Saturday, May 21, 2005

Upcoming Hurricane Season

I have a feeling it’s gonna be a bad hurricane season. It turns out, last hurricane season was preceded by an unheard of hurricane in Brazil in late March. This year, we already had a tropical storm in the eastern Pacific two weeks before the official beginning of hurricane season, and the historical map on Weather Underground shows no similar systems within 600 miles of the path during the month of May. This can’t be a good sign. I say, a quiet June and July like last year, followed by a bad August and an even worse September, with storms forming all the way to the end of the season in late November. Maybe we’ll even get a December storm this year, though I don’t know what they’d call it. 5 major hurricanes (which would actually be less than last year), 16 named storms, and 8 landfalls. Based on nothing whatsoever. If you want a real forecast with numerical analysis and such, ask Dr. Gray.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Baby T-Shirts

Oh my gosh! I can't breath. I'm laughing so freaking hard! Maybe I need some sleep. But I found two t-shirts designed specifically for babies. This one's pretty funny. And sadistic. But what's particularly hilarious about this one is that it's sold out. Oh so very wrong.

Engineering Presentation

Engineers, in general, are horrible at writing presentations. It could be because they have so much information in their heads that they want to get out that they just dump it all into the presentation, relevant or otherwise. Maybe they're afraid to leave something out. Maybe they view putting just two or three bullet points on each slide with less than ten words beside each point as incredibly inefficient. "You can fit lots more words on that page! Even more if you ignore the rules of punctuation! I use 12 point text in documents, why not presentations? What is that? That can so be turned into an acronym. There's no need to spell that out. Ever."

Okay, guys. Here's the rules. Pull the presentation up on your monitor. Stand up and take two very big steps back. If you can't read it, the text is too small. If it takes more than fifteen seconds to read, there's too much information on one slide. If you fall asleep while reading it, bring coffee to the meeting.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Blog Update

I added a "classic posts" section to the sidebar on this blog. It's partly for my own reference, because I got tired of going through my own archives, looking for links to arguments I had already made. I also think it's good to have links to some of my better posts lying around for those just tuning in and the randoms who wander by. Hello, randoms! When I figure out a more sophisticated way to organize my posts, I'll make the necessary adjustments.

Two dollar bill

I got a two dollar bill in change today (2003 date). It was in crisp condition. I think I'll keep it, especially since using it might get me arrested.

Interpersonal Divide

Hey, somebody stole my idea for a book! I tried to find this book last night at Barnes and Noble, but thought the title was "Individual Divide". Oh, well. Maybe the next time I find myself near a bookstore I'll try to pick up a copy. It could be the source of much blog commentary.


In a conversation I had yesterday, it came up that a fight between Magneto and the liquid metal Terminator (T-1000) from Termintor 2 would be mightily cool. So who would win the following fights?

Magneto vs T-1000
Storm vs Hurricane Isabel
Rogue vs the Highlander
Professor X vs Brainiac
Mystique vs James Bond
Wolverine vs Batman
And for the guys...
The Invisible Woman vs Laura Croft

There, now we're all preoccupied.

John Stewart vs Stephen Colbert

okay, I'm done now.

Dispersing the Government

Evidently, the Pentagon is moving some jobs out of the D.C. area to disperse the U.S.’s military facilities and make them less vulnerable to attack. I say, it doesn’t go far enough. As the plane incident last week demonstrated, all three branches of the government could be shut down my one incident in Washington D.C. I say, create two more capitals. That will give us three capitals, giving each branch their own capital.

The executive branch can stay in D.C. Many of the government’s agencies fall under the executive branch, so the fewest facilities would have to move if the executive branch stayed in D.C. FBI, CIA, IRS, the Pentagon, all that stuff would get to stay here. Plus, most of those organizations have branches all over the country, so you might be able to take their heads, but the wriggling parts would still be around to try to fight back.

The legislative branch, which has people who come from all over the country, should be in a more central location. It also has the most VIPs to protect, so it should probably be somewhere in Wyoming where they can build a nice bunker deep in a mountain underneath or near the new Capitol building for Congress to quickly evacuate to in case of attack.

The Supreme Court is harder. They don’t really need to be centrally located, since they don’t have any constituents they have to go visit on a hopefully regular basis. You probably don’t want to put them in a city that is a target for other reasons, like New York or Los Angeles. You know what, just to make all those lawyers miserable, lets put them in Alaska. Whether or not the Supreme Court’s capital is put there, lets put the lawyers in Alaska.

Women in Combat

The Republicans in the House are having a bout of reality denial. They seem to think, first of all, that passing a law to keep women out of combat is a good idea, and second of all, that such a law will actually keep women in the military out of harms way. Not that we're not having enough trouble recruiting enough people to fight in Iraq without barring a segment of the population from going. Not that women won't still find themselves in combat situations if they are stationed anywhere in Iraq. When the Army objected, the House said, "Oh, our mistake. We meant for this to apply to ALL of the armed forces.”

What's the issue here? Women not being able to perform in combat? Up the standards. Make women who want to fight in a combat unit meet the same standards as the men. Yes, this will prevent many (or most) women from joining combat units, but it ensures that women who do join will be able to handle themselves at least as well as their male compatriots. And increase training for women (and all soldiers) who are “merely” in units that support the combat units. Are they concerned that women may me killed or injured? Women are already finding themselves in combat situations in Iraq. There's no front line for you to keep them away from. They're in it and they're going to BE in it as long as they are in Iraq. Also, it's wonderful how they don't seem to mind that MEN are getting killed and injured in Iraq, and in much greater numbers than the women. Fourty-five men die - not a problem. One woman dies - get them out of there!

The one that got me was when PVC Lynch was captured. The story came out that her gun had jammed and a fellow soldier had died protecting her. This was held up by some as an example of why women should not be in combat. As if the soldier who died was only protecting her because she was a woman. As if it would have been perfectly acceptable for him to leave a fellow soldier, who was injured and essentially unarmed, to die.

Then I read about the woman who saved a fellow soldier from being crushed, then shielded him from gunfire. Imagine that. It's possible for a woman to protect a man. Who knew?

It’s a fact of life now that women in the military are more frequently finding themselves in combat situations, even when they are not attached to a combat unit. If they want to fight and are capable of fighting, more power to them. Letting women volunteer to be in combat is a far cry from drafting them (which wouldn’t work – baby boom, anyone?) I don’t know what the House thinks this law is going to accomplish. The only way to get women out of harms way is to pull them out of Iraq. If you do that, what do you say to the men who can’t leave with them? Or the men who have to go in their place? Sorry, you don’t have enough X-chromosomes. Better luck next lifetime.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Person of Interest"

Once again, police are looking for a "person of interest". Just who do they think they're fooling? Why must we create vague phrases when it is obvious what we mean? It's not like the police are creating less suspicion around this person by calling them a "person of interest" just in case it turns out they're not guilty of anything. A person of interest could describe a potential witness, but if you even use that phrase to describe a potential witness, you'll now create undue suspicion around them. So just call a suspect a suspect and a potential witness a potential witness and stop inventing new phrases that add no value to the communication between the public and the police.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Writer's ADD

Sure, you've heard of writer's block, where you stare at the page or the screen, hoping inspiration will fly out and hit you in the head. But I seem to be suffered from writer's ADD - aggravation, distraction, and dissatisfaction. I have several potential posts in various stages of preparation, but they're just not coming together. There's my closing remarks on Star Trek, but the finale of Enterprise left me somewhat bitter and others have already said so much more so much better. There's a post on the consequences of mass producing art. A parody of politically motivated protests. An article on how successful science fiction television shows seem to be guided by the visions of a single person. Not to mention various ideas that have already gone stale because the news they are based on has come and gone. But I'll get ideas for one while working on another. Or I won't like what I wrote because bitterbitterbitter is not my intent. Or I get off point and have to start over. I'll have several Word documents open at once so I can quickly switch between. But at some point, I also have to sleep. Oh, yeah, there was that post on insomnia I was working on. Coalesce, ideas! Why do you torment me so?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Lack of Curiosity the Sign of Larger Problems

A little over a month ago, Rick Weiss wrote in the Washington Post about the apparent dwindling level of curiosity in this country. He was mourning NASA’s proposal to stop listening to Voyage just as it reached the outer limit of the Sun’s influence, but he pointed out that much scientific research funding these days is for research with the goal to produce something specific rather than to simply explore and see what comes out. I do think curiosity in this society is declining, but that it is a symptom, not a cause.

Curiosity is innate in humans. Yesterday at lunch, my best friend’s nine-month-old was constantly reaching out at my food, her food, the tray our food was on, my shirt, my nose, her knife and fork – no, baby, no touching knife and fork. He was doing this, not to be disruptive, but to learn about his environment. When he’s old enough to form complete sentences, he’ll probably ask a lot of questions. Because humans are naturally curious. Though that curiosity does tend to wear away as we age and get to know the world a little better, it never entirely goes away. At the very least, we’re curious about what our friends are up to or what will happen next on Survivor. But all out curiosity is going away. Why? We discourage it.

We are a cynical society. We have learned from our own experiences, our family’s experiences, and the experiences of everyone we’ve ever read or heard about. We sue each other for the slightest act of stupidity (whether it was ours or theirs). We always hear about one horrible thing or another on the news. And it’s made us all cynical and afraid, particularly when it comes to our children. Have you looked at a playground lately? There’s nothing higher than four feet off the ground. There’s nothing for children to challenge each other on. Kids can’t climb trees because they might fall. They can’t play outside by themselves because they might be kidnapped. They can’t run because they might trip. They aren’t allowed to push their own limits and find out for themselves what they are capable of. They are told what they are capable of and discouraged from finding out on their own.

While the above discouragements are probably also contributing to obesity, physical activity is not the only arena where curiosity is discouraged. Schools, particularly now with the Standards of Learning (as they are called in Virginia – known nationally as No Child Left Behind), have little room for curious students. They don’t have enough time to cover the material they are required to, much less go in to more depth about the material that students may ask about. Sure, you can point them to the library, but is it really encouraging to say “I don’t have time for this, go somewhere else and read about it”? Standardized testing basically tells kids “you need to know this and nothing more”. Yes, many parents encourage their children to learn outside the classroom. But unfortunately, many don’t. And the entire school system suffers for it.

Wow. I didn’t even mean for this to be about schools. Adults are guilty, too, of being unable to push their own limits. We want someone else to pay for their own irresponsibility, stupidity, and bad luck. It could be the government or some corporation we are going to sue. We are so into ourselves we don’t even seem to care what’s beyond our own wants and needs. At this point, it’s worse than a lack of curiosity. It’s a lack of interest in anything other than Me, Myself, and I. And I fear it will take a tremendous effort to fix, if it can be fixed at all.