand, I could be the sole dissenting vote.  Unless I were swayed by the power of their logic, I will not be swayed by their numbers.  I will still have a one in a thousand chance that I am right.  If I have stacked the deck in my favor by doing my research, then I consider that one in a thousand chance good odds.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. 
James Bovard once said that democracy had to be better than two wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner.  The founding fathers knew this.  The reason they put the checks and balances into this new form of government they designed was to make it robust enough to not only survive the corrupting influence of power in too few hands but, also, to guard against the corrupting influence of power in the hands of too many whose only claim to authority was majority.
There is a revolutionary spirit buried deep (or maybe not so deep) within all of us.  That part of us that rails against injustice, that says to hell with the status quo.  We know when something is wrong, no matter how long it has been done.  We know when something needs to be changed, regardless of tradition.

22 November, 2008

Best quote ever

I tivo the Daily Show, and was catching up tonight.  Bill O’Reilley was on the show a week or so ago, and of course he started spouting about tradition as an excuse to keep everything the same.  Jon Stewart had one of the quickest and most brilliant retorts I had ever heard, and I wanted to both share it and preserve it.
He said,  "The tradition in America is a progression of individual freedoms.  You know what the tradition in America would say?  Gay marriage is the next step in the progression of America.  That’s the tradition.  You’re misrepresenting the tradition."  
The jesters still speak the truth.

Why Men Don’t Look at the Instructions

Recently I bought a fireplace set so that I would quit burning my hands when I adjust the logs in my fireplace. 
I unpacked it and set it up and then I happened to glance at the instruction booklet while I was preparing to crumple it up to play catch with my cat.

These are the instructions that came with the fireplace set.  This is the only step to the assembly instructions.  —————–>
1. Hang fireplace tools on provided rack.
It is rather insulting to the intelligence, I thought.
If someone can not figure out that they are supposed to hang the tools on the tool rack, they should not be playing with fire.
What I found truly hilarious was the fact they estimated it would take me five minutes to do that step.

This just in

Life has been pretty good for me recently.  It hasn’t been without its share of frustrations and setbacks, but I’d rather not give them any power by writing about them. 
I had been needing a car very badly; mine was on its last lug nut for over a year, and I had been riding to work with a friend of mine.  While she was very nice about it, I felt like I was an imposition on her as well as I was tied to her schedule.
I saved up a couple thousand dollars and was scouring the classified for a reasonably priced vehicle.  I missed a few because I didn’t have the cash handy, but after I had the cash it seemed like there were none to be had.  Then one day on the way home I saw this Taurus on the road by a title pawn shop for which they were asking $2195.  That was right in my price range.  Unfortunately, the next day it was gone.
A few days later, it was back, so I filled my cars radiator up with water (it leaks, so I have to fill it up before I try to drive it) and ran up there.  It looked pretty good, but was not cared for.  I test drove it and found it shimmied pretty hard at high speeds.  The car had a lot of power, though: 200 hp, 24 v DOHC.  It was the luxury model; leather seats and six-pack cd changer, six way adjustable seats, and the floor pedals could even be adjusted to come to me instead of scooting my seat forward.  It was a lot of car for $2200. 

10 November, 2008

Taps: A reprint for Veteran's Day

Reprint from 9/15/2004
There are three standard times when the Ceremony of Taps is performed.
I capitalize it, because I understand the need for ritual, and I respect this ritual above most all others.
Ritual gives us actions to perform when thought is difficult. Action is the enemy of thought. I read that somewhere recently, then I saw the movie.
I am not a fan of action without thought but ritual, Ceremony, goes a bit deeper than mere avoidance of thought; trying to kill the thoughts. Ceremony is a rational postponement of thought; it breeds a state of Zen in times when that state is difficult to find.
Ceremony makes our hands busy, without thought, in order for us to keep acting when the mind is whirling.
The most often used Ceremony of Taps is at 2300 hours on a military base. It is the signal that the sentries used to give to those who were not on duty. It was the signal that we could sleep soundly, because someone, My Brother, was guarding the wall. I was safe. People have forgotten this, but that is where that ceremony started.
“Gone the sun, day is done”
Hit the sack. I got your back.
The second most often used Ceremony is at a military funeral. Taps is played during the Flag Folding Ceremony. I used to do those while I was in the service, perform as flag bearer; it was my responsibility to acknowledge a loved one’s service to our nation. It was supposed to be nothing more than an additional duty that I pulled while we were on Red Cycle. BUt after my first, when I was still a private, I never heard Taps the same way.
I bet most people who pulled the duty didn’t respect the Ceremony. Or perhaps that is my cynicism. I felt quite often that soldiers did not take their duty seriously. Life is a game, it is true. It is to be enjoyed, that is certain. But there are times when it is necessary to put one’s game face on and play seriously. During the Ceremony of Taps is one of those times.
We weren’t supposed to show any emotion, I suppose, but every time, as I folded the flag, the tears rolled silently down my face as I thought of what Taps represented in this case. A soldier fallen, usually after discharge, but one who had served their country. Most of the people I folded flags for were WWII soldiers, veterans of Normandy and the march to the Rhine. They were holders of the Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, and a host of other medals. Never a Medal of Honor winner, because those were folded by field grade officers, not just a crusty old staff sergeant.
The most poignant version of the Ceremony is for a soldier who falls while still serving. It is the roll call. The First Sergeant calls out a number of troops, who answer giving indication of their presence, and then he calls out the name of the fallen.
“PVT Jefferson”
“Here First Sergeant”
“SPC Mulcahey”
“Here First Sergeant”
“SSG McAnarney”
“Here First Sergeant”
“SPC Nash”——-silence”
“SPC Brian Nash”——-thunderous silence
Seven seconds after the second roll call, rifle or cannon are fired in volleys of seven, three rounds each. At the sound of the last volley, Taps is played.
The soldier now answers roll elsewhere, in Fiddler’s Green.
I am sad to say that this ceremony has been acted out again, though it has already been played far too much.
In Memorium
1SG Utt
Taps, Iraq
Roadside Bomb
August 28, 2004
RIP
Happy Veteran’s Day, America.

09 November, 2008

Fucking drama

I am at a loss as to how to deal with some twisted freak out there.
People I know are getting emails like this:
see? he openly admits some of it. some of it is a pack of lies tho like that his relations with people only lasted a few days or an evening. hahahahaha that is a laugh. the sex lasted longer than that i have to say. anonymity is in the rules of the site yet he has no problem breaking that rule every chance he gets to take it outside of the site and carry on somewhere else like messenger and phone. he even says he didn’t know there was a rule about it. try reading the rules page! plus he admits that he singles out women that have something that he wants in a woman. or should i say women??? there’s no way he would have only one as “freely” as he gives it all away. then he expects us to believe that it is all friendly yet he only picks out women that are single? that is also a lie because several of us are in relationships already and he knew that when he was coming on to us! even if we were all single all that says is that he is not interested in a friends only relationship. we have guy friends who do not come on that strong or feel guilty about calling whenever they want or hanging out with us AND our boyfriends because they know they aren’t being inappropriate! he is saying that he only picks girls that he will have a chance with….. to do what i don’t know. probably more phone sex or sex over messenger if given the chance! doesn’t matter because that’s a lie too. he doesn’t talk to only single girls. he is a liar. don’t let him fool you girl. you can’t be that stupid. really we wanted you to see that he will NEVER block all of us. he says it right to us! he doesn’t know who we all are for one thing so he can’t block us all. those of us who can will still read his entries and notes and send them to each other so if ONE of us knows then we ALL know. second even if he does block some of us it is not permanent. i think he likes the attention we give him too much to block us and leave us alone even when you flat out tell him what we’ve said. he thinks that we are all buddy buddy and that care whether he blocks us or not like we’re really friends and our lives won’t be the same without him and his sleazy come ons or romantic prattle. it’s not romantic when everybody with a pussy is the same in his eyes. yeah he’s a good writer. or should i say a good con artist? that’s all his words are… one long string of lies to get you to send pictures or give your phone number or talk about sex. he is like every other guy with a one track mind. only difference is that he disguises it as something that it IS NOT. oh and just so you know he did block some of us but we just laughed. all we have to do is wait it out because it never lasts. so by all means send him this email because he won’t believe you anyway. let’s say he does believe you he still won’t do anything about it. not for very long. he always comes back around and that’s the truth. or should we say it is what it is? hahaha
This is why some of you were blocked and then unblocked. Things like this keep getting sent. It’s fucking evil. Whoever it is keeps hacking into any account I open up, as well as the accounts of people with whom I associate. I believe the last sentence is to indicate they have gained access to messenger archives through treachery or deceit.
It is a total invasion of privacy. It is outright felonious harassment. And they talk about rules I have broken? Fucking evil bitch(es). There is little that upsets me like an invasion of privacy.
NOTHING I have ever done, and I have done some heinous shit, deserves what he, she, or they are doing.
What do I do? If I block them, they win. If I unblock them, they win.
For the record, I do believe her. You just proved her point.
It’s at least one of you.
EDIT: Have I had sex, or tried to have sex, either real or make believe, with anyone in this room in the last four years (besides the one from Louisiana who knows who she is)? If so, speak now, get it off your chest. Call me a whore.

And if you have nothing to say, then quit sending letters to people I know and accusing me of being a whore.

At most, say I was a whore four years ago. I can’t really argue with that. I have tried to become a better man every day. I had a long way to go, I admit.

But if you have carried this grudge with you for four years, or even four months, if someone has poisoned your mind against me or you are just pissed because I stopped writing you notes, whether because you liked them and I stopped or because you didn’t like them; if you carry on like this and gain such obvious enjoyment out of what you are doing, then your life really wouldn’t have been the same without me, would it?
You pass notes about me like you are in study hall? One of you spies and reports back on me to all the rest of the We Hate Jeffrey Club?
I pity you.

08 November, 2008

Chili season

When I was a child there would come a time in the fall when we would come home from playing on an afternoon and a familiar smell would be permeating the household. My sister would wrinkle her nose and exclaim, “Oh, no, it’s chili season again!”
Chili season was brisk mornings where I could see my breath as I waited for the bus, but it was too hot to wear a jacket on the way home. Chili season was that time of year when the smell of burning logs hung thick in the air as I walked home, shuffling my feet through the crispy, fallen leaves. The squirrels watched me warily to ensure I was not spying the location of their buried treasure as they scrambled to store up the last of the harvest for winter. Chili season was when there was always a pot of chili on the stove or leftovers in the fridge.
There are a lot of things I can say to denigrate my father. Most of them would be colored from my subjective viewpoint, remembered as the powerless child whom I was constantly reminded I was. Many of them, even from an objective viewpoint, would be pretty bad. I try not to think about them. I try not to harbor resentments. I burned that bridge long ago.
Instead, if I think back at all, I try to think of the good things. There were some. I survived my childhood so at least that can be said of the man. He let me live. He also taught me how to hunt and to fish and other manner of woodcraft. Though I don’t use them any longer they did make a good base for my survival skills in the Army and I know they are there should I find the need to fend for myself.
My sister might look back on chili season and, still, wrinkle her nose. But as for me, my fathers chili is one of the things I look back upon with fondness and regret. Cooking was also one of the things he taught me. I enjoyed the time we spent cooking together. It was one of the few times we spent together as I was growing up that he seemed to like how I did things. I was not athletic like Mike and he was not impressed by my academic skills. But I could cook, and that pleased him.
I regret that I did not find more ways to spend quality time with my father, but I have happy memories of afternoons spent preparing the ingredients for chili or a thick hearty stew. I liked cooking for my family and I have always enjoyed it when people enjoy eating what I have prepared for them.
It’s chili season, again. The leaves have finally started falling around here, and I can smell the wood smoke drifting through the neighborhood. I just got back from the store with all the ingredients I need to ring in the season. I don’t speak to my father anymore, but I bet I know what he is doing today.

07 November, 2008

EggEye OhNay IgLatinPay!

I am not completely brilliant, so I have to assume that this language, while surprisingly powerful, is extremely simple in its syntax. Though it is quite picky about white space, it makes it up in its forgiveness of other things. Learning how to pass by reference was sort of a pain, and there are some other things I did in C++ that are not immediately obvious in TCL, but overall it is a great scripting language.
Well, as far as I know. I have only done basic research in Perl or Python or Ruby. But I think I will learn them next semester in my free time. I am purchasing a student edition of the IDE that I use at work. $100 bucks for an integrated development environment that covers pretty much all the scripting languages I could ever hope to play with is a good deal.
I also just downloaded a new version of Visual Studio Professional. Like a grand for that program and I get it for the cost of bandwidth. I love being a student. I also got a full version of MSOffice 2007 Ultimate for $70 bucks. That is like a $600 program. It is amazing what is out there if one looks for it. And all legal. woot woot.
I am not saying I have never downloaded something off of the internet, but I generally go back and get a full version if I like it. I suppose I do have a few hundred megabytes of music that weren’t legally purchased, but I think I have supported the music industry pretty well. Besides, most of the stuff I downloaded was old music. 70s funk et al., and not new stuff. I am not completely innocent, is my point. I just try to be when I think about it.
Anyway…

02 November, 2008

Minor update, minor rant

  • First, I was very sorry to read about Barak’s grandmother. Call me cynical, but I am already pre-pissed off at what I imagine will be a bunch of conservative talking heads whispering about the sympathy vote after we elect our first black president.
  • I am not going to try and do NaNoWriMo. I’m a pussy. I don’t think I’ll have time, and I don’t want to do it for twenty days just to piss out in the last mile. There is just too much stuff at work and I need to get geared up for school next semester. Did I mention I was a pussy?
  • I am in love with dual monitors and, like dual sliding doors on minivans, don’t know how I ever lived without them. Today I got hooked up with them at work as well because I saw some extra CRT monitors laying around. No one wants the old CRTs because they are not as sexy as LCD. Two 20 inch CRTs beat one 19 inch LCD in my book. I am in love with the real estate of the desktop. It comes in so handy when I write code because I can have all my references open at the same time, as well as my telnet sessions.
  • I have been in a really good mood lately. It doesn’t take much to make me laugh. I’m kind of bipolar, I figure, but this part I like.
  • Some people can just suck it. I know that is not very zen of me, but I never thought I would need to use the block capability of being a member. Some people just like to stir up shit, though. It’s not all false, but the true parts are spun pretty hard. And the methodology is just satanic. Hell hath no fury, right? So if you are still here it means
    1. You are a lurker and I don’t know you. You should say hi. I am not going fav only, so you don’t need to be added or anything in order to come here. But it would be nice if you would wave once in a while.
    2. I love you or I respect you or I like reading you or some combination of the three all coupled with my belief you have not tried to fuck me over.
    3. You have been a thorn in my ass, but I either don’t know it so haven’t blocked you or you are logged on as someone else just so you can snoop. Get a life. Or have, better yet, the decency to confront me. I’ve been open and honest as I can right now and given you the opportunity to speak. It is my right as a human to face my accusers, and if you won’t afford me that, then I will do all I can to ignore you.
  • If I have blocked you and you think I shouldn’t have and you have come here under a pseudo-pseudonym, let me know why I was wrong, if you like, and I will happily unblock you. But I will tell you why I blocked you first.
EDIT: Best quote today: Obama, to a crowd that started booing (like at a McCain rally) when he mentioned McCain’s repeated assertions that the economy was fundamentally sound:
“You don’t have to boo. You just have to vote.”