Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Google-ize Airbender Guns

Random Thoughts
I really hope that "Google-ize" doesn't actually become a word because torturing a proper noun so it can be used as a verb like this makes me want to vomit.

I'm not narcissistic enough to be an atheist.

Fast food fried chicken is the sarcophagus inside the food pyramid. Tasty, but made of death.

The Last Airbender's Soup Catcher
I love Avatar: The Last Airbender, (the original animated series, not the live action abomination by M. Knight Shyamalan) but...Aang grew up and grew a douchey looking chin strap. That's not right. You'd think Katara would have had something to say about that. Maybe she compromised. He could keep the beard if he shaved...somewhere else. On second thought I'd rather not think about it.

Don't take my guns, bro! 
Recently a friend posted this image on facebook:

At first I read his comment as "I wish I understood this more," which I liked right away before I reread his comment and realized that he was actually saying, "I wish more understood this." After thinking about it for a little while I did something I almost never do in general, and have never done on a friend's post; I "unliked" his update. My views on our right to bear arms and gun control are complicated, and sometimes I don't fully understand them myself.

On one hand, a man much smarter than me once said, "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." There's something to that, and I genuinely believe that people should be allowed to defend themselves.

On the other hand, if everyone is wandering around armed they might be more inclined to engage in vigilante justice. There was an example of just this kind of shenanigan in the news recently when an armed neighborhood watch captain (seriously, what kind of neighborhood watch has freaking guns), shot and killed  an unarmed seventeen-year-old high-school student.

Are guns necessarily bad or evil? No. Guns are a tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver. They are arguably more dangerous than a hammer or a screwdriver, but guns are fundamentally just another kind of tool. Is our right to bear arms important? Yes. Does it make me feel safer? Hell no.

Look at it this way: Anyone who opts for a career that will require them to carry a gun professionally, whether military, law enforcement, or even personal security, undergoes hours and hours of training before they are full qualified to do so.  Now, of the people who will buy weapons this year, how many will take even a basic gun safety class? Never mind taking home defense classes that just might mean someone not shooting their daughter's boyfriend when he sneaks into the house at midnight. Can anyone really trust their safety and the protection of their rights to the guy down the street who bought a gun just to exercise his second amendment rights?

I'm not against more people owning guns, and I'm not even really against people carrying them publicly. That said, there needs to be some measure of accountability for owning and carrying something as potentially lethal as a gun.

I would feel better if I knew the gun owners in my neighborhood had completed a gun safety course, had spent some predetermined number of hours at a range, and some kind of course in defensive shooting before they were even allowed to bring the gun home. I would feel better about the gun owners in my neighborhood carrying weapons publicly if I knew they had met even more rigorous standards before being issued a permit to carry. Last, I would feel better about people owning guns and carrying them publicly if there were very, very serious consequences for harming another person with a gun.

Our right to bear arms is an important part of the freedoms we enjoy, but the responsibility that comes with it must be taken very seriously.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Business jargon that needs to die: High Level
When I'm playing a video game and I'm nearing the ultimate conflict in the game, or ready to face the final boss fight, that's a high level. Martial artists who achieve more than a third-degree-black-belt, that's a high level. When you're talking very generally about things related to a project, that is not a high level. In fact if that conversation is with anyone but the CEO and his closest sycophantic suck-ups (company officers) it's really very low level. Take "high level" out of your business vocabulary. Drag it out in the street and shoot it. Then run it over with something big that spews a lot of really toxic pollution.

The rise of Linux! or...not...
Every year or so there is a flurry of articles in trade journals and online news sites dedicated to Linux that this year will be "THE YEAR OF LINUX." Why? Is this year really going to see more users adopting an operating system that A.) Won't run the software they want to use unless they happen to be relatively well versed in Linux B.) Has more distributions than Mitt Romney has opinions on a single issue?

I have used Linux and liked it, but to get work done I stick with Windows because it runs all the programs I use, I can play the games I like, and I don't have to be a super-geek, uber-user to make it work. Admittedly most Linux desktop distributions have gotten better about this, but a lot of intermediate to advanced use of even the best Linux based operating systems (Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora) require at least some knowledge of using a command line interface and a working knowledge of Linux syntax.

If Linux is ever going to be a contender it needs to do better than being a scrappy second string operating system for enthusiasts and people who inherited an older second hand computer that won't run any other modern operating system. Any Linux distribution needs to step into the ring with a stinging jab and killer right hook if it ever hopes to take minds and hearts away from Windows and MacOS.

The doodle (giving up on "daily")
I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who and the Daleks can be really scary (when you forget they're an upended bin with bits glued on). Also, the unofficial mission statement of Google is "don't be evil." Something occurred to me one day. When you're blinded by love, can  you tell the object of your affection is truly evil.

That, and I thought an Android going to hug a Dalek would be funny.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Random business private school thoughts

Random thoughts

More money is not the same thing as more happiness.

"And remember to have fun!" is only ever said by people who A: don't have to do whatever it is everyone else is doing, and B: when "fun" is not a likely outcome.

I don't really love my job, but there are days I love some of the people I work with. Had an hour long conversation a couple of weeks ago about the classic children's film, The Dark Crystal. After a brutal two (now up to six) weeks, the levity was really refreshing.

Business terms that need to die, episode 1: "Thought Leader"
I hate this expression. Absolutely hate it. If it were a six year old yelling "I hate you" I'd yell, "well fuck you you little shit, die, die, DIE!" Ok, I wouldn't actually say that to a six-year-old, as a dad I know you can't do that to kids that young. They should be teenagers at least.

To say that you or your organization are a "thought leader" in anything just sounds smug and smarmy and...other disparaging things that begin with the letter "s."

Private School Blues (and that's just the uniform)
Listening to the radio a while ago there was a discussion about education reform. The debate was more or less what you probably expect, i.e., whether or not there's a crisis in public education and is privatization (for profit education) the answer. While this wasn't exactly gripping radio it raised a kind of disturbing question. If teaching to the test is failing our schools and our students, how does teaching for profit solve that problem?

My formative years in the school system, from kindergarten to sixth grade, were spent in a private, Catholic school. My parents, like many others of a similar conservative leaning mentality, were convinced that public education was equivalent to socializing the teaching of our country's children. Like many other conservative leaning people they felt the best education could only be found in private schools run on a tuition basis.

While attending private school we were indoctrinated to think of public school as a kind of purgatory where mean, dumb kids were sent. Horror stories about the goings on in public school abounded. We scared each other with stories about knives, school yard fights, and atomic wedgies. We were also told the education we were receiving was far superior, and we would be so much better off later in life because we were in a private school.

First, I got the shit beat out of me more in a month attending private school than I did in seven years I spent in public school when my parents could no longer afford tuition. So...the whole image of public schools as anarchic hellholes where bad kids go to eat good kids for lunch was exposed for what it was: bullshit.

Second, we were told that private school would better prepare us for when we became adults. I am now an adult and have been for some time. When I look back I don't feel that I was any better prepared for classes, tests, or new subjects just because of my private school education. If I performed better than my peers in a given class that had everything to do with my own aptitudes, abilities, and hard work than any kind of "privileged" educational background. Thus, the notion that private schools do a better job of preparing students for adulthood is also bullshit.

When this debate comes up the discussion very often turns to teachers, and how they are failing our students. There's a lot of chest-thumping on both sides of this argument. I tend to side with the argument for teachers as overworked, underpaid, and grossly unsung heroes. That said, teachers provide a framework for learning and present students with information. They are professional educators. The actual teaching of our country's youth begins long before they step into a classroom. Teaching must begin with the parents.

This is what makes any discussion of private education or public education at once moot, and much more complicated. If parents aren't doing the things they need to do to nurture learning in the home, there is next to nothing teachers can do, whether they work in a for profit charter or private school or as part of a public school program. If any child gets to high school and can't read at a minimum of a fifth grade level, that's the fault of the parents, not their teachers.

I don't think privatization of education addresses this problem. In the end all privatization of education will ultimately do is make sending kids to school more difficult for the lower end of middle class, and low income parents. The moneyed elite will get the best education money can buy, while everyone else either makes do with what they can afford, or goes without. Right now, rich or poor, most people can read; they've had at least that much education. Can we as a country really afford to change that? Can we afford to go backward to a time when most everyone knew at least one person who couldn't read at all?

Those in favor of privatization of education would argue this would never happen. That parents would have more choice. These are the people who would benefit most if we were to move in this direction. The risk here is the same people who will argue that parents have more choice aren't remotely interested in offering a choice. They're interested in control. First control over who can afford a good education and who can't, then control over the content of that education itself. This is a dangerous road to follow, and I sincerely hope we don't start down that path.