Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good post about Heightened Fears and the Danger That Results

Sticks And Stones: Americans Behaving Badly | NEWS JUNKIE POST

ok, the reference to Nazi Germany may be a bit over much, but I think the basic observations hold.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Well of Mercy

Thinking of a trip here this summer :) Well of Mercy In the meantime I may get to see friends for spring break, something like a hobo retreat.

Crystal Ball, circa 2005

I wonder what else this guy has predicted? Yale Professor Predicts Housing 'Bubble' Will Burst : NPR

News I Can Sink My Teeth Into

Eat More Fat, Just Make Sure It's The Right Kind - Shots - Health News Blog : NPR

I ate more margarine today. Krystal burgers as anti-depressants makes me think I may be lacking good oils... or maybe it's the Coca-Cola :)

Good Day, Small Stuff

It was a good day. Mostly.

I was surprised to get much done. My days have a strange elasticity. I hate it sometimes. Today I didn't mind.

After I lost an hour's worth of waking up with Farmville (mental masturbation) I checked the usual websites. Horoscopes, news, email, Facebook. I got dressed, nicely. Of course this was only because I thought I heard a gun shot, and called 911, wondering if the economy had gotten to one more poor soul. I thought officers might come by, and so being in my throw-on, run-daughter-to-school clothes didn't seem good. Even better I got some make-up on, high heels, and a nice shirt. Put my hair up. Did my nails. This was good.

The sun started slowly to come out, clouds dissipating. I thought about curling up in the sunny patch on my floor, but the dogs were in it, and I resisted the temptation.

I talked to a friend, then later, when I started to slump called another. I talked about lacking clear direction, but not about having too many choices. I told her I'm not sure I can go to grad school this year, and how a big job seems too much right now. Talked about my other fears and how music helps the weary. And TV doesn't help, and I don't have one right now anyway, which suits me.

I made a list of those closest to me, for those days I can't get motivated to call anyone. More good actions.

I checked on my tax refund, which has made me nervous. What if it is lost in the electronic ether? Subconsciously I decided not to think about that today. I'll think about that tomorrow.

I checked on my son's possible housing next year for his first year in college. I wondered vaguely how we would pay for it.

I did a load of laundry and wondered about the toll on all the people out of work, how not working is as hard as working. You feel frustrated, down, and sometimes grateful for being able to rest, even with the anxiety. You feel guilty. I pondered a nation of so many without work, on the edge financially, and if anyone had tried to take measure of the emotional toll. Maybe in the national happiness index? But that doesn't seem adequate. I thought about how so many employed people resent those not working, and are envious. Mirrored feelings of the unemployed.

I checked a job fair out, without any real motivation to attend. But I did look at it. Thought it would be a good idea, to do some of those. A suit and a resume and a "Can Do" attitude are beyond me. I'm pretty sure they would know I view them, and most all companies, with deep suspicion. So not today, but soon.

I talked to someone about a part-time job, and wondered if I can succeed in a small office. I know it would be good for me, even part-time. Even if I have to drive a distance from my daughter, and leave her in a town where we know so few people. I don't think about how she could break her arm. And who would be there for her? It's only part-time I tell myself.

I drove to a local government office to check on benefits. Didn't find it, but found another office, that I may need. Drove by a business with no signs, and another where I wondered if they would be a good fit for me.

I decided to write honestly about my life.

Home again I wrote a long blog post, full of writing energy. Three hours slipped by, and afterwards I realized this is like many of my days, but with good energy, something I struggle to capture when it comes.

Those little rituals like taking the dogs out, and eating got done. Now it's dinner time, and I'm cooking for the child who is playing outside in the warmer weather. She's playing with a friend, which cheers me.

Looking for work in a failing economy, I thought about all the others in the same boat, wondering what happened to our plans. And others still who just struggle along even with good, steady income, all facing our own challenges.

Getting my day published seems to have it's own value. My small corner made visible to an unknown public. It helps, the small stuff. Honesty. Small courage.

Toss off on House

"Privacy is a relatively new phenomena." (paraphrasing),

from an interesting episode of House about blogging, secrets, community and privacy... I have to think more about the idea of privacy and community and if we have just lost the balance.

In the script someone points out that many people who leave small towns don't want everyone knowing their business, but they give up a support system as they gain anonymity. I'm about to lose some privacy for the sake of building more community, so this is all extremely relative for me right now. Of course I wanted a brief history of privacy, and found it in this article on Wikipedia.

Apparently Brandeis* (Supreme Court Justice) published the first paper on the topic in 1890 in the Harvard Law Review, in response to the widening use of photography and improvements in the printing press. So it truly isn't a very old idea. However the article also points out that the recent advent of so many technologies, where data is stored on private individuals, and often utilized for profit by businesses, has focused concerns about abuse and infringement of rights to basic privacy.

In Europe, in stark contrast to our own laws, data about consumers is owned by each person, not any company who finds or collects it. Therefore the company can't profit from the info, without the consent of the individual. We've had many obstacles to similarly protecting our own privacy, with enormous resistance from businesses. Unfortunately as I've note here before, our government doesn't have a very good track record for protecting us, even from itself.

*An aside, Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the US Supreme Court and was considered brilliant. The above-referenced article was published while he was in law school, and he earned the highest grades ever awarded while there. I've always wanted to read a biography on him, and may even own one. This quote reminded me why:
“Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible. . ." Justice William O. Douglas

Good Article about Raising Boys

Saving our sons -

meant to post this 10/23/09. Should add thoughts.

Great book review

Loved this book review, enough at least to browse the book, maybe check it out from the library... and I discovered a MARVELOUS use of my daughter's name!

Whiz Kid in College, Hold That Attitude! - The New York Times

(read this in October. Can we say procrastinate? Is it cheating to have a thought 6 months ago and publish today? Wait, Am I really published? lol)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Seriously - Good Use of Technology

That needs the right oversight! I love it when technology is used for good. But giving access to records and our movement without very strict controls, IS a violation of privacy. Sure, track known criminals and people who are solid suspects. But the judicial system has to prosecute abusers and make it very public!

A sherriff who bullied a phone company into tracking his daughter, by claiming she was kidnapped was out of line and should lose his job.

Powerful technology is like any other tool - it can be misused. And freedom of movement, without cameras and GPS tracking seems a most fundamental right.

FBI Tracks Suspects' Cell Phones Without a Warrant -

Good News - Is Civility Coming Back?

I like this story because it highlights that people from many different walks of life and political backgrounds are sitting down and discussing issues. Moderates will disappear if we don't find our voices. Civility, it turns out, isn't optional in our messy democratic process.
Meet the people who are percolating in the Coffee Party -

Education Continues to Take Hits

This is the graduate school I'm considering... but less so now. I have several options - thank goodness Atlanta has a full deck of grad schools. I see this as a VERY bad sign of instability in this program, as well as continued deterioration of our educational system - we have teachers having to take 10 days of furlough this year (days off without pay) and class sizes are larger across the board, with teachers being laid off. Meanwhile Congress sends just $3.5 billion to education, and $18 billion to hiring businesses (in employment tax breaks) and $170 billion to banks for the bail out in 2008/09. What is wrong with this picture? Maybe it's that Congressional offspring go to top schools and the rest of us can "eat cake" if there is no bread.

Andrew Young School dean says he was asked to resign - Atlanta Business Chronicle:

Why the Census Matters

This census stuff IS totally confidential, and genealogists* will tell you it's CRUCIAL to participate! Also, of course it helps your community get federal funding! I read yesterday that for every person who is counted, it's worth about $13,000 worth of benefits for your area! Not to mention district decisions for voting are based on these statistics :)

Finally, if we send it in, then the Feds don't have to spend as much of OUR money to follow up in person with door to door interviews :)

Get involved - just do it.

The Associated Press: US census forms arrive in the mail: What to expect

*(I'm a hack genie)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jon Stewart On Beck's Massa Interview: Why The Night 'Wasn't A Total Loss' (VIDEO)

Hysterical. I'm in tears. Sniff. Jon Stewart On Beck's Massa Interview: Why The Night 'Wasn't A Total Loss' (VIDEO)

Perdue, Obama and the teachers’ unions | Cynthia Tucker

Interesting blog about how we can improve our schools. But I'm not at all sure that incentives based on test scores is the solution. Standardized testing has failed, and even the test makers have always warned against "high-stakes" testing (where students pass or fail based on their test scores). If school systems took the millions they spend on testing (and a few overpaid top administrators) and put it toward ordering supplies and text books for the poorest schools, fixing up aging schools and improving teacher pay, I think our education crisis would be solved. Perdue, Obama and the teachers’ unions | Cynthia Tucker

It's Not Rocket Science

David M. Cutler: Health Reform Passes the Cost Test -

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dating is Like Super Mario

Love is like rice - start with good ingredients, bring to a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer and put a lid on it :)

Dating is like Super Mario - play the game, get the bonus points. You win. Easy.

Actually I think both are hard.

I think the latter is especially hard for men, so I'm going to start there. And you married guys may want a refresher, because of course all good marriages are treated more like dating, at least some of the time, right?

We all know Super Mario, the video game, right? It's invaded the culture, like all kinds of electronic games, and we know that you have a mission, or a maze to travel, and you have to navigate obstacles. This is the "real life" part of living that Mario has to deal with. He has somewhere to go, and he has to jump, run, leap and dodge stuff to get there. He's a man, tho small, and seems to love the challenge.

Along the way he has chances to grab bonus points. This is the extra fun part, because once you learn NOT to fall off ledges, you get to go after what looks, really, like low hanging fruit, or coins, and BA BING you get MORE points!! How cool!

But if you get lots of bonus points, and still can't navigate the basics, you lose, at least that life. No matter how many bonus points you got along the way. And if you don't learn how to get the bonus points you have NO (zero) insurance when you make a mistake and therefore you never really get all that good at climbing the levels (cause you don't get more chances), and are going to be a pretty mediocre player. Who wants that??

So the game is easy. Play the basics, get the bonus points (insurance), you win.

Dating isn't all that hard either. Play the basic game, get the bonus points, you win.

Here's the trouble. Lots of folks are great at one (the basics) or the other (bonus points) and then they can't understand why they keep losing!

So I've been telling my guy friends the Secret lately. Figure out what you aren't good at and do it more!

Big Grin.

This means, for some guys who are so good at the basics of life, (they work, make a good living, and know how to balance having a personal life with the demands of being a responsible adult) that they need to go for more bonus points.

For other guys, who have the bonus point system down that they have to get better at the basics - start playing the game consistently.

The Basics
Sometimes this means working more, but a lot of times it means working less and balancing your life better. It could mean stabilizing your financial house, or getting your ex-wife out of your hair (better known as fencing in the three headed monster). For some guys you have children that need you, and you have to learn to make room for a love life. Other men have children who DON'T need them, but will hang on perpetually slurping from Daddy's Money Fountain forever, unless you start showing some backbone, and respect them (and yourself) enough to cut them off.

Some guys need to finish school. Others need to start. And one or two men out there need to learn some very basic things like "Go to the doctor once in a while." and "Don't try to have a bunch of women or flirtations, 'cause you ain't that good."

Do what you say you are going to do, and call or text your lady once a day, whether dating, married or shackin' up. Try to be sweet once in a while. But if you are naturally somewhat gruff (Stan the Elder) then you can rely on bonus points :)

So those are some basics. Just normal grown up stuff.

The bonus points are totally fun.

These are so easy. And yet so many guys just don't get it/them.

Bonus points come from things you know about but like to pretend you forget! (Newsflash: We women are on to you!)

Easiest bonus points : flowers. Candy. Jewelery (even costume jewelery). Nice dinner out. Movie with popcorn and sodas. Call or text everyday (yeah, it's basic, but the more consistent you are the more she loves it)

Mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging guys can figure out the easy bonus points. Funny thing is that so many pretty sophisticated guys forget the easy ones. lol

Medium bonus points:
  • Movie that isn't violent with popcorn and soda and holding hands.
  • Dinner at home that you cook together.
  • Going to a place she loves - day trip like antique stores, or a park.
  • Sweet texts or calls or emails.
  • Sending her a link to a romantic song
  • Taking out the trash without any reminders :)
  • Fueling up her car, getting it washed
  • Hanging in bed with her on a weekend with coffee you made and the newspaper. Taking her to brunch.
  • A picnic you put together. Pick a good spot. If it's cold bring blankets and find a sunny rock :)
  • Open doors for her, even the car door once in a while.
  • Teach her something you love - pool, fishing, hunting, racing, mud wrestling (jk), Shakespeare, Chamber music, geocaching, rare books, good wines.
  • Do chores and fix things willingly, with and without her.
  • Don't bite when she's stressed out and needs a hug. (Ask first - hugging a pissed off Woman without warning can be hazardous)
  • Rub her feet. Understand that high heels are an American form of Chinese foot binding.
Major Bonus Points
  • Getting her car serviced. Yeah, even just an oil change. BIG points if you do it yourself.
  • Going to a chick flick - with popcorn, soda and snuggling
  • Going to a social event and making her look good. Dress the part. Respectfully letting people know she's hot ;) Making sure you can drive home.
  • Start (or keep) opening doors for her. If you do it sometimes, do it more.
  • Take her to a concert she really wants to go to - extra bonus points if you don't really love Celene Dion or Elton John, but you go anyway.
  • Big jewelery, of course is always big big bonus points. Stuff that makes her friends gasp is going to do you some good for a LONG time :)
  • Making dinner (something she likes and you can do well) without her and adding music, wine and candles.
  • Take her on a trip - a weekend or a week. Somewhere romantic, just the two of you and let your hair down. Could be camping, but could be a cruise. Whatever works.
  • Get her something she's been learning with you - a fishing rod, a wine basket, a CD of the music you both love.
  • Listen to a problem she's having without offering advice. Help her decide what SHE wants to do about it. (hint: ask a lot of questions, let her ramble)
  • When she's upset/tense/out of sorts, be sweet. Learn the three Golden Scripts :
    "It sounds like you've had a hard day."
    "Want to tell me about it?"
    "Is there anything I can do to help?"
  • Do chores and fix things without her asking
  • And the classic, but true: Give her a back rub and don't ask for sex :) (but let her ask ;) (no kidding hint: if you divide up chores evenly, or help her with hers, then she's gonna have more energy for the fun stuff )
So easy, bonus points. Not all the time, not always the same ones, and never always at the same level, but if you can play the game, and get the low hanging fruit too, then trust me you win.

And of course the same goes for women. Just different different different stuff to do.

hmmm... I guess I better get on that blog entry - what women can do for guys :) (and it's not just show up naked. With beer lol)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Love and Totalitarianism

"I grew up in a society where the motto was, "Those who are not with us are against us," implying that if somebody doesn't agree 100% with a certain point of view, he or she is the enemy and must be eliminated. This is how totalitarian societies are created. This is horrific on a societal level and such an approach certainly has no place in the Arts."

Astute commentary from one raised in Russia and imprisoned because he was Jewish. His observation draws a haunting parallel, for me, to the state of our politics, the polemics and polarized politicians who can't seem to work together for the common good.
Conversation with Mischa Maisky

Friday, March 5, 2010

Building a Better Teacher

1. that we don't know how to do this
2. that we are finally admitting it
3. that we've allowed bureaucratic buffoons to determine HOW we measure good teaching (with standardized testing - where does that measure encouragement? or caring?), thereby making teaching even more difficult
4. that it will take years before we can get something in place to teach the NEXT generation of teachers, while we are faced with the immediate loss of the best teachers quitting because it's too stressful and low paying, or retiring, thus leaving us with fewer good role models
5. that anyone would want to teach with all the expectations of parents and administrators to meet all the complex needs of children, where parents are unable or unwilling to do their part
6. that it is difficult to impossible to get good talent from outside the "standard" track because teacher unions create barriers, while many good candidates are out of work

A Hidden Corporate Subsidy

This is interesting, an article about imported workers, tho it's a bit dated. I thought I was a bit dense because I couldn't find figures for how many foreign workers are working in the country. I'm not a zenophobe. My degree is in International Business. But there is a limit to our hospitality, isn't there?

Here is more about importing labor:

No labor shortages

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman called the program a corporate subsidy, as quoted in a 2002 article in Computerworld.[15] The accuracy of this quote can not be ascertained, however, as Mr. Friedman has since died. Others holding this view include Dr. Norman Matloff, who testified to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration on the H-1B subject. Matloff's paper for the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform claims that there has been no shortage of qualified American citizens to fill American computer-related jobs, and that the data offered as evidence of American corporations needing H-1B visas to address labor shortages was erroneous.[16] The United States General Accounting Office found in a report in 2000 that controls on the H-1B program lacked effectiveness.[17] The GAO report's recommendations were subsequently implemented.

The Real Unemployment figures

New figures are in

There are about 15 million people unemployed
About 9 million are underemployed (working part time but want full time work)
2.5 million are "marginal" meaning they haven't looked for work in the past 4 weeks, for various reasons, but have looked in the last year. These are the folks who have given up.

So that's really about 25.5 million people unemployed.

And the Senate couldn't get a jobs bill passed. Makes you wonder if the now $10 billion package (it was $15 billion a few days ago) wasn't passed by the House just yesterday because they knew the new unemployment figures were coming out today.

How, if we lost another 36,000 jobs, did the unemployment rate stay the same? Did we add that many more imported workers?

(As best as I can tell about 100,000 workers are working under what is called an H-1B visa - wouldn't that make a lot of jobs for our American residents, to just send everyone home who has a green card? I'm pretty sure it's a LOT more than 100,000 workers.. H-1B visas are just for "highly skilled" workers, meaning anyone who can run a computer :)


Good Clean Fun isn't Technical

My computer has begun talking to me - something about my "database is updated". Yes, it's a canned message (new virus scanner), but I'm really not sure I'm "down" with this.

I knew the day would come, though. It's not hard to do, make a computer talk. We've had sound boards for about 20 years. But like other technical advances I hadn't really figured on having to deal with my computer "talking".

I don't plan to talk back. It's out of principal, and voice activated anything is still pretty dicey. When I talk to my computer, I want it NOT to talk back. NOT record, or try to understand. I want it inanimate. It's just a freakin' (stupid) machine.

Long range I'm sure we will be able to talk to computers, which will be a fun novelty at first, then useful, then "they" will figure out how to capture conversations, digitize them and run complex searches that ferret out topics like terrorism.

But the technology isn't there yet. "Smart homes" have been around for a while, but you still don't hear your friends talking about how cool it is to set the temperature from work, or start the oven for dinner do you? I can't get excited until my house can start a real fire, pours me a glass of wine, and let's the dogs out. Or does the chores I hate, like wash the dogs. Gently and without electrocution. Clean the bathroom and get all the gnarly spots.

I've been in systems and computing for a while now. Think decades. The truth is that while I knew in theory that lots of data could be stored about us, I also knew that in reality integrating systems across platforms, and then making sense of all that data (think billions of transactions just in the retail world) was out of reach.

But it won't be forever.

I worked in an industry for years where we were always dissatisfied with the ability of even advanced searches to yield data that was relevant (and therefore should be reviewed by attorneys or their minions). I've been out of it for a couple of years, but I'm sure the landscape hasn't changed much. The most sophisticated tools in eDiscovery (electronic discovery) are still pretty crude, in comparison to the brain of an infant, for example. If you take terrabytes of data and run it thru a grinder, and get a bunch of "mis" hits, then you multiply that times $200 per hour for a review, you get a lot of wasted money. Trust me, major class action suits are still getting settled because no one wants to spend the money digging thru warehouses of data.

We have WAY more information than we know what to do with.

But we should be thinking about it anyway - before some Billy Gates or Enron, or Ponzoi scheme, or terrorist or Impeccable Wall Street Bank of Tradition of this century figures out how to use it against us.

It's interesting to me how technology continues to invade our lives, and how younger generations are more and more tolerant of this.

So it's easy to make my computer talk. From a practical perspective it could give me a heart attack if my sound is up. And what value is really added?

In other words, why make it talk?

If I were still a DBA (database administrator) and was backing up a server and walked out of the server room, I might not hear the computer talk. I know they can make a face pop up with the voice on my screen, but would I care? Would I make it Brad Pitt's likeness for fun? Would that make me want to be nice to my server?

Technology already invades my life, do I really want it to intrude in my physical space any more? Sound now, holographics next. Heck, when my daughter webcams with my ex I have to think about what I say and do around the house. Strange sensation. It's a small invasion. Tolerated, to be sure, but let's not sugar coat it. No skimpy pajamas!

I watched iRobot again last weekend. It was interesting, and of course a commentary on this topic. But that technology is a long way off, right? Kinda like computers talking...

Something to think about, how we choose comfort and easy, often without thinking about the long term effects.

Sure I play Farmville because it's easy, fun and has immediate gratification. Same reason people have always played games, right? But it's just a game. If people are getting hooked maybe it's because they are looking for something to get hooked on. (70 million people play Farmville. I wonder how many are addicted?)

TV is the other common drug of choice, and I'm happy not to have one in the house right now. I could watch my favorite shows on the computer right? But I haven't. How many millions of us zone out on TV? (The brain is less active during TV time than it is during sleep.)

I see trends that are about getting hooked, and about easy to the point of complacency. And I watch how we respond when thing are taken away, like privacy, and choices. (My daughter's school allows parents to opt out of vaccinations - for religious reasons. But if there is a "compelling reason" (think pandemic) they think they have the right to vaccinate my child in spite of my objections.)

I think we are doing a weird shift right now, collectively. The trend is toward less everything. Less spending, less hiring, less working, less superfluous stuff. But also less paying attention.

And we are leaning towards easy: Easy entertainment, easy meals, easy relationships. Easy has been "in" for a long time, but now we can add Simple.

I'm all for easy and simple. I'm sure creativity is up :) Sex is up. Music is up. These are blessings from the recession. I wish religious observance was up. But I bet prayer is up, so maybe G-d is down with that.

But don't get complacent. A fearful, tired, beaten down populace is not good. Simplify, enjoy and create a legacy - be happy and pay attention. Voice your concerns. Hold public officials accountable. Volunteer, get involved.

And don't let technology do too much. They are just dumb machines.