Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Out With The Old, In With The New

I had my last day of my old job on Friday. It went mercifully fast, especially since it was an "early out" day, so I left at two o'clock. I hugged all of my co-workers, the last of the Mohicans, the three women that make up the entire front line of the department now. I had lunch with my good friend Dan ("Nicnerd"), and soon after, the day was over.

Yesterday, I walked into my new job, just a few miles from my old one. I had an orientation, and got a nice new laptop. First impressions? I was in a less technical department of a more technical company, and now I am in a more technical department in a less technical company. For a non-technical company, their tech that they give to employees is much more impressive than what I had at my old company. I also feel like I am among a lot more "serious career" type of people. Nobody is just on a small "stepping stone" or just killing time at a "job". It's refreshing. These are all people that are "going places", and going there now. I have many, many more observations, but I will save those for later. So much to absorb. Until later...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

If You're Dying Of Exposure, THEN It's OK To Talk To Strangers

This is something that should be added to all of those lessons that are given to children. Of course I'm sure that by now you've heard about the eleven year old boy in Utah that got lost and was eventually rescued the other day. Have we really come to the point that we are drilling into kids so hard that strangers are not to be trusted, that kids will now nearly die, rather than be rescued by a stranger?

OK, I have to throw my lot in with the conservatives on this issue (perish the thought). It looks like municipalities can now do anything they please with your homes at any time, not just for reasons of "blight" or public works or whatever. Those reasons are already laden with conflicts, but I understand that sometimes they are warranted. Now they can just do anything at any time as far as I can tell. Sure, you get fair market value or whatever, but what the heck? Where does one have to move in order to ensure that they won't be forced to move again? Montana?

Oh, and by the way Hector, I was pleased to hear of your recent ebarfulation. I'm glad that you finally got a chance to ebarfulate. Now that you have ebarfulated, you will probably get more traffic. Ebarfulating is a wonderful way to start anew. The new definition that I have created is the act of making a major change or clean-up of electronic data.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

My Very Own Butterfly Effect

My rapidly approaching job change has given me quite a lot of opportunity to reflect on my life so far, and how I got to where I am. I assess this from time to time anyway, but when a big transition like this one comes up, I give this exercise more bandwidth. A great deal of life is opportunity, and what you do with it, and certainly being taught how to make sound decisions has been of the utmost importance. I feel reasonably sure that I could have ended up in nearly any city and ended up being successful. There are also chance factors that enter into our lives though, that guide us often unwittingly at the time, onto a path that fundamentally alters our lives from then on, and without which everything of the life you know today would be unknown. I know exactly where in my life the butterfly effect really took flight. (For those that do not know what the butterfly effect is, it is the idea that a very subtle change, such as the flapping of a butterfly's wings, can have a cascading effect down the line until a hurricane forms, just because of that one butterfly.)

For the first 18 years of my life, much of what happened in my life was of course heavily influenced by my parents. Being born to a certain set of parents, while it is of course of paramount import, fundamentally changes who you are by the very genetics that you inherit, so that doesn't really qualify. Of course, I did pick the college that I went to, and that was a big decision, however it was the college where my Dad got both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees, SUNY Geneseo. I have an aunt that graduated from there too, and another aunt and my grampa took courses there as well, so that clearly still traces back to family. So after arriving at Geneseo just days after turning 18 in the Fall of '91, I met my college roommate Jeremy Waterman, who is to this day a great friend of mine, though we don't get to visit as often as we'd like living 400 miles away. So anyway, fast forward five years later. Already by this time, several of Jer's friends had become mine as well, and I was in grad school at SUNY Oswego, in a program where his mother was and still is a professor. We were still roommates at that time, and one of our by that time many mutual friends was living down here in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia. We all decided we were going to move down there, but I was the only one that did. The others all found jobs around Rochester pretty much. So Peter and I lived down here for a year as roommates. Six months after moving down here, I met my wife Christina on an internet dating site, matchmaker.com. I was unsure of whether I wanted to stay in the area at first, with all of my other friends, and eventually even Peter too moving back to upstate NY, but economics and the deepening relationship with Chris meant that I stayed in this area. So everything that cascaded from my randomly chosen college roommate is what my life has become.

Just yesterday I was talking to former co-worker of mine that I just reconnected with after finding out that he just started working at the company that I will be starting with next week. He said that it's "all my fault" that he plays online role-playing games (MMORPGs, in gaming parlance). I got him to play the server that I played in Everquest shortly before he left the company. He now has a serious girlfriend that he met in the game. Without me telling him to choose my server over the dozens of other choices, he would not have met her. A close friend of mine, Nicnerd for those that have seen his posts, also played the same server as me in Everquest at my behest. He met his fiance the same way, because he was on the server I played on. So you see, it has all come full circle...The Butterfly Effect.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Saddam And Republicans Have Something In Common

Apparently they both admire Reagan. I found this story quite fascinating. Aside from his delusions of still being President of Iraq, and his past atrocities of course, this guy could pretty much be anyone's grandfather. It's so funny that when you strip away all of the pretense and power, that he's just another senior citizen. If Saddam were born in the US, or almost anywhere else in the world, he would probably be spoiling his grandchildren, gardening (which apparently he does in prison too), and eating his beloved Doritos. Instead, he becomes a brutal dictator, is overthrown, and now at 68 years old he will never leave prison. It's interesting to think of what he could have been, and should have been.

Now, this is very funny. If this doesn't get DC's "top cop", Chief Ramsey, to pay attention to rampant auto theft in DC, then nothing will. It's kind of like someone torching the fire chief's house. DC, for those that do not live in this area, has undergone a fair amount of economic revival in many neighborhoods, most of it related to the real estate boom. This has pushed a large number of poor people into one of the neighboring counties of southern Maryland, Prince Georges County. The murder rate has been going up there in the last few years as DC's has dropped. DC has long since not been the nation's "murder capital", but property crime is of course still a problem as it is with all big cities.

I generally don't care at all about celebrity gossip. It just isn't my scene. However, I do love a good real-life mystery, and the Katie Holmes - Tom Cruise thing seems to just get "curioser and curioser". It sounds like the Religion...*cough*Cult*cough* of Scientology might have gotten their hands on her from the beginning. I also heard on Howard Stern, reliable source that it is, that Jessica Alba (mentioned in the article here too), was "interviewed" for a part, and that she said it sounded more like a date interview than a movie role interview. Very interesting. I'm starting to think the conspiracy theorists are right.

Hey, Two Dogs, I haven't been following the Killen trial too closely yet. What kind of evidence do they have on him from so long ago? Is he just going to walk again? Figured being a Mississippi resident that maybe you would have heard more detail. By the way, on my way home I was in the usual slow traffic, and some guy in the biggest, noisiest pickup truck you can imagine, zooms up in the lane next to me and revs the engine as if he can move more than a hundred feet forward. "Who's this jackass", I thought, as I looked for a "W" sticker on the cab. No clues there, but then I looked at the license plate. "MS N8V" That gave me a chuckle, and I wondered if maybe Two Dogs was in town.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Longest Week Ever

If any week will be, this will probably be it. I'm working my last week in a job where almost everyone I know knows that I am leaving. It's kind of like saying goodbye to someone after a visit but then bumping into them again unexpectedly and repeatedly just before they get on the plane or something. Not a big deal, but kind of awkward. Staying motivated to work is not a big problem because I don't want to leave the people I like with more work than they already are going to have to "make up for" by me not being here while they look for my replacement. We're pretty bare-bones as it is.

I'm getting war coverage burn-out, and I don't even seek out coverage. I've been in the apathy stage toward it for many many months now, but still it finds me. This "the insurgency is in its death throes" stuff is wearing thin. At a certain point, it seems like the Iraqis are going to have to simply sink or swim. You can't force everyone to care about their futures, and if it hasn't happened enough to our liking yet, is it really ever going to happen?

On a related note, Porter Goss says that we "have a very good idea" where Osama is hiding. We apparently can't get him because he is hiding in a "sovereign nation". What? Are you kidding me? That's what's stopping us? It doesn't seem like sovereignty been a big issue for us recently, rightly or wrongly, and in a case like this especially, why do we care so much? If he is in Pakistan, and they are *really* helping us, you'd think they would have come up with him awhile ago. I don't buy that Musharraf would be ousted if Osama were caught either. Osama supporters want him dead already, so what difference does it make?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Goodbye Neurocam

So after a very short time of "playing" Neurocam, I decided that I have more than enough real stuff going on in my life to bother continuing. The quote on the site says: "Some of the most rewarding experiences we have come about through random circumstances of which we have no real understanding. It is sometimes important to commit to something we know very little about if the act of commitment in itself becomes part of an experience." - Bridget Fischer, CEO, Neurocam International

If I were in college or something then maybe it would be my only commitment, but as it is, that is far from reality. Anyway, if you email them, they then start you on a series of "adventures", where picture-taking is highly encouraged, and you are asked to complete a series of tasks, each one of them with a premise behind it. Usually it's very much like pretending to be involved in espionage. The emails make it clear that there are definitely "real people" behind this at every step guiding you along. It's kind of interesting, but maybe I'm a little too left-brain to get the full "benefit" of this suspension of disbelief. There are lots of other bloggers that blog about it as well, mostly more right-brain types, and many find Neurocam endlessly entertaining, but it just wasn't exciting enough to me to justify the time spent. Below is what I emailed them on Wednesday.

Hi. I think neurocam is an interesting social experiment, but it's not really the type of thing I'm interested in doing right now. Playing pretend cloak and dagger is a really cool idea, but it just doesn't hold my attention as it once might have. I wish you all the best, and I will continue to enjoy reading about the experiences of others. You do add quite a lot of intrigue to people's lives, for what as far as I can tell is no pay, and that is admirable. Thank you all, and keep up the good work!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Results Are In On The TS Autopsy

Here is the story from Fox News and from CNN. Whatever your preference, it says the same things. Her brain was half normal size. When it comes to body organs, that is not a good number. It typically does not mean half-functioning. It typically means little or no functioning.

An autopsy on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding that she had massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examiner's office said Wednesday. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused.

"The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain," he said. "This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."

So are all of those people that said she was "alive somewhere in there and just needed a little TLC", or that she could feel pain but not express it, and so much other such unsupported nonsense thrown out there mostly by conservatives, need to right now own up, and admit that shockingly enough, doctors know more about medicine than you do.

Now that we've gotten that unpleasantness out of the way... Let's hope that issues like this one, along with stem cell research, will show voters that there are many issues where it is clearly the Republican leadership that are out of the mainstream.

On an unrelated note, if you ever wanted to find out what life is like as a hostage in Iraq, here's a story on it. You can probably guess that the experience is not much fun.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

New Beginnings

It's official. I received a job offer yesterday from another company, and I took it! After more than two months, three interviews, and five interviewers, I made the final cut. I have been at my current company for over six years, and my current position within that company for a few weeks short of three years. It's a big step, but one I must take for my career. I'm purposely not going into a lot of detail here, mostly because it doesn't matter to most people. I got the offer yesterday during lunch, came back to find the written copy in my email, and accepted it shortly after that. Just before leaving for the day, I passed out my resignation to those that needed to get it, and walked out the door. My last day here will be Friday, June 24th.

I guess it's also a new beginning for Michael "The Kid-Toucher" Jackson, after he got off on his charges, so now he can get back to getting off on kids. It's too bad. Even the jury didn't seem to think he was innocent exactly, but they are probably right that the accusers came off as very unbelievable, and that killed this particular case against him. Hopefully he will never do it again, but history seems to indicate otherwise.

In other news, this guy that defected to North Korea is in the US for a week to visit his ailing mother. He defected in 1965. I think being forced to live in North Korea for 40 years is probably a fate worse than being in prison (a US prison anyway). Hopefully he will find peace. The people that protest him to this day need to get a life. He was young and made a mistake. He paid and then some, and he's an old man now. Time to let bygones be bygones.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

My grampa was born 90 years ago today! We sent him an album with some pictures from my sister's wedding. Happy birthday grampa! Some relatives are going over there today, including his sister Wilhelmina (Aunt Willie), who is 94, last I knew anyway. He lives in upstate NY, near Ithaca. Much of my extended family, including me, were born and raised in upstate NY. Our family lived just outside Auburn, which is about 30 miles SW of Syracuse. Here is a picture of grampa and I from last year.

My parents are staying at our house for a long weekend visit, and I took them to see this game last night between the Nationals and the Mariners, which was great fun. It was tied going into the bottom of the eighth inning, 3-3, and then the Nats, who were never in the lead to that point, blew it open with a six-run eighth inning, and went on to win by that score, 9-3. You should have heard the roar when they got the go-ahead run. Very impressive. The Washington Nationals are DC's brand new baseball team. They are doing really well this year and are even leading the NL East so far! They were the Montreal Expos until the league moved them this year to Washington DC.

On a side note, if you see anyone who looks like this and has this look on his face, it's a good bet he has either killed someone or is about to. Proceed with caution.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Non-Surprise Of The Week: GM In Deep Trouble

I saw a story just the other day about GM posting their twelfth straight declining sales month. For those of you counting at home, that's a full year of declining sales. Not good news for them. I saw a couple stories today that indicate that even for a company as enormous as GM, it's starting to hurt. Also, this editorial writer had an interesting take on it. Hector Vex had a post partly on this issue, which inspired me to write this post. Parts of this post are taken from comments that I put on his blog.

My first vehicle that was really mine was right after graduating college (undergrad anyway), in '95. It was an '87 Buick Somerset and the transmission blew up less than a year later, and the engine blew up less than six months after that. I don't fault GM for that though. It was old when I got it. The '94 Saturn SL1 that I got in '96 though was also a piece of crap. It had problem after major problem before I got rid of it for my first foreign car, a new 2001 Volkswagen Passat. It has had a couple problems, but by far the biggest problem was 100% covered by the warranty, so I didn't pay a dime. Yes, I did buy it new, but with the warranty not up until I hit 10/100,000 I'm pretty optimistic that my cost of ownership will stay low. GM is making the same stupid mistakes they did in 1981, when my parents bought their first Toyota. GM was still making boat-cars that people just didn't want. Today, they are still pushing hard for more SUV sales at a time when gas prices are dictating otherwise. (Hector says that they are trying to push their other models more too now, which I have not seen evidence of yet, but I will pay closer attention to it in the next few weeks.) They were also very slow to get on the hybrid bandwagon that is now booming. American reliability ratings are slowly improving, but they are still not good, GM vehicles especially (Ford is somewhat better). Make good cars and people will buy them. I'm not going to buy a vehicle that is going to bite me in the ass on the basis of making a "statement" that buying American is the way to go.

You also can't put much blame on those "evil unions". Why is that? Look at the countries where the other automakers are beating us. Japan. Do they work for cheap? Germany? Cheap labor there? Sweden? Cheap labor in Scandinavia? I don't think so. It has everything to do with market position, and not being agile enough to follow the trends. People buy Volvos, VWs, Toyotas, and the rest because they sell the types of vehicles that people want to buy. For the good of the US economy, it would be good for GM to do better, but don't expect me to advocate corporate welfare for them to cover their inefficient business practices.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

My Sister Is Married!

Here are some pictures of the happy event. In case anyone is wondering, I got all of these pics on my Fuji F-700 digital camera, including the digital video clip. First, my sister the beautiful blushing bride, married at 27 just like me. It will be difficult to get used to her with a different last name, not to mention all of the extra syllables in her new last name.

Katie and her brand new husband Kris dancing late in the evening. Katie still looks awake. Kris looks like he's about to fall over.

The proud Mom and Dad, at 56 and 62 respectively, looking great as always. They don't really like the spotlight too much, but they handled the whole thing with the utmost grace.

Katie with her maid of honor, Kim (on the left). Kim is very nice, and I talked to her quite a bit. She is recently married herself. I swear she's seven feet tall too.

One of the groomsmen, Rick, and his girlfriend Vanessa (though I might have mixed the names up with another couple, I met about 100 new people this weekend). Anyway, I chatted with her quite a lot also. She's very cute and funny. They've been together quite awhile but Rick hasn't gotten around to popping the question yet. If he still hasn't asked after they legalize polygamy, I will probably ask her myself.

My Aunt Doris, Uncle Chuck, and I. Uncle Chuck's wife is Aunt Vivi, who took the picture. Aunt Doris' husband, my Uncle Phil was at a grandson's graduation in Missouri I believe. My wife as I mentioned before, was at a friend's wedding in Chicago.

Aunt Vivi and Uncle Chuck during the "anniversary dance". They will have 50 years of marriage this January!

Click here for a short movie clip from when the wedding party was having pictures taken. They were told by the photographer to all jump in the air at once, and hilarity ensues!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

See You Monday After My Sister Gets Married!

Well, I'm off to my sister's aforementioned wedding in Florida near Jensen Beach tomorrow morning, flying in to West Palm Beach. My wife is off to her good friend's wedding in Chicago a couple hours after me. I'll be back with lots of pictures from my trusty Fuji FinePix F700 that I got for my birthday last year.

Meanwhile, maybe somebody can clue me in as to why so many conservatives (bloggers at least), think that Mark Felt (Deep Throat), is suddenly satan? Hey, that sounds like a sitcom name... "Suddenly Satan", starring Bob Saget... Anyway, whatever axe he may or may not have had to grind, do you think that we really would have been better off not knowing what a nut Tricky Dick really was?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Parental Involvement: It's What's For Dinner!

So it seems that my conservative friends are once again beating the "public schools are all failures" drum, and the ever-present "and by the way it's the Democrats' fault" cymbals with it. I hate to upset the upstanding people in marching bands around the country with my metaphor, but I'm not part of the PC crowd, so as the Australians say, "Bad luck!"

I always find it interesting how many conservatives rail against public schools as a failure, and say that kids that go to private schools have a tendency to be more successful on the whole. Regarding the average success of the kids, you know what, it might surprise you to know that I think you're probably quite right! The problem for your "public schools suck" thesis though, is that this fact is largely irrelevant. Why? It's because you are completely ignoring the other variables that go along with it. I don't see any sane people going around saying that blacks are inherently more prone to commit crime than whites. This is because we understand that the "third variable" here is economic, and that when you adjust for that, there are almost no demographic differences there. Therefore, we correctly say that race has no significant effect. So what is the third variable in this case? Parental involvement. There are a large percentage of parents that are very involved in their children's education on every level and in most every school. Those parents are not generally the ones that have drug problems or are neglecting or abusing their children. I'm talking about everyday parents, most of which send their kids to public school. Parents that send their kids to private school and are willing to shell out the money to do it, are certainly going to fall into the motivated segment as well. If you were to eliminate the kids with disengaged parents from the public school figures, then suddenly your average is probably going to be right there with the private schools, not to mention a lot cheaper! There is not a high percentage of schools in this country that I would feel that a child of mine could not get a good education.

Of course, then there is the ideology question. Yes, there is always that. If the Sunday dose of religion is not enough for your liking, then by all means send your kids to private school. I would never begrudge you that choice. If you don't want your kids to learn evolution or sex ed or whatever you are railing against this week, then fine, go for it. If public schools are such a failure, and you aren't sending your kids there, why do you care anyway? You've got plenty of schools where you can learn your version of reality. Aren't these some of the same people that get upset when their choice of Pope was analyzed so thoroughly, since if they aren't Catholics, why should they care? The same ones that say that if you don't like the direction America is headed in, then leave? Take your own advice. Plunk down the 20K per kid to send them to private school and quit complaining.

This brings me to to the "plague of immorality" issue, touched upon in the last post. Parents today have more choices in how to raise their kids than at any other time in history. You have unprecedented geographic mobility, myriad school choices you can send your kid to, a couple dozen educational channels on TV, v-chips, web filters, movie, TV, and video game ratings, and all kinds of other ways that you can ensure that little Johnny sees the world in exactly the way that you want him to see it. Go ahead and complain that this stuff exists, but it still all comes down to parental involvement when you see how the kids turn out. The world is not falling apart nearly as much as you think it is.

Here's your nice generous helping of parental involvement. It gives you a strong brain and a healthy sense of ethics. What do you mean "why"??? It's because Paris Hilton told you it's what's for dinner! Now, eat up!