Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Wednesday, 2017.05.24
The distinction between true and false appears to become increasingly blurred
by... the pollution of the language.

		Arne Tiselius

2005.09.03

3 Down, 51 To Go

Several weeks ago, I finished my first quarter as a graduate student. One 3 credit hour required course (graduate research and writing), but a milestone nonetheless. I give the experience thumbs up in some areas and thumbs down in others. On the up side, I was very impressed with the technology in place for distance learning and my standards are high in this area. Last I looked was close to 3 years ago. The technology seemed a bit fragile and the process a bit sparse at the universities I reviewed. I can speak for Denver University’s program: It is excellent from a technology and process perspective. Rolled in with the good news is that I’m a straight “A” student! Hey, might as well celebrate while I can.

On the down side, university bureaucracy is festering as much as ever. A few weeks into the the course, the professor had some sort of personal crisis. None of us on-line students knew this. All we knew is that she disappeared from the discussion boards and didn’t return emails for over 10 days. She showed up for a brief flurry of board participation and quick answers to emails and disappeared for another 10+ day stretch. This stuff happens. I mostly fault DU for not having a backup plan in place for occurrences like this. They should have had a substitute in place to help keep the course on track. Since they didn’t, time lines in the syllabus were tangled and confused and it was very difficult to discern what the assignments were. Few of us hand any kind of a grade until the final grade. If this had been a brick and mortar classroom, no doubt there would have been provisions for backup instructor support in the case of absence of the primary instructor. As a result, I feel I paid over $1,000 to do what I’ve done all my life – teach myself. Why not pay myself this money? Well, that’s the obscene part. Its a paper chase. Maybe DU will let me just write them a check for $20,000 and they can just send me a degree? I’m still thinking about what recourse I may have. Seems to me a discount or partial refund is in order.

Ah, well, such are the vagaries of life on the wheel to higher irrelevance. I turned in my paper (The Adverse Effects of Private Governance on Community Health) and the next day was on a jet headed for an island in the South Pacific. Sweet release.

2005.08.01

Little Big Man Drops His Body

This is turning into a banner year for transitions here at the Engel homestead. First Janet and now Oscar has jetted on out of here. The little dude has been fighting so hard for so long. He has been seriously sick almost as long as Janet. I think his first serious brush with death was when his liver darn near quit on him close to 8 years ago. Since then it’s been major respiratory problems (kennel cough set this off), an enlarged heart and a murmur, kidney problems and finally three years ago he flipped diabetic. Turns out, true to his stubborn character, he is highly insulin resistant. Rather than needing 3 units of insulin with each meal for a dog his size, Oscar needed 15 units. By the time the vet figured out the proper dose, Oscar was pretty much blind due to cataracts. As with all his ailments, he simply adjusted and moved on. A powerful little package of inspiration in his own right. (more…)

2005.07.25

Janet’s Day of Days

I wanted to write about Janet’s last few days before the memories fade like delicate colors in the sun or the edges of objects in waining daylight. This post has been in draft mode for several months, undergone numerous revisions and will likely be revised again as I remember various points.

During the week Janet was in hospice, she said on three separate occasions “I want to go.” What an incredible forward looking statement. It wasn’t “I want to die.” or “I’m ready to die.” It was “I want to go.” The day before she died, she said “I want to go before they get here.”, referring to the impending visit by some of her family and out-of-town friends.

We had made it as clear as possible last Fall that Janet was facing a battle with the grimmest odds yet. No one we had known, met or read about had survived the predicament Janet was in. A month later, our good friend Linda would die from the very same complications Janet was dealing with. Getting the idea across to family was difficult because Janet had pulled this trigger several times in the past and ended up pulling through. Almost like crying “wolf”, but not quite. My sense was the family wasn’t completely sold on the idea this was going to be a problem. Can’t say I fault them for thinking this. I certainly knew that if anyone was going to fight in face of such odds, it was going to be Janet. And she did. Nonetheless, we made the call to family that if they wanted to see Janet while she was reasonably comfortable and available, now was the time. The family answered the call and each of her brothers, some of their family and her parents made the trip to Denver. (more…)

2005.07.17

Memorial Quotes

I have had several requests for the collection of quotes which were showing on the screen prior to the start of Janet’s memorial. Here they are… (more…)

2005.05.17

Eulogy For Janet

[What follows is the text of the eulogy I delivered for Janet at her Celebration of Life event on 5/16/2005. The celebration was held at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. – Greg]

Hello and thank you for being here.

Here we are, gathered together to celebrate a life over 51 years in the making. Like a fine quilt, its a life woven by a master’s hand from many threads that together tell a rich story. Each of us represents one of those threads. Some long, some short, each a different color and part of a different story. Ask anyone here about how they know Janet and you shall hear those stories.

My thread began a bunch of years ago, when an amazingly beautiful woman introduced herself, shook my hand and took my breath away. From that moment, life has been one long pursuit to catch my breath. And just when I though I had it, that amazing woman would touch my heart and once again take my breath away. It happened in the midst of stunning beauty on Kalalau, on the trails of the Colorado rockies, in crowded public places and silent private moments. It happened in the light of her laughter and smile as she told a story or sang a song. It happened while listening to her breathe as she slept. (more…)

2005.04.22

A Great Light has Gone Out

Janet
Janet Laurel 1953-2005

Companion, confidant, best of friends, beloved wife, and soul partner. Godspeed, my love. Peace be the journey. I miss you.

“There is no cure for birth and death other than to enjoy the interval.”

George Santayana

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'”

Erma Bombeck 1927-1996 American author, columnist

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life, and that is love.”

Sophocles

2005.03.25

Psycho Ward – Hijacking the Hijackers

Ward Churchill, the latest mushroom to sprout from my alma mater’s1 manure heap of unintended consequences, is a model for how to milk the random moments of fame foisted upon the equally random few.

Are Churchill’s arguments right or wrong? No one seems to be getting far enough to ask that, yet it is Churchill who carries the burden of blame for this. Interjecting parallels to Nazism without extensive context taints all preceding and subsequent arguments made by the author with irrationality and crudeness. As measured with Godwin’s Law2, it can be said that Churchill’s paper attempts to vaguely (and, having read the essay, I’m being generous here) relate his arguments to Nazism but is basically seeking to be insulting and inflammatory. At this point, all prospects for rational debate and discussion related to his central thesis are effectively over.

Like a fart in a crowded elevator, its unmistakable and offends everyone with the exception of the scatologically inclined. Most people want to exit the elevator as quickly as possible, others may want to linger with the fumes and complain while an unfortunate few will have no choice but to follow the fumes all the way to work. One of the problems Churchill is struggling with is he cannot un-fart, no matter how hard he tries. (It has been great entertainment watching him try.) The stink is out there and it is his. (more…)

2005.03.07

Back to School

I’m headed back to school. I was accepted to the Master’s Computer Information Systems program at Denver University (University College).

This has been on my private wish list (going for a Masters) for close to 10 years, but Janet’s health placed this on permanent hold. This past fall, Janet and I had a number of discussions in regards to the “crisis” of her health. She has been fighting breast cancer for over 10 years now – for most of that time it looked as if she could die within months. Well, she didn’t and even though her health isn’t the greatest at the moment, we needed to begin to find ways to have a “normal” life.

Fewer and fewer friends were asking us to dinner less and less frequently. Most of these evenings were spent talking about Janet, her health and the issues that surround her situation – the state of western medical care (usually it’s shortcomings), the politics of “alternative, complementary, integrative” care, chemotherapy – all great, important stuff. But it was all the time and I believe people grew weary of hearing about bad news. No doubt, they have their own issues which trouble them and talking about such things can seem pointless with a cancer patient at the table. (more…)

2005.03.04

Tapioca Utopia

Odd thing happened on the way to work. I was accosted by several individuals – either smallish males or bulky females, couldn’t tell really – wearing dark aviator glasses, camel hair trench coats and wide brimmed safari style hats. They were welding fresh, extra hot lattés and threatened to douse me with them if I didn’t meet their demands.

Sizing them up, I figured I could pummel the soy foam out of the lot of them even if they were bulky females. But I thought, “Why waste a half dozen perfectly good lattés?” So, I said, “Let’s hear it. Whadayawant?”

“We need a spokesperson.”, chimed a spooky androgynous voice. “Please”, said another.

“What are you selling?”, I asked.

“Nothing. We need a spokesperson for our country.”

Twenty some years of martial arts training and a sandan rank in Aikido tuned my mind for facing all sorts of dangers – weapons, tempers, politics, Paris Hilton. But it never prepared me for this attack. Here, I was being threatened with a job.

What could I do? I did what any normal, untrained person would do. I panicked and said “Ok, sure.”

The steely cold silence that followed was refreshing.

“You chose wisely,” said spooky androgynous voice as a piece of paper was pushed at me. “Post this”, was the directive with a “Please” voiced by one of the lieutenants. “There will be more,” was the parting comment as the camel haired latté mob scattered like so many coffee beans dropped on a tile floor.

Who am I to dissuade anyone’s attempt at nation building. It’s a sport so popular, even our nation’s President has fielded his own team of nation builders. So here’s my first press release as spokesperson for the new nation of Tapioca Utopia…


Proclamation: We hereby declare the creation and existence of a new country that shall be known as Tapioca Utopia.

Location: Currently, Tapioca Utopia is positioned approximately 2,000 meters above international waters off the coast of Kauai, Hawai’i.

Flag: The Shirt Off Your Back

Currency: Tree Bark – Let it be declared that money does grow on trees.

State Religion: Atheism, or maybe Frisbeetarianism (the belief that when you die your soul goes to the top of the garage and stays there for eternity. Believers live in fear of the coming of the great god Whamo.)

Policies:

  • Military buildup can only consist of things that can be purchased at an office supply store – paperclip missiles, staplers, spit wads, rubber bands, etc.
  • Red states are illegal. Blue states are illegal. All states shall be purple.

2005.01.07

The Righteous Left

Interesting article from an Iraqi perspective (How the Left Betrayed My Country – Iraq, by Naseer Flayih Hasan).

It strengthens my growing opinion that a fundamental problem with the Democratic party is it’s inability to connect with the pulse of a culture – including our own. I don’t mean the art circles and philosophy, rather the underlying drivers that emerge from the masses – things like pet rocks and weblogs. Not that the Republicans have the clearest insight, but they do seem to have a clearer view than the Democrats. Hence their popularity.

It also echos something I wrote about in my weblog last year:

War and Pieces

Feeling Libertarian more and more each day…

2004.10.28

Does evil exist?

Came across this story:

Does evil exist?

The university professor challenged his students with this question. Did God create everything that exists? A student bravely replied, “Yes, he did!”

“God created everything? The professor asked.

“Yes sir”, the student replied.

The professor answered, “If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil”. The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth. (more…)

2004.10.25

Great moments in TSA security

Unlike prior examples which had at least a shred of physical “evidence” (an air sick bag with “BOB” written on it and Arabic writing in a magazine), this one is pure fantasy with real consequences. From a March 27, 2004 AP story:

“A self-described psychic’s tip that a bomb might be on a plane prompted a search with bomb-sniffing dogs that turned up nothing suspicious, but forced the cancellation of the flight.”

Doug Perkins, a local administrator for the TSA director, had this choice quote: “But in these times, we can’t ignore anything. We want to take the appropriate measures.” When the TSA officials declined to identify the psychic who made the tip, it was undoubtedly done for security reasons – the psychic’s security, I mean, not our’s.

With such unwitting allies, it’s little wonder the terrorists seem to be winning.

Ref: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4614495/

2004.10.20

Farewell to Quicken

I’ve been a Quicken user for a long, long time. The oldest version for which I could find disks was MS-DOS version 5.0. Although I have an earlier manual, the accompanying disk has long since been buried in a long forgotten box.

Prior to Quicken, I used a program called Pacioli 2000 (this was 1990, before marketing types hijacked versioning.) Named after the monk who invented double entry bookkeeping, Pacioli 2000 was also an excellent program. It was straightforward to use, the documentation was excellent (it contained one of the more concise MS-DOS tutorials I’ve every found and came with a cheesy video on accounting) and reporting was robust. But Pacioli 2000 was geared more for business and accounting principles confused the heck out of me.

Back then, Quicken was also straightforward and easy to use. Like your grandfathers roll top desk, everything had a place, organization was easy and reporting was concise. Everything in the package was yours. Customization was limited to screen colors and the like.

It’s different today. Everything isn’t yours and you don’t have access to all the cubby holes. Some of the drawers are locked and you don’t own the key. Tickers for mortgage loans scroll across the status bar and you cannot turn them off. Features you might find useful are displayed, billboard style, but only available via subscription. Grandfather’s roll top desk has become cluttered and stuffed with junk mail. Finding what’s yours consumes half the time spent floundering around in the program. (more…)

2004.09.06

Infected with Hate

[Note: Much of this article was written in the months following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2001.]

On September 11, 2001, the unthinkable became all anyone could think about. The stunning reality is that, in fact, the unthinkable had been well thought out. With a great deal of planning, a small group of humans meticulously thought through every step, solved every obstacle. They thought the unthinkable until it became the familiar.

We are left to ask what is the path that led to these events? Surely not the faith of Islam any more than beer makes a man psychologically capable of murder. It’s something much deeper within the individual that makes such heinous acts possible. Self-rightous self-loathing, a festering maggot riddled sense of self provides the fuel. The larger context, intentionally or not, provides the spark. In this case, shallow interpretations of Islam by warped minds, false prophets bent on installing their personal hallucinations on the world, provided the incubator to collect and raise an army of sick individuals. It didn’t have to be Islamism. There are a wide variety of candidates floating around the world. (more…)

2004.08.31

Canary’s in the coal mine (in the land of democracy)

[Note: Much of this article was written in the months following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2001.]

One of the “superpower” traits of America’s government is it’s sheer size as well as the colossal power of it’s potential military punch. However, it does not possess any “superpower” qualities we like to ascribe to comic book super heroes. Rather our government is a collection of garden variety human beings, bundles of emotions teaming with conflicting desires and tangled by primal drives. Hardly the substrate for collective superpower capabilities.

The thing about bringing groups of people together, you only get superior capabilities in rare circumstances. In the case of large groups, like governmental bureaucracies, what typically results is something that functions closer to it’s least common denominator. Expecting such an organization to protect us from other smaller groups of humans with malicious goals is a bit like expecting peace of mind when enrolling your children in a daycare run by unfit parents. (more…)


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