Archive for January, 2008

Deals That Don’t Add Value

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I have been looking at this card shuffler online. It’s a little pricey at around $500 but compared to the casino grade ones which go for around $17,000 it looks like a good deal. Yes, you can get cheap card shufflers for around $10-15 but they’re really not worth it. Trust me is is pretty much easier to shuffle by hand than use one of them. I’ve got one of those an it’s too much trouble to use.

So anyway, the $500 shuffler comes with added value! That’s right! You guessed it – it comes with two decks of cards. Now who in their right mind would spend $500 for a card shuffler and not already have a good collection of playing cards? I guess there is an off chance that someone might get one of these and not have a deck of cards to try it with but really that is a stretch.

I’ve gotten things (a carrying case with chips in it for example) that came with *bonus* two decks of playing cards before and those cards get put right to the side. Bah, big bonus.

I think it is about the appearance of giving something extra combined with perhaps some advertising for the company that makes the cards. Anyone have any other examples?

Save Us From Inspiring Men

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

More and more I hear from people promoting Obama that he inspires them. That is why they support him – they are inspired. Honestly I would like to be inspired. I would actually like to like Obama. He is a powerful speaker. But I want to be inspired to do good things. And there are things in Obama’s record that worry me.

I think we tend to think of inspiring people as forces for good. That is what we want to believe. If a person moves us to action we want to believe that we are as moved by their ideals as by their words. We hear a speech like Dr King’s "I have a dream" speech and it moves us in a positive way. And yet words can inspire in ways that are anything but good. Hitler was inspiring. Mao was inspiring. Castro is still inspiring. Would we elect any of them president? I sure hope not.

Now I am not saying that Obama is evil and I certainly would not compare him to Hitler or Mao or Castro. But there is the matter of his support for legal abortion. And his strong opposition to the Second Amendment as I understand its meaning. Here is a man who quite clearly wants to protect the guilty and punish the innocent.

Abortion is simple a matter of defining certain inconvenient people as "not human" and killing them. Is that any different from the lynching of black men in the days of Jim Crow or the murder of Jews in Germany? If a man can define one group of people as not human why not another? Would you vote for a person who said "well I don’t believe that gassing Jews is right but I think we should leave that decision up to each individual?" I hope not. But you’d vote for someone who said the same thing replacing "gassing Jews" with "having an abortion?" And sleep at night knowing they were going to control atom weapons?

The right to bare arms is much about the right of good and innocent people to protect themselves from evil people who would do them harm. How can someone say they care about the weak and defenseless while working tirelessly to keep them weak and defenseless? The Supreme Court is going to decide if the gun laws in Washington DC are Constitutional or not. I believe both of the main Democratic candidates have said that the Supreme Court should let those laws stand. Now perhaps they believe those laws are good for people. If so they are far too stupid to be president. I’m not sure they are that dumb. And if they are not why would they support those laws? It makes you wonder.

Can I trust someone who supports people who would kill the innocent and disarm people who would protect the innocent? Can I really? I don’t think so no matter how inspired a speaker they are.

Wisdom of Graffiti

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Many years ago when I was in high school is was in a classroom for the first time. I don’t remember if I was every in this room again and I clearly did not sit at the same desk again. I don’t even remember why I was there. What I have never forgotten (and it is over 35 years later) is the graffiti written on the top of the desk.

I wish I was what I was when I wanted to be what I am now.

Confusing at first but profound as one thinks about it. Or so I think anyway. I have no idea what prompted a high school student to write it. How many things can one wish for and reach at that young an age and regret already. But none the less it is a sentiment I have pondered over the years.

When I look at possible changes in who I am or at least what I do for a career or for other life changes I think long and hard about what it means to change. Will I later regret making a move? That is a question that has the potential to create paralyzing uncertainty and a certain stagnation if taken to extreme of course. One does have to take risks at times and often those risks are based on less than complete information.

So far I have never had to express the wish to be what I once was. I have moved forward to better things and a happier life. Even these days when I think about becoming a teacher again (what I was when I wanted to be what I am now) it is not because I don’t want to be what I am now. Rather it is because I see different roles for different parts of my life. I want to be what I am now more than I want to be what I was then. At least for right now. Are there other things I might like to be? Yes I think so but they are new things, things I need to work towards, and not a retreat to something I once was.

I think a little "want" to drive one forward is a good thing. I think it is also ok to want to move back to something, or to be someone, one was before. Not everything works out the way we expect or the way we hope. Second chances are good things and not to be feared.


Monday, January 21st, 2008

I hate noise. Of course part of the definition of noise is "unwanted." It’s like weeds. Weeds are plants that are growing where they are not wanted. I hate all sorts of extra sounds but the ones from fans, pumps and similar devices are among the worst to my ear. Unfortunately they are integral parts of such devices as air conditioners, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, washing machines and exhaust fans. Things that it is hard to do without.

In my dream house the living space would be isolated from those devices as much as possible. I do not currently live in such a dream house. Where I living by myself I would put up with very dry air in the winter, very hot air in the summer, and lots of kitchen smells year round. But  I don’t. Oh well.

I do try to avoid these sounds as much as possible. The washer and dryer are in the basement. I use the time delay on the dish washer to start it during the night when I am asleep or when I am out of the house. I’ll run the air conditioner high when I am not in the room so I can turn it down when I am in it. I have taken to wearing my Bose sound reducing headphones when using the Vacuum and may use it at other times as life goes on. I seem to be getting more sensitive to noise rather than less as I get older. That seems strange in some ways because as we age the range of frequency we can hear gets smaller.

BTW This site lets you hear sound at different frequencies. Well it lets you play them. You can only hear all of them if you are below a given age. I can’t hear most of them. Why can’t more devices make noise in ranges I can’t hear? Now wouldn’t that be cool?

I dislike loud sounds as well. My hearing works pretty well and I’d like to keep it that way. Why do so many people turn the volume way up? It seems to me that distortion sets in way too easily at high volume.

All I want is a nice quiet world. Sigh.

No I will not do your homework

Friday, January 18th, 2008

I received email today at both my work and home email from the same person. I have no idea where he is from (or for sure that it is a he) but they claimed to be a university student taking a VB course. They need help with their projects that are due next Thursday. They appear not to have started at all. In fact they probably do not know how to start.

They ask if I know someone who can help them.  If that is all they are looking for why send the whole problem descriptions? I get these all the time. If I let them they would get me to do the whole project. In fact doing the whole project would be a lot easier and take less time than trying to actually help. I did the first project they sent me in under 3 minutes – design, write, and test. That’s less time then I spent writing this blog post. I imagine if they ask enough people one of them will send them a solution.

The next step, if history is any guide, is that they will ask for an explanation of how/why it works so they can hand that in as well. Am I being cynical? Perhaps but I’ve seen this before.

Some people believe that a diploma somehow magically makes them smart and knowledgeable. They don’t want to do the work of learning things. Just give them the grade so they can get the job they want. I actually had a student (at a so-called college) ask me to just give him a B because that is what he needed to get his course paid for and to graduate the program. He told me he didn’t have time to do the work but I should still give him the grade. Bah! That wasn’t going to happen.

Now I don’t mind helping people learn. In fact helping and teaching are great and wonderful things for me. If someone comes to me with code and needs help understanding why they are seeing a syntax error or why the answer is coming out wrong I’ll happy to help. I will look it over and explain things until they "get it." Debugging code is fun and I am always (well almost always) willing to give it a shot. But I refuse to do it all and let someone pretend them know something they don’t,

OK that is out of my system. Thanks for listening. Or Ignoring me. What ever. 🙂

Growing Your Own In Winter

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was an AeroGarden. It’s basically a small hydroponics set up for growing plants indoors. There is a special light and a pump that pushes water and nutrients into the mini-planters. Right now I have lettuce planted. Sprouts showed up in about 2 days or so. They should be harvistable in about 3 weeks and last for another three months or so. I’m getting a kick out of watching them grow so far. I hope it works out.

One of the other things they offer is a special try for starting seedlings for outdoors. I am thinking that I would like to try that as well. It holds 70 plants and that would be plenty for me. I could start all the tomatoes, cucumbers and pepper plants I want. I might also try some corn and sunflowers as well. I’ve tried starting plants inside before but for some reason it never seems to work out. Perhaps with this system it will.

The other thing I am thinking about is getting a second device to keep in my office. I would grow something different there. Perhaps flowers. So far plant I have tried in my office has died. But honestly I think that has been a combination of not getting watered enough and not enough light. I travel a good bit and I need a good healthy light on a timer as well as a system that can go without me adding water every day. This should do that.

And it is a gadget too! What more could a geek want but a gadget that grows things.

A Little Light Reading

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

One of the things I got for Christmas was Alan Greenspan’s book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. I started reading it a few nights ago. I’m reading it in small chunks not because it is dry and dull but because there is so much good/interesting stuff in it. I’m mulling it over as I read it.

There are more or less two main things about this book. One is economic theory. The other is Greenspan’s life and his interactions with people and events in history. For example he has worked with Presidents from Nixon to Bush junior. He has opinions on all of them and they make for interesting reading.

He’s also not the complete nerd you might expect. He is an accomplished mission and performed professionally for several years. Not what you expect in an economist.

I’m finding the economics interesting as well. It has been a long time since I studied macro economics (about 35 years) and things have changed in the economy and in the world since then. So I have to think a bit about what he writes in that area. I’m only part way through (the USSR just started breaking up) but I expect that I will learn a lot by the time I am finished. At the same time I expect that I am going to want to do some additional reading in economics to fill in the extensive holes in my knowledge.

I love getting books that make me think!

Thoughts on the New Hampshire Primary

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I think I understand how McCain won. I think that NH voters want someone who will talk to them, answer questions, show emotion, and even disagree with people. That is just the way things work here. McCain does that. I have seen him in action and his style is a perfect fit for picky New Hampshire voters.

Romney is just too button downed, too establishment and too smooth. I haven’t been to a Romney event (shame on me) but he doesn’t come across as a "regular guy" like McCain does. Huckabee is too religious for secular New Hampshire. I don’t think he spent the time in state that is really required to win in this state. Paul was the Internet darling and I think his message appeals to a lot of old New Hampshire (old in terms of not being recent immigrants from other states) but that is not enough. Giuliani never "clicked" with NH voters and I think he gave up here early to focus on other states.

So no surprises for me on the Republican side. Now the Democratic side I just don’t understand as well. I have to confess that I don’t understand Democrats. That someone who claims to be caring for the downtrodden and under represented could support abortion just never made sense to me. If anyone should be pro-life it should be the Democratic party. And by the same token someone who says they are "pro-choice" should oppose most gun control just to be consistent if nothing else. And shouldn’t the Democrats have been the ones calling for us to "free" Iraq? Well all that is besides the issue.

I expected Edwards to do better in NH. He campaigns the way you are supposed to campaign in New Hampshire. I loved his message as well. To me it reached from the left to the center. Obama lacks experience. So really does Clinton. This "35 years of experience making change" is such a ridiculous statement that I don’t understand why people don’t break out into laughter when ever she says it. Perhaps people are just stunned into silence? And Clinton and Obama are both (as I see it) very much to the left and NH is not a far left state. Although I suppose that the migration from Massachusetts has been changing that. That is not a change for the better in my opinion.

And Clinton just comes across (to me) as nasty. Obama is a wonderful speaker but few people seem to be looking much past his rhetoric to his actual experience and platform. That will not be enough for the general election. Electability may have come to a lot of people in the last days.

I think the emotional scene Clinton had the other day helped her a lot. I think that most of the time she comes of as unemotional and to calculating. That video showed her as very passionate. I think voters are looking for passion. They see it in Obama but this is the first they really saw it in Clinton. Seeing that probably turned a lot of undecided people her way.

I’m not surprised that the polls got it wrong BTW. Things move fast in New Hampshire and I think the polls under counted the Independents. I’m actually very please that we "fooled" the polls. The media spends much too much time talking about polls. They should be talking about issues and poking holes in distortions in candidate statements and not pretending the race is a sporting event.

Bill Gates Last Day At Microsoft

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Bill Gates Last Day CES Clip
Bill Gates Last Day CES Clip

My Take On Iowa and the Future

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Iowa settled nothing. In fact I think things are less settled than ever. This is a good thing. I hope things are still unsettled after New Hampshire too. I think that the things get interesting if they are still up in the air longer. Though in the end I think New Hampshire generally does a very good job of picking the right candidates. That is because we do take it so seriously here. In my ideal world the conventions would start without a winner already determined. Now that would be fun. Unlikely but fun.

The results in Iowa make New Hampshire more important in many ways. For Clinton she really needs to beat Obama here. If not she has to come a close second. If Edwards wins (unlikely but who knows) or comes in a strong second (no matter who is first) he moves on with an air that he could win it all. Second for Obama is fine although if he comes in first it will be difficult to beat him later. Third for Obama (unlikely I think) would really confuse things. Likely finish? Obama and Clinton to close to call with Edwards third. Although I was very tempted to change my registration so I could vote for Edwards. I read Obama on guns last night and I’m not sure I could vote for him now. A final straw not just because of that.

On the Republican side Romney really needs a big win. While he was not that popular in Massachusetts NH is a more conservative state. If he can’t win here where can he win? Huckabee needs to show that Iowa was not a fluke. There are not as many evangelical Christians here to boost him though so he has an uphill fight. It is probably enough for him to be in the top three to continue into the next round. He will have to win somewhere else though and soon.

McCain just might win in NH. If he does that gives him a huge push going forward. Rudy really needs to do well in NH. Top three at least. I think he is betting on catching up in the next round but he has to have some success in NH or he will lose credibility.

Giuliani does not seen to do well outside large cities. And of course we don’t have any large cities. My Dad likes him and he lived in NYC while Giuliani was mayor. My Dad is very clued in with how things work in NYC so that means a lot to me. Giuliani is off on a number of issues I think are important but as a manager he’s got proved skills. In any case if he doesn’t do well in NH he has to prove himself in Nevada or South Carolina. Things get risky for him if he doesn’t win in the first four events.

My prediction for NH is McCain first, Romney second and Huckabee a surprise at third. Giulani will be playing catchup and Huckabee with see an increase in attach adds against him. I think the attach ads against McCain are going to hurt Romney more than McCain BTW.