puntiglio.com

February 29, 2008

Open Source Ecology

Filed under: Cool stuff,Observations — sbj @ 5:14 pm

There is an interesting “Village” under construction (on the internet via a wiki, of course) with some pretty lofty (and cool) goals. From their Introduction:

Imagine a village with buildings of dirt (CEB) with year-round greenhouses (sawmill, CEB, bioplastics from local trees), with all facility energy produced by a solar turbine, where people drive hybrid cars with car bodies (bioplastics) made from local weeds, with critical motors and metal structures (aluminum) extracted from on-site clay, which are fueled by alcohol produced on-site, on a wireless network linked to the greater world. That’s just a sampling of the technology base. Food, energy, housing sufficiency. There are no poor among us – because we are all evolving human beings and farmer scientists.

The web page can be found here.

I find the idea very attractive, at least in concept.  I do have to wonder about sustainability, and their basic premise that:

… humans are capable of transcending struggle for survival and resource conflicts, where this preoccupation is replaced by higher pursuits of personal and societal evolution.

Mind you, I love that concept, I just know so few people capable of reaching that level of “enlightenment”.  I do not question that they exist (I even “pretend” that I’m one of them), however I do wonder if we have evolved enough as a species to have the requisite critical mass of like minded people to create such a village (let alone numerous villages).  My hope right now, is that I live in a sleepy backwater town, and in reality the world is teeming with folks ready willing and able to make the kind of materialistic sacrifices that are required to live this sort of life.

I was listening to an interview with William F. Buckley (yes, I know… ultra-conservative… not my usual “goto” source of information and quotes, however, I take quotes when they are meaningful, regardless of idealogical concurrence) last night and one sentence jumped out at me.  He said that “we get 90% of our knowledge from reading”.  I was left wondering what percentage of our population, in this multi-media society, can lay claim to that much knowledge garnered from a print medium.   I was struck and saddened to think that not only was the number probably quite small, but my own children were not on the list.  While they do read far more than the average children of their age, they still get a great deal of their knowledge from shows like Myth Busters (or worse).

Those of Mr Buckley’s stock, who have garnered most of their knowledge from books, and more significantly, from the relentless pursuit of continuing education, would thrive in the Open Source Ecology world.  Those who get comfy on the couch and wait for knowledge (or in many cases, simply entertainment devoid of intellectual substance) to come to them… not so much so.

I am forced to ask my self which of these demographics do I belong to?  How about my children?  The whole thing is inspiring some serious thoughts of domestic reorganization…

February 28, 2008

Historically speaking…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 7:05 pm

I read another nice blog entry yesterday (read it here). My synopsys of this blog is this:

One should not be voting for a candidate because they think that candidate will make history, one should be voting for them because they are the best candidate. Further, if one is going to take historical importance into consideration when casting your vote, one should do so with an open and objective mindset, not one narrowed by their particular point of view.

Unfortunately, we live in an era where sensationalism takes precedence over practicality and the media (and their lemmings) cannot help but try to create history where it may or may not exist, and then try to be an active part of it.

We live in a world where people say gi-normous, because neither gigantic nor enormous is enough to express the magnitude of what they are trying to describe. We live in a world where it is not the least bit surprising or noteworthy to hear a person say that is the coolest (or dumbest) thing they have ever seen.

People say these things to stand out, to get attention. Our generation is about who you know, what you can do for me, how cool and connected are my friends, etc. We live in an era in which the Individual Confidence Index (if such a thing existed) would have to be at an all time low, while external validation is at an all time high. To these people, being part of history seems like a great idea.

Further, if we have learned nothing over the past 20 or 30 years, it is that there is, in fact, shame in second. Winning is everything, and if the win is historic, the necessity for being a part of it is re-doubled.

This is a tragic flaw in our society, it is a spiral that I’m not sure we, collectively, have the wherewithal to escape. Getting back to the point of the blog I read, I agree that a person should not be voting just to be part of history (of course, as I have stated before, I do believe that this could be an historic presidency, and I want to see that happen, but that is about my expectations of the results, it is not about me being a part of it).

Much like my delegates post (I’m just full of self references today, aren’t I?) I really hope that election choices are based on what would be best for the country and the world in general, not which slice of history a person might be able to become a part of.

February 27, 2008

I am inspired…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 12:06 am

Fantastic writing (a snip below):

Barack Obama is no more or less able to deliver on the specifics of his policy platforms than any of the other candidates. The most potent difference between him and his opponents is not a matter of policy, it’s a matter of character. I trust the rigor of his intellect, the freshness of his perspective, and the decency of his person.

That is the promise of an Obama presidency — a promise I believe he can deliver on.

The rest of the blog (her blog not mine) here. Check it out!

February 26, 2008

Posted for a friend…

Filed under: Cool stuff — sbj @ 8:09 pm

Langston Hughes (if you don’t know, you better ask somebody!!)

_____

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

Health Insurance – To mandate, or not to mandate… that is the question

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 5:33 pm

Health care.  This topic has been bugging me for the past few days.  There are those, who know me, who would say I am obsessed with it.  The reason I struggle, is that I am having trouble reconciling the projected effectiveness of Clinton’s plan (specifically the required aspect) and Obama’s plan (which, of course, lacks a mandate for adults).  So, what you get to go through with me today, is my attempt to sort out, on “paper”, what I think about this.

Starting from the top down, there is the argument that if insurance is optional, the people most in need will opt out.  On the surface this seems solid.  However, that begs the question of whether the government should be making those choices for people.

This leads to the commonly used argument pointing to the success with auto insurance mandates.  However, in my perspective, that is an apples to oranges comparison.  With auto insurance you are mandated to cover other people in the event you do damage to their personal property (or person).  Given the risks inherent to people other then the driver, this makes sense.  Obviously this model does not make sense with health care, unless you want to start paying for liability insurance to cover those that you sneeze upon (The Health Care Liability Insurance Plan – details coming soon, to a blog near you ).

It makes sense (to whatever degree) for a society to make laws to protect people from the actions (deliberate or otherwise) of others, but I’m not sure that laws should be enacted to protect people from themselves.  People should have the option to insure themselves against anything they want, but I do not believe it should be mandatory.

A valid comparison, in the current insurance industry would be life insurance.  To the best of my knowledge (which is not extensive on this topic at all), there is nowhere you can live in these United States that requires life insurance, nor should there be.

I agree with mandating care for children.  In this case, you are back to the model of being required to insure people to whom you may do harm with your lack of responsibility. And, to throw a complete wrench in the mix, a person or family should have the option to post a bond or something to self insure, rather than carry insurance if they have the independent wealth to cover their dependents health care needs.

I guess, once I started writing about it, it was not that tough a decision after all.  I’m not sure I can find a valid rational for Mrs.Clinton’s plan (please feel free to share any you may have in comments, I’m all about being corrected).  For now, after further review, the call on the field stands and I am still an Obama supporter, Health care plan and all.

February 25, 2008

This is just cool – piclens, image browsing

Filed under: Cool stuff — sbj @ 7:17 pm

Late last week I found a little treat of a program. I was rebuilding my desktop and was installing one of the very few Firefox plugins I use (cooliris) when I discovered the piclens by the same company.

I’m not sure how well I can describe what piclens does, but I’ll give it a try. Before I do, however, here is how they describe it:

Our new interactive “3D Wall” lets you effortlessly drag, click, and zoom your way around a wall of pictures for an extraordinary, full-screen viewing experience. Why mundanely flip through online photo galleries or squint at thumbnails from Google Image Search when you can fly through an immersive, full-screen experience instead?

It’s actually a little cooler than it sounds. You do get the wall of pictures, as advertised. You can zoom from picture to picture, getting high quality renderings in an instant, as advertised. What may not be clear is that the full screen experience they speak of, is actually the image. This is by far the largest and clearest rendering of many of the images I sifted through in my searches that can be obtained.

The plugin does not work just everywhere, it is for media sites like MySpace, Flickr, Google images etc. However, if for no other purpose than scanning through google images with rocket speed this application is worth the download and play time.

Check it out, you will not regret it!

By the way, if you have not checked out Cooliris and you use Firefox, you need to check it out as well.   It is the only plugin I hve ever loaded, for any application, that I consider “essential”.  I simply would not have or use a Firefox installation without it.   Do yourself a favor and check it out while you are at it.

February 22, 2008

Overly pedestrian entry…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 8:56 pm

I am struck, as I sit here monitoring the situation in Miami, with a sense of “here we go again”.  All the key players are here, CNN, an airplane, you get the idea.  No, there are no terrorists, and really, there is not much danger of a crash.  However, there is live streaming coverage.  Reality TV meet your second cousin, Reality.  You kind of  have to wonder how much productivity, bandwidth and money is being lost as result of this one (non)event.

Of course, it could be argued that I’m making it worse by writing about it now… so, since I’ve made my point… I’m going to go…

February 21, 2008

Today…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 5:41 pm

Today, as I walked to work, I looked up…

Away from the car noise and the sound of my feet moving me across the concrete there were trees.  Magnificent trees, reaching toward the heavens from a foundation solidly grounded on the very earth over which I traveled.  The trees were not stuck in a linear two dimensional world, moving from place to place, accomplishing thing after thing, they were sprawling in every direction and dimension despite their apparent lack of mobility.

Today, as I waked to work, I looked up…

Away from the car noise and the sound of my feet moving me across the concrete there were squirrels.  Energetic squirrels, bounding from branch to branch on those same trees.  Little time and space travelers, using each branch as a stepping stone rather than a path. Refusing to be bound by the laws of gravity and their lack of wings, they created routes where there appeared to be none.

Today, as I walked to work, I looked up…

Away from the car noise and the sound of my feet moving me across the concrete there were birds.  Boisterous birds, chirping and singing for all they were worth.  Transcending the noise of the cars and my shoes with the melodies of morning.  How I was unable to hear this crescendo before was a mystery to me, as it was now all my ears would allow me to hear.  They provided lifes soundtrack for this morning, as they do every morning if you let them, broadcasting their message in every direction, simultaneously .

Today, as I walked to work, I looked up…

Away from the car noise and the sound of my feet moving me across the concrete there was life.  Unencumbered life, existing oblivious to traffic, schedules and obligations.  As I watched and appreciated that life, I felt it wash over me, revitalize and energize me.  It taught me lessons, it expanded my horizons, and it made me a better, more appreciative and adaptable person.  Not just for today, I hope, but for all of the days ahead.

Tomorrow, as I walk to work, I will be looking up… Away from the car noise and the sound of my feet moving across the concrete.

February 20, 2008

An open letter to Google and Snopes…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:53 pm

Two words… partner-ship.

You know what I hate doing, I hate getting an email with a story in it that I cannot be sure is correct and subsequently having to turn to the internet (specifically snopes) to validate it. These stories come to me via email, so here is what I want.

I want my email client to tell me the story is BS when I open it. Google (Gmail) already indexes my email so it can place relevant ads next to the body of my email. If you are going to read my email anyway, hook up with someone who can validate it for me. If the content of the email resembles a known “urban legend” you provide a link to the appropriate page on Snopes at the top of my email (perhaps in red), just like a phishing alert.

You will:

1. Save people like me (who always validate email stories before forwarding them) time and effort.

2. Save people unlike me (who never validate email stories before sending them) embarrassment and scorn.

3. Add a significant advantage to your service, as well as actual user ROI for intrusively indexing my email.

4. Drive traffic and provide recognition to Snopes.

Everyone comes out ahead. It is a win-win-win scenario.

Think about it, please :)

February 19, 2008

Movie Review – Jumper

Filed under: Movie Reviews — sbj @ 3:57 pm

Yep, a movie review, I’ll bet most of you thought I had abandoned the concept (and after reading, some of you might wish that I had).

I took the boys to see this one and I was more excited then they were at the start.  They were, by far, more excited about it than I was at the end.  I have not looked, but I’m quite sure Jumper did not fare very well with move critics in general.  The plot was full of holes and contradictions, and the lead character was worse than uninspiring (yes, I meant to say it exactly that way).

There are movies with lovable bad guys, and then there are movies with lead characters bereft of character and socially redeeming qualities. Three guess which one we have here.  It is very hard to rally around a lead who insists that he is “different” and “not like the others” when the only others we have seen are of higher moral quality than he is.  I’m also not sure why you would put a justifying line like “I know it was wrong, but what would you do if you were 15″ in the movie and then have the character continue on the same path throughout the movie?  Doesn’t that line imply that he had since learned better?  I’m sorry, but I was not rooting for him, simply because he appeared to be the lessor of two evils, at the end of the movie.  My standards for getting behind someone are a bit higher than that.

What can I recommend about this movie?  I liked the concept, and as I alluded to earlier, my boys loved it.  They have created their own little “jumper” world, and, thanks to a little parental influence, are using their powers for good. This is in contrast to, say, saving time getting to the fridge while watching the news and doing nothing about the fact that people are dying in a flood, as occurs in the movie.  That type of character development, I can do without.

The special effects are top notch, so if you are in for some eye candy, it is worth watching from that standpoint.  However, I really cannot encourage anyone to watch this movie.  Overall, the message is do whatever you want, whenever you want, don’t bother taking anyone else’s life into account, its all about you.  Sadly, he gets rewarded by this behavior at the end of the movie, escaping the hands of the “bad guys” re-connecting with his mother, and getting the girl.

Overall, a horrible message.  On the old 1-6 o’meter it gets a reluctant 2, based entirely on concept and special effects.  If you are going to subject yourself to this movie, see it at theaters where you can get the full effect of the limited value it does have.  Do the world a favor though, and do not take your children, unless you plan to put in a good deal of time reconstructing what a roll model with those powers should be acting like.

February 18, 2008

The Bill of Rights is at it again…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 10:40 pm

At last, a truly controversial issue!  Well, at least on the surface anyway.

World, meat JuicyCampus.com

JuicyCampus.com, world.

The purpose of the site: tell your stories of campus life, the juicier the better.  The problem: peoples defamed reputations, lies and scandals abound. The issue: As usual, the bill of rights is getting a workout.

No where is freedom of expression, press, and speech more commonly championed than on college campuses, most vehemently by the students themselves.  But what happens when it is their right to privacy being trumped by another persons right to free speech.

I’m going to ignore the cases of outright lying.  There are laws to deal with these instances and it is, in my opinion, the responsibility of each individual to press charges and take action when false statements are made against them.

Instead lets look at the case of Bobby and Betty.  Bobby and Betty “hook up” after the post-football game party for a night of dorm room “fitness”.  The next day, Bobby logs into JuicyCampus.com and recounts the entire affair in graphic detail for the world to see.  Bobby feels he is protected by the first Amendment, specifically by this passage:

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

JuicyCampus.com agrees with Bobby.

Betty feels used, violated, and perhaps even a wee bit angry.  She feels she has a right to privacy.  She feels that her nocturnal activities are personal and not to be shared.  She wonders what kind of gentleman not only kisses and tells, but publishes his musings before the entire gossip crazed world?

Welcome to the two thousands, my friends.  Welcome to an era where the intent of the law has become the whipping post of the letter.

Does anyone out there really believe that the framers of the bill of rights truly meant to give carte blanche rights to anyone who wanted to violate the trust and privacy of their fellow citizens, in the interest of free press.  Or, do you think, perhaps, they were more referring to freedom of speech within the context of the document they were actually amending.  Specifically, with regard to government and governance.  There is a reason for “clear and present danger” and other considerations.  In fact, the concept of clear and present danger is not limited to clear and present danger, as it is typically explained (the proverbial fire in the theater).  This, from that decision by Justice Holmes:

We admit that in many places and in ordinary times the defendants in saying all that was said in the circular would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done.

“The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done”… forgive me if I am being overly simple here, but JuicyCampus.com is, in any circumstance, rather lacking in character.

It is the hope of most campuses and activists against the site that if they ignore it, it will go away.  I’m hoping they are right… but I’m not sure how much better that will make Betty sleep at night.

February 13, 2008

I work in tech support…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 6:57 pm

’nuff said

February 12, 2008

HR7152

Filed under: Observations,mlk — sbj @ 11:50 pm

AKA The Civil Rights Act of 1964 granted equal right protections to 100 million Americans, created 380 federal jobs (over the first 5 years) at an annual estimated cost of $16 million per year (also over the first 5 years), all dedicated to those protections.  It was the immediate culmination of MLK’s work, and the beginning of the journey toward his dream.

Interestingly, the protections extended to the vast majority of the people effected by this bill were there only by virtue of the “law of unintended consequences”.

For obvious, albeit nonsensical, reasons there was considerable opposition to the resolution.  One of the attempts to kill the bill was a legislative tactic called a “killer” amendment.  In essence, an amendment that common sense dictated would preclude anyone from voting for the bill.  it appears that Rep. Howard Smith of Virginia lacked some of the common sense he was hoping to exploit because his attempt to kill the bill backfired badly in his face (much to the joy of millions of Americans).

What was the killer amendment that passed along with the bill itself? It was simply adding one single word to the document.  The word “sex”.  With those three letters Smith, quite inadvertently, and completely against his intentions, ushered in government efforts to promote gender equality in the workplace.

Here’s to you Rep. Smith, you don’t get it (or at least didn’t at the time, probably in more ways than one), but thanks to you, over half the people in the country did!!!

Lie to me, just do it honestly…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 9:37 pm

Every truth, is also a lie.

This quote caught my attention not only because it was 6 words (see yesterdays post about 6 word memoirs), but because of the depth of the observation. One of the responses I got yesterday when I passed around the 6 word memoir challenge was this:

It Is What It Is Not

I got the same feeling from both quotes. In another post I discussed my perception of the differences between truth and reality. Specifically, that truth tends to be a rather relative thing these days. My truth may not ring true to you, simply based on your interpretation and depth of knowledge regarding the circumstances surrounding the reality (the reverse is also true, I’m not saying my truth is better than anyone else’s). This thought process brought to the forefront of my mind one of my other favorite quotes:

Your enemy is never a villain in his own mind

Most people are doing whatever they are doing, because they feel doing so is “just” or “the right thing to do”. When it comes to removing a potential menace from their lives (from bug bombing your basement to the fire bombing of Dresden) people always have a justification, ahem, I mean a reason that makes sense to them.

Given this ambiguity of intent, I tend to question the wisdom of certain people (like, say, the United States) exercising their “right” to exert their “truth” upon someone else (in, say, Iraq, Korea, Iran, Vietnam, Palestine, Cambodia, the entire world, the moon, space… oops… sorry, got carried away). It’s nothing new, you can visit the history books and revel in the “generosity”, when it came to sharing their versions of the truth, of the Romans, the Germans, the Mongrels, the Huns, the Egyptians, etc. the list goes on and on. It appears that those who learn from history, can, and will, repeat it. But I digress…

Given this ambiguity of intent I tend to question the wisdom of certain people exercising their “right” to exert their “truth” upon someone else. In reality, I challenge anyone to categorically demonstrate that their “truth” is, in fact, reality and therefore worthy of converts from other truths. Rather, it seems to me, a persons time would be better spent trying to understand other peoples points of view. How did they start thinking this way, how did they reach this conclusion, and what can I learn from their thought processes and experiences.

Rather than preach and pontificate, if we imagine and inquire; perhaps we can learn and understand the perspectives of others, then place ourselves in their position. With the benefit of our experiences and the new found understanding of theirs, we can then re-evaluate the situation.

Every lie, is also a truth
Every villain, is also an evangelist
Every disagreement, is also an opportunity;
Listen to understand,
understand to empathize,
empathize to unite

Sounds workable to me…

February 11, 2008

Six Word Memoir… here we go!

Filed under: A life worth living,Cool stuff — sbj @ 10:09 pm

This is, in my opinion, cool. Each entry must be six words. I found the story on NPR. Actually, it was emailed to me. You should leave your version here. Leave it in my comments section.

Here’s mine, I hope you like:

“Leave it better, than it was”

Have a nice day, my friends…

A little ditty…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 10:01 pm

About my blog. I get a certain number of comments and/or emails saying I should edit or proof my blog more. I do not mean to be offensive, but, this is a weblog, not a school paper. I sit down and type until I am tired of typing, I then do a cursory spell and typo check and hit “publish”.

If anyone wants to copy/edit my entries for their own purposes, feel free. Heck, feel free to use them in whatever way you like (as long as you properly site the source, of course). However, understand, if you find it at puntiglio.com/blog, it will not be proof read. It will be exactly as it rolled off my fingers :)

Cheers, sbj

Don’t ask what your life can do for you…

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life,Observations — sbj @ 6:14 pm

I have been asked many times in my life what one thing I would change if I could.  My answers have ranged, depending on my mood and  from an uber-defiant “nothing”, to getting a law degree, to doing what was required of me to keep my family intact.

None of these answers are wrong, of course.  That is the inherent beauty of this question, no answer is really wrong.  There are only degrees of right.  So, the challenge becomes finding the most correct answer.  Then there is this other twist to the question, do we want to re-write history, or provide a better path for success going forward.  In most cases, I suspect, the answer would be different in each of those scenarios.

For today, I am going to address the question of going forward, and leave for another day the discussion of what I would change in the past.  There are a lot of very good answers to choose from.  I am certainly inspired to make a more consistent effort to leave the world a better place than I found it.  I want to spend some time every day strengthening the bonds that tie my family together, I think everyone should, at the end of the day, be able to list at least on thing they did that day to make their family stronger, closer, and/or healthier. I want to stay more focused on my ultimate goals and not be so easily sidetracked by life’s little distractions (both good and bad).  But, I still want to take time out to make the best of those same diversions.  I want to concentrate on living a life that is a positive inspiration to my children.

Whew… you get the idea.  So what is the best?  What really strikes a chord in me?  Is there one that would satisfy all of these intentions?

I have long stated, in various ways, that I think people tend to live their lives up to the value they place on their themselves.  Sort of a reverse nihilism, if you will.  While the nihilist does not believe they have anything to lose, and therefore does not fear the consequences of failure (making it all but inevitable) , the quality of the non-nihilists life is directly proportional to the level of pride they take in that life, their sense of accomplishment coupled with what they view their future potential to be.

If all of this rings a little co-dependant to you… join the club, it does to me as well.  However, it is nevertheless the way people work.  You may not like the game, but you still can’t change the rules.

If you mental attitude is positive, you will be more productive, it just works that way.  If you are pessimistic, roadblock after roadblock (most of them generously provided by you) will get in the way of your progress. The quote “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right” is popular and rings true for a reason

I think, when it comes down to it, what I would change is this:

I would have a greater appreciation for my life.  I would appreciate the people in my life more, and the experiences I have had, with others and on my own.  I would appreciate all of the things that have happened to me and around me, good or bad, for making me the man I am today.  In short, I would give living the credit it deserves, and I would… no… I will… start appreciating both everything I have accomplished in my years on this planet, and everything that I am going to accomplish with the time I have left.

February 10, 2008

Just how super is your delegate, anyway???

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 10:49 pm

According to my (news network to remain nameless) election tracker, Sen. Obama leads Sen Clinton by the slimmest of margins in pledged delegates.  They are just over half way home in this little contest, so a lot can happen, however, what appears to be clear is this, for the first time since 1984 the super-delegates appear to be in a position to make a major difference.  Today super-delegates make up just under 20% of the total delegates, so they will likely figure prominently this election.

In the past several days I have heard many arguments about the use of super-delegates (some of these arguments have spilled over into conversations about the electoral college, more on that a little later).  Most commonly I hear that there should not be any super-delegate votes, that the popular vote should designate the allocation of all delegates.

I find myself going back and forth on this one.  I have written on these very pages how much I wish the popular vote had been given its day in 2000.  I can certainly understand the general appeal to having all of the delegates come from the popular vote.   Especially since the democrats split up a states delegates proportionately based on the winning margin in the state (note to electoral college: check this out, its really quite clever… and… get this… fair; most people I know, that do not currently support you, might, if you handled yourself this way).

The other side of me says that, this is a representative government, and all of the super-delegates were elected by the same popular voters that are now feeling disenfranchised. A small dose (in this case as defined as ~20%) of dedicated party people might not be such a bad thing.  There is a measurable percentage of people, arguably over 20%, that caucus and vote in primaries that do not really have any clue about the issues or the people they are voting for.  They might not like black folk, they might think a womans place is in the kitchen, they might not like Hilary because she is not pretty enough for them, or Obama because he rhymes with Osama (yes, I have heard each of these “reasons” at least once), or any other reason that has nothing to do with their politics.  Regardless of what their reasoning is, what we know is this, when it comes to politics and the real reason to elect a leader, they do not know what they are talking about.  Because of these people, I do find some comfort in knowing that there might be some learned votes out there to cancel those people out if the need arises.

Here is the thing that bothers me, however.  It is my belief, a belief strengthened by every thing I have read, that super-delegates exist, first and foremost, to make sure the parties best interests are being served.  I do not think this is happening, and it concerns me.  The Republican party has all but said it, every independent political analyst I have heard willing to commit has said it… I have certainly said it… Hillary cannot win the general election, and will not be the next President of the United States.  Obama, and I’m quoting a super-delegate and state Demographic leader from Nebraska here:

“… is rallying our young people in a way that I’ve not see in my lifetime.  He’s a phenomenon.  He’s the next Jack Kennedy”

Lets think about that for a minute.  The party’s best interests are served by supporting a candidate few people can even win the general election, over someone who is potentially the next Kennedy?  Seriously?  I have a hard time thinking this is anything but the good old boys network and the Clinton political machine at work.  How many of these super-delegates owe their current political standing to President Clinton?

I’m not sure that the system is flawed, or that there should not be super-delegates, however, I’m pretty confident the system is currently being abused.  I don’t think it was ever designed to decide between the spouse of a former President and an up and coming contender, where built in bias and prior favors can create an uneven playing field.

I am inspired by the stories of a few super-delegates who have reported that they are re-evaluating their positions (for a variety of reasons).  I think it was put best by Donna Brazile (a top Democratic National Committee member)

“I don’t want to superimpose my personal views; I want to reflect the will of the voters.  Honestly, I don’t want to decide this”

Hopefully that kind of thinking prevails, and we do not wind up with some new addition to our lexicon (“hanging chads” anyone) from this election…

February 8, 2008

and now for something completely different…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 8:19 pm

Just a sketch of my son and me drawn last night done by one of those little vending machines…

February 7, 2008

Pescadero Beach

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 8:22 pm

I grew up in Menlo Park, California and one of the great treats in my life (which fortunately happened very often) was going to the beach.  Because of my mothers personality, this did not mean Santa Cruz and the beach boardwalk (at least not very often).  It meant the almost always overcast and just a touch chilly shores of the Half Moon Bay area.  Far more often that not, it meant, specifically, Pescadero Beach.

I could not possibly reconcile how many hours I spent playing King of the Mountain on the sand dunes, or “rocketing” down their slopes on cardboard “sleds”.  There was always wind and I learned to love having it blow through my hair and buffet me as I stood resolute against it atop the rolling hills.  I constructed innumerable drift wood forts for shelter against the wind and rain, and roasted countless marshmallows within those sturdy walls.

That beach was the “comfort food” of my young life.  It calmed me when I was anxious or frustrated, it entertained me when I was excited and full of energy, it consoled me when I was hurt or felt loss.  It was reliable, constant and yet so alive and vibrant and new every time.

This love affair lasted through college (Cal State Hayward).  It was a relatively short 45 minute drive from campus to the beach, and, believe it or not, only required me to travel on 2 roads the entire way, the highway that goes to Half Moon Bay dead ends at the Hayward campus (Coincidence? I think not).  Most days, I would leave my last class, grab all my books and head to the beach to study.  I often had to do so in my car because of the afore mentioned wind and rain, but that was fine.  What was important was being there, in the sea air, by the ocean, at home.

Then I moved away, and left this little slice of myself behind.  I still make the pilgrimage over the hills every time I visit the bay area (most of my family still lives there) and true to form, Pescadero is always there to welcome me back and provide me the comfort, entertainment or peace I need.  Pescadero has met every one of the significant women in my life (and most of the men).  So much of my identity is there, so much of my personality has been cultivated from my experiences there.

But life has moved on, and I have moved with it.  My visits are consistently fewer and further between (I do have a water bottle full of sand on my desk at work… I know… koo-koo!!).  Day to day life makes it very hard to prioritize getting back to visit (and you cannot stay in touch with a beach via email!!!).

I guess the good news is that Pescadero is not a sentient being.  It occurs to me that I have had some relationships in my life that have gone in similar directions.  Familiarity, combined with increasing demands on my time, leading to a reduction of the attention I once lavished upon them.  I think there might be a lesson in there worth grasping.

Allow me to introduce you to my old friend, Pescadero:

Now, I think I’m going to run off and touch base with some other old friends, humans are not as patient as beaches, after all…

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