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User Journal

Journal Journal: Why do people support Ron Paul? 14

Ron Paul has been getting a lot of attention as an "outsider" candidate, and in fact, even here at Slashdot I've seen a lot of Ron Paul in sigs.

So I decided to visit his web site and see what he's all about. Uhhhhhh... why is this guy getting so much geek attention? I can only assume that people are focusing on some single issue, and haven't checked what the guy actually *believes*. Much like people who support the Libertarian Party, actually, who have some seriously crackpot stuff in their platform. But I digress.

What's wrong with Ron Paul? Here's a sampling:

"So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our independence as a nation. They transfer power from our government to unelected foreign elites. [...] And a free America, with limited, constitutional government, would be gone forever." link

Sheesh. Sure, the value of trade deals is debatable, but the rhetoric above is just silly. "Gone FOREVER" OH NOOOOO!! Typical Politician fear-mongering, if not out-and-out crackpottery. So far, I'm not impressed.

I oppose legislation that increases the FDA's legal powers. FDA has consistently failed to protect the public from dangerous drugs, genetically modified foods, dangerous pesticides and other chemicals in the food supply. Meanwhile they waste public funds attacking safe, healthy foods and dietary supplements. link

Oh, geez. The FDA is certainly not perfect, but to say that the FDA "consistently" fails to protect the public from dangerous drugs is just a lie. If it wasn't for the FDA, we would be flooded with quack drugs. The Libertarian would say that the consumer should decide what's good and what's bad, but it's impractical for every citizen to have to review all the studies to know whether the thousands of drugs are effective or not. Again, I'll listen to how the FDA can be improved, but overblown words like the above don't give me confidence that there's any substance to the man.

And then, to top it off, he attacks *all* genetically modified foods broadly, showing that he has an anti-science agenda, and is completely ignorant of the issue.

I am committed to guaranteeing parity for home school diplomas and advancing equal scholarship consideration for students entering college from a home school environment. [...] I will veto any legislation that creates national standards or national testing for home school parents or students. link

I'm a supporter of home schooling, but let me get this straight. He wants home-schooled kids to have equal parity for diplomas, equal consideration for scholarships, yet doesn't think they should be be tested to see if they learned anything?? How is that supposed to work? And is the government going to force universities to accept home schooled kids with no testing?

The framers of the Constitution never in their worst nightmares imagined that the words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech......." would be used to ban children from praying in school, prohibit courthouses from displaying the Ten Commandments, or prevent citizens from praying before football games. The original meaning of the First amendment was clear on these two points: The federal government cannot enact laws establishing one religious denomination over another, and the federal government cannot forbid mention of religion, including the Ten Commandments and references to God. link

First of all, he's being disingenuous here. Nowhere are children "banned" from praying in school. What is banned is the SCHOOL leading prayer. That he doesn't seem to understand this (or is lying about it) is incredibly worrisome.

And then he doesn't seem to understand that freedom of religion means the government cannot advocate one religion over another, and in fact, should not be advocating religion at all. I don't feel like quoting more, but he then goes on to attack the idea of the separation of church and state. I think it's pretty clear that he's not going to be a big advocate of atheist rights.

This isn't everything I find disturbing. To be fair, I did see a lot I liked about the man (as I can say about any of the candidates, of any party). But as near as I can see, he is not deserving of the reputation that he seems to be building.

Can anyone tell me why they support Ron Paul, especially in light of the above?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why universal health care is a Libertarian ideal 4

Disclaimer: I'm not a Libertarian, though I'm sympathetic to *some* of their ideas. A lot of them are crackpot, though.

Universal health care has been traditionally an idea that Libertarians despise, because it's directly against the Libertarian ideal of personal responsibility, and not "stealing" from others to support oneself. In this small essay, I'm going to argue that Universal Health Care *is* necessary to a free Libertarian-style society.

First, let me say that for most of my life, I've been adamantly against Universal Health Care, primarily because I don't trust the governmen not to screw it up. I still believe this, but I've come to believe that UHC is necessary anyway.

The reason is because modern UHC is not directly subject to market forces, hence the reason health care costs are completely out of control in the U.S. The underlying reason is health insurance. Once people stopped paying directly for health care, they stopped caring what it cost. In fact, they had an incentive to get the *most expensive* health care. Why not? "The insurance company is paying for it." And the Doctors certainly have no incentive to keep costs down. Might as well order a few extra tests. The result of this are costs spiralling ever upward.

Now, Libertarian think tanks are aware of this, and their solution was the idea of "medical savings accounts", where people (in essence) get a refund for not using health care. This is a really weak incentive. It helps a little, but it still doesn't address the fundamental corruption of market forces. That this is the best the Libertarians can come up with ought to tell you how impossible it is to fix.

So given that market forces can't work, and in fact people are getting bankrupted every day by health costs, the only solution is really for the government to step in, as inefficient as that can be.

So, even if that's the only solution, why do I say this should be a "Libertarian Ideal"? Let me first start with what most Libertarians think the government *should* do. One of the most fundamental functions of government is to provide a legally level playing field, for example, contract law. Most (hopefully all, but you never know) Libertarians wouldn't argue that contract judges should be privatized. There needs to be a relatively fair legal environment for business.

So how does UHC fit into this? One of the fundamental tenants of Libertarianism is the idea of personal responsibility, that in the end, one should take care of oneself through hard work.

And that's the crux: someone *can't* take care of oneself if they are not physically capable of it. It's unreasonable to say to someone, "I realize that your leg is broken, so work harder so you'll have the money to fix your leg." People cannot be productive without being physically healthy, just like people can't be productive without a reasonable legal environment.

Note that health care is different from other items, say, food. If I'm hungry, it's *is* reasonable to say, "go out and work, so you can afford to buy food." Physical health is a very different idea. It can actually *prevent* the Libertarian ideal of working to support oneself.

So, just like a stable legal system is necessary for a healthy capitalistic society, so is a healthy workforce capable of working to support themselves.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The aspartame CONSPIRACY! 6

Well, not really a conspiracy.

Continuing my recent habit of posting a journal entry every two years or so, I thought I'd share my experience with aspartame-induced headaches.

For a few years, I've been having on-and-off chronic headaches. They felt right behind my eyes, and I seemed to also be somewhat sensitive to bright lights. Sometimes it would be a dull throb, but every so often I get real ball-busters that lasted for over a day that meds just didn't make go away. I pretty much attributed it to getting older. It was annoying, but not life threatening.

Now, I'd heard a lot about aspartame conspiracies, and like most conspiracies, I figured it was all a bunch of crap, along the same lines as "multiple chemical sensitivity" and the like (no offense to people with legitimate allergies).

One day, I was reading along, and I saw a post (it may even have been on Slashdot) where someone said they had been having chronic headaches for a long time that went away when they stopped drinking Aspartame. The guy didn't seem like a looney, so I thought it was worth a try. Anything to get rid of them!

I started drinking water every day, rather than my usual diet sodas. Within a week, there was a noticeable drop in the incidence of headaches, and NO occurances of bad headaches. After a month, I had had only a few incidences of headaches, and still NO bad ones, which was pretty much unprecedented. It's been probably six months now, and my headache problem is pretty much gone. I still get headaches occasionally, but it's a much more normal rate, and not nearly the severity. Still haven't had a ball-buster since I stopped drinking it.

Now, I'm still not an Aspartame looney who wants it banned. Some people go into anaphylactic shock with peanuts, that doesn't mean we should ban peanuts. It just happens to have that effect on me, and doesn't for millions of other people. But it should be common knowledge that it CAN happen to certain people.

Oh, and I don't think it was caffeine that was doing it. I drank a couple of diet cokes a day, but mostly I drank diet Sprite specifically because I don't like a lot of caffeine. My caffeine intake is pretty much zero now, but I've been drinking caffeine for a long time (a LOT back in my 20s) and I never got headaches from it.

If you're having chronic headaches and drink a lot of diet soda like I did, it's worth a try to see if you have the same effect. And I used to pretty hate drinking water, but I got used to it, so I'm okay with it now.

Speaking of water, I also don't buy into the silly "water is better for you anyway" nonsense. Liquid is liquid, your body uses it the same way. And by the way, that "Eight 8-oz glasses of water a day" thing is totally wrong as well, but that's another journal entry (there is ZERO evidence that drinking more water leads to more health).

User Journal

Journal Journal: I Discovered the Secret of Staying in Shape 1

OK, I'm 40 years old and have always had a problem with keeping my weight under control. At certain times in my 20s, I was in decent shape, but it was always a struggle. The last ten years I've been slowly losing the battle, and it doesn't help that my wife is a great cook.

Recently I made the decision that I really had to do something about it, as I've so often done in the past. Zillions of diets, working out, you know the drill -- and then ultimate failure.

My first realization was that my body wanted a certain number of calories, and that number of calories exceeded a healthy maintenance weight. Trying to overcome body chemistry like that is just too damn hard, and you always lose in the end. I can't eat salads rest of my life! I hate them, and it's not sustainable.

OK, step one was being honest with myself that limiting the food supply side would never work. Therefore, the energy demand side had to be increased. Which meant the dreaded exercise. I played a few sports ten years ago, but it's really hard to fit that in with a wife and kids. But I managed to squeeze in some time in the morning before work for the gym.

So I started in on that... but the gym is SOOOO damn boring. That's what pretty much defeated me before, but I was determined to succeed. But I could feel the seeds of failure being planted.

THEN... I heard about something. A high-end gym had DVD players on their cardio machines. The light went off! Good lord, that was it. I went out and bought a portable DVD player (it was like $150 at Sam's Club -- they're CHEAP these days). It came with a strap system that fit over a cardio machine, slick as you please.

It was beautiful. I'd pop in a video and the 45 minutes passed so easily I decided to increase it to an hour. I now burn 1140 calories in an hour, five days a week. And the weight has been coming off! Of course, you can't go crazy and increase your food intake. I actually managed to eat healthier here and there, but it's so freeing to know that I don't have to. All I have to do is watch movies and I'll get in shape, no thought needed.

I usually use the Elliptical Trainer, which does both your legs and arms at the same time. It's also low stress on your back (I have a bad back).

The other key to the plan was signing up for the Blockbuster $15/month unlimited rental plan, where they send you videos, and then when you send them back, they send out another one (it's like Netflix, except cheaper).

Now I actually look forward to my workout in the morning. It gives me one hour of blissful time to watch all the movies I haven't seen, TV shows (I'm watching the HBO series Deadwood right now -- recommended). It's worked out great.

If you've given up ever being in shape and healthy, give the plan a try. It's tailor made for geeks who have to keep their brains occupied or exercise is just torture.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Poison Oak Sucks 4

So my three year old boy is HUGE into pipes and drains. We have a big storm drain outside our house that empties into the canyon next to the house, and it's been a dream of his to figure out where the pipe empties out. So one day we decided to scale the canyon. It was very steep, so I had to carry him while trying to hold my balance. We found the end of the pipe and had lots of fun exploring around.

Until a few days later.

Yup -- I started breaking out in a HUGE rash all over my body. All over my arms, all over my legs, around my waist, on my face and, er, my genitals. Big red blotches, weeping and oozing. And itching. Real, real bad.

Actually, I got really scared that it was something else. I have psoriasis on my hands. Anyone who has psoriasis can tell you how much it totally sucks. You can't cure it (it's genetic), you can only maintain it. It causes your skin to blister and scale, and you have to use heavy-duty creams to get rid of it. I was scared that maybe my psoriasis decided to go crazy all over my body! That would truly, truly suck.

Fortunately, I figured out it was "only" poison oak. Better than psoriasis, but boy does it suck hard. You cannot believe how bad the itching is. The only thing that I can compare it to (and this is only vague memories) was chicken pox. I couldn't sleep at night. I had to constantly rub ice cubes on myself as a topical anesthetic. It was absolutely horrible.

Now, in doing some research, I thought that it pretty much vanishes in about a week, so I tried to tough it out. I asked my pharmacist father-in-law if there were any cures, and he said there was nothing non-prescription, so I just tried to tolerate it.

Finally, though, I couldn't take it anymore. The itching was driving me insane, so I did a web search for "poison oak cure". And this stuff popped up: Zanfel. It promised to "cure the itching in 30 seconds, and get rid of the poison oak in 24 hours". Whoa. This has to be a scam, but I'm freaking desperate. I look at the list of pharmacies, and found one near me. I buy the stuff... OUCH! $32 for a little 1oz tube. SCAM SCAM SCAM. Screw it ... I'd pay $320 if it got rid of the itching.

The stuff was freaking amazing. It literally blew away the itching in about 30 seconds. Supposedly it sucks out and neutralizes the poison.

Unfortunately, it didn't cure it in 24 hours, though. The pamplet says that if you have "systemic poison oak", then the poison is in your bloodstream and the only thing that will get rid of it quickly is heavy duty steroids from your doctor. So I went to the doctor yesterday and got the steroids.

The Zanfel works for about 4-8 hours, and then the Uruthiol poison (that's the bad stuff) works it way from deeper in your skin back to the surface. Then I have to apply the Zanfel again, and I get more relief.

Man, if you ever get Poison oak, poison ivy or poison sumac, YOU WANT THIS STUFF. It's worth every freaking penny.

And I'm now an expert on poison oak, and how to avoid it. What's funny is that I used to think it was kind of a joke ("Oh yeah, gotta avoid that poison oak!! har har"), but it's no joke. The itching is absolutely horrible when you get it bad like I did.

By the way, the rule of thumb is that "leaves of three, let it be", meaning that if the plant has groups of three leaves, then it might be poison ivy or poison oak. The rule of thumb works for the latter two, but apparently poison sumac can have a lot more leaves. Fortunately, poison sumac is not in my area (So Cal), so I'm safe. This is poison oak country.

-- Feb 6 update (next day) --

As long as I'm giving updates on my health, I broke my little toe last night running in to answer the damn phone. My foot hit the side of the doorway. Now I look like a leprosy victim with a big limp. I think I'm ready to star in the next "Night of the Living Dead" movie.

This week has really sucked health-wise.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Oracle disses McNealy 5

ShadowRam had a hilarious story about Oracle dropping the hammer on McNealy... see it here.

I have to admit, I hate McNealy with that idiotic smirk he always wears. I hate Ellison more, but it's still funny seeing McNealy crawling back to Oracle trying to get his keynote spot back when they gave it to ... Michael Dell! Oh man, that is sweet. :)

I've said it before, but if we have to have a software monopoly, given the choice between Gates, McNealy, Jobs or Ellison, I would take Gates hands-down. Thank god it's not Ellison. The man is insufferable enough.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Bin Laden is Dead 9

I was pretty sure after that written statement was released recently purporting to be from bin Laden, but this story seals it for me.

So let me get this straight. When bin Laden is needed the most to rally his "troops", combined with the fact that he was never shy about using video in the past to do so, suddenly he's taken to releasing written statements and making audio-only tapes? Not bloody likely.

The dude is dead.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The product I've been waiting for 5

If you're like me, you have thousands of family photographs lying around that you would love to digitize for posterity. If you're also like me, you started scanning with a flatbed scanner, but the magnitude of the task just defeated you. You said, "there has to be a better way to do this". Well, finally there is. Somebody at HP got a clue and created a scanner with a photograph feeder! Stick in a stack of 24 photos, hit the button, and boom! They get scanned in. For me, the $280 or so would be worth it if all I ever did was just scan legacy photographs and then throw the unit away.

I ordered my unit. I can't wait to do it.

Now if I can just find some good picture organization software. Any suggestions out there? I want something that lets you select from a list of people/places for each picture. The other thing is that it should index picture files, and not try and store the pictures into its own "repository". Oh, and the index information should be exportable into an ASCII format.

GNU is Not Unix

Journal Journal: Stallman on Outlawing Non-free Software 7

I submitted this as a story to Slashdot, but they rejected it. Well, I thought it was rather interesting and newsworthy.

In this recent Slashdot story, I posted that I recalled RMS advocating outlawing non-free software. I couldn't find an exact reference, so I decided to pose the question to him, once and for all. My question and his response are reproduced below.

My letter: "In a nutshell, do you support legislation that require software companies to produce free software? Or to put it another way, should non-free software be outlawed?"

His response:

Those two questions are not the same. I would strongly oppose a plan to require anyone to produce any particular kind of software. Whether to allow proprietary published software is a different matter.

Restrictions on redistribution of software all ultimately rest on explicit government intervention, whether through copyright law, through technology contol laws such as the DMCA, or through enforcement of certain contracts. I would not be sad to see this cease. Requiring release of source code for published software could be justified as a consumer protection measure, like publishing ingredients lists and nutritional analysis for foods.

I would not oppose such changes in laws, but I don't particularly advocate them either. What I advocate is free software. I don't much care whether publishing proprietary software is legally permitted, as long as in practice it rarely happens.

To be honest, I'm somewhat disappointed in this response. This is the first time I've ever seen RMS squishy about anything. It's like he wants to call for legislation outlawing non-free software, but he's not quite ready to go that far.

So he either backed up my recollection, or he did not, depending on how you read his statement. Personally, I think that if you are even ambivalent about whether it's my right to produce -- AND MY RIGHT TO PURCHASE -- proprietary software, then you have very wrong ideas about what freedom is all about.

If I, as a private citizen, contract with another private citizen to purchase the right to use a particular piece of software, it is none of RMS's business if I decide that the source code is not a valuable part of the transaction.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-out 27

Perhaps you are aware of the The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Blackout. I found it all a bit silly, but never let it be said that RM/101 is not willing to ante up with a better idea. And this is it:

The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-out.

Whining about trivial things by the ignorant is more dangerous than a gun in the hand of a child. Rho's inflation of the importance of comments reflects on the inability of Slashdot's "community" to understand that this is just a web site, with a service that you get for free.

For the record, my feelings on The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Blackout rests firmly in the uninterested. I have almost zero opinion on the final outcome of the blackout. I love Slashdot, and will probably continue posting to support the site, but the details of the blackout are dull (to me).

Says rho, "In that case, Slashdot would be much better served by dumping the flaky and irritating overhead of a DB server and filling the pipe with a longer "Favorites" list--which, essentially, is what Slashdot is once you strip away the comments and comment posters." If rho thinks he can divine real significance from Malda's (factual) assertion that not as many people read comments as many think, he is sadly mistaken. Unfortunately, rho has an inflated sense of his worth, and has taken to whining because Malda doesn't stroke his ego like he wants.

This whining about being "underappreciated" is offensive. Thus, I propose a small revolt: The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-out.

T(H)GSW will be during the week of April 21 through April 27. Easy to remember, because it corresponds with the blackout (completely worthless information: the full moon in April falls on the 27th). During that time, I will be posting completely whine-free posts, and further will be smacking anyone down (through posts, of course) who whines about Slashdot. I will become Malda's idea of the ideal Slashdot reader. I will provide insightful content -- completely whine free.

During that week, I'd like to see if Malda sees Slashdot become a better place, or if it becomes the Hallowed Shrine of Whining, even more than it is now. I'd like for the more whiny posters to revisit their own self-importance and have a new outlook. And, I'd like for the "community" to really see what the true value of Slashdot is--not this inflated sense of "ownership" that they seem to have, but the fact that it's a free service that's fun to participate in, but is definitely not worth all this whininess.

This is where the (Hopefully) comes in. This is only meaningful if enough whiny posters agree to go along and participate. If there is only me (who never whines anyway) and a handful of others who cease whining during that week, it will be pretty meaningless. Barely a dent will be made, and rho and the rest of the "community" will never realize the incredible value from a whine-free Slashdot.

To spread the word, I'm changing my sig to link to this journal entry. If you would like to help, you can link to this journal from your own sig, or you can simply resolve to enter into a voluntary one-week whine-out. Pass the word. This will only work if a goodly number of comment posters participate.

To summarize, if you wish to participate, during the week of April 21 through April 27

  • Click through as many stories as possible to check for whining
  • Post as many comments as possible without whining (e.g., "They don't appreciate me", "It's not fair that the editors get unlimited mod points", "Why did I get moderated down", "Malda can't spell", "This story is redundant", "They only take PayPal", etc, etc, etc, etc)
  • Drop the hammer on anyone caught whining with a big fat "No whining this week!" post.

Here are some useful HTML links to this journal entry (short version is 86 characters, should fit in most sigs). You'll probably have to unfungle them after the lameness filter gets through with it:

Long version (117 chars): <P>--<BR>Join <A HREF="">The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-Out</A>

Short version (86 chars): <a href="">T(H)GSW</a> Apr 21-27

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