Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Joke

Some engineering students were shooting the bull in the dorm one night, and began to talk about the nature of God. They all agreed immediately that God was an engineer, but what kind?
One said, "God is a structural engineer. Look at the human body, with its skeletal system and circulatory system -- pure design perfection."

The second said, "Ah, but what runs this human body? The brain! The nervous system! God is an electrical/chemical engineer!"

The third one, quiet till then, said, "Yes, but who but a civil engineer runs a waste disposal system through a recreational area?"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Phone Interviews

I just had one. I will say that I do not particularly care for them. I much prefer in person meetings/talks/interviews. Over the phone timing is more awkward, interruptions can occur more readily. I also feel compelled to say things and continue and often feel afterward as though the conversation, on my part, was forced. Moreover, not actually seeing the people interviewing you, makes it harder to get a feeling for how things are going or went, which leads to searching for flubs and mistakes, of which you will always find/remember many. In addition I have to concentrate much harder on what is being said, and really work to not get distracted. The amount of effort that this takes me is phenomenal, and that is when I am very interested in the goings on of the phone call, as I was for this interview. In this case I was additionally thrown off by the fact that I forgot about the one hour time difference and the call came an hour earlier than I expected it. I didn't have anything to drink and my mouth went dry over the course of the interview. That only provided me with further distraction. I'll find out how it went for sure in a few days.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Banning Tag?!?

Holy shit. I know there are stupid rules due to fear of lawsuits, but this one really burns me up. Actually, it wouldn't be so bad, and I would probably simply consider it funny sad, except for this:

"Another Willett parent, Celeste D'Elia, said her son feels safer because of the rule. 'I've witnessed enough near collisions,' she said."

First off: her son feels safer? Is he a loser or are the other kids in his school little shits? There were myriad tag style games when I was in grade school and I remember not everyone playing. Hell, I don't think that I played all the time. It went something like this: "Hey, ____, do you want to play tag?" "Not really." "Okay, hey, (someone else), do you..." Sometimes tag was not played. Kids that didn't play were not picked on and ridiculed, well, not for that anyway, kids can be nasty. If any child feels threatened by tag at recess then either they have been raised horribly, or there is zero teacher supervision and a bunch of mini-ass holes.

Second, and this provides us with the likely correct solution to the last statement: she has witnessed enough near collisions? Are you kidding me? What the hell does that even mean? Is this woman so rediculously overprotective that the notion of two kids running into each other is this terrifying? Wait, don't answer that, I already know and the response is "she shouldn't be breeding." They're kids; they play; sometimes they get hurt. So what? It's people like this with absolutely zero sense of appropriate response/risk/fear that allows zealots to strip away our rights in the name of safety.

The sad thing is that it was likely the best decision for the school. If crazy woman's terrified son had ended up with a broken arm/sprained ankle/bruised ego then she would go and sue the district for tens or hundereds of thousands, forcing the schools to decide between heat and books. Also I feel sorry for the boy. His mother probably also keeps the home antiseptically clean, which will induce him to have severe allergies and asthma in the future if not already.

Final note to parents out there: overprotection of your children is counterproductive. It is the freedom to make mistakes, including those which can lead to injury/sickness/embarassment that help us to grow and learn. A 13 year old who learned by five that cuts, scrapes, and bruises hurt is less likely to inflict such injuries on others (and by 13 those injuries could be far more severe). The more insulated the less empathy and the less humane the person.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Foley

I think that Dan Savage (of Savage Love, not to be confused w/ Michael Savage) has the best commentary on the Foley scandal, so I won't say much.

It isn't that he (Foley) is gay, or that he is a pedophile, or that he did anything illegal. It is simply that, because he is a Republican, everything is getting downplayed. Clinton got a consentual hummer from a leagal (of age) woman. It was stupid, immoral, deceitful, whatever other things you want to call it. It stalled congress, days of testimony, senators and representatives stood on their soapboxes to decry the moral depravity of the President. There was an impeachment. With Foley we get told they were inappropriate e-mails and let's move on. I got no love for many Republicans' draconian notions of sex, but I can deal with it if they have the character to be honest and consistent. They have not. The hypocrytical behavior that they exhibit is beyond immoral. This is why they have to go. It isn't that there are no good Republicans, it's just that they are not running the show in DC. Party does not come before country, state or district. Ever.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

School Violence II

The school violence all over the news is being brought back to guns (more slowly, probably because we have a "kill 'em all" cowboy gun slinger as president...but he is sucha a good Christian). Guns are an issue in this country thanks to that pesky second ammendment, but what is the solution?

I've never been a big fan of guns, not real ones anyway. I do see the appeal, though. I also don't have any issue with hunting. If I lived in a more rural area I would likely own a couple guns and shoot things for food. Beyond hunting rifles and shotguns, however, most firearms are designed for killing other people. That is also how they are used. I have no problem with an outright ban on every firearm except for a handful that could be protected as hunting or historic weapons. Firing ranges, police and a few others could still get licences for handguns, with special id tags to keep them from working for other than their designated purpose (this is not hard). However, in an odd twist, I do not think that there should be nearly the regulation of hunting firearms that there is now.

Unlike driving, which is a privilege, owing a firearm is a Constitutionally granted right. Now I do think that, unlike the Geneva convention, the second ammendment really is quaint. A free standing militia is not necessary for the security of this country, actually it seems the opposite is true, as it was a militia man who gave us the Oklahoma City bombing. Militias were meant as a guard against government run amok (McVeigh felt ours had and needed to be forcibly stopped), but even the Michigan milita would stand little chance against the US army and state troopers and local police. But in the absense of the repeal of the second ammendment, there should not be as much regulation on firearms sales. No felons, sure, but nothing beyond a quick background check. No registering serial numbers, no implanting chips, no tracking gun purches/purchacers.

Of course I also think that gun crimes should be severly punished while drug crimes should not. Gun criminals have abused their Constitutional right. They are un-American. Now what was I saying about forgiveness?

School Violence I

School violence has decreased dramatically over the past 20-30 yrs. It's true, I'm not going to get the links, though you should feel free. Some of that is related to metal detectors and drug sniffing dogs and strict policies regarding weapons and guests/visitors. Some of it is PC thuggery. Some of it is a more accepting society and some of it is detachment. There are probably other reasons, and those reasons can be discussed ad nauseam, so I won't; I'll just say that schools are "safer" than they were in the 80's, despite perception.

People feel that they are more dangerous. Steven Colbert tells us that this means they are more dangerous. It's not true, of course, but it is funny. The main reason people feel this way is likely the intense media and internet coverage. In 1986 if some 14 yr old shot a 15 yr old over drugs in a central Phily school, chances are good that no one outside of the metro area would have even heard about it. Not true today. While that incident would get less coverage than the Amish schoolhouse or other sleepy community shootings, for reasons ranging from racism to indifference, to expectations, it would still be on CNN and on internet news sites within the hour. It plays into this notion that school violence is getting out of hand. It would run. People would think schools are becomming more violent. Further news stories that seem to verify this imaginary trend would be over-reported. The same thing happened after Columbine for several years and then died off. It will die off again, but not for a while, and people's attitude will linger much longer.

Random acts of violence will always occur. It is impossible to provide 100% security. As the total amount of crime goes down, the coverage of the remaining crimes will increase (news needs to fill the void, and happy news doesn't keep viewers tuned in). Detailed coverage of a single crime is at least as effective as superficial coverage of many crimes in inciting fear. (If you know about the warnings and motivations you are more likely to see danger around you, whereas if you just hear about a bunch of killings, you are more inclined to think that it can't happen to you.) Fear only makes life more painful and difficult. We should see hope. We should forgive.

Forgiveness is a strange notion to most Americans, despite our purported religious zeal. It has been mentioned several times in the Amish story, and every time it is discussed the surprise is tangible. Why? It should not be. We have become so accustomed to revenge and punishment that we see the lack of those ideas as strange. Politicians who proclaim their Christian values so often call for murder and death that true Christian ideals seem foreign to us. Sure a Buddhist would forgive, but a Christian. That is not their way (at least not in this country). That is a disgusting thought, but it is true. It is borne out every day when king W talks. He is angry, vengeful and hate filled. His supposed Christianity is well known. Forgiveness must be un-Christian. I wonder about my depression.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Big Brother is Watching You

United States Dept of the Interior report states employees spend thousands of hours a week at various recreational sites. Now I think that porn and gambling are anathema in the workplace, but for reasons of viruses, worms, bandwidth hogging and sexual harassment, but only 4700 of the million plus suspect log entries were for those purposes. The thousands of hours/week and million plus logs also covered 7700 employees. This likely constitutes less time than is spent in the lavatories and is hardly a danger to "productivity."

It just sounds bad. That's it, though. It is measureable, people can see facts, and no one thinks spending time gambling at work is really ethical...at least in principle. The real fact is that productivity and time wasting are often very difficult to measure. If you have a union or government job, then that job often has a very detailed description, and many times you are not even allowed to do "work" that is not part of that description. This means that if an efficient employee finishes all of their work for the day by 10:00 a.m. then they cannot do any more work that day. They also can't go home. This is true to varying degrees in varying jobs. There are limits to what can be accomplished in a day, both for time constraints and for "availibility" reasons. We tend to frown more upon people who leave work early, even though those people may be going to accomplish something meaningful elsewhere, than we do upon those who "burn the candle at both ends" even if they really are not actually doing more work.

I am really back and forth on whether companies should monitor thier employees' internet usage. I don't like the idea for the reasons above, but it really can be a time sink. Of course multi-tasking means that it would be difficult to prove in either case. Personal freedoms may be one reason that I am interested in academics. It is not that they don't demand productivity/results, because they do, but they don't so much look over your shoulder 24-7...well at least not after you get tenure.