Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
But what goes by the wayside is that the kid was just crazy. It was terrible what happened. But, I would bet serious money that if the kid hadn't shot himself, there'd be less blame placed on the school. Apparently Cho had a history of problems that should have been known. But how often do you think a kid like that slips through the cracks? How often do you sit there as a university official and say "Well, this kid's so crazy, he'll probably shoot up the school" ? Society likes to place blame on multiple parties, and I have to hand it to the Governor of Virginia, who said it was disappointing, but he did not think university officials should be dismissed. No, I haven't done nearly as much research as the compilers of the report have done. That's a given. But people love to look at other sources and assume they're also at fault. They pretend everything operates in this perfect state of things, all the time. Where in the world is that true?
The fact of the matter is: the kid was mentally disturbed. So mentally disturbed that he committed and act NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED. Shutting down the entire campus immediately after the shootings in the dorm would have helped, but don't you think Cho could have gone after the locked-in dorm students in a rage of frustration? You simply can't apply normal rules, and there's no reasonable assumption in the making when some one says "It was obvious he was going on a shooting spree." That's Columbine talking, and that's hindsight. There are many important things to learn from the incident, but passing it all off as a fault on the school is a bit unfair. The kid pulled the trigger, not the president of the school.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
"The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right?
The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy With the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president.
In essence 2/3s of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change. So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ''What we are so unhappy about?''
Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter?
Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?
Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter?
I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough.
Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.
Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings.
Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your
family against attack or loss. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell
phones and computers.
How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.
Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful,spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S., yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are.
The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.
I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating?
Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession?
Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks?
The commander in chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me?
Did you hear how bad the President is on the news or talk show? Did this news affect you so much, make you so unhappy you couldn't take a look around for yourself and see all the good things and be glad?
Think about it......are you upset at the President because he actually caused you personal pain OR is it because the "Media" told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful behind every day.
Make no mistake about it. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn't have to go.
They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a ''general''discharge, an ''other than honorable'' discharge or, worst case scenario, a ''dishonorable'' discharge after a few days in the brig.
So why then the flat-out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans?
Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts. How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner?
The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells , and when criticized, try to defend their actions "justifying" them in one way or another.
Just ask why they tried to allow a murderer like O.J. Simpson to write book about how he didn't kill his wife, but if he did he would have done it this way......Insane!
Stop buying the negativism you are fed everyday by the media. Shut off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your bird cage.
Then start being grateful for all we have as a country. There is exponentially more good than bad.
We are among the most blessed people on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative."
"With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks,"Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"
- Jay Leno
Monday, August 27, 2007
There's a very interesting 20/20 documentary called "Stupid in America." It's about the poor state of public education in the United States. Although it makes some significant assumptions, it's overall a good piece of journalism. 20/20 is better than most programs, and they have some integrity.
The documentary is about 41 minutes total (fit into a 60 minute program), and it goes through a series of topics surrounding the debate of "Why are American kids stupid?" It raises some good points, and looks at causes and possible solutions. The glaring weakness in their argument is, though, that they put a lot of weight into the role of standardized tests. Yes, Americans test poorly on international tests overall, but there are other factors that come into play, such as college acceptance rate or employment statistics (although statistics do lie). But, it's a 60 minute program, so it's tough to bring in all the factors without watering down the issue. American schools are not doing well overall. That is a solid statement.
One of my favorite parts of the video was the money issue. I can't believe some one in public education, or one of its supporters, can honestly say "more money will solve all of our problems." Yet, charter schools that spend thousands less per child are doing better on standardized tests. Though, there are exceptions to that. But, the core fact is that money alone is not going to solve the problem. It's how the money is spent.
In my opinion, the biggest enemy of the public school system are the teacher's unions, which are thoroughly and deservedly bashed in the 20/20 piece. This is a widely held belief, so I am far from alone. One of the charter schools featured in the video pays their teachers more, and they in turn teach better. Again, there could be other factors involved, but look at it this way: if you were paid 10% more to do your job, would you feel happier and maybe do your job a little better? It's human nature to want to earn your money, and teachers are often beacons of ethics, so I'd hope they would want to earn their money.
What do teachers' salaries have to do with teacher's unions? Simple: pay scales. If you teach for 20 years, you will make more money than some one who has taught for 15 years. That's it. You could be a below average teacher, who has lost all the nerve to teach well, and is tenured. You would make more than the teacher who has won award after award after award. WHERE is the INCENTIVE? People throw in the "they ought to teach well as a matter of principle." Bullshit. This is America, the largest capitalist economy in history. We operate on incentives. Why wouldn't the teachers who mold the minds of our future be any different? My father is a teacher, and hates the union he's in. Hates it. He has worked with terrible teachers, but… they're tenured.
Tenure is another thing. My college has it, as most do. One of my professors put tenure in perspective: "I've been working really, really hard for a few years so I can get tenured. Then, I could just stop teaching, and they couldn't fire me. Unless I shoot one of you, or something like that." He happens to teach economics, by the way. Great guy. If every teacher taught as well as the teachers at the very brink of tenure, we'd be the smartest goddamn country in the world.
If I ran the Department of Education, I'd do the following three things. They might not solve the problem, but they'd hopefully open people's eyes:
1. Ignore the teacher's unions, or speak out against them. They'd go after me, as they've gone after politicians before, such as Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina. But I'd do it differently. Instead of citing all their faults and leave myself open to criticism, I'd ask ABC or CBS or any news organization begging for a hot piece of news to do a report on teacher's unions. I'd leave it open, maybe even have a little incentive for them. I'd make sure I was perfectly clear. I wouldn't take a dime from the unions beforehand, either. I'd have a short reign, but I'd go out in a ball of fiery glory, which is all any one can really ask for, anyway. Martyrs are remembered, so they'd do all my work for me.
2. Cut federal funding to schools that encourage tenure. Flat out cut funding. I'd spend the remainder on struggling nationwide social programs that encourage kids to help the retarded or the needy. I'd play to their hearts: "So you want me to give you back that money so you can spend it on a near retiree whose students say won't even see them after class… Can you live with that? If you can, by all means, take the money, but all the professional ethics you pretend to teach will be in vain. I want to see the press release before I sign on the dotted line, by the way."
3. Cut federal funding to schools that under perform. Or, give the states an option. Freedom of choice is a powerful tool to use. I'd say "Either you let the parents pick the schools their children go to, and cut the schools that can't hack it, or you lose all funding, regressively, over the course of 7 years." No gray areas.
Transparency is important, so I'd be completely open as to why I'd do it. I'm sick and tired of the "throw more money at it" approach. It's not the responsibility of the federal government to run the schools nationwide. It's also not the responsibility of the same government to encourage failing programs by spending taxpayers' money on laggards. Wise spending is important, and the encouragement of our social values are priceless.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
This got me thinking. What happened to good television? I was on the treadmill this afternoon and saw "Flavor of Love" (the Reunion) on VH1. Summary: big boobs and women fighting. And it's called entertainment. What a world. I think this feeds back into the "humans can only comprehend so much." If you try to create something that is really good, it's probably already been done. If you want to sell something, the standards are much, much lower. Big boobs sell. It's sad, but hormonally sound. I miss good TV.
If I were to run a television station independently, I would focus on two things. The first would be to be honest with the audience in the programming. If it's mindless, don't pretend it's something different. Sometimes people just need the distraction, but that's not good TV. I'm not saying my programming would be mindless. That's where the second focus comes in: substance. All the best shows on TV nowadays work on multiple levels. I'd want my programming to appeal to people because of its pure value. No bullshit bells and whistles. I have no idea what sort of shows I'd put on the station. I just know it wouldn't be "Flavor of Love." If I were to pick any rapper to have a show it would be Chuck D.
Friday, August 24, 2007
I should really get around to finishing the books I start. I definitely will finish the new Harry Potter, but another book I really want to finish is The World is Flat. I read the first chapter or so, and it was dense, but good. Well, not that dense. But it raises some good points.
I want to go finish that book now.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
It’s been pretty chilly out this week; I think yesterday was the coldest August 22nd in over 100 years. A bit dreary, which I hate to say, but has affected my mood. I’m a fan of a warm summer, because
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Unlike all previous birthdays, I am at work today. No, I'm not disappointed, but thank you for your concern. It's not as nice as most years that I spent in Hyannisport, but it beats my least favorite birthday, which was spent at the Dynamic Skating hockey camp. Not only did I have to spend my birthday at a hockey camp, but that day was the most difficult day that week as far as physical strain. The camp was difficult, and that day was just brutal. Sitting at my desk is way easier, AND I can use the internet.
I'm doing Thai take-out with a couple buddies tonight. Should be fun. I rented The Protector, which is a great movie. I highly recommend it. It's about a guy in Thailand whose elephants get stolen and taken to Australia. It's an action movie, with great fight scenes and NO CGI OR WIRES. Great movie. I saw it in Thailand.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Have you ever heard of “hurling”? If you haven’t, then you are missing out. I was watching it on the Setanta network last night ‘til about 12:30AM, and it’s quite a sight for newcomers. Basically, it’s an old Gaelic (Irish) sport that’s a cross-breed of field hockey, lacrosse, handball, and rugby. It is played on a field similar to a soccer field, but with goal posts at each end like in football. The difference between football goalposts and hurling goals is that the lower part consists of a net, like in soccer or field hockey. The players use clubs to hit the ball (and other players “by accident”). To score, you can either hit the ball between the upper posts for 1 point, or hit it into the net for 3 points. There is a goaltender, but he DOESN’T WEAR ANY PADS.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I saw a video on Digg today from The Colbert Report, in which Colbert interviews a man named Andrew Keen, who wrote a book about how the internet is destroying our culture. I don't exactly agree with him, but the interview got me thinking: what rules really matter? If some one is raised with the thinking that being selfish is bad, but steals content from the internet without paying for it, are they breaking that simple rule? Keen's point is more specific, and elitist, that amateur artists are corrupting the art scene and ruining it for "more talented" artists who could afford tuition at top art schools. I think he's an asshole, but if he were less of an asshole, he could have gone down a different alley. Had he simply stated that "Free content ruins the art industry," he'd have a point, but he'd look like a greedy bastard instead of an asshole. At least greed has followers.
It is really difficult to be altruistic nowadays, especially regarding the internet and its effect on human interaction. People yell and scream about how it has ruined person-to-person relationships, but I don't think it has. It has simply changed the rules. Person-to-person relationships used to be primarily physical; I would shake your hand. Then it was over the telephone, where our voices were used. Now it's digital, and you can video chat with some one in India or Japan, for nothing. As the popular book states, the world is flat. Almost any one can meet many people, not just the people lucky enough to live in a urban setting or who have jobs that require frequent contact with new people.
If anything, and this might be a stretch but it's still my belief, the internet has enhanced physical personal relationships. It's based on two principles. The first is the simple "it's more special because I could do it another way" idea; you COULD just chat with some one online, but you choose to meet them face to face. The second principle is similar to the first, but it's a bit more reinforced. Since most people, myself included, are naturally shy and don't reveal much in face to face conversation, the internet allows people to converse more openly. If I tell some one in a text conversation something personal, it's not me telling another person. It's more like me telling myself something that I already know, but wanted to type it and see it on the screen. That is a stretch, but it makes sense to me.
The other funny fact about Andrew Keen: you can buy his book on Amazon.com. It doesn't disprove his point, but he certainly does have something to gain from his dreaded digital nemesis.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Schilling is getting shelled by the Angels as I'm writing this. Too bad for him. I really can't say he's the ace any more. With Beckett's success this year, it's easy to put him down as the #1, and Schilling has been hurt for a good portion of the season so far. People get confused sometimes with him because you want him to be good for the post-season, but then again, you want him to get at least 15 wins. At his age, that's a lot to ask, but he knows his role on the team. Schilling may talk a lot, but he has every right to, and should if he wants. He's earned it, and I agree with most of what he has to say, so, if anything, I just want to see people agree with him.
Spurs won big over Derby County 4-0. Myself and Bill Simmons are happy. They showed Steve Nash at the game. He's a big fan. It just so happens that the most talented Canadian soccer player (Captain of the Canadian National Team), plays for Spurs: Paul Stalteri. I'm sure Stalteri is a Suns fan. Canadian sports stars that aren't hockey players tend to stick together, and stick out. Look at Larry Walker; best Canadian baseball player ever. Not a huge crowd to pick from there, except maybe Jason Bay.
You have to love David Ortiz. Sox just scored 6 runs to pull ahead 6-5; Ortiz just hit a grand slam. Huge, long home-run to right field. There haven't been that many big moments like that this season, despite the success. Great moment. I'm going to go watch some baseball and fall asleep. Practice LSAT tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Slow week at work, but I've tried to keep myself busy. A lot of reading, but nothing too bad. The stock market sure is struggling. My mutual funds are doing terribly, but fortunately for me, it's just a paper loss. I plan on pumping money into those monthly, so with all the ups and downs, it should work out well. That's the beauty of long-term investing: just wait, and things should get better.
The Jose Offerman incident the other night is pretty interesting. Basically, Offerman went after a pitcher for the Bridgeport Bluefish (who I saw play a few days ago) and the catcher, with a bat, and injured both. Offerman had been beaned by the pitcher, and charged the mound. I liked what Mike Wilbon on Pardon the Interruption said: (paraphrased) "If a pitcher can throw a ball at you going 90+ miles per hour, you should have the right to use a bat, which is just another weapon, and go after him." Seems like a fair argument. Baseball is weird like that. Offerman went nuts, there's no doubt, but wouldn't you go crazy, too? If you hit a home run off a guy, then he drills you the next time up, you know it was probably intentional. Another funny fact: Offerman used to play for the Bluefish (along with seven different MLB teams). The world is small.
Well, I took some allergy relief pills a few hours ago. They're starting to kick in now. Should be a good night's sleep.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Jesse has all these projects he's working on with is car, trying to get 100 miles to the gallon. Pretty crazy stuff. He showed us a video of a guy who ran a dune buggy at 100 miles to the gallon, ON WATER. Apparently the guy was killed or something, back in the 80's. The video was from a news program. His name was Stan Meyer, from Grove City, Ohio. In the video he said he had a bunch of patents taken out for it (back in 1989). I checked Google Patents, and he has a bunch. All sorts of conspiracy theories surrounding his death, and whether or not the oil companies had something to do with suppressing his inventions. Who knows. I think with the recent X Prize competition should help bring back that kind of technology. It's really fascinating stuff. I told Bartl that once we get our JD's we should help Jesse out with this, maybe start a business. It's just wishful thinking, and I'm not sure how far Jesse wants to take it, but it's good experimentation.
First day of the English Premier League! I'm watching Spurs play Sunderland right now (not live; I recorded it; waking up for the 7:45AM start wasn't something I was quite able to do this morning). I even have my replica home jersey on. It's good to cheer for multiple teams in multiple sports, I think. It's a nice break. Joanna thinks I'm obsessed with sports, which is not far from the truth... Actually, she's pretty much on the ball with that one. Wow, I even used a sports analogy to describe her accuracy. It's pretty sad, actually.
Great weather outside, so I'm going to go out and enjoy it.
I'm so proud of you, sweetheart! We all are. It's so cool what you're doing.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
I’m not a big fan of extremely cold weather, but I have to say, I’d much rather have it be freezing cold outside than hot and humid. Last night was brutal, and the rain this morning didn’t help the ol’ commute (30 minute backup on the Merritt). In the winter (except when it snows), all one has to do is turn up the heat. Much easier to sleep.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
I love fiction. I like non-fiction a lot, history especially, but fiction is better. Sure, non-fiction teaches you how the real world works, but fiction makes you think outside the box, which is necessary. I love making up stories of fictional characters, usually after reading or watching a movie, and acting out their lives in my head. It's something I've always done. It's good to maintain a good imagination, I think. It opens up your mind to new ideas. My girlfriend thinks I'm certified nuts, no doubt. I had her act out with me in the car once on the way up to school. She was being nice, but she's mostly honest with me. That's good feedback. That's what I like. When I'm in a mental hospital at age 75 and she's visiting with my grandkids, I hope she tells them that I like to live by my own rules. That will, of course, never happen. They'll never catch me! Ha ha!
This is a bit crazy, but is something I've run by a couple people already, with mixed results. Is it too insane to have this death wish: at the age of 95, I want to go sky-diving, but I don't want to get all caught up in the bullshit of a "safe landing." I'd be 95. If I broke my leg or something, I'd be fucked anyway, so why be safe? I think it'd be the best way to die: going 100 miles an hour into the fucking ground. I have 74 years to think this through, so I'm far from making a decision. The real sick part, which I have since reconsidered, is that I might invite my family to see it. No, I wouldn't lie to them and say "I want you to see me accomplish something great." Hell no, I'd be up front, if I did invite them (which I won't). I'd tell my grandkids "Don't ever let some one tell you how to live or how to die. Fuck 'em. Be nice to people, but live your own life." Then, the next time they'd see me, I'd be six feet under, and gravity will have done all the work. Ha! This is all fictional, by the way. Like I said, I do love fiction.
Friday, August 3, 2007
But isn't it fascinating how America reacts to these tragedies? I was in the gym yesterday, listening to my new iPod Shuffle that Joanna got me for my birthday (thanks, sweetheart), but was glancing over at the TVs by the treadmills. One had CNN on, with "Lou Dobbs Tonight" going through the tragedy. I read a book by Lou Dobbs a few months ago called War on the Middle Class. It was an interesting collection of facts, and I agreed with most of what he had to say, to a certain extent. But, like most American media, Dobbs seemed to fall into the trap of immediate action. He had a poll in the middle of the coverage asking "Are federal, state, and local officials doing enough to maintain the safety of our roads and bridges?" After a while, he showed the result: 96% said yes. Had you asked a week ago, I doubt it would have reached 70%.
It's too open a question, to start. What do you mean by "enough"? Every one has their own standards. If you mean "the roads and bridges aren't crumbling every day", then I'd say they're doing OK. But most people see the tragedy and assume it's the same across the country. They hear how 7,000 bridges are below par, but that doesn't mean they're going to collapse. It just means they need some repair. The bridge in Minneapolis had passed inspections, but was never declared unsafe to use. It is an eye-opening experience, but people need to recognize it more as an individual tragedy than as a harbinger of things to come. It doesn't mean it's an epidemic.
The other thing, and I had to call if funny, happened after Dobbs' show went to commercial. The first two commercials: the first was (I believe) as Saab commercial that involved a bunch of cars zooming around on highways with a bunch of overpasses. You could see the cars go over several bridges, in a marvelously synchronized manner, at high rates of speed. The second commercial was, I believe, an insurance commercial that involved near tragedies. Nice work, CNN. I'm sure somebody else had to notice.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Stocks really kill me sometimes. I have a Roth IRA with Vanguard, and right now all of the money goes into a "Target Retirement Fund." Basically, it's a fund that will dabble in stocks, bonds, and other securities, and will change the mix over time as my retirement draws closer. It's not specifically tailored to me, per say, but it's good 'til the year 2050. Close enough. I can't retire until 2052. Boy, am I young. Well anyways, the stock market has been in a real funk for the past week or two, and the fund went from a nearly 7% yield on September 19th... to 0.98% yield as of today. It's just a paper loss, though. In fact, I should probably invest a few bucks now that I know it can only go back up. Hmm... I'll probably just let it be for now. I'm on a schedule, anyway. It could always go back down, anyway. It's at 90% stocks right now, so it's pretty volatile.
The Sox made a pretty good trade yesterday for Eric Gagne, a relief pitcher who had great success for a couple years in Los Angeles for the Dodgers. He'll make a good 8th inning guy. They had to trade a good young arm for him, but it's still a decent deal. We needed another good reliever. Good work, Theo. The only bigger deal done before the trade deadline was between Atlanta and Texas. Great deal for both teams. Texas got a great catching prospect, and more, and Atlanta got Mark Teixeira, a very good first baseman. Besides that, no other big deals. The Yankees dealt away Scott Proctor, a guy they virtually abused with all the innings he had to pitch. They did the same thing with Paul Quantrill. Just work him to death, then trade them away when their arms go bad. It's just business, but you feel bad for the guy. The strangest thing is that the Yankees picked up another infielder for Proctor. They needed pitching. They got... another infielder. Good work, Cashman. To be honest, though, the market wasn't too good this year.
Ten days 'til Spurs start their 07/08 campaign! Come on, you Spurs!