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Journal: Google + 2

Journal by On Lawn

Hey everyone,

It this time the herd might have really moved on?

I've tried to scavenge as many email addresses as I could from my friends list and added them to my google+ /. circle. I'm going to send out a message on it to see how many of those addresses still work.

But in the mean time, feel free to add me if I couldn't find you. You can find me on Google+ with my email address, noble.oblige at gmail.

That means you chacham, superyooser, etc...

User Journal

Journal: Staying ahead of the curve

Journal by On Lawn

So I've been looking back on my career. It is amazing to me the technologies that I was innovating with before their day.

I've been working on Linux since it was a toddler (pre 1.0). I've been doing automated image installation since before Ghost and Kickstart; windows and Linux unified directory services with LDAP+Kerberos before Centrify; and unified network on a scalable hardware platform before HP, Dell, Oracle, Microsoft and the like.

I was never the lone pioneer. There were others working on each technology at the time. Some were open with their ideas and I gained a lot from them. Others, like Amazon and Google's work on scalable infrastructure, kept them as proprietary secrets of strategic advantage.

I never found these technologies in an effort to build my career or be on the leading edge. I've spent some time playing with different technologies at home, and to be honest none of them seemed to go anywhere.

But these career choices seem to be remarkable in that they occured purely when focusing on enabling researchers or simplifying systems management.

For Linux, the need was given to me to explore, the Computer Lab needed to have a mature/complex environment to enforce security and be open enough for education. They found Linux, and simply found me a willing person to develop it for them.

For the imaging system, it was a need to administer 100+ workstations for a call center on my own, while the other corporate call centers had a ration of one FTE per 10 workstations. Automation was the only way to accomplish that. The need to make my job easier was also behind the LDAP+Kerberos.

But it wasn't until I found my way into large companies that I found an entirely different kind of need. A purely business created need -- the need for simply scaling architecture. The PMO process is, inalterably by its very nature, a waterfall approach to change. While large companies can benefit from economies of scale, the PMO processes seem to work on an economy of inflation -- the bigger the change more the inflation of resources needed to enact the change.

Hence the need for scalable architecture arose from the need to change and grow with as little imprint in the PMO as possible.

Now, PMO oversight is a business justified expense. I am in no wise critical of what value project management brings a large organization. But it is, and will continue, to be an inflationary environment which continues to drive evolution towards architectures which minimize its footprint in the PMO.

Right now I'm working on just what that means -- how do you minimize the PMO footprint of your architecture? What principles are developing that show what exactly is best to simplify, and where is the flexibility that needs to be pushed to soft-tooling rather than hard-tooling?

What are your thoughts? No place to find venerable IT workers fighting against the machine than Slashdot, no?

User Journal

Journal: How to solve this financial mess we are all in 1

Journal by On Lawn

A nation cannot be free where its citizens are bonded in debt or reliant on welfare.

If the Lottery is a tax on people bad at math, then financial crisis such as the one we are going through are a tax on people who fail to fully account for value.

The Medici family, one of the richest in all of Europe, practically funded the movement we call the Renaissance. Much of that was on the good accounting practice of double-ledger accounting. But even with that stringent accounting, eventually their search for business went bankrupt. The powerful family was left with nothing left but a little political currency they could use to set one of themselves up as Pope. And what did they do when they obtained the Papacy? They spent the Catholic Church, itself rich enough to fund the largest building projects in Europe at the time, into the ground.

Here's something to think about. Lets say I need or want money, where do I get it? In an economic standpoint I see three basic transactions which get me money...

I can earn it.
I can sell for it.
I can take out a loan for it.

Each of those have their pluses and minuses.

Earning requires work, and establishing value for someone else who exchanges part of that value with you.

Selling means giving up something that could be useful to me.

And a loan requires me to take an obligation to somehow make the money later, by the two means above.

What if I could have the best of all those options. How about if instead of taking a debt for money, I get you to get into debt to pay me some money. In your new found abundance, each dollar is less valuable. Call it easy come, easy go, or perhaps your own personal inflation dilemma. It is burning a hole in your pocket and you are ready to spend it for something less valuable, less needed, then you were before. What if I sold you that something that was less valuable for more of that easy to come by money. Then, I'm richer, and you are in trouble.

I'm not saying that is in and of itself an evil process. In fact, at its worst it may be considered an unfairly churlish way of looking at how economies expand. The more money there is, the more that can promote the circulation of real value, and the more real value we all have the more prosperous we are and able to gain more money.

In essence, the only problem with that transaction is in the discrepancy between the money given and the value received. The personal inflation problem caused more of a bubble then sustained economic growth. And the only person to blame, caveat emptor, is the buyer. When the person's ability to account for their own money, and prioritize to get the most value from that money. Or in other words, they devalued their own money by the triviality of their purchase. Or in even fewer words, they showed poor business sense.

Perhaps we can simply say that good business sense boils down to the fact that the more people account for their own money and needs, the more they will demand respect for their money. I'd certainly like to say that is good business sense, but when I walked away with that persons money, I'd be patted on the back by investors with more money -- given I can show that I can reliably do that for the foreseeable future. So lets say that good moral business sense boils down to good accounting as well as understanding of yours and others needs.

The distinction of the two is so difficult to see. Especially when the money circulation is such that one can siphon off that value with a large supply of takers for a seemingly infinite length of time. With that kind of seemingly endless money supply, what is the difference between that and the truly moral sense of economic growth? Such is the problem the S.E.C. has in enforcing regulations on corporate accounting.

But I don't understand accounting like they do. But I can learn a lot of the principles of true value and wealth from my own accounting practice -- the one in my own home.

And one thing I've learned in my family budget is that it can't be built in a day. But that doesn't mean it is hard to do. Like building a kit car, a budget is the last step of turning the key on an economic engine built for your home. It depends on some very simple practices that need to be taken one at a time. Each step is much easier then building a car, and just like when you got your first car the result of taking on the extra maintenance is much greater freedom.

I've been working on my own financial budget, out of necessity, for many years now. For myself, I've settled on Ledger-CLI for my accounting, I hire financial advisers each year and talk with them regularly. I've even found that instead of riding roughshod over my bank statements each month, it is easier to spend a little time each few days to go receipts. The closer I can get to the actual transaction, the easier it gets to account for my finances as a whole. But your mileage may vary, your engine is your own to build and drive. the most important value you can gain is not the money as much as the process.

Many years ago I was offered stock by RedHat during their now legendary IPO. I think it had something to do with my paying a consultant a large sum of my own money to help fix NFS in the Linux Kernel to be more compatible with AIX for my job. But at the time I had re-entered college and on a very strict budget. I had $2000 I had budgeted to use for the rest of the school year, in fact I only needed $1600 of it. That also happened to be about the exact minimum lot purchase price.

And I walked away, much to the chagrin of people around me who were begging to be in the Redhat IPO. Why? Because at the time the stability of knowing I could pay for the rest of my college was more important to me then anything I could get with any more money. I'm not adverse to risk, recently I plunged a lot of money I'll probably never see again into a start-up with a few friends. But that taught me the line, where my needs were more important, and nothing could be sold for it.

The principle, more than the money is what ultimately saved me from divorce, bankruptcy, depression, etc... I'll take the principle I learned over the $2000 or maybe even $20,000 I would have made. That money, even if used wisely at the time, wasn't enough to generate any sustained wealth that would have been invulnerable to poorly managed risk later. But knowing the real value of what I had helped me save everything that I hold most valuable with far less money.

And, even more importantly, the more they will have the fiscal sure-footedness to scrap with their representatives when it comes to keeping them honest -- yet wise -- with how they use that money.

Why is this so important to me now? Its all about the Balanced Budget Amendment that so many people are talking about.

You see, as someone who values fiscal responsibility I'm a great fan of the tea party and their call for a balanced budget. I can even say I was ready to march with them. But that was until someone asked me the same thing I'm asking everyone around me -- how can I make a balanced budget compact for my own home that would allow me to respond to emergencies? I've made some attempts but haven't found one that I feel comfortable with.

And that is because in a decade effort I've learned that a budget, let alone a balanced budget, is only the culmination of many steps of financial security. Now granted, the federal government has the accounting practice already in place that I had to learn. But the devil is in even finer details for the bean counters to keep tabs on.

A nation cannot be free where its citizens are bonded in debt or reliant on welfare.

If I'm desperate, I can't hold my politicians' feet to the fire. Instead I'm doing something more like harassing and begging, which is really just more powerless and desperate -- a ready victim. But there is a more powerful option, but it isn't pretty. The other option is to try to extort it through civil disobedience, a move which hurts everyone to extort a bit of favor for yourself, as we saw in London.

People who don't know where they would stand if all of a sudden the river of government or economy went dry. And they don't know because they don't know their own financial situation from a hole in the ground (which it likely resembles very closely). The scared are always going to either hop onto any bandwagon promising hope and change -- rescue from their own plight -- or try to rob or extort their financial security at the governments expense like children throwing a tantrum to get more dessert.

Even if the government balances its budget, it will be powerless and at the whims of debt if the people are in debt. Scratch the surface of that conclusion just a little deeper and we see that it is our debt, handing over our unearned money for things of less value then they really hold, that actually caused the government debt crisis -- on so many levels.

Only a nation of individuals who practice financial freedom and stability can scrap with the politicians, letting them know that the politicians are really the needy and desperate ones. Only then can we hold their feet to the fire to give that money the respect it deserves. Only then can we collectively accept the need for real risk sometimes, but know when to draw the line before it robs us of our needs, and thus robs us of our freedom.

You can help out by making your own balanced budget. Take simple small steps that will wind up giving you the financial stability to look fearlessly at the times ahead, and help prevent such problems in the future.

And then, and only after that first step, help encourage others to do the same. From your neighbor to the federal government itself.

User Journal

Journal: Creation 3

Journal by On Lawn
Adam and Eve are the center of the creation story we all know well. God creates a stage with everything we see naturally occurring. It isn't until a man walks across the stage, however, that the plot starts. And the first act is to create a woman. And unlike other stories that woman is not someone to save from a dragon or someone to clean a house as neither are yet introduced in the story.

Whether the man likes video games, or the woman likes sewing, or vice versa, is completely extraneous to the plot. It isn't worth even bringing in to fill out the characters on the stage. The story only progresses on one point, they continue creation together -- equally needed.



But the story is not unique to the branches of early Judaism (Christianity and Islam being two major branches). Norse mythology recognizes Ask and Embla as the first two humans. Hindu mythology points to Adam and Hevas. A Chinese mural may even show that a similar legend was told there, it shows a man and a woman in the setting of earth creation, and a mischievous monkey with a peach.

A great number of creation myths mark a different apex of creation that isn't human centered, yet still honoring the same duality where the father is the sky and the mother is the earth, and all living things are their children.
Humans are usually still created as man and woman, and sometimes work together in some form of rebellion to remake the world from the originally conceived environment to what we have today. For instance in Maori and Hindu tradition, they actively battle the sky and the earth apart. To what degree their rebellion, or how they work together differs. For instance in Greek mythology, Pandora acts alone with no real male figure around, to bring sorrow and pain into the world.

Today, we piece together a vision of the past, inductively. Many of the same elements still exist. Creation of everything living could have started in the spark of lightning in a methane filled sky creating a primordial soup on the earth that eventually roots into direct sustenance from the earth. Some theories even have a more direct seeding from living bacteria which evolved and formed in space on comets, that later roots into the earth.

Then at some point, man appears with the unique (to that point) ability to greatly affect the environment around him. Then this species moves from a state of being a hunter-gatherer, living directly off the life offered by the original creation to one that is actively involved in maintaining his own environment through toil and labor. Sort of like being kicked out of the house and having to live on your own, in a cultural progression from natural to civilized. In the act of changing the environment, mankind becomes responsible to upkeep -- live or die-- on their change.

The two key elements I glean from this elevation. One is how creation happens between the interaction of a complementary duality which story tellers can identify as a father and mother -- both equally necessary. The other is the responsibility -- or rather the transition of responsibility involved from the creator to the created for the environment they create for themselves.

Now, of course there are theories and myths that fit this model to various degrees, some even providing notable exceptions. I admit to taking some license with the altitude of the fly-over of the landscape of all of these different stories. For instance, the anthropological model of the paradise before civilization is not very paradisaical. Being dependent on untended mother nature to provide food can be quite hazardous to your health. And having to hunt and gather is no life of ease. And all of us are ultimately still dependent on the whims of mother nature, however emancipated by our own creation of houses and such.

But I maintain that in general, this is an fair way to characterize the path of civilization.

Another notable exception is the very centerpiece I mentioned first (merely because it is the one I personally grew up with). The original creation figure is uniquely singular, "God" who needs no other interaction to create anything. Even if you take the plural connotation of the original Hebrew, you could argue that they stand united without need of anything around them, to create. However, their creation emphasize a creation duality in the culmination of creating mankind as man and woman.

And perhaps that is the point. This congruence between many stories could simply be an artificial anthropomorphism, something we relate to and understand like how we relate to each other as human beings. It is something universal that we found and then understand intuitively using the circuitry of our brains created for socialization. It could also be the opposite, an emulation that we picked through millions of evolutionarily adjustments to the natural environment around us.

At this elevation, whether contrived by mankind to understand nature or imbued in mankind by emulating nature, it looks like the same thing to me. It looks like a principle that is both elemental and natural, as well as personal and human. They both mirror the other with no real way to establish which came first, it is a uniquely human version of the chicken or the egg conundrum.

So its no wonder to me you can come to the same climax of the story whether or not you start with a lone intelligence of omniscience, or a duality that combines together to create life at the get-go. For what creates a whole universe and then culminates in the duality of man and woman? Or what is the duality or a mother earth and father sky which then humans emulate naturally?

By a duality of creation, I mean to denote those cases where we have separation and distinction in the participants of creation. The ability to procreate is not given to one alone, the ability is broken into complement parts and separated between two: sky and earth, man and woman.

Another separation happens in the transfer of responsibility. In moving from direct dependency on nature to one's on ability to create your own environment within nature, there is a degree of separation between nature and the creation. In becoming responsible for one's own environment where you must plant now to have food later, you have become somewhat separated from the dependency for nature to take care of you.

And now I walked us through the whole stage, the universe that Adam and Eve find themselves in, we come to the next act. Creation isn't over with the distinction of the man and the woman. The final act of creation is their marriage, bringing them back together. It is their assuming responsibility for what they create until they pass it on again to those they create. Its a recursive pattern, repeating itself and renewing itself with each generation.

Even in the stories of father sky and mother earth, often the culminating act for the two trouble makers who just changed the whole earth is to be united in marriage. I read this a few ways, one is "you two caused this together, now you two have to deal with it together". But there is also a romantic aspect of it, they worked together to conquer something they both didn't like and now their reward is each other and a heritage they created that is given as legend to each generation thereafter.

Their act, their creation, their choice, their ability to create, lives happily ever after even after they die. Hence the birth of legend and heritage itself. Adam might not walk on the stage carrying a book, but Eve (or rather the nature of their union and creation) becomes the mother of necessity for books.

At this point, one might see this as an attempt to say marriage is what it is, "yeah, yeah it is man and woman we get it already". It might be seen as an appeal to whatever natural circumstance created tradition in the first place to justify tradition. I think if I went down that road, I'd have to once again tackle that chicken and egg problem.

But I'd rather point out, that the healing of the separation or uniting of what is lost, is all happening through marriage. And that makes marriage the perfect story of egalitarianism, the naturally perfected model of enlightenment and equality.

What I described might be how marriage came to be as a natural product of the universe, but it is definitely the very model of equality that we hope to understand further by participating in it.

As I mentioned before, at that pristine point in the story (and here we have to look primarily at the myth rather than the inductive reasoning of anthropology) there is not character backdrop that gives us any reason to believe that one owned the other, or that there was any inequality between them. They might have been hunting buddies, they might have gathered together, they might not have. We have no insight in the division of labor until after they changed their own environment.

Sure, the primordial soup that really created life may have been made with just one stroke of lightning, but back then it is likely that Father Sky produced an order of magnitude more lightning then it does today and sustained that over millions of years. The energy used by either the sky or earth before life caught on is impossible to measure, but the value of their contribution (given that that model is accurate in how life was created) is not. Both were necessary, both were needed.

Here's an experiment in equality for you. Go to some room in the house where a light is rigged to two switches. You'll notice that either of them can turn it on, or off. Operators at both switches have to agree to some position relative to the other for the light to remain on. At each switch put two people, but reward them for the opposite result. For one person, offer five dollars to keep the light on. For the other person, offer five dollars to keep the light off. After as much blinking of the lights as you can stand, stop the process. Likely neither participant will feel sure enough in their victory to stop switching. The light was on and off the whole time, at different times so who wins? So in that uncertainty they likely will continue to try. You might have to assure them that they both lose, just to stop the blinking.

Now look at the other possibility. It is much easier to achieve one or the other if both are rewarded for the same outcome. It is settled almost immediately and both receive a reward.

In each scenario the energy both put in by each operator was roughly the same. The reward in each scenario was likewise the same for both participants, but not the same for both scenarios. That makes it equality along a very narrow interpretation for the operators. But in the marriage interpretation of equality, the importance of each person to a unified outcome is valued the same in only one scenario. The responsibility for each person is likewise unified for the same goal in only one model of marriage equality. And that also happens to be the only model where both participants receive the reward, both in the scenario and in the marriage.

That is a very binary example of the same dilemma that marriage hopes to unite people behind.

When ever my wife and I might contemplate divorce, (I'm not afraid to say that has happened) a few things come into much sharper focus. The first is that if either wanted the marriage off, it was off. We both had to be united to make it work to keep things together. We both had to be united for the same goal, and for the same purpose.

The other was that if we were divorced two things would not change. The first, we would both still be related through our children. We couldn't really escape from each other and be justified by the court in doing so. The second is that while separated we would not have any chance of equality. The third is that the separation, both in what was irreparably destroyed as childlike ideals, and in the confusion of what parenting is in the separation, would damage and hurt the children. There may be a way to forget the pain, but fixing the pain would be even harder.

Another fourth item came into focus, primarily for my wife. Life and career would be much harder for her than myself. She, having a father who still delinquent on child support in her parent's divorce, realized that like her mother she more stuck with the children then I would be. I might be a gallant sort who does everything I can, or I might not be, and she is at that whim. And even if I am gallant, her investment already in childbearing put her at a disadvantage in the career marketplace. I've already written a lot on this subject, that the gender gap in salary is really just a manifestation of the marriage gap. Women's tie to children makes them less able to take on the extra-demands that very high paying jobs give. Flexibility to handle children comes at a cost in salary that men seem to be able to dodge better then women (and I credit women for it because I feel it is because they are ready to take on that responsibility).

But just look at the statistics, Google them if needed. Single women vs Single men, the difference in their careers isn't a pretty picture. At some point something's gotta give, someone's got to take responsibility for the kids and that requires flexibility from work. If women further seek emancipation from that responsibility, then it only comes at abandoning the children even more. Men seem to have their hands firmly on the switch of freedom from the kids.

On the other head of that same coin, however, are a movement of men who feel the women have completely cut them out of their children's lives. Men who still break down in tears about the last memory they have seeing their kids, men who would gladly mean more to their children then being a paycheck. These are men who claim they were falsely accused of things they never did, and guilty by vague suspicion only. Women seem well in control of the switch when it comes to custody.

What does this tell me? Well, it tells me that single women need more of our support. It tells me that we need more wisdom in how we handle custody. But it also shows, and what all four of those items showed me and my wife if we ever thought about separating, is that it is impossible to equally value each others responsibilities and rights if we were separated. Only when we were united for the same goal would we really achieve that reward.

So, we make it work. We do whatever it takes to make it work. We both are united for the same goal of equality, to equally value the rights and responsibilities of our spouse and the children we have together.

Only then does the marriage bring us the happiness we always expected it to. A happiness that only marriage can bring.

We are two people who need each other, we have that duality of creation. We are two people who have taken responsibility for our children, instead of letting nature have their way directly with them. Our choices are leaving a legacy with our children, just as my parents stuck it through some hard times we are continuing that example for my children. Just as my wife's mother took responsibility for her children, so is she continuing in that example. We are both taking the best of our parents, and passing that on. And the best always seems to be that heritage of changing nature to facilitate taking responsibility for each other and our children. Just like Adam and Eve, really.

The egalitarian model of marriage is -- to equally recognize the rights and responsibilities of the man, woman, and child they potentially have together. The unit is unique, it is the unit of procreation in humanity -- man, woman and child. It is unique in its completion of complementary duality of humankind. It is unique in its position to pass through example and emulation the principles of egalitarianism -- the integration of complementary duality and responsibility -- to the very products of that union.

Marriage is directly linked to creation, and my argument here has been that it is is the epitome of the model of egalitarianism because it is directly linked to creation in a way that has created civilization as well, and all that creation has meant throughout history.

To much? Too flowery? Too mystically universal? No. It is just as simple as a man and a woman ready create a child together, knowing full well that to fully stand without accusation they need to equally respect each others responsibilities and rights in how the child is created. So often we are told that history will judge us in how we come down in the debate about marriage. Should we be ashamed that we want to bolster our adherence to the egalitarian model of marriage? Well, perhaps more important to ask yourself is will you be accused of neglecting your responsibilities to your spouse or your children. Did you equally recognize their rights and responsibilities with yours?

But perhaps no better put then the place I first learned it, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

As Tevia and his family sings about this very repetition of life, the bride and groom stand with quickly beating hearts. Sunrise, and sunset, quickly flow the years, one season following another. The passing of responsibility through the generations is like the beating heart of civilization itself.

[queue sunrise-sunset]
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Journal: The Oldest of the Old 3

Journal by On Lawn

Ask Slashdot:

Where can I search through the most ancient of the Slashdot archives? I'm talking about the olden days before logins were required and we could just put our name on each comment we wrote manually. The days just after Bits and Chips.

I need to find a specific comment I wrote way back then.

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Journal: Solving Culture war issues by making Legal Code more like C 9

Journal by On Lawn

Ever thought that the reason we are fighting over things like same-sex marriage, is because our legal system is a dinosaur of code? While programming languages have made many leaps and bounds over decades, legal code is still stuck in the dark ages. With just one simple feature common to all programming languages, we can make a real compromise.

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Journal: From Cloud back to the CLI

Journal by On Lawn

It is hard to remember the early days of Linux. A time when the greatest struggle was finding applications that did what we could do in Windows, applications like Office, AutoCAD, Outlook, etc...

I remember, with fondness, looking at very powerful tools like SIAG or PINE, that could do what I wanted to. While easy enough for a novice like me, the learning curve was long. But it was long because it had such depth and power, at each step the skills I learned seemed to make my mind sharper and my processes simpler. But there were still some very easy tasks I wanted to do that were out of my reach. How do I collaborate? Do they need learn what I've learned just to work with me in these tools? How do I just do (said task) by clicking on this?

Sure, OpenOffice came around and back then it was StarOffice, an app that was so phobic of the X interface that it encapsulated itself within its own desktop. Its gotten much better since then, but at some point I abandoned it for TexMacs, which produced cleaner and more beautiful results that, once again, worked into very simple processes to be productive. TexMacs can hook into many scientific programs that I found very useful, and it published within structured templates that I expected when I wanted to write something (for the most part).

Then an amazing thing happened. I could say it was just Google, but really it was the cloud. Google was just one of the first that realized that if they could get everyone to use their servers, they could collaborate with each other much more easily. The world if ease expanded with RSS feeds, labels which allowed a multidimensional way of categorizing emails beyond the folders I was used to. Its search function was so efficient that I found I didn't need to even categorize and organize most of what I had. Amazon and Ebay seemed to catch on to the same trick, if everyone used their servers they could provide each other's products in ways which were much more convenient for sellers to find. Amazon soon packaged up the proprietary data center management as the Cloud so others could have the same results. It was, in essence collaboration in a simple and easy to use maner. It was social networking, facilitated through central computers who seemed to know everyone and everything around them.

And as far as those applications go, the Cloud is still an exciting and glorious place. In fact the Cloud can be seen as the necessary infrastructure to enable the advent as smart-phones. I see smart phones as nothing more than handy personal interfaces to the vastness of the Cloud.

Perhaps now that I have satisfied the need collaborate, with all the vast sums of knowledge it keeps me connected to with a screen I can fit into my pocket, I'm finding that for personal productivity nothing beats the command line. I'm giving up on using Google and web interfaces to do the things I need to do, and going back to the power of the command line.

Case in point, Personal Finance Software. Its a killer app that I've never found anything that I was satisfied with. I've tried Cloud, Linux and Windows list of usual suspects. I've observed that there are many contenders for simplified finance managers based on many different paradigms (like YNAB). But in the end, I've found "Ledger" and I'm quite happy with the ability to use VI or Emacs, or even sed, to keep my ledger in my own way as a simple text file, while the 'ledger' command line program understands it and simply gives me stats and reports. I've even found ofx.py, a little script to download my banking information which ledger also understands. Now I finally feel like I have a long learning curve again. And once again I have that feeling of conquest, that at every step of the way I'm getting sharper, smarter, and more able to handle and process more information in successively easier ways.

But that isn't all. Since smart phones have all the graphical and UI candy I might ever need, I found myself pairing back my laptop's desktop. I've found myself drawn to the philosophy of a site called "suckless.org", which offers very simple tools to do very simple tasks. Only I divert from their tools in two instances, I use EvilWM and UZBL instead of their very fine alternatives. But that is neither here nor there.

The real jewel that expresses the new ease of desktop management through the CLI is 'dmenu', which is a cross between beagle and a dock but is usable in so many more situations. For instance, UZBL uses it to do URL completion based on what is in your browser history. Sure, my laptop has power to spare to run Beagle, Cairo-Dock, and such. But dmenu's simplicity is really its value, and especially how many times I find myself needing to use it for things like Ledger to do automated completion of all the accounts I use -- within vi. Cairo-Dock in particular does its job well, but dmenu has a certain simplicty to it which makes it useful to do the same job in so many different instances.

And that, right there, is probably the best way I can describe why I'm trending towards the CLI in my life. Because after some time in the field, I get it. I get why it works. And it is all about personal productivity, or if you will, process productivity.

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Journal: Klingons vs the Federation part 2 4

Journal by On Lawn

When I wrote my journal entry on "Klingons vs the Federation", I had no idea the topic of morality was so charged. The journal entry right after it was seemingly unrelated and received no comment, which surprised me since the subject matter of a very rational male being a ...

keen young mind read[ing] between the lines and perceiv[ing] the folly of all that he's told to accept. Because he lacks an adult perspective, however, what he cannot grasp is the ruthlessness of the war that the education reformers have waged"

Indeed, I'm still trying to get to the top of the whole matter myself, having lived a life where I naturally identify with the protagonist in that story more than quite a bit.

In the comment section of the Klingons vs the Federation, you can read my old friends acting like I've always known them to act. Most of them no matter where they fall in opposition to each other, oddly enough, probably identify with Brandon also. Bill Dog and Pudge, both straightforward and rational. And both are ready to skewer with the reason and ration then bind them and take captives with it. They are, essentially, the dread pirate Roberts of internet debates. Then there is CounterTrolling, who I believe I've never met before, smart enough to know he was being out-maneuvered but not smart enough to realize his evasiveness was really his own captivity of ignorance. Don't get me wring, CounterTrolling shows some great insights, but when push comes to shove he cedes the rational high ground and runs for the bushes. The hope is to get payback with teasing evasion, like the school child who runs into the hills to get the pleasure of annoying the teacher with the chase. Its a Pyrrhic victory.

And then there is Marxist Hacker, who can be rational and moral, but treading the unpaved terrain of reality outside of academia often gets high centered on the gooey plateau of the utopian disconnect. In that way he takes after Karl Marx, who was probably the most successful Utopianist, but ultimately a flawed unconstrained utopianist like the rest.

Yes, I'm being a bit incisive with my commentary today of my old and new friends here. There perspectives and reactions are altogether engaging and fascinating. They have my regard and esteem. But today instead of dealing with the Klingons fatal flaw, I want to make mention of the Federation's fatal flaw. You see, even though the Federation is more based on a real history then the Klingons, the extrapolation of how Earth finally makes it into space like a phoenix from the ashes of a nuclear war is still not plausible to me. In fact, it is probably no surprise that the Star Trek universe doesn't wholly rely on our Earth like ambition and instead evokes a Vulcan ex Machina to tutor them the rest of the way into the hostile galaxy. While Carl Sagan, and Arthur C. Clarke have far more developed plots of a carefully guided upliftment of humanity through measured contact in Contact and 2001: Space Odyssey, the Roddenberry universe also relies on a First Contact. Utopianism and restraint, critical for safeguarding progression, are not in and of themselves progress. In fact, they can in many ways cause regression.

In short, the human spirit which provides the drive for the utopian morality as seen by Roddenberry, is not enough to get us to the stars even in his own vision. My misgivings that the Klingons with their exploitative and expansionist culture slit their own throats if they laid their hands on the power required for space travel. My misgivings for the Federation are more nuanced. Richard Fernandez at The Belmont Club, is someone I read faithfully. And, to be honest, you should too. Today he provided me the best way to describe the fatal flaw of the Federation's morality...

An academic from the University of East Anglia argues that animals have privacy rights. âoeWhat does it say about our assumptions about animalsâ when people film them he asked. In Britain a Muslim who spray painted a war memorial with a slogan calling for Islamic world domination, the assassination of Gordon Brown and the exaltation of Osama bin Laden is not prosecuted, after authorities concluded that his graffiti was âoenot racially motivatedâ. A teacher is acquitted for beating a student with a 7 pound dumb bell after he snaps from repeated taunting.

Each incident exemplifies in its bizarre way the new morality. Things are now âappropriateâ(TM) or âinappropriateâ(TM) for reasons which only 20 years ago would have been regarded as completely crazy. Take Peter Harvey, the teacher at a school in Britain. He knew the rules, the only problem was, he couldnâ(TM)t take them any more.

Hounded for months by a group of students who decided to see what it would take to make him snap; tripped up, shoved him into hedges and followed home threateningly, Harvey went on a 5 month leave of absence because he feared he would lose his mind. Punishing the gang leaders was out of the question. Traditional classroom disciplinary measures were no longer available to him. No more harsh words, no more corporal punishment, however slight. Teachers had been sentenced to jail for striking students in a country where the police were called into classrooms 40 times a day because the schools had lost control. Upon his return from leave the same group decided to secretly record him going over the edge and arranged to goad him after which they planned to distribute the video to complete his humiliation. They didnâ(TM)t reckon on the 7 pound dumb bell. The result was a 14 year old with a skull fracture and a man accused of murder.

In a way Peter Harvey was a failure. He couldnâ(TM)t meet the enlightened standard. Political correctness is a tough game; it demands a relentless reinforcement of small problems until things fall apart. Double down until your broke. Poor, weak Mr Harvey wasnâ(TM)t made of stern enough stuff.

You should read the whole thing for access to the links he provides, and read more of his excellent commentary on the matter.

But when you get down to it, getting the bomb was an act of war. Even going to the Moon was (perhaps primarily) a political dog whistle to each country about the countries ICBM capacity. In the Star Trek Universe, it was a repurposed ICBM which the first warp technology was developed on for Earth. These Klingon like ambitions and the concept of ownership is probably more directly correlated to progress then the moral restraint that the Federation represents.

Restraint is critical. But, when you get down to it, restraint can too easily turn from the demure Jekyll to a Mr. Hyde monster of self-flatulation and drawing from the accreditation of our own restraint in compensation for injustice. Or rather, we pay our own morality to subsidize injustice. Any utopianist nation ready to spend good moral capital for bad, is bound to exhaust their own resources and utterly collapse under the emotional and monetary load.

The teacher, restrained from the ability to restrain injustice, finally regressed to his own animal nature. Or, perhaps, self-destructed completely. Brandon willfully accepting being bound by the same sinews he then used to thread his pathetically anemic rebellion. He'd never reach the stars with such a utopian bargain. He dramatically undervalued his own use of those threads, and underestimated their ability to bind. To give the analogy people tried to tell me not so long ago, I was drinking a quart of poison to get someone to drink a thimble full.

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Journal: How the Schools Shortchange Boys

Journal by On Lawn

I noticed early on that my special-ed boys often sat at their desks with their heads down or casually staring off into space, as if tracking motes in their eyes, while I proceeded with my lesson. A special-ed caseworker would arrive, take their assignments, and disappear with the boys into the resource room. The students would return the next day with completed assignments.

âoeDid you do this yourself?â Iâ(TM)d ask, dubious.

They assured me that they did. I became suspicious, however, when I noticed that they couldnâ(TM)t perform the same work on their own, away from the resource room. A special-ed caseworkerâ(TM)s job is to keep her charges from failing. A failure invites scrutiny and reams of paperwork. The caseworkers do their jobs.

Brandon has been on the special-ed track since he was nine. He knows his legal rights as well as his caseworkers do. And he plays them ruthlessly. In every debate I have with him about his low performance, Brandon delicately threads his response with the very sinews that bind him. After a particularly easy midterm, I made him stay after class to explain his failure.

âoeAn âFâ(TM)?!â I said, holding the test under his nose.

âoeYou were supposed to modify that test,â he countered coolly. âoeI only had to answer nine of the 27 questions. The nine I did are all right.â

His argument is like a piece of fine crystal that he rolls admiringly in his hand. He demands that I appreciate the elegance of his position. I do, particularly because my own is so weak.

Yet while the process of education may be deeply absorbing to Brandon, he long ago came to dismiss the content entirely. For several decades, white Anglo-Saxon malesâ"Brandonâ(TM)s ancestorsâ"have faced withering assault from feminism- and multiculturalism-inspired education specialists. Armed with a spiteful moral rectitude, their goal is to sever his historical reach, to defame, cover over, dilute . . . and then reconstruct.

In todayâ(TM)s politically correct textbooks, Nikki Giovanni and Toni Morrison stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens, even though both women are second-raters at best. But even in their superficial aspects, the textbooks advertise publishersâ(TM) intent to pander to the prevailing PC attitudes. The books feature page after page of healthy, exuberant young girls in winning portraits. Boys (white boys in particular) will more often than not be shunted to the background in photos or be absent entirely or appear sitting in wheelchairs.

The underlying message isnâ(TM)t lost on Brandon. His keen young mind reads between the lines and perceives the folly of all that heâ(TM)s told to accept. Because he lacks an adult perspective, however, what he cannot grasp is the ruthlessness of the war that the education reformers have waged. Often when he provokes, itâ(TM)s simple boyish tit for tat.

A week ago, I dispatched Brandon to the library with directions to choose a book for his novel assignment. He returned minutes later with his choice and a twinkling smile.

âoeI got a grrreat book, Mr. Garibaldi!â he said, holding up an old, bleary, clothbound item. âoeCan I read the first page aloud, pahlease?â

My mind buzzed like a fly, trying to discover some hint of mischief.

âoeWhoâ(TM)s the author?â

âoeAh, Joseph Conrad,â he replied, consulting the frontispiece. âoeCan I? Huh, huh, huh?â

âoeI guess so.â

Brandon eagerly stood up before the now-alert class of mostly black and Puerto Rican faces, adjusted his shoulders as if straightening a prep-school blazer, then intoned solemnly: âoeThe Nigger of the âNarcissusâ(TM) ââ"twinkle, twinkle, twinkle. âoeChapter one. . .

Merry mayhem ensued. Brandon had one of his best days of the year.

Boys today feel isolated and outgunned, but many, like Brandon, donâ(TM)t lack pluck and courage. They often seem to have more of it than their parents, who writhe uncomfortably before a system steeled in the armor of âoesocial conscience.â The game, parents whisper to themselves, is to play along, to maneuver, to outdistance your rival. Brandonâ(TM)s struggle is an honest one: to preserve truth and his own integrity.

Boys who get a compartment on the special-ed train take the ride to its end without looking out the window. They wait for the moment when they can step out and scorn the rattletrap that took them nowhere. At the end of the line, some, like Brandon, may have forged the resiliency of survival. But thatâ(TM)s not what school is for.

Any essay with a line as pithy as "Brandon delicately threads his response with the very sinews that bind him" deserves a mention.

I don't have anything to add, the author presents this perfectly. I only regret I can't post it here in full. I'm not completely sold on the education vs boys thing, but I relate 100% with Brandon.

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Journal: Klingons vs the Federation 47

Journal by On Lawn

Stephen Hawking has come out with a strong caution against trying to contact space aliens. In Stephen Hawking's universe the likely put us on the wrong end of the same scenario where the white man who ultimately over-ran the Native American population. The reasoning is simple, those with the technology to achieve such transit (like the Europeans across the Atlantic), would also have the capacity to soundly defeat us, the backwards people still dependent and living off of the earth's bounty. With such an opportunity, why wouldn't they just take what they want?

Dafydd ab Hugh, co-author of the Doom Novels has the most pragmatic reply. He takes a number of well (if not over-written) scenarios of war-like aliens and shows how completely infeasible it is. He then notes that he's struggled with this before in his own writings...

When my pal and worthy co-conspirator Brad Linaweaver and I wrote the Doom tetralogy, we wanted (for plot reasons) to have an interstellar war (we were writing a subluminous, Einsteinian space opera, which I think is unique in science-fiction history). My goodness, how we struggled to come up with a reason that was not preposterous on its face, that was vaguely plausible, why alien races would ever go to war!

We finally settled on a long-ago dispute between competing schools of literary theory, the Surrealists and the Post-Modernists, each trying to analyze a fistful of fragments left behind by the first race ever to achieve spaceflight, billions of years earlier. These academic disputes erupted into a war that, due to lightspeed limitations, still continued after thousands of millennia. But that took us days of teleconferences to concoct.

Simply put, logic implies there is simply no reason for beings of one stellar system to attack beings of another. And while it's true that alien logic might be very different, we don't have any to study; so we're stuck with our own logic. To be frightened of the prospect of contacting aliens is to yield to xenophobia and the mortal sin (and bleak helplessness) of despair.

But he left one flagon unfilled though he set it at the table. Perhaps this flagon was a bit strong on the philosophy in a pragmatic menu of the logistics of inter-stellar war ... kind of. See, I've always had a question after many years of watching the Klingons and others on Star Trek that deals directly with logistics, but has more to do with morality.

The Klingons were a war like race, ready to exploit anyone and everything around them. The Federation stood in ideological opposition, helping each society grow on their own. The Federation even instituted a Prime Directive that was ultimately an act of discipline, don't deal with undeveloped societies at all.

Watching the struggle between the two, the same question kept coming up. Could Klingons, with their sense of warlike domination, ever have developed the technology needed without killing each other first? Would any race that learns the skills of domination and exploitation not even more become their own demise of undermining the very source of their livelyhood when they learn to harness power capable of wiping out entire continents or planets? The Cold War was a reaction, a reaction of discipline, in light of the creation of a weapon that could wipe out the earth. Could they have cooled off their warfare?

The game theory of confrontation is also simple. Where the threat of being exploited exists, it is better to be on the side of being the exploiter. As General Patton put it, it is better to get them to die for their country then for you to die for your country. He also noted that a poor plan executed violently will prevail over a superior strategy.

But the ability to exploit with greater power comes with the danger of undermining your own ability to tap resources. Today is the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which was by no means was an act of war. It wasn't even an act of natural exploitation. It was simply a failure to implement the safety required for handling the worst case scenarios of nuclear power. If anything it was a failure to act, it was a failure to enact discipline. Discipline, the ability to enact safeguards even when no danger is immediately present but still potentially dangerous, is the core of morality.

The Federation, the only political power in the Star Trek universe that is projected from a real history -- our own -- developed a sense of morality from the threat of unnatural disaster after another. After years of war, dark ages, and general strife, the society matured to note the power of morality was an essential survival tactic. Without great restraint and morality, there was no safety from great power.

Ultimately, however, that doesn't predict whether or not we can guarantee any alien intelligence we contact is benign. Because there is no guarantee that technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands. IIRC, the Klingons did not develop inter-stellar travel on their own, but took it from the Romulans who though war-like were very calculating about its execution. Their own isolationism kept them restrained, as opposed to the expansionism of the Klingons. But should an atom bomb fall into the hands of an aggressive society, wouldn't they still cut their own thoughts with it rather then realize its potential to send them to the stars? I don't know. But the question keeps coming up.

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Journal: As they grow... 3

Journal by On Lawn

So, when I got married I decided I would tell my kids the truth about Santa. He was a good person who lived a thousand years ago and is dead. Now we like him so much we all act like him.

But as they've grown they seem to have convinced me he does exist. I don't correct them when they make assumptions based on their belief, I find myself going along with it rather then tell the truth.

What a softie.

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Journal: This is what you need now... 3

Journal by On Lawn

Back when my wife and I were first married, we enjoyed music made from sampled sections of other music. Two of our favorite artists at that time were Thievery Corporation and Avalanche. For old time's sake we looked up one of our favorite songs in YouTube just to listen to it again.

Now, most of the time when you really like a song as rich and complex as this, the music video is a real bummer. In fact, watching the movie "The Wall" permanently ruined me from listening to the album ever again.

But this music video turned out to be a real treat. In fact, it may far eclipse the song itself...

Frontier Psychiatrist

And after that you may enjoy, Since I left you

User Journal

Journal: The chances against Christmas being Christmas... 3

Journal by On Lawn

... are 365/1. Mecco's Star Wars Christmas, with narration by C3-P0.

Just an update. As you may or may not remember, I promised to not lie to my children about Santa Clause. He is someone who lived many years ago and is dead. Now we have a bunch of people pretending to be like him. What is wrong with that?

Last year I saw defeat. My child, despite my best efforts, told me I was wrong. Santa was real.

This year, though I continued to say once or twice the truth, got caught up in the geek factor. My children and I watched in anticipation as Santa was tracked around the world by NORAD. This year it was even better because I could track Santa on Google Earth.

What a great way to teach my child that this is a whole world, with time zones and such. Around the time Santa crossed the Atlantic we gave NORAD a call. No circuits available. As we read the bedtime story we left our cell phone in re-dial, and it never went through.

As it was just my wife and I staying up putting the Santa gifts out, I watched Santa pass over my city. I told my wife even though it wasn't true, there was still something fun about the anticipation. I remember it as a child, and its not really dead now that I know the truth. Odd, huh.

But I see the cracks in the foundation. As my child watched the Santa cam via NORAD, she said, "I want to see Santa land."

"Yeah," I said, "me too. It is pretty odd how he can deliver presents to so many houses while he is flying over these cities".

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Journal: Interpretation (p2): The Good Samaritain 7

Journal by On Lawn

By the way, if the name of the country is "Samaria" then why are its people called "Samaritains" rather than "Samarians" or "Samarites"? It seems a strange combination of the two suffixes.

In the last JE, I pointed to a rather in-depth study of a single interpretation of a single word. What interested me in it was how the motivation for interpretive speculation was a serious denial that "steel" could possibly have existed. Yet, it could.

The discussion I want to point you to today is a good example of figurative or moral interpretation (as in the moral of a story). A New Testament parable, to depart a bit from the Genesis theme. Again you might see how different starting points influence the outcome of how they read the story. You might even be able to detect where your own starting point might influence your interpretation of the story.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN AND ETERNAL LIFE

MH42 mentioned that I have discovered that interpretation is private. Yet perhaps closer to the truth is as Calvin said to Hobbes, "People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world." There is a process where someone can truly discover the intended meaning behind a story -- whatever worth that might be. And that meaning will have much more to do with our humanity than our personality. The more inspired the writer, the more valuable the meaning. It is somewhat elitist, but that is not what interests me. I find that its accessibility is the most prized jewel in this pursuit.

Now some side-news....

* I fear no spoiler. I finished "The Deathly Hallows".
* I looked at Multiply, but for my purposes I am not interested in joining Facebook or MySpace, or anything like it. I always found the journal system as a way to my submitted Slashdot stories being turned down. Just as the Diary at K5. That is all. I have vamped up my Google Reader and find myself in touch with much more information (Slashdot included) then I can possible digest. Slashdot may not be what it was, but then neither is the Internet, and neither are the people who are a part of it. I do not mourn the loss of the great place it was, because for me the loss happened about 1999.

Next up: Looking at interpretation visually through collected artworks of the Ark of the Covenant.

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