Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rest in Peace, Ringer

Ringer, my friend and cat for 18 years, had to be put to sleep late Saturday morning. We adopted him 18 years ago this month at the age of three months (I was eight at the time). He was the kind of cat that made you want to have a cat, even if you weren't particularly fond of cats. He was a trusting, loving soul that left an impression on all who met him. No matter where I went or how long I was gone (hours, days, months), he was always there at my parents' house to greet me when I came back. There are so many stories, so many memories. He lived as full a life as a cat could ever expect and then some, and he was loved through all of it. A true blessing.

Five years ago this month, he had a stroke. We pulled him back from the brink, and he made a full recovery. Every moment after was a miracle. It reached the point where it seemed that he would go on forever. But a blood clot robbed him of his ability to walk (he was already showing symptoms when I saw him on Sunday). He stopped eating. This time, I could not save him. All I could do was hold him, say goodbye, and end his pain. It's hard to say goodbye to something that's been with you for 3/4 of your life. But when I saw him Saturday morning, I knew it was time.

Rest in peace, Ringer. I couldn't have asked for a better cat.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Quote of the Day - May 17, 2007

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

- a headstone in Ireland

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Open 28 Hours

I was going through some old e-mails today when I came across this site that a co-worker had forwarded me. It proposes a six day week with 28 hours in each day. The site talks about the benefits (including a four day work week and a 56 hour weekend) and addresses the sleep/wake cycle (you actually end up with 2 hours less sleep for the week, but you can always make that up on the long weekend) and work hours (four, ten hour days). That still leaves some questions unanswered.

When do you eat? The way I figure it, you'll have to abandon the "three square meals a day" model and adopt something like "four triangular meals a day". Since you would be eating four meals in 28 hours instead of 3 meals in 24 hours, the meals would probably be smaller. And they could be evenly distributed among the 19 wakings hours. You would eat every five hours, starting with breakfast when you wake up, followed by a late lunch, dinner, and a midnight meal that would land about 3 hours before bed (which is good, because you'll need one final burst of energy to get you through your longer day).

What about the varying number of daylight hours? The site assume there are twelve hours of daylight in a day. However, there are fewer daylight hours in the winter and more in the summer. Let's assume the shortest day has 9 hours of daylight and the longest has 15.

In the winter, Tuesday(the first day of their week - Monday is gone in this 28x6 scenario) sees the entire workday gobbling up the daylight. On Wednesday, you would wake up in the middle of daylight, leave work in the middle of the night, and go to bed with the sunrise. On Thursday, you would wake up around sunset, work through the night, and see about four hours of morning daylight before going to bed. On Friday, you would get out of work in time for sunrise and go to bed shortly before sunset. During your 56 hour weekend, you would be awake for every hour of daylight on your days off.

In the summer, Tuesday sees a couple of hours of daylight before and after work. Wednesday is still the darkest day since you wake up in the middle of daylight and still leave work well after dark. Thursday has more daylight hours after work. And Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are plenty sunny (though you may actually find yourself going to bed before sunset on Saturday).

So, if you're used to not seeing the sun except on the weekends during the winter (like I am), this schedule would increase your vitamin D levels. If you're used to seeing at least an hour of sun outside of work each day, Tuesday and Wednesday in the winter may be hard on you.

Imagine it: less time commuting, more sleep each day, more daylight (on average) during non-working hours, a longer weekend, and more hours in a day. But could it really work? Society would probably have difficulty adopting such a system. We're kind of attached to the idea of 1 Earth rotation equaling one day. You'd probably have to wait until humans were scattered across various worlds with different day/night cycles to even begin considering changing something as fundamental as the definition of a day.

Maybe someday... how's tomorrow sound?

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Anonymity and the Internet

The Internet is the ultimate liberterian experiment: few rules and plenty of freedom, just the fact that the participants have a vested interest in its success preventing a decent into total chaos. As a Chappell Show sketch points out, if the Internet were a real place, it wouldn’t really be the kind of place you would want to visit. But he leaves out one very important factor: everyone is wearing Halloween costumes. Some people are dressed as themselves, but everyone is wearing a mask. There is simply no way to be sure who is who. After all, can you really be sure that someone posting under a real-enough-sounding name is actually named “John Smith”?

Tom Grubisich addresses the issue of Internet anonymity in today’s Washington Post. However, he completely neglects something very important that gets drilled into our heads regarding conversing on the Internet: never give out your personal information. And these days, even giving out your name can give people access to some very personal information. The anonymity goes both ways: I may not be able to find the Internet bully, but the bully can’t find me, either.

Insisting that the people who write on bulletin boards or even blogs be open about their identity does nothing to protect them from the people who anonymously read their posts. As Dahlia Lithwick discusses here, having your personal information plastered on the Internet (especially when accompanied by threats) is a very real and menacing problem (and, no, female bloggers aren’t the only targets). Those who are open about their identities can more easily be victimized by those who make no such efforts towards open and civil discourse. Reporters who publish their names have long received negative and even threatening reactions to their writings, but they have their publishers and editors behind them. They can report abusing and threatening e-mails and comments to their boss. If some idiot starts flaming me in the comments or e-mails me directly, I have no such luxury.

Though I generally try to be careful on my blog, the average internet stalker obsessively reading through it could figure out my first name, my birth date, my gender, what area I live in, where I work (though not the company I work for), where I went to college, the first names of several of my friends, the names of my cats, and probably a few more things that, if I put them all into one post, I wouldn’t publish it. You won’t find my address, my phone number, or anything that specific. But if you had my name, they would be a lot easier to get.

My only defense is my hit counter which tells me how people reached my blog, what time they visited, where they were when they visited, what service provider they used, how many pages they viewed, what OS and browser they used, and various other random tidbits that I bet you didn’t know the websites you visit were collecting from you. Given that I only get about 19 hits a day and my regular readers are well distributed, I can generally tell exactly who read my blog. If someone discovered this blog and decided to read through the whole thing (note to internet stalkers: that’s 812 posts over a 3 year period, so settle in) to uncover all of the information I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I would notice.

There are ways to defend against drive-by flamers and Internet bullies. There are plenty of forums and even blogs that require registration to post comments. This discourages drive-by posts of the juvenile variety and gives a name (even if it’s a fake one) to repeat troublemakers. Some forums allow users to block other users, so if another poster starts flinging insults, you can just ignore them. Some bloggers and forums moderate their comments, which can prevent flame wars from getting out of hand. This can lead to posters whose messages are deleted to complain about censorship and to scream about the first amendment and whatnot, to which I say: my house, my rules. If you insult me, I have every right to kick you off my property. Go start your own forum/blog if you want. It’s a free Internet.

Having forums and blogs with required registration and rules of conduct, even if the rules are minimal, go a long way toward making online conversations more civil. It’s not necessary to take people’s online identities and match them up with their social security numbers. That, too, has the potential for abuse. Registered pseudonyms still give posters an identity, just one without a birth certificate. Besides, without pseudonyms, the U.S. wouldn’t be the country it is today. They can’t be all bad.

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