-- BLOG --

January 2005

January 30, 2005
Sunday is Buildings Day

So, for the last ... at least 8 months,  it's become an unintentional habit to head off to cool looking buildings sometime on Sunday. Usually it's evening time, but business parks with buildings are great places to walk around and think. Today was the Getty Museum. It's worth a stop if you're in LA. It's known for its art, and I browsed that for a bit, but it's the architecture that I like.

All the stone is Travertine Marble. The same stuff the Coliseum in Rome was covered with.

I thought this reflection was pretty cool

Tricks with Light.
As the Sun is setting, it lines up  just right with this reflection pool, projecting a self portrait onto the wall.
This is my favorite pic for the day.

Anyone up for lunch?

If you're going to write it in stone, it better be short. If it's short, it can't get long enough to be wrong. If it's not wrong, then it's easy to imagine all the ways in which it is right. If it's right in so many ways, it must the the wisdom of a sage. So... it's not that they were any wiser than a lot of wise people. It's just that they were limited from being so long winded that they would be wrong. Since they're not wrong, and our own creativity only makes them more right, words written in stone will always seem like immortal wisdom from the gods. The reality is that the phrase (and its setting) is just a tool, only as effective as our own wisdom. We, the living, are the gods that bring wisdom to simple phrases.

* * *

Successful Elections in Iraq

My Mom sent this email this morning, and it expresses my same thoughts on the success.

Isn't freedom great!  It was fabulous to see the people of Iraq go to the polls and finally get to vote.  It looks like a 72% turn out! (our last election was historically high with a 49% - 50% turnout)  They sure understand the great blessing of freedom and choice in their lives.  I am afraid many americans don't know what they have in their own back yard.   Some are too busy complaining about all they don't have and never see all they do enjoy.  Shakespeare wrote in one of his plays "No winters night is so cold as a mans ingratitude".  Hopefully we can look around us and be grateful for all we are and have and can become.  Even our struggles deserve gratitude because that is how we can become even more grateful.  Hopefully in America our winter nights can be warmed with appreciation of what many have shed blood for, so we can become all we are willing to.  The march of freedom is good. 

* * *

New Toy

Chad walked in the door with this. He inherited it from a friend moving to Arizona.

The Three-Day Breakup

I guess it happens rather frequently that couples agree to cut things off, and then find out they really like each other more than they thought. Rachelle has been around, just as we like her.

She finished A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens this morning..

...Oh yeah. She speaks French very well, so she's going to help me learn. I started learning French this morning while driving to the Getty. I checked out some cd's from the library yesterday. I figure the two most valuable languages for me to learn would be #1 Russian, and #2 French. Russians know rocketry and space pretty darn well. The French... well, a lot of politics and international relations goes around in that language. I don't imagine storming the space frontier is going to be a mono-lingual thing. I already know enough Deutch to get directions without speaking English, and enough Espanol to piece together a basic conversation. I never was interested in French until I saw that it'll be useful. The Cost / Benefit ratio between learning Russian and French leads me to French. There will be more people for me to talk with to learn it.

January 29, 2005

5:51 PST

It officially becomes too dark to mountain bike at precisely 5:51 Pacific Standard Time. "Too dark to mountain bike" is defined as the level of lighting where you can no longer differentiate trail from trench. This occurred approximately 22 minutes after I reached the top of the Holy Jim trail, which occurred 1 hour 56 minutes from leaving my car (including 4.5 miles on 4 wheeler road to the trail head),  and about an hour before returning to my car freezing cold and numb in the feet and fingers from all the pools and rivers I had to ride through in the dark. It was a great ride.

Getting there... that took a while. It's a good thing I have a neighbor in Boston who just happened to call while I was on my way, so she could look into her window (computer) and find a bike shop that could redirect me to the relocated trail head.

I always have to google this guy's site to get directions to new mountain biking trails in Orange County.

* * *
Click Here to see the cool new trick I learned tonight.
(if nothing happens, enable pop-ups for this site: Tools>Pop-up Manager>Allow pop-ups for this site)

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My little bro Trevor is still a Stallion of the highest degree. He just took 1st at Districts today (wrestling). And what's better, he won in overtime against another kid who beat him just 2 weeks earlier. Well done Trevor.

* * *
(January 28, 2005 Friday)

Last night I got home way too late to post for the day, but it was well worth the time for what I accomplished. Here's a cut from the email I sent to update my manager last night at 11:45pm.

Subject:    SCADA Charting Completed!!!

... and it's complete with all the bells and whistles we wanted. Every option we asked for is available, and it should be pretty easy for anybody to figure out, even without me being there to guide them. The interface is unbreakable. You can click around as much as you want as fast as you want, and nothing can make it freeze or crash. I realize this is a lofty thing to be boasting, but I think it can stand its ground.  The cpu sees its share of action at startup, or a spike whenever you reconfigure a chart, but otherwise it's smooth sailing. And yes, the internal documentation is second to none.

I wasn't planning on staying here this late, but I had a bug I've been dissecting for the last hour and a half, and that was the only thing between me and having the code entirely wrapped up... so the bug has been squashed now, never to come back to life.

(Yes, I know. It was Friday night and I should've been out chasing girls... so goes it.)
(That bug I was dissecting turned out to be so simple as a change in the initialization sequence for the Stop button. Simple, stupid, and easy to fix... but costly all the same. An hour and a half. I guess that's not as costly as the Huygens Probe missing the command to flip the "On" switch on Cassini. When simple logic like that can be missed by even the best of engineers, it leaves me boggled with philosophers who think they're capable of surmising life and the universe into their own little theory. Not to bag on philosophy... It's useful as tools and toys for working and playing our way through life, but to think you've found an end all truth... Ok. Entertain yourself if you wish.)

So here's what I did, and why I'm so proud of it.

I'm programming the control system for our primary thermal vac testing  chamber for our satellites. It's 26' diameter, and 40' deep. It's fun to walk around inside with all our thermal (nitrogen) shrouds and optical equipment, and to walk around outside with all the plumbing, pumps, instrumentation, and so forth. It's pretty big, and looks pretty complex. I can't bring a camera in, but maybe I can find a pic from somewhere. So we're using LabView for monitoring  and controlling all the temperatures, valves, pumps, and whatever else. I had a charting system working, but for as much data as we're pulling, we needed to redo it for the sake of our cpu... and we also wanted some other bells and whistles. I finally got the whole thing complete. It's a stand alone system right now, and ready to be integrated with the remainder of the system.

A very small, very simple sub vi.
...Ok. That looks terrible. Oh well. That's the programming language.

I don't really think anybody will be interested in casually browsing through the files, but I'm going to put them up here anyway. I have at least two friends who have used my Visual Basic tutorials and examples to program some data analysis, so maybe this will turn out to be useful to another person or two. Maybe I'll want to reference it.

(This is just the Charting Routine. I'll probably post the whole thing when it's complete... by March 1st. One month earlier than originally scheduled.)

It's built on LabView 7.1, using the DSC Module.
Create a folder to import the main vi, and all these sub vi's into it.
ChartBuffers_2g.vi - Main
Configure Chart1_1a.vi
Export Chart_1a.vi
Get Chart Info_1a.vi
- this  one is terribly inefficient, but it does the job

Then create a sub folder titled "InitializationFiles" to import these

It just occurred to me that you'll also need an .scf file for all these... but the logic of the code is all there, and it'll be adaptable to whatever you're working on. If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to walk through it.

January 27, 2005

The Efficiency of Personal Interest

I am now a convinced proponent of stopping into vendors shops when you need something to get done right, and get done quickly. That radiator plate I posted a picture of a couple weeks back got sent out to a shop for machining, so I called the shop and made an appointment for this morning to talk about the design intent, and any questions they may have about it.

When I arrived this morning, they had gone over the drawings, and even had notes written on them. I ended up talking with the guy programming the CNC lathe, a couple shop machinists, their guy finding a shop to paint it, and a few others. It's a good thing because they had questions about all the things I thought they'd have questions about, and we couldn't have cleared those up so quickly through email or phone. If I hadn't have dropped by, they may not have talked about it for a few days, and it probably would have been a few days more before they got back with our procurement guy, who would then get to my manager, then to me, and the back through the whole chain again to them. As it is, we all got to understand everybody's concerns, the right decisions were apparent, so they're rolling  forward on it right now. I didn't have to ask them to get a move on it, because they're already moving on it. I would estimate that this single half hour visit on my way to work cut about two weeks off the total turn-around time.
If you happen to need a machine shop in the LA /
Orange County area:

Basic Technologies – www.basictechnologiesinc.com

 * * *

Yuri’s Night ’05 – www.yurisnight.net

Met with the Yuri’s Night crew tonight. It was our first non-happy hour meeting of the year. If you're new to Yuri’s Night, it's a world wide celebration of the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin on
April 12, 1961, and the first launch of the Space Shuttle on the same day (20 years later). They're a dedicated group that has made this event happen every year since it was founded by Loretta Hidalgo in 2001, and spread to over 71 cities in 35 countries. Chances are that there's a party in your city. If there isn't, then contact us and let's get one set up. We found out that Joe Landon, heading up the Yuri’s night LA party for the last two years, was recently accepted to Harvard Business School. Congrats to him on that. We're glad to have another space creator heading places where he'll be able to make a greater contribution to the overall effort.


January 26, 2005

Tonight I went to a lecture at Cal Tech by Dr. Dimotaki on their research on the Columbia Shuttle accident, and then he continued on the cost of lofting things into space.

The most valuable tools they acquired for deciphering the details of the flight path of the Columbia shuttle came from two amateur videos. One shot in Sparks, NV (I worked there for 2 summers), and the other from Springville, CA. Between the two videos, one having Venus in the background as reference, they could use their trig and calculate the exact speed and trajectory of the shuttle, time syncing the videos by a common flash as a piece of the shuttle flared away. The whole accident was a tragedy, but this lecture was the first time that I saw that they really had not alternative other than to attempt the re-entry, whatever they may have known about the tiles on the wing.

When you look at the price per pound of launching things, and then look at how many pounds we need to launch for any given mission, a trip to Mars ends up costing about $150 Billion. That's expensive, and that's a conservative estimate. However, that is according to current launch cost on Boeing's Delta rockets, or Lockheed's Atlas rockets. SpaceX is well on their way to reducing the cost of all of that... while simultaneously increasing reliability. SpaceX is getting back to the standard set by the Saturn V rocket.

Dr. Dimotaki certainly knew his science, but I got the impression that he's not entirely current on the private enterprises moving into space exploration. He spoke of Hybrid propulsion (used on Spaceship One by Burt Rutan for the X Prize) as thought it's a field just beginning to be opened up. In my research, some on SpaceHub.org, I've been surpassed at how many hybrid rockets are out there.

On other aspects, it was good to get a different perspective on a lot of things... he stated many facts, without stating conclusions that they clearly pointed to. I like that style. 

I always like going to Pasadena after work, because then I get to roll home on my most favorite stretch of freeway in the world. Cruising the 110 from Pasadena,  skirting just west of the sky scrapers in Downtown LA, and tracing the flying ribbons of concrete to the junction with the 405. Yes, an enjoyable drive indeed.

Beckman Hall at Cal Tech

Inside the pillars - upside down, or right side up?

What I think I like most about blogging, is that I can put in pictures of all the cool looking things in the world, and I don't have to try and write it. I've always like pictures, but never taken much time for them because there's never a time to look at them. Blogging, everybody can look at them.

One more thing before I make this the longest blog of the month.

Neighborhoods and Addresses

Amber sent a bit of an insight into “addresses” as they have become. We've always had concrete physical addresses, but now we have all kinds of electronic addresses. In order to be neighbors, you used to have to live within a relatively nearby physical location. As transportation improved, it became easier to be neighbors with people who lived further and further away. Now with the proliferation of electronic addresses, we can be neighbors with anybody all across the world. I can step out my front door and be surprised by the shining white tree I posted a couple days ago, and my neighbor Amber can step outside her front door and be surprised by piles of snow.

Neighborhoods have expanded. Physical proximity has become a “virtually” insignificant factor to being neighbors.

January 25, 2005

This is the radiometer we use to calibrate our satellites. We get to open it up and toy around with it whenever it breaks.
For a couple million dollars, it breaks more frequently than you'd expect. The electronics usually work fine, it's the mechanical parts that fail.

January 24, 2005

You take off for a weekend in the middle of winter (to a place that really reminds you what winter is), and then walk out your front door in the morning to have this right there in your face... sort of unexpected.

January 23, 2005

Life springs up just about anywhere. I guess it's fragile, but it seems pretty tough to me.
* * *
And I always love it when Brittany decides to call on a Sunday night.

January 22, 2005

Provo, UT
I haven't had to scrape my windshield since I moved to California. It's a good thing I have a library card,  or I would have risked frostbite this morning trying to drive with my head out the window.

Orbital Rendezvous Vehicle

This morning we launched a team to design and build an orbital rendezvous vehicle. The team are all young inexperienced engineers here at BYU, but I think they'll do well. There's a lot they'll have to learn to successfully pull off this project... which is exactly their purpose for picking up the project. It's convenient how naturally distributed the team individuals are in their existing experience and interest. They're all mechanical engineers, each having a focus toward mechanical design, materials, electronics for control systems, or general know-how for running a project. We have exactly the interest necessary. Developing the expertise will come.

I had to laugh as they progressively realized that this project will actually require some real engineering. Talking through everything involved with satellites, the space environment,
what we want to accomplish with this vehicle, and exactly how it would be accomplished... They're going to provide the answers to what forces need to be designed for, how to design the structure for those forces, which materials will be best, how to control the attitude and position of the vehicle, how to sense the orbiting satellite, and so on. They're going to engineer this thing. They're going to learn how to engineer this thing. The project went from theoretical to real life as that light turned on in each of them.

It's amazing what ideas can come from a long hard climb on a mountain bike.

* * *

You can't beat lunch with good friends. James and Jen with a kid on the way, weighing different job offers. Becky and Adam getting married in a few months. Marion and her online dating dramas. (forgot the camera).

BYU from my Uncle's house.

I like flying out of this wing of Salt Lake. A bare bone, stripped down, no frills operation. It takes flying from a high-tech experience to feeling like an archaic 3rd world trading market (without the funny smells).

January 21, 2005

Provo, UT
A bucket of Timeline

Most of the people who ran through my workshop today are beginning engineers, looking to build experience from the foundation of zero experience. They come in feeling disadvantaged because their bucket of experience is empty, but don't quite realize the huge advantage they have with a full bucket of timeline. They still only have 24 hours in a day, but they have a good 2 - 3 year timeline to use for building whatever experience they want. They have a stack of raw material and obvious ability to make whatever they want.

The graduating engineers looking for a job are on the other balance of the scale. Their bucket of timeline is spent, and the experience they have is the result of what they used their timeline to build. Most have made a worthwhile trade of timeline for experience.

I started this resume workshop with the intent to help those with experience communicate what it is that they have to offer potential employers. They've already made the timeline / experience trade, and I'm helping them show what they traded their timeline for. I didn't think I would end up on the side of helping engineers without experience decide what experience they're going to develop, and how to most effectively develop that experience. I enjoy seeing what the graduating engineers have done, and it's also fun seeing what the young engineers are doing.

Then totally aside from engineering, I got to spend the evening with April Meservy. She's trading timeline, but trading it for something more appealing to the aesthetic aspect of life. She's a singer / song writer, and it's fun checking in on her every couple months because new stuff is always happening. She might get another song for her upcoming album recorded by the Prague Philharmonic. It's ironic that people as far away as Japan recognize her name from her work on a couple EFY cd's, and yet she's scraping by from recording session to recording session to earn enough money to live. "I just need to stay alive long enough to get this album done."

January 20, 2005
Got my laptop back late last night. My hard drive crashed Sunday morning, but the computer guy I called was able to revive it. Bought a Maxtor One Touch external hard drive to back my data up to.  Now I have a totally restored system that is running like lightning. I have to finish reinstalling my software and files, but I have a good reason to organize all the files that I have allowed to get spread all over inside my computer.

It's a good thing I got my computer back, because I flew into SLC today to run another Engineering Resume Workshop at BYU. It went well again. Only about 20 people showed, but I guess they didn't post any flyers to advertise... only an email. Worthwhile though. Tomorrow is pretty solidly booked for individual sessions. Those always seem to be the most useful... maybe just because I actually get to see the results of the work, whereas I don't see the results that come from a group presentation.

I always like flying into SLC. Not sure why. It looks dry and ugly from the sky. Flying over the desert of southern UT is always cool looking. Flying out of John Wayne in Orange County is fun because of all the housing development that keeps creeping up into the mountains. It really makes civilization look like a living organism. Then just as you start to wonder where else we're going to grow to, and how much we can spread into the hills, you come into view of a whole extensive mountain range that keeps going and going, further than the houses ever went. California is getting packed, but we still have room to grow.

January 14, 2005
Today was the first day this week that I left work while the sun was still in the sky.

January 11, 2005
We have to attain a certain level of competence before we can realize how incompetent we previously were.

I'm getting pretty good at flossing. I've always hated flossing, so I never did it more than once a month, or for a few days after seeing the dentist. It took too much time, it was awkward tooling my hands around in my mouth... I didn't like it. But my dentist showed me an x-ray of my teeth, and for the first time, I understood how my teeth and gums fit together, and how flossing is good for both your teeth and gums.

So ever since getting my wisdom teeth pulled, I've been flossing every night, and I'm getting pretty good at it. It doesn't take near as long to floss my teeth as it did before, because before, I was totally incompetent. I would floss the same gap twice, the patterns hadn't been trained into my muscles yet... I was utterly inept at the skill. Now I'm pretty fast. I have 26 gaps to floss, and I get them all once. My fingers lead the floss to the gaps quickly, and know the motions. It's a cake walk now.

Before, it wasn't that flossing was tedious, it's that I was entirely incompetent... but I never knew how incompetent I was, until I became competent.

January 10, 2005
Ants... So my friend Amber has been updating me through this ongoing "experiment" she's been running in her office with what does and doesn't attract ants. Today I saw some ants in the building I work in, and I realized something (totally unrelated).

The reason we chat with people about the stupid things that go on with our work, like ants in the office, isn't because the stupid things are more interesting. It's because the stupid things are the only things that are simple enough that others can quickly see what is exciting / perplexing / baffling about it. The things at work that are really worth paying attention to for a long time... well, they require paying attention for a long time to see what's so cool about them. On a casual level, nobody wants to pay attention for that long. So we share and laugh about the things that we don't have to pay attention to... We share and laugh about the stupid things. Not because they're more interesting, or more worthwhile, or because we're stupid (I hope). It's because they're easy to share and laugh about.

This also carries to movies, and entertainment in general. Everybody likes to see a Warren Miller "Extreme Skiing" video, but how many people are going to pay to see a Warren Miller "Extreme Algorithms" video? Everyone likes to pay to watch some college age punk strung out at the end of his wits trying to pull off a heinous stunt in the mountains, but how many people will pay to watch another college age punk strung out at the end of his wits trying to pull off a heinous derivation of Maxwell's Equations?

It's all about an individuals capability to immediately asses and understand (to feel) the obstacle that is being faced. When we look at a steep mountain with big cliffs and lots of rocks, we immediately think "Holy #@&%!!!! Is he going to ski that?" And then we get to watch him ski it for the next 45 seconds, with background music and everything. However, if we look at a lopsided airfoil, there is no natural inclination to think "Holy
#@&%!!!! Is he going to run a CFD Analysis on that?" We generally think "That's a pretty picture," and then when CFD is mentioned, the only exasperation comes in the form of "What the #@&% is CFD?" Then if we wanted to actually witness the Computational Fluid Dynamics analysis being done, it would require a few days... with no background music.

It's a good thing we're all stupid people on some level. If we weren't stupid, sharing and laughing at out lives would take a whole lot more work.

My Dad on Mt Democrat

And to anybody interested in my exciting and challenging day at work (who already has the awareness to understand how phenomenal an accomplishment today was), I blasted through the new charting  routine we want to reprogram our system with. Our old routine ate up about 70% of our cpu every 5 seconds. After hacking at it for 10 hours, it's now running so smooth that the cpu doesn't even notice when it's pulling new data!!!! It never rises above 23%!!!!

  January 9, 2005

Lots of rain today... all day long . For that matter, all day yesterday and the day before. I had to climb into my car from the passenger side.

* * *

The Aviator : Good show. Worth seeing

The Phantom of the Opera : I liked it. My brother Greg would hate it.


January 8, 2005

Went running in the rain this morning . I like a good rainy day. It adds variety.

* * *

We are a product of our past only to the extent that it influences our vision of our future.

* * *
My little bro Trevor is a Stallion. He's a freshman, and he took 3rd at his wrestling tournament today.
* * *
As of last night, my roommate Chad and psuedo-roomate Rachelle are no longer an item. That's too bad because it was always nice having Rachelle here when I'd walk in. So goes 6 or so months for them. So goes having a psuedo-roomate. The world is still a happy place.

January 6, 2005
Galactic Tsunami

Just before lunch I was taking my usual browse through the headlines on Space.com, and read an article on this new explosion they've found 2.6 billion light years away from us. It's 650,000 light years across, resultant from a 100 million year eruption, that's associated with a black hole that has more mass than all the stars in our whole Milky Way Galaxy. So this explosion is creating these enormous bubbles that are ripping their way through the universe, and nothing gets left behind in its path. Could life exist on other planets? Not if there are explosions like that tearing through their galaxies. And there's unimaginably violent things like this happening all the time, all over our universe. How in the world are we still here, on this earth, so peacefully and calmly left alone from everything happening out there?
I finished that article, and started out of my building for lunch. Still incredulous with the raw power continually unleashed in this universe, I stepped through the door, to the outside... and was immediately astounded with the perfect calm and tranquility of our Southern California, Los Angeles weather. The tree's were there. A pleasant movement of the air was noticeable, but not even enough to call a breeze. A few birds were chirping. ...
So here we are, somewhere in this universe without a center or edges, floating three light minutes from a huge thermonuclear reactor, on a big clod of iron and nickel coated with a (relatively) cold crust, encircled by a super thin collection of light molecules, off in a relatively undisturbed branch of our galaxy... and the span of time that matters to us, that matters to life, is so incredibly small in comparison to the time scale that the universe operates in, we can find enough peace and quiet to grow up and live out our lives. Every bit of life on this planet will have come and gone so fast that the universe won't even have time to take notice... but that's fine, because it will have been long enough for us.
We don't need much. Just a small patch of ground and a moment of peace.

* * *


At work I'm programming the control system for our thermal vac chamber we use for testing our satellites. We're programming the HMI in LabView. I've been working on it since... about last February. Its pretty big.

Everything was going pretty well until I decided it was time to learn how to overwrite a file without that "Replace File?" window popping up. The "proper" way is to use a long series of New, Write, and Close File vi's with a bunch of other stuff involved. I never got it to work the proper way. I spent almost three hours grinding through all that before Richard and Jim came in to talk about the Flood Source, and I stepped back to think about an easier way.
I found a slick way around it, by deleting the file first. In Richard's terminology, I "Klooj'd" it.

January 5, 2005
I'm going to try different fonts until I get one that I like and that's easy to read.

* * *

Living by work ethic isn't near as much fun as living by desire.

I finished designing the solid model of a highly emissive infrared flood source today. Then I started into making the drawings. I learned many Pro-E tricks today, the entirety of which I would be perfectly content to never have learned. If all goes well, I’ll be able to forget them, and carry on as though I never had learned them. But just in case I need them again in the next five years, I paid attention to what I figured out. I was able to enjoy it, but I never want to do it again.

It's a terrible day when you realize you're exercising your work ethic. It's good to have a work ethic just in case you need it (like today), but relying on your work ethic to get a job done is about as much fun as relying on car insurance for transportation. Having a functional car is much more enjoyable than having a crashed car and a check in the mail. Working on a project you want to complete is much more enjoyable than working simply because a project has to get finished. I prefer to be motivated by intrinsic desire than by obligation. I prefer to work on a project because I want to see what the finished product will be. I don't like working on a project because it's my responsibility, or if I don't do it then nobody will.

I learned many things today that I would like to forget, but there is one thing I learned that I will be sure to not forget. I DO NOT want to spend my life drawing in Pro-E.

Pro-E image

* * *

I get the Wall Street Journal afternoon updates, and I usually take a few minutes to scan them when they arrive. This bit came through today on the Tsunami. As of today, the death count is up around 150,000.

 So far, governments, businesses and individuals have pledged more than $3 billion for the relief effort, and an international game of one-upsmanship continued today, with Germany pledging some $663.5 million in aid, beating Japan, which has pledged $500 million, and the U.S., which has pledged $350 million. But the U.S. is also providing significant military equipment and personnel, costing millions of dollars. Late this afternoon, Australia took the lead, pledging $810 million.

Now, I'm not one to derail or belittle peoples efforts to help out others in tragedy, but I'd like to get society away from this mentality of "obligatory charity." I don't think that countries are trying to look better than another, so much as they're trying to avoid looking bad. "Who would be so heartless as to pledge less to aid Indonesia than the last guy pledged?"

I think it's been this way for a while, but charity (an act from the kindness of your heart) has ceased to be charity, and has become a social obligation which magnitude at any moment is determined by the same rational that a herd of stampeding cows determined which direction to run.

The evening news a couple nights ago:
"$350 million. The U.S. has pledged too little too late."
"How is the Bush Administration going to pay for this? We're already running huge deficits..."

 ! ? ! ?  - So, was the US donation good and proper or terribly irresponsible?
(or maybe some people can't refrain from using anothers tragedy for their own malicious intent)

January 4, 2005
A quote from Colin Powell my little bro Justin sent me:

"Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves."

And then it went on to the cliché "work hard and play hard" ... which usually sounds good, but I think I'd make a modification to that. Working hard and playing hard can easily become working all the time. When everything is always done hard, life becomes hard, and effectiveness, fun, and all that fade away. You're always having to do something hard, whether it's work or play. Then it all becomes work. More fitting to a truly worthwhile life:

"Work hard and play freely."

Tonight Rachelle was peacefully strumming her guitar while Chad posted his speakers on Ebay, and I broke through three layers of "customer service" guys on the phone to get a series of erroneous charges made to my account removed.

Rachelle on Guitar - pic not found

Today was also my first day driving to work and back with my new iPod as the music source. That iTrip FM modulator isn't as clear as the real CD's, and the bass doesn't come through with near the power, but it's pretty cool to not have to have my CD's in the car with me. It's good enough to be worth using it. Tomorrow I'll listen to a back dated interview from The Space Show that I downloaded onto my iPod.

If anybody sent email to my personal account today... I didn't get them. Today was the overlap day after getting the sitelutions.com guys to merge both my domains onto a single account. But everything is up and running fine again. Hopefully I didn't miss anything important.