Friday, May 31, 2002

And now for something... completely different.

China's second revolution, talking about China's rampant economic expansion.

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, greater economic freedom in China can only be good for everyone there in terms of a rising standard of living, and historically greater economic freedoms go hand in hand with greater freedom in general.

On the other hand, the second-to-last paragraph is a reminder of the political system we're discussing:

"When we find ([software] piracy rings), we confiscate the products and the equipment they use to make them and turn to execute the persons or organizations involved," said the Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone's Jian.
Chilling. Those who denigrate US "human rights violations" at Guantanamo Bay would do well to read that paragraph again, especially if they're listening to "grey market" MP3s.



Okay, Tripp and Mary, how exactly are we destroying ourselves?

Pollution? Levels have been decreasing for 30 years [link] [link]. Overpopulation? I think I've already expressed my thoughts on that. Global warming? I've yet to hear convincing arguments from meteorologists that it even exists, despite being taken as canon by non-meteorologists everywhere. Deforestation? Were you aware that the US's (and the world's) forests are growing yearly [link]? Trees are a cash crop nowadays, both for the furniture and paper industries, and changes in livestock grazing patterns have allowed previous overlogging to correct itself. The effect can be shown in the seldom-reported fact that North America is actually a large CO2 sink, and not a producer, as was alleged by the people who assembled the Kyoto protocol. [link]

Here's another perspective: the human race is approaching six and a quarter billion souls. This is not because of increased birth rate, but because we've learned to take better care of ourselves over the course of history [link]. Women globally have won and are continuing to win equal rights and treatment in more locations than ever. Totalitarianism, militarism and repression are continuing to decline everywhere. Remember slavery? The nuclear arms race? The Black Death? Imperialist Communism? All gone, and unlikely to return.

Tell me again where the problem is.


Thursday, May 30, 2002


Okay, there's been a suggestion that I factor the amount of food-producing versus barren land the world over into my calculations.

I was unable to find any agreement among the multiplicitous web sources out there on how much land was necessary to feed a single person (sites with either pro-or anti-vegetarian agendas abound, and seldom do sites with the same agenda even agree), but I was able to get some information on the amount of biologically productive versus biologically unproductive land that exists:

The Earth has a surface area of 51 billion hectares, of which 36.3 billion are sea and 14.7 billion are land. Only 8.3 billion hectares of the land area are biologically productive. The remaining 6.4 billion hectares are marginally productive or unproductive for human use, as they are covered by ice, find themselves with unsuitable soil condition or lack water. [link]
So if we take the ratio of 8.3 billion bio-productive hectares versus 14.7 billion ha total, we get 56.5%. So by this measure 56.5% of the world's land surface is useful for food production (I'm not going to use terms like 'arable,' because then I'll get a million references from sites like et al claiming that only 4% of the world's land is 'arable,' measuring only currently-cultivated, irrigated land or something), and so 56.5% of 214.42 leaves us with only 121 times the area of Texas for us to grow food on.

And I like seafood, too. ;-)

I think we're OK.


A plug for Lynn Unleashed

Lynn from Lynn Unleashed sent me a note a few weeks back complimenting me on Brain Squeezings, so I added her to my list of daily blog visits. Over time I've been well impressed with her level-headed approach to life (and of course a wide and deep interest in classical music is always a plus), and I guess I wanted to make sure that others knew about her site.

Lynn and I dovetail nicely on several points of view; a recent point she made about forecasters of doom over the past decades echoes my thoughts. Check her out! :-)

...And in a similar vein...

One of my pet peeves is people who claim that we're destroying the planet, that there's rampant overcrowding, that humanity is a fundamentally destructive force, that the planet is in any way fragile.

I heard a while back (the source is Rush Limbaugh, of all people) that all the people in the world, if living at the population density of New York City, could fit into an area the size of the state of Texas. This sounded suspicious to me, so I did some research, and tried the math.

NYC's year-2000 population density in people per square mile: 26,500. [link]
The world's population as of today: 6.25 billion (a little less, but hey). [link]

(6.25 x 10^9 ppl) / (26,500 ppl/sq-mi) = 235,849 square miles.

Area of Texas in square miles: 267,277. [link]

Looks like the figure is true. Heck, if we use the population density of Toyko (33,200 ppl/mi^2), we get an area of 188,253 square miles, or a little bigger than California at 155,959.

For the record, Texas accounts for 0.46% of the world's land area (57,308,738 square miles [link]). Put another way, all the continents of the world taken together represent an area 214.42 times the area of Texas.

The planet is a much vaster place than we give it credit for. We're a lot less significant in its business than we think we are.


Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Boy Meets DVD, Boy Loses More Sleep

Heh. Snagged the Harry Potter DVD last night and proceeded to watch it late enough (gee, it really is over two hours!) that I'm dragging again. :-)

BTW, a tip: grab yourself a bag of Jelly Bellies to nosh on while you watch HP and the Sorcerer's Stone. It's like your very own bowl of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Jelly Belly actually puts out a Bertie Bott's line of beans with flavors like Black Pepper, Sardine and Horseradish mixed in for the more adventurous sorts - for me I mixed in a bag of Jelly Belly Sours, which provided the occasional zing without fear of landing a truly horrific flavor.

Yesterday's obstructionism has been replaced with Unbridled Optimism. This gives me an opportunity to list the seven true phases of project development. The source for these is lost to history, but their wisdom is evident.

1. Wild Enthusiasm (also Uncritical Acceptance of Assumptions)
2. Recognition of Reality
3. Disillusionment
4. Total Confusion
5. Search for the Guilty
6. Punishment of the Innocents
7. Promotion of Nonparticipants

We're solidly into Phase 1 now - I'm expecting Phase 2 sometime around two weeks from today.

I sleep better (when I do sleep) by merging the sentiments of the above with this next:

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
-Napoleon Bonaparte



Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Dragging Ass

Feel like hammered shinola today; it's probably because I stayed up too late last night, and am facing another day of bureaucratic obstructionism today.

Must remember - sleep good.


Friday, May 24, 2002


Vanilla Coke rocks my world. I just wish it came in Diet, so I could keep my calorie intake down and my teeth happy.

Way cool Friday five:
1. What's the last vivid dream that you remember having?
A week ago I woke with the vivid memory of kissing someone passionately in a dream. I almost never remember dreams, so it was a pleasant surprise. :-D

2. Do you have any recurring dreams?
Not lately. Once when I was five-ish, I had a recurring dream about being chased by a Goon from the Popeye cartoon, with that scary "beedle-deedle beedle-deedle" chase-theme piano music going.

3. What's the scariest nightmare you've ever had?
Freshman year at the U of Richmond: dreamt an endless, infinite world of rent flesh, twisted limbs, blood and pain stretching in all three dimensions, with me controlling things as a single eye in the center. Scared the living piss out of me.

4. Have you ever written your dreams down or considered it? Why or why not?
Yes, I've tried, but it was a lot of work, and my sleep patterns are erratic enough anyway. Why I considered it? Because since I almost never remember dreams, I wanted to, and I figured that they were probably pretty inventive and cool, since I am. ;-)

5. Have you ever had a lucid dream? What did you do in it?
Yep, one. Flew. :-D


[Thanks, Kate, for the F5 reminder!]

Monday, May 20, 2002

Blue is my favorite color, and rack-mounted too...

I apologize in advance, but I love this picture. Thanks to

Hey, when all is said and done, I'm still a testoster-drone... :-D


Sunday, May 19, 2002

An Eventful Week-End and Weekend

Wow, and I was doing so well up til this past Wednesday. :-) Work for the end of the week was simply crazy. I've been on one monolithic project basically since I started at DIT, and over time it became obvious to everyone involved that the initial design was flawed, and that the right thing to do would be a redesign in a much simpler format. I helped make the case for the "do-over" over Wednesday and Thursday, and was duly rewarded late Thursday with the news that the redesign was the plan!

I won't be directly involved with the redesign (rather than Java, we're going with a more mainframe-native development platform, outside my expertise), but it looks like I managed to come out smelling like roses anyway, thanks to being the one of the three programmers whose hands this pased through who got results and even came close to the performance target. :-) I'm also the de facto Java go-to guy here now, which is never a bad thing. :-D

I would have blogged about all these gyrations yesterday, but my home Internet connection was on the fritz for all of Saturday, thanks to yours truly having the temerity to troubleshoot a lockup-on-every-other-boot problem on his home box. I switched the PCI slot my network card was sitting in, and thus the problems began. Now I built this box once upon a time, and thus was reasonably certain the problem wasn't my hardware configuration - hell, the thing had been running trouble-free for just under two years, and under Win98 SE that's saying something. :-) So anyway, I wound up on the phone with Earthlink Support, and between the tech guy and me we determined that somehow my TCP/IP stack had been corrupted. He gave me the steps to correct the problem (we went registry-diving), and everything was peachy, but not before I'd had to find some disconnected way to spend my Saturday. Oh, the horror, I know. ;-)

I also asked a girl out, out of the blue. It didn't pan out into anything date-like, but it was a refreshing change of pace from my normal reclusiveness. :-\


Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Much Better, Thanks

Well, as per design, my bod has been healing itself from Friday's exertions. :-) I can feel my shirts fitting differently; I'm sure it's just from swelling and inflammation, but it's like a promissory note of things to come. Metabolism has been all over the place, from torpid to hyper, and between the two I'm recovering belt notches, so I'm sure this is all the equivalent of "under construction" animated GIFs. Advil is cutting the discomfort nicely, now, so citizens concerned for my safety need no longer worry.

In other news, Tripp has given his blog a makeover! Be warned, it's pretty opaque in terms of ecclesiastical pondering, but then when isn't he? ;-) He's also spawned a spinoff page devoted to devotions, i.e., poetic and contemplative meditation and prayer from many different traditions. Heck, give 'em a whirl!

Yet more news, or rather a plug: Wendy's recommendation of the book The Promise of Sleep by William C. Dement and Christopher Vaughan has been a good one; I snagged the book, and after just a little reading I feel sleepier already. ;-) Seriously though, one of the frequent wellsprings of argument between my ex-wife and myself was sleep: I have always seen the need for sleep as an imposition, and she makes more of a hobby or way of life of it. Between the two of us we had all sorts of odd theories about sleep, and neither of us had any idea what we were talking about, there being few non-scholarly works to which to refer.

In any event, Dement (who's obviously the primary voice of the book) has had a lot of experience pinning down the phenomenon of sleep over the last several decades, and writes with authority, if a little too much zealous flair from time to time. I'm getting a lot out of the book, and now that I know for a fact that I've been sleep-deprived since age 18 or so, I'm hot to get myself back up to scratch.

By the way, one popular myth floating around is that you "can't make up lost sleep," which has never quite squared with my experience. According to Dement, not only can you make up lost sleep, you have to, or your body'll do it for you by threatening to put you to sleep at the wheel, making you drowsy at work, or generally rendering you listless and inattentive. Dement's got a website that mainly deals with sleep apnea, but also has some interesting articles on "sleep debt" and other cool things, if you dig deep enough.


Monday, May 13, 2002

Monday... 'Nuff said.

Blech. I'm trying to assemble data for this afternoon's performance test, DB/2 is down, people aren't heeding my warning about interrupting my data dump, and I hurt.

I hurt because I worked out in the fitness center that my apartment complex offers this past Friday, and overdid it. On purpose. Good old-fashioned pyramid training, push the muscles to the point of failure. With this sort of pain comes gain - I've been here before, and I'm lucky enough to have one of those metabolisms that loves to build muscle.

Of course there's a story attached. I've been trying to get myself into the working-out mood for several months now, since realizing that a big part of my extravagant rent goes toward maintaining some very nice facilities in the rental office like a set of universal machines, some treadmills, a hot tub and a nice beefy swimming pool. Well, what finally pushed me over the edge into the world of pain == gain was a train of thought that ran through "how do I ramp up my metabolism"-ville, into "increased muscle mass burns more calories"-burg, and finally stopped in "making the body rebuild itself burns hella calories too" City.

I've done a lot of weight training in my life, what with high-school football training and the various forays into "healthy living" I've made, and so I have some idea how much the old corpus can take, and since the idea is to get my body rebuilding itself, I specifically pushed past them. I *do* wish that Advil or aspirin would touch this, though... I don't quite feel safe driving, because my arms are responding poorly to the commands I give them. :-p


Thursday, May 09, 2002

Holy Smoke.

We now have "bionic retinas" being successfully tested that can restore sight to people who've lost it due to retinitis pigmentosa.

I have nothing witty to add. Wow.


Wednesday, May 08, 2002


Whew... Been an eventful last few days! Last Friday evening I traveled North to see my sister Meagan (who rocks) sing an opera recital at The Barns at Wolf Trap, and visit with both her and my parents, and some seldom-seen relatives from my dad's side of the Fam. Slept the night there, and then drove up to BWI Saturday, so I could fly down to Birmingham, AL to surprise Hunter for a birthday LAN party at his wife's request. The whole thing worked out wonderfully -- it was especially gratifying to see Hunter's cerebral gears stripping as he tried to reconcile my being several hundred miles out of position. ;-) Gotcha, guy!

My brother Matt and Hunter's bud Kevin dropped by as well, so with Hunter's 13-year-old son Jon factored in, it was quite a crowd! There was much Diablo II played that night - I got my Sorceress 'Pyrotechnica' from ground zero to level 20 that evening alone! In any event, there were hours upon end of multiplayer videogaming and Invader Zim viewing, punctuated by a wink and a nod at sleep, and the viewing of Spider-Man Sunday afternoon. All in all, an outstanding weekend, and for me 'twas a much-needed break in routine.

The Richmond NASCAR race got postponed until Sunday due to torrential rain (which seems to be gracing us pretty much every evening lately, and has dogged the Richmond race for several years running), which means that TiVo got lots of lame driver interviews instead. It's re-airing tonight, so all wasn't lost.

Speaking of torrential rain, it looks as if Richmond at last has had its water table restored. Certainly the lake in my apartment complex is bulging at the seams; the ducks are very happy. That close, dripping springtime aroma is all over the place, and there are dozens of honeysuckle bushes along one of my dogwalking paths that are working overtime to maintain that special oeuvre. It's purty out.


Friday, May 03, 2002

Somebody hose the boy down!

OK, got links to the new '10 Relevant' page in the nav bar and at left, and even updated my 'bio' entry, which can be accessed from the nav bar above - strangely enough, under 'bio.'

Also added a link to a photo of my two dogs in the 'Animals' entry linked at the end of my bio.


Thursday, May 02, 2002

Site Addition

I've just created a page entitled "10 Relevant Things About Me" which is inspired by Quinn's page of 100 things over at I'm trying to add it to the nav bar at the top of the page, and the "Goodies" links at left.

Bloody Firewall
OK, so I can't seem to make any template changes from work due to firewall problems. To be done tonight...

Hmph. Big Blogging Day.

Saw this article while perusing Yahoo! News. Apparently men who lead socially isolated lives are at greater risk from pretty much every sort of ailment than those who cultivate a big social group. Oh, and a marriage.

I know this is measuring effects over a lifetime, and that the study mainly focused on the over-40 crowd, but I can't help but notice that I've been a lot healthier since beginning this Big Lonely Walk than I was before doing so. Probably has a lot to do with decreased exposure to germs. Hell, my allergies have almost completely disappeared compared to three years ago.


Wednesday, May 01, 2002

A mid-week update? Hello? Is this thing on?

Well, got stood up an hour before curtain for last night's Virginia Opera performance of The Barber of Seville (which was a lot of fun, BTW), so I had plenty of leg room. Expensive leg room, perhaps, but the ticket was paid for before the lady in question entered (and exited) the picture. Season tickets, you know the drill.


Let's see. Per Mary's e-mail, I was neither killed nor otherwise inconvenienced by the tornados that touched down north of here in Maryland. Thought I'd send out an update. :-) I lived in Cincinnati for five years or so back in the late '70s and early '80s, and I remember plenty of tornado warnings and even a few "duck under your desk" drills officiated by the grade school nuns, but never any serious threats. I do remember an earthquake that hit that area, though. Weird.

Have spent the morning chasing down other peoples' incompetence. Yahoo.