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Archive of March, 2003

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[Permalink 2003-03-31] BOO-FUCKIN'-YAH!

March 31, 2003:

Just got off the phone with the recruiter. I've got a six-month contract at Equitable starting on April 7th. They don't tend to hire contract guys from what I understand, but they don't have a problem extending contracts.

Now comes the obligatory drug test and background check (Monday morning), and then I join the ranks of the employed again.

Which means the entry for April 8th will mostly amount to bitching about how early I have to wake up :)

[Permalink 2003-03-28] Taxes an'at

March 28, 2003:

Well, I found a way to get money back from the Fed. Of course, that way involves being pretty much broke. But hey, I'm getting like $600, so it ain't all bad.

[Permalink 2003-03-27] Yipes

March 27, 2003:

Haircuts are starting to get kinda depressing. Not because they cost $13 (that just annoys me) but because I'm basically forced to look at the back of my head. I don't want to see what's going on back there (or, more accurately, what's not going on). I swear, one of these days I'm just going to buy a pair of clippers and just do the homemade crew cut.

[Permalink 2003-03-25] Minor Redesign

March 25, 2003:

Got sick of the nothing-but-blue look I had here, so I went with this instead. Nothing else has changed.

(Yeah, I'm bored. What's your point?)

[Permalink 2003-03-24] Lather, Rise, Repeat

March 24, 2003:

Here I go again... I've got an interview downtown Wednesday morning. I'll keep you posted.

[Permalink 2003-03-21] Fun, Fun, Fun

March 21, 2003:

I drove into Monroeville today, to the CompUSA there. Not because I needed any parts (knock on wood), but to apply for a job. I was going to hit all three electronics stores there -- CompUSA, Best Buy and Circuit City -- but I could only bring myself to do the one. If I don't hear back by the middle of next week I'll have to go do the other two.

Position applied for: Any. Hours: Any. Just like a high-school kid trying to save up some money for a cheap car to impress his buddies.

I'm not sure whether they'd even want to hire me; it's not like I'd give them more than a couple days' notice if I quit, and I'm not exactly doing this because I want to. But I guess I'll have to wait and see. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to drink until I forget that I ever had any pride.

[Permalink 2003-03-20] In the News

March 20, 2003:

Random news articles, nothing more.

Didn't know the Mayans used CFCs: news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/ 20030313/ ap_on_sc/ demise_of_the_maya_2

See, it's good to be a sweaty fat guy: news/ articles/ 0314SCIENCE-HEALTH-PERSPIRATION-DC.html

"Bender! You're stone-freakin' sober!": 1/ hi/ technology/ 2847679.stm

India joins 21st Century. Oh, wait, never mind: 2003/ WORLD/ asiapcf/ south/ 03/ 12/ india.caste/ index.html

"I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that.": news/ news.jsp?id=ns99993488

[Permalink 2003-03-18] Iraq and Saddam Hussein

March 18, 2003:

Note: I wrote this a while ago, on February 28th, I just kept getting sidetracked by other stuff. (Sometimes the one-a-day format doesn't work out so well.) Anyway, Shields wrote a much longer, better-reasoned post about the subject, so if you want some in-depth reading go there. This was originally written, basically, as a stream of conciousness, and I'm going to keep it that way. Now, on with the show...

I've been holding off on making any comments about Iraq because I'm not entirely sure exactly where my thoughts lie. I haven't made much headway; maybe writing it down here will help. Times like this I wish I was a better writer...

For starters, there's a distinction that needs to be made: Non-democratic countries are not represented by the head of state. Iraq-the-population is vastly different from Iraq-the-government. We're accustomed to presidents and prime ministers representing their people to at least some degree, but that's not the case here. Saddam was "elected" in a landslide... because he was the only one on the ballot and because not fulfilling one's civic duty in Iraq is cause for a bullet to the brain pan.

So, where does that leave us? Well, the administration's current goal is to remove Saddam from power and destroy any large-scale weapons he has -- the usual name is the misnomer "weapons of mass-destruction" -- while doing as little damage as possible to the Iraqi population. The question then becomes: How do we do it?

Right now, Bush believes the only way to accomplish both parts of the goal is to invade Iraq. This would involve mostly American troops and equipment (along with whatever the British can send) operating from a handful of not-quite-as-hotile countries, along with a few "attaboys" from countries whose military budgets are dwarfed by the LAPD. There may be other ways to get rid of the weapons in question (see below) but seeing as how Saddam has said he'd rather die than live in exile, it seems like we may have to take him up on the offer if we plan on having a second democratic Islamic country to go with Turkey. (Aside: I can't remember if there are any more countries that mix democracy with Islam. Corrections welcome.)

First off, the inspections: Saddam's been very willing to cooperate of late -- or at least to appear to cooperate, given the last 12 years of history. Hans Blix can't make up his mind whether the government is being wonderfully helpful or hopelessly obstructionist... I think it might be related to the phases of the moon. Why is that, though? Because Saddam remembers the systematic dismantling of his army last time around, and because American and British planes have been blowing up his anti-aircraft installations for the last decade. Simply put, he knows that he's not in for "the mother of all battles" that would slowly erode U.S. morale -- it'll be more like the "mother of all ass-whuppings" if it comes to war.

But he also knows that American and British governments have to be re-elected. All he has to do is cooperate enough to convince people who always think that war is bad, regardless of the reasons, that he's OK. And in a couple years George Bush and Tony Blair may not be around to bother him any more. Not a bad strategy, really. Beats the possibility of a Tomahawk suppository.

Which puts us in a bind: Do we do this now and risk making enemies, or do it later and risk giving him time to become even more dangerous? I vote for option one, myself.

This guy is proven dangerous. In addition to the usual "death to the Jews" rhetoric that's so pervasive in the Middle East, this guy's created a brutal regime that kills its own people and has invaded his country's smaller neighbor (that is why we did this the last time, after all).

Now, Saddam is by no means alone. The al-Sauds in Saudi Arabia are at least as bad to their people as Saddam is to his, maybe more. So why aren't we going after them? Oil? Nah. If it was about oil we'd be propping Saddam up instead of trying to get rid of him -- we stand to lose a lot more money by going to war than we could hope to recover by controlling Iraq's (or anybody's) oilfields. The answer is that, even though their government is more brutal internally, Saudi Arabia isn't as big a threat to the outside world. The al-Sauds have made too much money off oil to risk pissing off the U.S. so they quitely let the clerics party like it's 799.

On a slightly more cynical level, I can also say that we want to make an example out of somebody. "Behave, or you're next." Saddam's already unpopular in the Middle East because he constatly flaunts everbody's authority. And they're still a little pissed about that whole invasion thing -- he might come after them next. So nobody will cry a river if he's taken out. And we might get a stable democracy out of the deal if we're lucky, as an example to the people of the region -- "you don't have to live like this."

The questions are: Are we doing this at the right time? and Should we be doing this at all?

Well, putting aside our own economic troubles, any delay only allows Saddam to become more powerful and more dangerous. He may not be best pals with Osama bin Laden (bin Laden doesn't like Iraq's secular government) but that doesn't mean Iraq isn't a breeding ground for terrorists. If you can't direct your displeasure with your life at the government, you start looking elsewhere. Israel and the U.S. are easy targets. Does this mean that terrorism would go away the minute we invade Iraq? No. Things would likely get worse before they get better because it would take time to rebuild Iraq. The short-term effect would be even more poor and angry people that al-Qaida loves to see. But even Afghanistan is marginally improved a year later, and Iraq won't be in nearly as sorry shape as Afghanistan was. The end result, then, would be a long-term win for us is we're willing to accept some short-term hardships. I can say I am, but I also know Pittsburgh isn't a target like D.C. or New York. People there may think differently.

Now for the other question: Should we do this at all? It's a tougher question than many people want to think: Yes, Saddam is dangerous, but we also know from experience that he has no qualms about putting military equipment next to hospitals, mosques and apartment buildings. Civilians, especially those in Baghdad, will pay dearly for that. And as I said way at the top of the page, I don't have a beef with Iraq-the-people. I don't want to kill them if it's not necessary. But as I wrote this, I came to the conclusion that now is the time (that was my only real question before, once I saw that Saddam wouldn't leave voluntarily). If we (and the Iraqis) are lucky, Saddam won't have time to get all his equipment moved into civilian areas. And I think that on the whole Iraq will benefit from this, even if civilian casualties are all but guaranteed.

My only concern is the rebuilding of Iraq. We got off to a good start in Afghanistan, but interest petered out. Infrastructure won't be as big of a problem due to the fact that the Taliban wasn't in power for 20 years in Iraq, but it will have the same ethnic-based problems. A lot of people like Sunni Muslims and the Kurds have been beaten on for a long time, and they're going to want paybacks. It won't be easy, but I think it's possible. We managed to do well with Germany after World War II, and I know Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice know how to read history books. If Dubya's not too busy running up and down the halls of the White House yelling "I'm da man!" they should be able to steer him in the right direction. But nothing's ever a given.

In closing, I will just say that I do believe in giving peace a chance. But in this case, as has happened before, the only way to get that peace will be through lots of violence. It sucks, and some people have trouble wrapping their brains around it, but it's true. And in the coming weeks and months our military will almost certainly be putting that theory into practice.

Update: Found a radio clip linked in Shields's journal. There are three things to keep in mind before getting into a debate: (1) Are the facts on my side, (2) Am I completely outclassed, (3) Am I more than 10 years old. This girl (woman?) had none of the three. Well, maybe #3, since she was on the show. Friggin' hilarious.

[Permalink 2003-03-17] Where did they think he'd put them?

March 17, 2003:

Just saw this on channel 11's 12:00 newscast: A bunch of the voluntary human shields are leaving Iraq because Saddam Hussein had the audacity to send them to... wait for it... military targets!

They thought Saddam would send them to apartments and hospitals instead (well, some of them might be of the "hospital with anti-aircraft battery on the roof" variety, but still). What on earth did they think "human shields" were used for?

(Sigh.) No wonder everyone thinks Americans are a bunch of idiots.

[Permalink 2003-03-14] Have I mentioned that I hate being ignored?

March 14, 2003:

I'm, as far as I know, still in the running for a job I applied for. I say "as far as I know" because I haven't heard anything from the person I interviewed with since late January. I sent an e-mail a couple weeks ago, just following up, and called and left a voicemail not too recently. Not a word. This person is almost going out of her way to avoid me. So, really, I probably don't have the job.

Now I've heard that back in the day, when you didn't get a job you would get a letter saying that you didn't get a job. It was nice; you knew where you stood. Any more, actually telling the person they haven't been hired seems to be optional. And quite frankly it pisses me off.

Look, if I'm not the most qualified guy, tell me. If I said something stupid at the interview, tell me. I'm not going to yell at you or sue you because I didn't get the job. But I will think you're an asshole if you can't even be bothered to print off a form letter and slap a 37-cent stamp on it. Hell, I'll even give you a self-addressed, stamped envelope so you can send the letter free of charge. And if you hire me you owe me 37 cents.

Update: The day after I left said voicemail, they dropped a GFY in the mail. Not exactly a surprise.

[Permalink 2003-03-13] Games of Skill

March 13, 2003:

Played darts with Hoy, Greg and Gene Tuesday night. After having not played for a year, I returned to my old skill level immediately, i.e. I was the worst person there. basically, I spent 15 bucks on Yeunglings and a burger, and got hosed in every game I played.

But I almost won a handful of quarters playing Bermuda, so it was all worth it :)

Y'see, that's the one thing keeping me in Pittsburgh right now (more on that later). The fact that every once in a while I can just go and hang out. But there are a ton and a half of other reasons for me to leave, too. Like I said, I'll get to that later.

Nothing clever here, I just went out, played darts, and did some drinking. It was fun. Considering I've been out of work for more than a year, you should be glad you got that much :)

[Permalink 2003-03-11] "Y'know, I learned something today..."

March 11, 2003:

While on a visit to Akron to help my mother and stepfather with their broadband connection, I found out that their machine needed more memory (it only had 64 megs). So, we drove out to CompUSA (no time to order online; they weren't going to install RAM themselves) and bought a 256MB PC133 DIMM.

I made two mistakes there: One, I thought their computer was new enough to handle a 256-meg DIMM. I was wrong -- each slot can only hold 128MB according to Gateway's specs. Second, I thought that any RAM of the right type would slow itself down to match the system bus's speed (in this case 100MHz compared to the DIMM's 133). Older DIMMs would do that, newer ones apparently don't.

On the second trip to CompUSA to return the 256-meg DIMM I talked to one of their people and got the mistake sorted out. Mom and Jim's computer is now humming along happily with 320MB of RAM (the 64 it came with plus a pair of 128s). There's a lot less paging going on now, and the thing's noticeably faster on a lot of things.

(As an aside, the memory problem didn't have anything to do with the broadband connection. They "upgraded" to AOL 8.0 at about the same time, and AOL's apparently been taking coding lessons from Microsoft -- each release is more bloated than the previous one.

(As an aside to the aside, the interface gets progressively worse each time, too. I thought there was no way for the UI to become more ass-ugly after 7.0. I was wrong... now it's in pastels.))

[Permalink 2003-03-10] A Geek, From a Family of Geeks

March 10, 2003:

A few days ago I got an e-mail from my sister. Somehow, her and her husband had gotten on the subject of The Wrath of Khan and she amazed him with the fact that she knew the Reliant's "prefix code" (a kind of combination lock for the ship's computer, in this case 16309). He didn't believe that I was an even bigger geek; so she posed the same question to me.

I responded by quoting the scene. Since then, we've shot about half a dozen e-mails back and forth, with a few "finish this line" questions. No fair checking IMDB or watching the scene in question. So far, the only one who's been stumped was her, and on one line.

Sad, isn't it?

[Permalink 2003-03-07] Quiz Time

March 07, 2003:

Saw this quiz on WWDN. For the most part it isn't too far off. Not too sure about me being an extrovert though. Answers below:

Myers-Briggs would say that you are an ESTJ (Extrovert, Sensor, Thinker, Judger). In Star Trek language, you share a basic personality configuration with William Riker and B'Elanna Torres.

People like you are generally quick decision makers, organized and efficient. Your personality is charismatic, friendly and energetic, but you take life seriously and can be a little opinionated on your own turf. You're extremely outspoken when you feel you're in the right. You have great trouble dealing with people who are dishonest and/or disorderly.

You're highly productive, realistic and sensible. Somewhat of a traditionalist, you're distrustful of new and untested ideas, and you're more than a little blunt telling others how you feel about them, or about whatever other faults you see. When you give a compliment, however, you mean it.

Your primary goal in life is doing the right thing, and being in charge. Your reward is to be appreciated by others and have your opinion respected. You also enjoy having others willingly follow your orders.

Good careers for your type include being a command officer, pharmacist, teacher, and personnel manager.

But what's this about me being opinionated? :)

[Permalink 2003-03-06] French "Military" "Power"

March 06, 2003:

True_nihilist posted a link to this site on Shields's LJ not too long ago. It rocks :)

[Permalink 2003-03-04] Well, Whaddaya Know

March 04, 2003:

For some reason I've started cooking more frequently. Don't get excited; my idea of "cooking" here is broiling a porkchop or two, making some instant potatoes, and boiling a bag of frozen corn. But still, it's more involved than the usual "remove plastic tray from box, throw in nuker" method of food preparation.

At this point, I'd usually say something stupid like "now that I'm eating slightly better, let's see if I lose any weight." But now I know better, and changing from hyper-preserved chicken nuggets to a ½-inch thick pork chop isn't solving any problems, especially while I keep sucking down Twinkies and Chips Ahoys.

I do feel better, though, eating something that doesn't come pre-prepared. On the other hand, I'm annoyed at having to do the dishes more than once a week.

[Permalink 2003-03-03] A Not-So-Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

March 03, 2003:

Fred Rogers died late last week. I'm not sure what I want to say; probably something between the Post-Gazette's quasi-eulogy and Shields's "thank you for always reminding me what a beautiful day it was."

I don't remember much of actually watching the show -- I was, after all, pretty young at the time -- but I remember feeling a bit more relaxed while I was watching. Mr. Rogers was just a nice guy who shared his imagination with the kids. There were no catchy ditties to help you remember the numbers or alphabet, no skits to make an educational point. Just a nice guy.

And he will be missed.

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