The thoughts that were thunk and the goings on of my life.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Ride

This past October I made a most excellent adventure that was the first I've ever made of its kind. I am a bit of a forum lurker over at the VFR Forums, and I saw that they were planning on doing a group ride. Now most of the people were folks of real commitment that save vacation days and all that jazz to do things like this. Me I was lazy, so I decided to meet up with them that morning.

Unfortunately that meant that I had to wake up at about 6am and get on the road to meet them for an 8am start in Kerrville. Well, I sure got up that early and my goodness is there a huge difference in temperature between the city and the country. In the city everything felt fine (but cool) at around the mid-50s. However, out in the valleys things got into the 30s. And if you've never ridden a bike in the 30s, first I don't recommend it, and secondly, just imagine that you are stuck in a car with the windows down, no heat and it's freezing outside...that's warmer than a bike in the 30s.

Anyways, I raced as best as I legally could, but found out later that I missed them heading out by no more than 2 minutes. So I decided to go ahead and follow the route as best as I could:

View Larger Map

One thing I have to say about the Hill Country in this region is that it is breathtakingly beautiful. Fertile valleys, rolling hills, old 2-lane roads, lots of trees and vistas everywhere. I first found this area with the wife earlier in the year, and I've already been back 3 times in the last year...just gorgeous!

After playing a little rende-miss with the group, I finally met up with them and had my chance to sign The Flaf. My bike is definitely not one of those you see all the time, but when they came I couldn't help but get excited. What mods did they have? Are there any tricks to our bikes that I don't know about? What is that weird crack on my windshield? All sorts of questions. It was a really nice crowd too because most of the guys that ride my bike are a bit older so there were no crazy antics, talks about the craziest wheelies and stoppies that they mustered around minivans. Nope, just good people (okay, a couple weirdos, but for finding them on the internet I was impressed) on a good bike, riding great roads, in a gorgeous area. Oh, and did I mention that they were good riders. I've never seen people on bikes that were that confident and FAST! Not that we ever pursued supra-legal speeds, because that would be stupid (that's for you dad). They really pushed me to gain a lot of confidence in what my bike could do and to realize that the limiting factor in my relationship with my motorcycle is not the's me.

Fortunately I was really happy, and practically grinning the whole time.

There's just a certain Zen that I reach on my bike when riding closer to my limits. All you can do is focus on the road, the angles, the lean, the brake balance, bike pitch, contact patches, friction limits, max lean angles, pushing of the handles, keeping enough throttle on so that the rear doesn't break loose, pulling the handle, gassing the engine, squeezing the tank, setting the line for the next turn... So much to think about that when I ride I realize that riding is the ONLY thing I can think about. And it cleanses my soul and leaves me more satisfied than practically anything else.

It was a good day, a long day, a challenging day, and a satisfying day. Although I must admit...I was really sore afterwards too because by the end of it I had been on my bike from 6am to about 8pm, ridden 500 miles, and really attacked it for about 300 miles of that. I simply got back and collapsed on my bed satisfied at having gone, and filled with dreams like this:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


So things have been a bit quiet around here lately, and for that I apologize. Between various trips, both work and pleasure related, and work in general I haven't had much time for anything on the internets. In fact, last week I spent an average of about 13 hours a day at work. And since I work on computers all day, the last thing I want to do is hope back on the internet and type some more.

Let's see, so what's been going on other than business.

Back in June-July the wife and I went on our first big vacation and visited the Seattle and Vancouver areas. I would love to do a big write-up, but the best I can give you at the moment is our pictures from the trip (link). While not all of the pictures are labeled, I did Geo tag them, so you can at least see where they were taken. Quick synopsis before I leave the trip. We went to Seattle, visited our first winery together, then went camping in North Cascades National Park, hiked a really isolated/gorgeous/strenuous trail, visited Vancouver, went kayaking, almost touched a seal, celebrated Canada Day in the Provincial Capital Victoria, went to Olympic National Park, spent the night in a rain forest, drove/hiked to the top of a mountain, went to Seattle, and then came home.

Once I got back, I went pretty much straight to San Diego for a business trip. While I was there one of my students helped me learn how to surf (still not good), and I got to swing up to visit my mom and sister before I left.

Then I had to go to Cali again, this time Santa Ana for a business trip. Got in some more surfing in (traded 3 days surfing for a 12 pack of Coors Light), saw my mom and sister every evening, ot to see my older sister and my new niece, played on the beach with the baby for her first time ever (super cute), and promptly raced back to Austin.

Since then it's mostly been work for me. I have a product that's going to be released soon, so the work schedule has been crazy and the main thing I'm learning is that there's always more to be done and what you thought wouldn't take long always takes too long.

On fun notes though, I managed to save up this summer and got the wife and I a really cool camera! I've been wanting a more professional camera for a long time after getting frustrated with missing great photos because the camera I'm using took too long to take the shot, or it did take the shot, but messed up the lighting or blurred the image. We ended up choosing an Olympus E-510 because it had the best lenses and features for the price point. So far we've had a ton of fun and can finally take the cool shots we missed before. Like water coming down a waterfall, musicians at a concert, action shots of the dog, intentionally out of focus shots, and just better clarity on even the most normal of shots.

Since taking pictures of things and working on finding things to take more pictures of has really been my greatest joy lately I'll leave you with a few of my favorites.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Washington and Vancouver

This was supposed to be a real post, but never really came to fruition.

Feel free to click on the title of the post if you'd like to see pictures from our trip.

A little context. We went to Washington and Vancouver, spent a lot of time hiking and being active, had some great weather, and had a lot of fun. If only this area was so gorgeous year-round we would have already moved.

Here's one of my favorite pics, a composite of images taken from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

General Tso

Today at lunch I was having a delicious bowl of General Tso's Chicken and I thought, "If I could go back in time and do one thing it would be to tell General Tso 'Thank You' because his food is awesome!"

But then I thought. Is that really the one thing I would do if I could go back in time? So I decided to make a list and see what some of your desires would be.

If you could go back in time and do, see, experience something what would it be?

Keep in mind we have to avoid making weird rifts in the space-time continuum, so no picking things like, "I'd keep Lincoln from being assassinated." or "Kill Hitler." Or "I'd use genetic engineering to make sure Henry the VII (I am) had a son." Or "I'd tell my great-grandfather to go ahead and buy those sand dunes in what's now Newport ALL of them." Hopefully you get the idea altering anything*.

Here's my partial list of non-historically-significant-things-I-would-like-to-do-and-can't-do-in-today's-world:
  1. Tell General Tso, "Thank you"
  2. Meet Jesus, between ages 12 and 30
  3. Rub the real Buddha's belly
  4. Travel with Louis and Clark and discover North America
  5. Actually see the Wonders of the World
  6. ...still thinking

*And don't try to Butterfly Effect me by saying you couldn't do anything without changing the future, this is hypothetical.

Monday, July 23, 2007

CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate

I was just watching the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debates, and I just saw the best debate question ever posed.

As a whole the candidates cracked me up. When asked about global warming they all agreed that it was real and dangerous. Then when asked about their travel plans all but 1 of the candidates admitted to taking a private jet.

When talking about schools they tell us that we need to trust in public schools. Then when asked where they sent their children over 1/2 of them provided some sort of excuse as to why their children went to private schools. Why not just admit that private schools are better and you took advantage of the opportunities presented to you?

Here's my overview of the candidates:
  • Kucinich - He really believes what he says. While I may not agree with him, I respect him.
  • Clinton - Too polished. Will probably end up with the nomination though because of her rehearsed answers to everything.
  • Obama - Charismatic, but not quite as smooth on his feet as necessary.
  • Biden - Reminds me of old-college fraternity person from the north east...will never make it and has some bad ideas while trying to take more credit than he deserves.
  • Dodd - Not pretty enough. Mediocre ideas, but nothing new.
  • Edwards - has a fighting chance. Nothing unique, but not as detestable as Hillary.
  • Gravel - My favorite candidate by far. Proponent of the fair tax and school competition, didn't pander to emotions in his answer...basically no way in hell he'd get the Dem nomination because he actually tries to think.
Here's another fun question while we're at it:
Remy's Question on Taxes: YouTube/CNN Debates

Monday, July 09, 2007


Yesterday marks the first anniversary of my marriage to the Wife. The hardest part to believe is the cliché response of how quickly everything has gone. Last year was such fun with all of the wedding stuff going on, getting to visit with lots of friends, creating an event that truly represented who we are and what we wanted.

The past year in review has been one of the best in my life; full of joy, laughter, and fulfillment, excitement, adventure, newness, passion, frugality, and satisfaction. I really don’t know what else I could ask for.

Life with the Wife has been great. I’ve learned so much about her, about myself and about what we want for our lives and how we wish to grow. The best part is too that things are just starting. We’re finally getting settled into the role of spouse, confidant, lover and friend; and things are going along incredibly smoothly. In fact, many people warned us that the first year of marriage was by far the hardest and that things will get easier from here on out. I really don’t know how things could get easier, it’s been great.

What’s fun is now that we’re settled into our roles we’re starting to figure out what some of our goals are for the future and who/what we really want to be and be willing to take some of the steps that will get us closer. One great book that I would really recommend to any couple would be the book Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach. While the word ‘rich’ is in the title, it’s not all about money. It’s about making sure that your life is headed in the right direction to help you become what you want to be and centering your life around the values that make up who you are and not around the things you want to buy (one of the biggest problems for most Americans).

So one year in review I would say that marriage to the right person is one of the greatest choices you could ever make. I’m so happy that I’m with the person that I found. Wife, I couldn’t ask for more and I look forward to more slow Saturday mornings, trips to new places, dinners at home, uncorking bottles of wine, hikes through the park with the puppy, motorcycle rides on back country roads, mornings in the coffee shop, reading together on the couch, cuddling up for a movie together, helping you reach things on top shelves, making sure you are squeaky clean, creating stories about strangers’ lives, explaining mathematical/scientific concepts, learning about HR nuances, camping trips, reading labels in search of glutens, working out together, and feeling the closeness of you for years to come.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Peace Officers

One thing that really hacks me off is that police are often more of villains and thugs than even the crooks. Take your average day, would I rather walk by an Austin Police Officer or would I rather walk by some guy on 6th Street that's high? Well, given recent events, I would MUCH rather walk buy the drug addict. At least if I walk by them I'm not likely to be assumed of committing some crime, I probably won't be harassed, and even if I am harassed I can leave at my own free will...not so with the cop.

That got me to thinking though, because it's pretty sad that I would rather be near this supposedly 'bad' person than I would near the 'good' cop. What caused this change? There was a point in my life (my dad is a life-long officer), where I would happily trust a cop, and willingly go to them for assistance. But that naiveté has been replaced with suspicion and distrust due to almost every single point of contact with a peace officer to be a VERY negative experience. I'm not just talking tickets either. I'm talking about a complete disregard by police officers as a whole towards just being good people. It really seems that instead of being interested in keeping the peace, protecting and serving people, they are MUCH more focussed on the people serving them. Serving them time, serving them money, serving them humility to bolster their egos.

What caused this change? What made this huge shift in our police force since the 50s where we see images of the local police being friendly and helping people out in town? Just think to something like the Andy Griffith Show. You had a sheriff that just let Otis come in and out of jail. Today, you have Cops, where the highlight is chasing people down and throwing them on the ground while slapping on cuffs. Which isn't too far off from the real world of cops shooting unarmed people in the back (Austin, Texas) or busting down the door of grandmothers and then shooting them to death (Georgia).

I think the real problem is not necessarily that the world has gotten worse (my personal opinion is that the world is no worse/better now than at any time in history...just think on 'kids these days' comments), it's that our perceptions of the world have gotten worse, and that in all of this panic about security, somewhere in there, we decided that police should have free reign to lord over our lives. Combine this with the really unethical practice of using tickets to fund your own department (see New Rome, Ohio), police are really just a means of taxation and don't really serve the people in any meaningful way the majority of the time, and can never be questioned because they consider themselves to BE the law instead of simply enforcers of the law.

So how can we change all of this?

The first thing to do is to follow the money trail. We need to make sure that tickets through such events as traffic fines are NEVER spent on the department that creates those tickets. The reason. What's to put those people in check? What's to prevent an officer like the one I had a great chance to meet from simply piling up the fact, it's positive feedback. You ticket more, you get more money, so that you can ticket more, so that you can get more money, etc. This simply has to stop. There's no rational reason why cops have to sit around lurk for tickets for petty crimes when there's real problems out there that should be taken care of.

The second thing that needs to happen is there needs to be a fundamental change in attitude of our police forces. Instead of thinking of each person you meet as a criminal in the making. People should be thought of as what they are...generally good, but fallible. So how do you do this? Instead of having a system that essentially has quotas of how many tickets are issued, or who can generate the most money. Police forces around the country should really have much harder and stricter quotas...on how many people you directly helped/impacted in one day. Imagine how much that could help to change the attitudes people have towards police. Instead of simply rushing out to see what people are doing wrong, try to see where people could use some help and lend a hand. You'd be making the world a much better place, and if I did something wrong I could understand my guilt more because I would know your hobby isn't slapping people around, it's helping people.

I hate to see so many people's lives on a local level simply fall victim to an unapproachable and uncontainable foe that is our modern peace offices, but with a few changes like these I think it could really help our communities for the better and would help to make sure that instead of hiring thugs and deviants to assert their will on the people you could hire people that want to help make their community a better place for all.


Thanks to the recent upswing of my company's stock, patience, lots of saving, and the frugality of our lives lately; the wife and I reached a pretty awesome milestone in our lives. We paid off my car!

I can't tell you how freeing it is to know I no longer have to make that payment each month, to hold the title in my hands, and to know that no matter what, that's my property and it can't be taken away from me*. So now when you see me driving around in my car. Know this. That vehicle is paid for and I'm now one step closer to being free from those whom I owe money.

Another cool related thing is that for the first time since college both myself and my wife are free from any and all credit card debt. This has been a big goal of ours to get rid of credit card debt, and we finally did it!

Needless to say it's been a great month, and a freeing one from a financial perspective. I'm really looking forward to our Personal Debt-Free Day, which should happen sometime within the next 2 years...or 1 year if we really cut back on expenses.

*Except by the government for any reason it decides, or an individual if they happen to sue me, or theft, or by accident thereby destroying the vehicle and removing it from my possession.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Crazy Ones

I was talking with a friend of mine at work today. It was interesting because he was talking about going to a family event of his and how the relatives were driving him crazy because all of their lives were like some huge soap opera. So much stress, so much drama, and finally he was able to understand why his parents didn't always go to visit them...couldn't handle the unnecessary discord.

That got me to thinking about other friends I have that have similar people in their lives that simply seem to be always surrounded by some drama or another, but what's interesting is that there's always something going on that's 'oh so aweful.'

During the course of the conversation he said something that I want to remember because I think it will help me to easily decide who or what I do or don't want to surround myself with.

Rational people: "Don't have major life-crises that they've created themselves."

So if you want to bring drama to me, first use this as a litmus test to find out if I care:
  1. Is this really an issue that has a bearing on your life or the lives of others?
  2. Did this drama already exist and you're simply a bystander trying to get out?
  3. Have you tried to deal with it on your own?
  4. Are you even willing to change your actions?
If your answers are 'no' then I don't want to hear about it. Go deal with it yourself and get back to me when you can realize that your own actions have consequences and the world is NOT out to get you and hurt your feelings.

I'm looking forward to a nice, calm, unemotional time with you from here on out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Architectural Faux Pas

Why is the short urinal ALWAYS in the wrong spot?

The first real question is why are there short urinals in the first place. I don't work with a single midget, there aren't any 5 year-old child prodigies at most locations, and handicapped people will need to use the toilet bowl anyways. No, we're all grown ups around here, so why do these incessant short urinals exist in the first place? My only real guess is that maybe it has something to do with the Americans with Disabilities act. Well, if that's the case then where's my tall urinal?

The necessity of a short urinal aside, there is continually a major phallus-y in the placement of the short urinal.

Why of why is it that every restroom I go into looks like this?

As you can see, the first person who goes into the restroom goes to Urinal #3. The next person who goes in has to either pee on their feet by using Urinal #1, or risk having another man look at their junk by using Urinal #2. Because neither option is ideal the second person in the restroom has to either:
  1. Wait for Urinal #3, which is awkward since you can't talk to a man if he's peeing and you're not. So you can stand there in silence simply listening to another man go.
  2. Use one of the toilet bowls, which will lead to having to lift the toilet seat with your shoe or worse the evidence that a disaster had occurred before you got there.
As you can see, this is pathetic. In the modern setup, there are 3 urinals, but 2 are a complete waste and are never used! Why not just have a huge magazine rack in the same place so you can have something to read per a #2 incident.

Because of this waste of ~70% of urinal resources and the apparent forcing of bathroom designers to adhere to the use of placing a short urinal in all restrooms I have devised an optimized solution.

As you can see, this increases productive urinal use by 100%! The first person will use Urinal #1 because it is furthest from anybody else (unless it is directly adjacent the door, in which case Urinal #3 will be the first urinal used). The second person is then free to use Urinal #3. Now if more people come in, then it's perfectly fine. The next person can use a toilet, and if things are really crowded, then it's perfectly acceptable for Urinal #2 to be utilized (such as when a sporting event lets out or the end of a party).

So please, architectural masterminds-in-the-making. PLEASE start arranging your urinals with care, you'll reduce maintainence costs and help enforce the man-code with a simple readjustment of the porcelain receptacles of our pee.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Viewing the Mountains

I just had one of the best work trips I’ve ever had. This week I came to Mountain View, CA and from start to finish it was about as great as one could hope for.

One of the best things about coming to Mountain View from Austin is that it’s a direct flight. After my last business trip where I was traveling between 8am and 2am just to get to my destination, I LOVE the fact that I simply board one plane, sit back (with my new Bose Noise Canceling headphones that the Wife got me for my birthday. Thanks!) and viola I’m there. This place is simply beautiful, from the first moment I stepped outside I was greeted by perfect weather, and beautiful trees.

Fortunately I’ve been to this region before. While last time I was here I spent a good deal of time going to San Francisco or visiting malls…this time I decided I was going to do nothing but soak up the mountains and get some good exercise. And that’s what I really love about this area, the landscape is gorgeous. Mostly it’s just because on the ‘mountains or beaches’ first-date question I circle mountains multiple times, but also these are some really nice ones in that they’re scalable and have tons of wildlife all over them. The first day was a nice little jaunt of only about 2 miles, but totally worth it, especially because I saw the clouds make a rainbow…never seen that before.

The course I was teaching went pretty well too, most of the class was really top notch and nobody fell asleep, so that’s a definite plus.

The next evening I decided to drive and see what I can find. This is point 2 why I love mountains is getting to drive these awesome twisty little roads that make your tires stink and your rotors beg for mercy. I raced up and down the twisties for about an hour before finally finding a great spot to go jogging. Then it was up again into the mountains.

Going into the mountains is always a little scary alone cause there’s big signs at the head of every trail that say, “Never hike alone. Mountain Lion Habitat”. But, I figure I’m a bit on the big side for a mountain lion, so I’ll take my chances. Doesn’t mean I didn’t take my ID though…just in case. So these mountains are so diverse. There’s shrubby plants, redwoods, grass meadows, dry areas, lush areas, etc. This trip was really cool because I found all sorts of critters.

Like baby birds in a mud embankment.


Peacocks at the local winery.

And lots of bunnies.

The trail was a lot of fun too but was quite a few miles long. After running all this time in the mountains this week my legs and butt are starting to get pretty sore.

After tooling around on Google Maps I found something the next day that I decided I needed to go to: Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The road out there was fantastically fun (map). Just turn after tight turn after turn. If only I wasn’t driving a Chrysler Sebring (one of the worst handling rentals I’ve ever had: anemic, warped rotors, squishy tires, poor steering feedback) I could have really had a blast! Eh, I had a blast anyways, so it’s all good.

Anyways, I get into this park and it’s just fantastic. The trees soar over your head to where you can never see the tops, the trunks are massive, and the quiet of everything is surreal.

It’s weird, but where the foothills were teeming with life, the forest was eerily silent. Simply the wind in the trees, the slow creaking of the massive trunks and the gurgling of the brooks.

All this beauty really turned me into a tree hugger though.

Then I found a map and looked for the trail I wanted to hike, but I found out it was 11 miles long and it was already about one hour until dark, so that wasn’t going to happen. So then I did a bit more searching and found a trail that was supposed to take 3 hours, and was labeled as being ‘very strenuous’ and having a rigorous ascent. Sounds perfect! So I decided to book it up to the top of the 1200 ft (365 m) climb and it was totally worth it!

I did the whole 2 mile 1200ft ascent in 30 minutes! That’s like walking to the top of the Empire State Building and then running a mile…pretty proud of myself on that one.

The views from the top were breathtaking and the serenity of the moment was peerless. I just sat at the top for about 20 minutes just soaking in the harsh brutality that awaits those who visit the mountains’ peaks. The clouds soar overhead like cars on a freeway, racing with feverish pace and the roar of the wind howls at you like you’ve invaded some wild animal’s territory.

Unfortunately the sun was about to set, and the ever present threat of cougar attacks made me decide to make a quick descent to the safety of numbers. A nice drive home through the now darkened twisties and through Saratoga which was littered with Ferrari's and Porsche's and it was off to bed for me. A little sorer, but better filled with joy on the inside.

The last day of class ended a lot earlier than I thought so I got to go to this great coastal city called Santa Cruz.

While I don’t have a lot of pictures it was absolutely splendid just walking on the beach, watching kids run away from the waves, feeling the cool breeze blow over me, and seeing even more new things.

Like baby sea lions.

And kelp. And surfers. And my favorite (a mini life goal of mine), I got to see a Sea Otter floating on its back in the ocean and trying to bang open an oyster against a rock on its chest. (The next mini life goal is to have a pet fresh water otter!)

After all this running around though I was wiped out but completely satisfied. I can’t really put into words how recharged I feel inside after being directly in the presence of so much beauty, it really just fills me up. I really hope that one day I can move to a place like this and have access to this all on a more regular basis. Now I’m just counting down the days until the wife’s and my vacation to Washington and British Columbia. Can’t wait!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Quick Phlog

That's a 'Photo Blog' for those of you that don't randomly take letters out of things for the heck of it.

Things have been busy but fun in the Otis household lately. The wife recently passed a certification class that she was quite busy with, and today she found out that she didn't just pass...she beat the test into the ground and made it scream uncle. I'm back out on the road teaching ever harder courses. The puppy still can't just chase deer all while we're at work. And all sorts of other stuff. To keep things simple though, I thought I'd share a few photos with you of some of the stuff that's been going on lately.

I wrapped up my first year as a Robolab teacher. These kids were really great, and smart to boot. I'm definitely going to miss their little faces next year.

Then we had a Yuppy Wine and Cheese Party

That led to there being a bunch of giggly women on our couch, while us guys played Battletoads and Punch Out.

This was one of the most beautiful Springs that we've had recently so that means the obligatory photo of us in the bluebonnets with 'the kids'.

On the balcony the Wife has been testing her green thumb and we're actually making some really good basil, and growing little tomatoes and bellpeppers.

And of course no photo collection is complete without a picture of the dog..

I swear 1/2 of my memory card is comprised of various pictures of Abi not looking at the camera. Fortunately she's getting older, so these scenes of her simply relaxing are getting more and more common.

Alright, looking at her is making me tired. I'm out.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Who is Really in Control?

While watching the news lately you can see all sorts of information about the effort being made by the 2008 presidential candidates to raise funding for their campaigns. What's ridiculous is the amount of money they will need to move forward. The figures are astounding, in the 10s-100s of Millions of dollars. I wouldn't be surprised if the 2008 candidates end up spending about one billion to get elected.

But all of that money made me start thinking a bit about where it all comes from. I know that I'm not spending that much. And I know that many of the issues that are pursued in this country do not really reflect the desires and opinions of the majority of the people in this country. The groups that really stand to benefit from the policies of the government (either Republican-led or Democratic-led) are the huge corporations and organizations that exist in this country.

But why are the bills created to benefit those companies? When you look through the constitution you do not see the government as being created "Of the businesses, by the businesses, and for the businesses." No! The government is intended to be "Of the People, by the People, and for the People." Granted all people are ultimately employed by some business, but the government should remain a solemn entity that represents the needs of its citizens. It's concerning to me though that these huge campaigns that are run, and the focus of our political system (both on foreign and national policy fronts) are centered not around the needs of the people upon which the system is built, but on the desires of corporations and organizations which cannot even vote.

When looking for the reason for anything in this world, the simplest place to start is to look for where the money is flowing. If you look at the political class, it does not take a genius to realize that most of the money in our political system comes from organizations and corporations. Naturally then it follows suit that since these are the largest portions of monetary flow for our government officials that they will be most interested in making policy for whoever lines their coffers.

However, when you think about the root, just how many votes does a corporation have? How many votes does a union have? How many votes do illegal aliens have? How many votes do other governments have? Not a one. Not a single vote. So why is it that we continue to allow them to contribute to a system that is not created for them? Why do we continue to make policies that benefit corporations that contribute to campaigns? Why is the minimum wage raised everywhere except for where one business runs their operations and their headquarters just so happen to be in the same district as the speaker of the house? Why (since the 1970s) do we only fight wars where we can later extract or leverage some natural resource? Why was there a mandate put out declaring that all adolescent girls are required to take a vaccine produced by a company that contributed to a governor's campaign? Why are toll roads being created throughout Texas even when large pieces of the projects were already publicly approved and funded? These interest can at best help the electorate in some abstract and probably intangible way; however, they can directly be seen as helping Corporation X in Senator Y's district. When looking at situations like this I think it's very appropriate to use Occam's Razor, and you'll quickly see where the truth lies.

One of the greatest things that I think could happen in this country is to create a complete and total ban of any corporation or organization from donating to any political campaign or cause. But how would those organizations be able to affect national policy? Well, they could have education campaigns to individuals in their organizations/company and then the people in those organizations can make the choice as to what to do or who they want to contribute to. It's way overdue that something be done so that we the people can actually control the government that we created. I truly believe that by eliminating corporate and organizational contributions we could level the political playing field a bit and our politicians would be forced to listen to those who donate the most to their cause...which would just so happen to be the same citizens that vote for them.

While we're at it maybe introduce a policy similar to the tech industry's 'do not compete' clause stating that all government officials cannot join a lobby or head a group they've funded for 5 years after leaving their office. That way they don't start making off the books deals that roll-over at a later date.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Passive Aggressive Taxes

You think they'll get it?

It's my way of saying thank you to the IRS spending more of my money than I do in ANY other category of my life.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dear Kitty,

I saw you as I rounded the corner. I didn't yet know what you were, only that some of your pals were surrounding you. I scared them away after letting out a roar, but I coul not move you. You only laid there. I looked down and you were still moving, and then I realized who you were. You were another kitty, but you had been hit by some car before were long gone, but still lingering.

I wish I knew what to do. Should I finish what the first car started? Should I use the machete I had in the car and make it quick and clean? What if you belonged to somebody? What if they saw me finish it all quickly? Where would I put you? Would you get my car dirty? What would a cop do if they saw me with a bloody machete? Should I just drag you out of the road? Should I leave a note for your owners? I don't know what to do, what would be best, what would cause the least harm.

Had you kept moving I would have helped, but when you stopped I knew that you should be left where you were so that your story would be easily known. I will now leave you to your circle of mourning friends, may your death not also be the death of them.

The Man Who Watched You Pass Away

Monday, March 26, 2007

Modern fArt

While in New York I had a great chance to visit one of the premier museums for Modern fArt that exist, the MoMA. One of the frustrating things that I noticed was that the 'artists' never seemed to be able to relate what their masterpiece was about. Perhaps they couldn't recognize it.

Fortunately for you, I've taken a few of these masterpieces and helped you to better appreciate these items of beauty by giving them a name and helping you to understand the emotions and passion behind these brilliant works.

Gymnasium in Flood

Nothing better captures emotions than a flood. Here you can see three balls. One finds itself as an outcast from the others despite them all being the same. You can also see their tension as the rest between the water that lifts them and the air that they need to remain full. Yes, I think we all can relate.

Home Depot: Paint Department

Some of the most beautiful things in the world are those that are around us all the time. What better way to demonstrate that to bring the world of your local paint department to the halls of a museum. A perfect contrast of simple and refined.

Young Artist Wets Their Bed

As a child wakes up in the morning and wets the bed, so has this artist. But to help preserve the complexity and disorder of those moments the artist has replaced the results of micturition with paint.

Freebirds as Leftovers...Microwaved

We've all done it. Brought home a burrito and tried to reheat it. Most people realize that you should take the foil off before microwaving; however the artist chose to let us see the danger that would happen if we did not follow our normal pattern of rules.

Jacked-Up Jousting Jackalope

Yeah, um...there's no explaining this one. I'm thinking they needed some money, had a few sticks and a dead rabbit.

As you can see those that appreciate or create modern art are socially capable individuals that are solidly grounded in reality and help to express the world in a way that's intuitively relevant and comprehendible to all.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Alright, I'm on a political bent, so you'll have to bear with me.

Really excited about Ron Paul running for president. A guy like this would do AMAZING things for this country. Too bad most of America is too dumb to understand what needs to be done, and he's not your mainstream Republicrat so he's getting no coverage whatsoever in the media. But the good news is he's gaining a lot of support thru the internet, and who knows, if I can convince some people that can convince some people...could become something real.

Death and Taxes. The only sure things in life. Question is are you so sure about why you're paying them? According to this interesting documentary (America: Freedom to Fascism). While certain lawyers may disagree (ahem) with it, the fact remains if you cannot clearly point out where a law is and why it exists, then you cannot enforce such a non-existent law. Why don't we just implement the Fair Tax instead of our current overly complex system that provides too many loopholes for those with the money to evade it?

RTfB Act. I really think that one of the worst parts of our government is the ambiguity and ridiculous length of what members of congress say they approve of. When a bill is 1000 pages long there is NO way that you could have the ability to read, much less comprehend what you're voting for. Not only that, but much of the language of laws is deliberately worded so that it's so ambiguous that nobody can understand it (much like credit card contracts), that way the authorities that be can really do whatever they want and claim that the law is actually on their side. I really applaud DownsizeDC for trying to get this off the ground. Yet again, probably will never make it, but if it does...expect great bad things like abolition of Habeas Corpus to be a thing of the past.

Other ideas in the pipeworks that I like. A law that would only allow one topic to be addressed per bill proposed. And having automatic runoffs or making the house of representatives reflect the voting percentages of the electorate on a per party percentage (like in the Netherlands). Whatever happens in this country the first thing to do is to take control of our currency, shift taxes so that they do not punish production, and then create laws that force it to where Congress can only really do something if it's VERY important or relatively simple to accomplish. Not that any of this will ever happen though...unless we can somehow get Ron Paul in for president. What would be really interesting is if Hillary gets the Dem nomination, and Paul does not get the Rep nomination, then to have a Paul/Barrack that would get America interested in the race and prove on both their parts that they are more concerned with helping America than with partisan politics. We'll see what really goes down though.

[Edit March 23, 2007]
One more great link.
A Visual Guide to Where Your Taxes Go by Death and Taxes

Are You Good Enough?

Recently I purchased Neal Boortz's book Somebody's Gotta Say It and ran accross this amazing quiz in one of the chapters. The quiz can be found online here:

The Boortz Citizenship Quiz

And this is why I love this guy. You may not agree with all of the points, but man...they really make you think. And I'm ashamed to say there's a good chunk of the questions in there that I really don't know anything about or completely understand. - It would really help if there was an NIV or NAS version of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. -

Just in case you're too lazy to check out the list here are a few of the questions that really made me think.
  • If our Constitution provides for equal protection under the law, why, then, does the Voting Rights Act only apply to certain states who were held in political disfavor in the 70's?
  • Where in our Constitution does it specifically state that only U.S. citizens may vote for the office of President of the United States?
  • Why were the words "under God" placed into the Pledge of Allegiance?
  • How many times can the word "democracy" found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution?
  • How many times can the word "democracy" found in the constitutions of any of the 50 states?
  • If two wolves and one sheep vote on what they're going to have for dinner what do you think the menu will look like?
  • Do you have a choice as to whether or not you pay Social Security taxes? Why then do they call Social Security taxes "contributions"?
The wife and I actually had a really great conversation trying to figure out the 'right' answers to some of these. And we ended up having a lot of fun discussing these issues. That's one of the best things about being married to her...just when I think I know her inside and out I just keep learning more.

What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

To all of my readers that are still left, I apologize for the long absence. Life has been very interrupting lately, but it's been good because it's let me learn much about myself and what I hold to be important.

Ultimately things have really been changing for me since November. I thought it would finally be a good idea to look at all the money that seemed to slip like sand out of my fingers and see where it's really going. Looking at your debts is an amazing way to reflect upon what your values are and for those of you that haven't I strongly recommend it. Once I got the main checking accounts worked out I sat down with the wife and made a plan for finally ridding ourselves of debt. I think this is going to be one of the hardest things that we ever do as a couple though...definitely will take a lot of work, but the freedom involved with a lack of debt will be awesome! From the checking accounts I moved on to the retirement accounts and the various other accounts that I have stuck here and there and was truly amazed at what can happen when you're not looking. IRAs in all the wrong distributions, moneys missing and the like. All very stressful, but once worked out, very satisfying.

It's weird but lately I've been on a big kick to try and figure out what money really is. I mean it seems weird that I spend so much of my life dedicated to the earning of money, but the more I acquire the faster it runs away from me. Is my spending really out of control? Is there really a need to save as much as I am for my future? All these things I'm not really sure of. I mean I know that there won't be Social Security when I get old (every person with two synapses knows my generation won't see a dime). Even if I do manage to save and earn millions with compounded interest it still won't be worth nearly as much by the time I go to get it due to inflation.

On the one hand it's been really fun to delve into money in this larger scale sense and try to gain an understanding of what really happens with it all. But on the other hand I feel little like Solomon must have felt when God gave him the gift of knowledge. While this new knowledge is awesome I can't help to feel really let down. What's amazed me most is to see that if you understand money on a large scale it puts everything else into perspective. It becomes so easy to see how people are manipulated at the top levels to help a few of their friends to build a toll road, give away the basis for power of our government, and become involved only in areas where we get a monetary and not a moral reward.

The biggest thing that has recently opened my eyes to the world that we all pay for is actually a cartoon called Money as Debt (video and website). But not just any cartoon, it's more of a documentary of the fuel that moves us forward. It appears to be well researched and if you get the time to watch it (about 45 min), I think it will open your eyes a bit more to the world around you. And if it does open your eyes I think that you will see much is wrong. I feel like the US that we live in today is very akin to Vanity Fair. All running around filled with mirth, but unaware of the danger that we are walking in and the traps we have unwittingly set for ourselves. It really saddens me because I really want to love the US, but it seems at every turn she does yet another thing that dissolves any trust. It's like having a girlfriend that you want to love but she seems more interested in whoring herself to the highest bidder.

I don't quite know where to go from here. This was actually meant to be a quite different post, but it evolved of its own accord. I guess some of the things I wanted to leave you with were some of the resources that I've found of late that really have helped me to learn more about who I am and better understand this world around me.

So in no particular order:
The Simple Dollar - One man's quest to save and not continue life as a serf
Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach
How to Lose Your Fear of Being Fired by The Chief Happiness Officer (lame name, great advice...particularly in the top 10 articles)
Google Finance - See how your stock options are worth nothing!

Various other links, comments, blurbs and other conversation that have helped to build me, but I'm tired of listing things.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Favorite Web Comic

After feeling like ToothPasteforDinner has gone down the drains a little lately, I have finally found a new favorite Web Comic. This is a great find for me today because I was able to have many laughs while sifting through all 231 of the entries.

This person seems to think a lot like I do. A whole lot of nerd, thinking of life as various algorhithms and charts, and spending too much time coming to logical conclusions via faulty thought processes. Anyways, I hope you enjoy as much as I.

To help all of you out I found the following to be the best entries:

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Word of the Day

Cuboidical (kyōō'-boi-dĭ-kəl)
n. Similar to a cubical, but all the sides need not be of equal length.

"Man Sanjay, I feel like my life is slowly being sucked away from me every moment I'm in my 8'x8' cubical."

"No Joe, because your cubical is only 5'6" tall your life is actually being sucked away every moment that you are in your cuboidical."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Look at Me. I'm the Weatherman!

I swear, this is what it looks like every week. I'm in work it's beautiful, I get home it's dark, it's bright out and I'm's raining and cold.