Showing posts from 2009

The Birth of Liberty

Today was Liberty's 1-week birthday. We were definitely ready for Liberty to be born. Her due date was December 24th. I was looking forward to two weeks vacation, and Brandie was feeling big. After trying all the 'old wives tales' (spicy food, sex, walking, etc.) to no avail... who knows what triggered it? Maybe it was the doctors appointment earlier that day with a cervix check, or probably it was just that time... (To toot my own horn, I predicted to Brandie that she'd be born on Festivus, Dec. 23rd about a week or two prior).

I wanted to capture the important memory here. Maybe Libby will enjoy reading about it one day, or maybe we can remind her of the ordeal if she ever misbehaves. :-D

  • Tuesday 12/22/2009, around 6pm: Brandie starts feeling contractions. They are irregular and about 45min. apart. We thought they are probably Braxton-Hicks (aka "false labor") contractions.
  • 8pm-Midnight: Contractions start becoming more intense and regular, coming closer to 5min. apart. Brandie is needing to bend over to bear through the pain. After calling a nurse at the hospital, we are told she's is in labor and can come in when we're ready.
  • Wednesday 12/23/2009, Midnight-1am: We spent some time packing up and trying to relax, but we dreaded the car ride to Roseville with worse contractions so drove to the hospital. They put us in a small room and Brandie in an uncomfortable bed strapped to monitors. After she starts screaming "I NEED OUT OF THIS $*&%$-ing BED!", they decide to admit her even though she was only 3cm dilated... figuring she was ramping up quickly.
  • 3-6am: Brandie battled contractions like a warrior. They took a lot out of her, but we did lots of positions and massage which helped. Sometime around 4am she wanted to take the birth ball into the shower. I sat down on the sofa and passed out. She somehow had the birth ball over the shower drain, and when Brandie woke me up I had no idea where I was and the room had slightly flooded. The nurses called in janitors to mop it up.
  • 6-8am: At this point Brandie was around 6cm. She was so exhausted, that we both layed down to rest for a bit and the contractions eased slightly.
  • 8-11am: After the rest, Brandie had gained a second wind. We started moving around to get contractions progressing again. The midwives at Kaiser were absolutely awesome (especially one named Gina) in supporting us. At some point, Brandie vowed "This is the last kid!". The midwives were amused and said they'd like to ask her after it's all over.
  • 11am-2pm: - Brandie was about 8cm dilated. After talking with midwives, we decided to break her amniotic sac to increase the contractions. She went through intense contractions and eventually reached 8-9cm around noon, and 10cm around 2pm.
  • 2pm: - The pushing starts. The nurses tell her "push like you gotta poop", and Brandie says she's afraid she's going to.
  • 3pm: - We can see the top of the head. At this point, Brandie is really tired and says things like "I think I'm going to die" and "Pull her out of me!". At a few points she loses her vision because she was pushing so hard. They give her an oxygen mask to help.
  • 3:53pm: - Liberty is born. The moment she's given to us is filled with relief and tears of joy. Holding Liberty for the first time, I knew my life had changed forever and had been given a new purpose (sounds cliché I know, but it's true). I went out to share the news with her happy grandparents in the waiting room.
If I learned anything about the birth process, it's that nature rules. Almost every mother we talked to advocated epidurals/pitosin/etc, and you have to wonder about the benefits of these drugs when humans have been giving natural births for a million years. The midwives and nurses all expressed utmost respect for Brandie's strength and commitment to bear the pain. One nurse said afterwards "You've done such a beautiful thing for this baby, not bringing her into the world with poison". When we were moved to the recovery room, the nurse was surprised "Wow, this is like a real baby.... not drugged up or anything". The evolved natural process can't be beat. That goes for breastfeeding as well (vs. formula). I'm so happy my wife feels the same.

Recovery & Coming Home

After giving birth, they move you into a recovery room. It's a little smaller, but you have your baby in there so nothing matters too much. Nurses and doctors come in every so often poking and prodding the baby. That first night, I was constantly amazed watching her and holding her. You almost feel afraid to handle a new baby. They seem so fragile, but my father reminded me that after the ordeal of labor... they can't be that fragile.

We were looking forward to leave on Christmas Eve, but a nurse told us during that day "they hadn't observed enough feedings". We replied "WHAT?!" and were pretty upset, since NO ONE told us we needed to call in a nurse to observe the breast feedings. Brandie and I said we would be leaving if that was their only concern. The nurse said they'd have to call Child Protective Services if we decided to leave against recommendation and that "we wouldn't want that on our record". I snapped back "Well this is ironic... her name IS Liberty after all." Anyways, we came home on Christmas. I suppose that is Liberty's first experience with a little bit of tyranny. If only we could get free market health care reform like tort reform instead of communist ObamaCare... then hospitals wouldn't need to operate with under such ridiculous policy in fear of litigation.

We were so happy to come home on Christmas. It was the best Christmas ever. No more doctors poking and prodding. A new family and new life to start, with a new decade around the corner. Welcome home Liberty!

Comrade Santa

Why do parents lie to their kids, telling them there is a magic man who gives gifts to all the good children in the world? Is Santa just religion for kids? (religion being a set of supernatural beliefs designed to encourage specific attitudes and behavior) Perhaps topics like the soul, creation, and afterlife are too serious for children - so Jesus was reinvented as grandpa in a fuzzy red suit rewarding with toys instead of eternal life in heaven. As a parent, I'll have to decide whether I will participate in the Santa lie. I suppose it's part of our culture, it engages children's' imagination, and Christmas can be fun. I guess those are all good things.

We may outgrow believing in Santa, but we don't outgrow vulnerability to other myths, fallacies, and biases. We are basically talking primates after all, so "to err is human". Karl Marx called religion the "opium of the people". Ironically, Marx called on people to give up "religious illusions", while he perpetuated economic illusions like the labor theory of value. Both religion and Marxism deny truths.... whether it be evolution or economics. Religion has heaven. Marxism has a stateless, classless society. Americans commonly fall for their own set of political myths and fallacies. The "appeal to tradition" fallacy: accepting that government must provide schools/freeways/health care/post/etc, because that's how it's been done. People want to have faith in a powerful protector: be it Santa, Jesus, or Government. People want to imagine that government provides things for "free", by magic the same way Santa and his elves provide presents.

If you support socialism for altruistic reasons... so be it. Just don't try to convince me it's practical or justifiable if your cognitive dissonance has convinced you so. Deadweight loss is an unavoidable truth with any government intervention. Public services crowd out private services, destroying jobs and competition. Subsidies create overconsumption, driving up prices. All of these also limit choice and quality... not to mention the tax burden. Keynes and Marx were the witch doctors of economics.... building a political-economic religion advocating looting. If you choose to be cognitively lazy, considering benefits of "free" public services without fully examining the costs and consequences... go right ahead. You might as well believe in Santa too.

Neighborhood associations run amok

So, I live in Southside Park neighborhood. I like the area a lot... and since I've lived here, I've kept in the loop with the neighborhood association (SPNA). I even volunteered for the board of SPNA one year. I'm going to vent a bit here about my experiences with this organization. I suppose someone from SPNA may somehow come across this blog post & have issue with it. So be it. I've voiced these concerns there to some chagrin, and am merely reiterating them in more detail here.

I'll start by describing a bit about how SPNA runs. There is a Yahoo Group where open online/e-mail discussion occurs. There is also a monthly meeting. There is a board of (about four) who meet in addition to that. My issue with the SPNA is that there are a few (one in particular) person who devote significant time and energy on getting involved with any issue in the area and representing a position to the City or media on behalf of SPNA. The problem is... repeatedly, the communication to the City or media "on behalf of SPNA" seems to be greater than the communication to the actual residents in the neighborhood. The other fact to note... the individual lives in "co-housing", which is a commune style set of homes in the middle of a city block - very different from the way most of us live. So, "SPNA" is somewhat of a farce... one or a few people driving their own agendas. My neighbor who's lived in the area longer wholeheartedly agrees, and stopped involvement because of this.

Here are just a few examples of issues I've had conflict with SPNA on:

Online Voting
I have voiced concern over the renegade representation... requesting that SPNA use Yahoo Groups voting/poll feature as a requirement before representing the neighborhood. This was met with resistance, and the board members stated that only meetings & the board truly represent the neighborhood. *laugh* Hardly... just because someone is in the extraordinary circumstance that they have time to meet in-person every month doesn't mean you get to speak for the all the busy property owners in the neighborhood.

Broadway Bridge
The "co-housing" is on 5th St, a one way street heading north from Broadway into downtown. For a long time, people around Sacramento have suggested that a Broadway bridge would help develop the riverfront and improve the blight along west Broadway next to our neighborhood. When this issue was being considered, I read in the paper that SPNA was against a Broadway Bridge. WHAT? No discussion or poll had been done. This was another case of co-housing NIMBY's along 5th St serving themselves rather than the whole neighborhood and speaking on our behalf.

Green Waste Bins
The same co-housing folks don't have "claw" leaf pickup, and they don't really have trees or leaves to rake. The same individuals contacted City Utilities and drove a change to move our neighborhood to green waste bins. Many residents have been outraged by the change, since bins don't make sense in the city. Read more about my thoughts on that here.

Other stuff
I am a proponent of freedom to develop the area. SPNA seems to support the dozens of approvals and bureaucracy, such as Historic Preservation Committee, that any person must navigate before changing anything on their house - let alone building a new house on an empty lot! Hell, last year there was a decrepit rotting building causing blight on S St, and the SPNA renegades actually tried to fight the City and save the building! Another time, a convenience store across from Old Ironsides had changed ownership and the new owner was removing these ugly tiles from the side of the building. The SPNA individual proudly announced on the Yahoo Group that they had reported the incident to the City, as permission wasn't granted to remove the tiles! The clubhouse in Southside Park is used for SPNA meetings and when the Sacramento Police Department wanted to use the clubhouse certain evenings for peer counseling... the SPNA folks raised a territorial raucous of concern. It's not theirs.

Although I've agreed with SPNA on some issues, there have been and will be other conflicts. If I live here long enough and get irked enough, I may take things into my own hands. I could walk the streets of the neighborhood with fliers for a new organization... say "Southside Park Representation Committee" which would actually poll/vote on these issues to let the City know how we really feel. Or I suppose I could just make it a one man club of myself, and it would be nearly as viable as SPNA in terms of representing the neighborhood.

Spoiled brats

I was thinking about the concept of parenting... probably since I'll have to face that role soon. My thought is: parenting is analogous to any relationship in society where one person/group (the guardian) is responsible for another person/group (the subjects).
  • Parent-Child:
    The parent is responsible for the behavior of the child and for providing for its basic needs.
  • Supervisor-Employee:
    The supervisor is responsible for the employee's work, setting expectations and fairly compensating them for performance.
  • Government-Citizen:
    The government is responsible for protecting it's citizens from threat of foreign invasion and enforcing equal law among citizens.
In each case, the guardian must determine a set of rules to apply towards their subjects. Applying these rules will involve reward or discipline of the subjects based on their behavior. So, what happens in any one of these relationships when the guardian is inconsistent in applying the rules? What happens when the guardian is influenced by whining, swaying on the rules and principles? In each case, the subject would become a spoiled brat... someone who's been taught 'the squeaky wheel gets the oil', and that the guardian doesn't uphold a consistent set of principles (such as rewarding work with payment, or supporting property rights). Most private companies will not survive if they operate this way, so spoiled brats don't thrive there. However, you will see lots of whiney spoiled brat employees in public sector or government protected union jobs. You also will find spoiled brats in a nation where the government has decided to provide "free" services for citizens. You see this today in every protest against the government cutting socialist services. You see it amongst the public health care supporters. The "Nanny State" is a bad parent, and raising a nation of whiney spoiled brats. It's time for government to get back to it's proper role and stand for consistent rules and principles... like any good parent or supervisor.

My 20 Point Political Manifesto

  1. A person owns their own life and property.
  2. To initiate force upon another is immoral.
  3. Force is denying another a choice for their own life or property, whether by aggression or fraud.
  4. A right is something you have naturally, not something given to you.
  5. Equality means equal rights, not equal property.
  6. A free market drives competition and innovation, benefitting all.
  7. Government intrusion in trade creates market distortions, deadweight loss, and black markets.
  8. A literal monopoly can only permanently exist when supported by government.
  9. The end does not justify the means.
  10. Collectivism is immoral; a form of theft by looting another's property.
  11. Collectivism and freedom cannot coexist.
  12. Collectivism is supported by blame and jealousy.
  13. Government's moral purpose is to protect individual liberty with common justice and defense.
  14. Any government activity beyond protection of liberty is an immoral initiation of force.
  15. Democracy is "mob rule", which is why the USA's founders created a Constitutional Republic to protect individual liberty.
  16. The US Constitution's intent was to limit the federal government, reserving powers to the state or the people.
  17. The US Government has ignored the intent of the Constitution, growing into tyrannical socialism and corporatism.
  18. The US Government's immoral actions have hurt freedom and distorted the markets in areas like education and health care.
  19. An immoral government will never limit it's own power, unless driven to by it's people.
  20. A people will never have a moral government unless they uphold the principle of liberty themselves.

Will Blog For Free Stuff

I read this in the news today. I just wanted to announce to any companies out there... send me some freebies. I'll be your product whore in the name of free speech. (I prefer shiny new techno-gadgets please). If I could be the first blogger to be fined $11,000 for blogging...I think that's a good one to go down for in the name of civil disobedience.

Don't Be A Pussy

Brandie & I had a beautiful weekend in Carmel celebrating our 1-year anniversary. Friday we put our name in for lunch at Dametra Cafe. Another couple ("Lara", photo right) put their name in after us. Without going into detail.. they knew we were ahead of them, but when a table cleared she asked the waitress "Can we have this table?" as she started to sit down. I said "Actually, I'll take this table" and the waitress checked our names. As they passed I said "Yeah, you could see we were before you.". They were led back to a jammed corner table, and the waitress gave me soup on the house.

We've all faced those situations where some stranger cuts in line, steals your parking spot, or otherwise violates what you consider to be social etiquette. In each circumstance, we are faced with a choice:
  1. Defend civility
  2. Be a pussy
I firmly believe that unless there is risk of physical harm, it is one's moral imperative to confront/reciprocate against douchebaggery. I'll admit... I've erred on the side of danger in the past. I confronted some guys I thought were dumping a car in my neighborhood one night (later to find out they lived around the corner). My actions will definitely err on the side of caution now that I'll have a child. Still, in 95% of cases, I believe there is no excuse for playing the pussy card, whether it be "creating a scene", "embarrassing your friends", or "being outnumbered". Deep down inside a douchebag KNOWS they are being a douchebag and will withdraw in discomfort as you stand up to them for what's right. Other than getting your ass beat by a cracked-out gangbanger... there is no excuse for avoiding your responsibility to demand civility from those around you. To do otherwise is cowardice, plain and simple - and I shame anyone who fails to do so.

Here are some simple guidelines I recommend one follows when combating douchebaggery:
  • Don't jump to conclusions. There ARE cases when it's more about brainlessness than cheating. E.g. that moron who humps the Starbucks barista stand immediately after ordering... ignoring the people standing around waiting before him. Then he grabs your drink and gets his stupidness all over it! Don't get me wrong - this is still being a douchebag. It's just slightly less of a douchebag than someone who steals your drink.... so don't yell quite as loud.
  • An eye for an eye. Don't ever key someone's car because they stole your parking spot. That's an arm and leg for an eye. Once a dude arrogantly stole my parking spot in Arden Fair Mall. I returned the favor by filling a cup with a sticky-sugar concoction and dumping it over his car. His cleaning effort was roughly equivalent to my effort put out by the entire ordeal.
  • Shame & embarrassment are your friends. If someone cuts in line, chances are you are not the only one who noticed. However, you may be the only non-pussy in line. If you confront the person, everyone else will send you psychic high-fives. Perhaps you may even inspire others to not be pussies.
  • Google Karma. If at all possible, get photos and full names of douchebags when you encounter them. Post them on your Facebook/blog. You never know... someone they know might see it, or find them on a Google name search!
A few more examples...

One of Brandie's friends had a birthday party at BJ's in Folsom last year. The place was packed and some party of 6 lied saying they were our reservation of 10 for "Mike". There was no mistake... only one reservation existed for "Mike". I could not believe everyone in our party just wanted to let it go. It bothered me so much I asked where they were sitting, went over to their table and chided them for stealing our reservation. They sat there mostly speechless.

Another time... on a pub crawl, we stopped for eats at Brew It Up (in the bar section mind you). Some guy came over and asked one of my friends to 'keep it down". He wasn't being overly loud. I told the guy to "fuck off", then yelled at him after he went back to his table "Fuck off" and flipped him off. Okay, not my wittiest moment... but I think he got the point.

Douchebags aren't just encountered at restuarants, finding parking spots, or waiting in line. I once had a boss at work who was playing favorites. I confronted him, asking for equal promotion. After getting the run-around, I opened an HR case on him requesting civil service procedures be followed with objective criteria for promotions. After they tested us, I got the promotion... and have perceived a higher level of respect since (that boss is long gone).

The list could go on....

Don't be a pussy. Don't be that person that retaliates inward with resentment, only later to think "Yeah, I should have said THAT." You must defend the principles of civility. To do anything less is to not respect yourself. First, have your own principles. Second, stand up for them. We all have the responsibility to make this world a better place. Don't let in the drivers who fail to signal. Tell people who talk too loud on their cell phones to be quiet. Follow people who don't pick up their dog poop home, and shit on their front porch. I guarantee you will feel your angst transform into self-respect.

Why public health care is stupid.

I just don't think people understand this health care issue. Radical reform is being pushed so hard so fast by the left, that no one has even had time to educate the public on the facts. I watched Michael Moore's "Sicko" a few years ago, and I have to admit I found it a compelling case for socialized health care. He painted a picture of greedy private health care providers robbing dying Americans VS. a social program serving the "public good". Only recently when health care reform has taken the spotlight have I taken the time to research & examine this issue. Apparently, "Sicko" was an extremely biased and rosy picture of socialized health care... showing the Cuban hospital rooms for the 'elite', instead of the actual barbaric care most people get.

I'd sum up the arguments of public health care advocates as:
  • Greedy insurance/pharma companies rip off Americans
  • Health care is a "right"
  • Countries with socialized health care have better care than us

All of the above are false. The real results of a public plan will be:
  • Health care quality will decrease
  • Our tax burden will increase
  • Private providers will be put out of business by taxpayer-supported govt. competition
I will attempt to explain why below...

sickle and caduceus public socialized health care

Everyone supporting reform points out that health care inflation has risen four times the rate of other services in the past few decades. Why? Let's look at a few facts:
  • Health care costs are rising in both US and Canada, so we can't blame the free-market for this inflation.
  • Our government spends the most per-capita on health care of any country in the world *
  • Medical procedures not covered by third-parties (e.g. lasik, plastic surgery) have not suffered this inflation *
  • Of those "greedy" insurers that rake in obscene profits, the ones that do Medicare/Medicaid reap the most profit? *
  • Even Obama & his experts have admitted that Medicare/Medicaid spending are primarily responsible for health care inflation *
See how you feel about Medicare & Medicaid after watching this? These programs should be drastically cut back, if not replaced with private health saving accounts. The goal of state politicians is to pull federal money into the state... they are not concerned with accountability. A public plan only worsens the existing problems.

Spending is only part of the puzzle. Is it any wonder that big insurance & big pharma are reinvesting their profits as the largest lobbying force in Washington? The health industry is the most heavily regulated. Bills and regulations are crafted by these companies under a guise of protecting patients, yet they squash competition and consumer choice with things like Patient Bill of Rights. What are ways consumer choice & competition could drop health care costs?
  • What if you could find a good doctor & sign a non-liability form with them.... so, he/she wouldn't have to purchase expensive liability insurance which is passed onto you? Not allowed!
  • What if nurse practitioners could setup clinics for basic care, where you could go for cheap treatment of basic problems? Not allowed!
  • What if there were less controls on the types of arrangements you could enter with health providers, and less restrictions on who could practice medicine? Not allowed!
  • The costs of health regulation outweigh their benefits by two to one, meaning that the total burden of health regulation in the United States, as of 2002, was $169.1 billion annually, or an average of $1,500 per family
  • reference for above
We all know that government operated entities do a lousy job. Does anyone really think that something this complicated or this complicated can work?

Tort reform would make a great blog post, but a few facts related to health care:
  • Litigation costs are 10 times higher in the US. E.g. maternity suits are common and juries are very sympathetic to dead babies, regardless of fault. *
  • Since 1975, medical malpractice costs have risen four times as fast as general price inflation and twice as fast as medical price inflation. *
For those who think public health care will provide quality... don't watch Sicko, just ask a real Canadian. Profit & competition breeds innovation. Bureaucracy & regulation just breed deadweight loss. The populist mob reads the headlines & want a sirloin steak at McDonald's prices. I guess they don't care if they have to take other people's money or reduce doctors pay to get that.... they just don't understand the consequences. What if we didn't have innovation in health care in recent past? We'd still be bleeding out with leeches. Any American has better health care provided by $5 spent at aisle #4 of Rite-Aid than King Henry VIII had! So is health care a right, or a responsibility? Does every American deserve the best medical advancements and technology available? Then there will be no more advancements.

A public plan WILL compete with private, and ultimately hurt them and their quality. What would happen if the public plan led to a public monopoly? Now, your life choices become a burden on society & the state. Let's outlaw smoking, drinking, french fries, require motorcycle helmets. Oops, guess we're already part-way there. Say we had a 100% effective cure for cancer... except it cost $500,000 per person. In a public health care system, who would get that & who would decide who gets it? What if it cost $100... or what if it cost $100 million? I'd rather have a bureaucrat I CHOOSE, rather than one assigned to me which I have no choice but to pay.

10 Most Annoying Radio Hits of My Life

I'm sure there were some really stupid songs before I was born... even as I was a tot growing up (e.g. "Barracuda" by Heart). However, these are the songs that scarred me & made my brain shrink. I couldn't escape them on the radio/MTV during their hay day.

I still hate them... yet for some masochistic reason I listen to them and laugh whenever they come on (especially if Brandie is in the car... then I proclaim "it's my favorite song of all time" & sing along). These songs are either digustingly cheerful, or moronically simple lyrically/melodically. I still wonder why they were played so often... was it a conspiracy of some kind, or does the general populace really have standards so low? We may never know. Here's the list:
  1. I'll Be There For You (Theme from Friends),The Rembrandts
  2. New Low, Middle Class Rut
  3. Womanizer, Britney Spears
  4. I Go Blind, Hootie and the Blowfish
  5. Spaceman, The Killers
  6. I Can't Dance, Genesis
  7. Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley (My opinion must be shared... hence the "rickroll")
  8. Dancing on the Ceiling, Lionel Richie
  9. Remedy, Jason Mraz
  10. Too Legit, MC Hammer
Oh... of course there are more than ten, and I'm sure there will be many more to come in my life.

Open Government

One of the things I liked about Obama during his campaign were his promises for transparency, accountability, and "open government". What a refreshing change from Bush's closed, secretive, and non-inclusive adminstration. Unfortunately, Obama has not stuck to his word - whether it be classified documents or lobbying. I guess it's still "business as usual"... even when our congresswoman Matsui calls the White House to get IG Walpin fired so Mayor Kevin Johnson gets Sacramento's share of stimulus money. Later today, I'm going to join some locals to show support for H.R. 1207 "Audit the Federal Reserve" for Sunshine Day. This bill has been stuck in committee regardless of it's large number of co-sponsors, yet Obama is pressuring congress to rush his 1000 page health care reform bill to a vote without time for analysis, discussion or even reading it! There are so many examples of government without oversight: GSE's like Fannie & Freddie, the Federal Reserve, Obama's unelected "czars".

As they say "sunshine is the best disinfectant", and if government eventually opens up all it's information and data for us to reliably expose what they're doing... that'd be excellent. Until then, there are some terrific websites out there for this purpose:

Intelligender doesn't work.

So Brandie is 17 1/2 weeks pregnant.. nearly halfway along.

First - a product review of Intelligender. To be a good netizen consumer, I hereby submit to the Google Index that this product doesn't work. Brandie and I tried it out of curiousity. It says it is "urine analysis with a proprietary mix of chemicals reacting with hormones to determine the gender of your baby" (sounds kinda pseudo-science eh?) Our doctor said two other parents tried it and it was wrong in both cases. When we tried it, the pee turned to a murky mix that at our best guess seemed like the boy color. The result is probably more due to what you ate for dinner than the gender of the baby.

Today, we found out we will be having a girl! Finding out what my first child will be is exciting... if not a bit scary. I grew up with one brother, so raising a girl will be new territory. At least I've gotten to watch my brother go first...

Now that we know... the name games can begin. I have some very straightforward criteria for naming my child:
  1. The name must be a classic, american, & timeless (e.g. no trendy names to be common in the Class of 2028 fraternities & sororities - like Kip or Heather of '92)
  2. The full name must evoke proper consonance & rhythm when spoken (e.g. sixth sick sheikh = bad; crack apple jack = good)
  3. Last but not least, the name must be rooted in a story and meaning (e.g. an ancestor or inspiring person)
When we didn't know boy/girl.. some of the boy names I liked were Andrew, Anderson (my mother's maiden), or some heroic, liberty rooted names like Clint, Wyatt, Jackson, Freeman, Jefferson, or Henry.

Now that we know it's a girl... there is one name that stands out for me: Sophie Ann Vincent (Brande prefers 'Sophia'). Ann is Brandie's mother's middle name (and part of Anderson). Sophie is a beautiful name... and inspired by Sophie Scholl - a brave girl who died at Nazi hands when she was captured pamphleteering against them. The name means "wisdom". We'll see.. it's still early & we may be inspired by a different name idea. Whatever her name will be, I'm looking forward to meet my baby girl!

UPDATE 9/9/2009:

According to the Social Security website, Sophia is in the top 10 popular baby names right now (#3 in California). That breaks my rule #1 on not being a "Heather/Jennifer/Amy" of the future. After going back to the drawing board, I must say we've agreed to the perfect name... I love it more than Sophia. It's classic, timeless, and deeply meaningful to me. It took some convincing with Brandie, but I conceded she'll have final name on the next baby. To be announced when she's born....

Free speech & the Internet

The news media loves showing how "hip" they are these days by constantly talking about Twitter. It's kind of funny actually, because we almost don't need the news anymore since you can track current events and memes in the blogosphere and twittersphere. Yesterday Michael Jackson died, and within minutes the tag "#michaeljackson" was at the top of the website's Rising Trends list.

The Internet changes the world in a lot of ways. It really is revolutionary if you think about it. I would compare the Internet to a technological catalyst such as the printing press. Gutenburg invented the printing press in 1445, allowing the collective knowledge of humanity to be spread throughout the masses. The Dark Ages was a time known for repression by religious dogma and despotic rulers. Literacy took Europe out of the "Dark Ages" into the "Renaissance" (roughly the 14th - 17th centuries) where culture, science and philosophy expanded. Martin Luther sparked the protestant revolution by nailing his printed 95 Theses to the doors of churches in 1517. Our founding fathers were inspired by the printed pages of thinkers before them like John Locke and Thomas Paine, who supported inalienable rights and representative government.

The Internet multiplies the spread of ideas. We may be on the cusp of a second renaissance, which will be fueled by 1) unlimited access to information by all, and 2) "crowd-sourcing" becoming the new efficient standard for growth of ideas. Youth in Internet cafes around the world now have Google and Wikipedia, which can provide a better education than most U.S. public schools. Interest groups organize and communicate instantly. Ideas aren't merely filtered by a news network of talking heads, instead they spread virally across blogs, tweets, and Facebook networks. Sure, there is a lot of crap to sort through... like inane blabber about reality TV - but that's just muck in the sea of diverse ideas. The Internet's potential resides in it's unfettered openness.

Now, here's the scary part. The Internet is a new phenomenon, which makes it a prime target for bureaucrats and statesmen who are eager to control it. The FCC already has it's regulatory tentacles wrapped around traditional media - censoring what can be said when & how. Thus far, the Internet is the wild west... pretty much anything goes. Americans may not be surprised when oppressive government in China filters internet use, but most people don't realize so-called 'free states' in Europe are also creeping this direction... just look at France and Germany. Politicians will of course use a premise such as "child pornography" or "homeland security" to justify these intrusions, but what most non-techie people don't understand is that ISP filtering gives government a censor button for the entire Internet (a dangerous level of power).

We may not have to worry here in the USA right? We all trust our government implicitly to not violate this power. Well, history should always be a gentle reminder to cozy Americans that eventually... the State and the People tend to disagree. Let's check out a few current examples where the Internet is already becoming a game-changer:

First, there's this guy, Rodrigo Rosenburg. He was assassinated by the Guatemalan President.... he just had someone post-humously post his testimony on YouTube. This incident triggered huge protests in Guatemala. Someone was even arrested for Twittering.

Also in the news this month, huge protests in Iran over election fraud. SMS (text message) networks mysteriously shut down during the election, perhaps a way for the State to squash any attempts at flash mob rebellion. Yet, they couldn't be quieted with alternatives like Twitter and YouTube available. The world gets an inside look at Iran's oppression, which must make the regime quite uncomfortable.

These examples demonstrate the Internet empowering the People. This is why it's critical that we protect it's openness, and prevent any kind of ISP filtering or censorship. This month in South Carolina, the Governor skipped town to visit his Argentinian mistress, while the Attorney General attacked Craigslist for it's sexy ads. Should we allow these people to control our choices? I've come across observations that the Internet is highly libertarian - perhaps because more intelligent people comprehend the economic and moral value of liberty, and also recognize that the Internet is a means to fight for liberty.

Time Travel Movies

Ok, I watched this weird time travel movie tonight on the Roku, called Truecrimes. It got me thinking about how many different flavors of time-travel movies are out there. Time-travel movies are cool, because they must make philosophical assumptions about fate, paradox, and even plural realities.

A great line from a South Park episode:
[at the time portal. News vans, reporters and scientists, one in a space suit, gather around and marvel at the portal] Aaron, I'm standing at the time border which scientists say follow Terminator rules. That is, it's one way only and you can't go back. This is in contrast, say, to Back To The Future rules, where back and forth is possible, and of course, Timerider rules, which are just plain silly. Anyway, it appears that the man from the future is here to stay.

First off, I have to say... I don't believe time-travel is possible. Nothing surpasses the cosmic speed limit, c. Worm holes and space-time curvature are wild exaggerations that help describe a theory, but there's no reason to believe it's possible to tear space-time. Still, it's a fun conversation topic for the logical and philisophical implications.

Back to the Future has a memorable scene (oddly one of my wife's favorites) where Marty McFly literally fades transparent as his parents almost don't hook up. Even if the effects were cheesy, it shows the writers relied on a single linear timeline. Apparently, even if Marty from Timeline-A travels back and prevents his own birth thereby erasing Timeline-A, the new Timeline-B would still become a new permanent timeline. A bit of a paradox, but hey it comes with the territory and those were a fun series of movies!

The Terminator movies got a bit more into destiny, and a lot more into paradox. SkyNET and the machines travelled back to kill Sarah Connor, who would give birth to the leader against the machines, John Connor. The trippy part was: John Connor sent Kyle Reese back to save his mom, and Kyle Reese has sex with John's mom becoming John's biological father. So, one must assume... some timeline must have originally caused Kyle Reese to go back and hook up with Sarah Connor for John to have ever existed. Either that, or Sarah Connor had some serious machine-ass-kicking genes... and she birthed a John Connor by another man in an original timeline who led the fight against machines.

Now, there's a whole category of time-travel stories that are pretty ridiculous - the "go back and fix it" premise. Superman: The Movie has one at the end where Superman flies around the Earth (presumeably > c) to save Lois. Star Trek IV has one where they go back to get a humpback whale because a whale-song-loving-alien is threatening Earth. It's amusing that they fly around the Sun (presumeably > c) to travel backwards, then conveniently do the same thing to return to the future. It's all worth it to hear Spock cuss though. I wouldn't call Groundhog Day a time-travel flick... it's more of a deja vu scenario.
Time Cop is probably the worst time-travel movie ever. Not only are the characters going back and interacting with their past selves without altering their memories or the timeline. They switch to 'Back to the Future' rules when the past-villain gets a cut, and the scar appears on the future-villain's face. Then they change the rules again at the end of the movie after Jean-Claude Van Damme's character prevents his past-wife's death. He returns to the future to find he has children with his wife he has no recollection of. If there's one thing that makes a bad time-travel movie, it's inconsistency of applying the rules.

There are so many great time-travel flicks. I haven't even talked about Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys, Butterfly Effect. Then there's more bad ones like Bill & Ted. (How come the 80's were such a big decade for these films though?) The movie I watched tonight, Truecrimes, is worthwhile for anyone who likes time-travel flicks. It had a bit of chicken-egg dilemma in it, but taught the same important lesson as most time-travel movies: Just don't mess with time-travel, it ain't worth the trouble it will cause!

Perverting "Equality"

Equal rights! Equal rights!
Those who are at a disadvantage should get special help!
Everything must be fair.

We can all agree slavery is evil. No one should be forced to act behind the barrel of a gun. Life, liberty, property - these are the rights every person must have equal protection of. However, our culture and media are always debating 'equal rights' issues. At what point does it all go too far?

I've heard women at work argue that females need to be promoted in the workplace. I've heard complaints about our 'male-dominated society'. Are these accusations true? Let's not forget: men have a penis, and women have a vagina. Testosterone pumps through the hearts of aggro-macho-competitive males, shortening their lifespan. Men are tuned to compete harder, in order to acquire the power and resources that attract females. Sure there will be Joan of Arcs and Hillary Clintons in the world - but women, by nature, will never be equal in status and power to men on average. If equality is forced by regulation based on guilt and ideals, we'll suffer negative social consequences. Let there be inequality. It's natural.

What about minorities? There are many racist people in the world. Regulations like "affirmative action" have been sought by minorities to make things more fair. However, who really gets hurt when a business hires a less qualified person based on racism? The business only hurts itself. What explains the fact that most I.T. departments employ many eastern Indians? These 'colored' people didn't get the job by affirmative action, but by being highly skilled and industrious workers. Affirmative Action, like rent controls or subsidies, create an economic 'dead weight-loss' where everybody loses.

Today the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, restricting marriage to be between a man and woman. I'm not going to preach on that. I've already voiced my thoughts on Prop 8 aftermath.

Today, the Court said:
"Proposition 8 does not by any means "repeal" or "strip" gay individuals or same-sex couples of the very significant substantive protections afforded by the state equal protection clause either with regard to the fundamental rights of privacy and due process or in any other area, again with the sole exception of access to the designation of "marriage" to describe their relationship."

Again, we had a minority group whining "no fair" that they didn't have equal rights. They don't really care about the fact that 'civil unions' are the same as marriage, and they don't even want to fight that fight. They want the word "marriage", and nothing less, claiming they are 'separate but equal'. The gay/straight-marriage-equality debate is invalidated with the same dose of reality as the male/female-equality debate: biology & nature. When two things are not the same, they shouldn't necessarily be treated the same. Penis-vagina. Let the Boy Scouts keep the girls out & vice-versa.

Perverting "equality" is what this all comes down to. American culture is infected with an ugly sense of victimization and entitlement. When any group is hurt by circumstances or jealous of another group, their first course of action is to cry "no fair" to the Nanny-State, which adjusts the rules until the whiner is appeased. The loser in the race always cries that the winner cheated. We correct government meddling with more meddling. We fight the wrong fights and ask the wrong questions, because no one ever asks "What is government's proper role?" Sadly, most Americans think it's ridiculous to ask: "Shouldn't government just stay out of marriage in the first place?" We're so caught up in twisting the system in our favor, that most of us forget what the system is supposed to be: protector of rights, not granter of rights.

Jesus Christ, Vampire bats, and Ayn Rand

What do Jesus Christ, vampire bats, and Ayn Rand all have in common? No, there isn't a bad punchline.. and no, I'm not blogging about Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. What they have in common is... they all say something about altruism.

First, let's examine two differing moral philosophies: Jesus' Christianity & Rand's Objectivism.

Jesus Christ taught 'the meek shall inherit the earth', and 'to turn the other cheek'. Christ taught that a rich man cannot enter heaven. He died on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Of course, all of this is held irrefutable coming as the word of God. Altruism and self-sacrifice are a central theme in christian morality.

Ayn Rand, the philosopher who founded Objectivism, taught that self-sacrifice and altruism are immoral. This derives from the logic that we are rational beings, and 'man is an end unto himself, not a means to the end of others'. Therefore, the pursuit of our own happiness and self-interest is the highest moral purpose. Capitalism and voluntary trade is the ideal social environment, where every person has a right to choose and be protected from force or fraud.

I got to thinking on this topic after a family discussion about morality and law... where it was argued that religion is the foundation of morality in our country. You see, many people think our country was founded on judeo-christian values. This connection comes from references to "god-given, inalienable rights". There lies my problem. There is an inherit danger in labeling the source of our liberties as a 'natural law', or 'gift from God'... because a religious, mystical source has no substance. It can be created out of thin air as easily as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Rand's philosophy is unique because she uses reason, logic, and axioms to deduce that individualism is the ideal morality. Within her framework, standards of sacrifice and altruism have no logical moral value.

We each have different individual morality. Our society's rule of law forms from social standards of morality. For example in the Muslim middle-east, law prescribes religious practice. In our religiously tolerant USA, religion has less legal influence (although some, remember Prop 8?). Our individual morality comes from our individual philosophy. So what's more admirable? A morality based on supernatural dogma & mysticism, or a morality based on philosophy & rationality? The latter is, since it can be applied consistently based on reason and logic.

To complete this comparison of religious/christian morality vs. objectivist morality... I'll address the first criticism most people would pose: 'Objectivism sounds selfish and unfeeling. Christians must be more warm and giving people because they value charity, right?' Here's where vampire bats come in.

Surprisingly, vampire bats are highly altruistic creatures. Interesting studies have shown these bats to feed each other when starving. Is this caused by guilt, shame, love, or charity? Such emotions are merely the same bio-chemical responses that modify behavior in both humans and animals alike. These bats learn to trust those that fed them before, and remember 'cheaters' that don't reciprocate. Bats have no moral code, they perform this behavior because it works in their social structure and eco-system. These bats aren't christian.

Humans have no monopoly on charity or altruism, and religion has no monopoly on morality. We learn many hard lessons in life... like lying and cheating are not worth the trouble they cause. Religion often does a nice job of packaging these bits of wisdom into digestible chunks like commandments or parables. Still, I consider the highest morality one that has a solid foundation. One that can be questioned without fault because it's deduced from a structure of principles and philosophy, rather than mythology and dogma.

This is what we can learn from Jesus, vampire bats, and most of all... Ayn Rand.

The new disco

I recall watching a documentary about the 1970's on History Channel or somewhere recently. One of the interesting aspects of that decade was the birth and death of disco music. Disco must have started out as a great dancing, upbeat, positive, new sound to celebrate. The interesting cultural transition happened with the Disco Sucks movement, and the restoration of rock & roll by angry macho white people everywhere. Did disco jump the shark, or did it ever really die? Let's face it.. most big-label music are just bands mimicking the sounds of other recently popular bands. It comes in waves... from disco, to 80's pop, to hair-rock, to grunge, to whatever the hell you call it these days.

All art... whether it be music, news, movies, or fashion are simply bundles of memes replicating across the social-cultural landscape. We just have to hope for sparks of creativity that instigate a new wave of meme mutation & innovation. The disco meme ran it's course eventually.

This brings me to my point: Reality TV is the new disco.

If I could commit "memocide", I might initiate the 'final solution' for reality television. It has become the banality of cable television. It started off to be novel, but is looking like disco in it's final days... re-hashing the same old formulas to the point of desperation, slowly sucking the intelligence from it's audiences by it's lack of substance. I have become devoted to Netflix, the Internet, and a new idea... reading books! That's all due to the fact that 80% of what's on cable television is crap.

Perhaps digital technology is partly to blame for the lack of good programming. They say newspapers are dying, in part due to online blogs/news as a substitute. Similarly, I can see Netflix and DVR systems competing with network programming/advertising enough to force them resort to cheap productions like reality TV. More choices are good. I just am anxiously waiting for a new meme to come along!

Disco sucks! Er, no Reality TV sucks!

Libertarians are the most american.

For a long time, I've felt torn whenever elections come along. I never lean strictly Republican, nor Democrat. I've always felt like I'm voting for the lesser of two evils. After learning more about political philosophy, I've realized this conflict comes from my convictions as a Libertarian. Libertarians are the black sheep of our two-party system. There are few libertarians in elected office, because they never get mainstream party support. Most Americans don't even know what a libertarian is. The two party system is a contradiction, but supports itself nevertheless by polarizing people: godless collectivist democrats vs. religious capitalist republicans. The problem with both sides is that they would have the State force their ideals upon the individual.

Libertarians have one purpose: personal liberty. Some would call this anarchy, and while libertarians are on the spectrum of anarchy they don't believe in no-government, just minimal government. You need basic government to protect individuals from oppressors, both foreign & domestic. The libertarian asks only two things from government: 1) Justice 2) Defense. If someone robs, scams, or breaches contract with you - they have violated your liberty because your property is an extension of your self. So, a justice system serves liberty. Defense protects our liberty from the Hitlers and Stalin's out there who would invade us & burn the constitution that guarantees our liberties.
Libertarians are the furthest away on the political spectrum from authoritarian oppression, whether it be communism, fascism, or democrats or republicans. The U.S. constitution and the ideals of our founding fathers were based on libertarian values. We have lost our way. The fiat currency system and 16th amendment (ratified 1913) have allowed government budget & size to grow obscenely. The political-right would regulate your personal choices it deems immoral, and the political-left would regulate your economic choices it deems unfair.

Neither republicans nor democrats are the friends of libertarians. Our only hope is that we infiltrate these parties with liberty-minded individuals, such as Ron Paul in the Republican party. Speaking of republicans.... they have truly lost their way. These "neo-conservatives" or as I like to call them, "Zionist Oil Mafia", have become as much big-government spenders as the left! Meanwhile, the democrats are trying to "stabilize" the economy. These "representatives" all forget - the economy is the aggregate of our individual labor, production, and trade... not something to be protected by the government. The government would not exist if not for our individual productivity.

This is a great country, but it could be greater. This election past November called for "change". I know that Americans desperately want a new vision and leadership. They want ideals they can grasp and find inspiration in.... they just don't know where to look. There is little or no enlightened leadership in Washington or our culture today. Americans won't find enlightenment on E! or American Idol. Perhaps it's time we rediscover those who were enlightened in our past: John Locke, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau. Perhaps, that is the silver lining in the cloud of an economic depression. All major political upheavals happen after depressions, when hard times force people to re-evaluate everything. Perhaps this keynesian-stagflationary-armageddon that congress is brewing by printing hundreds of billions of dollars will awaken the American yearning for revolution. (They should be reading Friedman, not Keynes). Or perhaps it won't happen until World War 3 begins if the depression leads to government upheavals and idealogical splits (if it happens, I'm betting it'll be around 2013).

All we, the enlightened libertarians, can do is try to spread the ideas and remind fellow americans of these essential truths...

Outlaw French Fries

You'd think the above proposal is preposterous, but there are those who would actually make arguments to restrict your liberties for your own protection. Maybe it's not french fries... maybe it's forcing you to wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle. Maybe it's censoring what you can watch on T.V. Maybe it's preventing you from ending your life if you are painfully ill. So why not outlaw french fries since they're bad for you too?

Government is not our mommy. When it tries to be one, it is weakening the integrity of our culture. Society could be compared to a learning and evolving entity, comprised of memes rather than genes. Can culture be enlightened when it is shaped by laws rather than individual choice? No, it can't and here's an analogy following the meme-gene comparison. Salmon farms/fisheries are known to breed weaker and less healthy fish than wild salmon. The best fish are tainted by the weak and sick fish. Similarly, when government tries to force the right choices on us - our culture and society is weakened itself. That's why I voted against Proposition 8, but still... the government must let society enlighten and monitor itself, not a "Supreme Court". Government is not our cultural mommy.

Government fat. I work in a bureaucratic environment, so I've come to see the vicious circle of how bureacracies grow like parasites on the taxpaying society. It supports it's own existence by creating legistlation which in turn justifies it's growth (finding new ways to "govern" people). Our government approaches the current economic problems with the same mind. Congress is revving up the money printing machine to support it's current programs, rather than reduce the wasteful programs. I don't think many legislators outside of Ron Paul understand economics very well.

Let's take french fries... since we're on the topic. Think of the US dollar like a french fry. Now, imagine I offer you 10 french fries for your tasty hamburger. You say... "No way, my burger is worth at least 20 french fries!". If I were U.S. Congress, I'd say "No problem... " then I'd cut my 10 french fries in half & slide them to you "There's 20 french fries, now give me that burger!". Now, replace burgers with oil or gold and know what this bailout+stimulus packages will do to prices. The dollar is being sliced into smaller pieces.

Even worse, the government had the poor judgement to give the printed money to corporations who've been the shame of our economy: banks and automakers. Recent history review: Step 1) People are foreclosed on by banks and become homeless. Step 2) Government gives money to banks. Something is very wrong here. If the government wants to print money, they could at least distribute it to the taxpayer directly to devalue the dollar more fairly. Obama is sure to have a controversial and difficult presidency. I expect to see socialistic memes like welfare programs on the rise.

I leave you with this interview from Ron Paul who reiterates these ideas...

Live the Tao

I was just upstairs and saw my copy of "Tao Te Ching" looking up at me. Brandie wanted some bedtime reading... so I gave her my copy last week. I picked it up & started flipping it's pages. It had been a while since I've read it.

When I first read "Tao Te Ching", something struck me that is still true today. The Tao describes the perfect form of philosophy, religion, and spirituality for me. There is no need to attend church, or perform rituals, or preach, or pray. Searching for Tao is all one needs to live life.

Here is one translation available online.
If you are looking for a wise words to meditate upon for peace and happiness, read the Tao Te Ching.

Android & The Future of Mobile Computing

It's been a bit wet and dreary out this week. For many, that's a good time to catch up on an old book. For a technophile like myself... it's a good time to deep dive into a new project.

I've been wanting to toy around and learn the Android OS since I got my G1 phone a couple months ago. All the Google services work great on Android: GMail, Calendar, Maps, etc. However, Google has thus far fumbled on a decent "To Do" list. That's why many people like myself are big users of (aka "RTM"). I'm not the first person to wish for an RTM Android app. Their mobile site is okay, but a custom app is a must-have for something you use often. No one seemed to be delivering, so I made the "RTM Tasks" Android app myself (see below), leveraging the RTM API.

The Android API is Java-based. I already know Java so learning the framework wasn't too bad. It's similar to any GUI framework like Swing - all widgets, and handlers. After learning the ins & outs on my first app, I feel like I could turn out another app fairly rapidly. There were a few pain points I ran into, e.g. no XPATH library, and figuring out how to do a threaded "loading" ProgressDialog. Overall, I think Android is a well-designed OS that has a future of growth.

The Future of Mobile Computing

I've got a few thoughts about Android and the mobile computing market in general. I think my opinion is founded on a good understanding of technology and business (the old MBA market-niche-strategy studies come in here). I'm going to sum up my prediction about mobile computing in four words: Apple will repeat history.

What do I mean by that? Apple is the same in today's mobile phone market as it was in the early personal computing market: a leader and innovator (credit both to Steve Jobs). Apple brought the mouse and a windows-type GUI to it's computers, revolutionizing their usability and appeal to consumers. Similarly today, the iPhone has revolutionized mobile computing with touch-interface and an app platform. Clearly at both points in history, Apple was the leader in it's market.

Apple MacintoshApple iPhone

So what happened to Apple? How did Microsoft Windows come to reign on the personal computer? The answer lies in Apple's business model, and the fact that all new technology starts in a phase of innovation eventually to mature into a phase of commoditization. Apple makes it's products from top-to-bottom: hardware & software. This allows it to make all the pieces fit when it dreams up fantastic new ideas. However, once Microsoft implemented "windows' and the mouse on it's computers... commodization started. Since they license their OS... cheaper component based PCs came out from manufacturers.

Apple still likes to do things the old way. They even limited their iPhone to a single provider (AT&T)! Here's where Android comes in. You see, Android could come to play the same role that Microsoft played in the commoditization of PCs. It's a full-featured mobile OS, just waiting to be commoditized. That's already happening with reports of manufacturers lining up Android products. The API is Java-based, making it attractive to developers. Even now, the most popular iPhone apps are available on Android. It is truly impressive with it's feature-set: accelerometer, GPS, compass, copy-paste(eat that Apple!), 3G, wifi, bluetooth, full internet, and on & on.

What about Microsoft? Palm? They are also both victims of they own business models. Microsoft can't revolutionize the mobile-web future without cannabilizing their bread & butter: Windows for desktops. They've made sad attempts to shrink their Windows onto mobile phones... but Android creamed them with a fast & smooth trimmed-down mobile platform. Google has everything to gain by enticing people to the mobile web. Like the powerful RIAA is slowly bleeding from the inevitable progress of digital media, Microsoft will slowly bleed from the inevitable evolution of the "web OS". Sorry Microsoft... I will never want to build a Powerpoint presentation on my little mobile device. As for Palm - they just announced a new mobile OS that looks sharp. However, Palm suffers from the same business model as Apple... so they won't benefit from the coming mobile commoditization. They will be third or fourth rung (at best) in a market with space for two or three major players.

Personally, I also admire Android for it's "open" philosophy. That's another blog... but with the upcoming release of Android "cupcake" update and new form-factors on the way, the future looks bright for this new mobile platform.


I got the the email below from an attorney at rememberthemilk.
Well, I'm not updating this android app anymore since I'm busy with other projects, so if any users of the app read this... now you know why it broke, because "RTM" is in the app title. Complain to the acronym-nazis at rememberthemilk, not me. I've learned to love Google Tasks by now, so I recommend the app GTasks as an alternative.

On Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 9:30 PM, Remember The Milk <> wrote:
Hi Steve,

I'm writing regarding your app, "RTM Tasks" at:

Using the Remember The Milk API with API key: 347f55a1d8864618f927659352990abe

Unfortunately the name of this app violates the Remember The Milk API Terms of Use and branding guidelines:

From the branding guidelines: "You may not use Remember The Milk or RTM in the name of your product, website or application".

Please see the branding guidelines for full details on acceptable naming.

If you're able to rename your app by Friday, December 9, this would be great (as technically we need to disable API keys that don't comply with terms).


Birthday blog

I don't usually write about personal/social events on here... but I turned 35 this Saturday. It was a wonderful time. I've wanted to try Mulvaney's restaurant for a while, so we made reservations for my birthday. I was happy friends could join. I think Mulvaney's has mostly small tables, but we managed to get a room that held ten (a weird trek through the kitchen to get there, but it was nice to have the privacy!).

What a meal! I had the seared line-caught Ahi. It was the tastiest piece of fish I've ever had... hands down. A couple other in our group had the pork chops, which I've heard are very good there. They gave us this interesting "shot" of what I'll just call 'spicy gravy' before our meal.... very tasty.

Of course, creme brulee for desert.

Okay, when we got the bill... it was about $75/person. Sure, I couldn't eat there every day, but it was a worthwhile and memorable dining experience.

We hit Streets of London afterward for some pints (just a short walk away).

So, I'm 35 now. Somehow birthdays divisible by 5 deserve being spendier, no? Thanks friends! Good times...

Catching the Pooper: Part 1

Alright... I love living downtown. It's very pedestrian friendly. I live a block away from a park, which means I'm on the dog-walk path for a lot of urbanites who have to walk their dog every day because they don't have big suburban yards.

I've reached the breaking point with the dog poop though. Something about the little strip of lawn in front of my house really screams "Shit on me" to doggies. I once caught a guy ditching his dog poop on my lawn (even worse, it was doggy diarrhea). I yelled at him "Hey, why don't you clean this up" & he embarrassingly scurried away. I started to discretely follow him... my intention being to find out where he lives so I could return his poop to his doorstep later. Unfortunately I was late to be somewhere, so had to abandon pursuit.

I've tried to ask nicely too. I put a sign out asking people to pick up their poop, with baggies attached. A week later, someone tore that down & I didn't notice any letup in the doggy-bombs. I keep an eye out for people walking dogs now. Some of them look sneaky, they'll cross the street if I'm out front. I intend to ask them "Hey, do you have a bag? Ok just checking". What could I do if I caught someone... report them? To who? I asked at a recent neigbhorhood association meeting when a police officer visited & I learned the city resident has no recourse for poop violators. The city code says it's prohibited, but there is no stated fine. Even worse... a police officer would need to witness the poop violation in person for any type of citing to occur.

Things haven't gotten better. Just see this photo of my lawn this morning - with poop highlighted.

So, I've taken it upon myself to identify & shame to poopers. It is a mission - a matter of principle. Fortunately, with a little technical know-how... the tools are readily available to make this happen:
  1. Webcam
    This afternoon, I dug out an old Logitech USB webcam I had in the back of a closet. I can prop this bad boy in a window for a clear view of the poop target zone.
  2. Monitoring software
    Every day, I find a new reason to love Ubuntu Linux. ZoneMinder is the latest reason. This free public license software can turn webcams into an advanced motion-activated security monitoring system. Very cool!

I've already tested out the equipment & software. It works great. All I'm waiting on now is the USB extension cable I ordered online. In a few days, poopers beware! Stay tuned for results of my mission...