Friday, November 30, 2007

Lessons Learned from 24

I sit here watching Season 3 of 24. I love this show. As I watch I put myself in each of the characters' places and wonder, "What would I do in this situation."

If you're a 24-phile like me, you'll remember the episode in which Jack has to kill his boss in order to prevent the terrorist from releasing a weaponized virus to kill millions of Americans. I'm filled with rage and disgust. One person--or one organization--holds an entire country hostage by threat of violence and/or death. Yes, this is just a story; fiction written to engross the viewers. But, as always, I look for solutions for these not-incredible-enough problems in the real world.

Consider, though, that my rage is not at the characters being manipulated by the terrorist. I want to scream at the TV that it doesn't matter if Jack kills his boss. The terrorist is still a terrorist and can't be trusted except to put himself in a situation which puts the victims at an even worse position. Don't cave. Don't do what the terrorist says. No matter what. No matter what. "Drop the gun or I'll kill him/her." "Oh, okay. I'll drop the gun and watch you blow me and/or him/her away anyway. Great idea." I'm not mad at Jack. I'm not mad at the president.

Let's suppose the terrorist releases the virus. If the president were to saturate the media with orders to the citizens to stay in their homes, that should take care of the problem, right? I mean with the population holing up in their homes, exposure and therefore deaths would be minimized, right? Terrorists don't get their way, except for the few who might catch just the wrong waft of a breeze, casualties minimized, life goes on, right? Wrong. American citizens are morons. They're sheep. They're dumb, panicky idiots, self-absorbed and selfish, without the sense or cajones to protect themselves. Worse, they lack the sense or benevolence--they lack the integrity and courage--to protect others. Should such an order come from the president, we all know what would happen. People would rebel, they'd think they knew better than the president. "We're not the president's slaves! We have rights!" They'd go out, get infected, infect their loved ones and others, and as they die a horrible death, as they watch their loved ones die because of their stupidity, they curse God and the president for putting them in that situation.

Perhaps I'm being prejudiced. But I look around and I I see our behavior. I see our predilections, and I weep for when a terrorist attack hits us in the Homeland.

Harsh? Yes. Am I overlooking those who don't fit this profile? Sure. But do those who would show the integrity, the will, the courage to do what's necessary actually be able to do it? Or have we seen one too many gun lain down on TV at the behest of an actor-terrorist? Can we override our programming that there are certain things that are socially unacceptable and therefore should never be done? Can we step up and do the hard thing for the right reason? Even if it's as benign as staying in our homes to minimize the damage of a terrorist attack? Even if it's as harsh as blowing away the bad guy...after he's followed through with his promise?

I love this show....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Eaten Alive by Plenty

We pay entertainers insane amounts of money and watch our teachers starve.

We pay athletes sickening amounts of money and watch our police officers barely survive.

We give politicians and lobbyists ridiculous amounts of money and allow the fine men and women in our armed services to live and die in terrible circumstances with barely a sincere nod.

We take and take and find other opportunities to take with only the slightest pretend acknowledgment given to those who supply us with what we're taking.

We consume and burn and pollute and only now we pretend to care about what we're doing to the earth that gives us our very lives--because now it's popular to care.

We read the writing on the wall and believe the earth is on the fast track for destruction. Call it God's wrath, call it man's stupidity and selfishness, call it the devil's last stand. Call it what you will, only we have the ability to change. We change us, we change the world. But when even our concern for others is born of a need to be richer; more popular; more revered; more than someone else, you can bet we will fail. And we will deserve it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wrong Even When Right

The kids' school bus was late again this morning. Fourth time in as many weeks. Kids standing out in freezing temperatures for 45 minutes. Of course, this on the very morning my wife and I got into an argument wherein I said it doesn't matter if they don't wear heavy coats; they'll learn to dress warm if they get a little bit cold. As it turns out, "a little bit cold" ended up being, "Mom, I think I got frost bite. My fingers hurt really bad."

Once again I forgot to consider the mistakes of others in my calculations. And of course, chalk one up for the wife. You know, because she needs another one chalked up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Torn Apart By Evil Beings

For years I've thought Halloween was a ridiculous holiday. Boy was I right. And wrong.

Halloween. All Hallow's Eve. Whatever its name, whatever it was, it's a melting pot of a bunch of celebrations. A celebration of the harvest; a celebration of a season; a celebration of death--wait. A celebration of death? Well, yes. And what's wrong with that? Exactly nothing. Death is as much a part of life But that's not the point (for this blog). The point is I never liked Halloween because it seemed to be a celebration of evil. (I was an avid worshiper of life and all things living, equating death with evil.) Then as I grew older and became the over-protective father that I am, I realized that I wanted to save the wee ones from the dangers of psycho candy-givers...and of being sickened by being over-sugared. Stupid holiday. Poisoning my kids with sweet-tooth-induced greed spurred on and born of the worship of evil.

I can be quite judgmental. No, really! You see, I began despising the holiday what with all that's required to enjoy it. The work, the scheduling, the corporal punishment...the celebration not of death, but of evil. (Of course this was when I decided that death wasn't evil, but evil was.)

This morning I drove to work, envious of my wife who was able to go to my kids' costume parades in their various schools. I looked forward to trick or treating with my kids. I laughed in the face of evil when I realized that when people dress up as their favorite psycho, their favorite devil, their beloved demon it could be looked upon not as a celebration of evil, but as a dispelling of evil.

Imagine, if you will, the last time someone acted like you, making a silly looking charicature of your appearance and behavior. Everyone laughed. You laughed. And you were powerless against them because they were right. That is how you look. It is how you behave. ...or near enough.

Laugh in the face of evil. Overcome evil with good. Or, as I have begun to believe, no one truly has control over you so long as you retain the ability to laugh. I dislike the idea of allowing anyone or anything control over me. And what could make anyone or anything feel powerless more than laughter at them? Even that which is evil.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It DOES Matter If It's Black or White!

Everything is black or white. If you're waffling and you think you're looking into a gray area, your perception is a bit off and you should look a little closer. You'll find that that big, scary, paralyzing gray area is actually made up of little black and white dots. Look at the dots. Are there more black or more white dots? When you decide, look at the whole problem again. It is no longer gray. Scale as necessary.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

IRS == Greedy, Manipulative Bastards

Alright, so the Acronym is a bit off. (IRS != GMB...but close enough!)

I'm sure this post could likely cause me grief in the future. I mean, it is talking about the single most powerful and single most corrupt system in the country.

So, early 2007, my accountant does my taxes. Everything is groovy. The following year, I receive a document from your friendly federal rapists. "You owe us $1,000. If you disagree, tell us why and we'll get back to you."

The accountant looks through the forms. Yep. They're wrong. He sends proof which the Infernal Raping Service confirms they received on April 23, 2007. (We moved pretty fast on this, since we were stressing about money at the time, and another $1k hit was a bit...disheartening.)

SIX months later they get back to us. "You still owe us $1,000 because we re-did your taxes for you. Oh, and because you still haven't paid, you now owe us an additional $131--because we're required by law to charge it."

Can anyone else see the problem here? They take months and months to finally respond, and charge us more money because they're so bloody slow. And further...they didn't change their tune. ...and their tune is incomprehensible. When I read statements like, "Since we changed your income and tax, we also changed the amount of your credit..." how can I not be suspicious? How is this not confirmation that this organization has entirely too much power?

I find myself drifting into the mindset of the victim of a terrorist. Well, if I pay it, all this will just go away. Then I snap out of it and enter an affronted rage. Terrorist? Never, ever do what a terrorist tells you to do. Promises of the removal of a threat if you comply is a lie; it's the act of a terrorist. Besides, I don't like being manipulated. Who does, really?

So, of course, the accountant is going to get a copy of this notice, since it's written in jargon that only an accountant can understand. (God forbid that anyone writes something that can be understood by the layman. I mean, if they did write it that way, the layman wouldn't be paying an accountant to take care of it, and that accountant wouldn't be giving away his income taxes to this disgusting behemoth.) Clearly, the accountant is going to argue it more. Obviously the IRS is going to be right--even if they're not--and six months later we're going to have to pay more interest because of their lack of alacrity. But really, what incentive do they have for being speedy if they can charge us money for their response time? Sorry, ...if they are "required by law to charge" us money for their response time.

I'll be the first to admit that it's likely not the IRS's fault. After all, they are just enforcing policy as handed down by the government. Perhaps, if they weren't "required by law" to rape us for their missing speed, they would understand that they were slow, and it was their fault that it took so long, so they wouldn't charge us that ridiculous "interest." So, what does that tell us about our policy makers? I mean besides the fact that they are obviously the single most powerful and single most corrupt system in the country. Sorry. My thesis statement was a bit off up there.

Time to simplify the tax code. Enough of the elitist, dictatorial, monarchic caste system that our forefathers ran away from so many years ago. Incomprehensible tax law, favoring the rich, oppressing the poor. Let's hear it for a flat tax! Everyone pays the same amount. It's fair. It's simple. It's quick. The obvious draw back is that it wouldn't legitimize the caste system, thereby making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Dang. Hadn't thought of that....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Conspiracy Theory 13a

Democrats can't cut off funding for the military without looking like the bad guys. So they bring as much negative attention as possible to all the outsourced security in the country who are taking up the military's slack. Mercenaries get kicked and the already tenuous handle the military has on its staffing issues is destroyed. Spread too thin to handle established missions and security concerns, military must come home. Democrats win. Iraqi people and military missions lose.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Adventures In Linux 7/16/2007

It's only taken me and my brother a combined total of 16 man hours to figure out the following, attention!

When attempting to install Samba on Fedora Core 6 box make sure that you have opened up the SELinux setting to "Allow Samba to share users home directories." Or at least "Allow Samba to share nfs directories." This is prevent the maddening "Network access is denied" or the involuntary-ripping-of-one's-hair "Network path not found" messages.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In Retrospect....

I was right. And I was wrong. The day was good. And it was terrible. Wonderful lesson. Fallen angel. Strange decisions. Wonderful lesson.

Monday, June 11, 2007

We Must All Have Dreams

Nightmares are dreams....

As I think upon the coming morn, I feel as though I anticipate a familiar, wretched dream.

I love my life.

I need more sleep.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I Was Set Up! ...By Myself

Let there be no mistake. I am an idiot. No, no, don't argue with me. It's true. Let it be known, when my house is robbed and I'm stripped of all material belongings, it's because I'm an idiot.

Seriously, how much training do I need, how many warnings can I get, how often do I have to remind myself and others how easily we give away information that can only cause us pain?

Consider for a moment how many people know our phone numbers. How many times have you gone to your favorite grocery store and been asked, "Do you have a Fresh Discounts card?" Of course your wonder card is sitting...somewhere that's not with you. "That's alright. What's your phone number?" You're a bit focused on getting your goods out of your cart or your wallet out of your pocket or your checkbook out of your purse, and you tell them. Clearly you're too busy to notice the dude in the line behind you scratching something on what surely must be his shopping list.

Think about how often you call into your bank and they ask what your birthday is...and the last 4 of your Social? ...and your mother's maiden name...? As you answered, did you bother to look over your shoulder at your co-worker all-too-innocently jotting something on his sticky-pad?

When you got out of your car to run into the store, how many people walking past the passenger side window got a good look at your address posted all nice and prettily on your power bill you carelessly threw there?

Paranoid? No. Just aware. These are all no-brainers. And yet...all it takes is one stupid move to give away all your marbles without once squatting around that circle.

...and star wipe to a couple weeks ago....

My wife has this great idea to get our house appraised so we can finally get rid of our PMI. (OhI hated the PMI with its wee beady eyes...but I digress.) We pay someone $150 and we have a goodly amount of money per month no longer being legally stolen but going toward our house's principal. What an excellent idea. (She's a genius.)

We place the call. We pay the $150. We get a call, "Hi, this is Andrea. I'm going to be doing the appraisal on your house." Excellent! Man, that was quite fast! "Alright, I'll be there Friday." (Of course "Andrea" was very insistent that it be done in a very short amount of time. Strange? Yes, but hey, the sooner the better so we can start paying off the house a bit faster.)

Friday rolls around. It's 1300 hours. I take a late lunch and wait for the appraiser. She's a bit late, but no problem. She walks up to the door, a camera in hand and flip-flops on feet. Not exactly what I'm used to with house appraisers, but...I'm not really used to house appraisers.

She introduces handshake or anything--which I did find odd, but I'm not really a touchy-feely person, so I was alright with it--takes off her flip-flops and pads around the house barefoot, snapping pictures of each of the rooms. I'm tagging along, flipping on lights for her, excusing the mess, chatting about all the cool things we've done with the house, trying to drive up the price. I find it very strange that she's not paying much attention to what I was saying, so I grow a bit silent and begin wondering about what she was doing. She must have read my mind because she said, "I take pictures so when I'm writing my report I have them to remind me of things." Sounds...almost...not...quite reasonable. She takes pictures of every room, goes out front, snaps pictures of the front of the house, then goes around to snap some of the back. Then she's gone.

It was a strange experience and I thought very little of it. Alright, that's not true. It was all very strange, and my mind kept replaying it. Of course, when the mind does such things, it's time to pay attention to it. I did. And it all came crashing home. I'll get back to this in a moment. wipe to yesterday....

I've always been all sorts of into alternative healing methods. One of my friends sent to me an email and said via instant messenger, "You should check out this email. It's pretty scary." Of course I was interested so I looked at the email. It had a warning about the FDA doing still more stuff to finagle, coerce, and otherwise weasel their way into wresting away our rights to choose alternative methods of healing. Something seemed fishy about it, and I was busy at work, so I chose to look at it later, because it linked to a site that seemed to be of rather...unimpressive design and functionality.

The following day (that would be today), I get an email from another friend. It held a strange link that, when I foolishly followed it, took me to what appeared to be the very same site that my other friend's email linked to. Alright, two friends of rather intelligent and discriminative minds sending me the same link...? There's got to be something to this.

I hurriedly (I was still at work) fill out a form that presumably is used to generate an email that is sent presumably to people who are presumably legislators. "First Name, Last Name, Dear so-and-so, please pretend like you give a damn about my rights...blah blah blah...Send. Alright, back to work."

Then it hit me. SCAM! And if not a scam...well even if it wasn't a scam, I did something amazingly stupid and put my first and last name on a form with my address--the address to my home--and email address and submitted it. I deserve every last bit, nibble, byte and megabyte of spam email I'm sure I'm going to be getting. And that's the least of the damage I believe I have caused by filling out that stupid form. Someone out there now knows entirely too much about me. And I gave it to them! Idiot.

I got a letter in the mail today. The appraisers received our money and are still waiting for us to schedule an appraisal that was completed a week ago. My fears that hit me upside the head not nearly as hard as they should have as I was driving back to work are now partially confirmed. My fears: those pictures were an illegal inventory of everything we have in our house. They are pictures of the security measures we have deployed outside and in. (I can't even trust they'd be cowed by my dogs, considering I introduced her to them.)

I say again, when my house is robbed and I am stripped of all my material possessions, I need remember only one thing: I'm an idiot. Then as I try and rebuild everything, work on putting food on the table, explain to my family why everything is gone, I will's perfectly alright to confront people, or sites, or anything you feel unsure about. Sometimes lessons must be learned the hard way. Even lessons with which you're intimately familiar.

Now, consider how much information I've given you about myself. Now shake your head, call me an idiot and secure your information!