Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And If Respect ISN'T Earned...

I've decided to try to bust up this blog post drought by seeding a passing cloud of angst. In other words, I'm going to try concocting my own "meme". It's a pretty pointed one, too.

We're all told we're supposed to respect our elders. In fact, in some cultures (and religions) it's not even subject to question; if you don't face your seniors, bow down before them. and take their every utterance to heart you risk facing ostracism if not worse. This is particularly true if the elder in question holds a special place in society by virtue of his or her position and/or reputation. Failure to show proper deference marks you as a certified fink.

But what do you do when you are confronted with a "respected elder" who proves to be not all s/he's cracked up to be? That brings us to this "meme". List seven quotes spoken by "respected elders" that show them to be rather less than worthy of respect. It is not necessary to identify who said it.

1. "I'm a great man. I am famous in these parts because I am great. Even if I do something that would get someone else in trouble, no one would blame me. No one would even complain because they all know that I'm a great man, and they know they're lucky to have someone like me in their midst." (Sadly enough, he wasn't joking.)

2. "I realized long ago that I'm no ordinary human being. I am specially blessed. Because of that, there's no chance of anything bad ever happening to me. There's not even any chance of my making a mistake. But because I'm so blessed, I have an obligation to help other people. I do this by correcting their way of living. No one lives right. They're all doing it wrong, so I have to do my best to get them to follow my perfect example." (No, he wasn't joking, either.)

3. "I am the best trained and most experienced member of this department, so naturally I'm the one who deserves the most respect, but no one respects me. That just goes to show that there are many problems in this department. If you have any questions or need any advice, I would recommend you come talk to me. Don't listen to any of the others." (I don't think he was joking, but when he says things like this it's kind of hard to tell.)

4. Respected Elder: (sigh of annoyance) "Look, I'm gonna ask you to tune up with the strobe tuner before rehearsals from now on!" Me: "I have been tuning up with the strobe tuner before rehearsals! Look!" (Plays tuning Bb, strobe tuner stops dead on zero.) Respected Elder: (sigh, pause) "Well...look, you should know better than to trust a damned machine! From now on, don't use the tuner!" (Look, I've gotta patronize you about something!)

5. (In response to a call to brush up on CPR because of a student with a diagnosed heart condition:) "We have no business trying to administer CPR! Even if it means the student dies, it can't be helped! We are neither doctors nor paramedics, so we have no business pretending otherwise! We're not qualified!" (The same individual in response to a call not to intervene excessively in the issues of a student with a diagnosed psychological condition:) "It doesn't matter if we are trained in psychological counseling or not! If we are on the scene, it is our responsibility to deal with the situation! We have no business not intervening to help a student, qualified or not!" (I have no business making up my mind!)

6. "Well, I can't really say whether we've had much success. Looking back, we probably haven't really had much, but the point is that it's our system! We've always used it, and we've never had any problems with it! If it's not broke, don't fix it!" (At least we're comfortable in our mediocrity!)

7. "I'm the commander — see, I don't need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president." (But the real point is, "Can you explain why you say things?)

Do I really have to stop at seven? Whatever, good enough. I think I'll tag Snabulus, Ladybug, Dave, Dean Wormer, Arkonbey, Swinebread, and Catpsi.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Ok, here we are again - Spring has sprung and it's time for "Wearin' of the Green" and some good food too! Here are some links to the traditional fare I make for family: Corned Beef & Cabbage and Lucky Lime Dessert (leave out the pineapple for my version).

I also have several cute Leprechauns made by Annalee that I use to decorate our home for holiday. I can safely say that St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holiday, besides Halloween. I often wish I could be in Chicago or New York one year to see the big Parades they have...but one which is inclusive (and smaller, so maybe more enjoyable!) is the St. Pat's for ALL Parade & Festival in Queens, NY. Besides, on St. Patrick's Day, I want to party, not listen to alot of preaching!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Rise of the Database and more...

Hi kids. I've been a busy camper lately and the writing muse just hasn't been a-knockin' lately. I WARNED YOU THAT THIS WOULD HAPPEN. Oops, I was channeling there. There are a number of things going on.

Changes, changes, changes. Ladybug is out job hunting. I am closing my office space and moving my work home to save my employer money. I dumped cable television and Internet for WiMax connectivity. My daughter's iPhone is DOA 3 months into a 2 year contract. The new year heralded some painful back problems. We are refinancing El Rancho Snabuloso to increase our odds of staying in our home if things really turn crappy.

Before discussing all that, I wanted to share an article by security expert Bruce Schneier. As you know, I am a fan of living a life free of outside surveillance. I don't need people meddling in my life. Nonetheless, it is important to know when a seismic cultural shift occurs so you can fight for what is still possible in the new situation. From birth records to death certificate, we have always been accessible, but in the age of data sharing, connections are being made that most people aren't even aware of. Schneier summarizes the new playing field rather well. I share it because I don't think most of my readers are aware of how the smallest threads of data can connect our disparate points of data out there or how that process even occurs.

Welcome to the future, where everything about you is saved. A future where your actions are recorded, your movements are tracked, and your conversations are no longer ephemeral. A future brought to you not by some 1984-like dystopia, but by the natural tendencies of computers to produce data.

Data is the pollution of the information age. It's a natural byproduct of every computer-mediated interaction. It stays around forever, unless it's disposed of. It is valuable when reused, but it must be done carefully. Otherwise, its after effects are toxic.

And just as 100 years ago people ignored pollution in our rush to build the Industrial Age, today we're ignoring data in our rush to build the Information Age.

Pollution is an interesting analogy. I am sure there are flaws in it, but it is an effective means of pulling the reader out of their normal thought process.

Rather than doing a bunch of quoting, I would admonish you to read the whole article (the comments are interesting too). I share one more interesting point...

We're not going to stop the march of technology, just as we cannot un-invent the automobile or the coal furnace. We spent the industrial age relying on fossil fuels that polluted our air and transformed our climate. Now we are working to address the consequences. (While still using said fossil fuels, of course.) This time around, maybe we can be a little more proactive.

I have a Norwegian friend who is a database consultant. On a recent data mining project in the US, he was shocked at the low level of privacy laws employed here. He says that the work he was doing would not be permitted in most European countries. Much of the identify theft that is rather easy to commit in the United States simply isn't possible in Europe. We need to adopt their privacy safeguards.

The 4th amendment of the US Bill of Rights is resilient enough to protect us from both public AND PRIVATE sector intrusions of our privacy; we just need to recognize this fact and enforce it through the various legal means at our disposal. Sadly, this amendment is usually the first one attacked when people are gripped by fear.

Enough of that.


For those of you with young girls in your sphere of family or friends, I submit the following prayer for them...

I am not a religious person, but if you watched the video, you will see that this hardly matters.

Finally, I am cleaning up the blog entries on the right. The major new addition is going to be the previous owner of the Eugene Torrents site and current owner of a new blog who comments under the name Catpsi. Lovers of Chaosium and Cthulhu will want to link immediately to this site. Commenter Dave should get a kick out of the Exopolitics site that Catpsi links too I think.

Some others, like Freida Bee and Isis: Floating Down Denial have either become private or have finished their time on the Internet Tubes, so I will be trimming our those links. Isis foresaw most of the current turmoil and gave several good hints for getting through it. If you stay towards the real (food water shelter) and move away from the ephemeral (unlimited petroleum and theoretical monetary policy), you will be doing yourself a favor.

PS: For the person who sent me the Meebo message about posting something new to bury the Sexy Men post, I did not do this post for you. A little equal time for all the babe-a-licious chick action is overdue and very called for in the current society.