Monday, December 20, 2004


So I find myself back here in Nashville for the holidays. Nothing to do. No one to talk to. All the while, I have a sinking sensation that my buddies in Austin and Dallas are all living it up. By "living" I mean drinking, which I could do here, but the few times I've tried the solo adventures into bars, it hasn't been pretty. I end up sitting at the bar studying the graphics on SportCenter with an intensity that I would devote to very few things, like say, Gina or dismantling a bomb.

Now two days into my ten day excursion, I turn to an old, neglected pasttime, television. Cable television to be exact, and I've quickly reassessed that there is NOTHING on TV worth watching. I tend to gravitate towards the old standards, Simpsons and Seinfeld, which ironically I have a plethora of DVDs at home of. But at least here, it's on a big screen.

And that brings me to my next adventure, shopping with my mom for an HD Plasma Wall-mounted TV for my dad. I was in danger of being swallowed up by acronyms and tech speak. Do we want HD or ED? LCD or Plasma? DPL with our LCD or sans-DPL? HD ready or HD compatable? Well, HD ready because then we wouldn't have to buy or rent a seperate HD box. Whoa, slow down there. We'll need the box anyway? So what do we need the HD ready for then? So Plasma's are better? But they're not repairable? LCD's not as good? But repairable? Which lasts longer? I want DPL?? Why not ED LCD with DPL??? So is HD LCD as good as ED Plasma?!!? AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

They blew it

The days of America leading the way in intelligence and innovation seem like such a distant memory. The NY Times covers a failed test of our government's highly touted missle defense system which is estimated to cost $50 billion over the next five years. It gives the impression that our leaders not only have no idea what it is they're trying to do, but they don't have a clue as to how to do it either. So they'll just throw as much money at it as they can and hope for the best.

Naturally optimistic, a program spokesperson pointed out that this aborted test was a "very good exercise". Please note that this one "exercise" had a pricetag of $85 million. But wait, says the spokesperson, we can reuse the malfunctioning rocket again in another exercise. So, we're going to reemploy a missle that didn't work in the first place? Riiiiight. Not deterred, the spokesman adds that the agency says the tests are devised "to build confidence in the system that we are working to design." Well, I think I can sleep safely at night.

How about this for an alternative? Instead of paying a whole lot of money to blow up things that might be shot at us, how about we try to stop pissing people off to the point where they want to kill us all?

With the largest budget and biggest trade deficit in history, the U.S. is looking more and more like a little kid who just started getting an allowance and runs out to waste it all on the shiniest, newest toy out there. We may not need it. We may not know how to use it. But dammit, it's the biggest, baddest one out there. Now all we need is a parent to reach down and smack us for being stupid and tell us that we're cut off.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


It has been a tumultuous period for elections around the world, with Ukraine and even the U.S. showing a heated and fractured run for the Presidency. With the Iraq elections coming up in the next two months, the trend continues to look bleak. The CIA assessment that was leaked out does nothing to assuage my doubts that the elections will do anything to improve the outlook in Iraq.

The Bush Administration has pointed towards this event as a vital marker towards a free and democratic Iraq. Already there are doubts about the legitimacy and effectiveness that any elections will have. What if, lord help us, we have another situation similar to Kiev? Will Americans continue to put up with the way the administration has tried to deal with Iraq? Will the UN and the rest of the world? Will the Bush faction paint more rose-colored scenarios, saying that things are okay?

Despite what I or anyone thinks of how Bush is handling things, we all need for something good to come out of Iraq. A sliver of hope and optimism. But if the elections crumble into ineffective shambles, Bush and America will lose a major foothold on the claim to "effectiveness" and "progress". It could get ugly in terms of the world perception, as well as the reactions within an already polarized U.S.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Curing Aids? No, I think I'll focus on making robot cockroaches

Upon seeing this article on the Times, I wondered what could possibly be the benefit of artificially recreating one of the most hated, reviled creatures on earth? It's not like they're endangered, or that they need help surviving. Hell, they're supposed to be able to live even after being beheaded, only to die from starvation. They obviously don't need our help.

Then after reading the article, I found out that they were studying collective intelligence in order to reproduce their behavior in AI. Maybe I've seen the Matrix or the Terminator too many times, but I'm a bit pessimistic on the issue of having super-intelligent, adaptive, learning robots.

I always wonder about these scientists and doctors who apply their highly trained minds towards strange goals. "Sure, I'd like to cure cancer, but man, I really want to invent a backscratcher where you don't need to reach all the way back with your arm, cause man that really sucks."

Further collective-thinking robot paranoia can be explored in Crichton's Prey, which has some interesting theories and insights on swarm behavior, with a few killings of humans by nanomachines thrown in.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I've never been a big car person. My dad used to drag me to the car convention at the Texas State Fair every year. Not that I wasn't wowed by some cool design every once in a while, but I just didn't have that starry eyed sensation that my dad exhibited for automobiles. When my parents offered to buy me a new car for my graduation, I actually declined, saying that my current car still runs and there's no need. Even after getting talked into it, I didn't have enough interest to know what kind of car I wanted. I thought, maybe a smaller car. I don't need a family sedan and there's no way I'd get an SUV. So I decided to look into a VW Jetta, but after being unable to fit my frame into one, I went for the much larger, more styling Passat.

With my car in the shop, I've been forced to drive in a rental for the past two days in a ghetto Neon. It just feels cheap and smarmy. And it smells. Really bad. I feel the need to rinse off after touching anything in it. Like a warm toilet seat in a public restroom, you know there's been about a hundred people in it and probably another hundred waiting to get in it after you.

Abhorrent physical sensations aside, I've noticed something else in the absense of the VW; there was an unnoticed pride that was attached to my car. Of course I thought it was cool looking and nice and clean and drove great, but I just didn't realize how much I loved my car. There was no sense of loathing to get on the road, like I'm feeling in with the Neon. Everytime I'm about to get in the Dodge, there's an urge to look around and explain to any bystanders that this isn't my car and that I'm not so devoid of taste that I would have ever EVER consciously picked this car out for myself.

I'm so very ready to have my car back from the shop, which by the way has only served to aggrivate my maliciousness towards car repair. I think the experience of dealing with repair shops is actually one of the circles of Hell, somewhere in between the Sowers of Discord and the Judecca.