Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In support of Hillary

Everyone seems to be dissing Hillary Clinton for ordering State Department employees to do spy stuff. As best I understand it the rationale is that the state department are not spies and asking them to act as spies endangers their diplomatic status. I would bet the diplomats from most other countries do the same thing, they just don't have it leaked to the press. In many other countries the leaker would have woken up dead one morning.

I never liked the Clintons, never voted for the Clintons. I even voted for Dole for Christ's sake. But in my minor unimportant opinion, Hillary was having the state department do what it should have been doing. Its just that no one should have found out about it. Its what the Clinton's are good at. Finding dirt on the opposition, leverage. Remember the missing FBI files? Now granted Hillary was likely looking for stuff for personal gain as well that could be used to generate generous donations to the Clinton library but at least she was taking the initiative and we don't need a sunday school teacher as secretary of state, we need a shark.

TSA Big Brother Plot?

So, are the recent changes to the TSA pat down procedures part of some evil master plan to dehumanize the population and get people used to baring all for the government when requested? I think this is more the effect than the design. It may be Big Sis's dream but I don't think Obama is sitting up nights thinking of ways to do humiliate people. The Democrats in general are less opposed to nanny statism than Republicans although not by much. I think the real goal of Obama is to be a one term president without much bad happening. Terrorism on a large scale would not be a good thing for him and given the people around him I don't doubt he feels this is the best way to prevent this. The reason I think Obama wants to be a one termer is because being an ex-president is a pretty good job. You get to do the things that Obama is good at, giving speeches, raising money, writing and selling books. Most of all you get to make a lot of money. Especially if you are Obama. Imagine Al Gore times 10. Al Gore is a very wealthy man, a lot of it comming after leaving office as vice president. He sits on the boards of several companies and received a lot of stock from companies such as Google and Apple. According to various sources his net worth prior to the 2000 election was around $1 million dollars and now is around $100 million. Al Gore is no Barak Obama. Al Gore may have briefly been a rockstar after leaving office, but he is Pat Boone and Barak is Elvis. So if Barak can become an ex-president in 2012 he stands to make a crap load of money. He can also take over the Jimmy Carter role, he can be the advisor, the wise one, the elder statesman that everyone listens to. He may also seek a higher office such as secretary general of the UN, a position with all the prestige and little of the risks associated with being POTUS. The catch is that he needs to come out unscathed. Being President these days is a mine field with a lot that can go wrong and very little that can go right. He needs to get out before the wheels come off in a way that can be directly attributed to him. So if you are Obama do you really want to win in 2012 and have 4 more years trying to avoid disaster? I'm not saying he will throw the towel in or tank an election but given the circumstances why not push the most liberal agenda possible and be perceived to go down fighting?

Anyway, I've gotten off track. Obama is not allowing Big Sis to push mass humiliation as a policy to prep people for the big brother government of the future, he is just doing what he thinks is best to get to 2012 without an incident that would endanger the most important thing, his legacy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do Atheist Ever get Possessed?

Saw this this morning on Drudge and it occurred to me, when is the last time you heard of an avowed atheist being possessed? Seems like it happens more to religious people and people who believe in the occult than those who don't think there is a god. And I think that being an atheist would also mean you don't believe in any sort of magic so I don't think that Wiccans can be called atheists. Sure atheists may get depressed from time to time about there being no afterlife but we don't get processed. We may wander in search of a greater meaning for our lives but we don't get possessed. We might have a moment of terror in the last seconds of our lives worrying that we were wrong but still we don't get possessed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Atheist Employment Opportunities

Always looking for job opportunities, I found this site. Being an atheist myself, or at least an agnostic I wonder if they have an opening. I have severe pet allergies but then again if I am forced to honor the contract at some point I guess that will be the least of my worries. I wonder if agnosticism is sufficient or do you have to be a full fledged atheist to qualify for a position with this organization?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Quit

Writing this web blog that no one reads over the last few years has been a kind of therapy for me. At times I have whined about things that bothered me, written about things I liked or just whatever popped into my head. Today I am just writing about a major change in my life in an effort to sort out what I want to do.

I quit my job about 5 weeks ago. I had been with the company for 14 years and I just couldn't handle it anymore. To be honest I was forced out. I have been searching the internet lately for articles by people who did the same thing and for the most part the only thing I find are advice columns about how to quit your job properly. Well I didn't do that. I left, I didn't do it smartly, I have a family to support and no job prospects as of yet.

I'm not totally screwed. I don't have very many expenses. My wife has a job and we have enough savings to survive for a while if I don't find anything. I am not ashamed that I quit. I am a hard worker, my history shows that. I worked my way through college working nights. My first job was when I was 14 years old working for a farmer making hay. I worked all through highschool working at restaurants, construction, and farm work. In college I delivered pizza, worked for UPS loading trucks, worked security and worked in a police station.

I put everything I had into the job I just quit. I worked weekends, vacation days. I put in long hours and ignored my family. My health was affected. I was afraid to leave my job and go somewhere else. My skills were out of date and I did not think I could get a similar paying job once I left. I was a software developer but in reality I had become an overpaid support person who did some development. Out of fear I kept pushing at the same company long after I should have moved on to something else.

Finally I reached a point this year where no matter how hard I worked it was not enough. Conflicts with a manager came to a head and finally about a month ago I came home one night and realized I could not go on. My blood pressure was a constant 145 over 100 I couldn't sleep, I couldn't make the simplest decisions. I talked to my wife about it and the next day I went in and handed in my resignation.

Looking back I know that all along I should have left a long time ago but I never had he courage to do it until there was no choice. I think if I would have stayed it might have killed me. It was especially hard to quit given what my own father went through. He died when I was 15 after a 7 year battle with a disease caused by a chemical he was exposed to while working in a factory. For 6 of those 7 years he managed to drag himself to work through unimaginable pain and suffering and here was I quitting due to some emotional stress. My father worked two jobs, one at a factory and one at a youth prison. After he got sick he was fired from his full time job at the factory and continued to work at the prison. It was a minimum security prison and fortunately they allowed him to work even when he could hardly walk anymore.

Maybe my father would have done the same thing. Its hard to say. My job had become a torture in which each week I had to endure being constantly berated and threatened with losing my job. I was not the perfect employee but it was not for lack of trying. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, there were better programmers than me but I always gave it my best effort. That said I was not the worst either. Maybe my fathers job was his escape from the pain he had where mine was the cause of my pain. Maybe under the same conditions he would have done the same thing. Unfortunately I can't ask him that question.

So I quit my job. I haven't found a new job yet. I have looked but not as hard as I should. To be honest I don't know if I am more afraid of not finding a job or finding a job like what I had. When I think about going back into software development I break out in hives. First of all, getting hired in software development usually involves some lying about what your skills are. Then if you are lucky enough to get the job there is a scramble to keep your new employer from figuring out that you don't have the skills you claimed you did. A large part of software development is acting like you are the smartest person in the room even when you aren't. I have watched people with modest skills and knowledge take on the largest projects simply because they are not afraid to and they are able to convince others that they know what they are doing even if they don't. Success in programming is largely a confidence, an attitude, a willingness to go out there and fake it even when you don't know what you are doing. I don't have this. If I was cut out for this role, I would feel it, I would have a passion that would drive me. I don't.

I think that eventually I will end up in some technical support role that is not development. Or I will make it as a writer. I have been trying my had at writing short stories. I am planning on trying to get published. If I can't do writing as a profession I will do it as a hobby. I would be happy working a job for half the money I was making if I could be confident about my abilities and go home at the end of the day and not think about it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

People from the 19th century

I was just thinking this morning that soon there will be no living people from the 19th century. I was wondering how many people born before 1900 were still living. A little research (very little) on wikipedia showed this article. I can't be certain how comprehensive this article is but based on this, I would guess there are around 20 people left who were born before 1900. On the oldest men list there are only 2 born before 1900 although technically 1900 was still the 19th century, the 20th century did not start until 1/1/1901. I don't know why there is not an oldest women list in this article. The top 10 oldest list consists of people born in 1896 and 1897.

Within the next 5 years perhaps sooner this will drop to zero. I wonder if there were any people before the 21st century who managed to live in 3 different centuries (19th, 20th, 21st). If so I can't imagine it was a large number. My grandparents were all born between 1905 and 1911 and died prior to 2000. All my great grandparents would have been born in the 19th century, probably in the 1870's and 1880's. The last of my great grandparents died in 1970. The 21st century has had its adjustments but my great grandparents went from being able to go to the nearest town and back in a day to being able to go across the country and back in a day. They went from 10 or 15 years removed from slavery being legal to Martin Luther King and the 1960's civil rights movement.

Pretty soon there will be on one who remembers a world before cars and airplanes. A world where most countries were their own little worlds unto themselves. That will be a great loss.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I finally saw 2012 last night. I have been waiting for a while now to see it. I didn't go when it was in the theaters and it was not on HBO when we still had HBO. That ended (HBO) when I lost my job about a month ago. Now I have been renting from Redbox once a week. I only rent one movie a week so that is only 4 dollars a month. Redbox seemed to be playing a shell game showing one copy available the last couple weeks at Redboxes slightly out of the range I was willing to drive. I had a hard time telling if the DVD was checked out at the boxes closest to me or if it just was not part of the inventory at those locations. Anyway I had a brainstorm last night and decided to check out Blockbuster, knowing that they had gotten into the kiosk business. Most of the blockbuster stores near me have closed and to be honest, I prefer going to the kiosk. One thing about the kiosk though. They should put a time limit or not allow you to chose movies from the kiosk itself. This keeps everyone waiting in line. Now that almost everyone has a computer and an internet connection there is no reason not to reserve your movie online and pick it up.

Anyway, I found the movie at the Blockbuster kiosk, setup an account with them like I had with Redbox, rented the movie and went to pick it up. It appears that Blockbuster has some deal with Speedway gas stations as that is where a lot of the kiosks are located. They also had some deal where you could get a discount on pop and frozen pizza if you have a Speedway card which I didn't. Blockbuster's web site seemed easier to use also and if a kiosk had a movie that was checked out, it was clearly indicated so you know maybe to check again later to see if the movie is available.

Ok, enough about kiosk movie renting. 2012, why did they only write half a movie? The first half is great mindless special affects candy. I wish I had seen it in the theater. Its funny, exciting and I highly recommend it. The science behind it is specious but the scientific babble is written well enough not to get in the way of the special effects. John Cusack does a good job even though I am well aware he only does these big money movies to fund the stuff he really wants to do. That's ok with me. The problem is about one half to three quarters through the movie it has to have some kind of "lesson" and totally dissolves into some oozing mess of a plot about people buying seats on the arks (plot spoiler) so that only the super wealthy are saved. Towards the end it takes on a Pirates of the Caribbean quality as one of the good guys takes charge and begins barking orders. The last 10 minutes or so revolve around an apparent design flaw in the ship where the engine can't start until the doors close, go figure.

The good guys are mostly minorities, the bad guys mostly white except for John Cusack of course. One of the bad guys is Russian, he has two fat kids who are brats which is a slight twist. Normally you would expect these roles to be American. In the end the evil Russian sort of redeems himself while the evil American white guy, Oliver Platt's character, does not. Oliver Platt is a good actor and kind of wasted playing a caricature role like this. They could have added more depth to his character. They did actually during the middle of the movie but that is all gone by the final scenes. Danny Glover spends the whole movie looking pathetic. Too bad they couldn't get Morgan Freeman for the president role again. Woody Harrelson is good as a lunatic conspiracy theorist radio talk show host. There are some additional subplots that are stuck on and add nothing to the movie other than length. The action is all over the top but it is pulled off in such a way that it doesn't make it too hard to suspend disbelief.

In the end, it was worth the $1.08 I spent plus the 8 mile round trip to the kiosk to get the movie. I just wish they had gone to the trouble of writing a complete script.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Big Fitz

Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I told this to my wife and kids which resulted in blank stares. The Big Fitz was an iron ore boat that went down in Lake Superior in an early winter storm on November 10th, 1975. Lake freighters are called boats, not sure why, but they are huge. The Edmund Fitzgerald was 720 feet long, the maximum length that would still fit through the locks on the canals connecting the lakes.

Its easy to forget how much we are at nature's mercy in the modern age and at the time it was a shock that something as big as the Fitzgerald could be sunk by a storm. The storm of November 10, 1975 was a great lakes hurricane with sustained winds of close to 60 mph and gusts up to about 90 and up to 35 foot waves. A similar November storm in 1913 destroyed 19 ships, including 12 that were sunk, and killed 250 people.

This song by Gordon Lightfoot always haunted me when I heard it as a kid.

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