"Mermee, Mermee, Mermee"

These are the words that immortalize the Harlequin at the ending of "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, by Harlan Ellison. If you want to know how that is, that these words mean so much, you'll just have to read the book.

I've used this as a siggy for quite some time on some of the forums that I visit. "Why?" you might well ask. Well, I'll answer you. I have a very personal hostility towards ticktockmen everywhere. People who tsk-tsk every time their clocks say somebody else is late, as if their clocks are always unerringly right. People who exclaim "You're taking too much time with this!" as if there was a finite amount of this precious substance, and you were at risk of using it all. People who measure out the moments in life like the ticking of the clock.

Oh! ...and since I'm posting this at 5:10 in the morning, on a morning when I need to be up in a few short hours, I'll add: people who can go to bed at a 'normal' time, sleep through the night, and wake rested when they are supposed to. Something I have never been able to do. Something that employer after employer has commented on for years on end, all to no avail. I cannot change the pattern. Either I stay up ridiculously late, and have to be jolted awake in the morning; or I go to bed early and stare at the ceiling for hours on end, only to have to be jolted awake in the morning anyway. I am different, and different is bad.

Of course, as the Harlequin, I don't have to be concerned with this. I simply relish the disruption of the pretty order, and hope that someone somewhere has a laugh over it. That is, after all, what we are all here for, right? To be happy?

"Mermee, Mermee, Mermee"

The Drug Lords say 'Thanks'

Quoting a story published today:
The number of meth-lab busts plummeted more than 30 percent last year as most states put in place laws to restrict the sale of over-the-counter cold medicines used to make meth, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration's El Paso Intelligence Center.
Yep, denying the average allergy sufferer easy access to the medications they need is all the rage these days, we've got to curb access to the 'devil's drug', don't you know. Or is it really that much of a problem?

How about the figures from "The Sentencing Project" (referenced in the same article) that point out:
less than 1 percent of the nation's population uses meth; meth abuse remains a "highly localized" problem
Of course, that doesn't stop the majority of counties from reporting that meth abuse is a problem. Better to get on the gravy train early, wouldn't want to miss out.

Contrary to popular belief though, meth is not a 'new drug'. It's just another one of the drugs made popular in the 60's that has managed to hang on longer than LSD and a few of the others, mostly because it's less damaging to the person who takes the drug. The only thing new about it is that small time labs started springing up, competing with the large meth labs that historically supplied the drug. Meth labs that still exist, by the way:
Local law-enforcement officials say there is still a strong appetite for the highly addictive drug and warned that meth makers in Mexico and other countries are moving to fill the supply void.
I just love euphemisms like "highly addictive". Nicotine is highly addictive. Alcohol is highly addictive. Caffeine is highly addictive, and it's in 9/10's of the soft drinks that children love (and most parents complain about 'hyperactivity'. The kid's hopped up on sugar and caffeine. I'm just amazed he doesn't actually fly, myself) Meth isn't the problem; police agencies drunk on anti-narcotics funding is.

The only benefactor of the recent crack down on Psuedoephedrine containing medications is the large drug manufacturers across the border, and the police agencies tasked with interdicting them. The police openly say 'thank you' for your faith in them.

I'm sure the drug lords say likewise.

Calling in the Military

The story out of N'Orleans today: Governor Kathleen Blanco has activated National Guard personnel to patrol the city. Over the weekend several teens were killed in a drive-by shooting. If you check the stats in the story, there are more cops per resident in the city than there was pre-Katrina. I'm not sure why they would need the assistance of the National Guard, but apparently the Gov. thought it was appropriate to turn the city into a militarized zone over the whole deal.

After Katrina last year, many of the pundits were lamenting the 'disneyfication' of N'Orleans; in other words, corporations moving in and changing the character of the city to something more tourist-friendly. This was the justification for much of the outlay of (stolen by taxation) cash for rebuilding the city. Cash that has been subsequently stolen from the gov't by criminals of less authority. Criminals that are now running rampant.

Personally, I think disneyfiction would have been the better option.

Does Fatherhood Make You Happy?

'Time' has once again proven why I don't bother with their publication. Here's a quote from the article in question:

Studies reveal that most married couples start out happy and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives, becoming especially disconsolate when their children are in diapers and in adolescence, and returning to their initial levels of happiness only after their children have had the decency to grow up and go away. When the popular press invented a malady called "empty-nest syndrome," it failed to mention that its primary symptom is a marked increase in smiling.
OK, I'm not going to pretend that the wife and I don't look forward to the day when the children are grown and out of our hair. But I'm also not going to share in the modern myth that you stop being a parent just because your children aren't pestering you with "what's for dinner" every night. Once you have 'em, you don't get rid of 'em (if you do, it's generally something they give lengthy prison sentences for) So I would highly recommend that people who don't love children, not have children.

Yes, I am happy being a father. No, it's not the bungee jumping ecstasy that is measurable through endorphins in the brain. It's a lot like the question "do you enjoy your work?" Well, I don't need to wear rubber lined underwear on the job, but I come back to do it every day anyway, if you get my drift. But then I'm weird like that; I actually enjoy doing housework, too.

Can parenting be tedious? Without question. Would I trade one moment of time with my children for anything else on the planet? Not on your life. You have to take the long view (something that is falling farther and farther out of favor these days) when observing things like parent/child interactions. The minute by minute chemical traces don't capture what it means to see them born, learn to walk, learn to talk. Watch them go off to school, loose their teeth and grow them back; simply to change from the helpless tiny little things they start off being, to become people like...

...like you are.

To know that, like your parents who nurtured you, you've added to the world in some small way yourself.

You won't find that recorded in the chemicals in my brain, but I assure you, it's there all the same.

What's wrong with this picture?

This story has been making the rounds lately.
Austin ISD wants to fire an Austin High School teacher over nude photos posted on the Internet. 
The AISD school board Monday unanimously decided to begin the termination process for Tamara Hoover, who teaches art. The board said Hoover violated the terms of her employment contract. 
Hoover has been on paid administrative leave since May 19 after school officials found out about the images. 
She defended her actions in a blog by saying that the pictures are not pornography but "artistic photography." 
According Hoover's attorney, she never told students about the photographs, nor are they on her own Web site. The district learned about these pictures through another teacher. 
"The teacher who was there said, 'Whoops, something's happened here that shouldn't.' She shut down the computer and went and told the principal about it," said Jay Brim, attorney. "What she (Hoover) did is leave herself vulnerable to this kind of problem. She did not do anything that I believe was violative of any of the districts standards or rules."
The process to fire Hoover will take months, but her attorney thinks they have a good case and her photographer says this is about art.
"The definition of pornography is material with no artistic or aesthetic value -- created for the sole purpose of stimulating sexual arousal. That's not my intent at all," said Celesta Danger, photographer.
I was talking to "the daughter" about it earlier (she's an aspiring artist herself) She couldn't figure out what the fuss was all about. Personally, I don' know either. If you check out the photos here you may be just as mystified.

Flickr is a photo sharing site. The woman who posts the photos isn't the teacher, she's the teacher's lover. Try browsing the photos; I did. I can't find one objectionable photo in the group, unless you find lesbianism objectionable.

So what this is about isn't the photos per se, it's the fact that there is a gay teacher teaching art at Austin High School.

Aside from which, this isn't a question for the school board; or rather, it shouldn't be. It should be a question for the parents whose children attend this teacher's classes. Do you or don't you want her to teach? In any other city in Texas the answer would probably be 'NO'. Until today I would have sworn that Austin was different.



She was eventually convinced to resign. While the photos were racey, I really don't think they rated firing over. Didn't rate firing over in the light of the behavior we now condone from congressmen and presidents alike. A local austin newspaper did an interview with the photographer which is archived here

Expressions of Friendship

Every week brings another e-mail to the inbox, generally with a syrupy message about keeping in touch with family and friends and not winding up regretting things when you're an old fart.

Look, I love all of you, OK? There is no need to send me a message seeking my affections and approval. Really, if you feel the need to reassure yourself that I am your friend, take my word for it, you're my best bud. Just don't hit "send" on that chain letter, please?

Also, for the record:
There is no "National Friendship and FAMILY WEEK"
There is no "National Friendship Week"

Here's a quote from Break the Chain (one of three places I check for debunking information):

Official declarations of special-interest "weeks" usually come from legislators and governors. "National" weeks or days will most likely be declared by the President or Congress. Searches on the White House Web Site and FirstGov.gov for "National Friendship Week" turned up nothing - as I hoped they would, since I don't really want government involved with my social life at that level!

Of course, special-interest groups can also declare special "national" weeks and days. Heck, if I wanted to, I could declare this week "The National Week of My Left Eyebrow." There's no law and no person keeping me from doing it, all I need is a good public relations campaign. Oh, and if I send out a poem about my left eyebrow via e-mail and don't date it, it can be the week of my left eyebrow all year long!

I can say with one phrase (Carpe Diem!) what most of the "Friendship letters" take pages to get across; it's just not that difficult a concept to grasp.

A better expression of this was heard a few weeks back on "The View" (no, I don't watch the show, I was channel surfing during the day. No REALLY) When William Shatner was on plugging the Season Finale for Boston Legal. It's also a song on his album "Has Been" (track title "You'll Have Time") which pretty much covers it.

I approach every day with the observation "this could be my last day" and I've done this for most of my life. That's pretty much what he said, and that's pretty much how I've lived for as long as I can remember.

I recommend it to you as "your friend".

Now, I need to go start that chain letter concerning the "Week of My Left Eyebrow"...

McDonald's gender issues

Pressed for time (leisure time, what's that?) we pull into the local burger place to get the children something to eat. The son always wants a kid's meal; the daughter has outgrown all that 'baby stuff' and gets salads these days, but that boy wants his prize.

Now, I've spent untold hours of my life repeating to them "I don't buy food for the toys, you get a toy with the food" (trying to avoid that "But I got this one last time" argument. It's never actually worked, but...) only to be asked the following by the window attendant "...Is it for a boy or a girl?"

The McDee's place frequently does these targeted marketing promo's with the kids meals. They give the boys trucks or weapons to 'play' with, and they give the girls dolls or fluffy bunnies to nurture. AS IF the boys couldn't do with some training in nurturing, or as if girls don't have any interest in trucks. (or weapons) Not that McDee's is the only place with problems. I witnessed a parent LOOSE IT once at the counter when the truly apologetic teen in the spotless uniform offered her son one of the 'girls toys' with the explanation "this is all I have left". She drug her son screaming and stomping (her, not her son) out of the restaurant, but I think the child would have been happier to have the 'girls toy' than to listen to mom make a fool of herself in public.

For as long as I've had children I have fought a loosing battle not to go to McDee's. I don't eat there, but the children beg endlessly to go (television marketing goes a long way) and, really, one burger is pretty much the same as the other. When the window attendant asks the question, I won't answer it directly. "A truck toy" or "A doll toy" is the best they ever get from me (I have driven on an order when the attendant presses me for a girl or boy answer. There's always another McDee's not too far away) They've actually started noting it on the register 'Truck' and 'Doll', which displays on the order screen, but the person on the loudspeaker inevitably asks 'girl or boy'.

You're probably wondering where this is all going at this point. Well, I'll tell ya.

Gave in to the begging again tonight, wandered by the local McDee's. I pull up to the drive through window and notice that they've changed the marketing promo to "Cars" (the new Pixar film, I'll be seeing it) and they give these cars to both genders of children. Here they've built up this 15 year legacy of properly filing the children away in their correct gender roles, only to blow it with this new promo that features ONLY CARS.

Cars for girls
.

Fire that new marketing director. He's clueless. The next thing you know, they'll be giving 'dolls' to boys instead of 'action figures'.

Open Source: Without Profit?

One of the arguments I've had with critics of Open Source software, is that they (the open source programmers) want people to use a product for which there is no profit, i.e. they are given away for free.

That's funny. I've profited many times over from a lack of lost down time due to using Firefox to access the Internet and avoiding all that IE targeted malware. I've also profited from using Thunderbird and avoiding all those scriptkiddie re-mailers that seem to plague Outlook Express.

[BTW, Microsoft gives IE and Express away 'free' too]

I've also profited from the use of www.openoffice.org instead of MicroSoft office. I've saved all those profits I would have handed over to brother Bill, and given them to myself. Same for the OS's that I test. The average Linux distro will run you 80 bucks if you want printed materials to go with the software. I've paid it more than once, as well as downloading them for free from the internet.

'If' I had a CAD package that suited my needs in Linux, I wouldn't even look back.

Most people too narrowly define the word 'profit'.

Equality: The Unknown Ideal

I was chastised recently that I should "respect my betters".

There was a time when this sort of insult would have required a dawn meeting with pistols in the name of honor; but since shooting the random boor in the face from 20 paces isn't in fashion any longer, I was forced to rely upon my wits. As usual, I think they failed me.

My betters? That's a laugh. I run into my equals all the time, but haven't met 'my better'. Probably has something to do with a little known concept called equality.

Imagine my surprise when I'm told:
"equality is a failed concept and an attempt at the impossible. Socialists and communists both failed with it and still are trying to fit that square into a circle."
Pardon my ignorance. Here I was thinking that Jefferson had said something like "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal" I had no idea that equality was a one of those 'bad Commie' things that we wouldn't ever want to support, and I certainly wasn't aware that we had trashed the Declaration and discarded all those outmoded ideals like equality.

Here I've been thinking that rights and liberties were all founded on the idea that we are all equals. I guess I need to get those leg shackles back on, eh? Imagine the effrontery of someone thinking they had rights and freedom in this day and age? Boggles the mind doesn't it?

Or maybe I shouldn't take other peoples misguided notions too seriously. From the lecture transcript of the same name, at Mises.org:

For the answer to th[e] question ["in what sense can it be from our equal creation that we derive our right to liberty"] we must turn from Jefferson to Jefferson’s source, John Locke, who tells us exactly what "equality" in the libertarian sense is: namely, a condition

wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection. . . .[3]

In short, the equality that Locke and Jefferson speak of is equality in authority: the prohibition of any "subordination or subjection" of one person to another. Since any interference by A with B’s liberty constitutes a subordination or subjection of B to A, the right to liberty follows straightforwardly from the equality of "power and jurisdiction." As Locke explains:

[B]eing all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions. . . . And, being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorise us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.[4]

This is a notable pre-Kantian statement of the principle that human beings are not to be treated as mere means to the ends of others. (Observe, too, how Locke and Jefferson both invoke independence as a corollary of, or a gloss on, equality in authority.)

Well, that makes me feel better. I guess I don't need to go apologise to that guy with the whips who keeps telling me I've got to get back to work, and can instead give him the finger he so richly deserves...

One amongst equals. Live it. Love it.

Minding the Details

Back when I worked in a big architectural office, I was generally relied upon to generate details for whatever section of the project was my responsibility. Inevitably, when I would bring some suggested details to the Project Manager's attention for discussion, someone would repeat the old axiom "The Devil is in the Details". In the course of my 20+ years in the architectural field I have heard it quite a few times. Most of my co-workers hated detailing. It's slow work when done right; and if the detail doesn't work, you can guess who gets the blame.

While I've heard "The Devil is in the Details" thousands of times, I've always had a different view of the problem. The prestigious parts of a project's design (exterior and interior appearance) are generally either fought over by the team leadership, or handed to some design guru to give his special 'flourish' to. The rest of the tasks are handed out the team, usually with some grumbling about who ends up with what, and most of them look forward to the day when they can paint with broad strokes and not have to worry about 'the details'. No one wants them, except people like me. Design is design, and the joy of creation is in the details as much as it is in generating a building exterior that has 'street appeal'.

It's a lot like writing, in a way. There is something I need to say, how to say it? There's something this widget needs to do, how do I make it work? Sit there and puzzle over it, lay out designs and discard them one after another. Consult some references, lay out more designs, and sit and puzzle some more. Finally in the end it all comes together in a flash of inspiration, and Viola! The joy of creation, doing work that the average clock-puncher looks down on as beneath them.

The old axiom does carry a grain of truth. If you don't mind the details, if you don't sort them all out for yourself, then you leave that part of creation to chance. Murphy is a hard task master, and gremlins don't have a bad rep because they fix things when you aren't looking. Chances are, if you leave the details to chance, you won't be pleased with the outcome.