Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Sunday, 2021.05.09
Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

		George Burns

2006.10.31

Rise And Shine

The colors just get better…

Aspen 01 Aspen 02

This was yesterday evening just as I got home from work. Today is damp, gray and cold.

2006.10.28

Das Engel Heiligtum

The aspen are in peak just outside my house.

Das Heiligtum

Standing beneath the aspen, lulled by the the shimmering of the sun and melody of the breeze in the leaves…

Das Heiligtum Aspen

…today is a good day.

2006.10.20

Blalock’s Conflict Model

Looking back over the past few days, I’ve the impression the Spirit of Rosanna Rosannadanna has been haunting me – “It’s always something.” It’s been a convergence of deadlines, personal tasks it’s just time to get completed, music lessons (voice, cello), health, things breaking down and cool things arriving in the mail.

One of the interesting projects I’ve been working on since the first of the year (and one of this week’s deadlines) has been helping a fellow DU student with her Masters thesis. Elizabeth Twomey approached me to write an application which would facilitate the use of Blalock’s general model for understanding conflict. We made the decision to create this as a web application and the prototype/proof of concept is posted on one of my big boxes. You can explore the results on the web site I built for Liz to demonstrate this part of her thesis.

2006.10.14

Blog Haiku #4

A simple comment.
A simple post.
Traffic.

2006.10.11

15 Down, 39 To Go – Maybe

The streak continues – straight “A’s” – but…

I wish it meant something. This last class was a disappointment, to put it mildly. To be more pointed, it was useless crap. That this would pass for graduate level studies has me rethinking my choice of universities. I needed the past six weeks to put some distance between me and the arduous experience of trying to stay awake during what amounted to graduate level crayon and paste studies. So now I feel sufficiently recouped to construct a formal complaint to Denver University in regard to their product. I’ll post more about that here as well as any response they may have.

In a nutshell, it seems the dumbing down of education has reach the graduate level.

2006.10.10

Blog Haiku #3

Such a beautiful rant
To this tired mind.
A lonely Publish button.

2006.10.08

Heartland

A few pictures from a walk several weeks back. I’d meant to post them, but forgot about them until I happened across the digital camera this morning.

dsc00396_50.JPG

Janet and I called this cottonwood tree “Quasimodo.” Out in a field all by itself, it has been struck by lightning more times than I can count. The bark on one side is all black, the after effects of its most recent brush with primal forces. As gnarly as it looks, it has always been an inspiration for persevering and getting through our own tough times.

dsc00404_50.JPG

It used to be I could point a camera in any direction on my walks and end up with a cool picture like this. Now, there is so much mega-house building going on I have to frame my subject as best I can. On this walk, it was quiet, warm, fragrant and tranquil. Just like old times. I stood on this bridge soaking in the sunlight and comforting smells of Fall for a good long time. I want a strong memory of this place before it is gone forever.

2006.10.07

Foley’s Follies

In building my Bloggers League baseball team, I want Ann Althouse on the roster for a power hitter position in the rotation. She hits another one out of the park:

Like many from my generation, I am very strongly dedicated to the ethic of individual expression. That does not, however, in any way make it hard for me to acknowledge the absolute rule against adults doing anything sexual with children. I think you can flatly reject what Foley did and still believe in the value of individuals finding their own way around conventional morality and making their own rules about what is good. Obviously, social conservatives are the big champions of the moral order, but that doesn’t mean that to oppose what Foley did requires you to become an all-out social conservative. A responsible, freely expressive individual recognizes the need for some rules. (Emphasis added)

While individuals go about the process of “finding their own way around conventional morality and making their own rules,” in my observation, quite a few seem to drop the bit about being responsible for the consequences of their decisions and actions on other people. I’m sure it’s a complex problem, but it appears as if in the process of expanding the expression of their individuality they come to believe that the only way to “really” manifest their complete individuality is to drop the idea of limits entirely. Rules set limits. By extension, so does the concept of responsibility. Rules and responsibility become bad things on the path toward absolute individualism.

Abandoning limits on individual expression, and therefore abandoning responsibility for however that expression may manifest, imposes greater limits on those around such a person. Someone expressing themselves with an extended vocal outburst of profanity in a public coffee house will cause those within earshot to place additional limits on their own expression by reducing the number of coffee houses to which they may frequent by one (assuming the don’t want to hear extemporaneous profanity à fortissimo, of course.) This is but a trivial example.

On a larger stage, the effects are more pervasive and less easily remedied. The effects from the Law of Unintended Consequences begin to manifest as the spin goes out of control. This is what I see happening with the events surrounding the Foley scandal. Things get recursive and bizarre (Gays asserting “traditional values” to out other gays for the purposes of advancing a liberal party agenda? What’s up with that?) The hyperbole is enough to make one dizzy. People who’s experience with taking responsibility for their own actions is, shall we say, a bit rusty, are all gung ho to dust off what ever “moral code” seems to serve their agenda and apply it to the object of their moral outrage.

There are many other current events which illustrate this principle. Declaring “freedom” from the shackles of responsibility reveals all manner of contradictory outrage in individuals as well as larger collections of individuals. Their actions become decreasingly rational and increasingly emotional. In classic ends-justify-the-means style, behaving from such a frame leads to actions devoid of any need for explanation or justification and the consequence to others is of no concern. So, for example, we see soldiers hiding behind women and children in Lebanon (applying the apposing side’s moral code of not killing women and children) for the benefit of fulfilling their own individual expression (saving their own ass) with zero regard for the consequences (women and children caught in the crossfire.)

[Edit History]

2006.10.07

A manager’s dilemma. My Bloggers League baseball team isn’t even a post old and I can’t decide if Althouse should go in the rotation as a power or clean-up hitter. I see she has a post today that beautifully illustrates my point about adherents to the Church of Individualism loosing track of the consequences of their actions.

Her post addresses recent developments around an incident involving protesters at Columbia University who stormed a stage where Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, was giving a presentation (video here). It seems Columbia’s investigation involves looking at various Facebook profiles.

As of late Thursday night, 13 Columbia students and alumni had joined a Facebook group titled, “YES, I was there when Gilchrist was rushed faster than CUFT’s Quarterback.”

“I don’t [agree with the decision], but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Patric Prado, SEAS ’09 and creator of the group, said. “I was there, and it’s fine that they want to incriminate people who actually started violence. … Yes, we were stupid, but we got our message across that we weren’t going to accept this on campus.”

Universities, employers, and law enforcement agencies have widely contended that materials posted on Facebook-including posts, photos, and personal information-are admissible in investigations. Hornsby emphasized that screening Facebook was just one of several methods that the University would employ to conduct its investigation.

Student leaders expressed concerns Thursday night about the tactic.

“I was worried that that was going to happen,” Marcus Johnson, CC ’07 and co-chair of the University Senate’s student affairs committee, said. He later added in a statement, “As a University Senator and chair of the student affairs committee, I will do my best to make sure that all students are as safe as possible. On another note, everybody should quit Facebook right now.”

“On some level, I have to agree with the University,” Daniel Okin, SEAS ’07 and president of the Engineering Student Council, said. “That being said, it worries me that they would use the Facebook for that.”

The protesters did themselves in by not thinking about what might follow from their blunt protest (University launches investigation) and the subsequent posting of their involvement on a public web site (University collects evidence). But, Ann pushes the run home:

To use the material in an investigation is not to presume it is conclusive proof of something. What makes people think that if they do something in a place that makes them feel confessional it somehow doesn’t count? The students storming the stage also seemed to feel entitled to act out. That doesn’t make them not responsible for what they did. They can’t say oh, we were surrounded by friends who all thought this was just fine and we felt in charge of our own space. Really, these are intelligent college students. Why do they feel a special immunity from being observed in a public place?

Read the whole thing. She illustrates how the selective application of rules and responsibility exposes various agendas among the players involved.

2006.10.08

One example of the hyperbole around the Foley scandal. Gateway Pundit has a post related to the scandal in which he states:

Representative Jack Kingston and 10 fellow Republicans sent a letter to the Democratic leadership asking them to go before the Ethics Committee and disclose what they knew about Foley’s activities for the safty (sic) of America’s children.

I took issue with this in the comments to Gateway Pundit’s post, specifically, the “for the safety of America’s children” phrase:

I don’t think what Foley did, in context, was a threat to America’s children. Rather, a threat to a specific (yes, vulnerable) group.

To my knowledge, Foley didn’t have access to the entire nation’s children and the entire nation’s children were not somehow at greater risk from Foley’s behavior. Acceptance into the White House page program is a highly competitive process, not just any child/young adult can participate. As a result, it’s a select group of bright kids. What ever the result of the Ethics Committee’s inquiry, it would likely have little or no bearing on the safety of America’s children. It could, however, have a significant impact on how the White House page program is monitored and therefore the safety of the children/young adults in the program.

The more rigorously problems are defined, the higher the quality and durability of the solution. And in cases like Gateway Pundit’s post, the scope is too broadly defined to yield a meaningful solution to the actual problem at hand (i.e. the relationship between elected officials and their pages.)

This is but one example of what happens as scandals are sensationalized. There has been so much of this in the Foley scandal that the whole thing has spun off its axis. In this state, no one will be happy with the outcome as any proposed solution will not sufficiently cover each position’s definition of the problem space.

2006.10.06

Blog Haiku #2

Gentle Autumn RSS feed.
Tantalizing tidbits fall to the ground.
I tie my shoe.

2006.10.04

Law Enforcement As A For Profit Venture

Seems the city planners in Clive, Iowa, were banking on 1) catching lawbreakers 2) lawbreakers being plentiful and 3) lawbreakers not changing their ways – ever. (H/T State 29 via Instapundit)

Clive’s stoplight camera system fell well short of revenue expectations for the second consecutive month.

Based on preliminary estimates provided to city officials by the cameras’ operator, Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems, the system was expected to generate about $85,000 per month initially.

September’s revenue was less than $700, based on statistics compiled by the Clive Police Department. The number of citations issued was down about 10 percent from August, the first full month of operation.

Clive City Manager Dennis Henderson said glitches are still being corrected in the system, and that he’s been satisfied that area residents are driving more safely.

Ouch. That’s 0.8% of projections. Just a little off, don’t you think? Come on, you Clivers, get with it and start running those red lights! Your city needs you!

Actually, State 29 has it right: “Shouldn’t the revenue expectation be zero?

I’m left with uneasy feelings anytime I hear of governments employing this type of technology principally for the purpose of raising revenue. I say “principally” because, as it appears to be in this case, the argument in favor of using the technology is based on revenue expectations rather than the decreased violations. I’ve read other articles where this type of revenue expectation was actually included in annual budgets.

Bad idea, this. As technology improves and becomes less expensive, the full range of statutes become available for automatically issuing citations for violations. Because, you know, ignorance of the law is not a defence. Remember this little gem from Houston? Couple Chief Harold Hurtt’s attitude with micro-surveillance and you’ve got yourself a right profitable proposition. If Big Brother were only watching us, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad. Being pinned under the fat ass of a revenue hungry Big Brother is a bit more disconcerting.

[Edit History]

2006.10.05

I’ve been wondering. What are City Manager Dennis Henderson’s “glitches” to be “corrected”? Is the yellow light too long? Perhaps he should eliminate it all together? Or how about flashing from green to red for a few seconds right in the middle of the green cycle? Photograph vehicles as they drive away from the intersection just after the light turns red. After all, they almost ran a red light and they just might do it for real next time. They’re just building up the confidence to do it. There they go, fleeing the scene of a red light. That’s got to be good for some extra violation cash. Come on, guys. If the Clivers aren’t cooperating with Redflex Trafffic Systems’ sales pitch, you gotta think outside the box, or intersection in this case.

Several grammar changes.

2006.09.30

Blog Haiku #1

Words gather.
Spell check.
That’s not what I meant.

2006.09.21

A Vast Supply Of Shortages

Of smart pills, that is. The Instapundit is keeping track.

The Tin Foil Brain

This from Swiss researchers, so you know it’s accurate:

Stimulating a certain area of the brain can produce a creepy feeling that someone is watching you when no one is, scientists said Wednesday.

Swiss researchers made the discovery while evaluating a young woman for surgery to treat epilepsy. They believe their finding could help explain feelings such as paranoia which afflict patients suffering from schizophrenia.

When they electrically stimulated the left temporoparietal junction in her brain, which is linked to self-other distinction and self-processing, she thought someone was standing behind her.

If they repeated the stimulus while she leaned forward and grabbed her knees she had an unpleasant sensation that the shadowy figure was embracing her.

“Our findings may be a step toward understanding the mechanisms behind psychiatric manifestations such as paranoia, persecution and alien control,” said Olaf Blanke, of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in the journal Nature.

The left side of the brain. Hmmmmmmmm. We can only hope that someday appropriate medication will help.

[Edit History]

2006.09.23

Added link to original article.

2006.09.09

Tribute To Mary Melendez

[From September 10th through September 12th, 2006, the JZ:TOL weblog homepage will be dedicated to remembering Mary Melendez and her family.]

Many diamonds passed from this earth on the morning of September 11, 2001. When I signed up with “2,996: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11” to be one of the bloggers assigned the task of honoring one of those precious gems chosen at random, I looked forward to the opportunity. It would be an opportunity, I thought, to come to know just a little bit more about the life behind one of those diamonds. What I didn’t know was how difficult, emotionally, this responsibility would be. You see, my diamond was Mary Melendez.

Mary Melendez
Mary Melendez
August 22, 1957 – September11, 2001

Upon first seeing her picture, I smiled. How could you not? What a grand effect her smile must of had in person. I’d wager as effortless as a Spring breeze across a wheat field is how a smile came to Mary. A smile like that isn’t put on from the outside, it shines tirelessly from within. That’s what I thought when I first saw her picture.

As I began to cast about to learn more of Mary’s story, I was fortunate and heartened to find a wealth of remembrances. Having read all I could find, there were other things I came to know as true about Mary. She gave and received love unconditionally. And she is deeply missed.

Mary’s kindness and generosity clearly touched many, many lives. For play or for parties, for kids and adults, the Melendez’ house was the place to be. Every neighborhood, it seems, has a house like that. A trusted second home. For Mary and her husband, Ramon, to have created and shared such a space is a testament to the quality of love they held within their own family.

The center of Mary’s life was her family. While a successful professional in her own right, she made accommodations to her work schedule in the interest of spending more time with her family. A loving wife and proud mother to four boys, her life reflects the depth of her love, strength and undoubted ingenuity for keeping each of her sons on track.

The caliber of support for her sons is to be admired. When her son, Ricky, was leaving for Marine Corps boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., Mary saw to it a proper party was thrown to send him off to his next success. While he was away, Mary wrote to him every day, keeping him up to date about all the little things that together mean “home.” She and Ramon had made plans to attend Ricky’s graduation on September 15th.

As I researched and wrote this post, I kept wanting to write as if I were speaking directly to Mary. It seemed to be the only way I could adequately express some of my thoughts and feelings about what I had come to know about her and her family.

I can tell by your smile, joy and happiness simply shined from within you just by being who you were, an expression undaunted by events around you.

I know you did not belong on the front line of an unknown war and am saddened to know you were there.

America, the country, is forever indebted to you. America, the idea, will always remember you, for the very soul of Freedom and Liberty is composed of those such as yourself. To harm you was to harm all of us. To loose you as we did was to threaten the very soul of America and what it means to live in freedom.

I pray that you are at peace. I pray for your family that they may find peace.

I think all of America knows in the abstract the loss of life on September 11, 2001, was horrific. But there is a lot of room in the abstract in which all manner of horror can be packed away out of sight, much as you might isolate a monster on a deserted island. A much smaller percentage knows the loss first hand. The loss of a family member, a friend, a coworker or even an acquaintance. A direct connection, however brief or slight the touch, has tapped them into the full electricity of the loss.

I will not presume that my humble tribute to one of those lost on that fateful day has allowed me to experience the loss borne by so many others. But I can say the experience of researching and writing this post has allowed me to set foot on that abstract Monster Island, and even this slight and humble gesture has had a profound and lasting effect on how I frame news reports of all my fellow humans who have died similarly.

It has been my honor and privilege to write this post in tribute to Mary Melendez. For the rest of my days on this earth, memories of September 11, 2001, will forever be touched by thoughts of Mary Melendez, her family and a sadness knowing she perished on that day. But even this will thaw and melt away as I remember the image of Mary’s smile, leaving the comfort of knowing that the world was made a better place for having been graced by such a being. It is by remembering the life she lived and the family she created that we can all find renewed hope for ourselves and our children.

May God bless Mary Melendez, her family and all her friends.

Additional Links

Tribute and Comments on Legacy.com.
Comments on September 11, 2001 Victims.
Mary’s cousin, Josie Cleary

Tributes to the other victims can be found on the “2,996: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11” web site.

2006.09.02

Steal This Lunch

Go ahead. I dare you. From the New York Times:

For those with autonomy in their jobs – generally, well-paid professionals – breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator.

I think what creeps people out, and by people I mean “guys”, about this is that it’s stuff which was once inside someone’s body and now is on the outside. Most generally, when this happens, it’s not a good thing, ranging on a scale from unpleasant (“Earl, there’s something on your nose.”) to disgusting (“Earl, that looks infected.”) to flat out horrifying (“Somebody get a tourniquet around Earl’s torso fast!”).

To most, there’s nothing cute about a baby burp, especially as the count rises over time. Although Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes might go gaga over baby’s goo goo given their propensity for collecting trophy excretions. What’s worse, from a guys perspective, is the stuff is being saved. And for non-clinical reasons at that. Imagine a bag labeled “Earl’s sputum. DO NOT TAKE!” or “Earl’s sperm. DO NOT TAKE!” parked in the office refrigerator right next to your egg salad sandwich.

That’s how guys think about it. Of course, babies think otherwise. They have yet to be bent by our convoluted, contradictory and puritanical social conventions. They have yet to be pressured by peers and crushed by the protuberant herd in their journey from self expression to self repression.

Personally, this doesn’t bug me. My perspective is rather pragmatic on these things, the result of having grown up with five sisters, three of whom followed my mother into nursing careers, and supporting my late wife, Janet, through 10 years of battling breast cancer. These experiences left scant room for mystery in regard to what women have to deal with while growing up and trying to forge a career.

Pump away girls, it bugs me not.

A discussion thread is happening about this article over on Althouse (H/T, by the way).

[Edit History]

2006.09.03

Fixed klutzy sentence.

2006.09.23

Edited for clarity.

2006.10.02

Updated dead link to Tom and Katie’s trophy.


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