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My Klez adventures

Today should have been a happy day. After all, the Kansas City Royals finally wised up and sent the worst manager of its history, Tony Muser, packing. And there was much rejoicing. It was all over the front page of the Kansas City Star. In other news, Boeing 747s are having a difficult time avoiding pigs, and Royals utilityman Donnie Sadler is hitting .265.
Unfortunately, a serious development in my life quickly jarred me back into the real world. An e-mail message arrived. I had Klez! I guess I shouldn’t have double-clicked on that attachment titled “Hot young 32-year-olds dressed like middle-school cheerleaders want you!” at work. But since everything on the Internet is true, and since the kid who mows my friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s lawn says his uncle told him e-mail travels over the Internet, I thought I’d better check it out. Opening that unexpected attachment from a complete stranger seemed like a good idea at the time.

The evidence that I had the Klez virus pointed back to a really old e-mail account I had, back in my days at the University of Missouri. So this must not have been the result of me opening the last “Hot young 32-year-olds dressed like middle-school cheerleaders want you!” e-mail I got. It must have been the result of a “Hot young 32-year-olds dressed like middle-school cheerleaders want you!” e-mail I got sometime in 1997 or 1998.

That’s really scary. Klez had the ability to trigger itself FIVE YEARS before it even existed, yet lie dormant until such a time as it did exist. Very powerful stuff. Very scary stuff. This is even bigger than the firing of Tony Muser. I think I should leak this discovery to The Register. Or maybe The Inquirer.

Then I looked at the headers more closely, and I noticed that even though it referred to that really old account, it also had a reference to my new Verizon account.

Then I realized I don’t have a Verizon account. So there’s only one possible explanation. Klez signed me up for a Verizon account! The nerve of it! And I’ll bet it’s using that e-mail account, and possibly also the cell phone that goes with it, to make marriage proposals to one of my ex-girlfriends. Probably the closet homo sapien. I’ll be in even more serious trouble after it realizes that all of my ex-girlfriends are closet homo sapiens and it proposes to all of them. This is bad. Really bad. I don’t think I’ll be able to blame this on Tony Muser.

I sure hope those cheerleaders know my new address in St. Louis. After all that scary Klez stuff, I could use some cheering up. They haven’t shown up yet, but that message never said when they’d show up.

When I went to lunch on that wonderful Tuesday, there was a TV in the lunchroom. There are always TVs in the lunchroom when important, newsworthy events of national impact occur. It was there so we could watch the latest developments of the Tony Muser firing as they unfolded on CNN.

I don’t think my coworkers believed me when I said that. So instead we talked about what I had learned about Klez. They were all really excited to hear about it. One of them asked if it had really neat graphics. I said sometimes. Another one asked if it would run on something as ancient as a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz with GeForce4 Ti4400 video. I said it probably would. They all wanted copies.

When I got back from lunch, there was something else waiting for me in my e-mail: an invitation to a meeting to standardize our virus delivery to one or two tools and formats. I thought this was a great idea, because when we limit our clients’ abilities by forcing them to use limited tools–tools that were designed for another purpose entirely, of course–of our own choosing rather than their choosing, they are always much more productive and they thank us for it. Ideally, these tools should cost a lot of money and should require expensive outside consultants to set them up, so that these outside consultants can later go to the clients directly and do what consultants always do, which is this: Tell people what they already know. In this case, what they already know is how this overpriced, clueless consultant can do the job much better without our involvement. Next thing we know, we’re out of the picture, the clients are happy, the consultants are happy, and I’m happy because there’s not as much work for me to do, and if this kind of thing happens often enough, I’ll find myself without a job and then I’ll have something in common with my longtime hero, Tony Muser.

So of course I was falling all over myself to attend this meeting.

I asked the person who invited me if his new laptop has a DVD drive. He said it did. I told him I’d bring a copy of Office Space to the meeting. He said he didn’t have the drive configured to work in Linux yet because he hadn’t yet had the need to watch a movie on his work laptop.

Obviously, he needs to go to this meeting even more than I do, if he’s too busy doing real work to waste time watching DVDs really loudly on his work laptop and disturbing the rest of us in the office. It’s all due to the lingering effects of the decisions Tony Muser made during his tenure as Kansas City Royals manager, of course.

I’m sure a few scenes from Office Space will help us to prove our point. And, besides, if you read User Friendly, you know it’s fun to violate the DMCA.

Tony Muser will have a lot more time to do that kind of thing from now on.

Conspiracies, conspiracies everywhere

The topic of the day yesterday was Timothy McVeigh. I’d forgotten that yesterday was his day–I saw the lead story on The Kansas City Star announcing McVeigh was dead yesterday morning when I went to read up on the day’s events.
McVeigh raises a lot of uncomfortable questions. So let’s go back to a year after the Oklahoma City bombing, because that was when I got my wakeup call.

I was a crime reporter for the Columbia Missourian, a flaming liberal little daily newspaper in, frankly, what would be a worthless little town if it weren’t for the University of Missouri being there. But Columbia is situated in the middle of nowhere; aside from Columbia and Jefferson City, Central Missouri has no good-sized towns, and those two “cities” are cities only by Missouri standards. St. Louis has suburbs bigger than either of them. Central Missouri is backward, or rural, or backward and rural, depending on where you go.

Well, a guy by the name of Don Albright drove to Columbia one night and got drunk. He was pulled over, ticketed, and charged with driving while intoxicated. Albright maintained it was his constitutional right to drive drunk. Actually, he said his constitutional right to travel was being violated. “A driver is for hire,” Albright told me. “A traveler is a private citizen.”

I had a very long conversation with Albright. Albright was one of the biggest conspiracy theorists I’d ever talked to. He believed the United States was still technically a collection of British colonies; that there are actually two United States of Americas; that the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, and the Kennedy Assassination were all directly linked and part of the same conspiracy, and other bizarre beliefs. Another belief he shared with me was the New World Order, a belief Timothy McVeigh shared.

He was also militant. He took out liens on judges and prosecuting attorneys. And, on the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Albright, along with others, threatened to attack government buildings as well as press organizations that didn’t “tell what was really going on.”

By this time, I was on Albright’s black list. One of his friends anonymously called me one day and told me to watch my back, so I took the threats seriously. I consciously avoided the newsroom, courthouse, post office, and police station that day. Fortunately, nothing eventful happened.

I suspect Albright’s motivation was primarily racial. During that single conversation, he brought up plenty of racial overtones. When we investigated him further, what we discovered was a person who didn’t want to accept any responsibility for his own past.

Albright had numerous supporters in and around Columbia. I spoke with a number of them outside the Boone County courthouse on the day of one of Albright’s scheduled court appearances. The only one who would give me his name was a guy by the name of Hobbes (I think his first name was Ken). An older woman, who would only go by “Mrs. Hobbes,” (I assume she was his mother), talked to me a little bit less. They were certainly fundamentalist Christians. They gave me pamphlets, a Constitutional Driver’s License (whereby I could grant myself the right to travel the nation’s roads freely), a copy of the Constitution, information on how I could secede from the United States and become a sovereign citizen, and other materials. But they sang exactly the same song Albright did, though Albright appeared to be racially motivated.

In 1992, while a senior in high school, I met a conspiracy theorist of another feather. He was a fervent believer in the writings of George Adamski, a UFO author who claimed he had been visited by beings from a yet-undiscovered planet in the solar system. Adamski, as I recall, had been widely discredited in the 1960s. But this guy’s beliefs (I don’t recall his name anymore, unfortunately) fit these others like a hand in a glove. He, too, spoke of the New World Order, the Trilateral Commission, and other oddities.

So… There are plenty of kooks like McVeigh out there. Some of them, like the last one I mentioned, are quirky but harmless. Albright, I believe, could be extremely dangerous. And, interestingly enough, although each type begins with a different premise at heart, they all come to nearly identical conclusions.

The common thread is that none of them trust the government and none of them fully understand the world around them. That’s fine. I don’t trust the government and I certainly don’t understand everything about the world around me. You can do one of two things when that happens. You can just accept that you don’t know everything and you never will know everything, and just try to understand the things that interest you or the things that affect you as best as you possibly can.

Or you can explain it all away as a giant conspiracy. Of course you can’t be the one that’s messed up. The rest of the world around you is messed up. And they’re doing it on purpose!

Time for a reality check.

Hard Fact Number One: Members of the hard left are every bit as disillusioned as members of the hard right. Most of my college professors despised Bill Clinton every bit as much as I did. They were liberal. We’ve got people on the hard left who can’t get what they want. We’ve got people on the hard right who can’t get what they want. [observation]Isn’t that called compromise?[/observation]

Hard Fact Number Two: It’s difficult to get people to cooperate with one another. It’s even more difficult to get organizations to cooperate with one another. If you spend any length of time within an organization of any considerable size, you begin to wonder how it keeps from unraveling just because of internal politics. And these are people who share the same interests! Want an example of how conspiracies are so difficult? Fine. Here’s one: Oracle and Sun and the United States Government against Microsoft. Remember how they bungled that one? And why? None of the parties could figure out what exactly they wanted on their own, let alone what they wanted collectively.

Conspiracies can happen. But they’re rare and generally short-lived.

McVeigh killed 168 people. Or, at the very least, McVeigh participated in the killing of 168 people. We don’t know if he and Terry Nichols acted alone. Probably not–there was a John Doe No. 2 who was never found. But McVeigh did kill innocent people, and he did it willfully and he expressed no remorse.

Yes, the United States Government is partially responsible for that. The Clinton administration did a lot of detestable things. Part of that was because Bill Clinton is and was a hopeless idealist, and he surrounded himself with the same types of people. They didn’t know how to handle people who didn’t share their worldview. And most of them probably didn’t forsee the possibility of a McVeigh-like backlash to Waco and Ruby Ridge. Holding the government accountable for those actions is necessary. Not handing the presidency to Al Gore is a good start, but that’s only a start. And the country was bitterly divided over that.

If you want to take that argument to its logical conclusion, who was it that put that administration in office? Hint: If you live in the United States, scroll up to the top of this page, get a good look at my picture, then go look in the mirror. You and I did that. But you didn’t vote for him, you say? Neither did I. Fifty-seven percent of us didn’t. The problem was, the 57% of us who wanted someone else couldn’t agree on the someone else to put in office, and we paid the price. But the fact is, most of us don’t care. So, since we put this government in place, aren’t we also responsible for its actions, especially when we refuse to fundamentally change it?

But blaming the United States Government for Timothy McVeigh’s actions is childish. When I was in fifth grade, another kid named Benji used to act up and then blame his poor behavior on the outcome of the 1985 World Series. There is no difference. Benji wasn’t mature enough to deal with his disappointment about the baseball season in a socially responsible manner. Timothy McVeigh wasn’t mature enough to deal with his disappointment with the government’s behavior in a socially responsible manner. The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t make Benji misbehave, and the U.S. Government didn’t make McVeigh blow up that building. The victims of McVeigh’s atrocity deserve better than that kind of logic.

Yes, the government is partially responsible because McVeigh’s actions are the consequence of some of its own actions. And the government’s job is to clean up its own mess. I’m not convinced it’s totally done that. But McVeigh was guilty, and he even admitted his guilt. The U.S. Government did what its laws call for it to do. So it actually owned up for once.

Don’t get used to it. Except for it only partially cleaning up, that is.

And, like it or not, McVeigh is now a martyr in some circles. Actually he’s been a martyr since the day of his arrest. But there’s a grain of truth in McVeigh’s beliefs. Our government is out of control, it’s irresponsible, and it’s not accountable to anyone.

But that’s our fault. Our government is supposed to be accountable to us, and as long as our Congressmen send plenty of pork back home, we keep them in office. And we vote for our presidents whimsically. The government knows that as long as they give us bread and circuses, we don’t care about much else.

And if we want to keep this kind of crap from ever happening again, we’re going to have to start giving a crap about more than just food and entertainment.

I’m not holding my breath.

02/16/2001

As promised, the mail and my responses to it. We’ll start off with the dissenting points. My points are interspersed in the first message, then afterward with the rest, since those messages tend to be shorter.

Interestingly enough, neither of the dissenting views came from the States. One was from Britain, the other from Canada.

Chris Miller first:

Hi Dave

First of all I think you ABSOLUTELY should not have mentioned the IRA in this debate. There are few things that irritate British people more than Americans thinking they know about the Irish situation. And your analogy is flawed, anyway. The IRA and the UVF and the IFF and all the other republican and unionist terrorist organisations of which I’m sure you haven’t heard are political bodies. They have a political grievance and a political purpose. These aren’t people who walk into Starbucks and start shooting randomly. And most of their atrocities, whether in Ulster or on the British mainland, are not committed with guns.

Like I said, they don’t need guns. We have violent political movements in the United States as well. Eliminating guns won’t eliminate violence, whether the motive behind the violence is political or social. (And though I’m no expert on Ireland, I did take more classes on British and Irish history in college than I did US history–I’m more comfortable with that subject than I am with, say, the C or Pascal programming languages.)

I’m not talking about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals – they will obviously have them anyway. I’m talking about the various crazies and malcontents who have access to guns whenever they’re feeling particularly twitchy. Your man in McDonald’s wouldn’t be a threat at all in London or Marseille or Barcelona – he would just be shouting and moaning harmlessly, a threat to nothing but the atmosphere. And do you really believe that, even if he was armed, it would be best if everyone else was as well? So instead of one source of mortal danger, there was potential death flying every which way in the room? I have to say I wouldn’t feel a great deal safer faced with 20 gunmen, rather than one. I would suggest you don’t hear of these situations very often because they rarely happen.

Right. The crazies will resort to building bombs rather than using guns. But right now it’s easier to get a gun. If guns weren’t an option, some of the bombs will be duds, but frankly, I like my chances better against a crazy gunman than against a working bomb.

And you’re forgetting, that if I’m in McDonald’s with bullets flying, I’m not facing multiple gunmen. I’m facing one. The attacker is facing several. The other gunmen are aiming at the attacker, not at me, and they’re not spraying bullets around like you see in the movies. And if the attacker’s smart, his attention is now focused on the other guys with guns. If it isn’t, he’ll be face down in a pool of blood quickly.

More likely, he’s making his way for the door, because if there’s one thing a criminal hates, it’s a confrontation.

I agree that a blanket ban on handguns wouldn’t work in the US, but that’s only because Charlton Heston and all your other trigger-happy citizens wouldn’t stand for it. Also, the NRA isn’t the most powerful lobby group in the country just because people like rifle ranges. There is a serious amount of money in the arms business, and anyone who thinks Chuck and co. are simply defending a necessary constitutional right is just being naive.

You can make that argument for a good number of political causes, on the right or the left.

Your family and discipline tirade is interesting. So it’s wrong to deny people their religious beliefs, but yours are the right ones? That smacks more than a little of intolerance and hypocrisy. And call me an old Commie, but I believe there are certainly more important things than personal property. I suppose I’ll never convince an American of that though: it’s all about the Benjamins.

Except Christianity stole those moral standards from Judaism (as did Islam). Hinduism came up with it independently; Buddhism stole those standards from Hinduism. So we’ve just covered all the major world religions, so it’s hard to call that intolerant. The older religions that don’t tie religion to ethics aren’t affected one way or the other.

And as for my personal property examples, crimes fall into two categories: killing or injuring someone, and taking that person’s stuff.

I agree that the world would be a better place if people were nice to each other – I’m not an anarchist – but it’s impossible to think in moral absolutes. Your arguments are shot through with presuppositions, chief among which is that you are right and everybody else’s views are fatally flawed. You’re applying your own principles to everyone else. What’s right for one ain’t necessarily so for the other. You give yourself away by describing exactly what you were like at school. Well, there are many like you, and many more who were and are totally different. Someone isn’t inconsequential just because they aren’t like you. Their choices are valid. Hey, school sucks – just be thankful you got out of it what you did.

My reason for telling that story was to demonstrate that the difference between a law-abiding person and the perpetrator of a massacre can be subtle. I think I demonstrated that I have a few things in common with the people from Columbine. And one major difference.

But don’t stereotype me or jump to conclusions just because I was a bit of a loner. Some loners are that way because they don’t understand people and don’t like people who are different. I used to know a few people like that. I was a loner because I was shy, not because I thought I was right and everyone else was wrong.

And come on, Dave. If you ignore what you see as left-wing propaganda, why should I pay any more attention to this sort of conservative rhetoric?….

I didn’t say I ignore the media, nor did I call it left-wing propaganda. I just said it was incomplete. Tell the whole story and I’m happier. As it is, I have to read both sides of the supposed mainstream press: leftist rags like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and rightist rags like The Washington Times (which is much more conservative than I am), and then hopefully I’ll have some chance of seeing what’s going on. But neither side has much use for any story that doesn’t further their political agenda, so maybe in that regard they are propaganda-like.

Fortunately a dwindling number of people pay attention to it. And I never thought I’d hear myself say that, having been a journalism major.

I do ignore television news, but the superficiality and sensationalism and condescending nature of it offends me much more than the leftist agenda. (Plus the reception is lousy in this neighborhood and I don’t want to pay for cable.) But what else can you do with 22 minutes of camera time? But in these days of hundreds of channels, fewer and fewer are paying attention to that as well.

Some days I just don’t have the energy to sort it all out. So I go to the Kansas City Star, click on Sports, then go read about baseball. Scary. There was a time when baseball was the thing that set me off.

I hope you picked up the Maniacs references – I was actually listening to the “MTV Unplugged” album when I read your page. Spooky, eh?

Chris

Maybe a little. But they fit the mindset of the subject matter as well as any band I can think of. The subconscious mind at work…

From: Gary Mugford ( mugford@nospam.aztec-net.com )

David,

   I have a refeverence for others’ beliefs. You and I are on the opposite side of the theological fence, which means not a thing when it comes to talking about computers and baseball. When you write about subjects that don’t interest me, I still read it, because good writing is always worth reading. It’s not unknown to read an arguement I haven’t considered before and revise my opinion. But it’s rare.

   Like Chris, I come down on the anti-gun side. In the same way that bombing somebody is a detached way of killing, so it has become so for guns. The gang problem around the world (not just in the U.S.) took off when the over-supply of guns to an unfettered buying population in the U.S. started making gang warfare a gun battle rather than an in-your-face mano-a-mano fight. It takes a whole lot less courage to shoot somebody in a drive-by then to tangle with brass knuckles from two feet away.

   The historical need for guns in the U.S. is undeniable. But like buggy-whips and home butter-churns, they ceased long ago to be a need, but an homage to a bunch of far-sighted men who gathered together to form a new nation a couple hundred years (and change) ago. The problem with honouring their memory is the deification of these men as all-knowing, all-omniscient. There is a religious fervosity about these men that defies logic to we non-Americans.

   The right to bear arms is usually equivocated with the right to free speech and the freedom of religion as the pillars of the American way. But that vague description of the right to bear arms has been interpreted and re-interpreted down through the years by those that want it to mean what “THEY” want it to mean. By one definition, the right was to bear all the defensive weapons one could hold in their hands at one time. Another definition would include one’s right to own a tank and a nucleur arsenal. The true intent probably lies somewhere inbetween. But given the lack of farseer capabilities amongst these fine men, I suspect the intent was closer to the former than the then science fictional latter (science fiction still to be invented itself, some years into the future).

   You can argue the need of every citizen to bear arms. There are non-persuasive arguements for both sides. But the one arguement that should not be made is the constant harkening back to these men and their intentions and solomonic wisdom. They proved human by writing a constitution that required amendments to move closer to perfection. They acknowledged the righteousness of owning slaves and of treating women as property. They were flawed, but they knew it. So they attempted to create a changing constitution that would keep with the times and new provenances created there in. And they would be amused and horrified if they found out that hundreds of years later, their will and intent was being mis-used. If the law becomes outdated, change it. They took the English legal canon and did it. They expected their descendents to do the same.

   Which brings me around to the points of fact that you use to defend the status quo. The same reports that  gun crime in conceal-‘n-carry states has gone down, fails to quantify gun accidents, which I understand have risen proportinately. I won’t exchange one life for another.

   You also cite the impossibility of getting rid of the guns held by the criminals and that getting rid of guns will not get rid of all of the violence. So?  I’m reminded of the currently-running commercial featuring an old hero of mine, Bob Lanier. It’s the starfish story where a youngster hoisting stranded starfish back into the water is asked why he’s even bothering, when there’s thousands of them on the beach and he can’t help them all. “Helped that one,” comes the answer. As trite as it sounds, every journey DOES start with but a single step. To not try because of the enormity of the task, is ,,, well, un-American!

   Actually, I offer you the false logic website: http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/index.htm . I’m betting that several of your arguements fall into the trap of Fallacy of Distraction.  Nobody ever promised that getting rid of guns would get rid of all of the violence.  Gun control has very little to do with bomb-making loonies. Given the opportunity, they’d do both (and do). Massacres don’t occur every day, but accidental shootings do (last I read. I cannot cite source). Just what is the acceptable massacre rate? Harsh, but we are talking about guns.  Criminals, are not governed by laws, so no law written to limit their access is going to have massive effect. But it WILL CUT DOWN ON SUPPLY. And that supply will erode each time a gun-toting fiend gets caught. Innocent or not by law, the gun goes bye-bye. This is good.  And I continue to harp on accidental shootings. It’s a lot easier to recover from a bat to the backside then a gun shot in the gut. What was before, that is now outdated, archaraic and not needed, shuoldn’t continue to be the rule. We are EVOLVING!!!

   I also failed to see Chris’ letter as an attack on your religious beliefs.  Chris believes (I think) that art must show the innards and the borders of society. In showing the limits of behaviour, it helps define those limits. Great art can also show the depth of society (or the lack of it).

   Are we living in a world where ‘anything’ goes? Yeah, increasingly. Do I decry it and try to guide my little Paige through some of the muck I never had to encounter at her age, but she will have to? Sure, that’s what being an adult is. Do I live by a central set of morals largely identical to your own? Yes. I believe behaviourly-speaking much as you do. Do I subscribe to the precise set of religious rituals and trappings that you do? No. I believe that nobody past, present or future is perfect and all-knowing. That includes the framers of the Constitution and all that try to read their minds through the veil of the ages.

   I think Chris’ statements about John Ashcroft, which you have more knowledge of and a differing point of view, might have been what set you off. You have a favourable opinion. Chris reads statements and actions by Ashcroft and finds them differing to his point of view.  Without reviewing the complete canon of Ashcroft rulings, that have earned him a large following in Missouri, Chris has read about the selected instances where the new AG ruled or said things that Chris (and I) disagree with. Should we reserve opinion? Probably. Will we? Probably not. We are human. And if somebody says something we find disagreeable or hypocritical, we tend to focus in on that one single statement to the exclusion of other competing evidence. But I will grant you the humility of acknowledging that I might be wrong about the man.

   Ultimately, I think the sky is azure blue. You might think it’s cerulean blue. We’ll never prove the other right or wrong as to the shade. But we CAN agree that the sky is SOME shade of blue. So we try to live life right. And that’s a good thing.

   Regards, GM
Actually, in Missouri at this time of year, the sky’s usually gray. Especially this week.

I fail to see the point of banning weapons if it’s not to decrease violence, and my point wasn’t to distract, but to try to illustrate that even a law-abiding citizen can have the tendencies that cause one to, as we say in the States, go postal. You can teach me ethics, put a gun in my hand, and I’ll abide by the law. You can teach me ethics, ensure that I’ll never see a gun in my life, and I’ll abide by the law. But don’t teach me ethics, and I’m likely to do what I please with whatever I can get my hands on. Banning guns is a superficial argument at best, and it requires a great deal of effort. Better to focus that effort on fixing the real problem–otherwise, it’s like spending $300 to shoehorn old memory and an obsolescent CPU into a six-year-old Pentium, to use an example from earlier this week. It might make some people feel good, like they’ve done something, but it doesn’t address the true problem and it won’t work as a long-term solution because the fundamental problem is still there.

Gun accidents do happen, but they can be minimized through training. And we hear of far more fatalities due to car crashes than due to gun accidents. The solution to both problems is the same: better enforcement of existing laws, better training, and maybe tightening up restrictions a bit on who can get their mitts on one.

As for our reluctance to make major changes, it’s probably because though times change, the underlying principles don’t. A lot has changed since the days of Hammurabi, but our code of laws is more similar to his than it is different. Our Founding Fathers had roughly 5,750 years of history to look at. Are we so arrogant as to say that with a mere 250 more years’ perspective, we should change everything?

I don’t see the rest of the world doing that, or when they are, they’re copying another country whose success they envy.

Hmm. I guess we’re doing something right. That’s good to see. We’re not willing to throw away our history over one or two problems. There’s hope for us yet.

From: Michael Baker ( MBaker@nospam.BioLabinc.com )

Hello Dave,

Your post today (Feb 14th) really struck a nerve w/ me.  I pretty much feel the same way, and your response to Mr. Miller was articulate and well thought out.  I enjoyed reading it.  I have a few random thoughts of my own:

Blaming our society’s ills on guns or TV violence or other such pop-psychiatric poop is really just an excuse for people who don’t want to deal w/ their own problems.  Ultimately, the fault lies with ourselves.  However, I believe the media is responsible for the acceleration of the decay.  The media more than just left-leaning, it has completely fallen over.  We are bombarded w/ TV and paper news that is all essentially the same.  Many purport to a be a balanced source, but it’s not, and many people don’t see that.  Here in Atlanta, we have one paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Years ago they were separate organizations.  The Journal was the more liberal, while the Constitution was the conservative.  They merged, and for a while they kept their same “flavor”.  Now, the only difference is that one is delivered in the morning, and the other in the afternoon.  They both run the same stories and use the same writers.  I consider it to be a leftist newspaper.  This is rapidly turning into a rant.  I’ll move on to another topic.

“…That’s OK, they’re fun too when they’re winning trophies and doing good. Just don’t get in my way. Here’s the remote. Here’s a video game. Have fun. Don’t bother me. And the kids grow up with parents (or a parent) respecting no one but themselves, and they learn that behavior.”

My parents have a friend who is an elementary school (2nd grade, I believe) teacher.  My Mom and I had dinner w/ her recently.  She talked about how much more needy the kids are nowadays.  They don’t get any attention at home.  It makes teaching more difficult, because the teachers have to spend more time dealing w/ the childrens’ behavioral problems than teaching.  She’s not quite to retirement yet, but I think she’s ready for it.

“…Actually, he got it half right. The best thing a guy can be in this world is a beautiful little fool, or better yet, a big hulking fool. People like dumb, beautiful people, because they’re good to look at and they’re non-threatening.”

Lol!  That is just classic.  It’s so true.  I’m neither good looking or dumb, but I’m only slightly threatening. 🙂

So, coming back around again… It starts at home… How very true.

Again, thanks for the fine post.

Thank you. My mom was a teacher. She got tired of trying to tame students (and this was teaching at a Christian school, so you’d think their parents would be more likely to instill those ethics, but who knows?) so she got out of the classroom. She has fewer headaches and better pay at her new job.

I’m unwilling to blame the media for destroying our society, but it’s not helping. Unfortunately, getting a conservative to go to journalism school is nearly impossible. Getting the conservative through journalism school without changing majors, getting them to look for a job in journalism (it’s hard to find one), then getting them to take a job in journalism, getting them to keep a good post, and getting them to stay in the profession are harder and harder still. It’s frustrating because they pay’s terrible, the frustration super-high, and most conservatives aren’t very idealistic so they tend not to feel like they’re making a difference. If you’re not going to make a difference, might as well get a job that pays well. Or go to work for a conservative publication that leans just as hard to the right and is ultimately just as unreasonable. (The Washington Times infuriates me nearly as much as the ultraliberal St. Louis Post-Dispatch.) The result: a poorly balanced media.

From: Tom Gatermann ( tardis69@nospam.swbell.net )

Hey you know one thing about guns and those kids at Columbine is, that gun laws don’t work.  Those kids weren’t supposed to be able to get guns at all at their age. I don’t support gun laws myself as you know.  I wouldn’t own a gun personally at this juncture in my life, but I wouldn’t tell another law abiding citizen he/she couldn’t.
 
I also would have to say that your editor’s opinion of a Constitutional amendment being bull—- is way out there in Communist world!  Since when did constitutional amendments become a joke?  Especially one of main ones on the Bill of Rights!!!!  Isn’t that the kind of talk that the Amendments are supposed to protect us from?  Heck, we might as well start taxing tea again.

That’s precisely why a Constitutional amendment can only be overturned by a later amendment, or by changing judicial interpretation of it. The latter is more likely, but fortunately that’s a fairly slow process too and the political pendulum swings enough that the courts don’t swing too terribly badly.

I wouldn’t call that idea Communist, but it’s far too authoritarian for my comfort level. The Constitution protects that kind of talk, but gridlock protects us against it by making it difficult to make it anything more than talk (that’s what’s dangerous after all).

I don’t think new gun laws will make much difference because we don’t even enforce the ones we have. The evil John Ashcroft has said as much; he’s said he’ll enforce the ones on the books, which hasn’t happened for years. So maybe now we have a fighting chance of finding out whether gun laws work. It’s a good strategy I think.

 

From: J H Ricketson ( culam@nospam.sonic.net )

Dave –

Superb. You may have missed your calling. You perhaps should be a politician – except that is precluded because you are honest.

Or a pastor.

Even a practicing agnostic such as I find much of value in what you have to say. Please – post more of such thoughts as often as you feel called to do so. They are that precious thing: something that causes me to think, and review my thoughts. Very welcome in my world. There is more to our world than mere high tech. I think most, if not all, Daynoters, distinguish ourselves by this realization (as opposed to pure Tech such a Tom’s  MoBo, Ars Technica, etc.) Makes for interesting reading and a unique collective POV, IMO

Regards,

JHR

Politician? Except I can’t stand most politicians. John Ashcroft’s fine. Mel Hancock (former Missouri representative and gubernatorial candidate) is great, and actually fun to talk to. Jim Talent (another former Missouri representative and gubernatorial candidate, also mentioned for a possible cabinet position) is pretty personable and friendly, but not as much fun as Hancock. Todd Akin (who took Talent’s seat in the House) is great. Not as funny as Hancock, but that may be because he’s so much younger. Kit Bond (Missouri senator) is fine as long as you’re on his side. You don’t want to cross him. Kenny Hulshof (Missouri representative) is a pretty nice guy. But of the couple dozen politicians I’ve met, I think those six are the only ones I’d be willing to sit down and talk with at any length.

And as for being a pastor, the only thing worse than state politics is church politics. I haven’t written off that possibility (indeed, I’m honing my skills in case I need them), but I won’t act on it until I’m married and older. I’ve seen what happens to people my age who go into full-time ministry.

In the meantime, this stuff causes spikes in traffic, but the computer talk is what keeps people coming back so I’ll maintain my focus there.

Thanks for your thoughts, of course.

From: Bruce Edwards ( bruce@nospam.bruceedwards.com )

Hi Dave:

All I can see regarding your long piece referenced in the subject line is –

BRAVO

An excellent job – you hit the nail on the head.  Keep up the good work,

Sincerely,

Bruce
www.BruceEdwards.com

Thanks.

From: Sharon A. Black ( blacksa@nospam.missouri.edu )

I agree with so much of what you said in your post earlier in the week.  If kids grow up knowing that they’re not going to get away with unacceptable behavior at home, and that carries over into their schooling when they’re very young, it makes sense that it should carry over into their behavior as adults as well.  As I’ve always said, when it comes to correcting a child’s behavior, consistency is THE most important.  As you pointed out, making the correction on a timely basis is also important.   Maybe this whole line of thinking is a little simplistic, but  it does make an awful lot of sense. And I think that it’s pretty easy to look at young adults who are produtive and law-abiding, and see a common thread in the way they were raised. Problem is that today too many parents don’t want to be bothered disciplining–wait, I think “guiding” or “teaching” or “directing” would be better words for it–their children and they become irrate when anyone else tries.  (Why THAT happens is a whole other story.)  Then they make excuses for their child’s behavior then it becomes someone else’s fault and then the child’s misbehavior is justified.  So the next and the next and the next incidents are justified.  And children’s behavior keeps getting worse and worse.  Then we end up spending huge amounts of money to incarcerate them. When they do get out, in most cases, values and morals are no different (or at least not different in a positive way) and we start all over again.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Yes it is, Mom.

It’s a simplified view yes, but when you don’t get the little things right, they tend to explode in your face. And we see it over and over again. You saw it firsthand in the classroom.

Incarceration serves to protect citizens momentarily against criminals but doesn’t do a good job of rehabilitation, as a look at the criminal history of most of the felons on any given court docket show. When I was writing crime stories, the problem usually wasn’t finding a crook to write about–it was deciding who the crook with the longest and most horrifying track record might be so that story would get a better position in the paper. That’s the unfortunate result. Incarceration doesn’t work. Making it harder for them to get guns and drugs doesn’t work. Prevention used to work–when the prevention came from the home, and not from Washington, D.C.

And it’s far, far too late, so I’m calling it a night.

02/03/2001

I’m starting to think I’ve got a defective board. I cracked out one of the Soyo SY-7SBB motherboards yesterday (the $29 wonder) and couldn’t get it to work, regardless of what mount holes I grounded. I’ve never seen a board this sensitive to grounding before, so I’m really starting to wonder about it. (Most modern boards don’t mind being grounded in all possible spots; most ATX cases do just that and that’s what most people use. And I can’t think of a time when I built a system and it objected to being grounded in only one place either. Most boards just aren’t all that picky.)

So, since I’ve had an otherwise identical board running, I’m inclined to suspect the board itself.

I’ve had the other one running briefly, outside of a case, so I’ll try the second one and I’ll probably have to exchange the first.

It just dawned on me that how I came to this conclusion is probably useful information. First, I tried a different power supply, and got the same result. I connected the PC speaker and tried powering up with no memory present. With a system with an Award BIOS (or just about any other system), that should have resulted in beep codes. Motherboards don’t like to boot without a video card or RAM, so you can do a quick-and-dirty test for life by trying to make it boot without one or the other of those.

No response. So I cleared CMOS (check the manual; the way you do this varies). Still no response. I tried yet another power supply. Nothing. I knew the CPU was good because I pulled it from a working system. Same for the memory, though if the memory were bad I should get a beep code. I put the board in three different cases. Nothing.

And yes, I did check for shorts each time I put the board in a case. Loose bits hanging around inside the case are very detrimental to a board’s health.

It’s kind of a drag; I’d have liked to have one of the systems up and going by now. But this isn’t mission-critical; for mission critical stuff I buy Asus boards and now I remember why. I had good luck with Soyo a few years back, but I haven’t found anyone who matches Asus’ track record overall.

Reviews. I found several reviews yesterday, none of which were remarkably good or remarkably bad. I’ll put together a roundup for tomorrow I think.

Apologies to all of those who’ve sent e-mail. Hopefully I’ll catch up this weekend. Between cleaning my place up, working slightly longer-than-usual hours, a couple of meetings in the evenings, and writing another article for Shopper UK I haven’t been responding to mail very promptly this week.

One last thing: the story of a true hero. One of my heroes got a writeup in the Kansas City Star this morning. His name is Jim Eisenreich. Eisenreich was a promising young outfielder who battled (and beat) Tourette’s Syndrome. He made his comeback in Kansas City, then went on to win a World Series in Philadelphia. I don’t know how long the story will be online at the Star, but it’s worth a read even if you’re not a baseball fan. He’s another never-give-up story, but you can’t have too many of those.

01/10/2001

Mailbag:

Relocating the My Docs folder

First, some computer news. AMD is building a third fab after all. Location still TBA. Reportedly they’re looking for someone to share this $4 billion facility, but that of course could change by the time it’s ready in 2004. They were looking for someone to share their Dresden fab up until the day it opened, it seemed, but it turns out that capacity kept all to themselves really isn’t enough.

Time to talk baseball. My Royals did it. They made their first blockbuster trade since 1991, when they traded their beloved pitching ace, Bret Saberhagen, for a bag of baseballs. Well, actually they got Gregg Jefferies, who played third base with an oven mitt and hit .270–his biggest contribution was helping George Brett get his 3,000th hit by giving him some protection in the lineup, forcing pitchers to pitch to Brett–before getting traded across the state for Felix Jose, a bust who played right field for a couple of seasons, then played himself out of a job and dropped off the face of the earth. They also got Keith Miller, a scrappy player who was murder in the clutch, but he couldn’t stay healthy. He only lasted two seasons before he was done too. The most noteworthy guy from the trade was Kevin McReynolds, an underachieving power hitter past his prime, who lasted a couple of seasons, then was shipped back to the Mets in exchange for Vince Coleman, who provided some needed speed but his expensive contract and poor defense led them to ship him to Seattle for a prospect. His replacement was a youngster by the name of Johnny Damon.

Well, the Royals have once again traded a franchise player. Johnny Damon, their leadoff hitter, team leader, and sometime center fielder (he also plays left) is gone. Traded to Oakland, home to many an ex-Royal, in a three-team deal that brought a 20-year-old shortstop prospect and a backup catcher to Kansas City. (Ironically, this backup catcher lost his job with the A’s because Sal Fasano was better. Sal Fasano’s old team? The Royals.)

But the key to the deal was Roberto Hernandez, a 36-year-old closer. He throws hard and routinely saves 30 games a season. Lately the Royals have been doing well to get 15 from their closers. The Royals routinely scored 6 runs a game, but their bullpen routinely gave up 7. Hernandez and newly acquired setup man Doug Henry look to end that trend. Without Johnny Damon they won’t score 6 runs a game as much anymore, but the improved bullpen can reduce the number of runs they give up by one or two.

I feel good about this trade. Johnny Damon talked about how much he loved Kansas City, but he acted like a hired gun. And when he wasn’t making threats about leaving, he was trying to run the team. The solution to all the Royals’ problems last year, according to Damon, was Paul Sorrento. Paul Sorrento was a .240-hitting first baseman with some power and an average glove. The Royals already had Mike Sweeney at first base, a converted catcher who thinks he’s the second coming of George Brett. He’s good for .320 or .330, 20+ homers and 100+ RBIs a season. Not a great fielder, but he’s getting better. Paul Sorrento only would have taken playing time from Sweeney and wouldn’t have given them much. I guess 29 other teams agreed, because after the Royals let Sorrento go, no one else snapped him up. Then the Royals went and got Dave McCarty, a career minor leaguer with a fabulous glove who’d always managed to hit .230 or .240 in his brief stints in the bigs. But as a part-time player, McCarty found his groove. He flirted with a .280 average and hit a number of big homers, in addition to playing well, if not spectacularly, at first base and also spending some time in left and right field. Great move. Paul who? Good thing the front office didn’t listen to Johnny Damon.

This off-season, Johnny Damon was talking about how the Royals needed to go get some pitching, like, say, Darren Dreifort. Darren Dreifort. Who? Exactly. Darren Dreifort is an overpriced career National Leaguer who in a typical season goes 8-8 with an ERA around 4.50. The Royals already have six guys who can do that, given the kind of bullpen support Dreifort always got in LA, and they won’t ask for $7 milion a year to do it either. What’s so special about Darren Dreifort? He and Johnny Damon have the same agent. Can anyone say conflict of interest?

Johnny Damon was fun to watch, believe me. I liked the guy, as long as he kept his mouth shut. He played hard and did everything they ever asked him to do. Move to left field to make room for Carlos Beltran? OK. Hit third? Sure. Uh oh. All of our cleanup-type hitters are dropping like flies. Will you do it for a while until one of them gets healthy? OK. Uh oh. Carlos Beltran’s hurt. Would you move back to center field for a while? Sure, and might as well field spectacularly and hit .387 the second half of the season too.

But Johnny Damon didn’t want to sign a long-term contract. Johnny Damon wanted to make Bernie Williams money. And the Royals don’t have Bernie Williams money to offer. So Johnny Damon was going to move elsewhere the instant he became a free agent. The best thing the Royals could do was trade him for whatever they could get.

What they got was an expensive relief pitcher and a shortstop prospect, but Roberto Hernandez is no more expensive than what the Royals offered Johnny Damon. And now the Royals have cleared the logjam in their outfield. Mark Quinn can keep on playing left field. Carlos Beltran can go back to center. Jermaine Dye’s a lock in right. Dave McCarty and Mike Sweeney can rotate between first base and DH, which had been Quinn’s old role. Or power-hitting prospect Dee Brown can take over at DH if he’s ready, with Sween at first and McCarty back in the old role of supersub. Carlos Beltran or second baseman Carlos Febles can hit leadoff. If they falter, third baseman Joe Randa doesn’t have Johnny Damon’s speed, but he can replace his on-base percentage.

And as for the shortstop prospect, Angel Berroa, the Royals had no successor to smooth-fielding Rey Sanchez. Sanchez is a free swinger, but he’s managed to hit .270 or .280 for the Royals for two seasons so he’s not as bad as some make him out to be, but he’s 33 and has been a bench player most of his career. (Rob & Rany don’t like him much, but I have two words to say to that: Felix Martinez. Martinez was Sanchez’ predecessor, and he had one good hit his whole time in a KC uniform. It was a sucker punch in a brawl with the Anaheim Angels.) But Sanchez probably can’t be an everyday shortstop much longer and the Royals had to think about the future. Berroa looks to be one of those rare shortstops who can hit and field.

And Mike Sweeney is more than ready to take over Johnny Damon’s role as team leader. Sween loves the community, and the community loves him. Sween leads a Bible study in the clubhouse already, and players come. When a player has a problem, Sween’s the guy he’s most likely to seek out. What’s his manager have to say about him? He once told a Kansas City Star reporter that he has a twentysomething daughter. Now don’t get me wrong, he said. I don’t want her to marry Michael Sweeney. But I want her to marry someone like Michael Sweeney.

This from a guy who doesn’t give many compliments.

Sween’s as good a guy as any to build the team’s future around. Johnny Damon’s been around a little bit longer, but Mike Sweeney has qualities Johnny Damon never had and might not ever have.

Yes, Johnny Damon was nice to have, but he wasn’t the team. He looked irreplaceable, but his mouth made management wonder otherwise, and I think management was right.

Now, what do the Royals have to do to get Bret Saberhagen back? He’s been not-a-Royal for longer than he was a Royal, but I’ll always think of him as that 21-year-old who won two World Series games.

Not everyone agrees with me, of course. KC Star sportswriters pretty much do. Rany Jazayerli doesn’t. Rob Neyer hasn’t spoken yet.

Mailbag:

Relocating the My Docs folder