Expressions of Friendship

Every week brings another e-mail to the inbox, generally with a syrupy message about keeping in touch with family and friends and not winding up regretting things when you’re an old fart.

Look, I love all of you, OK? There is no need to send me a message seeking my affections and approval. Really, if you feel the need to reassure yourself that I am your friend, take my word for it, you’re my best bud. Just don’t hit “send” on that chain letter, please?

Also, for the record:
There is no “National Friendship and FAMILY WEEK
There is no “National Friendship Week

Here’s a quote from Break the Chain (one of three places I check for debunking information):

Official declarations of special-interest “weeks” usually come from legislators and governors. “National” weeks or days will most likely be declared by the President or Congress. Searches on the White House Web Site and for “National Friendship Week” turned up nothing – as I hoped they would, since I don’t really want government involved with my social life at that level!

Of course, special-interest groups can also declare special “national” weeks and days. Heck, if I wanted to, I could declare this week “The National Week of My Left Eyebrow.” There’s no law and no person keeping me from doing it, all I need is a good public relations campaign. Oh, and if I send out a poem about my left eyebrow via e-mail and don’t date it, it can be the week of my left eyebrow all year long!

I can say with one phrase (Carpe Diem!) what most of the “Friendship letters” take pages to get across; it’s just not that difficult a concept to grasp.

A better expression of this was heard a few weeks back on “The View” (no, I don’t watch the show, I was channel surfing during the day. No REALLY) When William Shatner was on plugging the Season Finale for Boston Legal. It’s also a song on his album “Has Been” (track title “You’ll Have Time“) which pretty much covers it.

I approach every day with the observation “this could be my last day” and I’ve done this for most of my life. That’s pretty much what he said, and that’s pretty much how I’ve lived for as long as I can remember.

I recommend it to you as “your friend”.

Now, I need to go start that chain letter concerning the “Week of My Left Eyebrow”…

McDonald’s gender issues

When we are pressed for time during a car trip, we have been known to pull into the local burger place to get the children something to eat. Truth be told, we do this far too often. The son always wants a kid’s meal, while the daughter has outgrown all that ‘baby stuff’ and gets salads these days. But that boy wants his prize with his chicken nuggets.

I’ve spent untold hours of my life repeating to them both “I don’t buy food for the toys, you get a toy with the food” in a vain attempt to avoid that “But I got this toy last time” argument. The ploy has never actually worked, but hope does spring eternal that one day I won’t hear “I want a different one!” when the toy is revealed. All this preparation and groundwork goes to waste though when the employee working the drive through window asks “Is the meal for a boy or a girl?”

McDonald’s frequently does these targeted marketing promotions with their kids meals. They give the boys trucks or weapons to play with, and they give the girls dolls or fluffy bunnies to nurture, as if the boys couldn’t do with some training in nurturing, or as if girls don’t have any interest in trucks. (or weapons) Not that McDonald’s is the only place with this problem. I witnessed a parent completely lose it once at the counter when the truly apologetic teen in the spotless uniform offered her son one of the girls toys with the explanation “this is all I have left”. She drug her son screaming and stomping (her, not her son) out of the restaurant, but I think the child would have been happier to have the ‘girls toy’ than to listen to mom make a fool of herself in public.

For as long as I’ve had children I have fought a losing battle not to go to McDonald’s. I don’t eat there, but the children beg endlessly to go (television marketing does work) and, really, one burger is pretty much the same as any other when it comes to national fast food chain stores. When the window attendant asks the question boy or girl? I won’t answer it directly. “A truck toy” or “A doll toy” is the best they will ever get from me, and I have driven off on a food order when the attendant presses me to answer girl or boy specifically. There’s always another McDonald’s a few blocks away. In McDonald’s defense, they’ve actually started noting the button on the register Truck and Doll a notation which displays on the order screen, but the person on the loudspeaker inevitably asks girl or boy? every time.

You’re probably wondering where this is all going at this point. Well, I’ll tell ya.

I gave in to the begging again tonight and wandered by the local McDonald’s. I pull up to the drive through window and notice that they’ve changed the marketing promo to Cars (the new Pixar film, I’ll be seeing it) and they give these cars to both genders of children. Here they’ve built up this 15 year legacy of properly filing the children away in their correct gender roles, only to blow it with this new promo that features ONLY CARS.

Cars for girls.

Fire that new marketing director. He’s clueless. The next thing you know, they’ll be giving dolls to boys instead of action figures.

2018 Mea Culpa review. I did a little refining of the wordsmithing for this one and that’s it. I did want to add a link to this episode of Hidden Brain, itself a repeat of a show first aired a few years previously. Still, it makes the same case that I make about gender stereotypes and how harmful they can be. Enjoy!

Open Source: Without Profit?

One of the arguments I’ve had with critics of Open Source software, is that they (the open source programmers) want people to use a product for which there is no profit, i.e. they are given away for free.

That’s funny. I’ve profited many times over from a lack of lost down time due to using Firefox to access the Internet and avoiding all that IE targeted malware. I’ve also profited from using Thunderbird and avoiding all those scriptkiddie re-mailers that seem to plague Outlook Express.

[BTW, Microsoft gives IE and Express away ‘free’ too]

I’ve also profited from the use of instead of MicroSoft office. I’ve saved all those profits I would have handed over to brother Bill, and given them to myself. Same for the OS’s that I test. The average Linux distro will run you 80 bucks if you want printed materials to go with the software. I’ve paid it more than once, as well as downloading them for free from the internet.

‘If’ I had a CAD package that suited my needs in Linux, I wouldn’t even look back.

Most people too narrowly define the word ‘profit’.

Equality: The Unknown Ideal

I was chastised recently that I should “respect my betters”.

There was a time when this sort of insult would have required a dawn meeting with pistols in the name of honor; but since shooting the random boor in the face from 20 paces isn’t in fashion any longer, I was forced to rely upon my wits. As usual, I think they failed me.

My betters? That’s a laugh. I run into my equals all the time, but haven’t met ‘my better’. Probably has something to do with a little known concept called equality.

Imagine my surprise when I’m told:

“equality is a failed concept and an attempt at the impossible. Socialists and communists both failed with it and still are trying to fit that square into a circle.”

Pardon my ignorance. Here I was thinking that Jefferson had said something like “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” I had no idea that equality was a one of those ‘bad Commie’ things that we wouldn’t ever want to support, and I certainly wasn’t aware that we had trashed the Declaration and discarded all those outmoded ideals like equality.

Here I’ve been thinking that rights and liberties were all founded on the idea that we are all equals. I guess I need to get those leg shackles back on, eh? Imagine the effrontery of someone thinking they had rights and freedom in this day and age? Boggles the mind doesn’t it?

Or maybe I shouldn’t take other peoples misguided notions too seriously. From the lecture transcript of the same name, at

For the answer to th[e] question [in what sense can it be from our equal creation that we derive our right to liberty”] we must turn from Jefferson to Jefferson’s source, John Locke, who tells us exactly what “equality” in the libertarian sense is: namely, a condition

wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection. . . .[3]

In short, the equality that Locke and Jefferson speak of is equality in authority: the prohibition of any “subordination or subjection” of one person to another. Since any interference by A with B’s liberty constitutes a subordination or subjection of B to A, the right to liberty follows straightforwardly from the equality of “power and jurisdiction.” As Locke explains:

[B]eing all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions. . . . And, being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorise us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.[4]

This is a notable pre-Kantian statement of the principle that human beings are not to be treated as mere means to the ends of others. (Observe, too, how Locke and Jefferson both invoke independence as a corollary of, or a gloss on, equality in authority.)

Well, that makes me feel better. I guess I don’t need to go apologise to that guy with the whips who keeps telling me I’ve got to get back to work, and can instead give him the finger he so richly deserves…

One amongst equals. Live it. Love it.

Minding the Details

Back when I worked in a big architectural office, I was generally relied upon to generate details for whatever section of the project was my responsibility. Inevitably, when I would bring some suggested details to the Project Manager’s attention for discussion, someone would repeat the old axiom “The Devil is in the Details”. In the course of my 20+ years in the architectural field I have heard it quite a few times. Most of my co-workers hated detailing. It’s slow work when done right; and if the detail doesn’t work, you can guess who gets the blame.

The Austin Garden Center

While I’ve heard “The Devil is in the Details” thousands of times, I’ve always had a different view of the problem. The prestigious parts of a project’s design (exterior and interior appearance) are generally either fought over by the team leadership, or handed to some design guru to give his special ‘flourish’ to. The rest of the tasks are handed out the team, usually with some grumbling about who ends up with what, and most of them look forward to the day when they can paint with broad strokes and not have to worry about ‘the details’. No one wants them, except people like me. Design is design, and the joy of creation is in the details as much as it is in generating a building exterior that has ‘street appeal’.

The wife’s quilt pattern inspired VCT artwork – from the AGC AutoCAD files.

It’s a lot like writing, in a way. There is something I need to say, how to say it? There’s something this widget needs to do, how do I make it work? Sit there and puzzle over it, lay out designs and discard them one after another. Consult some references, lay out more designs, and sit and puzzle some more. Finally in the end it all comes together in a flash of inspiration, and Viola! The joy of creation, doing work that the average clock-puncher looks down on as beneath them.

µstation details from a current project

The old axiom does carry a grain of truth. If you don’t mind the details, if you don’t sort them all out for yourself, then you leave that part of creation to chance. Murphy is a hard task master, and gremlins don’t have a bad rep because they fix things when you aren’t looking. Chances are, if you leave the details to chance, you won’t be pleased with the outcome.

KLBJ AM online – It’s a ‘stream’ alright

That would be To listen online you just (as Jeff says) “Click on the flashing box, and put you head down”. Except it’s not that easy. They’ve cut the commercials online (some contractual issues, apparently) and instead stream a loop of comments from one of the most backwards Texans I’ve ever had the misfortune to be ‘forced’ to listen to; ‘Sgt.’ Sam Cox.

To say that I hate him is an understatement. For me, he’s gone the opposite direction from Rush Limbaugh. When Limbaugh came on the air in this region, replacing my then favorite radio personality Eric Blumberg. I could not listen to the man without screaming at my radio…

[I generally listened to the radio with headphones on, so as not to disturb my co-worker in the next cubicle. So you can imagine the quiet office setting, people with their heads down working on drawings, when suddenly one of them screams “Bullshit, that’s complete BULLSHIT!” Slightly disruptive in an office setting]

…These days, I can sometimes laugh at his lame attempts at jokes.

Sam has gone from being occasionally funny to always annoying. Having his most ignorant comments cycled over and over on the ‘stream’ is something that I just find too offensive to ignore.

So I wrote the following and posted it to the forums:

Change the streaming commercial mask, Please!

This is a request for a change in the streaming commercial mask for the webcast. I’ve had about all I want of Sam Cox in between the other programs I’m listening to.

I had no idea that Sam’s real name was Yahweh. I don’t know how else he can declare as fact “life begins at conception”. There’s only one entity that can declare that sort of thing to be fact, and I’m not even going to go so far as to vouch for it’s existence.

Sam’s statements are an embarrassment to thinking people everywhere, and should be an embarrassment to Austinites specifically, because of the fact that a majority of Austin disagrees with him on just about every statement that comes out of his mouth.

There is a place for minority opinion on the radio, but I really don’t think I should have to hear the same dumb statements every 5 or 10 minutes throughout the day while I listen online.

Put some Jeff on, or Timpone, or Dr Dean. Or just play some ‘bumper music’. Anybody or anything but Sam, please.

…And it was promptly deleted from the forums. I figured as much. So I sent it to the addresses that make a difference; the advertising director, the program manager, and the webmaster.
I haven’t heard back from them. Can’t imagine why. Time for the next move.

Feel free to write to the addresses above, and let them know that you feel the same (or that you think I’m a fruitcake, makes no difference to me) Maybe we can’t ‘flush Rush’, but perhaps we can ‘walk Sam’.

Well, they changed the stream, but they also restricted access to it. I can’t win for loosing. They also deleted the forums, ending the chance to interact with the staff and other listeners. Cutting their collective noses off, I guess. Anyway, Sam the fascist is still on the morning, so there hasn’t been complete success. That day will dawn when I can turn on the local talk radio station and not have to hear his voice. In the meantime I’m still avoiding KLBJ before the 10 o’clock hour. At least I can listen to Jeff online.

…Once I log in…

Real Invisibility; Just Around the Corner?

Apparently they’ve stumbled upon a Romulan warbird out there somewhere. Here’s a snippet of the article:

The cloak works on the principal of light as an electromagnetic wave, with a longer wavelength than X-rays and ultraviolet and shorter wavelength than infrared, microwaves and radio waves. The electromagnetic waves follow four mathematical formulas established nearly 150 years ago by James Clerk Maxwell.

Light that transmits through the fabric is made indistinguishable from light that passes through free space. “Using Negative dialectic constant materials is likely in principle, as we are discovering things in small scale that are possible in laborites,” said B. Sriram Shastry, physics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Just one more of those things first seen in Star Trek that most people thought was “impossible”. This is something that wasn’t in “How Star Trek Changed the World“. You might want to check out the link under “Metamaterials” before that whole site is classified.

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

We saw the film at the Alamo Drafthouse South yesterday evening. Ron Howard pulled off another excellent film with this one. Personally, I thought it was every bit as good as Apollo 13.

Also hearkening back to Apollo 13, Tom Hanks appeared to be channeling his characterization of Jim Lovell in that film, and to great effect. Although I had my doubts, I really did buy him as Robert Langdon. There was some great chemistry between Hanks’ Langdon and Sir Ian Mckellen‘s Leigh Teabing. I’m going to have to pay to see it again just to get the grail arguments between the two of them down in memory. Ian McKellen, Gandalf and Magneto. I love that guy. Two films coming out this month. (saw the 7 min. teaser for X3 last week. Magneto’s speech to the mutants was great. Can’t wait to see that film) I would love to be getting his paychecks.

The rest of the cast delivered solid performances as well. I’ve not seen Audrey Tautou (who played Sauniere’s grandaughter Sophie Neveu) before, but I look forward to seeing her in other films. Good to see Jean Reno (Captain Fache) again. I think the wife has drug me to every film that he’s been in (released in America, that is) He has a very good comic wit in most films, although they didn’t have any use for it here. Fache has very little to find humorous during the course of the story.

Paul Bettany who played Silas was also a great cast. I had no doubts about his casting in the role, having seen him in Gangster No. 1 a few years back (the lead in that film is another one that the wife just ‘has to’ see every time he’s in one) I knew that Silas was not going to be a stretch for him.

The movie preserves the intent and feel of the book, while exploring some nuances of the characters that I hadn’t picked up on before. I think I’m going to have to re-read it, just to see if I missed something. Those who haven’t read the book shouldn’t have any trouble getting into the film, one of the friends who went with us hadn’t read it, and I didn’t hear a single word out of her until the show was over; and then the words were just praise.

Yes I know, it’s an over-hyped film. Go see it anyway. It’s worth the ticket price, and more.

Reading Least I Could Do today, came across a good one on The Da Vinci Code.

Meth – the ‘new’ devil’s drug

(One from the archive, but this issue is still being fought out in various legislatures)


It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. The (small gov’t?) GOP has a problem with the proposed new rules on curbing accessibility to Pseudoephedrine and Ephedrine (as if you can even find Ephedrine anywhere to start with) Not that proposed new rules on cold medications go too far….

No, the “Meth plague” has to be fought even more stringently than the Bush administration is proposing (Question: if it’s a plague, where is the massive increase in victims? Where are the facts and figures to back up this fear-mongering assertion?) Never mind that some people might need to have access to cold and flu medications. Never mind that some of us don’t care to be listed in their database as known purchasers of pseudoephedrine containing medications. Nope. We have to start a witch hunt, so that we can ride that fear into another re-election campaign.

BTW, the only attempt at factual reporting is the link at the bottom of the page. It leads to the “anti-meth site” Facts and figures about illegal methamphetamine (there is legally available prescription meth, BTW; does anyone remember this? No) It is ‘factual’ in that the site declares itself as ‘anti-meth’, which is the only fact available in *any* of the stories I’ve read to date.


Since writing the above last August, the fed passed their ‘standardised’ rules for the whole nation; I can now have the liberty of being treated ‘as if’ I would go out and start a meth lab if they would only let me buy a truck load of Pseudoephedrine. As if the people running these labs walked into a pharmacy and bought the drugs over the counter.


Somebody else who “gets it”: Cold pills? Sign here


And if you think it’ll stop anytime soon: Dangerous high sold over the counter

They’ll be targeting your cough medicine next. Hello stupid parents! Cough medicine disappearing from the cabinet? Maybe you should quiz the kid, ya think?

Soon we’ll have to sign to buy detergent, moth balls, fertilizer and fuel. Wouldn’t want you making any bombs in your kitchen now, would we?

The Hanso Foundation

The Wife and I are movie weirdos. Long after the rest of the theatre is empty, after everyone else who was in the theatre is already in the parking lot trying to get into their cars and beat the traffic home, we’re still sitting there watching the rest of the film. The credits, that is. We’ve gotten into arguments with overly enthusiastic maintenance people many times over the years (‘scuse me, the film is STILL RUNNING!) but occasionally it pays off with a closing sequence or a recognized name. (The monkey at the end of Pirates, and the cat at the end of Slither) The latest time this happened was when we were watching the credits for MI-III. Apparently The Hanso Foundation invests in certain films as well as mucking with the space-time continuum (or whatever it is they are doing on LOST) Right there at the end of the credits, a thank you to the Hanso Foundation.

They’ve been running ads on LOST during the commercial breaks as well, kind of like the ads for “Oceanic Airlines” (found three sites for Oceanic, there was just this one. Now there is an 815 site and this one) in the first season episodes. Try calling Hanso’s number, or visiting the website(s). Excellent time wasters.

Still don’t have any clue what will happen next week. The series has already gone places I hadn’t expected (We watched the “tailies” for what reason now?) I hate to imagine what the teaser promise of “changes everything” and “what happens when the counter stops” means. I can imagine, but I’ll wait for the episode. And then wait for the fall sweeps for the other shoe to drop, just like always.

If this was survivor (which I’ll freely confess to never have watched) I know one LOSTaway that I’d like to see voted off the island right now…

I’ll just echo the Dharma Orientation film and say, “namaste and good luck”