Monday, February 28, 2005

The Kos Democrats

Jonathan Last said on his blog Galley Slaves:

Immediately following the 2004 election, I was talking to a friend who's a Democratic activist and I told him that in order for the Dems to become competitive nationally, they'd have to jettison the Kos-Moore wing of the party. My friend insisted it was impossible because the Kos-Moore wing is the Democratic party. The ascension of Howard Dean and this AARP link to Kos now suggest that my friend was correct.

But I'm still not buying it.
It's not so much that the Dean/Kos group IS the party, but they do have all the energy, and pretty soon they'll have most of the money (if they don't already).

I will go one further. The radical wing of the party, are really the only ACTIVE component of the party. The rest of the party are concentrated solely on maintaining what hold they have, and obstructing Bush.

More in the extended entry...


The Radicals are actually attempting to do something (albeit something bad), and this is what captures the imagination, garners press, and draws money. Fighting a rear guard action is unglamorous, messy, and expensive, both monetarily, and more importantly politically.

Honestly, I think the party is in a death spiral at this point. They have been generally defeated, or at the very least lost ground, six elections in a row. They are desperate, and they have no real purpose but to defend "the new deal" and "the great society", 70, and 40 some years old respectively.

A party centered on nothing but holding ground will not bring in new support, and their older support is fading, or even literally dying out. They have already lost most of the blue collar vote, and would have lost the entire group were it not for the organized labor unions, who represent an ever smaller percentage of the population.

The only major organized, or semi-organized constituencies Democrats have left are blacks, teachers, government workers, and current recipients of welfare or social security.

To put it mildly this is not an election winning group.

I soar with the Eagles

Because I am a flappy flappy bird. Yes, I have achieved my stated goal, in only two weeks no less.

But, the lust for power, the ambition, it overcomes me.... I want MOOOOORE!!!!!

Soon, SOON I shall mock you with my monkeypants.

UPDATE: 12 more links and I'll actually be a mammal

Talking in code

I'm in the middle of writing somethign about political correctness, sensibilities and obfuscations. It'll be titled "The Code Culture" and it should be up some time later today.

This was insipred by the rather vigorous discussion on my homophobia post, here, and at Jason Kuznickis site Positive Liberty (which I highly recommend BTW. Great writer)

I'll be posting some of the comments made on both sites as illustration.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

DrunkBlogging the Oscars - Last Minute Predictions

Okay so the Oscars start in five minutes, and I figured I'd put up my last minute predictions.

But there's a twist, I havent seen ANY of the movies nominated, except for Sideways (which I really enjoyed BTW). I am basing my predictions entirely on my knowledge of pop culture, and the reported politics and buzz of hollywood.

More in the extended entry...


1. Best Picture

I'm going with 'million dollar baby here. Everyone loves to vote for controversial movies. It has a "mystery" ending, and everyone in the movie was nominated.

-- Ayup, picked it true. I don't think this was exactly a surprise. Thats the third time he's picked up two or more oscars for the same movie (three for unforgiven, two for mystic river)

2. Best Director

Scorsese, as a consolation prize for all the toher times he should have won

-- Strike four. Well Million dollar baby made all the majors but best actor, as most were expecting. I wasn't sure if it'd make the sweep, and Sorcese is way overdue, but they kept with the semi-indy. Really I figured the fact that Clint already had 5 oscars, and was certain to get his sixth for best picture was going to give the nod to Scorsese

3. Best Actor

Jamie Foxx, because of the few minutes I've seen of Ray he WAS Ray Charles for those two hours.

-- Got it in one again. I don't think this one was ever really in doubt, not matter what people were saying about Eastwood. If you've ever seen his standup he actually does a dead-on Poitier. Nice tribute to Grandma. Great speech.

4. Best Actress


Hilary Swank, for playing a controversial role, a sick person, and a death scene, in a sweep movie.

-- Got it in one. I like the girl, I think she's classy, and talented. She gets her first Oscar for playing a woman in drag, and her second for playing a female boxer. Remember her first big movie, the next Karate Kid? Think maybe she's being typecast as butch? Oh and I like her messing with the band like that.

5. Best Supporting Actor

Morgan Freeman, because he's always damn good, and million dollar baby is going to be the big winner tonight.

-- Yup, I was right. Damn that man has class. Great, short, speech.

6. Best Supporting Actress

I'm guessing Virgina Madsen for Sideways, mostly as a consolation to Sideways because it isnt winning a major category

-- Strike one, Cate Blanchett. I didnt see The Aviator, so I can't comment on her peformance there, but she's generally good, and anyone who can take on Katherine Hepburn deserves at least an award for balls.

7. Best Original Screenplay

Im guessing the Aviator gets it, but hotel Rwanda might have grabbed the guilt vote.

-- Strike three, Charlie Kauffman. This one surprises me, becuase it went to Jim Carrey Sci-Fi dramedy, three types with a long history of failure. I'm guessing it was because Kauffman was nominated twice before with no win, and eveyrone loved Malkovich and Adaptation.

8. Best Adapted screenplay

Tough one, might be million, but I think "finding neverland" gets a sympathy vote.

-- Nope, strike two.Sideways, which I definitely enjoyed, but I don't know if it's Oscarworthy

I have to say, Paul Giamatti was screwed over on Sideways not getting a best actor nomination, when sideways was nominated in almsot every major category.

Oh and Chris Rock, I'm guessing is going to bring down the house, but he has to be a lot cleaner than his usual piece. We shall see what we shall see.

18:42 Chris Rock: This is why I love Chris Rock. He has no problem offending everyone, and he's right, and funny. Oh and Halle Berry is DAMN HOT!!!

18:47 Renee Zellweger: DAMN, girl got a 20" waist in that dress. They keep saying shes not anorexic, but from what I hear she overexcercises, which is the same damn thing.

18:54 Robin Williams: You know, Robin is still funny, but he was funnier with the coke

18:56 Animation: I LOVE the incredibles, and I'm glad to see it recognized. DO NOT CELEBRATE MEDIOCRITY!!!!!!!!

18:59 Chris Rock: Ok, he's hittin on the race thing a bit much, and I'm guessing it gets worse through the evening.

19:01 Drew Barrymore: Normally I lust after young Drew, but she looks like a Liza Impersonator here. And Beyonce, ok I speak french, and the hard annunciations are HORRIBLE, plus that dress... lampshade.

19:32 Counting Crows: Wow, I've never heard them suck this bad. I mean they usually suck live, but they really mailed it in on this one. I am officially switching to drunkblogging this one. If it's all gonna suck this hard I need some whisky.

19:35 DrunkBlogging: Ahhhh sweeet sweet Bushmills

19:42 Adam Sandler: Okay whoever wrote that bit needs to be hurt, severely and repeatedly.

19:46 Jake Gyllenhal: Oak. This guy makes Al Gore look like Sammy Davis Junior.

19:50 Al Pacino: Wow, I think Al beat me to the whisky by a few hours.

19:57 Sidney Lumet: Damn, great speech. This one is going to be remembered, at least in the biz .

20:26 Salma Hayek: I always say, I love this woman until she opens her mouth. Nothings changed here. Thank you so much for fellating a psychotic cummunist murderer. Of course after doing Frida it's not surprising.

20:48 Yo Yo Ma: Normally I love Ma, and I truly lvoe the cello, but either he's having a bad night, or this arrangement is off... No listening to it more, he's definitely having an off night. I'm glad to see the put Reagan first. And I have to say, theres a lot of folks who'll be missed on that list. I was watching crossing Jordan the other night and saw Paul Winfield. Man he had one hell of a voice.

20:57 Beyonce: What's with all the fishtail flared gowns? At least half a dozen of the women have worn them.

20:59 Prince: Uhhhhh, dude, what crawled up and died on your head? Ahh I don't care, you still kick ass man.

21:02 Sean Penn: Hmm, looks like he's on the Stevie Ray Vaughn special (note for the unhip, Cocaine Dissolved in Jack Daniels). Reminding me of, I need more whisky.

21:22 Charlize Theron: Prior to tonight I would have thought it was impossible to make Charlize Theron look bad without 4 hours of makeup. I was wrong, apparently 30 seconds of wardrobe will do the job as well.

21:34 It's all over:Only 3 and a bit hours, good opening, lame humor throughout, but honestly, not that interesting. Nothing really surprising, no big shows, no incredible speeches, and other than overplaying the black thing, nothing bad from Chris Rock. Oh and I only made 50% on my predictions.

The Big Stick

"The Roman Republic fell, not because of the ambition of Caesar or Augustus, but because it had already long ceased to be in any real sense a republic at all. When the sturdy Roman plebeian, who lived by his own labor, who voted without reward according to his own convictions, and who with his fellows formed in war the terrible Roman legion, had been changed into an idle creature who craved nothing in life save the gratification of a thirst for vapid excitement, who was fed by the state, and who directly or indirectly sold his vote to the highest bidder, then the end of the republic was at hand, and nothing could save it. The laws were the same as they had been, but the people behind the laws had changed, and so the laws counted for nothing."
--Theodore Roosevelt


And people wonder why I'm such a huge fan of TR considering how non-libertarian he was. I contend that his non-lbertarian actions were all calculated from, and intended to strengthen libertarian ideals.

HT: Lucius at SondraK

Jason from Positive Liberty responds

By completely ignoring what I meant, and arguing the details of my homophobia essay.

My whole point is expressed in this statement:

I could not care less who anyone loves or has sex with, I just hate the characterization of people who disagree with this, or any, idea as mentally ill, evil, Ignorant, or stupid.


More in the extended entry...

Yes, some of them truly hate without justification, some of them truly fear without reason, but most of them have reasons. They are reasons I disagree with, but they are reasons nonetheless.

We can say they are wrong, but calling them crazy is offensive, and counterproductive.

We don't call racists mentally ill, we don't call sexists mentally ill, but we do call people who hate or dislike, or disapprove of homosexuals and homosexuality mentally ill, and I find that idea offensive.

UPDATE: One of my commenters, Kris, made the point that the problem is with the word.

See I don't deny homphobia exists, because there are certainly homophobes, my problem is with the general application of the term to everyone who hates, dislikes, or disapproves of homosexuals. Homophobia is a mental illness, and most of those people are not mentally ill.

So his suggestion is that we need a new word, to be used in the same way as we use the term racist or sexist.

I've thought of this myself, but I cant think of a good word to use.

Sexualist would be a reasonably relevant term, but it sounds more like somebody who's good in bed. Sexism is already taken (though it really should be genderism).

How about we get rid of isms entirely as not very useful, and use more accurately descriptive terms. Kris suggested Gay-Hatred, which applies to some, but not to all.

Oh wait; there's a point there....

These terms apply to some, but not to all. They paint everyone with the same broad, and generally inaccurate brush and THAT is what I have a problem with.

UPDATE 2: I am in the top 10 when someone searches technorati for "homosexual". One assumes that will do interesting things to my traffic and comments.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Strong Childhood Memories

I was looking at this retrorush retrospective on theme songs, and I found something I had been searching for for some time.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm something of a pop culture junky. This is going to sound incredibly silly, but I collect Starblazers stuff. Not Space Battleship Yamato BTW, theres plenty of that stuff available from the j-pop-culture market, but actual starblazers stuff.

See, Starblazers is actually the very earliest cartoon I can remember ever watching, twice a day on Channel 56 in Boston as a little kid. That theme song is DRILLED into my head, and finally, I have managed to get a high quality, full length version, to sit alongside Battlestar Gallactica and the TNG themes in my playlist.

Download and lyrics in the extended entry...

For anyone interested, here's the highly illegal copyright violating download of 'The Quest for Iscandar', the theme from Starblazers

For some reason it reminds me very strongly of the Russian national anthem, as sung by the red army choir.

Of course I HAVE to share the lyrics with you now that I've shared the theme itself.

The Quest for Iscandar

We're off to outer space
We're leaving Mother Earth
To save the human race
Our Star Blazers

Searching for a distant star
Heading off to Iscandar
Leaving all we love behind
Who knows what danger we'll find?

We must be strong and brave
Our home we've got to save
If we don't in just one year
Mother Earth will disappear

Fighting with the Gamilons
We won't stop until we've won
Then we'll return and when we arrive
The Earth will survive
With our Star Blazers

We're off in outer space
Protecting Mother Earth
To save the human race
Our Star Blazers

Danger lurking everywhere
But we know we've got to dare
Evil men with evil schemes
They can't destroy all our dreams

We must be strong and brave
Our home we've got to save
We must make the fighting cease
So Mother Earth will be at peace

Through all the fire and the smoke
We will never give up hope
If we can win the Earth will survive
We'll keep peace alive
With our Star Blazers
Honestly this whole theme song retrospective is worth checking out.

Now I need to grab the themes to MacGyver, Dallas, Hunter, Spencer, L.A. law, Matt Houston, Simon and Simon, Riptide, and a better version of the A-Team. Oh and from the 70's gotaa have S.W.A.T.

I've already got Airwolf, the dukes of hazzard, the fall guy, Magnum P.I., The Paper Chase, Night Court, Barney Miller, and Nokie Edwards doin Hawaii 5-0.

Actually if anyone has high quality versions of any of these drop me a line. Mine arent so great. Most of them are available here, but they are in .RA format, and I want .mp3

Homophobia is offensive

Homophobia - n.
  1. Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.
  2. Behavior based on such a feeling.
Homophobia is offensive.

Not the commonly accepted defnition of homophobia, but the word itself, and the concepts it represents.

Yes, the concept of hating or disliking, or disapproving of someone because of their sexual choices strikes me as silly, but that's not what I'm talking about.

The entire concept of homophobia is that people who don't like homosexuals, or homosexual behavior, are irrational, and that their only reason for that dislike is fear, or ignorance.

I'm going to say right now, that's bullshit.

More in the extended entry...

This concept assumes that if somehow people are more exposed to gay life, or if they are able to "get over their fear", then all will be sweentess and light, and everyone will accept gays.

The most vocal proponents of the homophobia concept also frequently espouse something that just about EVERYONE finds offensive. They often say that people who don't like gays feel that way because they themselves are gay, and they hate themselves for it.

Bullshit.

I hate communists. I loathe their ideas, I loathe what they say, I loathe what they do. If a communist tries to have any influence over my life I will strenuously resist, perhaps up to the point of violence; Does that mean I am commiephobic? I don't have an irrational fear of communists, nor am I ignorant of communists ideas. I have plenty of exposure to communist ideas, and I reject them utterly. Does this mean I'm secretly a communist, and hate myself because of it?

Of course not.

I hate communists because the ideas and goals they espouse are evil and wrong, as are the methods they use to achive them. Man should be free, and have control over his own life, and his own goods. Communists believe exactly opposite what I do, and so long as they attempt to act against my beliefs I will continue to hate them.

My point here is that I have both rational, and personal arguments against communism that have nothing to do with fear or irrationaility or ignorance.

The real purpose of the word homophobia, is to make gay people feel better about themselves. It paints their detractors as they would say their detractors pain them, as compulsive, out of control, mentally ill, irrational, or subhuman.

Only if you assume that homosexuality is a mental illenss, can you ascribe the counter position to a mental illness, which is what homophobia literally is. A phobia is a compulsive mental illness that should be treated.

Now let me clarify, I don't mean to say that in some people fear or ignorance isn't the primary motivator, and in others a subsidary motivator, but the ascription of this to the entire realm of dislike or disapproval or homosexuals, or homosexual behavior, is both offensive, and counterproductive. It doesn't help people to stop hating, disliking, or disapproving of gays to call those people mentally ill.

If you accept that homosexuality is either an inherent nature, or a choice (and I believe it can be either, or both, depending on the person), then you must accept that there are people who on the other side either are inherently anti-gay, or who rationally choose to be anti-gay.

In argument, there is a tactic that relies on a logical fallacy, the ad hominem circumstantial argument of undesireable motives, or appeal to motive. If you ascribe an undesireable motive to those that hold a position contrary to your own, you can then attack the person to undermine their argument, without actually attacking the argument itself. If you say that people who disapprove of homosexuality are operating from fear or hate, you are attacking the man, but not the message.

There are both personal, and rational motives for anti-gay positions.

Homosexuality is by all scientific measure a far more risky lifestyle than heterosexuality. The physical activity itself is riskier, as well as the social environment. Gays tend not to plan for the future. Gays tend to be more prone to depression, self destructive behavior, and suicidal tendencies (for many reasons).

Please note, I am not claiming these statements are universally true, only that they are stastically true.

Despite all the media messages to the contrary, the primary vector for AIDS in the united states is still unprotected gay sex. The primary AIDS vector for straight people who don't use IV drugs, is unprotected sex with a bisexual person, or a partner of a bisexual person. This is especially true in the black and hispanic communities where secret homosexuality is far more common than among whites or Asians.

Note: Asians are statistically four times more likely to be openly gay than blacks. Asians are eight times as likely, and hispanics are more than five times as likely to be transgender than any other racial group. I have always wondered why that is, because social factors alone can't account for it.

The social enviroment of gay courtship is still, 25 years after the rise of AIDS, a very risky, and often hollow place. There are still many semi anonynmous relationships. Many men have dozens if not hundreds of partners. Many men still do not use condoms (do a search on any personal ads site for bareback if you don't believe me). Hang out with gay men for any length of time and you will hear them lament these very things. I'm not going to talk about the reasons behind this except to say they are many and varied, and they may not be so prevalent if homosexuality were more accepted in society, but we don't know.

What about the psychological health argument? How many truly happy gay men do you know? I have known hundreds of gay men, I know very few happy ones. I have known hundreds of lesbians, again I know very few happy ones. Without a doubt they are unhappier when they don't acknowledge their homosexuality, or worse, when they do acknowledge it, but hate themselves because of it, but even once they are open and accepting of their sexuality, rarely are they happy. Once again, the reasons behind this are many and varied, and they may ease if society becomes more accepting of gays, but maybe not.

Gay men and women also find it a hell of a lot more difficult to have and raise children than straight folks, and don't ever think that isn't a big deal to a lot of people. Whether motivated by faith, or by morals, or by science and demographics, theres a lot of folks who think that people should have kids. How many moms do you know who have adult children, and DON'T want to be a grandmother?

Again, I'm not saying these are universal truths, but they are generally and statistically true.

And then there is the argument of faith.

There are about 3 billion people in this world, who firmly and faithfully believe that homosexuality is inherently wrong from a moral standpoint; Ether as the explicit commandment of god, or as a behavior that causes damage to the soul. You may believe these peoples religion is stupid, irrational, wrong, or a symptom of mental illness, but it is very real for them.

Leaving the reasoning behind people positions aside, just because people believe that homosexuality is wrong, doesnt mean that they hate, or fear homosexuals.

My best fried is still a catholic, though I'm guessing the last time he went to church was about the same time I did. His youngest brother came out last year. The funny thing is, I knew the kid was gay from the time he was 7 or 8, and I think he probably knew too. Sure he tried dating girls, but he always knew it just wasn't right for him. The last people to figure it out were, of course, his family. They have a very major problem with his homosexuality. They believe that what he is doing is wrong, and that he is making himself unhappy (and he is, for whtaever reason). His parents want grandchildren. They worry about his safety. They worry about disease. They love their son, but they hate that he is gay. They do not fear him, or hate him, they are not ignorant of him or his feelings, or his life, but they hate that he is gay.

Of course the perfect kicker to this piece would be to announce that I am gay. Well, much to the disappoint of my friend Aiden, I am not, but I am also not one of those folks who belive that homosexuality is wrong. To my mind, someones sexuality has very little to do with what I think of them as a person, but their attidude, and their behavior certainly does.

I hate bitter angry queens. I hate people who thrust their gayness in my face and scream it in my ears. I hate people who tell me that I'm a bigot, or stupid, or unenlightened because I don't like their behavoir. I hate people who's gayness is the only thing in their life.

You know what I really hate? I hate this chant:

"We're here, W'ere Queer, Get over it"

Guess what, I got over it a long time ago, but obviously you haven't.

150,000

Sometime last evening my counter ticked over 150,000.

Well it only took me eight years to get this far.

I first started recording stats on my home page in April of '97. From 04/97 to 10.x days ago I recorded 148,605 uniqe visitors, about two thirds of them to my resume.

That works out to about 50 hits a day.

In the last 10.x days since I've put up my blog, I've recorded about 1500 unique visitors, just about tripling my daily average.

Not too bad, I guess I'm doin something right.

Of course I look at my average daily unique visits of about 150, and then I look at somebody like Kim DuToit (a friend of mine, and my most frequent web page visited because I am an active particpant in, and the moderator of the Nation of Riflemen Forums) with 15,000 or so daily uniques ,and weekly traffic matching what I've seen in eight years, and it puts things into perspective.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Faith, Beliefs, and Ideas

His Holiness Pope John Paul II had a tracheotomy yesterday. For those who don't know, this is a procedure where you have to open a hole in the trachea below an obstruction (usually just a bit below the larynx, which has become inflamed or crushed, between the third and fourth tracheal rings), and insert a tube to allow air to pass into the lungs.

The media is playing down how serious a procedure this is, especially for a man who's primary duty includes speaking. Yes, it is a relatively routine procedure, and it's not generally life threatening, but for an 85 year old man with respiratory problems... Well I don't think there's any question that this pope will not be with us very much longer.

Anyway, you might have notice that I like taking on tough subjects. This news got me thinking about religion, and about faith (which I think is more significant), and I thought I'd talk here about how I left the catholic church, and how the church left me.

Please bear with me, this is going to be a very long, and very personal ramble. It may not be very coherent, but I promise it will be honest, and thats the best anyone can give.

More in the extended entry...

I call myself a recovering catholic; It's kind of like being an alcoholic, you never stop being an alcoholic, you're just in recovery for the rest of your life. I still find myself making the gestures, reciting hail marys to msyelf when I'm not thinking about it, sometimes reaching for a crucifix that isn't there, and it's been 15 years since I regularly attended church.

I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, to an Irish born father, and a 2nd generation Irish American mother. Particularly I was born in southie, and lived in southie, and then Roslindale til I was 2, then I lived in Milton with my grandparents til I was 5, then Dorchester for a couple years, and back to Milton, then Randolph, and back to Milton, then Quincy, then Canton, etc...

I moved a couple of other places for six months, or a year at a time, but we always came back to Milton until I was 13 and we stopped moving around. I lived in Milton from 13, until I left home at 16. I had two constants in this time, moving back to Milton every few months or a year, and the Catholic church.

My mother didn't make me go all the time, not every Sunday, but I went to first catechism and junior catechism and religon til my first holy communion at age 7, and then CCD and religion until I was confirmed at 13 (yeah, they get us young in Boston; my stepsister here in AZ didn't take communion til 9, and was confirmed at 16).

Anyway Milton, the town I mostly grew up in is, according to the U.S. census, the most catholic town in America (48%), and the most Irish town in America (43%; they do sort of go together). Just about everyone who wasnt Irish was italian, and most of the kids around me had names like Flaherty, Doherty, Shaugnessy, etc... My town was so catholic, that they actually used to let us out of public school in the middle of the day so we could go to religion class at the catholic school jsut down the street.

In a town of 30,000 we had one public high school, one Jr High, and five elementary schools, with a total of less than 5000 public school students, and five or six (I can't remember) catholic high schools, with about 5000 students (plus three other secular private schools with about 2000 students, and five major schools in the surrounding towns, almost all of them catholic, with probably 5000 students from Milton).

Well from that little soup of numbers you can see that the families where I grew up had LOTS of kids, and well over half of them went to catholic school. The point of all this is that I grew up in a pervasively catholic culture. It surrounded me at all times, almost like the air that I was breathing.

I remember from a very young age having some very definite ideas about god, and jesus.

A lot of what the church was saying I just thought was garbage, but I still felt the spirit in church. When I was in St. Marys of the hills (where my mom was married, and I recieved my first communion and was confirmed), I very strongly felt the presence of god. In fact I still do; I went to the church the last time I was in town a few months ago, and those same feelings were there for me. Stepping into the nave, I felt the presence of god settle about me like a cloak over my neck and shoulders. An almost physical presence, but very much not, if that makes any sense.

When I was in CCD getting ready for my confirmation, things started changing for me.

I knew a lot about religion, and had read just about everything I could, reading the bible back and forth, as well as english translations of every holy book I could find, and still I felt that the catholic church was my spiritual home. My feelings about god, and my relationship with god just felt at home with the church.

But things jsut werent quite right. I still felt god in the church, what I didn't feel anymore was god in the men teaching me. More and more I felt cynicism, and manipulation at worst, and frustration and desparation at best. We did get one great young priest, but he had some non traditional ideas about brith control, and gays, and that just wasnt on where I grew up, so they sent him away. We had old, mostly Irish priests, and old Irish nuns, and bitter middle aged christian brothers instructing us, and it just didnt feel right.

Just as bad, I also no longer felt god in what they were saying, if indeed I ever really had.

Aside from the feel of it, many things in my head were at odds with what the church preached. I don't believe in the immaculate conception. I dont believe that Jesus ascended bodily in to heaven. I do believe in sin in the nature of man, but not in the sense of original sin of Eve.

I have to say that honestly, while I felt the spirit and presence of god, I had no faith in religion. By some peoples definition, I have no faith at all.

I started thinking about what I really did believe, and what I had faith in. I don't think my faith every really changed, just how I thought about it, and how I expressed it, to myself. I thought a lot about how I was leaving the church with every thought, and how the church was leaving me.

With every young priest that they discouraged, the church was leaving me. With every gay man they denounced, the church was leaving me. With every abortion that happened because a stupid teenager didnt have birthcontrol, the church was leaving me.

Then some friends of mine were molested by some of those bitter old men. The church covered it up. A few weeks later the first gulf war happened and the church left me for good. The last time I stepped into a church for years, was when the pope came out against the first gulf war. I couldnt stand the hipocrisy of being againsta truly just war, but covering up child abuse.

I haven't taken the host since my confirmation in 1990.

I started thinking more and more about how to express my beliefs; not in worship, but just explaining them, to myself if no-one else.

I figured out that I believed in some very big, but not very clear things.

I believe that there are three essential motivating force in the universe; Creativity, Entropy, and Chaos.

Chaos is that from which all is formed and to which all returns; undirected, without form, function, structure, or intent.

Creativity is that which gives form, and purpose to the chaos.

Entropy is that which returns that which has been created, into the chaos.

If you've ever taken any physics you'll see where I'm coming from here.

Through all time, human kind has sought to devine some purpose in this great universal structure. Eventually, they found spirits, and then gods, and finally, one god.

To my mind, God, as christians think of him, is a personification. God is the expression of sentience that directs the creativity of the universe. God is indeed creation, and love, and spirit.

Throughout time, people have chosen to serve aspects of these forces. Those who have served God, and the deities and spirits of creativity that came before the rise of the jews some 6-8000 years ago were serving creativity.

Entropy is the negation of creativity. The creation of chaos. Entropy is pain, and eventual nothingness. Those who have served evil, in all it's forms, have served entropy.

Please note, in this system you can clearly see, that entropy is the rejection, and repudiation of God, and eventually the total absence thereof. There is a significant school of thought (including most jewish thought), that hell is the absence of god, nothing more nothing less.

There are those beings whose pain is so great, in their rejection and repudiation of god, that they would do anything to bring the nothingness of oblivion. Only in this nothingness can their pain end. There are also those being who have thought to increase their own personal power throguh entropy. Entropy in it's grossest forms, appears stronger than creativity, and it is in all ways easier to weild, and easier to access. It is easier to tear down a house, than to design and build it. It is easier to cause pain, than to heal it.

There are those who have served chaos, and all it's embodiments, and universally they have been considered insane.

All throughout time (I've said that a lot haven't I), these same themes have recurred, in all faiths, and all religions; not only that they are encoded into the very physical laws of the universe. This cannot possibly be a coincidence, and the perhaps 40,000 years of "civilized" humans who came along before the Jews cant all have ended up in hell, or purgatory, or limbo etc... God is eternal, but the belief in him clearly has not been.

I believe he IS eternal, and he has been, because he is the sentience of creativity, and all godheads of a creative nature since the beginning of civilization have been aspects of god. Man did not understand how to percieve him; until he revealed himself to the Jews; and made the covenant.

Now I'm going to say something some might consider crazy. A few years ago, I was going through a very difficult time. I had just come back from a reserve deployment, and was getting ready to head back to classes. Some very unpleasant things had happened during this deployment. A few months earlier my fiancee had killed herself. I was feeling... very dead. While I was in the field, I had shut myself down, blocked all emotions, all reactions, it was just mission.

I got back, and I started wondering, what was the point. I had all these skills and opportunities, but I had nothing inside of me. I was empty, and dead.

One afternoon I'm just sitting there, not really watching the TV, thinking about things, and I had what I can only describe as a visitation. I wont belabor the point, but I spoke to Jesus Christ that day. He told me that I had a job to do, and that if I wasted my life, or screwed it up, or missed the opportunities I needed not to miss, or didnt help the people I needed to help, he would be very disappointed in me. He wasn't angry with me, but the look in his eyes when he spoke was enough to make me cry just a bit.

The next day I tried to go to church. I went to this big, ugly southwestern catholic church, and every minute of it felt wrong. Not only did I not feel the presence of god, but I felt the suck of the void. I swear that I felt evil in that church, and I left, very quickly, long before the service was over.

I hadn't set foot inside a catholic church since, until my trip back to Boston a few months ago. I had tried going to other churches, but they all felt, at best, like a group of nice, friendly people, and at worst, they felt horribly wrong.

The catholic church is my home, but I have left it, and it has left me.

I've tried going to my local catholic church a few times, I just havent managed to do it. I want to talk to a priest over there, but I can't seem to get one of them for a useful length of time to talk about things. I'm not going back to church unless there is a priest I like, and I trust, and who I can feel the spirit of god with, and the strength of faith in.

I believe in God, and in Christ. I believe in true good, and true evil. I believe in angels, and demons, and spirits. I belive that there is far more to the spritual world than most churches are willing to admit, or talk about, or if they do, they attribute it all to satan, or demons.

I have faith. I have faith in God, and in myself, but I don't have faith in the church, or the bible, and I don't think I can.

I just don't know where that leaves me.

The Carnival of Cordite

This weeks Carnival of Cordite is up over at the GullyBorg

More gunny goodness you shall rarely find.

I proudly proclaim that I am...

A SLITHERING REPTILE!!!!!!

Next step, Flappy Bird baby

Also, I'm working on a pretty logn psot about faith right now. Should be up before noon.

Tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell your mom, LINK WHORE FOR ME!!!!

UPDATE: As of 12:30 I'm still working on the faith post. It is longer and ramblier than I thought, and is growing by the minute.

No, I havent been writing non stop since this morning, I had to do some actual work for a while, and I had two phone interviews, and a vendor teleconference.

Actually I've only been writing for the last hour or so, and it's already at 2000 words. When I get on a roll bad, and significantly verbose things can happen.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fusion, will it ever happen

Someone brought up some alternative energy articles at the nation of riflemen forum, and it broguht me over to SDB's archive at uss clueless which got me to thinking again about fusion, and more specifically how terrestrial fusion isnt going to be a viable solution for a hell of a long itme if ever.

Anyway I wrote this a while back, and I'm updating it here because it's something I want to talk about with "my audience".

I said above, IF fusion is ever going to be viable, meaning that I think there are some reasons that's going to be tough. There's a few BIG issues here on the fusion topic:

More in the extended entry...

1. Touch off point/break even point.

This is the amount of energy and reactive mass (which are ultimately the same thing but that's nother topic) required to produce a self sustaining reaction that outputs more energy then it sucks in. Basically how do we get the damned thing primed. Thus far we have been mostly unsuccessful in reaching the breakeven point. The few times it was MAYBE achieved it didn't last long and it was uncontrolled which brings up point two.

2. Controllability

We have no idea how to control a self sustaining fusion reaction, or if it is even possible to control. the best ideas so far involve massive torroidal field generators which control plasma flow. Small problem, what happens when the energy of the fusion reaction vastly exceeds the energy of the fields controlling that reaction? Oh and assuming we contain the reaction how do we throttle it without dropping below the touchoff point? Because the natural tendency of the reaction is to grow til the point where it is either fuel exhausted, too unstable to continue, or otherwise self limiting for various reasons.

According to everything we know (which I'll admit isn't a hell of a lot) these self limiting points are far greater than we can currently handle, or even have any concept of how we might handle them in the future.

If you don't believe me think about this. The largest fusion reactions we as humans are able to produce are in the gigaton range, the largest we can control are in the several molecule range (yes I know there's no basis for dimensional analysis here because the units are incompatible). These gigaton reactions are not inherently self limiting in the pure sense, though because of the methods used to initiate the fusion as well as the materials used in the devices and produced during the reaction (primarily tritium and helium which tend to absorb neutron flux) they actually are.

5. Neutron flux and hard alpha

Guess what folks, fusion reactions aren't 'clean' in that they do produce massive amounts of radiation that is harmful to carbon based life forms.Primarily these are in the form of neutron flux and alpha particle radiation.

Neutron flux is one of the primary sources of background radiation in the universe, all that nice radio noise, microwave radiation through space etc... But that's at light-years distance. At anything less than half an AU it starts getting more dangerous.

Hard alpha is the emission of high energy alpha particles. These nasty little buggers can at most cause the disintegration of your molecular structure (not atomic structure, molecular structure) and at the least cause genetic defects in a few cells. It's kind of like shooting marbles with your molecules, cept the relatively large molecules that make up much of our bodies are like 1" aggies and the little alpha particle is a BB some asshole just shot at them.

6. Fuel

So far the best success we've had with fusion comes from using hydrogen isotopes (some blend of tritium and deuterium) as the reactive mass. There's three problems with this. First, too little tritium and deuterium and the reaction starves out. Second, too much and the reaction absorbs itself because tritium and deuterium absorb the neutron flux that is generated by and sustains the reaction. Third, tritium is literally the most expensive commercially available substance on the planet. The amount of tritium in a high quality watch is far less than a milligram and yet costs in the neighbourhood of $10. By comparison a gram of .999 fine commodity gold is also about $10. Doing the math out that means tritium is at least a thousand times more expensive than gold.

Also we still haven't figured out a way to produce tritium on a large scale that doesn't involve nuclear fission reactors, and there is no way to store it for long periods of time because tritium has this irritating tendency to decay into other substances (deuterium, helium, and hydrogen).

4. Usability

Okay so lets assume we have a controlled self sustaining reaction that doesn't explode massively, instantaneously burn all matter on the planet, or emit so much hard alpha and neutron flux that we all dissolve into flaming little puddles of semi organic goo that glow like light sticks. Let us further assume that we have figured out how to fuel these reactions without bankrupting national economies.

Big assumptions those.

But let's say we do get past these issues, and I am sure that eventually we will if we research enough, what do we do with this fusion reaction?

The instinctive gut response is "use the energy". Ok, how? The most widespread way we as a species have come up with to put energy to use is electricity. Alright so we turn it into electricity.

How?

In the past three hundred years we have come up with precisely four ways for generating practical amounts of electricity (and a couple of interesting but impractical things too, but I won't get into them here): Interesting chemical reactions (this includes solar), smashing crystals, rubbing dissimilar materials together, and moving magnets near each other.

How is it that we will use the fusion reaction to do one of these things?

Okay how do we use the energy form a fission reaction to generate electricity? Well primarily we use the waste heat of the reaction to boil water, which then builds into high pressure vapor, which can be forced through a turbine.

That process will use what, a millionth of a percent of the energy released in the fusion reaction, a billionth? And of course the rest will be waste.

That much waste heat will be at minimum interesting to deal with.

Oh if only there were direct conversion. Of course then we wouldnt need fusuion in the first place, or rather we wouldnt need terrestrial fusion, because all of our energy needs would be supplied by direct conversion of sunlight (instead of the now 10% or so maximum conversion efficiency we have with photovoltaic cells).

The Smartness Cult

This is a repost of a comment I made on an eternity road entry about intelligence. The subject was brought up in the comments on my Subtelty and bullshit post, and indeed the post itself, and I thought it'd be approrpiate here.

---------

Some folks assume that the very intelligent (or those that think they are) sit around all day congratulating themselves on how smart they are.

The mean of the various IQ tests I’ve had comes out to about 180, the lowest was 157, the highest over 200. According to the most recent numbers I’ve seen, there are somewhere between 6000, and 60000 people smarter than me in the world (gotta love those orders of magnitude eh).

That and $4.50 gets you a starbucks latte.

My intelligence is a fact of my life. I’m very proud of my capability, but my raw intelligence is no big deal to me. I generally don’t make a thing out of it, and when I mention it it’s as an interesting fact, or most frequently to explain why I was able to come up with an answer in the way I have (I'm a bit of a trivia nut and frequently come out with weird correct answers to weird obscure questions). I can’t imagine being any other way, and I just dont think about it on a daily basis.

As many have pointed out in the past, the highly intelligent really do think differently, and others often find it disconcerting. They may even be hostile to your ideas, no matter how they are presented, because of their own insecurity about intelligence. They may percieve you as arrogant. They may become self righteous.

Such is life.

More in the extended entry

Our society has a love hate relationship with intelligence. Clearly it is one of the highest commercially valued attributes. The very intelligent are in general higher valued by society than the less intelligent.

The intellectual elite certainly shout the praises of the highly intelligent, since of course they percieve themselves to be highly intelligent(often correctly; intelligence has little to do with common sense or factual reality).

On the other side, the intelligent are often looked on with self righteous indignation. “how dare they think they’re better than us”. Or we are geeks, freaks, weirdos (and I am, and I celebrate this fact) etc…

We mock the intelligent, we parody them, we have many derogatory stereotypes etc… Some discriminate against them. Some dont want to work with them.

We as a society are simply not comfortable with what we do not understand. The highly intelligent are therefore in a position where they understand more than most others, which makes many of those people uncomfortable, even resentful or fearful.

Unfortunately making this relationship worse, many very intelligent people are exactly what the rest of the world hates about us: they are arrogant and overbearing, they have poor social skills, they have little regard for others feelings etc…

Again, such is life.

The thing that angers me about all of this is those that pretend that either intelligence is not a factor, or that it is somehow unfair that some are more intelligent than others.

I ask, “How is it unfair using what god or nature or my parents gave me?”

So then they get into veil of ignorance or inherent value bullshit, which they almost invariably use to justify why I should be artificially handicapped against others, to “level the playing field”.

Excuse the vulgarity but, fuck you. Go read Harrison Bergeron and then please fuck off and die.

Hootie, oh how far the mighty have fallen

I just watched who I SWEAR is Darius rucker in a '50s kids show TV cowboy outfit singing a cheezy jingle for Burger King.

Oh my, how far the mighty have fallen.

From "Let her Cry" to "Cheezy crisp bacon cheddar raaaanch!!!"

Victimology

Victimology


Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink
It is I fear the same with people there's very few who think
It's not for me to criticize the culture that we link
To childhood experiences that've brought us to the brink
Of a society that's rapidly throwing it's future down the drink
And blaming it on our parents for beating our bottoms pink
And if everyone's a victim like some people seem to think
Then I guess it's painfully obvious
Why there are so many


GODDAMNED SHRINKS!!!!!

Subtlety and Bullshit

I have been criticized for not being subtle. For being too direct, too blunt, too aggressive and what have you.

Damn Skippy Bubba.

I can be quite subtle if I choose to be. I grew up in a family environment that required subtlety and manipulation skills par excellence just to survive.

In my work, I am often required to be subtle, and especially to be discrete. If I feel that is warranted, I certainly do so. For one, it's polite, and it only makes sense financially; If you are paying me to be nice to you, I'm going to be nice to you.

I CHOOSE to not be subtle. I choose to be direct, and blunt, and sometimes aggressive, because that's how I want to be. If that bothers you, I don't particularly care. My purpose in life is not to avoid bothering you.

I am a very confident person. I know my abilities, I know my limitations, I am absolutely certain about what I can or cannot do, and I make no bones about it.

When you combine these factors, I am often thought to be arrogant or "superior". GOOD.

I'm a damn smart cookie, and I know it. I'm physically strong and capable. I have a very broad base of experience, and a deep and useful education (both formal and personal). I have a right to be confident, and if my confidence makes you uncomfortable, that's your problem.

I don't think I'm better than everyone, but I damn well know I'm smarter, stronger, and more knowledgeable than a hell of a lot of people; If I wasn't I wouldn't be able to do my job. Why should I let the fact that you are emotionally incapable of being challenged without your fragile ego being coddled all the time cripple the way I work?

I love talking with people, exchanging ideas, debating, arguing, etc... I'll listen to you on almost anything if you are civil, or good looking. Just because I disagree with you, or know you are wrong, doesn't mean I didn't listen; It means I know you are wrong, or it isn't a matter of right or wrong, it's a matter of opinion, and my opinion is different from yours. We could have a nice debate or friendly argument about it, and maybe you'll change my mind, or I'll change yours, and hell, just the argument alone will be fun (I'm not a guy who takes other people having ideas other than mine personally) but don't expect be to respect your ideas just by virtue of you having them. If you have an idea, you damned well better be ready to vigorously defend it.

How is this arrogance? Have we completely lost the ability to distinguish arrogance from confidence and competence? Are we supposed to be unsure of ourselves at all times?

Well if you look at liberal reactions to anyone who shows any sort of certitude, that answer is apparently, yes. Some people seem to believe that NO-ONE should ever be sure they are right, and if they are they are either arrogant, evil, or stupid.

To those people I say, I'm right, you're wrong, life sucks, get a fucking helmet.

Coming soon...

Theres a bunch of things coming up in the next few days that I really need to get the motivation up to post.

1. A loooong post about inherent vs. constructed rights
2. Some more gun talk
3. Talking about some favorite books and movies
4. My recipe for the worlds greatest chili
5. A meat sauce that you can eat as a meal all by itself
6. Turkey potato soup worth killing for
7. More job stuff
8. Talking about the misrepresentation of rights, especially of gun rights, in episodic television
9. Talking about sleep deprivation, and sleep patterns
10. Other random stuff

I said in the comments on one of my first posts, the biggest problem I'mna have here is throttling myself. When I get on a roll, I could pretty easily post three 2-3 thousand word rants every day, and somehow I don't think that would increase my readership.

I've noted that my favorite blogs produce 1-2000 words a day, generally broken up into four or five posts. I tend to be a bit wordier, without even realising it. For example, I figured this little post would be maybe a paragraph, but it's turning out to be about 250 words.

Maybe I need an editor. One who WONT change the meaning of everything I say like my last editor.

Why I carry a gun

My favorite anecdote about Bill Jordan goes something like this:

Now Ol' Bill, he was a direct man, and a big one at that, so most of the folks he put away were willing to chalk it up to "just business", and leave it at that.

Well Bill heard this feller was raisin' a stink about comin' round to get some back at him for, but he didn't think too much of it.

A few days later, Bills sittin' out there on his porch, and he's got his trademark combat magnum in his lap. His neighbor walks by and says to bill "See ya got yer pistol there Bill, you 'spectin trouble?", So says Bill "Nope, if I was expeting trouble, I'd have my rifle"

I carry a gun whenever it is legal, and not impolite for me to do so. When I am entering the home or place of business of someone I don't know, I will inform them I am armed, and ask them if they would prefer I not carry a gun while there.

It's just polite.

A lot of people ask me "Why do you carry a gun, do you expect trouble?"

No, I carry a gun not because I expect trouble, but because I can. If I was expecting trouble I'd carry a 12ga.

More in the extended entry...

The practice of carrying a weapon is a clear assertion that I am a man. By that I'm not talking about macho bullshit; By saying I am a man, I mean that I am an adult, responsible for my actions, and willing to accept the consequences of them.

When you carry a gun you have in your hands (or on your hip), the ability to end any mans life. This is a massive responsibility, second only to that of raising children.

Many people are uncomfortable with that responsiblity. They believe that they can't be trusted with it, and by extension, neither can anyone else. They fall back on saying "the police" or "the government" should take care of that. Someone with special training, and the blessings of the state should be responsible, but not me, or you, or anyone else.

I can think of no clearer way of saying "I am immature, and not to be trusted".

When I carry a gun, I accept the fact that I may kill someone. I don't ever plan on doing it, I hope it doesn't happen, but it may. I am prepared for this possiblity, and I accept the consequences should it happen.

A few months ago, I broke up with a girlfriend over this. She asked me what I would do to someone if they tried to rape her. I told her flat out that I would kill him. No hesitation there at all. She told me later that from that moment, she was afraid of me.

I asked her what she would do if someone tried to rape her. She said she wouldnt fight. "What if you had a gun, would you shoot the guy to stop it", no she wouldnt do that. "ok what if I was there and I shot him, would that be OK", no of course not. Finally I asked "What if a cop came along, and he shot the guy would that be ok" well of course, he's a cop.

That attitude frankly baffles, and disgusts me, yet there are so many people who hold it. They feel morally superior because they would never "sink to that level".

Personally I would consider that pretty clear evidence of moral bankruptcy.

The same applies to people who would never fight in a war, but are OK with soldiers and cops defending their rights. Oh, they'll protest, and march in the streets, but actually doing anything? No they're all above that and have disdain for everyone else who isn't, calling us savages, and rednecks, and barbarians etc...

I carry a gun because it is my right, and because I am responsible enough to excercise it. I feel nothing but pity or contempt for those who are not.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The American Masters

The suicide of Hunter S. Thompson has brought up a lot of random spouting about literature, and the American Masters, in particular Hemingway, whom Thompson apparently idolized.

It's not surprising to me that Thompson killed himself, many speculating that it was after recieving bad news about his health (he spent much of last year in a wheel chair); Nor is it any surprise that he decided to shoot himself. Thompson was the type of firearms owner that makes the rest of us cringe; hundreds of guns, and no responsiblity. The man had a history of shooting TV's, pointing magnums at people to get a rise out of them, and shooting while drunk or high. Now his family has announced that they will be blasting his ashes out of a cannon over Aspen mountain.

I suppose you could say he died, and now will be disposed of, like he lived; With a Bang. Tasteless, sure, but so was HST, and he liked it that way.

More in the extended entry...

In have to say, I disagreed with Thompson about almost everything policitcally and socially, but for one thing: He absolutely despised the ignorant, stupid, and mediocre. Even in my disagreement, I loved some of the way he wrote. I still have copies of 'Hells Angels' and 'Fear and Loathing' running around. The man wrote some very funny, evocative stuff; but it was all at core, pretty shallow stuff, mostly nothing more than navel gazing (and drug fueld navel gazingat that).

But that brings me back to Hemingway. He's generally credited as being the greatest American writer, and to be honest, I think most of what he wrote was crap. Self indulgent, stylistically challenged, self aggrandizing, and repetitive.

Now Twain, there's a man who knew how to write, and didn't particularly care if anyone else agreed with that.

It seems to me that "the american masters" were so busy trying to be compared to the 18th and 19th century french, that they never wrote a damn thing worth reading. The more obscure, and avant garde their writing, the better the critics (and their friends)treated them.

I except Scotty Fitz from that because the man wrote like a guy who'd drunk away the best years of his life, and was now looking back in a combination of joy and regret.... which is pretty much what he was by the age of 29.

"One of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Besides, 'til the 50's most of the critics hated Fitzgerald. They were too busy giving blow jobs to William Faulkner, Henry Miller, Truman Capote, and Tennesee Williams.

No, I'll take Twain. He was a man who used simple language, and genuine wit, to write truly brilliant things, that were accessible to jsut about anyone...

And therein lies the rub. Literary people are almost all concerned about proving their subtelty and refinement. They want other literary people to believe they're smarter than the great unwashed. The more obscure the writer, and the more impenetrable the writing, the easier it is to conceal your absolute mundanity.

Sure, you may be smart, but appreciating Derrida doesnt make you sophisticated or intelligent, it makes you a self loathing idiot deperate to reassure yourself you're better than the guy laughing at 'friends'.

I love my job, but I hate my business



After quite a few years of going through situations like this, I just started refusing. I wont take gigs anymore where I have to compromise on my integrity or my principles. It's just not worth it.

I refuse to do a half-ass job, even if it's what a client wants, because it reflects badly on ME. I always do my best to keep a client happy, but I have a little code of ethics.

1. Never do anything illegal for a client
2. Never do anything that compromises your morals, or ethics, or makes you feel uncomforatble. NEVER do anything dishonorable.
3. Never do a half-ass job
4. Never recommend a solution that is more to my advantage than the clients
5. Never try and do anything I can't do (which is not to say stuff I haven't done, theres a big difference). Thats what other experts are for.

I'm a lot happier with this, but I make less money. Thats a pretty good tradeoff as far as I'm concerned

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The High Tech Sweatshop

I noticed a referrer from slashdot in my logs, and it brought this piece to mind. It's something I wrote for slashdot near the height of the boom.

Things haven't really changed all that much, 'cept I'm no longer married, and I don't make as much money any more.

------------------------

Its 4:30 am on a Friday and I just finished the last Mountain Dew. We ran out of coffee hours ago, the remains of it now black sludge at the bottom of the pot. The buildings air conditioning went off sometime the previous night and its up to almost 90 degrees in the server room. The two volunteer hackers on the staff went home after 12 hours, leaving me and the sysadmin…

This is a normal day for me.

I‘m a systems engineer in the client services division of a network security software company. Basically what that means is that when networks break, I fix them.

I am 22 years old, I make a large multiple of the national average salary, and if I cashed in my stock options I could buy a very nice house. I’m also sixty pounds overweight, I sleep an average of four hours a night, and I have several ulcers. I usually spend about 60 hours a week at the office, but I’m on call 24 hours a day seven days a week. If I was honest with myself Id probably say I worked about one hundred hours last week. This is a normal life for someone working in this industry.



More in the extended entry...

We live in a world today that runs on information. And people want all of it now. When was the last time you actually wrote out a personal letter to someone, on paper, in pen? Why bother when E-mail is so much faster and easier? But what goes on behind the scenes when you hit the “send” button? There are thousands of people out there just like me who have titles like “Network engineer” and “Systems administrator”. We keep that information flowing, and we get paid what seems like a lot of money to do it. If you’ve been in the market for a good network admin lately you know what I mean. The market is pushing the salary into the 100k+ plus range for someone with the necessary experience to handle even a relatively small network, never mind what the really large companies like State Farm insurance or Wells Fargo bank have.

I started work on this problem with the sysadmin on Thursday before the close of business, getting things set up, preparing for the changes etc… The company was switching internet service providers that night because the previous one hadn’t provided the level of service they needed. This entailed changing the IP addresses, and DNS configurations of every machine in the building, running three different operating systems, probably two hundred machines all told, then setting up the servers, routers, and switches necessary to get it all running. It’s a big job, but with six people working on it we figured we could get it done before start of business the next day. Normally you would do this kind of thing over a weekend, but the ISP could either do the changeover tonight, or wait till next week, and we needed to be online before Monday.



Getting back to what happens when you press the send button. You expect the computer to send the message, and that the person it was sent to will receive it. What happens to the message then is an incredibly complex series of storage, sending, routing, switching, redirecting, forwarding and retrieving, that is all over in a fraction of a second, or at most a few minutes. But you don’t care how or why it gets there, only that it does, and this is all you should care about. After all you don’t have to know how your cars engine works in order to drive it right. But someone has to know in case it breaks. And when your email breaks you expect someone to fix it. It doesn’t matter what time it is, or where the message is being sent, you want it to get there now.

Its now 8 am and the network is still down. We’ve managed to isolate a routing problem and are in the process of fixing it. The ISP gave us the wrong IP addresses and now we have to go back and redo all two hundred machines in the building. The router was crashing and we couldn’t figure out why. Two hours on the phone with the vendors support, and three levels of support engineer later we fix it. People are starting to come in to work and ask why they can’t get their email. The changeover process takes us about three hours and finally everyone has the right IP, but things still aren’t working right. A bunch of people use DHCP for their laptops and the DHCP people cant get out to the net. The CEO of the company is one of those people…

So what do we do? Well we hire people to take care of the network. And we give them benefits and pay like any normal employee. We also give them pagers, cell phones, a direct phone lines to their houses so that any time, any where, we can get them, because the network could go down, and we DEPEND on that network, and those people. This is where things go skew from the normal business model.

All compensation is basically in exchange for time. The only thing humans have to give is their time. When I pay you a salary it is in exchange for me being able to use your abilities for a certain period of time every year. The assumption is that the more experienced or knowledgeable you are the more your time is worth. This works fine when you are being paid a wage, but salaried employees aren’t. They exist under the polite fiction that all their work can be done in a forty hour period every week, no matter how much work there is. We all know this isn’t the case of course. And when it comes to Systems administrators and network engineers that polite fiction isn’t so polite. In exchange for high salaries and large stock options the company owns you all day and all night, every day and every night. You are “Mission critical”. High salaries become an illusion because when it gets down to it your hourly rate isn’t much better than the assistant manager of the local Pep Boys.

I finally went home at 1 that afternoon. I couldn’t stay awake any more and if I didn’t leave right then I wouldn’t have been able to drive home. The funny thing is I felt guilty for leaving. Things still weren’t working quite right, and I felt like I should have stayed until they were. Even funnier is that I volunteered for this. The only part of the job that I actually had to do was to change a few IP addresses and configure the firewall, but I thought I’d lend a hand, and I couldn’t do the firewall till everything else was working anyway. My wife hadn’t seen me in two and a half days, and I could barely give her a kiss when I walked through the door and collapsed on my bed. The SysAdmin was fired a few hours after I left. Back to work Monday morning.



Frazzled

Hey guys, sorry I didnt post the two articles I was going to do today. I've slept a grand total of 2 hours, and had three job interviews in the last 48 or so.

Reminding me thereof, if there's anyone who needs a damned good security and systems architect, administrator, engineer, and trainer, give me a call.

Rejection

I reject the idea that having standards is a negative thing.

I reject the idea that being judgemental is a negative thing.

I reject the idea that elitism is a negative thing.

Somehow people have gotten it into their heads, that having high standards, and being judgemental are bad things.

There is only one way to ensure excellence, and that is to insist on it. If you don't insist on excellence, you will rarely get better than adequacy. Not everyone can rise to excellence, (after all, that which is excellent is by definition superior than others), but everyone should strive for it in all things.

Stop celebrating mediocrity

Witnessed in my logs

Domain Name: usda.gov ? (United States Government)
Operating System: Linux UNIX
Visit Length: 3 minutes and 38 seconds
Referring URL: http://www.technorat...&url=organic+and+pot
Visit Entry Page: http://anarchangel.b...-in-my-caffeine.html

Okay so I'm laughing my ass of here right now.

Someone at the US Department of agriculture is doing a search on organic pot, and somehow comes across my page on caffeine addiction; Not only that, but they find it interesting inough to stay for 3:38.

Even better, they are running linux (with firefox no less).

I'm not sure if I should be worried by this or not. I DO hope people coming to my page are not often motivated by the quest for good organic weed.

Monday, February 21, 2005

I am an Elitist

I am an Elitist.

And damned proud of it

In my world achievement is recognized and appreciated

In my world accomplishment is respected

In my world excellence is strived for

In my world results matter

I my world intentions and motives count for something, but not much

In my world self esteem is a by product of good results, not the primary goal of any action.

In my world there is no quality time

In my world Responsibility is the core of everything

If you can handle it, you’re welcome to join us in my world; Otherwise get the hell out of our way.

What exactly is generation X?



Mythago, brought up an intersting point on another blog I frequent, "What exactly is the age range for Generation X?"

I think generation isn't so much a matter of chronological age, as it is a matter of what you cultural touchstones are. What events define your personal recollection and outlook on history.

Even if you do try and set the chronological boundaries, differences in maturity, location and individual upbringing ensure there's always a transitional period between generations of two or three years on either side.

loosely, the baby boomers are the 3 or so generations born between 1945, and 1965, and the gen X'ers span from about 1967-1977, again with that three year transition around the ends

Culturally, Gen X is bounded on one end by Stagflation, the hostage crisis, and Star Wars, and at the other end by the Berlin Wall coming down, the fall of communism, the first Gulf war, and Kurt Cobain Killing himself, with the Reagan years flling out the middle.

Basically if your childhood to early teen years were marked the star wars trilogy, and you were between a teenager and 30 when Kurt ate his 12ga, you are Gen X.

If the earliest music you remember first hand is Yes, Steve Miller, Lynyrd Skynyrd, disco, punk, or new wave, and college radio consisted of REM, Nirvana, Sonic youth, and Smashing pumpkins, you are gen X.

If Clerks, Reality bites, Heathers, and Singles, defined your late teens to mid 20's, you are Gen X.

Actually if your perceptions of pop culture were most strongly started with John Hughes, and most strognly finished with Kevin Smith, you are VERY DEFINITELY gen x.

If you can remember watching every single Brady Bunch episode as a child, you are absolutely Gen X.

This is an unusual one, in that no matter what end of the Gen X age spectrum you fall, the Brady Bunch was a part of your daily life. Although it's original run was only 5 years from 1969 to 1974, the Brady Bunch was repeated so frequently when we were kids, that it is SEARED into our forebrains. When I was a young kid, until I was a teenager (when cable took over viewing habits and UHF TV was taken over by the syndicates) UHF TV was playing the bunch at least four times a day, and often six or eight. No other television show enjoys such pride of place with the Gen Xers, but rounding out the top five come Scooby Doo, the G.I. Joe cartoon, the Smurfs, and anything by Hanna Barberra.

I suppose the real definitive answer however, is political. The boomers were born from Truman to Kennedy, a time of hope and growth, and optimism; The Xers were born from Johnson to Carter, a time of war, misery, malaise, and hopelessness.

No matter what age an Xer is however, their political life is defined by the Reagan Administration. Most Gen Xers weren't old enough to vote for or against Reagan either time, but the Reagan years were so expressly political, they can't help but have laid their stamp on the people who's formative years fell in between the hostage crisis, the fall of communism, and the first gulf war.

Oh, and relating this directly to myself?:

1. The first movie I watched in theaters was Empire strikes back, the first song I remember seeing on MTV was something by the talking heads, the first TV show I can remember is the brady bunch.

2. I was starting Jr. high when Bush 1 was elected, and I was a Jr. in HS when Clinton was elected.

3. My high school and college years neatly encapsulate the cultural end of Gen X, starting with the fall of the wall (I started HS the next year), and ending with the dot coms.

4. I was a college sophmore when Cobain killed himself.

5. I just missed the Gingrich revolution, and the first presidential election I voted in was Clinton vs. Dole (I couldnt bring myself to vote for either, but I did vote).

So I am the very end of Gen X, but I am definitely there. As I said the Gen Xers are most stongly the peoples who were defined by the reagan years from the hostage crisis to the first gulf war. That's me in a nutshell.



UPDATE: Strange coincidence, Scott Kurtz PVP (one of my favorite comics) goes on a GenX riff today, just as I publish this post.

The Outside Looking In

I originally wrote this the day columbia blew up, but something Francis Poretto wrote put me in mind of it. I'm reposting here to get your input.

Outside Looking In — Chris Byrne, 2003 
We have spent the last 30 years collectively contemplating our belly buttons. 
Let me explain what I mean by that (this is gonna take a while so get comfortable). 
Throughout most of history, humanity as a race has been outward looking. We strode out through the world around us to learn, to achieve, and to conquer.
From the earliest days of humanity we have looked outside ourselves for meaning. 
First we had medicine men and shamans who looked to the spirits. 
Then we had priests who looked to the gods. 
Then we had philosophers who looked to the nature of the universe, and sought to find mans place within it. 
Finally there came that extraordinary breed of men to whom Isaac Newton belonged to. They called themselves the natural philosophers, we now call them scientists. 
Each of these groups of people sought to divine meaning, reason, purpose, from that which surrounded us. 
We were on the inside looking out in wonder, and eventually, with some small degree of understanding. 
This point of view was reflected in our societies as well. 
We explored, and built, and grew. We strove for bigger, more, faster, better. 
The expression of this has often been called “pioneer spirit”. 
It’s the challenge to go forth and do that which has not been done. 
It’s the desire to climb the mountain “because it’s there”. 
This spirit quickly had us wee humans spread across this globe, living in almost every corner, no matter how hostile it seemed to our rather thin and frail skins. 
This is the spirit that Americans inherited from the British, the Spanish, and the Portuguese; who it seems, have managed somehow to lose it over the past two hundred and fifty years. 
This is the spirit that pushed us from sea to sea, the spirit that flung us up into the sky, the spirit that exploded us out into space. 
This is the spirit best voiced by John F. Kennedy when he said “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. 
Over the past 100 or so years this spirit became focused primarily on science and technology. 
We stopped exploring, not because we ran out of places to explore, but because we did not have the technology to explore them. So we built it, and we built it fast. 
It took only us 44 years to make the headlong rush from the Wright brothers, to sustained supersonic flight. 
It was only another ten years before we managed to stick something far enough up there that it wouldn’t come right back down again. 
Three and a half years later we finally opened up the door and left the home of our birth; when on April 12th 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to see the earth, from the outside looking in. 
Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t make the line famous for another 16 years, but Yuri Alekseyevich truly had, boldly gone where no man has gone before. One of us had finally made it off the rock. 
Then, at 10:56 pm EDT , July 20, 1969 we managed the short hop to the next rock. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, had made it to the moon. 
We only went back five more times over the next three years. 12 men spent a total of 170 hours on the moon, and left behind, not much really. A few scientific instruments, a few spacecraft bits and pieces, the worlds most expensive dune buggy, an American flag, and a plaque that reads: 
“Here Man completed his first exploration of the Moon, December 1972 A.D. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.” 
And with these words, spoken by cmdr. Eugene Cernan on December 11th 1972: 
“America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow” 
…we turned out the lights and went home.

Unfortunately there has been no tomorrow. 
As I was saying, we have spent the last 30 years contemplating our belly buttons.
After World War II most of the world stopped looking forward, and started looking inward. 
There were too many social problems. 
There was too much poverty and hunger and disease. 
There was far too much pain screaming out at us from the horrors of the preceding 10 years. 
The spirit of exploration that had pervaded humanity since it’s earliest days was completely gone from Europe by the 1960’s. It had never really existed in east Asia, where culture and philosophy had been directed inward for thousands of years.
It had not existed in the middle east since the days before the ottoman empire. 
The only explorers left by the 60’s were America, and Russia, and Russia was only really doing it to compete with America. 
People all over the world started questioning the values that had formed previous generations’ assumptions. 
The generation born between the end of the depression, and just after the war, KNEW that there were more important things than exploration. 
They KNEW that this desire for exploration was just another form of conquest and exploitation and imperialism just like the ones that had brought about the worst conflict in human history. 
They KNEW that exploring space was waste of time and money that could be better spent on ending hunger, or disease, or racism. 
And so we began to turn inward. 
With books like “the catcher in the rye”, “On the Road”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest”, we started looking more at ourselves, and our neighbors, and less at the outside world, and the outside universe. 
It took until 1972, but with the war in Vietnam, Richard Nixon and Watergate, price controls, inflation, the CIA and FBI, the Israeli situation, the Irish situation, and every other god damned miserable thing going on in this god damned miserable world… 
They KNEW that they weren’t going to spend another dime going to the moon ‘til we had fixed things down here on earth. 
In the broader culture things started changing even more. 
We encouraged people to take a good long look at themselves. 
To find themselves. 
To say I’m Ok You’re Ok. 
To be fair, a hell of a lot of good came out of this. 
For the first time we started seriously exploring the WHY behind a lot of mental and emotional problems. 
We started leaving bad marriages behind, and we started trying to be happier. 
We started doing something about racism, sexism and pollution. 
…But as usual, we went too far. 
We started confusing confidence with arrogance. 
We decided that power was bad. 
We made aggression and competition synonymous with evil. 
We started subverting science to ideology, and we decided that ideology was after all, a science. 
In our most extreme moments, we decided that boys were bad and girls were good. 
That white was bad and black was good. 
That both old and new were bad, and only NOW, ME, and US, was good. 
We stopped moving forward. 
We stopped looking outward.
Instead, we are spending all of our time looking sideways, up, down, in, and increasingly backward. 
Maybe this wouldn’t be too bad if we weren’t so bad at it. 
It would be a good thing, if we were able to do so without damaging ourselves, and without halting progress. 
…But so far, we aren’t. 
We haven’t been out of high orbit since 1972. 
It only took us 66 years to go from being earthbound, to setting foot on another planet. 
In the past 30 years we have have gone no farther, no faster, no higher. 
We have stopped going where no man has gone before. 
Charles Krauthammer wrote in the weekly standard that “we have put ourselves into a low earth orbit holding pattern”. 
Putting it a little more directly, we’re circling the parking lot looking for a space, instead of getting out of the damned shopping mall, and actually going some place and doing something. 
The most significant technologies of the last thirty years have been global telecommunications; exemplified in the internet, and biotechnology. 
Both of these are essentially focused inward. 
The internet has the potential to be the single greatest advance in mass communication since the printing press. 
It allows for true interactive communication on a global scale, but it is essentially inward facing. 
Why? 
Because it exists to exchange information we already have. 
The internet spreads knowledge around better than anything we’ve ever come up with and that’s great. 
It’s the greatest enabler of science history has ever known because it allows the freer and easier exchange of ideas, but the net in and of itself does little to advance the state of human knowledge. 
The internet is not like the microscope or the telescope or the space craft. Completely new things are not discovered or created by the internet, though they have without doubt been enabled by it. 
BioTechnology is by very definition focused inward. 
At it’s deepest level BioTech is the study of what makes us what we are. It promises to unlock near limitless potential for our biological beings. 
It opens the door to the possibility of ending old age, disease, hunger, even death itself. It offers potential dangers equal to its potential wonders. 
BioTech is probably the second most important field of technology ever devised, but exploration is still by far the most important. 
As no nation can be great without looking beyond its borders, no race can be great without looking beyond its planet. 
Whether there are other races out there, or we are alone; if as a race we are ever to progress beyond our current state of semi civilized savagery, to progress beyond a planet full of petty squabbles between nations, that just might incidentally kill us all; we need to venture off this planet in the largest scale possible. 
We need to live on, not just visit other planets. 
This is a concrete lesson of history. 
We started out as individuals. 
We fought and died as individuals until we formed villages, clans, and tribes
With villages we had a larger purpose and organization, and the fighting between individuals lessened. 
For thousands of years villages, clans, and tribes killed each other until we formed city-states. Then the fighting between tribes lessened. 
We began to form principalities and petty kingdoms, and they repeated the pattern, lessening the conflicts between cities. 
Finally we formed nations, and eventually ended most organized conflict between smaller groups. 
But we created the nation about 10,000 years ago, and we haven’t really come very far since. 
Half of Europe was STILL in the city state or principality phase 250 years ago.
Germany is now by far the largest and most important nation in Europe (no matter what France and England may say), but it only became a true nation in 1872. 
The United Nations is, at best, an ineffective organization with more politics than solutions. At worst, it is an organization used to spread the ugliest prejudices of humans, while decrying the actions needed to stop them, and masking it all under cynical self righteousness. 
It is clear that until we become an extraplanetary race, we will never achieve anything resembling a free society of all human beings. 
It is similarly clear that once we do become truly extraplanetary, such a society is, if not inevitable, at least more likely. 
Many would say that we need to solve our problems here on earth first. 
They believe that we can’t afford space exploration while people starve, and die of disease, and are denied basic human rights. 
They say that it costs too much, that it’s dangerous, that it has little benefit to the vast majority of humanity that has barely enough to eat. 
They are right in many ways… 
…but if as a people we don’t get the hell off this rock… 
…what will it matter? 
It will be a case of belly button contemplating on a racial scale.