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Meditations - ta eis heauton

Name:
Location: Austin, Texas, United States

I'm a software engineer / partner working for a young company in Austin, Texas, USA. I spend most of my free time hanging out with friends and family, eating out, and partying in the Warehouse District. I should spend more time working on my house....

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Based on a true story

Raj returns to India for the first time in over three years. His two brothers weddings were a spectacle, and he as very happy to have been able to attend. He enjoyed seeing his parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Even though they constantly pestered him about why he wasn't married yet.

Many of his younger cousins asked about living in America. "Is it as great as we have heard? As wonderful as in the movies?" they ask.

"Yes and No" he tells them. " The opportunities and ideals of the country are great. Americans are filled with high expectations for their government and culture. They expect to lead the world, to be the best, brightest, hardest working, wealthiest, most powerful, benevolent nation in the world. The people are as good as you will find anywhere. Honest, hard working, interested in learning and adapting in changing world."

"At the same time these expectations, these beliefs, have made many of them blind to the mistakes and failures of their government." He said with a pause.

"America would never accept torture! That was a few bad apples" They say despite the evidence of widespread abuse and official administration sanction.

"America wouldn't attack with out absolute proof. They just hid it well, we'll find it." they argue even though no WMD was ever found, and they have officially stopped looking.

"We only kill militants and terrorists!" they protest, but war is Hell, and bullets don't check for ID. Their government won't do estimates because they are afraid of what the public might say to 15,000 dead innocent Iraqis.

"It is a great country" Raj explains, weighing his words "but they too easily ignore criticism and concern as envy or hatred. Believing the evidence would destroy their faith."

-------------------------------------

Raj boards the third and final leg of his trip back to the US. He is almost home. America is home now. He has his green card, he hopes to become a citizen. He dreams of the possibility that he could help change some of the problems he sees. He can work to make this country better.

He sits next to an American woman on this final flight. For the first time in over a month he hears a thick American accent. They strike up a conversion and, as is often the case in these times, the topic turns to politics. Raj mentions his concerns about the War on Terror, the way the government deals with "combatants" and invasions in civil liberties. The woman gets anxious and angry.

"Why do you hate America?" she asks, an indignant look on her face.

Raj ignores her question and changes the topic, but in his mind he answers in the only way he can. "I don't hate America! I love America! But I despise people like you. You are destroying everything that makes America great."

Final Haiku

The reason the others were written...

Sleep
Burning eyes and aching limbs
Restless mind churning away again
Will I ever sleep tonight?

Political Haiku

I haven't tried writing any Haiku in a long time, so I am sure I am off on some (many?) of these, but I couldn't sleep last night and this is what was bubbling up in my head.

Robert
Novak is a hack
His bias betrays America
He should be in prison

George
Likeable moron he seems
In truth a devious fiend
Working to destroy US.

W.
Budget from black to red
Economic policies serve only business
Making America weak

Bush
A war based on lies
One thousand soldiers lost
Worst President Ever

Donald
Won't do estimates
Instead sealing soldiers fates
Pray they return safe

Ashcroft
That is ok "Saint" John
I wasn't using my rights
Keep them safe for me?

Albert G
You justify torture
Damming all we stand for
Do you sleep at night?

Colin
You had potential
Squandered by a weaker man
Shamed around the world

O'Reily
It is hard to trust
Partisanship at its worst
Factor out the spin!

Rethuglicans
Not a vast majority
Loud and ugly though they are
Deliver us from them

Karl
Dirty tricks are your mark
Evil tactics your specialty indeed
History will damn you

Friday, February 25, 2005

Supporting Our Troops

An article Friday in the Austin American Statesman brought to my attention something that has been bothering me for a while.

What is the best way to be able to show you support soldiers when you don't support their mission and/or feel they are being poorly lead?

I think the war in Iraq, in particular, has been very badly managed from the start. I think the American people were deceived going into this war and have been lied to about it numerous times since. I think soldiers, and innocent Iraqis, are being disabled and killed due to this poor leadership. But make no mistake, I blame a miserable failure in leadership, NOT the soldiers.

I want to show I support the soldiers at the same time not contributing to the patriotic echo chamber that says that we should always support every soldier and leader whenever we are at war. The individuals and leaders that allowed Abu Ghraib torture should be imprisoned. The individuals and leaders that evade international and US law in order to torture and detain individuals indefinitely should be prosecuted and imprisoned. The soldiers that break US and international law and execute unarmed former combatants should be prosecuted and imprisoned. Having said that, those individuals do not represent the entire military or even a significant minority.

Most soldiers, IMHO, are working to make Iraq and Afghanistan better, safer, more democratic places. They are following orders while trying to make sure they and their fellow soldiers get home safe, and in one piece.

I want to donate to an organization that supports that quiet majority of troops, preferably supporting disabled troops and families of soldiers who die while on duty.

I thought about donating to Homes for Troops, but they seemed over the top in their willingness to be associated with politicians instead of the soldiers they are trying to help. Note their photo page if you want to see what I mean. Additionally, they don't have much history (they were started sometime after 9/11/01) and don't seem to have accomplished much yet.

So I used the Charity Navigator to help me find the National Military Family Association. This organization has been around since 1969 (When it was the National Military Wives Association) and appears to have a broad set of goals generally based on the idea of trying to improve the lives of soldiers and their families. Although this wasn't exactly what I was looking for, after reading their History and Mission I decided that this was an appropriate charity. So, I will be donating to them from now on.

If there is another charity that you think fits my goals better I would be very interested in hearing about it.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Best Web Browser - Firefox

I downloaded the new Firefox web browser a few months ago and I must say it is awesome. The browser is based on the code for the Netscape and Mozilla browsers shelved years ago when AOL bought Netscape. AOL gave the browser code to the Mozilla foundation to distribute for free and independent developers have been working on it ever since. They have made lots of improvements over the years and in fact have improved it beyond the latest version of Internet Explorer.

How is it better? First of all it has better security :
Firefox isn't totally secure -- no browser can be, especially if it runs on Windows, which has major security problems and is the world's top digital target. But Firefox has better security and privacy than IE. One big reason is that it won't run programs called "ActiveX controls," a Microsoft technology used in IE. These programs are used for many good things, but they have become such powerful tools for criminals and hackers that their potential for harm outweighs their benefits.

My favorite feature is tabbed browsing. Tabbed browsing allows you to open many Web pages at once in the same browser window. Each is accessed by a tab at the top of the browser. It is simple and elegant and allows perpetual web surfers like me to stay organized and on top of all of the windows we have open. Additionally you can create a folder of bookmarks and open them all at once in a single window!

Another cool feature is the permanent search box included as part of the toolbar. It is defaulted to Google, but changeable with a click on the down arrow beside the icon to Yahoo, Amazon, eBay or any Search Engine you choose to add. Just use the key combination of Ctrl+K and you can type in a search parameter into the box. Additionally Google's "I'm feeling lucky" search is the default if you type your search parameters in the Location bar (where the web address/URL shows up). This allows for Smart Keywords to make browsing really quick.

A final feature I'll mention is one I haven't begun using yet, live bookmarks. Live bookmarks lets you create a bookmark a website if the website is known to have an RSS feed. I already have an RSS management tool, Sharpreader and thus haven't had sufficient incentive to try the Firefox tool out yet, but I will. If you want to understand more about RSS read this Forbes article.

One final note to anyone who downloads FireFox. Some, not many, websites were built using IE specific codes and thus don't show up in FireFox. This is rare. I actually haven't had it happen to me at all, but others have. If it does occur just open up IE and view the webiste there, then go back to using Firefox!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Maturing into relationships

I had dinner with an old college buddy tonight and we had a long conversation about how we had become much more successful with women in recent years.

He and I have similar personalities. We were the guys who always ended up taking the friend route instead of going for the gusto and trying to be boyfriend/lover (even if that was what we really wanted) when we met attractive women. He commented that he had been more successful recently (I assume he meant in the last year or two, although he could have been referring to a more recent time period). I agreed with him in that I had become more succesful in this regard as well. I suggested that we had matured into our places in society and were more comfortable being bold around women because we recognized in the grand scheme we were relatively at the top of the ladder in terms of income, career security, education, etc. and thus should be very confident when approaching women.

I also suggested that women our age (late 20s to early 30s) found these aspects very attractive as opposed to women in their teens and early 20s who seemed (at least from my perspective) to be more interested in physical aspects of a potential partner. I don't know if all of this is true, but sounded good after enchiladas and a few drinks.

So, all you geeky shy teens out there, chin up, your 30s will be great. :-)

Great Google tools

I have been playing with two new tools from the guys a Google and decided I should mention their usefulness.

First, Picasa. Picasa is digital image editing tool. Like most image editing tools it lets you adjust color balance, contrast, etc, but Picasa does a much better job at this than most tools. For instance their red eye remover, although not perfect everytime, is the best I have ever used. I use this function very often thanks to my over dialated pupils and Picasa returns my eyes to a natural look. Also, their automated fixes (Auto Contrast, Auto Color, and I'm feeling lucky) are great. The interface is easy to use and very intuitive. Take the tour and learn about all of the cool features. The best part, the software is FREE. Download Picasa and try it out.

The other cool google tool is Google Maps. Much like Mapquest and Yahoo! Maps, you enter an address and it generates a image of the location. But the Google guys added some very nice features. The best being that you don't need to use the silly arrows to move around the map space. You can simply left-click on the photo and 'move' in the mapspace much like you would drag an icon across your screen. If you move very quickly it may take a few seconds for the service to catch up with you and generate the map, but it is pretty quick and very useful. Additionally Google maps combines some of the great google search tools to allow you to look for, say, coffeeshops in the area you are viewing. Just type in 'coffeeshop in Austin Texas' and icons pop up on the map showing you where local coffee shops can be found. Lots of other interesting features are mentioned in the tour.

If these aren't enough for you you might be interested in some of the other Google Software Downloads. You might also be interested in their other Services and Tools.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Quiet Weekend

I expect this weekend will be a quiet one around the house since my Housemate-Brother (HB) and Housemate-Friend (HF) are both going to be out of town. Maybe I will get lots of work done, odd jobs around the house, unpack boxes, clean out the garage, get groceries, and run some errands. Probably not though.

HB (see above for abbreviations) just accepted a new job today. We haven't had a chance to celebrate the new position and higher pay yet, but next weekend should be lots of fun! Congrats Bro! Now we have to make sure we make use of your discount before you lose it.

HF is partying in India, lucky bastard. Two of his brothers got married on the 14th. Excellent anniversary date if you can get it. I hope he will post an update on his blog at some point so we can see how things are going over there. I want pictures!

First!

I don't think first posts are all that important. Just because this is the first post doesn't mean it has some special meaning beyond chronological order. Having said that I will give a run-down of what I plan to post on this blog:

The majority of blogs that I read are political, but this blog probably won't focus on politics. I will comment on politics, but that won't make up a majority of the posts.

I work in the software industry, but this blog won't have any tech info on it. I leave work at the office.

I find the most interesting blogs give you insight into an individual personality, their thoughts and insights. That is what I want from this blog. It will be a window into my personality, an incomplete view of my perspective on the world. Maybe others will find it interesting.

As for the url: http://notmydiary.blogspot.com was the first thing I could come up with that hadn't already been taken. I think it is a rather simple summary of what I will post here. Not my most intimate thoughts, but maybe my most interesting.