Category Archives: Uncategorized

To Beard Or Not To Beard

I have had a beard for most of my adult life.  I do not wear it to please others, but I do get feedback and it is often quite divided.  So, here is a poll.  Which look works best?  Full long beard, short trimmed beard or no beard.

Don’t worry, you won’t hurt my feelings.

Unless you don’t vote…

 

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Perpetual Snooze

I have an alarm clock on my nightstand, as I’m sure many people do.  Maybe not as many as before the digital age, but I have been in enough places to notice that alarm clocks are still common (although the selection at the local retailer is getting as small as the software isle).  I have this clock set to go off at 6 am.  It does this without regard to which day of the week it is.  Even though it is Bluetooth enabled, it does not have programming options to set which days it goes off automatically.  I have to manually tell it to go off or not.  I also have my cell phone set to go off every weekday at 5:30 am and unlike my clock, I don’t have to turn off the alarm on the weekends because it does that by programming.  And just as a backup, I have a Zigbee automated outlet that turns my lamp on at 5:30 too.  I have to be up and heading for the shower by 6 to make it to work on time and this regime helps to keep me on time.  Of course, no one wants to get up early if they don’t have to.  The weekends have long been the respite from early mornings of buzzing clocks and chiming phones.  But the sad truth is I don’t really need any of this stuff.  As the years go by, my body has developed a more annoying way of ensuring I get up before 6 everyday, regardless of which day of the week it is.

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When I was young, my parents were always up before me on school days.  Even though we had to leave for school before they went to work, mom was up and about ensuring we had everything we needed to get off to the bus stop in time.  On the weekends, however, no one needed to tell us to get up.  My brother and I made a point of being up and in front of the TV for our Saturday morning cartoons.  Superfriends, Scooby Doo, and Bugs Bunny set our internal alarm clocks and we never hit snooze.  By the time Fat Albert came on, we were ready to head outside for whatever mischief we could dig up.  This internal alarm clock didn’t work on Sundays, however.  Mom had to drag us out of bed in time to get ready for church.
As I got older, sleep became more alluring.  In my teen years, my internal alarm clock got stuck on perpetual snooze.  Either that or it broke entirely.  Most adolescents share this antipathy toward getting out of bed, which lasts well into their 20’s.  I thought it would last forever.  I imagined spending long, languid days lounging in bed on the weekends.  I didn’t count on aging.  I didn’t remember my Granny’s example.
Every time we went to visit Granny, she was out of bed and in her recliner with a steaming cup of Folgers and the morning edition of the Democrat-Gazette before any of us had even shuffled to the bathroom.  This happened seven days a week.  This happened even though she was retired from her position as a teacher.  I remember, as a teenager, being in awe that she was always up so early, even though she didn’t have to be.  Why would any sane person be out of bed at 6 am if they didn’t absolutely HAVE to be under penalty of death or dismemberment?
Well, now I know.
Once a body hits a certain age–and this age is different for different people–it has different requirements and priorities.  While sleep is still important, the priority is often just a short walk down the hallway or in the adjacent room.  This priority is often attended in a semi-conscious state if awake at all.  Now, after relieving that priority, one might assume one could just drift back to bed, but no; the body has yet other ideas.  After trying to nestle back into the just-starting-to-cool sheets of the bed, I feel like a dog turning circles trying to settle in.  I end up flipping back and forth, rolling from one side to the other trying to get comfortable again to no avail.  With a groan of frustration, I look at the clock.  6 am.  Almost every day.  Some days it’s even earlier.  Most mornings, I spend a few minutes counting down until the alarm clock sounds. 
The true frustration is on the weekends, when I would really like to spend a few hours catching up on some Z’s as the morning light begins to stream in through the windows.  Alas, the times my body lets me stay in bed past oh-dark-thirty are few and far between, to the point of being rare.  Even this morning, I was awake and doing my horizontal rolling dance, trying to find a comfortable position until I surrendered to the inevitable and got up at 7:30.  Most weekends, I lay in bed and listen to my lovely wife softly snore and other times, I sit in the family room and listen to her not so softly snore.
There are benefits to this internal alarm clock.  I never oversleep.  I am usually on time for work.  I am rarely affected by time changes messing me up.  My internal clock seems to be on daylight savings time at the appropriate instances and it accounts for time zones when I travel.  Perhaps I could try to package this.  I could single handedly put the alarm clock industry out of business.  Too bad my internal clock doesn’t have Bluetooth.

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Citizen Who?

There is an important discussion in progress that promises to inform the debate and be a hinge pin in the midterm elections next year continuing to the presidential elections in 2016.  Immigration reform has been a topic in the public sphere for several years now, decades, even, but no one has really driven the issue to the forefront until this administration.  The left has been crying over what they perceive as a wrong that needs to be righted while the right decries the move as nothing more than an attempt to drum up more democrat-leaning voters.  While there are salient arguments to be made both ways, the underlying issue has nothing really to do with immigration or reform.  It has to do with something much more fundamental and much more important to the American way of life.  It has to do with rights and responsibilities.  It has to do with the foundational tenants of political affiliation.  It has to do with what it means to be American.  It boils down to one word: Citizen.

The Seattle Office of Civil Rights last week issued a policy letter to the city workers striking the word citizen from all official documents and replacing with the word with “resident.”  They claimed that the word “citizen” was offensive to residents who were living there without citizenship.  This is part of a larger language guidance that removes the words dinosaur and birthday among many others from official documents for the same “offensive” concern.  This is the most egregious case of political correctness run amuck to date.

The Eugene, Oregon city council in 2011 voted down a measure that called for reciting the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of all council meetings.  While many opponents claimed the words “Under God” violated their understanding of the separation of church and state, Councilman George Brown said that said that he did not feel any allegiance to the country, but rather to the world.

Is a citizen an integral component of controlling government, or does government exist to control the citizen?  This begs the question: what does it mean to be a citizen?  If you ask the average person on the street you might get answers like “to be born in the country” or “someone who pays taxes.”  These seem like good answers on the surface, but that is the point.  They are superficial.  They are easy to spit out and don’t require any thought.  But if you look deeper, there is a significant difference to how the word can be defined, and that difference, not surprisingly, can be drawn along the same ideological differences that separate liberals and conservatives.  Liberals tend to think that the citizen gives the government a reason for being; the citizen is dependent on the government for guidance and support.  Conservatives view citizenship as a duty to the greater good; that the citizen guides and supports the government.

This dichotomy is why compromise seems so hard to come by in politics.  The force behind any change in legislation is fundamentally opposed by the opposite corner.  When a politician from one side of the aisle reaches across to work with the other camp, they are accused of “selling out” and abandoning their principles.  This idea, while often harshly stated, is not far from true, but that is the definition of compromise.  No one wins the debate.  And as is true in so many polemic debates, there can be no clear winner.

So who wins in the citizenship debate?  Is a citizen an integral component of controlling government, or does government exist to control the citizen?  That is the idea that really drives the political debate and will continue to do so for as long as we have participatory government.  Once we lose the ability to debate, we have lost our government, our country and ourselves.  We would be a country of nothing but residents and no citizens.

Some conspiracy theorists have postulated that the Seattle initiative is related to the immigration reform “amnesty” that is before congress.  The thought is that if Americans come to believe that there is no such thing as citizenship, then “THEY” can come in and take over our country.  The “THEY” being socialists, communists or any other nondescript non-American entity.  While entertaining to consider, most people dismiss these allegations as extreme.  But as entertaining as it is, these theories are borne out of observation of real events and they are not all so farfetched as to be ignored.  The founding fathers warned that freedom requires diligence on the part of the citizen in watching the government, lest the freedoms so fiercely fought for would be willingly surrendered.  It would be so much easier to take the freedoms from residents than from citizens.

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Does Technology Die?

I read a tech column that was posted on Yahoo about 15 devices that children born today will never know and it has followed a running trend in the field of technology writing that assumes wireless is the answer to all that ails the world.  This is a fallacy and a common mistake made by many who do not truly understand the limitations of the technology.  The article also makes some pie in the sky assumptions about where today’s tech—TV, computers, remote controls and optical discs—will go.
Wireless communication is a fabulous thing.  Being able to talk to people untethered, not chained to a wall or even to a building is a marvel of the modern age.  It wasn’t that long ago that if you had a long cord on your receiver that allowed you to walk around the room, you were living large.  Now you can talk to someone while walking throughout your house, outside to the drive way, getting into your car and even driving down the street (don’t talk and drive people).
Wireless internet on handsets is also fabulous.  Being able to lookup directions, settle arguments about trivia, find sports scores and now even watch streaming videos in the palm of your hand is quickly becoming commonplace.
These applications are the basis for techno neophytes to assume that everything needs to be wireless.  If watching a video on an iPhone is cool, then who could ever need or even want wires.  Surely those who make tech products understand that wires are dead.  But the truth is that wires are not dead and will never be dead.
While 4G LTE networks are making broadband speeds available to the wireless handsets, the speeds are nowhere near the speeds of which cable modems are capable.  Comcast offers 105 Mbps downstream and the fastest LTE network barely offers 10 Mbps (actual consumer speeds, not theoretical throughput).  That isn’t the only problem with wireless either.  In the wireless world there is a little discussed phenomenon known as frequency contention.  If you have too many wireless devices using the same frequency, they tend to get lost in the chatter.  It is kind of trying to have a conversation in a stadium where everyone is talking at the same time.  This slows down data transfer dramatically and high bandwidth uses get severely curtailed by packet loss.  Also, the more devices trying to connect to the same receiver also slows down data transfer.  Kind of like all lanes of a 5 lane freeway merging into a single toll booth.  Certainly, there are ways network designers can mitigate these problems, but the point is that wired connections are more stable and wired networks are far more secure and wired networks are always faster.
The writer of that article also maintained that remote controls will soon go the way of the dodo as capacitive touchscreens get big enough to become televisions.  I seriously doubt this will happen.  Two things will prevent the television from becoming a touch-controlled device: eye strain and fingerprints.  To interact with the television by touch, one must be so close that it becomes difficult to take in the whole picture, especially when the size of the TV is larger than 36 inches.  And who wants to constantly be windexing the fingerprints off the front of the set?  Kinect style motion capture and voice control may replace the push button remote, but not capacitive touch.  I have used my Kinect; I still prefer the remote control.
3-D TV will never become mainstream.  I realize that I am in the minority with this assertion, but trust me, no one wants to watch TV wearing glasses all the time.  If manufactures can develop a successful 3-D image that can be viewed without glasses, then maybe—and only if content producers are willing to invest in that technology to produce shows in that format, which they probably won’t.  We still have a lot of TV shows produced in SD and up-converted for HD sets, but they are not true HD.
The death of the PC will never happen, though the PC will not look like it does now.  Apple and HP have shown us where the PC will be going.  The desktop/tower/workstation will evolve into a slimline footprint integrated into the viewscreen.  Keyboards and mice will continue to exist for the same reasons that TVs will not go touchscreen.  People do not want to get too close to the monitor when the monitor is larger than 30 inches or so.
Optical Discs are falling out of favor for mainstream consumers in favor of streaming.  This is more convenient, to be sure, but streaming does not come close to the image quality of Blu Ray.  Streaming offers at best progressive scan DVD quality, which is not bad at all, but it doesn’t offer the immersive experience of watching a blue ray on a 52-inch or larger display.  Add the fact that owning a library of DVDs which one will always have access to is preferable to accessing content on the internet which may rotate the titles every few months (as Netflix and Xfinity do).  Having the movie archived to an optical disc in how true film buffs will continue to operate as long as discs are produced.  Hollywood is, sadly, the only entity that controls how long Blu Ray will last.
Technology is ever evolving, and new products are being developed every day and others are being improved.  And while many products have died (video tapes, laser disc, 8-tracks, etc) not everything that exists today will disappear.  Even the vinyl LP record, which people predicted would die when cassettes came out then again when CDs came out is still hanging in there in niche markets.  Yes, that means the record companies are still pressing new vinyl records.  So, while young people can dream of a day where there are no wires and everything fits in the palm of your hand and is controlled with a swipe of your finger, some things just won’t die.

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Something Wrong With Your ‘Droid?

In my last post, I touted the wonders of my new Transformer Prime Android tablet and weighed in on some of the benefits of the new technology.  Having used the tablet for two months now, I see the fundamental problem with the tablet wars.  Backing. 
The iOS for the iPad is made by Apple for Apple.  The OS is intimately intertwined with the device, meaning that it is fully optimized for the technology. Apps for the tablet are required to go through a rigorous vetting process to ensure they meet with Apple’s user guidelines.  Android is written to run on many different devices, which means it cannot be as effectively optimized for the technology. It is also open source, so anyone can write apps and post them.  Granted, they have to be vetted by Google to get into the market (AKA Google Play) for download, but that doesn’t preclude installing outside the market if you so choose.
A quick perusal of both Google Play and the Apple App store shows a plethora of mindless games and cutsie apps ranging in price from free to expensive.  But the edge in software goes to Apple for one simple reason: they actually write some productivity software for the iPad that is fully functional.  Google writes software too, but only the prototypical Google Apps that are essentially web 2.0 apps anyone can use on any PC.  Google has not produced an Android tablet-centric app yet.  Some tablet manufacturers have partnered with software developers to bundle some apps on the device right out of the box.  Polaris Office came on the Transformer Prime and Thinkfree Office came the Samsung Galaxy S phones and Galaxy Tab.  But neither of these apps is a full-featured standalone productivity app.  They are designed to work with documents created on a “real computer” that need to be accessed remotely.
Now, I understand many people will say that a tablet is not a PC and that if one wants the full function productivity of Microsoft Office, then one should buy a laptop or perhaps a Windows-based tablet.  This is an outstanding argument.  But it is an argument in defeat.  To contend that the Android Tablet should not be used for productivity is to say that it is a plaything and has no business application in the workplace.  This is not true.  The tablet can be a fully functional productivity tool if it has the backing of a major software developer.  The Windows-based tablets have Microsoft, the iPad has Apple, but the Android only has Google, who doesn’t seem to really be pushing productivity for the Android tablet.  It is as if Google is saying “hey, we wrote the Android OS for phones, not tablets.  You guys are on your own.”
If Google doesn’t fully embrace the Android-based tablet market and make a fully featured productivity suite for it akin to iWork on the iOS, then the war will wage on tilting slightly Apple. Look to Google doing this in the near future, or look to the Android tablet fading from the marketplace. Of course, Google will probably answer this with more cloud-based apps like their Google Docs. Not a bad app, but it is not Android specific and it is not close to being a full-featured productivity suite.
Of course, cloud-based computing is all the rage now. In fact, Samsung offers a cloud drive, Asus offers a cloud drive, Amazon has a cloud player for their MP3 store and the Kindle uses the cloud for the whisper sync feature of their reader app. Microsoft has their infamous “To The Cloud” ad campaign touting the benefits of cloud computing. I even use the Google Docs cloud for some of my work, but I cringe at relying solely on the cloud for my writing. My tablet is WiFi only, so if I am away from a hotspot, I have no access to my cloud drive. I like having local copies on the device that update when connected. I also want an app that resides on the device for editing, not one that denies access when it cannot detect a network connection.
Having said all that, and still wishing for a more full-featured app, I do really love this device. It is on almost constantly. I even woke up the other day at 2 am with an idea for a new story and was able to get it into the tablet before my brain shut down. With my old Windows netbook, I would have had to wait for it to either resume or boot up and that takes a lot of time–especially at 2 am when the brain is not the most reliable. The tablet simply came on and I tapped my Polaris Office icon and tapped away the idea. That is perfect for me. And it fully runs Flash, so I have access to the whole internet of video streaming. I still whole-heartedly recommend that Asus Transformer Prime as a great tool.

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Get To Work!

What do you do for a living? This has long been a standard icebreaker when starting conversations with new acquaintances and it was usually an easy one. Now more and more people don’t have a satisfactory answer to that otherwise benign question; or at least an answer they feel comfortable admitting. The unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent nationwide, even though many employers are hiring. The situation is so grim that a grumble has begun among the people that something must be done, and they are demanding that the Federal government be the one to do something.

This is not a surprising reaction. Whenever something goes wrong, any human is going to expect someone to do something; someone in authority—someone other than us. The sad fact it that there is no single authority that can fix this problem. It is not up to the government to create jobs.

President Obama has been drawing a lot of criticism and blame for the current jobs market. Some of the problem is his fault, but not all. His responsibility in this mess is that he created policies that drove businesses to stop spending, thus cutting jobs. That is a problem he can address by reversing some of his “Big Government” policies and letting the economy heal itself.

But no one should be looking to Washington or Obama to create jobs. It is not the government’s job to create jobs. Job creation has always been and should always be the purview of business. A business owner determines how many people the company needs working for them in order to maximize revenue and maintain productivity. Too few employees depletes morale and hurts productivity, too many employees dilute compensation and benefits and erode profit. The business owner needs to determine the number of employees needed and the compensation levels, not the government.

Similarly, the government is not supposed to create jobs out of thin air. Creating an office in order to create jobs is a waste of taxpayer dollars and hurts the economy rather than helping it, since it is invariably paid for with tax increases to the working class. Infrastructure jobs are only temporary and while that may boost employment figures in the short term, it does nothing to help the economy in the long run.

With his public approval rating the lowest it has ever been, Obama feels the pressure to do something to get the public support back—especially heading into the campaign season. He pulls his old “stimulus plan” off the shelf—the same one that was defeated because it would cost too much of the tax payer—rebrands it a “Jobs Bill” and expects congress to approve it so “America can get back to work.”

This bill was defeated in the senate—again—and now Obama is pointing fingers at senate republicans claiming that they do not want American to have jobs. This is ludicrous. No one wants high unemployment. Conservatives want people to go back to work, but they don’t want the government to pay for it. Much of our current economic mess is because of too much government spending. Throwing more money at it will only make it worse. What sense does it make to try to put out a gasoline fire with more gasoline? The answer is to relax some of the regulations on business that the liberals put in place so that business owners feel comfortable hiring more people. Create an environment that will foster new business development, not more taxes and more regulations that make entrepreneurs think twice about starting a new business venture. Give business room to grow, and more jobs will sprout as a result.

People want jobs. They want to work. But people need to look to business for job, not Uncle Sam. The last thing any sane person should want is the federal government writing their paycheck with money garnered from taxing others’ checks. That is just one more example of socialism. Look for a job that generates a paycheck that is not dependant on other people’s paychecks, but rather on the success of the business in question. Then people can start answering that polite ice breaker “what do you do for a living” with an answer full of pride of self respect.

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 73 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 136 posts. There were 47 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was June 11th with 87 views. The most popular post that day was Legislating From the Pulpit.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, sprintusers.com, mail.yahoo.com, iwillfuckingtearyouapart.blogspot.com, and WordPress Dashboard.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for 3d film, quills and pixels, journalism is dead, comic book stack, and “dave hand” comcast.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Legislating From the Pulpit June 2010
8 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

An Epic Upgrade December 2010
7 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

3

Who Me? September 2009
4 comments

4

What you say October 2009
4 comments

5

Just Here for the Foot Rub December 2009
11 comments

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