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

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.