Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

Election 2014–What Happened in NH

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Like a lot of political junkies I’ve been trying to understand what happened and what it means in yesterday’s election results. These are my unscientific thoughts and observations.

Senator Shaheen won reelection in a close contest. I always expected her to win. Where I went wrong was thinking she was more popular than she turned out to be. She was helped by several things. One is of course money – she had more of it than Scott Brown did. By a lot. I think she got very lucky that her involvement in the IRS scandal over conservative groups came out too late to help Brown. And then there is of course Brown himself. He never shook the “carpetbagger” label for one thing. For another some activist groups, gun rights for example, never really trusted him to do better than Shaheen. Not that they would vote for Shaheen but they didn’t work for him with the enthusiasm they might have had he had a better record on gun rights.

One bit of irony is that the large increase in Democratic voters in NH is a result of Democrats moving into the state from Massachusetts. So in a way Brown was sort of being attacked for doing what his attackers had already done.

In the governors race my observation has been that people in New Hampshire need a good reason to replace a governor and Hassan didn’t give them an excuse and Havenstein didn’t make a good case for himself. It was a dull campaign and that favors the incumbent.

District 1 was the closest on money spent with the Republican having a bit more outside support and a bit less direct campaign money. It seems like these two keep exchanging the seat so they are both well known.  Shea-Porter being tied as a lackey of Pelosi and Obama may have made the difference here.  I wonder if another message here is that with money being equal the Republican wins in New Hampshire?

There was a big money difference (in favor of the Democrat) in the second district where the Democrat won reelection. I think the key though was a weak candidate who was easily, and successfully, attacked as too extreme.

All in all yesterday’s results in and out of NH is going to make the next election in two years even more interesting.

Smart Doors

Friday, September 19th, 2014

I’ve been thinking about what I want in a smart door. I want it to recognize me (and others authorized to enter the house) and that we want to come it. I want it to unlock itself at a minimum. If my arms are full I want it to recognize that and open for me. I also want it to hear and respond to command like “lock”, “Open”, and “Close.”

When I leave I want it to automatically close and lock unless I tell it otherwise. If I am home I want the door to recognize people I know and let me know who is at the door. If I don’t know them they should tell me at least something about who is there like how many people and gender.

If I am not there I want the door to take a message from and pictures of visitors and at least give me some images of them if there is no message.

I believe that the technology to do this exists already. I wonder if someone it working on it as a research project.

September 11 2014

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

As September 11 approaches the first thing I think about is that it is the birthday of my nephew Erik Jon. Life goes on and we have to think about now and about the future. We also have to think about the people who are in our lives and what they mean to us. Erik Jon and his special day remind me of that.

Yes I think about the events of 9/11/01 as well. The faces and tears of the Ogonowski girls as they were escorted by my office after finding out about their father will probably never leave me. The worry about friends who working in the towers and about my father, senior chaplain for the NYC Fire Department that day, when I could not reach him for hours is still fresh. Thank goodness they were all safe though my father’s health was never the same after 6 weeks at Ground Zero ministering to first responders and the families of those who died.

What I remember most though is about how people cared for others afterwards. The event was created by hate but the country was better for the love that people showed to those who had lost so much.

Why I Skipped Mass Today

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I skipped Mass at school today. I’ve never done that before. Mass is of course an important event at Catholic schools and I do want to be supportive of it. But I’ve come to a point where the lack of inclusivity of the celebration of the Eucharist has become painful for me. I was raised in a Methodist church which also considers the Eucharist to be very important. In fact in the Methodist church the Eucharist is typically celebrated only monthly because it is so important. The idea I was taught was that it was too important to be taken casually or habitually so was done less often to keep it special.

I don’t have a big problem with daily Mass and Eucharist but I do have issue with the limits placed on recipients in the Catholic church. There is a line in the Mass that goes “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Apparently though not being a member of the Catholic church is not healed by this prayer. On the other hand the invitation to Communion that my father (an ordained Methodist minister) read was:

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith, and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to almighty God.

Methodist church membership, or any church membership for that matter, was not required. That is the open Communion I grew up with and which, to me, feels more like what Christ would have (does) want. Communion is very important to me. It is probably the single most important worship event I can take part in. Being excluded while others worship in that way hurts.

The Ten Books Thing

Monday, September 8th, 2014

People have been tagging me for 10 book thinks. I tend not to have favorite books at least not in the sense that I read them multiple times. Very few get reread. So making a list off the top of my head is impossible. But I have a list – a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Not in any particular order.

Bible – Not without reason is this the best selling book of all time.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert Heinlein – AI computer and others rebel against the government. It’s full of libertarian ideals.

Have Spacesuit Will Travel – Robert Heinlein – This is one of his “juveniles” but the plot is wonderful. The human race is put on trial by galactic powers. There was a Star Trek (original series) episode with a similar story line but not done as well. How would you justify humanities right to live given our history?

The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas – The movies cannot hold a candle to the book. This would be a great summer reading book if you could get students to read a book this long. Revenge – right or wrong?

The Man in the Iron Mask – Dumas – Perhaps the greatest book long chase of all time.  Again, much better than any of the movies. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll worry.

The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov – the ultimate future history novel. OK that is three books but if you read one you owe it to yourself to read all three.

Catholic Schools and the Common Good: Anthony S. Bryk, Valerie E. Lee, Peter B. Holland – non-fiction – A research project by some public school administrators about how/why Catholic schools work. Some eye opening things including that Catholic schools do a better job of dealing with racial, ethnic and religious differences in their population than public schools.

Democratic Education (Princeton Paperbacks): Amy Gutmann: 9780691009162: Books – Non-fiction. A case for public education that convinced me that public education was not such a good thing. Yes, the author’s arguments convinced me of the opposite of her position. If the goal of education is to shape society (authors position that I do agree with) I came away convinced that the government should have as little role in it as possible.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond – I love history and this is one of the most interesting and different looks at history I have read. This is one I intend to read again soon.

OK that is nine (or eleven) best I can do for now.

Top Six Must Visit US Cities

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

I was reading a list of The Top 50 Cities to See in Your Lifetime. I’ve made it to six of them. And that only because they count Rome and Vatican City separately. A lot of the cities on the list are just way out of reach for most people, especially Americans who can’t drive around Europe easily. So I started thinking about what US cities were on my must visit list. I’ve been to a few more US cities. I was shooting for five but since I couldn’t rule out both Chicago and San Francisco I have six. This is my list and may not agree with everyone (or even anyone) else but its my blog so here goes.

  1. New York City This should be obvious. The largest city in the US and home of Broadway, great museums, lots of sports teams, and food and people from around the world.
  2. Las Vegas This city is unique in the US. Reno and Atlantic City have some of the same things but not on the same scale. Plus there is some wonderful desert to visit outside of the city itself. Not everyone’s cup of tea by any stretch but visiting a place outside your comfort zone can be educational.
  3. Washington DC When I brought up DV on Facebook I had a number of negative comments about it. Still I find the city fascinating with his government offices and great museums. It’s the seat of government for the most powerful nation on earth and Americans, I think, should visit.
  4. San Antonio It wouldn’t be a good list without a great American western city. Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Austin may be larger and more visited but to my way of thinking San Antonio is the city to visit if you only visit one city in Texas. The Alamo and the Riverwalk are great attractions. The people and the food may be even better.
  5. San Francisco I thought about Los Angeles and San Diego which are both pretty nice places in their own right but San Francisco is probably the most special of California cities.
  6. Chicago The Second City has a lot that NYC has but with a different, more mid western flair.

The are many other great places to visit. Philadelphia and Boston for example. They would both make a top ten list. So would Seattle. And I’d round out a top ten list with … well I’ll have to think about that one.

Who Will Remember?

Friday, June 6th, 2014

The 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion is today and getting a lot of press. As the son of a WW II veteran (since passed away) I know the stories well. We studied the war  in school, I heard stories from my father, and I read a lot about it on my own. My son, I believe, knows a good bit about it as well in part because he knew his grandfather. But will my grandson (due in September) know about it?

According to some reports (Cal Thomas: D-Day is dumb day for too many) knowledge about D-Day in particular and WW II in general is already fading from consciousness. We teach history, for the most part, as a dull series of events and dates. It is not real to people.

Stories are what people remember and we don’t always do a good job of telling stories in school. Without the stories of the “greatest generation” which they told sparingly, modestly and sometimes not at all, fresh in our lives will future generations remember the sacrifices, the suffering, the heroism or even the reasons for those traits being needed? I wonder.

Regardless, as they say up north – Je me souviens – I  remember. And my grandson will hear stories of his family from me if from no where else.

Travel Computers

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

I’m heading out later today for my first business trip in six months. Seems like a long time between trips after all the travel I did for a bunch of years at Microsoft. It’s a trip long in distance (California) and short on time (leave on Wednesday and return on Friday) so I want to travel light. I’m used to traveling with a carry on bag for my clothing and the like and a backpack for computer stuff. The backpack is the heavy part. I decided I didn’t really want to carry two bags this trip. I thought about not traveling with a computer at all but that seemed extreme. So what to do?

I have a lot of options. I have two regular laptops, a Windows 8 Slate, and a Surface RT. I have an iPad mini as well but have trouble taking it seriously for more than games and light web browsing. I don’t have a keyboard for it and I haven’t paid for an Office subscription (yet?). The laptops are sort of heavy and awkward in confined spaces. The slate is not but I don’t have a keyboard for it and I really need a keyboard for some things. The Surface RT is small, light and has a keyboard. It just doesn’t run all the software I like to use. But I’m bringing it anyway.

I’ll get by without Windows Live Writer for blogging. If I feel the need write anything to I’ll use Word. I’ll get by without running Visual Studio for a couple of days. Everything else? Pretty much there. But I do wish I had those two pieces of software running on the Surface. I’m sort of drooling over the new Surface Pro 3s that were just announced. Seems like having ones cake and eating it too.

I keep a lot of other things in my computer bag besides a computer or two. All sorts of cables, thumb drives, power cords and other supplies. For a different trip, longer or with different type of activities, I’ll probably still bring the bag for all that other stuff. But I like the idea of keeping the computer light.

My Issues with Linux

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

My big problem with Linux is not that it was based on UNIX although in all honestly I would probably have adopted it to some extent if it had been based on VMS or any other DEC OS. UNIX was never my idea of an OS done right.  My real concern though is that OS development has become, with the exception of Microsoft, little more than tweaking Linux. One can do this because the source is available.

Having the source available is not completely bad as it can be very educational to read and play with source code. It’s a good tool for education. But it seems to me that it has made developers, in a sense, lazy. There is little to no incentive to start from scratch or the make major changes when most short term goals can be reached by tweaking Linux.

It used to be that companies had an incentive to create new and better operating systems. They needed them to make their hardware useful. Now that they can just tweak Linux there is no real incentive to do more. Also since one can’t easily make money off improvements to Linux AND one has to share what one developed with everyone there is no incentive to differentiate your hw/sw combination at the operating system level.

Apple moved to a UNIX core some years ago. Based on FreeBSD I believe. Why? Well it was too much work to continue to develop their own OS from scratch. And software was not their core strength either – though they have had some really good coders there from time to time. Apple is more a hardware company and using free OS code was a natural for them. It was cheap and easy. Not always an indication of best or innovative.

And then there is the mono culture risk that so many people are concerned about. It concerns me as well but the answer is not to replace a Microsoft mono culture with a Linux mono culture. I’d live to see three or more major OSes “in the wild.”

Is Twitter More Reliable Than Email?

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

I received an email today with a most interesting idea that was centered around the following statement:

Because email is becoming increasingly unreliable, we will be making all major announcements and updates on Twitter.

I’m not sure that I understand how or even if email is becoming increasingly unreliable. Perhaps what they are worried about is being caught in SPAM filters which I find are getting better all the time. Better about not having false readings as well as better at catching real SPAM. Moving to Twitter though seems a poor choice regardless.

I suppose if your audience is following a very small number of people Twitter may be a good way of reaching them. Sometimes. But if they are only following a few accounts they are probably also reading twitter less often.  One hopes this organization is not moving to Direct Messages on Twitter. That would truly be annoying at least to me.

I follow a lot of people (that is to say they are listed as people I follow) but most often use a Twitter list to filter out a majority of the traffic which I just could not keep up with. I scan the full feed, look more closely at a select list, and look closely at notifications of people referring to me or taking action with my tweets. I don’t have time in the day to read every tweet by everyone I follow. It’s just not possible.

So do I miss a lot? Of course. But there is still plenty of interesting things to read. No one has to drink the whole output of a fire hose to get all the water they need. And that brings me back to the idea of using Twitter as the communication path of first resort. A lot of people are going to miss a lot of what one sends unless they are closely watching that one particular account (or perhaps one particular hashtag) all of the time.

At least with email people tend to at least scan the subjects of everything that comes though. People miss a lot on Twitter. The way Facebook handles things it is not much (if any) better. Only a small percentage of friends will see every post one makes on Facebook.

Seems to me like email is still the best way for things you want to reach everyone whose contact information you have acquired. Just don’t SPAM them and get into trouble with filters.