November 30, 2006

At this rate, I should prepare my Crayolas.

Throughout my life, the things I do during the day have become increasingly more complex. As an infant, I focused on things like eating and sleeping. As a toddler, I spent time playing with toys or coloring. In school, I learned the alphabet, then arithmetic, then science and civics and so on. Each progressive stage built upon prior learned lessons, with each stage being more complex or difficult than the previous. The trend continued through high school and college. As per the pattern of 20 years, I assumed such development would continue.

Thus far it has not.

Last June, as I finished graduate school, I wrote a 20 page paper discussing international economic regimes, their changes through time and the impact they have had on world trade. For another class, I evaluated the current world perspective on terrorism: its causes, impact and potential solutions. A year prior, I analyzed American foreign policy and how trade relations with China have created trade deficits, partly caused by an undervalued Yuan.

Yesterday I was coached on how to file things alphabetically. Seriously.

Apparently I'm good at doing mundane tasks. So good, in fact, that the Boston office has shipped multiple boxes to me overnight so that I can put them in to folders and send them back. True story.

Upon receipt of one of these boxes, I called the sender to ask what specifically he wanted me to do. His explanation was something like this:

"Okay, in the box there's a bunch of envelopes (there were probably a few hundred). Open them, then look at the name of the account it specifies and file it alphabetically. Like my last name is 'Smith'. So put it under 'S'. Or Mike's last name is 'Wilson', so put it under 'W'. Get it?"

He explained it this way at least twice, being sure to be painstakingly clear about how the alphabet works. He didn't bother much to explain what the documents were or why they were important. He was just extra particular about the fact than an individual had two names, a first and a last, and that they consisted of 'letters' which go in some sort of 'order'. Whatever the heck that means!

Yeah. I get it.

Talk about regression. I could have done this as an elementary schooler. Why does he feel that he needed to explain it this way? Is the assumption that the average Joe is too dim to understand the concept of alphabetizing? Are most employees like this? Whatever the matter, this dumbing down thing has gotta stop soon. I need a real job.

November 29, 2006

A Semantically Civil War

News agencies are now referring to the conflict in Iraq as a 'civil war'.

Taken from wikipedia's definition of "civil war":
A civil war is a war in which the competing parties are segments of the same country or empire. Civil war is usually a high intensity stage in an unresolved political struggle for national control of state power. As in any war, the conflict may be over other matters such as religion, ethnicity, or distribution of wealth. Some civil wars are also categorized as revolutions when major societal restructuring is a possible outcome of the conflict.

As a matter of fact, yes, you can call what's going on Iraq a civil war- it certainly meets all the criteria. All participants (aside from U.S. forces) are from the same country, it is highly intense, there is an unresolved political struggle for state power, the conflict is of religion and ethnicity, somewhat of wealth, and there will be restructuring when the conflict is resolved. So yes, NBC, NY Times, and U.S government, it is a civil war. Duh.

Maybe this new terminology can get the government to realize what it has created, and perhaps leverage this into a new idea of how to control it. With Iraq in total chaos, some sort of power broker is going to take charge of the region. They could be friendly, they could be foe, or they could be Iran. Anything is possible, and there are a number of groups who have more power in the region than the United States does.

Regardless of what others call it, I still prefer to call it a clusterf*ck.

November 28, 2006

The Steak and Shake Bean Crock 2nd round College Football Playoff

So the talk of the sports world is on the upcoming college bowls. Every year there is controversy, and this year is no exception. With one game deciding the top team in the country, the two best contenders must be selected to take a chance at winning the national title.

This year, one of those spots is a shoe-in. Ohio State has been dominant all season and more than deserves a spot in the title game. Their opponent however, could potentially be any one of the number of one-loss teams from USC to Michigan to Florida. Worth consideration is the undefeated Boise State team, who despite dominating their conference will not get the opportunity to play for more than their own pride. The same thing happened to Auburn a few years back.

The grab bag of bowls pair teams as low as 5th or 6th in their conference (as long as they have a 6-6 record or better) for games that are rather meaningless, beyond a cash reward for their school. The BCS games are more prestigious by far, and only one bowl has a meaningful trophy at stake.

There has been talk by sports pundits that the bowl system should be eliminated and replaced by a tournament. I agree with this suggestion. Following the season, there should be tournament similar to that of college basketball, but much much smaller. The top 8-10 teams should play in a single elimination tourney with the victor receiving the championship prize. To get a bid to the tournament, you must win your conference. Seeds could still be determined by using the current polls and rankings. I considered also having at-large invitations, but the fact remains that no team should be able to be the national champions without also being conference champions.

For non-winners, there could still be bowl games to create inter-conference postseason matchups. I'm aware of how important these games can be, as participants can rake in millions. Sponsors could even buy the naming rights for tournament round games, like the "Steak and Shake Bean Crock 2nd round College Football Playoff."

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the playoff series would keep viewers engaged for an extended period of time. Instead of having Ohio State play its last regular season game on November 17, then waiting til January for the bowl game, the team would need to prove itself through December. Every single game would be big and important, with even the most boring matchup consisting of two solid ranked teams. Unless your team was involved, few remember who played in most bowl games more than a year ago, and that includes non-championship BCS bowls. A elimination tournament would be better- think of it as a final four of football.

It seems like every other sport, college or professional, has some sort of playoff structure to determine the top teams in the league. Why does football insist on this backwards and obsolete system when a playoff structure would be more profitable and more entertaining?

November 27, 2006

Remember Remember the Lexus of December

Lexus is at it again with their "December to Remember" sales campaign. Every year they do this promotion where they advertise their luxury automobiles as christmas gifts. As if Christmas ad campaigns weren't already forcing us to spend enough money, this car company comes along and makes it worse.

They make those goofy commercials where some guy gives his wife (or vice versa) a $45,000 SUV as a Christmas gift, complete with oversized bow. Personally, if my wife bought me a luxury automobile for christmas, I'd be pissed. There is no reason or excuse to spend that much money for any holiday, with or without Jesus' involvement. Buying a car is a commitment. A commitment to years of car payments, raised insurance premiums, maintenance, and because its a Lexus, premium gas. (Frankly, I'm not too wild about a car ever being bought for me outright. I'd rather select the right vehicle myself, but I digress.)

The average salary in America is about $36,000. (This figure is likely skewed by the number of people that make hundreds of thousands per year) The majority of these cars cost well over that, meaning the average American couldn't possibly afford one. I have a hard time believing that these commercials really speak to more than a few percent of the population.

Does anyone actually purchase one of these cars as a gift? If so, damn. You must have some serious disposable income. And for the kind of cash these cars call for, it better come with that big ass bow.

If I ever decide to give a Lexus as a gift, it's gonna be because I stole it.

November 26, 2006

Diagnosed with Oral Roberts

If A>B and B>C, then logically A>C also, right?

If so, that makes for some interesting college basketball rankings. Last night, Kansas beat the #1 ranked Florida Gators in overtime. Hardly 10 days ago, Kansas was beaten by Oral Roberts University at home.

That means that Oral Roberts is now the best team in College Basketball. The math logic proves it.

Oral Roberts University was founded by its namesake, Oral Roberts. Contrary to popular belief, this is indeed the name of a person, not a sex act or a mouth disease.

Oral Roberts is an interesting character. A devout christian, he has raised millions of dollars through faith to build a university and a nearby medical center. He claimed, and I swear this is true, that a 900 foot tall Jesus told him to do it. For a later project, he told his followers that he had to raise 8 million dollars in a few short months or god would "call him home". He ended up not getting that call, as more than enough money was raised.

An interesting fact about his City of Faith Medical Center is that the buildings are constructed to Noah's specifications for the ark. Had to be an interesting construction project- I can only imagine the difficulties caused by using a 2000 year old, inconsistent, inaccurate measuring system... or a bunch of guys crawling around using their arms to measure things on the construction site.

November 22, 2006

Spectator Slowdown

I manage to live on the exact opposite side of Columbus from where I work. Every morning I take the highway straight through downtown (70->670) during rush hour. No one is a fan of traffic, and that includes me. I deal with it every morning though, as I try to get to work in less than half an hour.

I can usually make the journey in either direction in under a half hour if I leave at the right time. By adjusting my departure time by only 10-15 minutes, my arrival time can be changed by 20-30 minutes. That is to say that if I leave too late, I hit the worst part of traffic and it ends up taking me significantly longer to make the same trip.

"What causes traffic?", I wonder some days. Sure, the obvious answer is the volume of cars, but that's not specific enough. Additionally, we've all hit traffic at times that aren't rush hour.

Some of it seems to be caused by people driving too slow in the left lane, preventing cars from getting by. Some is people who are flat out lost, or are not paying attention to exit signs and merge late. Some people don't know how to merge it all. Other slowdowns are caused by people who insist on cutting into traffic from an outside lane even though there were signs suggesting that that very lane ended ahead. Lastly, I think much of traffic is caused by hair-trigger brakers, as I call them. These people who see a car's brakelights a mile and a half ahead and feel the need to slam theirs on immediately, causing a chain reaction.

Accidents can slow things down temporarily, but most of the time the involved vehicles are moved to the shoulder before there's a serious slowdown. Often this results in what is referred to as "spectator slowdown", where passers-by drive really slowly to get a good look at any available twisted wreckage or mangled bodies. Don't lie- you've done it. We've all been stuck in this traffic too- you spot the collision vehicles on the side of the road, no lanes are blocked, yet traffic is backed up for a mile and suddenly lets up as you pass the accident.

The only way to stop the rubbernecking is to stop doing it yourself. Instead of checking out the carnage, keep driving. I've made this effort before, but it's hard. After waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the better part of an hour, I felt I'd earned a chance to take a look.
What is it that compels us to look at certain things this way? Why do we want to see crashes on NASCAR, big hits in football and hockey, or entertain ourselves with gory movies?

November 17, 2006

Bigger than Jesus

Maybe it only seems like it because I live in Columbus, but tomorrow's Ohio State vs. Michigan football game appears to be the biggest event in the history of the universe.

You can't look out your window, turn on an electronic appliance, open your mouth or answer the phone without hearing something, somehow about this football game. Today I even saw some OJ-esque footage from a helicopter showing the Michigan buses leaving for Columbus. This game is the greatest, most important event in the history of the universe.

Here's why:

1. The biggest rivalry in college sports (arguably in all sports)
2. The media has nothing else to talk about (see ESPN today)
3. #1 vs. #2
4. National title hopes directly on the line
5. Heisman candidate at QB
6. The election is over - sort of.
7. An excuse to not accomplish anything serious this week.
8. Nickelback can't even get tickets.
9. Bo Schembechler died (see below)
10. The rapture has been postponed to next week. (or has it? They're calling it Judgement Day)

And today it got bigger still with Schembechler's death. Bo was the long time coach of the University of Michigan. During his career he coached for many schools, including Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Miami, Northwestern, and as an assistant under Woody Hayes at Ohio State. Many suggest that Bo's defection to Michigan was the biggest catalyst in this Big 10 rivalry.

I live in bona fide Columbus, aka ground zero for the game. With the history of violence following football games, I fear for my life if the Bucks win, and fear for the world if they lose. May god have mercy on our souls.


I am in complete disbelief. Totally unreal.

The Ohio Bobcats Football team, which used to be an oxymoron, has clinched the MAC East!

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the Bobcats get to play in the post season. The MAC championship is going to be held at Ford Field in Detroit, then pretty much win or lose, OU will appear in a bowl game.

I've been a Bobcat fan since I first set foot on the Athens campus back in '02. Most of my focus has been on the basketball team, however. The football team was generally only expected to win a game or two per season, and most fans attend the games only to see the Marching 110 perform.

Not anymore.

After McDavis brought in Frank (the tank) Solich, the team has certainly picked up. Last night's result is all the proof I needed.

I couldn't be prouder of this Bobcats squad. It's about time for some good action in Peden Stadium. I just hope I can manage to get to the bowl game.


November 16, 2006

Sudo Penguins and Partitions

I finally got myself to try Linux this week. Given that I don't know anyone who uses it regularly, I never had the opportunity to get to know the operating system. I've been a fan of the open-source movement for a while now, I figured it was time to take Linux for a spin.

I quickly realized that Linux was not like Windows or Apple, where there was effectively one version of the overall platform. Linux has a large number of what they call "distributions", and each varies from another. The differences seemed to based on how recent the version is, and what kind of user it was designed for.

I used a Linux Distribution Chooser to help me narrow down all the options. I ended up settling on Kubuntu 6.06. All along I had intended on adding the OS to my computer as to make it dual-boot with Windows XP. The guides I found to walk me through this process led me to believe that it was much more difficult to accomplish this than it really was. All I had to do was create a new partition on the hard drive on which to install Linux. Using PartitionMagic, this was actually fairly easy. Even if I didn't have the more advanced software, the Kubuntu iso comes loaded with a partitioning program.

Long story short, I rebooted the computer with the Kubuntu cd in the drive, and I was able to install the system very quickly. It even took care of the operating system menu. No fuss, no muss.

Using Linux for basic computer functions such as web browsing, word processing, etc, was pretty straightforward. The OS is easy enough to navigate for a windows user, but installing drivers was more of a challenge. In order to alter much of the system, you have to use a dos-like Terminal interface. The initial commands were a bit of a challenge, but eventually I managed to get my ati drivers loaded. That's all I had time for last night.

On the upside, I now understand this comic:

November 15, 2006

A Royale with Cheese

I am all about the James Bond movie: Casino Royale. This long awaited film is actually a prequel to every other Bond movie. The story is based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, which was never made into a movie. It will be the story explaining how Bond became 007.

I love Bond movies. It's kind of like a superhero movie without the superhero powers. Much of the time, the situations Bond faces are moderately realistic- the difference being the presence of not-yet-achieved technology, such as a watch with a high powered laser, a car that turns into a submarine, etc. There's something so possible about the Bond series that makes it exciting. It's far fetched enough to have a twisting storyline involving interesting fictional characters, but Bond can't fly or use x-ray vision on his own power.

The movie debuts this Friday, which is really unfortunate. My girlfriend's birthday is also on Friday, making it a difficult decision. It's a good thing I like her. She should consider herself lucky. I'll go see it as soon as I feasibly can. Sunday or Monday, I'm thinking. 'Cause you know what Saturday is.

Seeing this movie will probably send me back to my childhood fantasy about being James Bond. Of all the major movie heroes, superheroes, and other fictional characters that men wish they could be, I'd like to be James Bond the most. C'mon! The lifestyle, the technology, a cool British accent? It's like it was made for me. I've even been an avid player of nearly all James Bond video games, as it has been as close as I've been able to come to the real thing. In anticipation of the movie, I've begun to revisit the games on PS2, as that's the only console system available to me at the moment. Rest assured, if my N64 was handy, I'd be playing Goldeneye for sure.

Lastly, here's a comic from I love this site for its witty science and math related comics.

It's impossible to get around talking about this.

This town is about to explode. No, not from terrorists, despite the Democrats winning in the last election.

This city has football fever, and if The Game wasn't big enough already, this season made it double in size. You can actually taste the excitement in the air, and it tastes kind of sweaty, really. Not only does the winner get bragging rights for a year, but they go undefeated in the regular season, win the Big 10, and go to the BCS National Championship Game.

The football experts called this back in the first weeks of the football season. They said that both Michigan and Ohio State have the capacity to go undefeated this season. I was skeptical. I knew the Ohio State team would be fantastic on offense, and good enough on D, but I had no idea Michigan was up to the same caliber. They proved themselves many times over, such as when they played Notre Dame, just as OSU toppled Texas.

It's next to impossible for a fan of either team not to hold at least some reservation or doubt about this Saturday's game. With two teams this good and neither having been seriously challenged this season, this game is too close to call. We all know it has the capability to go either way.

Both teams have a solid defense and some major playmakers on offense. The Buckeyes' spread offense has performed extremely well this season, but the availability of the pass may hinge on whether they can simultaneously get the ball moving on the ground. Michigan's offense is more balanced, with more focus on Mike Hart's running abilities, as well as multiple deep threats.

A lot of the sports pundits are suggesting that the national championship could end up being a rematch between these two teams. While a few more cards would have to fall into place in order to make that happen, I'd say it would make for an interesting Fiesta Bowl. The bottom line for the BCS title game is that I want to see a good match-up. A championship game should not be a blowout, but a close fought game between two teams who dominated other opponents all season. If The Game is a close one, then it would be worthwhile to see these two contend once more. After all, this rivalry is about as big as it could ever hope to be. What's a few more flipped cars, couches on fire and a few hundred more arrests? They'd be a drop in the bucket at this point.

It's hard not to get psyched for The Game with the atmosphere in Columbus. I can't turn my head 30 degrees without seeing Ohio State paraphernalia. I just gotta remember that it's still 3 days, 4 fours 34 minutes and 12 seconds away.

Go Bucks! Beat Michigan! My score prediction: Ohio State 24, Michigan 17

November 13, 2006

BASICly inept

Just like so many others of my generation, I am the in-house IT guy for my family. I cannot visit my parents or other relatives for even a few hours without a, "hey, while you're here, can you take a look at my computer?" or "my ipod isn't downloading right" or "the wireless network isn't working again."

I don't mind being that guy, no, not at all. I enjoy being the one who's knowledgeable enough about technology to be able to repair any techno-issue that arises. When I fix the problem, I get a certain level of satisfaction, success, and a bit of a power trip. Usually it's just a matter of plugging in a cable the right way or editing a configuration page properly. Occasionally I bring in the 'big guns' and use Ad-Aware, Avast, Tune Up Utilities and others to clean up the system to as usable state. I appreciate a good challenge though, and more than once I've been recruited to repair an entirely defunct system.

Last night was one of those times. My step-mom's laptop recently had its hard drive replaced and needed to load an operating system. Easy enough, I thought. Grab a Windows XP cd, boot from CD and in 30 minutes we'd have a fully-functioning computer.

Not so, I found out. The cd-rom drive was on the fritz too, and would only actually access the cd once every 5-7 tries. When I finally was able to start the setup program, i was hardly able to create a hard drive partition before the cd quit, leaving only a few files copied. The cd drive refused to cooperate any further.

To make a long story short, I spent the next few hours trying to find other ways to load the operating system. The floppy drive was no avail- it would have taken over 500 disks to copy the XP cd to the hard drive. Then I created a boot disk and tried to activate the network port from dos- maybe I could install from the network. This seemed feasible at first, but I learned that I probably need Windows Server edition to make that work. Lastly, I copied the entire cd to my dad's external USB hard drive. If I could activate the USB port from dos, I might have a chance.

That was the right track. Using some drivers I found online, I was able to get the system to recognize the usb drive. Unfortunately, it wouldn't also recognize the internal hard drive. I may have been able to force it to work if wasn't for my fleeting dos skills. I couldn't remember all the commands to make the computer change drive letters and do the copying I was hoping for. I used to be quite talented at working with MS-DOS. As a former owner of a 486, I had to be. I could even do some programming in BASIC. It wasn't any prizewinning software, mind you (I was what, 12? 13? years old?) but I could make it work.

So much of those old skills have been forgotten, or more likely replaced by newer XP era skills. What I knew about floppy disk formatting, basic coding, and boot disks has been replaced by wireless networking, graphics cards, and blogging.

DOS was fun though, back in the day. It was a system that you couldn't just figure out on the spot. You had to know the steps necessary to achieve the intended results before you even started. It did so many of the same things that windows explorer does graphically by point-and-click today. However, there was always something empowering by being able to use DOS to its potential when no one else around you could.

It's practically cliche now, but technology times move so fast. Think of the things we do everyday in Windows like downloading, email, and all sorts of media, and how next to impossible it was in DOS. Just look at that picture. There's no way that dweeby little Gates (bottom left) could have forseen that he would have $50+ Billion in assets within twenty years. I should probably start working on my long hair and matching beard soon.

I had to leave the laptop unfixed for now. I'm still working on a solution. Let me know if you have any good ideas. Repairing the cd-rom is an option, but a difficult one as I'm not sure what exactly is wrong with it.

November 10, 2006

I, Pod

Though I've owned it for nearly a year, I've recently become an even bigger fan of my iPod. I started taking it to work with me every day. I noticed recently that a lot of other employees listen to a radio or headphones during the day, so I decided to give it a shot.

My iPod is a black 2GB Nano, purchased by my wonderful girlfriend for me last Christmas. I quickly added a nice leather protective case and better quality headphones, as the iPod is particularly vulnerable to aesthetic damage and comes with very poor quality (though trendy) headphones.

I'm by no means an iPod obsessive. I enjoy listening to it, but it's not a way of life. I've seen a number of new iPod owners who take pictures of the unwrapping process when they purchase a new one. Not me.

It's interesting how well the iPod has taken off. At the time they first came out, MP3 players had already been on the market for quite a while. I can remember them pretty distinctly 6 or 8 years ago, when I worked at Circuit City. There was usually not much more than 128Mb of storage space on the unit though, which made for a short listening experience. When the iPod hit the market a couple of years later, it was accompanied by not only a very large hard drive at a marginal (but still high for high school kids) cost, but also an absolute barrage of marketing. Apple made the MP3 player cool. It could hold virtually your entire music library and it came with hip headphones.

I originally didn't particularly want an iPod. After all, I'm tech savvy enough that I don't need the user-friendly interface to get the gadget to do what I want. A cheaper competing model would be adequate. The more I was exposed to the device, the more I was drawn to getting one for myself. It had a color screen, could hold pictures, categorize everything automatically, and it would sync perfectly with iTunes, which I was already using to store my 20Gb music collection.

Recently, I've thought about upgrading to a full-fledged iPod. One with video and a huge hard drive. I'm not gung-ho about it yet, so we'll see. I'd just like to take advantage of the video podcasts and be able to put my whole music collection on it instead of just a fraction of it, as I have now.

Because I listen to my iPod pretty much all day long now, I've had to add more than just music to keep my mind occupied while I cut & paste spreadsheets from 9 to 5. I started downloading podcasts regularly, which is something I unsuccessfully tried before. When I didn't listen to the iPod on a regular basis, the podcasts quickly became outdated and pointless to listen to when I remembered they were there. But now that I listen to it everyday, podcasts are a highlight of my day. Here's a brief list of my favorites, all of which can be found through iTunes for your listening pleasure:

The Body Odd - Two doctors discuss interesting things your body does in a funny but interesting 10 minute cast. Look under NBC to find it.

PTI - Also known as Pardon the Interruption, this cast is taken directly from the ESPN show. No commercials, and you get to listen to Tony & Mike badger each other.

ABC News Nightline - Also straight from TV, this cast tackles a major news story each day.

NBC Nightly News - Straight from Brian Williams everyday.
Travel with Rick Steves - The famed guidebook writer discusses travel destinations.

November 08, 2006

And then there was one...

This entry is written early Wednesday afternoon, just following Bush’s speech.

What a day for politics. For all those in favor of change, we could not have asked for much more. The House of Representative is secure and great strides have been made in the Senate. The only Senate races left uncertain are those of Montana and Virginia. Montana’s winner has been called by CNN in favor of Jon Testor, a Democrat. Virginia’s race is far to close to call, though the current count places Jim Webb (D) ahead by only 7,000 votes from a pool of 2.5 million votes. (The independent candidate has received 26,000 votes- enough to cover the spread between the main party candidates 3.5 times over.)

If the Dems can take that last Virginia Senate seat, they will total 51 in the upper house, which is enough to gain “control.” If that seat goes to the GOP, the 50/50 split will be broken by none other than Dick “Bulls-eye” Cheney, everyone’s second favorite oil man cowboy.

I’ve been glued to today, checking up on the close races and witnessing another tidbit of outstanding news- Rumsfeld is stepping down from his post as Secretary of Defense. This may be an act that should have taken place ages ago. With the debacle in Iraq and all its detail, Rummy should have left the Pentagon years ago. If I recall correctly, he did try to resign but Bush would not accept his resignation. More recently, military generals and other political elites have been making efforts to encourage his removal.

Thus far I have only one major theory as to why he selected today to leave. It was clearly a reaction to the election (obviously). The GOP clearly did not expect to lose as much as it did in Congress, and Rumsfeld may have been waiting it out. If the Democrats were to take control of Congress with Rummy still in the war room, chances are good that he could be investigated, prosecuted, or otherwise for Iraq, Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay prisoners, use of torture, use of illegal wire-tapping, an unsuccessful search for Bin Laden, and other military leadership failures. By getting out now, Rumsfeld may escape any such investigation- and exposé I would love to see.

Anyway you cut it, today was a solid victory for the Democrats, as well as those who are just plain fed up with the right-wing leadership of our country. I voted for change, and I hope we get it. While no candidate promised to fix Iraq, I think the odds are better than they were yesterday.

So now we wait. If a Virginia election is close within a certain percentage of votes, there is an automatic recount. With it being such a close finish, neither candidate would be willing to concede their candidacy and finalize the election.

November 06, 2006

Web 2.0? More like Web You.0

For a long while I didn’t know it had a name, but I noticed the evolution. Web 2.0 is upon us, or rather, it is us.

If you’re reading The Soap Box, there’s a good chance that you’re old enough to remember the early days of the internet. Those days when you had about three options for an ISP using your 14.4 kb modem and had to pay-per-email. We’ve certainly come a long way in a short time.

The internet has evolved into countless ISPs, millions of websites, free email, and connection speeds that put any type of phone modem to shame. While the internet used to be corporate or organizationally driven, it has turned into an outlet for individuals.

From blogging to personal pages on Facebook, MySpace, Xanga, Flixster, to Wikipedia, Wikihow and so many others have empowered individuals to access, use, and share their slice of the internet. What’s more, the number of slices of the internet is pretty much infinite. Anyone with access to a computer, or even a Smartphone or PDA can do it effectively for free. Even the previously standardized web pages like Yahoo, Google, and many others are fully customizable. The web is now all about the user, and scarcely about the provider. Compare this to a Henry Ford quote from the 1910’s “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black" versus today’s age where you have dozens of car styles, colors and options to tailor your ride to your personal preference.

With all this personal empowerment, we have achieved the ability to share human knowledge and experiences with the entire world at any time, instantly. Readers of Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat will recognize everything I’m talking about as part of Globalization 3.0. (If you haven’t read this book, it is highly recommended.) Look at Wikipedia. Its creators designed it as a resource to contain the world’s combined knowledge. And with personal pages on the social networking sites, we can learn more and more about each other as human beings.

Other features of Web 2.0 include the new dynamic of software. When was the last time you purchased software and used your CD-ROM drive to install it? It is far more common now to acquire applications and games from the web. Even the programs you already have utilize the internet to update or sync with a distant source. Or examine the Open Source movement- millions of individuals whom have never met in person are now collaborating to develop software for all sorts of uses, all for free.

When considering at what point this new era began, I don’t think there is a solid answer. The internet has been going through an evolution. Because the web is neither centrally located nor centrally controlled, there was no single force that guided it to where it is now. Certainly the most palpable answer is simply that the individual empowerment started when it became economically feasible to extend this sort of technology to the masses. Like any other major technological innovation, it is generally prohibitively expensive to most in the early stages, but cost goes down steadily and availability increases.

Most of us are only beginning to embrace the possibilities of this new era of the internet. Like all evolutions, it will take time. For now, I’m taking every opportunity to explore new facets of the internet and my stake in it.

I found this picture on Google Images, and it does a bang up job of summing up Web 2.0. It’s eerily reminiscent of the socialist movement.

A Little of Each, All of Neither

I mentioned in my post regarding Iraq that I was not a democrat or a republican, and I thought I best explain that before the election. Not to say that it would become completely irrelevant after tomorrow, but politics certainly takes a back burner in most people’s minds after Election Day.

Most people in this country identify themselves politically by siding with a political party of choice. Unfortunately in this country, there’s effectively only two from which to choose, so it becomes a very polarized electorate. However, I seek out some sort of middle ground. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. My voter registration information does not declare me as either, nor do I belong to any formal organization. I don’t attend meetings, I don’t donate money to any candidate, and I don’t volunteer for any campaigns. To call myself a member of either party without any level of participation above the ballot box would be a flagrant overstatement.

Beyond campaign participation and general support, I do not necessarily agree with either party on enough issues to substantiate supporting them in all cases. For a broad example, I am generally left leaning on social issues and more right leaning on economic ones. (i.e. support stem cell research and free trade) Few candidates stand on this kind of platform, and seldom is it regular in any one party.

Additionally, I can’t possibly agree with the Republican Party as a whole as they sit right now. Even though one of this party’s charter members was the much respected Abraham Lincoln, today they seem tied up with cronyism, sex scandal and a blunder of foreign policy. So many GOP politicians seem so much more focused on their own wallet than the direction of this country. Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney are great examples.

The Democratic Party isn’t much better. While they may not be locked in scandal, they frequently seem completely unable to organize themselves. So much of their political base has been fragmented by groups that do or do not support the Iraq war, and those that may or may not believe in “the defense of marriage.” What’s more, as the Republican Party has sabotaged itself so many times in the last five or so years, the Democrats have routinely failed to take advantage. Lacking organization and a spine, they don’t seem able to stand up for anything. They have sat silent through so many prime opportunities. That kind of political apathy makes them no better than their opposition.

I’ve never been a fan of the polarizing effects of a two party system. I much prefer the multi-party structure that is commonly found in the parliamentary systems of Europe. Germany, for example, has a solid government that allows for more than two political views to be expressed. Unfortunately, that is not an option in America.

In the mean time, I’m just going to stick to the issues and vote for candidates that agree with my line of thinking. I don’t go out of my way for red or blue. Colorblind voting, I’ll call it.

November 03, 2006

The Chipotle Blend

I love Chipotle. Who doesn't? Since moving to Columbus I've had thier delicious burritos on a number of occasions. Nevertheless, I've developed a solid idea that could maximize my tex-mex burrito experience.

The Chipotle burrito is pretty wide. (I'd say 4 or so inches across maybe, by two inches? That's 8 square inches!) Which is too wide to get a bite that encompasses the entire girth of the tortilla. Because of the way the burrito is made, the distribution of ingredients is uneven, and a bite of any one section of the burrito yields only one or two flavors. Often the rice is on one side, the cheese in the middle and your meat on the other end. Usually the salsa of your choice only spices up a third of the burrito to boot.

What I propose is an extra step in the burrito creation process. After you pick out your ingredients, everything should be dumped into a bowl and stirred gently to create an even burrito distribution. The burrito ingredients can then be re-integrated with the tortilla for your eating pleasure. I propose the name "Chipotle Blend" for the new product.

Think of it- spice mixed with meat, rice mixed with cheese, and all of this blended together for a cornucopia (horn of plenty) of flavors and deliciousness. Chipotle, I'm waiting by the phone for you to call and ask me to go on a national tour demonstrating my new product.

Make the check out to: Taste Wizard Tyler

Stem Sold

Stem cell research is becoming one of those "hot-button" issues this election season. It seems that more liberal candidates support the study, while conservatives have made an effort to block research. President Bush himself used his first ever veto to block a congressional act allowing research. (Finally he uses a veto... I guess it shows how aligned Bush and the Republican congress are!)

Why is this such a big deal? It seems like any medical effort that could be made to save lives and fight diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and heart disease would be a shoe-in. Well, it's complicated. But here's the short of it:

Your entire body is made up of cells, but there's lots of different kinds. Skin cells, heart cells, nerve cells, bone cells, etc, are all a little bit different, because they have different functions. They can't be interchanged to help heal other body parts not of their same type. (i.e. a skin cell put in your brain won't regenerate neurons lost from a stroke) Stem cells aren't any specific type of cell. Or rather, they're any type of cell you want. Follow me on this.

A stem cell is like a blank piece of paper that can be written on with a pencil. However, the pencil has no eraser. Stem cells can be conformed to be nerve cells, heart cells, or whatever else is needed, but it can't work backwards. So theoretically, we could use stem cells to create heart cells and help someone with heart disease. Easy enough, right? Sort of. Adult humans do have a limited number of stem cells in their bodies which can be used, but the process isn't as effective or promising as the alternative.

Embryonic Stem cells (or ES) is the same concept, but the cells are obtained from an embryo, where all the cells are dividing to become different body parts. Cultures of human embryonic cells can be used for this research, and this is the most controversial idea surrounding stem cells. The political problem arises when people believe that stem cell research requires the "murder" of a baby to access these cells. This really isn't the case. Most stem cell research is done using embryonic cell lines that were already created for the purpose of in-vitro fertilization. After a successful fertilization, the remaining embryonic cells are set to be destroyed anyway, so using them for research is a lot better than nothing. Furthermore, the embryo that is used is at its very earliest stages of development. We're talking 32-64 total cells. A far cry from the 50-75 trillion cells it takes to make a living, breathing human.

I'm all-for stem cell research. I think the possibilities that lie within a handful of cells vastly outweighs the claim by a few that we're murdering babies for the benefit of a few. Much of the opposition (frequently the religious right) claim that "life begins at conception". I disagree with that statement, especially when there are fewer than 100 cells in question.

Even if not everyone agrees that we should allow embryonic generation for the purpose of research, it cannot be denied that the medical possibilities that could be unlocked are powerful and numerous. At the very least, researchers should be given full access and permission to utilize embryonic cell lines that already exist to further understand what possibilities may await. Perhaps then we can more fully understand their potential and develop a strong case for additional embryonic research development.

November 01, 2006

Most Saints Day

Today is November 1st, what the Catholics call "All Saints Day". Something about this fascinates me. Saints are supposedly among the most important people who ever lived. Being Sanctified is more elite than being called "Sir", "Dr.", "Your Honor", "Mr. President", or probably even "Pope".

I thought it was odd that all the saints would have to share one day until i realized how many of them there are. This list on Wikipedia clearly shows that there are many, many saints. The article also states that in Roman Catholicism there are "10,000 saints and beatified people." So even if they were divided up equally each day (and not exempting time for Jesus' Christmas and Easter) 27 saints would have to share each day. So i guess it only makes sense that they should all combine for one Saint-tastic hollapalooza on November 1st.

I figured the most stand-out saints would get their very own day, but I'm curious as to why the ones that do were selected as such:

St. Patrick: Patron saint of excuses for drinking.
St. Valentine: Patron saint of chalk flavored candy hearts with out-dated messages written on them. (Fax Me!)