Friday, May 09, 2003

E. G. Ross
I used to visit E. G. Ross' Objective American website on a daily basis, but then my habits changed and the next thing I knew it had a couple of months since I had popped by. So, you can imagine my surprise when I was greeted on the home page with a message that E. G. Ross passed away about a month ago. You can visit an on-line memoriam here.

I enjoyed E. G. Ross' writing, in both his website and his books. He was direct, honest and principled. I found encouragement in his unwavering optimistic outlook, and I appreciated that he was what I would call an Objectivist sympathizer - someone who saw much good in the philosophy but was not afraid to think and write critically about it when necessary (one of the problems I have with Objectivists is their lack of tolerance for those who dare to question, but I digress).

Rest in peace, Mr. Ross. We will miss you.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Unborn Victims of Violence Act
Kathryn Jean Lopez has an article up on NRO today titled "Do It for Conner: Protecting unborn victims of violence". She makes some good points, and I tend to agree with her, but I'm having trouble understanding how an Unborn Victims of Violence act would have any effect on abortion law. We have two very different situations here, that is, between a normal abortion and Laci and Conner Peterson's murders. The former is voluntary and legal, the latter is obviously not. As I see it, if a woman chooses to get an abortion, that's her right. However, if she chooses to give birth but is murdered along with her baby, well then we have two victims. Perhaps this would raise interesting legal points for the mother's state of mind when she was killed (did she intend to have her child, or was she going to get an abortion anyway?). I'm inclined to think we'd have to have two victims no matter what, for even if the mother had expressed wishes to have an abortion, she could have changed her mind before following through.

I also take exception with the following from the article:

Most people view the killing of a pregnant woman as a crime with two casualties. And that's just too much for the pro-abortion movement to handle. So much for Laci's right to choose.

Huh? Laci didn't choose for her son to die anymore than she choose her own death. There is a difference, they are not equivalent.

The Unborn Victims of Violence act would have to be carefully written so as not to infringe on the right to choose, but I believe if that is accomplished the law will be applied appropriately.

As a side note, Lopez suggests towards the end of the article that they should name this bill after Conner. I don't agree with this either. It doesn't do us any good to attach so much emotion to a bill, and it's not just this one. The Patriot Act, Amber's Law and others with similar titles have the effect of guilting legislators into voting for them. They should just assign each bill a number and stick with that so the bill can be debated on its merits, not on its emotional ties.
Bagging on Dan Rather
I was watching Fox and Friends this morning and was surprised to see all three of the co-hosts spend spend a significant amount of time, at least a couple of minutes, doing nothing but ripping Dan Rather. They were saying he's bound to literally go crazy any time now, that you can't trust anything he says and so on. Most of this was coming from E.D., but Steve and Brian were contributing similar opinions as well.

Now, I'm no Dan Rather fan myself, but I can't help but think this was inappropriate. One news program has no business directly confronting another - it's simply unprofessional. Can you imagine Tom Brokaw saying something like "Suck on it, Rather!" in the middle of his broadcast? Or Ted Koppel saying "Lesley Stahl, you ignorant slut!"?

I like FNC and watch it all the time, but it's stuff like this that makes me wonder if, at times, they're more interested in "good television" than good reporting.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

10 lessons learned from watching 24
Not quite "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten", not quite a David Letterman Top 10 List, but here's a list we can apply to our own lives:
10. Never trust anyone.
9. Exciting things always occur just before the top of every hour.
8. Expected events often unfold in unexpected ways.
7. Hide a stash of firearms in the back of your SUV.
6. Keep your cell phone fully charged.
5. It's often effective to shoot first and ask questions later as long as you only wound the shootee.
4. If a beautiful woman you've never met before comes into your place of business and offers you a, ahem, favor in return for opening a locker, she's a terrorist.
3. Sometimes the people you think are conspiring against you are actually just jerks. It's those closest to you that you should really suspect (see point 10).
2. Don't get into romantic relationships with your coworkers (see Jack/Nina or Tony/Michelle).
1. Everything in Los Angeles is a commercial break's time away from everything else.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

So good, it's maddening
I followed the link from Andrew Sullivan's site to this parody of a postmodern deconstruction of the Lord of the Rings. I'd say that it's funny, but then again, it's almost too, well, typical to be funny - I know it's satire, but it makes me mad anyway. This speaks to the quality of the writing, which is imaginative, no doubt.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Dice roller
I was screwing around the other day and wrote a dice roller utility. I figured I'd use it when I'm running a D&D session. Anyway, it's just a simple tool, but I thought I'd share it. Just click the box for the die you want to roll for as many times as you want to roll it and then click the Roll button to get the results. You can roll multiple dice at once and it'll show you all the results and totals. You can also right-click a die box if you want to decrease the number. I should warn you, it does require the Microsoft .NET Framework to run, so if you don't have it, you can download it from Microsoft's website.
24 prediction watch
I successfully predicted the chip would be destroyed before Jack could get it back to CTU. Yes, I know that was an easy one, but still I will take what I can get. Based on the previews for tomorrow's show, it appears my prediction about Sherry's return and ultimate confession will be accurate. Also, one could argue that Tony has already gone rogue since he's openly defying Chappelle's orders, but I won't call it official until he runs the risk of real danger.
Get over it
Again, I must call for moving on. Best of the Web carries a review of the recent Democratic presidential debate, and offers this quote from Joe Lieberman: "I know I can beat George Bush. Why? Al Gore and I already did it."

Really, this is silly. The issue has been settled, and he knows that. However, when Lieberman says such things, it only encourages those dimwits that don't understand the concept of an electoral college. I can only assume, when he says he had won before, that he means he and Gore received a majority of the popular vote. Of course he knows that doesn't matter, but he says these things anyway and the resentment continues. Ridiculous.
I really don't care if Bill Bennet has a gambling problem
There, I said it. Can we move on now? Yes, I agree it's newsworthy, but I don't think it needs to be covered to the extent that it has. It's not like he had said under oath, "I did not have gambling relations with that slot machine". Now that would be something worth talking about.

So there.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Soccer and Better Than Ezra at Arrowhead
My wife and I found out yesterday morning that Better Than Ezra was going to play a concert at Arrowhead Stadium immediately after the Wizard's soccer game. Now, I supposedly get BTE's e-mail newsletter, which should have informed me of this, but either I missed the e-mail or some other glitch occurred because it was news to both of us. I had been looking for a quiet night at home, but instead my wife and I and the kids ended up catching a soccer game and a concert.

First of all, about the soccer game: we didn't have a clue what was happening. Sure, I understand the point is to kick the ball into the net, but neither my wife nor I knew what was going on outside of that. Why'd the ref just raise a yellow card? What's he writing in his little book? Why's everyone getting so excited about a corner kick? Why's the goalie yelling at the ref like something bad just happened (I didn't see anything)? Why isn't the announcer giving us a play-by-play like they do at football games so we have half a clue? The score is tied at 2, and the clock just stopped at 90:00, so why are they still playing? Is this an un-timed sudden-death overtime? No, now they're saying that they'll start overtime, so what the heck was that before?

So, yeah, I don't have a clue. I thought maybe the little magazine they gave us would have the rules, but alas it did not. At least it was Buck a Brat night, so I ate well even if I was in utter confusion the rest of the time. Is this how it feels to watch (American) football for the first time?

Now, to the concert. My wife and I have seen Better Than Ezra eight times if you include last night, so we consider ourselves experts. We've met the band members a couple of times, they've autographed a few album covers and such, and I managed to catch one of the coveted footballs they toss out during "This Time of Year". One of the things we like about BTE is the fun they have on stage. They'll mix snippets of other songs from other bands into the middle of theirs ("Don't Fear the Reaper" and anything by Prince are common), they'll interact with the audience, they don't mind playing to small audiences, they have dance contests with people from the crowd, and they'll even get an audience member to come on stage and play guitar on one of their songs. They have a good time, and it makes it fun for us.

Last night was the first rock concert for the kids. Our kids love BTE and sing along in the car quite a bit, but we've never brought them with us to concerts because 1) they're usually in bars and 2) they'll use swear words sometimes when talking to the audience. We took a chance last night though, thinking surely there'd be plenty of other kids at the concert and BTE would know this was a family show. It turns out we were right. BTE kept it clean and the kids had a great time. We got to go out on the soccer field, and we stayed a little toward the back and to the side. My wife and I still had a good view and the kids had a nice open grass field to play on with other kids. Good times.
That was fun
I work for a company that distributes products - hardware and software - that are used for automating and monitoring manufacturing processes. Some of our best customers are systems integrators, firms that purchase our stuff, configure it and put it into factories. We're there for technical support and sometimes play a small role in the planning and implementation stages, but the integrators do all the hard on-site work. I've heard stories from some of our integrators on the hours they put in, that sixteen hour days are not uncommon, but I'm largely insulted from that. For the most part, my job is strictly 8 to 5.

Well, not last week. We have an integrator who's putting on some of our production tracking software. This particular package isn't really shrink-wrapped, just-plug-it-in-and-use-it software. It's more like a framework that gives you the database and tools for tracking everything, but the task of putting it all together into a meaningful interface is up to the integrator. This integrator knows this product better than anyone I know, but he's a one-man show and there's only so much he can do. So I helped him all last week, and we worked long and hard. We started each morning at 6am and often worked past midnight, one evening we worked until 2am and were back at 6am as usual.

I certainly wasn't used to working that many hours, but I handled it okay. I know a lot of people get by on not much sleep all the time, but I'm an eight-hours-of-sleep-a-night kind of guy. It helped that coffee and Mountain Dew were amply available and consumed. We had the music up loud, at least after normal working hours. And the integrator and the others I worked with were good people, good-humored, fun to work with, helpful, directed towards the goal but not succumbing to the pressure of the deadline. It was a good experience, but I don't know how people can do that every week.

That integrator's routine is to be on-site from Monday to Friday, fly back home late Friday night, spend the weekend with his family, and then fly back to the site late Sunday so he can hit the ground running first thing Monday morning. He says it works well with his family, that his wife has a system for managing the household and the kids while he's gone, and that he actually disrupts their flow on the rare weekdays that he's home, but I know I couldn't do that. There's no way my wife would tolerate me being gone so much, and I don't blame her. To each his own, I guess.

The other thing that bugged me was I had no idea what was going on. I had no time or energy to watch the news or check my usual websites or any of that, which wasn't good at all. I like to be informed, and eighteen to twenty-hour days aren't conducive to that.