Sunday, December 30, 2007

Personal Comments on Global Warming

It is my considered opinion that the whole Global Warming/Go Green perspective is, at best, off the mark or, at worst, completely and dangerously wrong.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I do know that the worlds ecology is in trouble. Man has attempted to bend nature to his will and, in the process, has caused unimaginable damage to the planet.

The issue I have is that the Global Warming constituency is missing the real problem. They are trying to bail out the ship with a tablespoon. Climate changes caused by greenhouse gasses is but a symptom of the actual problem. And that problem is ecological destruction due to overall pollution and ecosystem tampering.

The former is not solely due to cars and factories. There are things that pollute far more than those do. For example, running a gas powered chain saw for one hour is the equivalent of running a couple hundred cars for one hour. Similar situations occur with lawnmowers and most other gas powered products. You see, none of them have any emissions standards to conform to.

By concentrating on one small piece of the puzzle (e.g. greenhouse gasses) the greater part is being overlooked. Land and water pollution are just as bad as air pollution but you wouldn't even know they existed by the way the media and "scientific community" report.

Ecosystem tampering is something that has potentially caused more irreversible damage than pollution. Examples can be found in the Africanized honeybees (also known as killer bees), the wholesale slaughtering of rattle snakes in the US mid and south west which has caused the vermin an pest populations to explode to a point where they are destroying the land, the decimation of indigenous life in the San Fransisco bay due to the way shipping ballast is performed. All of these are just as significant, if not more so, than Global Warming.

The reality is that there's plenty of scientific evidence that most of the warming is being caused by natural fluctuations of the sun. We do need to do something to correct the devastation being done to the planet but focusing all the attention on Global Warming is like spitting in the ocean.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pakistan's Bhutto assassinated

Pakistan's Bhutto assassinated By Zafar M. Sheikh and Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed Thursday in a suicide attack after a campaign rally here, dashing hopes for a smooth transition to democracy and creating chaos across the country.

This is disheartening, though not completely surprising. My previous post on this was a bit more optimistic about the potential of new elections. I should have known better.

People in the US get all hyper about politics and start blaming the opposition for all the evils of the world. But comparing what happens in the US to governments anywhere else on the globe can only show how good the US has it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How to fix the US Presidential Elections

By "fix" I mean correct/repair/make better. There's already more than enough ways to make the other kind of "fix."

1) Curtail the campaigning season
2) Drastically shorten the primary's
3) Get rid of the Electoral College
4) Withhold results until all polls are closed

First, no one should be permitted to begin their campaign for the Presidency until February 1st of the election year. The way things are now you have people starting to stump in the summer, some 17 or 18 months before the elections. This leads to an overdose of debates and speeches and hype months before the actual election. Candidates use this time to trash their opponents rather than expound on the issues and positions of same. Limiting the campaign season to less than 10 months will force them to focus more on their platforms rather than discrediting their competition.

Second, there should be no caucuses or primary's before June 1st of the election year. What good is it to have pseudo-voting almost a year before the election? All it does is give certain States perceived yet worthless power. The results of Iowa and New Hampshire this early are truly meaningless. It's only the media and those who run the whole election dog & pony show that benefit from these ultra early pretend votes. Having only a few months will make the results more meaningful because no one State will be able to have an unfair advantage.

Third, there is absolutely no rational nor irrational reason to have the Electoral College. It was a necessity in the 18th and 19th centuries. But with the advent of ubiquitous instant information dissemination (telephone, radio, TV, the 'Net) the popular vote is perfectly able to make the decision. As it stands now, any individual vote has a 50% chance of being ignored. For example...

* Two candidates are running, A and B
* You vote for candidate B
* The final tally for your State is 48% for candidate A and 41% for candidate B
* Your entire State votes for candidate A

This renders your individual vote effectively uncounted. It is imperative for everyone to vote. But it would be nice if your vote went directly to your candidate. This will give the election results a much clearer picture of how the country really feels for the candidates and issues.

And finally, wait until the polls are closed before spewing out numbers. This will make it much more crucial that everyone turn out to vote. With the way things are now it is not uncommon to have many voters in western States not vote because they perceive the eastern States have already decided the election. Holding off the results until the elections are finished will, again, give an indisputably more accurate picture of what the voters are concerned about. It also helps give all the States an even playing field.

There you have it. If these changes were implemented the whole election process would become much closer to something "of the people, by the people and for the people."

Alas, it will never happen. There is to much money and power at stake for there to be any common sense changes to the political system. Of any kind. And even if everyone was of a mind to change things the media would not let it happen. They have become the news makers (as opposed to news reporters) and would never relinquish their grip on the power that entails.

So, do you have any ideas on how to make things better? What kind of changes would you put into place if you were "king for a day?"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy $HOLIDAY

#! /bin/sh

HOLIDAY="<insert your favorite holiday>"

echo "Happy $HOLIDAY"

exit

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comparing Iraq to Veitnam

I've been thinking about this for a while, now. Is the "war" in Iraq similar to what happened in Vietnam? Most people are taught that the US lost the "war" in Vietnam. While this is technically true, it was not the military that caused the downfall. It all began with the Tet offensive.

The cliff notes version is that on January 30, 1968 the VC and NVA initiated an attack on major cities and military/civilian targets in South Vietnam. In the initial attack the US forces were taken off guard and did suffer casualties. But once the armed forces regrouped the Tet offensive was severely crushed. The Communists forces were pushed all the way back practically to China. The one and ONLY reason that the US was forced to pull out was the initial media reports of the offensive showed American Soldiers being killed. They rarely showed how the VC/NVA tortured and killed the south Vietnamese people.

This was the only face of the war and it turned the population against our involvement in it. This led to our pulling out of the country. If the media and celebrities hadn't ignored and distorted what was really happening there we might now have a unified, democratic Vietnam country.

So how is this related to what's happening today in Iraq? The situation in country is not that which is portrayed in the media or by celebrities. How many reports have you heard about the large portions of Iraq where life is returning to normal? Iraqi people running the local government, police forces, the reconstruction and overall activities of their lives. The vast majority of Citizens are thankful to the Military and are on very good terms with them. But that's not what you hear. All that's reported is how many US Military were killed and the bombings. The funny thing is that the bombings and attacks are primarily targeting the Iraqi people. The vast majority of people there want the US military there.

The underlying meaning of this is that perception is greater than reality. There used to be an old saying, "Don't believe everything you read in the papers." It seems that the opposite is true now.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Retired Generals: End Ban on Gays

Retired Generals: End Ban on Gays International Herald Tribune | December 03, 2007 - Marking the 14th anniversary of legislation that allowed gay people to serve in the U.S. military, but only if they kept their orientation secret, 28 retired generals and admirals planned to release a letter Dec. 7 urging Congress to repeal the law.

"We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," the letter says. "Those of us signing this letter have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish."


I'll start with a quick background on myself to help you know where I'm coming from. I was born in Bremerhaven Germany in '62, shortly after the wall came up. While not technically a Military Brat, I spent 16 of my first 25 years living in Europe in, on and around the US Army and Air Force. My sister is married to a retired military and, even over these last two decades living here in the States, my whole family has worked for DoD at one time or other. Basically, I have some familiarity with the Military. And I know why they are afraid of gays.

It's the same reason it took over 300 years for them to let Women and Blacks in. And believe it or not, the same reasoning they used for excluding them are now being used on gays.

The military is, by it's very nature, hyper-masculine. Fighting and killing are traits ingrained in all males but only the toughest of the tough would want to put themselves in the path of potential war. Call it hyper-macho-masculine (HMM for short). Women, Blacks and Gays are seen as an affront to this HMM'ness that is ingrained onto them by genetics and social/cultural reasons. Let's break down a few of them...
  • Women/Blacks/Gays are weak and to emotional to handle battle
  • Women and Gays will abuse their sexuality to "get over" on men by using their sexuality to get "real men" in trouble so they don't have to work
  • Blacks/Women/Gays are cowards and will run away when the shooting starts
  • Blacks/Gays/Women are lazy and won't hold up there end, even in peace time
Then there's the famous "I ain't gonna be in no foxhole with no fag. They'll try and hit-on or rape or seduce me or somethin'." Anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that virtually every Gay doesn't want to be with a Straight. They want someone who's gay, like themselves.

My position on Gays in the Military has always been, "Who frelling cares!" When you are really in that foxhole with bullets flying around the only thing anyone is thinking about is how do I perform my mission get back home. Kill the bad guys and don't get killed yourself. That's really all there is to it.

The Military has long been far behind the curve when it comes to social and cultural issues. Race, gender and sexual preference, while not being expunged from the world, are far less important in the US than they were decades or centuries ago. It will take a lot more time for the Military to catch up, though. It is, good or bad, the nature of the beast.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yes, in Myanmar, Big Brother Is Watching

Journal: Big Brother in Burma | Newsweek International | Newsweek.com By Lennox Samuels | Newsweek Web Exclusive | Nov 21, 2007 | Updated: 2:49 p.m. ET Nov 21, 2007 "In a land of government lunacy, residents need official permission to use the phone and to travel across town. An on-scene journal from beleaguered Burma.

The ramshackle taxis that clog downtown Rangoon look ready for the scrap heap. No American auto dealer would offer more than a few hundred dollars for any of these aging and shabby cars, but here, in this impoverished nation, the drivers have paid up to $20,000 for the privilege of ownership. The reason: ordinary Burmese say they are not allowed to import or buy new cars. That's the prerogative of diplomats, foreign-company employees, the fortunate rich and, of course, the military regime."


I have commented before on the "fun" happening in Myanmar But this is just insane. Broken down rust bucket cars cost $20,000. "Internal visas" costing $10 just to cross the street. Cell phone SIM's for $1,500, if you're patient enough to wait the few years it takes to get it. Or you can shell out $2,500 on the black market. This is even worse than North Korea.

I wish that all those people descrying the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan could spend a few weeks in Myanmar or North Korea. While I may feel that the methods and stratagems used in the current UN military aren't the best they could be, it is imperative that the world keep this kind of totalitarianism as contained as possible.

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Despite filters, tidal wave of spam bears down on e-mailers


Despite filters, tidal wave of spam bears down on e-mailers - USATODAY.com By Jon Swartz, USA TODAY SAN FRANCISCO — "Why, in 2007, is spam worse than ever? Let exasperated consumers count the ways: PDF spam. MP3 spam. Pump-and-dump spam. E-card spam.

It may sound like a broken record, but spam continues to do just that — break records. This year marks the first time the total number of spam e-mail messages sent worldwide, 10.8 trillion, will surpass the number of person-to-person e-mails sent, 10.5 trillion, according to market researcher IDC. "


Spam sucks. But at this point in the evolution of the 'Net most of the methods that spamers use are are pretty well covered with one exception.

Microsoft.

Just about all the spam I catch through my filters comes from systems running Microsoft Windows. Somewhere around 85% of all spam comes from Microsoft systems that have been turned into zombies. If it were possible to take every MS system offline the spam volume would fall to a trickle. This, of course, isn't going to happen.

Billy Boy and the Microsoft Marketing Juggernaut have convinced everyone that spam is a problem caused by the Internet. "Internet worms, viruses & spam" rather than the more accurate fact that it is Microsoft which is the overwhelming cause for this scourge.

Thankfully there are alternates available. Apple's is one of the better options for people who don't want to muck about with their system. Point-n-click at it's best. The new line of Mac's have broken its single biggest problem, cost.

If you want power and flexibility, and like not having to pay for it, then Linux is a great option. You can get versions (known as Distros in the community) that are as simple and clean as the Mac all the way up to high-end massive clustering supercomputers. The ability to play with the innards is always available for those who might like to tinker all the way up to serious, complex system or applications programming. Plus the support for Linux is better than that for which you find with any other platform.

Using either of these options would cut the spam down to nearly nothing. That would be nice, wouldn't it?

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Perspectives on Murder and Crime

I came to the Washington DC Metro area back in the summer of 1988. As the rest of the year progressed murders became a top news item. The murder total was on course for a "murder a day" pace. By the end of the year the count was somewhere around 365 or 366. In 1989 the murder total was over 400. This isn't an astonishing number compared to New York or LA, but for DC it's comparatively high. This was during the Marion Berry era.

Fast forward 20 years and the murder rate in DC is again in the news. The current murder count in DC (as of this morning) stands at 169. That's the same amount for all of 2007. So why is the media presenting the same coverage for two completely different numbers? Perception.

Since the time around '88 to '90 the murder rate in DC has been falling. The District has had a few different mayors over the years (including Marion Berry, who was reelected after his release from prison) and a lot of work has been done to build up the police and clean up the crack houses. The US Capitol is a much safer place than it was two decades ago. But when the murder rate starts raising it is not something that goes unnoticed. Yet still, why the same coverage and concern for a rate less than half of what it was back then? Again, perception.

DC was, back in the late 80's and early 90's, a city that was renowned for it's crime. Crack was practically flowing down the streets and there were placed in DC where even the Mafia feared to tread. Now, it's so much better it's like coming out from under a dark cloud. The city is not crime free, but then what city is?

So where did the crime go? To the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. In the last decade a gang has risen to take over the crime trade. They are MS-13. These guys make the Bloods and the Crips look like Boy Scouts. But while MS-13 is cutting off kids hands for looking the wrong way, the District much safer due to all the work that went into cleaning it up.

Well then, what's the point of this post?

That focusing on murder rates without matching crime stats is misdirected. And the way the local & state governments look at and handle crime, especially murder, is misconceived. You can't get a handle on these things unless every police jurisdiction works together in a seamless way. Back in the Old Country this problem didn't exist because there was only one police force for the whole country. It handled all the city, state and national needs for a police force. Obviously this can't be implemented in the US. But more effort should be put into building a system where all emergency services are linked together and share data. We saw the need for this on 9/11 but since then the effort is losing steam.

Is it going to take another disaster on the scale of 9/11 to make this happen? I certainly hope not.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pakistan's Bhutto detained ahead of mass protest

Pakistan's Bhutto detained ahead of mass protest - Yahoo! News By Kamran Haider and Sophie Walker Mon Nov 12, 4:36 PM ET
LAHORE/LONDON (Reuters) - "Pakistani police put opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest for a week on Tuesday as the Commonwealth threatened suspension unless President Pervez Musharraf repealed a state of emergency."

More fun in the East. It seems like the stretch of land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Japan is just boiling with protests, martial law and near government collapse. What gets me is how a large part of the US body politic is whining and moaning about Iraq but ignores the equally distressing and dangerous things happening in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, etc.

Seems people the world over just can't see past their noeses.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's Election Day! Who gives a hoot!

Prologue:
This may seem like a rant against politics but it's not. Well, not entirely.

Today was an off-year election day in the US. Off-year being one where there isn't a Presidential election. Historically these elections have relatively low turnouts. Unfortunately I was part of the no shows this year. I wanted to vote. I just wasn't healthy enough today to get there.

Watching all the commercials that lead up to an election it's a wonder why anyone votes anymore. Nothing but attack ads, "miss-truths" and "disinformation" pouring out of the media outlets. I can't say lies because the campaigns don't actually cross the line. They come within nanometers though. For me, the last decade or so has done a lot to dishearten me and makes it more and more difficult to vote.

As it stands right now, I see the political landscape as so...
  • Democrats/Liberals
  • Republicans/Conservatives
  • Everyone else
The "Everyone else" group runs the gambit from serious organizations to the whacked-out nut jobs. I do not seriously see the rise of credible a third party anytime in the foreseeable future. Thus, in practical terms, we're left with the two party system.

Democrats and Republicans have been around for the length of the US's society. The only time anyone even hears about the Wigs and the Tories is in American History classes. But unless some extremely drastic event happens, we'll have the Dems and the GOP. But enough background; let's get to the meat.

Right now the two parties can be easily summed up by the following descriptions. The Republicans are wrong and the Democrats are clueless/useless. While there has always been dirty politics in the US, often times making the fights between the parties today seem like a love affair, there's something different about the political system that's grown over the last half-century.

Money has always been the backbone of politics, going back to the earliest recorded history no doubt. But the thing that has changed recently is the speed and scope of information dissemination. We can now follow the election results in real time. Get the latest and greatest projections right to our cellphones if we desire. The current electoral system was created back in the 1700's because getting information collected was difficult at best and next to impossible at worst. No TV, no radio, no phones (no lights no motorcars) so there couldn't be an election based on popular vote. It would take years for even the original thirteen states to get a count. That's why they setup the whole ground-up system. One town or village holds their election. Whoever wins there a single vote for that candidate is taken up to the county level. All of those votes are counted and the candidate with the most is chosen to go up to the state level. There the process is the same and after the counties are tallied up the state sends their vote to the actual election. That's one vote. As the nation grew and the population expanded this process was refined into what we have today in the Electoral College. This system is how you can have a President elected by a landslide yet still not carry 50% of the popular vote.

The bottom line is that there are 51 total votes in a Presidential election. This is how the two parties keep everyone else out of the game. And that "everyone else" includes the public.

The citizens of the US who cast their vote believing it could make a difference. To understand how this happens have a short discussion about politics with someone (preferably not your family or friends unless you all vote the same). My ex-Mother-in-Law was a prime example. She voted Democrat. She didn't care who was running or what issues they campaigned about. If it was a Democrat she voted for them. If Hitler were running on the Democratic ticket she'd vote for him. My family isn't as bad, they at least pay some attention to the issues, but they normally end up voting Republican. You will find the same kind of voters no matter where in the US you go. And they'll be the majority of voters, too. Now ask why they voted the way they did. You may get a list of reasons but they're all superficial. When you dig down the reason for voting will be to keep the other party from gaining (more) power.

I was born in Germany and spent 16 of my first 25 years of life living in Europe. My parents were non-military American citizines and so am I. Living outside the US can give you a different and, I believe, clearer perspective on politics. The US political system is broken and corrupt. However, three or four years ago, a former co-worker of mine described it as "perfectly flawed". There is also a line from the TV show Law and Order that fits to a T.
"Democracy is the worst for of Government there is; except for everything else."
Because when you get down to brass taxes, as bad as you think the system is, it's so much better than everything else. And I've seen a LOT of else's.

So, even if you do feel like me; if you know your vote doesn't really make any difference; you must still get out and vote! The system does have the ability to correct it's problems and improve on itself. But only if everyone votes. Change doesn't just happen. You have to make it happen.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Microsofts greatest PR success

It's no secret that Microsoft has one of, if not the, greatest marketing entities in the world. Bill Gates was not an actual programmer of any significance, but a brilliant marketing master. That's why, even with the prevalence of superior alternatives, the vast majority of systems run Microsoft software of some kind (if not exclusively).

Some in the techie world debate over what the greatest marketing success the fellows in Redmond have made. Some say it's the deals with the OEM's and VAR's to have MS software preinstalled on their systems. Others say it's the applications. Still others point to data formats. However, I think it's something more subtle.

The greatest PR success for Microsoft was convincing the media and users that all viruses (and other security exploits) be called "Internet viruses" and not labeled, as they truly should be, "Microsoft viruses."

Now, my intent here is not to get into a religious flame fest over who's OS is best. Any IS/IT professional worth his salt knows that all operating systems suck, all apps are dangerous and all network systems are just a disaster waiting to happen. But the "normal" user doesn't know this. They don't even know that anything exists outside of Microsoft's domain. Oh, they probably have heard of Mac's from the cute ads on TV and they may have heard of this Lee-nooks or Ly-nuks or some such. But they don't know anything about them because their computer came with Windows and MSIE and Outlook and MS Office, etc, etc, etc. And that's all fine and dandy. While the practices that Microsoft uses are less than fair, the bottom line is they have the clout and they are using it.

But if the users ever knew that all the hacks, cracks, viruses and worms could be drastically reduced, or even completely avoided, by running non-Microsoft software do you think the software landscape would be different? I do. I do because when it comes down to it, users just want to use their computers to do stuff. They don't want to worry about stolen passwds and personal information, viruses destroying their data or spambots turning their computers into self replicating zombies. They also don't like being bothered with patches and upgrades that consistently break things.

Viruses, worms, rootkits and trojans all exist for every OS and every app there is. But when you have a system with at least a halfway decent amount of security built-in from the beginning, wouldn't you be interested in checking it out? Imagine what it would be like to practically never have any "Internet viruses" to contend with.

Wouldn't that be a nice place?

Friday, November 02, 2007

US tops list of world's most competitive economies

Amid gloom and doom, US tops list of world's most competitive economies
By Nate Anderson | Published: November 02, 2007 - 11:17AM CT

Outsourcing? Check.
Alarmingly low math and science prowess in education? Check.
Plenty of lobbyist abuse and special interests? Check.
Really weak telecom infrastructure? Check.

Most competitive economy on Planet Earth? Uh, check.


An interesting conclusion can be seen in this post from Ars Technica. It reminds me of when Clinton the 1st had his little "It's the economy, stupid" quip. Stocks are down, home foreclosures are through the roof (pun intended) and holiday sales are projected to be lower than last year.

My ex brother-in-law, we'll call him Bill, works in the financial business. I'm not sure what he does but I know he's all into buying and selling stocks. Many, many moons ago I proffered my postulation on world economics to him. My personal theory is that there are 12 old white guys somewhere in Switzerland who sit as an oval table and play at manipulating everything for their own amusement.

"Hey, I feel like making the price of oil higher today. What do you guys think?"
"Maybe we can undermine the world banking system and watch everyone scramble around; like stepping on an ant hill."
"Oh wouldn't that be fun!"

Needless to say ol' Bill was incensed. He got all flustered and started explaining market trends and blah blah this and blah blah that. It's like the time I mentioned how the real estate business is a con game within earshot of a realtore. Man, I never saw anyones face turn so red. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears. I wouldn't be surprised if all of these financial businesses were working together under some kind of Umbrella.

Then again maybe it's just the Illuminati.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sheiks snatched returning from reconciliation meeting

Sheiks snatched returning from reconciliation meeting BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- "Gunmen kidnapped 10 tribal sheiks in Baghdad as the men were heading home Sunday after meetings with Iraqi officials on the nation's contentious reconciliation process, an Interior Ministry official said."

Isn't it depressing how holey men are treated? It's been going on for, well, ever since the concept of religion. The flip side is how many "holey" men are more akin to Hitler or Chairman Mao. Is it any surprise that Buddhism and Hinduism are so attractive?

Then there's the "Fundamentalists" running around perverting the various religious doctrine to promote a world of hate and killing. Mind you, this is not specific to one religion. There are plenty of religious leaders in Judaism and Christianity that are on par with various fundamental movements in the Islamic world. They are all followers of anything but "Gods Word".

In this specific case we have men who are trying to rebuild their nation becoming targets for these "holey men". From the article:
"The sheiks -- seven Sunnis and three Shiites -- were riding in two vehicles through the capital's Shaab district, a stronghold of the Mehdi Army, the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr."
As it stands now, leaders of religions that supposedly stand for love, peace and mercy are acting and inciting people to do just the opposite. It doesn't make sense to me. But maybe I'm just not smart enough.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fear of flying? NASA thinks so

NASA Won't Disclose Air Safety Survey October 22, 2007 - 6:22am By RITA BEAMISH AP Writer MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (AP) - "Anxious to avoid upsetting air travelers, NASA is withholding results from an unprecedented national survey of pilots that found safety problems like near collisions and runway interference occur far more frequently than the government previously recognized."

Instead of trying to use disinformation and secrecy to make us "feel better" how about using the resources to fix it? I remember seeing two reports on aspects of airline safety that were interesting. One was that the whole keep electronic gadgets off during landing and takeoff is useless. There's already a massive EM output from the planes electronic system such that there would be no impact if every passenger on board were using a cell phone or laptop. The other was this guy who was studying the blinking warning lights on airlines. They are supposed to emit some specified luminosity but he could not find a single plane that came close. The airlines refused to even listen to him.

On a positive note, this from a comment on Slashdot -
NASA just released a press statement from Mike Griffin (NASA Administrator) regarding the pilot survey:
RELEASE: 07-230
Statement by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin on Pilot Survey
WASHINGTON - Since becoming NASA administrator, I have been an advocate for openness and transparency in the pursuit of NASA research and analysis. As a general practice, I believe that NASA research and data should be widely available and subject to review and scrutiny.


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Monday, October 22, 2007

Slashdot | FBI Coerced Confession Deemed "Classified"

Slashdot | FBI Coerced Confession Deemed "Classified" on Monday October 22, @13:24
from the united-states-of-embarrassment dept. "Steve Bergstein is one of several who have blogged about a recent court ruling that reads like most any bestselling crime novel. Apparently, when the court originally posted their decision (complete with backstory) it detailed how a coerced confession was obtained by the FBI from Abdallah Higazy in relation to the 9/11 attacks. The details, however, were later removed and deemed "classified". "

More KGB goings on. I'm no fan of the doom 'n' gloom party but I have always been uneasy since the position of Director of Homeland Security was created. It just sounds to much like Minister of Home Defense.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Violet vs Alice

Something fun for today.

Who do you think would win in a fight; Alice from the Resident Evil franchise or Violet from Ultraviolet? Both characters are played by Milla Jovovich (pronounced "Yo-vo-vitch). They are both genetically mutated in some way. I haven't seen the new Resident Evil: Extinction but, for comparison sake, we'll go with Alice in Resident Evil: Apocalypse against Violet. Personally, I'm behind Alice on this one but maybe at 5-3 odds.

So, what do you think? Who would kick whom's ass? (I'd setup a poll but I doubt more than one or two people would even see this)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nine reported dead in Myanmar crackdown

Nine reported dead in Myanmar crackdown YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- "Soldiers reportedly fired into crowds and beat Buddhist monks Thursday, and state media said nine people were killed as Myanmar's military rulers continued its crackdown on anti-government demonstrations."
Additional information at U.S. freezes assets, restricts travel of Myanmar junta and Burma's Agony.

More fun in Southeast Asia. In September last year it was Thailand. In December it was Fuji. Then January of this year Somalia took it's turn. Now it's Myanmar (Burma) playing the junta game.

I would like to have everyone protesting against the Middle East policies to read what is happing in other parts of the world. Yes, we needs to get out of Iraq as soon as reasonably possible. And, as anyone with any reason will tell you, that will be when Iraq is self sustaining.

But the primary point is that those who are complaining about our Government should fall on their knees and thank whatever deity they wish for the fact that we live in the US. How many times has South America seen military takeovers of countries? How many times have there been in Africa? Asia? Everywhere?

People in the US are so blinded by their self-righteous self-importance they have no idea what is happening in the real world. They only care about their back yard. There's a catchphrase, "Think globally, act locally." But no one ever really thinks outside the ten square feet they occupy on the planet. How can there be piece if nobody gives a shit about anyone but themselves?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Judge overturns portion of PATRIOT Act

Judge overturns portion of PATRIOT Act Published: 2007-09-07 - "A Manhattan federal court judge ruled on Thursday that an anti-terrorism tool, known as a National Security Letter, cannot require that recipients remain mum on the existence of such requests without posing significant constitutional problems.

In a 106-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero stated the despite recent changes to the USA PATRIOT Act to further restrict the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) with accompanying gag orders, the prior restraint on speech violates the First Amendment to the Constitution. The judge worried that the government had removed the burden from law-enforcement officers to justify to the courts the use of the gag provision of a National Security Letter and eliminated the checks-and-balances that judicial oversight would allow.
"

I had a scathing entry for this the day after it was published but the stupid blog software ate it. Oh well, them's the ways. I'll see if I can scathe again today.

The times we live in are scary. Not only do we have moronic insane idiots running around bombing things and crashing planes, we have to endure what can only be laughing called our political leaders. There's so many people "on the left" trying to "stop the war" while the same number of people "on the right" who are "making the world safe." Safe for whom? Is Al Qaeda a danger to the whole world? Yes. Is what we're doing in Iraq right or wrong? Who knows. Our "political leaders, along with the various groups backing them, are doing enough damage to our own country it would be a miracle if Iraq ever became a self sustaining nation.

Notice I'm not picking sides in this debate. That is because I really dislike the two political parties running our government. The Republicans are wrong in so many ways but the Democrats are stupid fools who haven't a clue what's happening in the real world.

So what does all this have to do with the PATRIOT Act? More than you can imagine. When this act was put into service I remember feeling very 1984'ish. Couple that with the establishment of the Division of Homeland Security... That only makes me think of the Ministry of Home Defense. Anyone remember the old Soviet Union? How about North Korea? Maybe take a small trip down history lane and check out the titles that the Nazi regime used. It might be enlightening.

Benjamin Franklin said it best... "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

The three branches of US government are all so screwed up it's a wonder any of us are still alive.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Functionality: BlogRush

I just added this little baby to the sidebar. You can see it right under the "About Me" part. This looks like it could be a really nice tool. It basically works to drive more viewers to your blog. Just go to the site and see the video they have explaining the project. There's a bazillion way to bring people to your blog but this one looks like it will work nicely without any extra effort for the blogger. So go check it out. It couldn't hurt, huh?

BlogRush

Monday, September 10, 2007

HSM's Vanessa Apologizes for Baring All

HSM's Vanessa Apologizes for Baring All by Natalie Finn Fri, 7 Sep 2007 04:44:32 PM PDT - It's one thing to be watched by 250 million people around the globe. It's quite another thing to be the latest X-rated Internet star. Vanessa Hudgens apologized Friday for posing in various states of undress, including completely naked, for pictures that found their way online this week, a day after confirming the shots in question were indeed of her, and not doctored in any way. "I want to apologize to my fans, whose support and trust mean the world to me," the 18-year-old High School Musical star said in a statement to E! News. "I am embarrassed over this situation and regret having ever taken these photos. I am thankful for the support of my family and friends."

Ah, the joys of teen celebrity. And the folly of teen Internet usage. How many people have taken pictures of themselves in provocative or nude poses? Or maybe drunken goof ball pictures in your frat days? Yeah, I mean you. Well the vast majority of my images were taken long before the 'Net became usable by those other than the elite (1337) few. There are some pictures that exist "out there" in the digital world that are likely floating around in the nether regions. If anyone were to find them I wouldn't give a frell. I'm a nobody going nowhere so who cares. But in this day and age it would be wise to teach people that anything which rides the TCP/IP stream is potentially open to anyone and everyone in the world.

In the end, though, I'd like to say that while the press is lumping Miss Hudgens in with Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan, I don't think she is anything like the typical party girl of their ilk. But time will tell.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just another Thursday?

It would be but for one thing, it's my fathers birthday. He would have been 76 today. It's been six-and-a-half years since he passed away. The other day my son said, "I miss Papap." I replied, "So do I, honey."

I should start writing down all the stories I have about him, before my brain isn't able to keep them accessible. There's some really great stuff. The biggest problem I have is that I seem to remember things only when I'm regaling a group or during conversations. If only the damned meds and pain didn't zap my cognitive'ness.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A loss of perspective

Yesterday, August 29th, was the second anniversary of hurricane Katrina's landfall on the gulf coast states. It was the worst natural disaster in the country's history. To many people died, over 1,800; to many left destitute. It was a great tragedy. And it was a spit in the ocean compared to what happened just seven months prior.

On December 26th, 2004 the second strongest earthquake in global recorded history caused the Indian Ocean to rise up and nearly obliterate parts of four countries. Almost 230,000 people were killed. That is a hair over 78% more than Katrina. The same as 127 Katrina's. But you don't hear much about that here in the US, do you. "It was tragic but it isn't our problem," is the basic frame of mind here. Now, I'm not making light of Katrina. Not at all. But this world is getting smaller and smaller by the year. What happens on the other side of the world affects us just as much as what happens in another state or neighboring country.

The problem is that the average citizen of the US has no perspective. None related to geography nor to history. A good example is the count of US military deaths in Iraq. The latest figures I have are 3735 dead. That's a lot of "our sons and daughters." But if you look at an historical perspective, it's a drop in the bucket as well. Some counts of a few well known wars from Twentieth Century Atlas - Casualty Statistics - United States might help:
Revolutionary War   25324
War of 1812 19,465
Civil War 618,222 combined (US: 360,222 - CS: 258,000)
World War I 116,516
Pearl Harbor 2,388
World War II 405,399 (1465 on D-Day alone)
Korean War 36,568
Vietnam War 58,177 (adjusted yearly with post-combat deaths)
The death of just one person in war, or anything much other than natural causes, is something I am against. But if you're going to quote numbers at least put them in perspective. You often hear the phrase, "Think Globally, Act Locally." But 99% of the time people forget the first half of that quote.

I'm not about to claim that I am the embodiment of Think Globally, Act Locally. I'm lucky if I can think period. But I do have a little more awareness of what's happening in the world, probably due to growing up in Europe.

I wish there were an easy way to help make the world more aware of what really matters but the best we can do is try.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hard times ahead

I have just five more days with my son before school starts. This year he'll be living with his mother while in school. For the last four years he's been living with me[1]. This is going to take some getting used to. It's a good thing, really. He'll get to spend more time with his mother and I'll get a bit more rest (and maybe a bit more accomplished). If I can get back into programming like a professional, or something, maybe I can get a freelance job or the like. I'll definitely be able to contribute to the Linux and Open Source worlds.

But still, not having him around usually makes me feel like staying in bed 'till he comes back. I'll have to do something to motivate myself every day. If I can scrounge up some extra ca$h I do need more RAM for my desktop computer. Hoping to get a 1GHz chip (or maybe even 2GHz) for it. I'll still see him on all minor holidays and every other weekend. It's just going to feel funny.

Ok, that's enough. My sinuses are killing me so I'm going to take a boat load of meds and it's off to bed.

[1] The funny thing is that it was her idea for this arrangement.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Study: Fears Over Kids' Safety Online Misplaced

One of the flood of newsletters I get every week is from the US Internet Industry Association[1] (USIIA). This week it had an interesting blurb about the safety of children on the 'Net. This is a hot button issue with an overabundance of groups and organizations decrying the state of the online world. If you believe them, every person online is a pedophile or sociopath. Everyone of "us" is trying to lure children to their doom. They quote all kinds of numbers at you and ask for donations so they can "Save the Children." Now, I've been doing this online gig in various forms for going on 20 years. There's a plethora of smut mongers, sickos and all kinds of nasty things out there. But is it really as bad as they say?

For many years I have said that if you want your kids to be "safe" from this kind of stuff you need to, as parents, control their access. My son, who is 10 now, has been online for over half his life. He hasn't been anywhere on the Web without me being right there with him. As for schools, they are always going to be massively vulnerable to attacks as long as they continue to use Microsoft products. But vulnerable as schools may be and derelict as parents are in their parenting these days, the situation is not as dire as they would make you believe.

In this edition of the USIIA Newsletter it reported a study done by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) which seems to indicate that the danger has been, well, let's say disproportional to the hoopla surrounding it. To quote from the article:
a new study from the National School Boards Association suggests strongly that many of those fears are misplaced and that the overwhelming majority of kids have never had an unknown adult ask them for personal information.
That's not to say there aren't any incidences, but the "overwhelming majority" of kids have generally been cruising the 'Net undisturbed by the bad guys. It continues on with:
The NSBA study was carried out by surveying 1,277 students aged 9 to 17, 1,039 parents, and 250 school administrators with decision-making power over Internet policy
and that the study:
paints a picture of Internet safety that differs significantly from that commonly depicted by the mainstream media.
An interesting point is the disparity between what the kids are seeing and what the adults believe is happening. For example:
school administrators believe that social networking sites are a significant cause of problems for students. 52 percent of the districts surveyed said that students being free and easy with personal information online has been "a significant problem" despite the fact that only 3 percent of the students in the same study ever reported doing so. The NSBA notes that there is a similar disparity on the subject of cyberbullying.
Finally:
The report concludes with a handful of recommendations, the most controversial of which is likely to be a suggestion that schools reexamine social networking policies. "Safety policies remain important, as does teaching students about online safety and responsible online expression," the studies authors note. "But students may learn these lessons better while they're actually using social networking tools."
You want to know my opinion? Parents should take responsibility for their children. Even when they're at school or camp or something. Teach them early on about what is proper and what to do if they ever should be accosted online. Knowledge is truly power. If the children have the knowledge of what's right and wrong they will have the power to keep from getting themselves into trouble.

That is, of course, until they get between the ages of 15 and 25. These are the years when all reason, logic and rational thought go right out the window.

[1] I would encourage everyone to join the USIIA. They have done more to protect the rights of Internet users than all the other organizations combined.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cause and Effect: Afghanistan

I was reading an article the other day and a funny thing struck me. The problems we are having with al Qaeda in Afghanistan is an effect whose cause was the Soviet invasion in 1979. Why? Let me tell you.

Afghanistan in the 70's was moving towards a progressive and modern culture. Much like India has. But then the Soviet Union decided to invade. The only real opposition was the Mujahideen. These "Freedom Fighters" gave rise to the Taliban after the Soviets got their butts kicked. (Many equate what happened to the USSR in Afghanistan to our experience in the Vietnam war. Wait, excuse me. The Vietnam "police action.")

Anyway, the point is that if the USSR hadn't invaded Afghanistan might have developed into a highly civilized and modern country. I say "might" because you can never know what an alternate history can become. But as it was, the hard line strict interpretation of Sharia law left the nation and culture bereft of any advancements of the 20th century. This ignited the so called fundamentalist Muslim factions to spread across the Middle East. Thus we are dealing with al Qaeda and all the insane groups in Iraq. I say "insane" because none of these groups seems to have ever read the Qur’ān or the teachings of Muhammad.

After all, Allah is called "the merciful" for a reason.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dark Matter: All Wrong?

Dark Matter: All Wrong?
Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News

Aug. 3, 2007 — The mysterious dark matter that's been called on to make sense of the ways galaxies twirl through space may not exist, if an alternative theory is right.

But there is another radically different possibility: What if gravity itself doesn't work quite the way we think? Maybe at the outer edges of galaxies where the gravitational acceleration — the g — of a galaxy is extremely small, gravity tugs just a tad bit more.


I saw a show on PBS once that talked about Dark Matter and Dark Energy. It was fascinating stuff. Now with this new theory there's even more to dig up. Science is really fun.

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Bush Signs New Spy Law For Telecommunications

[Trying to get back into a normal blogging life]

From the US Internet Industry Association (USIIA) bulletin August 6, 2007 Volume 07:29 -
President George W. Bush yesterday signed into law a
hastily-passed extension to the law permitting the federal
government to operate surveillance on Internet traffic
in the United States without a warrant.

Though adopted quietly, the new legislation will
significantly expand the legal limits on the government's
ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail
messages going in and out of the United States.

The new law also provides a new a legal framework for much
of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted
in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that
is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen
to the private communications of American citizens.

Previously, the government needed search warrants approved
by a special intelligence court to eavesdrop on telephone
conversations, e-mail messages and other electronic
communications between individuals inside the United States
and people overseas, if the government conducted the
surveillance inside the United States.|

By changing the legal definition of what is considered
"electronic surveillance," the new law allows the government
to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants as
long as the target of the government's surveillance is
"reasonably believed" to be overseas.
Go to the USIIA web site and read more about this, and many other issues that are critical to today's online world. And while you're there you might think about joining. This organization is the only one that actually has an impact on Congress.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's been a hard nights day

As I am typing this the local time is 04:57. I feel like $#it and probably look it, too. My sleep cycle has gone off the deep end and it's keeping me up all night (like this).

Making things doubly difficult, my son is with his mother and her whole family on a cruise through the Caribbean. I don't begrudge him this. I'm quite happy he's going. If I were able we'd be visiting the old country and wandering throughout Germany & Italy (and likely other countries I've previously been to in Europe. I feel strongly that my experience growing up in Europe and moving every 4 or 5 years was a great benefit for me and my siblings. It's almost unthinkable that I've lived here in the Northern VA area for 19 years) It's a wonder I ever came back from my trip to Thailand in Feb 2002. Well, not that much of a wonder. If I didn't have my son I could have easily just stayed. But if it's a choice of my son or anything else I'll pick him.

So he's going to be gone for a little over a week. This could be a good time to see what it's like without him. See, he's been living with me since he started grade 1 but for grade 5 he'll live with his mother and I'll see him every other weekend. It will be very hard but much good can come out of it. I hope. It will all depend on his mother. She's never had to bare the cost of having a child. Nor the time involved with having one under foot 24/7. I'm certainly not the greatest dad in the world, largely due to my physical condition, but I think I'm doing ok. There's really only two negative things that could happen with this switch; she can't handle it and sends him back to me or he can't deal with not having other kids around to play with. A number of people think that the former is likely to happen.

As for me, I see this as a good thing. She is his mother and has spend nearly 5 years having him for only three months in the summer and on every other weekend. I know she loves him very much so I'm not worried about anything happening between them (if we had had a girl then I would be worried; you should see what my two nieces put their parents through). Right now the plan is for him to come back here for 6th grade but we'll evaluate that when the time comes.

I better get to bed now. I'm falling asleep at the wheel, here. Don't need to be conking my head on the furniture again,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing.

I don't know how to start this post. I don't even know if I should write about this. But I need to get it out of my head. If my rambling seems semi coherent please forgive me.

My son, who is ten years old, was sexually molested by another child in the neighborhood who is eight.

It happened this past April but I didn't find out until late in May. This has been a trying time for the family... Ok, that's an understatement, but you get the gist. There have been some interesting things I've learned from this ordeal, though. It seems that, at least in this State/County, child services does not deal with minor-on-minor abuse. I got absolutely zero help from them. The police were a bit better. They at least investigated the issue. They talked to my son once at school and the other boy twice; first alone then with his father. They never actually talked to me other than getting names and addresses. After about three days they closed the case saying that it was a mutual act. Seems they don't believe a younger child could manipulate an older child into doing anything so it must have been mutual. If they could have heard the agony and pain my son was in when he broke down and told me I think they would have given this a little more effort. Not much, but a little more. It took me nearly 45 minutes to get him to calm down enough to tell me. He was so afraid I'd hate him. I held him and reassured him that I would never hate him.

The incident really trashed my son with regards to school. While the other kid was in a different grade they both rode the school bus together. The two of them were best friends for almost two years before this happened. The first semester of the school year my son was getting A's and B's but the second semester he got C's and D's, even getting an F on one of his tests. Initially we couldn't figure out why his grades dropped so drastically. Now we know.

The ironic thing is that many of the adults in the neighborhood were discussing calling Child Services for this kid because of the neglect he was suffering. He lived with his grandmother, aunt and teen cousin. His dad lives about 20 miles south and his mom is in jail. During the winter he'd come over dressed in shorts and a tee shirt. We'd often give him one of my sons coats or hats. The child often didn't have enough food and no one seemed to care where he was when he was outside. His grandma works but his aunt just lies in bed all day and sleeps or talks on the phone or eats. It's true that this kid was quite obnoxious and, even though he was smaller and younger than most of the other kids, he was quite the bully. But that still didn't mean he should be treated like a stray dog.

The kid moved after school ended. I'm not sure where. I've heard the other kids say Mexico but nothing definitive. I don't really care about it other than the fact he's not here anymore. My son has been seeing a therapist for a little while and he does seem to be coping well. I'm a wreck. I was already half qualified for an asylum anyway. Large doses of meds have helped hold me together for now. Lately I just feel so numb. The world is falling apart and all I can do is sit in a wheel chair and watch it happen.

But no matter what happens I am here for my son. I've been able to go to the pool with him a few times (it's easier for me to do things in the water; buoyancy and all that) and we've been watching Godzilla movies and the History Channel (the show Dogfights is fantastic!). Also some of the Disney (Hanna Montana, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, etc.) & Nickelodeon (Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ned's Declassified, etc.) shows. It's been rainy here this summer so he's had to be indoors a lot. This usually means he's on the PS/2 for a few hours. He still loves cars but is now finding airplanes from WW I and WW II worth learning more about. Seeing the recreated Dogfights has been very enjoyable for us.

When the summer is over he will be going to spend the school year with his mother. We made a swap of physical custody for one year. It's going to be very hard without him here but he'll be getting more time with his mother, which will be good. There are a few people who don't think she will be able to manage having him around all the time but I'm not commenting one way or other. I know it'll be alright, though. No matter what his mother is like WRT me she loves him and would never knowingly do anything bad for him.

The real question is will I survive until fall of 2008 when I get him back? Physically, there's a real good chance. But emotionally? Mentally? Well, that's a horse of a different color.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

What's the opposite of Insomnia?

Back in the golden days of Heavy Metal there was a song, "Up All Night(Sleep All Day)" by Slaughter. They were one of the second teer bands of the time. Well, it's been more like "Sleep All Night (Sleep All Day)" for me. I guess between all the depression and pain and worry/panic about what happened to my son I'm just far to warn out to do anything but sleep. Maybe I really should call a therapist. Everyone and their dog is telling me to. Not to mention the psychiatrist a saw a while back.

Back in the 80's we had our family crests researched. When got the shield as well as the family name motto. My fathers family motto translates to "I am not disheartened by difficulty." That was him, alright. Nothing could get him down. He was able to overcome anything. I wish I had even 1% of his "self".

I hate the universe.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Deployed Troops Battle for Custody

Deployed Troops Battle for Custody Associated Press May 07, 2007 - "She had raised her daughter for six years following the divorce, handled the shuttling to soccer practice and cheerleading, made sure schoolwork was done. Hardly a day went by when the two weren't together. Then Lt. Eva Crouch was mobilized with the Kentucky National Guard, and Sara went to stay with Dad.

A year and a half later, her assignment up, Crouch pulled into her driveway with one thing in mind - bringing home the little girl who shared her smile and blue eyes. She dialed her ex and said she'd be there the next day to pick Sara up, but his response sent her reeling.

'Not without a court order you won't.'
"

The best interests of the child. Why is it that this phrase is used just as much for the plans and agendas of the parent(s) or the court as it is for the child. I'm not taking sides in this specific accounting of the problem as I do not know any of the specifics.

Why can't the people most able to help the children; parents, shrinks, Social Services, the Courts find some way of attaining a little objectivity WRT making the child's needs first. As a divorced father of one elemetary aged son having him involved with a custody dispute is worse than having them bounce around for a year or two. If you are divorced with kids you should always, always, always try to work things out before it gets to the point of bringing in the courts.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Burried in life

I'd been a while since I've posted anything. So much has happened I can't even remember it all straight. The "I don't want to be here" feelings are gone, that's for sure. Something happened with my son that is, well, it's very serious. I'm still trying to handle it. Also, I moved the server from 2 hours away to the house. Comcast has updated their business service so it's now possible. With the box physically here it makes things much more convenient, even though my buddy was carrying me for free for years now. Having it here will cost an extra $53.something but it turns out that if we go with their VoIP phone service will cost $60.something less than we're paying now so it'll end up a net gain. Far out.

I'll try and get back into the flow soon.

Maybe.

Monday, April 09, 2007

UFO - Love To Love

Oh it’s been too many times and I can’t go back
Night bars, guitars, rundown motels like shacks
What it mounts up to I don’t want it at all
Lost you and I want you today

Misty green and blue
Love to love to love you
Misty green and blue
Love to love to love you

To be something, to be near you
Don’t say that you’ll never know
Love to love to love you

[instrumental]

Half the time it could seem funny
The other half is just too sad
This west bound moon’s they rise and fall
Lost you and I want you today

Misty green and blue
Love to love to love you
Misty green and blue
Love to love to love you

To be something, to be near you
I don’t know where I’m goin’ to
I’ve tried and I need you to stay

[instrumental]


This is the last song on the Lights Out album. UFO made 6 records with Michael Schenker; albums four through eight (Phenomenon, Force It, No Heavy Petting, the afor mentioned Lights Out and Obsession) then the relatively recent Walk on Water. The combination of band members on these albums has produced some of the greatest music you could ever hear. If only Michael (who is the younger brother of Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions) wasn't so... uhm, let's just say erratic and leave it at that. He is still one of the greatest rock guitarists ever, though he doesn't have the name recognition as others. While I haven't seen Michael in concert I have seen the Scorpions a couple of times. Actually, I have seen a number of really great bands over the years, though it's been about 18 or so years since I went to a show. I do miss it, though. I think I'll post some of the music that I've experienced. It's quite likely that few in the US would know them.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter; Happy Songkran

To those who celebrate I wish a happy Easter. While most think the holiday is about bunnies and chocolate, many still hold it in their hearts as a religious holiday. I know my mum (who is an Italian Catholic) does. Whether I believe what she believes isn't important. She believes and that's all that matters.

Today is also when Wat Yarnna Rangsee celebrated Songkran (the Thai New Year). The festival is called the Water Festival, people have fun splashing each other with water. The actual dates for the celebration are the 13th through the 15th. The 13th is the last day of the old year and the 15th is the first day of the new year. Most of the Thai Buddhist Temples in the US will usually pick a weekend that's very close to those dates for their festivals. What happened to the 14th? Go forth and Google. ;-)

Either way, today was a holy day for many people. I hope it was a good day for you.

It's official, I'm insane. More or less.

Ok, maybe not official. I still haven't made an appointment with a therapist. I know, I know. And you are right, I do need to. I'll do it on Monday. I swear. Well, maybe not Monday, but next week for sure. Maybe. Definitely before the end of the month.

Anyway, I know I'm loopy because I fixed the problem I was having with IMAP on the server. Now I can get to my email without having to muck about with workarounds. Why does that mean I'm nuts? Because as soon as it was fixed I felt the weight of the world lifting off my chest. If you remember, my nosedive into despair started when the email troubles began.

Now that things are working again I'm ready to start moving stuff to the new hosting service. I just need to copy some files over and get the Sumo List setup, then it's just a matter of changing the DNS. I should have that done by next weekend.

Hey, two things I need to do by next weekend; make an appointment with a therapist and switch the server. The former is just a 10 minute phone call while the latter is a few hours of work. I'll give you 5 to 1 that I get the server moved first.

Take the odds.

It's a Sure Thing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Up is down and sideways is straight ahead

Still can't sleep.

Can you believe there's snow on the ground? Last Monday it's 83° and now snow!?! It's been like this for weeks. Up, down, up, down. Spring better get its @$$ here soon. $DEITY how I hate the cold.

You know, I think if you look up[1] "manic depressive" you'll see a picture of me next to it. If not then there should be. Ok, maybe not "manic" but my psych is still mirroring the weather. What does it mean when you don't want to die but still don't want to live? What do you do? I still have the overpowering urge to cut my wrists (vertically, of course, not horizontally). I also have a months worth of Ambian plus a ton of pain killers, anti-depressants (guess they aren't working very well) and muscle relaxants. They should make up a very nice cocktail. But that wouldn't work, I think, because I'd probably just regurgitate such a mixture.

Just ran across an interesting page, "Suicide... Read This First". It does a pretty good job of talking you out of it but I will have to disagree with point #3 about pain. There is a point when the vast nothingness of death can be quite compelling. It wouldn't be as bad if the pain were excruciating, strange as that sounds. I've experienced some really painful things before (torn Achilles tendon, blew out my knee in football, some other things and, the worst of all, the viral spinal meningitis). Extreme pain can either be fought or it overwhelms you. Either way it's the only thing you are doing at that time and you know that sooner-or-later it will stop (either it's removed or you pass out/die). But solid, heavy, powerful pain that goes on for years... That crushes your soul; twists your mind. I have no desire to do anything. And by anything I mean ANYTHING. Eat, sleep, wake, lay down, sit up, breath, talk, watch TV, even typing this all out right now. I'm forcing myself to do it.

There are many people in this world who are in much worse situations than I. I'm just a whining baby compared to what they are going through. But that doesn't keep the despair away. The good feeling I get being with my son is enough to keep me going but it's becoming less and less effective.

Maybe I'm just looking for attention. But if that were the case I'd do more than contradict myself in posts here. I'd have actually tried to kill myself. It feels more like I don't want any attention. I don't want anyone around. I don't even want anyone virtually around.

Speaking of which, a number of very wonderful people did a terrific and kind thing for me yesterday. People I have only known online. Many (most?) of whom aren't even in the same hemisphere as I. I keep getting these little "signs" that there is still something out there to care about. To be involved with. To live for. But they are little "signs".

VH1 or MTV had a mostly stupid show on a little while back about the 40 greatest Internet stars. You know, people like the Star Wars kid or Perez Hilton. One of them was this guy who traded a red paperclip and ended up with a free house. Shit like that really makes everything here seem so insipid and valueless. Fame & fortune to some schmuck with a webcam and yet Brad Delp passes away.

It really makes no sense.

Not even $0.02 worth.

Oh, and E-man, you can comment on this one if you like. But I think you must be getting tired of my crap by now.



[1] Just don't use Wikipedia to look it up. At least if you are in school and doing homework.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Just what the doctor ordered

There's no sign of the morning coming,
there's no sight of the day.
You've been left out on you own
like a rainbow.

Like a rainbow in the dark.

Yeah yeah.

Just a rainbow in the dark!


It's been a long time since I've gotten lost in music. See, I got boxes full of records, many of which were never available in the US. But I don't have anything close to that on CD's or MP3's. I miss the music that always got me through the hard times. I need to check with my brothers and see what they have available. I'm sure that there's a few CD's in their collections for which I have a slight need. Like now, for instance. Insomnia is no stranger to me but I could always count on Ted Nugent or AC/DC to lull me to sleep.

If I can get some organization in the wind I might be able to pull off a small comeback. Basically I'm ready to go but for one small problem; IMAP pointer errors. I can see them with a tcpdump but I have no idea where the disconnection is on the server.

Oh well. Maybe I'll just blow off all the old stuff and start fresh. It's probably better for me not to have all those incriminating emails stored hither and yon anyway. Yeah, that's the ticket. Save the Sumo List but dump everything else.

What the hell, right?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..."

Spring break started Monday. My son has been here since then. Well, actually he's been outside playing with the other kids. Anyway, I put him to bed just a while ago and something wonderful happened. He said I had to give him an extra three hugs and two kisses to make up for the weekend he was at his mothers. It was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. Like a bright shining light in the darkness. I still feel depressed (well, hopeless is more accurate) about my life but I no longer am having any "urges". This has only been for a few hours so it's still early but inside I feel different. Maybe things will forever be dark, dank and dreary for me, but I have quite a bit to hold onto even so. I still need to call for an appointment with a therapist (I can procrastinate with the best of them). But there just might be a glimer of hope on the horizone.

Maybe.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Not all but some; not there but close

No.

Yes.

Maybe.

I can't tell anymore.

It's up, down, up, down... Nothing works but it's getting fixed. Or it could be if I would do something about it. "You must be proactive with your health, Mr. Klemmer." That's what the psychiatrist told me.

Yeah, right.

Catatonic? Wouldn't that be nice.
Gin and tonic? No, not at all.

I don't want to die but I don't want to live. Maybe it's selfish, but then the only one who is me is me. No more sharp implements or pharmaceutical assistance. But what then? "Didja ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, and still had the feeling that you wanted to stay?" sang Jimmy Durante in The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Just finished watching Cars. I'm alone this weekend and have been wanting to watch it for a while now. You know the part when Lightning first sees Doc Hudson drift? I'm watching that and all of a sudden I start crying like a baby. Why?

I think that tomorrow I'll just... just... just what? Just wouldn't wake up, that's all. I can't keep going but there's no way to stop. I can't take any more but there's no where else for it to go.

What does it mean if you wish you could slit your wrists but don't because you can't think of any place to do it that wouldn't cause an inconvenience?

Can you be manic/depressive if you don't have extreme mood swings?

I think I'll go off the grid for a while. No 'Net usage. I can do without everything but email under normal circumstances. But I think this time is going to be different. "Don't call us; we'll call you."

I'm going to bed now.

P.S. Please do not comment on this post. Yes, I'm talking to you. You know who you are.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How does one define their usefulness?

My pseudo-manic/depression has me thinking a lot about how I got to where I am today. Not so much the stuff that happened to me but the effect it had on who me is. It's a corollary to the eternal question, "Why am I here?" My question is, "Of what use am I?"

First, we should define "use" and "useful" in the context of this post. If you ask someone what they do, the responses will invariably be their job or career or social status. Things along the line of; "I am a truck driver." "I am an accountant." "I am a super model, and, why are you even talking to me?" "I'm a teacher." "I'm a mother."

All the things that we do in life define us. But they are not the exclusive definition. There are many other things that help define who we are. How we got to this moment in time. And what it is we expect to be doing in the foreseeable future. All of this is affected by your life experience. Your upbringing. Your socioeconomic status. Your religion, race, gender. All of this put together make up who we are.

But this isn't an indication of one's usefulness in life, is it? What is it that we can point to to say this is a useful person. (I am reminded of Sir Topham Hatt telling Thomas the Tank Engine that he was a very useful engine). I have always felt that a very useful person is one who can have a positive effect on others lives. Not necessarily something as spectacular as saving a drowning man. My father was one such man. He lived his life and everywhere he went he had a positive effect on everyone he knew. It might have been a small thing; a few moments listening to a student. Maybe some advice to not play football at West Point and concentrate on the Olympics (Alonzo!)

For most of my life I felt I was less than everyone else. Due to many physical and environmental factors I grew up with an inferiority complex the size of the Superdome. During the 80's I worked hard to bring it down to a small bubble. This then opened up a world to me. I had friends, I was listened to and often sought out for advice. And she I got into all this high-end techie stuff I became someone who spent as much time helping/teaching others as doing my own coding. I gained a reputation as the guy you can go to if you're stuck on something. During the 90's with the explosion of the Internet, I became someone who could do things on a global scale. Granted, I wasn't a household name or quoted in Forbes or the Wall Street Journal. But I knew people and they knew me. And they knew I could be counted on to help in whatever they needed (if I my swiss cheese brain forget, that is).

But what of now? Who and what am I? I'm an unemployed, homeless single father who's life should be revolving around his son but is instead being crushingly dominated by pain. Because of this I feel, whether justified or not, that I have no useful purpose in this world. I'm barely a father; more like a lump of clay. I can't even help out with the shopping or cooking or laundry anymore. Family and friends have told me often that I am a real help and that they think of me a useful. But them telling me this doesn't change the black vortex inside my chest. Nor does it quell the constant loop running through my head of me lying on the couch staring at the TV for the rest of my life.

See, until I know that I am useful, nothing else matters. That's why the possibility of doing techie stuff in the near future plus the formation of a plan that I could actually stick to (hell, it'd be a great achievement if I can just start the damned thing) has brought me back from the brink of total despair. Well, at least one step back.

I still need to call a psychotherapist for an appointment. Got three names/numbers on Monday but keep putting off calling. I just don't feel like dealing with anything.

At all.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Something odd happened today

Well, a couple of somethings. It was like one long, drawn out somethings really. The oddity factor is that the somethings were all what you'd call "bad news" but the end result was anything but.

Finances have been beyond tight for a long time now but it seems that lately every time we get a little ahead something breaks. A couple of months ago it was the dish washer. It was old and on it's last legs anyway so that wasn't a great surprise, really. The trouble began when they tried to put the new one in. Seems this house was built with a non-standard sized dish washer. We'll have to remodel the whole kitchen to get a new washer installed. Then one of the cars broke down and needed fixing. A tree fell in the back yard a while ago but it finally got to the point where it needed to be removed. So a landscaper came in and cleared out a bunch of junk along with the tree. The last thing was a letter from the IRS saying I owed taxes on income I didn't report. What income you might ask? Seems that in '05 the bank wrote off a $6600 debt I had with them. There's no way I could pay on it anyway so they just ate the cost. However the IRS sees this $6600 as income so I have to pay tax on it. Get it? I have to pay tax on money I owed. Insane. And there's a bunch more crap on top of that, not the least of which is my ex.

Another part of the somethings is that my buddy who's been letting me CoLo my server for free these last 10 or so years is kicking me out. It was coming for a while now; I'm surprised it lasted this long. This means I need to find some other hosting arrangements. Like everyone else I need as much as possible for as little as possible. But I have some good options already. Ideally getting a circuit into the house would be best but the only circuit everyone says they can install is a T-1. A minimum of $300/mo. I'll be lucky if I can afford a tenth of that.

My mother found out about the, a-hem, "scratches" on my wrist. First she was in shock, then panic, then 3 inches shy of a stroke before finally beating me soundly 'round the back, shoulders and head. OC, it wasn't like getting hit by anything harder than a stuffed bunny so it was nothing. When she finally calmed down we were able to eat dinner. Pizza Hut is having this 5 medium pizzas for $5 each. The fuckers charged us $10/ea instead, but that's another story.

But here's where it gets odd. Today was the first day I didn't feel utter and total despair. I felt a little blah but nothing like the last few weeks. Maybe it's the Prozac kicking in. But I think it might have to do with something that's got be thinking again. I recently ran across the development web application framework called CodeIgniter. It's PHP based and seems to be in the family of things like Ruby on Rails. While I'd love to learn Ruby, I already know some PHP and the documentation for the thing is incredible. Better than most commercial products.

So I hatched a plan. I'll learn CodeIgniter and get better with PHP. I'll pick a good AJAX library (right now I'm looking at dojo, myAJAX, xajax, yui & prototype). I'll build one or more sites that will have interesting things on them along with Google AdSense and/or whatever Yahoo has that's similar. Maybe I can make enough to keep the server online. My afore mentioned buddy is getting about a grand a month with his setup. And it's all residual income.

You see, I'm good at a few things. If I were healthy I'd be running a data center by now. I know this because I've already had to turn down offers to do so. I can do SysAdmin stuff, some Network and even some Security. But my first love is programming. I am not what you'd call a brilliant programmer. Hell, I'm not what you'd call a half-assed programmer anymore. It's been forever (12 or 13 years at least) since I really did any coding. But I love to do it. It's fun and it makes me happy.

And therein lies the key to why today was odd yet also a potential turning point. My life is still shit; the pain is still the single most dominant thing in my world. There is absolutely no way out of this "pit of despair." I will never again have my own place to live, my own car, my own job, my own girlfriend. But... Just maybe... I could do a little hacking.

"Hackito Ergo Sum"

I hack, therefore I am.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hesitation: The act of hesitating; suspension of opinion or action;

Do you know what hesitation marks are? Maybe hesitation cuts? If you've watched a little Law and Order or CSI then you've likely heard of them. They are seen when someone is trying to stab or cut but is, at least initially, unsure of themselves. Maybe not sure they want to do the cutting or unsure how best to do it. Either way, they are fairly noticeable to those trained to notice such things.

The Miss USA 2007 Pageant is on right now. I have the TV muted so I don't know what's happening. To be honest I don't care. Whomever Miss USA ends up being will have no impact on my life nor anything remotely touching my life.

My ex-wife is going through a lucid, rational period at the moment. These things come on every now and again. Hopefully this one will last long enough to get some positive stuff done for our son. He's doing so much better in this new school but lately he's started slipping back into his old form. He got detention this week. His first one of the year. I'll hold off on telling how many times I was "detained" in grade school until he's much older.

I'm wandering around the topic, it seems. Writing non-sequitur to keep from getting to the real heart of the matter.

Have you ever found yourself doing something that you really didn't want to do? I don't mean like kissing your great aunt Flora or cleaning up the dogs poop. I mean doing something serious. All the while your brain is saying "Stop that!" But your hands and body seem to ignore it. I have never had this happen to me in a conscious state. Never, that is, until 5:30pm today.

Everyone was out of the house; my mother took her grandson, my son, to a local park with some other kids from the neighborhood and my brother was just leaving work. I figured I'd take a shower and get dressed in something other than pajamas for once. I brush my teeth then get the shower running so it's nice and warm. Just then, for no reason at all, I got my leatherman and made a short one inch cut parallel to my arm at the left wrist. It was nothing, barely a scratch, and it didn't feel all that nice either. But for some reason I still have no grasp of, I did it again. And again. And again. Then it stopped. Right out of the blue. It now looked like a cut one might get from working with tools or running in the woods. So I took my shower and thought nothing more of it.

After I finished showering, I dried off and got partway dressed. While looking in the mirror during my normal after shower cleansing routine I suddenly got the letherman and started running ice cold water over my left wrist. After it got quite numb I started cutting it again. This time shorter cuts, about 1/2 inch, but these were much deeper. I didn't go all the way through though. I don't know why I didn't. I don't know why I did it. Then it just stopped like the first time. When my brothers got in they noticed it but I played it off like I just bumped into the door or something. Mum and son haven't seen it yet. Or at least haven't mentioned it.

The scariest part of this whole thing is not what could happen to me. It's what would happen to my son if I were to do something unreasonable. If I were to succeed then there'd be no one there to be his father and teach him about life and family and his grandfather, my father. If I am unsuccessful then I'm put in a bed at the psych ward and my son would be taken from me. But as much as I hate the idea of not being here for him I am also noticing that maybe my being here is not in his best interest. I am damn near blinded by pain every moment of every day. I don't own the shirt on my back. I'm legally and effectively homeless. There's no hope of me ever finding any kind of employment. There's even less hope of me finding any kind of female relationship. Hell, I couldn't afford a $20 hooker. I don't even have a car. All my life I've wanted a family to live and grow with. One that was mine and also part of the bigger family of us all. Now I have nothing. Well, almost nothing. I do have my son. But am I giving him the best environment and support to grow and flourish?

The effects of a suicide on the surviving family and friends is devastating and can lead to some very difficult times. I know this. It's always harder on those left behind. But in the long run, the benefit of not having a debilitating presence in ones life can overshadow the loss. The trick is knowing where the line is and if it should be crossed. I can't see the line but it seems that a very strong part of me wants to cross it.

I just have to hang on 'till Monday. I got the info and numbers to three Therapists in the area. I'll call and see which one has the earliest opening and make an appointment right away. I am also going to read some of the Buddhas writings. His stuff has helped center me in the past. Maybe it'll help now.

Or at least keep my hands busy with books instead of knifes.