Tag Archives: ruminations

Investigating war deaths

CNN.com – U.S. investigates checkpoint shooting – Apr. 1, 2003

I’m finding myself continually comparing the events of the last few weeks to World War II. One of the things I’ve found interesting is stories like the one above. People died in a war, and we are conducting an investigation. Had this happened in WWII, it would have been noted as casualties of war, and that would be it.

The other area in which the comparison is interesting is our (the public’s) attitude towards the enemy. In WWII, the enemy were barely human, and things I’ve read from the time speak of them in terms that would be considered deeply politically incorrect today, even among people strongly supporting the war.

I suppose the story above really is about our attitude about the enemy. Saddam Hussein is the enemy, and the people in his nation are merely victims. And while this was at least as much the case in 1940’s Germany, we certainly did not view it that way.

I heard a fascinating quote on the news today, from an Iraqi soldier who had defected. It was something like “Why are the Americans bombing innocent Iraqi soldiers?” Huh?

Spam and junk mail

After several weeks in which I’ve received one desired mail message (ie, snail mail) and drifts of undesired, and downright objectionable mail, I am finding, increasingly, that I am glad when I receive junk mail. At least it’s not a bill, or a letter from the IRS, or yet another letter from a lawyer. This is in sharp contrast to email, where I am getting increasingly angry with junk email, which has moved from a minor annoyance to a major source of indignation. How dare these folks waste such a huge portion of my bandwidth for their highly objectionable advertising campaigns? And why is the system set up to permit them to do this with impunity. It really steams me. But, of course, you’ve heard all of this before.

But when I go to the mail box, and can discard every item that I pull out, I sigh with relief that there’s nothing more that I have to deal with. Perhaps if I checked my snail mail every 6 minutes instead of once a day, I’d feel differently!

Don’t Panic

After about 2 weeks of listening to NPR news in the morning, I have come to a number of conclusions.

First, I don’t have time to panic, as much as the US government is encouraging me to do so. I don’t have room for 3 weeks of bottled water, or whatever it was, and I don’t have money to spend on Duct Tape. I have way too much going on, on a daily basis, to devote a single moment to panicing, which is actually quite time consuming once you get started. The web site put up by the Department of Homeland Security succeeded in making me afraid. It contains all of the security tips that you learned in kindergarden, and makes you think that all of those situations will happen to you tomorrow. Do yourself a favor. Give your kids a big hug. Tell your loved ones how much you love them. Have a glass of your favorite wine. Sing your favorite songs in public, loud enough that people give you strange looks. Wear silly hats. Enjoy life. Let that be your preparation for dark times. I’m not suggesting that being completely unprepared is a sensible thing. I’m suggesting that spending your time worrying will not make you any more prepared than following my simple recommendations. Life is too short to waste it in planning for it to end. If we get nuked, all the duct tape in the world is not going to make up for the angry words you said to your daughter, or the rude remark you made to your coworker, or for the fact that you spent your money on plastic sheeting rather than on a good Mourvèdre.

Secondly, there is nothing going on in the world that I need to hear about on my drive to work. That time can be spent listening to books on tape, and when I arrive at work, I will be more relaxed, happier, and in general better off. Listening to the news on the way to work makes me stressed out, afraid, angry, sad, and generally unhappy. Besides which, I am exposed to the news on the web all day long, and on IRC when something happens that I really need to know about. That’s already too much.

So, I got more books on tape, and I won’t be listening to NPR any more. There are too many good books in the world to waste good drive time listening to Corey Flintoff tell me that I should be in a panic about … whatever it was.

Why is pornography socially acceptable now?

I’m increasingly alarmed with the degree to which internet porn is considered normal, acceptable, and good. In particular, people talking about it on irc. People that seem, otherwise, to be perfectly well adjusted and respectable. However, I’ve also heard porn discussed at technical conferences as though looking at porn online was a fundamental part of being male, and that there’s no real difference from, say, reading the news or checking your stocks. From the platform. I think that the speakers in question were just trying to play to the crowd, but that says something as well. What alarms me is that there is no longer any social stigma attached to it. When people make comments about their own pornography habits without any trace of shame, it tells me something about their assumptions about me, the world, morality, etc.

Perhaps these attitudes about pornography predate the internet, and I was just unaware of them. Perhaps our culture at large really sees pornography as a completely acceptable form of entertainment. Perhaps I’m just old fashioned (something to which I readily admit, with some pride). But I find this attitude to be shocking and unacceptable. Pornography is an addiction, and a sickness. It is an industry that exploits people on both sides of the camera. The culture that accepts it as normal, acceptable, and even healthy behavior has its priorities turned around to an alarming degree.

On a related note, the degree to which porn is marketed to me, ever day, hundreds of times a day, via spam, is a further indication that this is just assumed to be ok. The fact that porn web sites are available in such enormous numbers (evidenced by the results almost every time I mistype a URL) is an indication that there are customers to be had, in their thousands or millions.

So, if you find my views on this matter vaguely archaic, I can only reply that archaic is good, in many, if not most, contexts. (Please reference the “Smarter People Than Me” criteria.) If you take offence when I refuse to help you with your Apache configuration issues, having found out that it is for a porn site, please take it personally – you are involved in an industry that is despicable, and this rubs off on you. If you find that I bounce every piece of email you try to send to me, or users on my servers, perhaps it is because you, or your ISP, or someone on your ISP, is distributing pornography, either via their web site, or via unsolicited email. And if you make pornograpy-related jokes on IRC, and I seem not to get it, it’s because it wasn’t funny.

No, I’m not saying he’s Hitler!

This morning, as I listened on NPR to what Germany and France are saying about Iraq, I found my self suddenly reminded of Europe in the years between WWI and WWII, and, in particular, in the late 30s and early 40s, when everyone was so terrified by what had happened in WWI that they were willing to overlook anything rather than go to war.

There was an interesting commentary, by some guy who was an expert on Franco-German relations, talking about the motivation of each of these folks. Germany just has an aversion to war. This is understandable, but may result in them being somewhat voluntarily blind to things. France, on the other hand, appears to have an aversion to a world in which the USA effectively does whatever they want, and so have set themselves to oppose the US view whenever possible. Now, I’m not sure that either of these assessments are actually accurate, since I don’t really know who that guy was, or what he had been smoking, but these both seem very plausible to me, and it further seems that this may result in some disagreement in the future that may cause this historically-improbable alliance to fall apart.

And, before anyone thinks that I’m comparing anyone to Hitler, I’m just not. It seems to me that just about everyone is making silly decisions for silly reasons. Hussein is condeming his people to a long stretch of misery at the hands of the rest of the world, because his pride does not permit him to submit to the demands of the international community. The USA is, in my uninformed opinion, sticking to our initial decision, and will stick to it, regardless of what happens. We will go to war with Iraq, and we will depose Mr Hussein, and I can’t imagine that any turn of events will avert this outcome. It’s really just a matter of time, and a matter of who will be in it with us. If I were to assign reasons for this, I can’t say that they would be far from the pride that I attribute to Iraq.

France and Germany and Russia – who can say? Certainly not me.

And I can’t say who is right, although I am much more persuaded now of Mr Bush’s position than I was 4 or 5 months ago. The issues seem fairly clear – the UN asked Iraq to do something, and for 12 years they have refused to do it. The UN promised drastic outcomes in the event that Iraq refused to comply. So what is in question is, what are those outcomes, so vaguely specified, and is 12 years long enough to comply with the requests? I am glad not to be a politician, and I am glad that these decisions are not mine to make.

But, back to my initial point, it seems that the insularism and “gosh we hope everything will just work out nicely” attitude that we’re seeing now is alarmingly reminiscent of what we saw in the last years of the 1930s, and as Phydeaux observed, the very same people that are saying that we should not take any pre-emptive action are the ones that said that we should have taken pre-emptive action prior to the second week of September, 2001.

Write every day

Numerous people, over the years, have encouraged me to write every day. And I really have tried. This is probably the closest I have ever come.

Strangely (dunno, maybe other folks do this too) my thought process seems to be very much akin to my writing process. I start with a thought, and I edit it, until I have a statement, or a passage, expressing an idea. Most frequently, I do this if I am going to speak to someone about something – I plan out exactly what I am going to say, and, for the most part, I stick to the script. This is why, I suppose, when I write and when I speak, I tend to use the same phrasing. Also, I suppose, it is why when I speak on a topic, people will often tell me that I seem to be lecturing. Incidentally, this is where I got the moniker DrBacchus in the first place. I was speaking to a fellow imbiber about the wine we were drinking, and he said I sounded like a college professor lecturing on some academic topic.

So writing in a medium like this, where the technology lets me put down my thoughts as they come to me, seems to be well suited to my way of thinking, and my way of writing.

And if, occasionally, I actually write something that other folks find worth reading, all the better, since I don’t expect to ever write the Great American Novel, or even the Great Apache Book, although I continue to strive for the latter.

So, there, I’ve done my writing for today. Now, perhaps later, I’ll actually write some of the stuff that I’m supposed to be writing, and for which they are paying me.

Top Stories!

I’m really having a lot of trouble understanding this. The top four stories on CNN.com right now are:

1) Turkey wants aid in writing
2) Teen gets second transplant
3) ‘The Bachelorette’ falls for fireman
4) North Korean fighter jet sparks alert in South

In that order. Apparently, the plot of a prime-time soap opera is more important than a possible war in the Korean peninsula.

I’m honestly baffled by this phenomenon – the idea that a supposedly unstaged television show (yeah, right) in which nobody has any talent, would capture the attention of the average American to such an extent that a (I thought) respectable news source like CNN would run this as their number 3 top story. Why does anyone care, even a little bit, about which one of a group of shallow men will be picked by this shallow woman? Yes, I suppose I can understand the “fairy tale” aspect of this all, but only slightly. Maybe the folks watching this are the same folks that watched those ghastly MTV reality shows back in the late 80s and early 90s.

So, as the US is trying as hard as it can to procure a staging ground for attacking Iraq, a teenager in Mexico struggles to stay alive after receiving the wrong organs in a transplant, and North Korea makes more threats to nuke South Korea, people really, honestly, seem to care which one of these guys will be picked for a marriage that will be broken up before the year is out. I suppose, maybe, it’s just a bit of escapism.

In upcoming news, the next thing we have to look forward to is the HotOrNot craze from 2 years ago coming to television. Makes me very nervous about what they’ll pull next year.

Technology in Kentucky

OK, I heard one too many people make disparaging remarks about Kentucky and how it is populated solely by hicks and losers.


A number of persons in my immediate group of friends, including, but not limited to Bert Walther, David Pitts, Ken Rietz, Rick Cook, and to some extent myself, have given indivudually hundreds, and collectively thousands of hours towards the goal of making Kentucky a place where technology is a viable industry. And we have enjoyed a certain amount of success. There are at least three organizations (LPLUG, Lexington IT, and LITF) which we have either founded or participated in, which promote Technology in central Kentucky with some success.

Additionally, a number of my wider group of acquaintances have been influential in promoting Technology in Kentucky. In particular, I would point out Jim Clifton at the KSTC, who has made a significant amount of money available to entrepreneurs in this area in investments and grants.

I grow weary of the snide remarks that are made by people about the condition of industry and education in Kentucky, who are clearly not willing to do anything about it, and more importantly, who are ignoring the advances that Kentucky has made, and is making, under the leadership of great men like Dr Lee Todd. I consider it a great privilege to have worked for Dr Todd at DataBeam, and great asset to myself personally, as well as to my resumé.

To be blunt, if you don’t like Kentucky, feel free to leave. Those of us that are here and are giving our lives to the betterment of Kentucky simply don’t need your negativism. Yes, we trail the nation in many important areas, but we are working hard at changing that. We have a lot of problems to overcome, and if you’re not part of the solution, chances are pretty good that you’re part of the problem. We’re trying to work here, and having you heckle from the sidelines does nothing for our progress.

The people that I’ve mentioned here are folks that I respect enormously, and whose vision I have caught and worked to make a reality. And when I hear comments like the one that I heard today, I find it profoundly disrespectful to these folks.

Special Kudos also go to Terry Burkhart, who has made the LITF work, and to all the fine folks that are running small technology companies in the area.


You bet your life

When I am in big cities like this, I am struck more than ever by how much we rely on the good will of strangers. In fact, as is observed by Rush in their song of the same name, “you bet your life.” I got in a van with 9 strangers, and wandered around a strange (*very* strange) city for almost an hour, just hoping that I would end up somewhere pleasant. And, eventually, I did. This is a very nice hotel room. Not quite as nice as the room at ApacheCon, but still very nice. And a lot cheaper.

They did not have any note that my room cost would be covered. And Kevin Lenzo, who was standing next to me at the check-in counter, also did not have such a note on his reservation record. I don’t think Kevin knew who I was, which makes perfect sense considering I met him once, more than 1.5 yrs ago. Kevin has done some very cool stuff, including the original YAPC, and heading up YAS.

While we’re quoting Rush …

In the canyons of the city, you can hear the buildings cry.

It is darned cold out there, and the wind is just killer. But on some streets, you feel like you’re in a canyon, and the wind whips through it like it is possessed, and flings trash at cars almost belligerently.

On another, completely unrelated note, it appears that Apache::Perldoc does not work under Perl 5.8. I have not yet figured out why this is the case, but it appears that pod2html itself has changed syntax somewhere in that timeframe, and so when Apache::Perldoc calls pod2html, the arguments are geborken.


Seems Saddam is calling us the new Mongols. (NOTE: If you saw this earlier, the link was completely wrong. This should be better now.)

Now, personally, I find this a bit comical, since the Mongols left Iraq a smoking pile of rubble, so this seems like a bit of a bad omen.

But, on a more serious note, there’s the matter of the Mongol Horde itself. I mean, how many times in history does one get the opportunity to participate in a mongol horde? Not many, my friends. Go enlist now, while there is still time.

And, more importantly, there are the yaks.

Here, for your reading pleasure, a slightly sanitized IRC transcript:

BOB: so, that means we like large women, long hair and ride yaks

BOB: See the World! Ride Yaks! Scare the pants off of Women! Meet Genghis in Person!

BOB: Yak Riding. Do they do that in the first week or did they tack that on to the end of boot camp?

Bacchus: I wanna yak!

BOB: now where would you keep him? he would produce quite a quantity of fertilizer.

HARRY: in the yak pens out back. Doesnt everyone have one of those? or am I just Spesial

Bacchus: In the spare bathroom

CHARLIE: (large women)++

There you have it, folks. Proving, yet again, that IRC is the source of all wisdom.