Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving




I am thankful to live in the comfort and security of an American home. So many Americans have made this possible.








I am thankful to the founders for securing my life, my liberty and my tranquility. I can speak freely. I can worship freely. I can protect myself and my family, thanks to the fathers.








I am thankful for the American economy. Economic freedom has given me the means to buy my home, my food and my comforts. I have the freedom to work for a job I enjoy. I am free to save for my retirement.








I am thankful for the Americans who built the home that shelters me from the rain and the snow. I did not have to saw my own lumber, nail my own shingles and plaster my own walls.








I am thankful for the Americans who bring fresh clean water to my home. I do not have to trudge out in freezing weather with a bucket. I can bathe with my water. I can drink my water. I can cook with my water.








I am thankful for the Americans who remove the waste from my home. They keep disease and vermin away. I don't have to trudge out to an outhouse in freezing weather. I don't have to dig my own landfill.








I am thankful for the Americans who bring heat, light and refrigeration to my home. Without this energy, I would have to chop my own wood, light my own lamps and stoke the fire of my own furnace. I have the freedom to cook when I please. I have the freedom to preserve my food.








I am thankful for the Americans who grow, pick and slaughter the food I eat. I do not have to dig for potatoes. I do not have to eviscerate poultry. I do not have to wait in long lines for hours, with hunger in my belly.








I am thankful for the Americans who built my car, deliver my mail and packages and ship all the goods I buy and consume every day. They are the blood in the arteries of the country. They bend the branch of American prosperity to my home, so I can just reach out and pick the fruit.








I am thankful for the Americans who bring electricity and communications to my home. I don't have to wait for letters, send telegraphs or venture out. I have emergency services at my fingertips at all times. Thanks to you, I can rejoice in good news. Thanks to you, in tragedy, I can reach out to my family for comfort.








I am thankful for the Americans who protect me and my home from fire and crime. You see the worst in us all, while you give us your best.









I am thankful for the Americans who protect my home from foreign invaders. They stand between civilization and the barbarians. They protect my life and my rights from tyranny abroad.








I am thankful for the Americans who will take me from my home when I die. They will let me pass with dignity and grace. My family will not have to dig my grave.








I am thankful for the Americans who fix my body when it fails. They provide the skills, the medicine, the machines and the science, to help me live a long life.








I am thankful for animal companions. They bring comfort and loyalty into our homes. We may live and work in places of steel, concrete and glass. Our pets remind us we always have a foot in the natural world.








I am thankful for the hands of the American family. I am thankful for every small questing hand that grows to the old experienced hand. I thank those hands that span many years, by bearing arms, turning wrenches and shifting gears. Hands that touch young shoulders to calm young fears. Hands that lift up cloths to wipe away tears.








Our founders, who lived in the past, never experienced the wonders of their future. They still gave thanks during this holiday. America gives us so much. The least we can do, is give thanks.



Lunch at Basil's

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Oh those Korean Cutups

A few short years ago:

Jimmy Carter meets the evil Korean Dictator, as Clinton's "unofficial" envoy, back in the good old Clinton days. He quite effectively short circuits US policy and sanctions on the evil little bastards.

Fast Forward to today:

Today on Drudge, we have yet another atrocity story by Meghan Clyne of the NY sun, entitled Korean Reds Targeting Christians.

Christians being run over by steamrollers, in front of fainting crowds, for expressing their religion. It is not like we didn't know that North Korea was doing this sort of thing for decades.

Thanks for being so helpful to your fellow Christians, Jimmy. You get the Nobel Pieces prize.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Marriage made in the Senate


"Reports to Congress on United States Policy and Military Operations in Iraq.--Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act" - Levin (D)

"
Reports to Congress on United States Policy and Military Operations in Iraq.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act"
- Frist (R)




So, under our own Republican amendment, we get an additional 60 days before sloppy senate staffers bleed our war strategy details out to the media, for chewing and screwing. The resolution states that will not happen. Yeah, right.

Here's a tip for all the RINO Senators at http://jellyfish.gov:

If you want to get re-elected, stop pushing the media agenda, and start pushing the suppressed successes of the war. Show some of that great American optimism that seems to exist only outside of Washington. Talk about the great work of our troops and contractors. Talk about the fact that Iraq is not Vietnam. There are no refugees. Iraqis are repatriating their nation. Iraqis are investing in their future. They are turning out to vote, in large numbers, across all of the Muslim derivatives.
  • Stop whining about the rights of terrorists and treating them like they are Geneva signatories.
  • Stop redefining humiliation as torture.
  • Stop undermining our intelligence.
  • Stop nitpicking the war budget.
  • Stop leaking like a pasta colander full of large caliber holes.
Finally, Stop letting the minority party screw you, then asking us to pay for your room, board and a big jar of petroleum jelly.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Chilled Milk for the Suburbs

I resurrected and updated an older post, on a whim, inpired by a technical comment from a4g on my previous post. This small essay is on the social effects of enabling technologies. It is reminiscent of the works of Alvin Toffler.

Cool Consequences

My father told me that, when he was a very young child, he and his mother would venture into town every other day for fresh bread, produce and milk. Every day they would meet neighbors and fellow church goers. When they got their brand new refrigerator, a portion of this social activity gradually abated. You did not even need a visit from the ice man. He told me about the great marketing effort nationwide for the new safe and affordable freon based refrigeration. There was a direct social impact consequence of this simple new technology. There were so many good things to come out of it. Less spoiled food, the ability to buy in bulk, the ability to make winter pastry in summertime are just a few that comprise the list. Everybody naturally thought it was a great convenience, which it was. But a social price was paid.

From Tool to Crutch

Engineers, before calculators, had to use slide rules and paper. When calculators arrived, these engineers were enchanted by the convenience. The calculator was tool of great accuracy and precision. Older engineers now had power in their fist, to augment their analytical skills, with quick calculations.





New student engineers were given the calculator and quickly cast aside manual and slide rule calculation. However, these new engineers did not have the discipline of mental estimation. The slide rule forced you to mentally estimate and place that decimal point. It forced you to make conservative projections.






They lost the ability to visualize and estimate the scope, or order of magnitude, of a design. The older engineer would look over his shoulder and say:

Don't those numbers look wrong to you?.

The new guy wouldn't know what to say, because he has learned to blindly trust the machine; He would stumble through a long sequence of calculations and arrive at a wildly inaccurate solution. There are now schools in this nation which don't require students to use multiplication tables or long division. There is no longer any emphasis on paper calculations. Why bother, when the calculator is there?

Here is a human consequence of the technology which has transformed the magnificent tool for the older engineer to a potential crutch for the new engineer.

Imaginary Substance

Television and modern communications have had an enormous and dramatic impact on society. Television brought crucial weather news and graphs to our eyes. It brought the marvelous moon landing into our homes. Television brought sports into the living room. It brought enormous commercial power and jobs to our nation. These were all good things.

Television also brought the main stream image based media. We have not had an American presidency, unmolested by brutal scrutiny and editorial mastication, since the birth of national television coverage, in the late Eisenhower years. Many of our greatest presidents, without telegenic faces, existed prior to national media.



Would they have been deemed so great, if this demand for a telegenic image had existed in their time? How would TR's high voice or Lincoln's humble looks survive this new media?


Be Inspired; not just wired

How will the new interactive technologies nourish the vices in people?

How will they amplify the virtues?

Will they cater to our own natural tendency to lapse toward mental and physical entropy and move us to crippling apathy?

Information technologies provide new degrees of freedom in communication and artistic expression. However, new technology is most appreciated by those who have suffered its absence. It is appreciated by those who are first introduced to it. It is appreciated by those who have been trained to view it with the eye of personal discipline.

New technology is rarely appreciated by those who take it for granted.
It is important to pass that eye of discipline to the younger generations. The school of hard knocks is not just your father's Oldsmobile.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Alma Mentor

Most of us know the latin term Alma Mater is used to refer to a college or university you graduated from. It means 'nourishing mother'. I do not feel that way about any modern college; even the one I got my engineering degree from. Since I have lived in MA all my life, my perceptions may be polluted by my environment. So be it.

I have many criticisms of the modern university system. Most of these relate to the bureaucratic and political behavior they engage in. I spent approximately ten years, at night, collecting an education and a degree. In that time, I learned more on the job, than in the classroom. There were many instances, where the class material was woefully obsolete. It was, however, a golden opportunity to attempt real time integration of college learning, with my job.

I could go on and on about the despicable liberal political demogoguery in the college classroom. I wish I had a digital recorder back then. I would have captured some of the absurd temper tantrums, thrown by college professors, at my tuition expense. Most of the offenders were in the social sciences.

What do the these sheltered people really know about the real world that feeds them a salary and a decent standard of living?

This is another rant for another day. I had many fantastic professors. I also had many abysmal professors. Two of my favorite professors had both retired from private industry jobs. They were sharing those life skills with college students, just to stay engaged.

The Sheepskin



If so much importance were not conferred to that paper degree, I probably would not have bothered. The fact is, a degree is still a crucial standard. Without a network of professional friends, it is one of the only things you can use to prove your worth . Another way to prove your worth is to start your own company and make it succeed, like famous college dropout William Gates. I think the degree standard is being abused by the university bureaucracy. If you don't have that degree, you don't get a good job. So you should bite your lip, and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous liberalism.

All the jobs I have had were referred by friends. Unfortunately, this is poor insurance. That degree is still honored as an achievement milestone. There is a cruel irony here. The product produced by many of the schools can be almost as bad as the public schools. I have seen many a college graduate sliding through the company's hands, with degree in hand, unable to perform basic skills.

The Mentor and Apprentice



One of the smartest engineers I ever learned from is no longer with us. He never went to college. He was a passionate hands on person, who had a strong father mentor. His father had his own electronic repair shop. We do not see many of these places anymore. The global economy of large scale integration and consumer pricing have brought us great toys, but have eliminated the need for a local toy shop to repair them.

Charlie was raised by a father steeped in the curiosity of electromechanical machines. He would often accept challenging jobs, rejected by others. One of these jobs was to repair an optical grading machine being used in his school district. This was the early fifties, so this was a fairly new computing technology. He and his young ten year old son tackled the task, with potentially hazardous results. It was a wonderful wiz bang, whir and purr learning experience for Charlie. His lifelong curiosity and passion were germinated that day.

Charlie's educational institution of learning was his Alma Pater. He had a 'nourishing father'.

Charlie could design circuits in his head, perform the analysis and produce a schematic result. Although it was difficult and sometimes impossible for him to produce a design model for his results, I could prototype his circuits or simulate them on a computer. They worked quite well. They would even have statistically conservative, tested behavior. His engineering was just another example of how incredible the human brain is. It can form its own models, methodology and execution entirely within a private framework of understanding. This works even with complex modern technologies.

Many of the views we have of our world are based on models. Mathematical models are quite powerful. If you can prove that an observed phenomenon follows a math model, you can be sure that your use of that model in design will be robust and predictable. Applied physics is such a math framework. But a model is still only a model . There are many new computer iterative design models based on genetic algorithms, fuzzy logic and non-linear processes which have been proven to produce functional results. Although many of those results cannot be described mathematically, they function nonetheless.

Have we lost something, as a society, by marginalizing apprenticeship?

So many people, operating in the close learning environments, of friendship and collaboration, have produced miracles of new technology. Just look at the Xerox crew, which brought us GUIs, Networking, Object oriented software etc.

Relight the Torch



Universities and colleges are supposed to provide the substance of a career interest. They are supposed to provide a toolbox for learning new things. They are supposed to teach you how to think. Is that standard toolbox always the best start? Is it always the best set of tools? When I meet people like my late friend Charlie, I think we need to rethink our emphasis on institutionalized models and teaching.

Not everyone is a natural teacher, but there are many with natural gifts for creative building and innovation. Charlie was that rare blend of natural teacher and renegade technologist. He got all of that power from his own study and family dynamics. Apprenticeship is a old, tried and true concept, preceding all of the modern institutions of learning. Can this old concept be reinvigorated in our time, for more than the traditional electrical, plumbing and legacy trades?

Perhaps attempting to tap this mentor to apprentice communication will destroy it. Small team chemistry is meant to be small. Maybe it is best left alone.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Light Blogging

Sorry about the light blogging. Between aggressive work deadlines, stress related loss of blood sugar control and my latest battle with neuropathy in my feet, I have not seen much sleep lately.

When it flares up, it feels like sleeping with your feet in a bucket of ice water, or suddenly having ice picks pushed through your toes.

In the words of the Governator, I will be back.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Give Peace a' France

Please ACLU, send some of your high priced lawyers over to France. Those poor, downtrodden Muslim youths, fomenting civil war, must have their precious civil rights protected, in the land of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Please pack all the sympathetic moonbats you can fit, into the carry on luggage compartment.

When you get to the Paris airport, make sure you announce your intentions, as loudly and publicly as possible.

I wonder how long it will be, before the BBC does an Abu Ghraib special on the French government? It could not happen to a nicer administration.

What happens two decades from now, when Muslims take over France, a country fully equipped with first class hydrogen nukes and modern delivery systems?

More good stuff over at Dread Pundit Bluto.