Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Idealism" and Mr. Snowden

I've sat on this post for a year for no particular reason than seeing if my opinions (apparently informed by my own 'idealism') had changed at all over 12 months.  They have not.  Without further ado...

Originally written 7/3/2013

A co-worker was discussing the topic of 'idealism' and how it related to young people, their mistakes, and Mr. Edward Snowden.  To quote my co-worker:
I think what Edward Snowden did was criminal.  He is not a do-gooder.  He exposed things that will cause Americans to be injured or killed. His idealism is self-righteous and it is that self-righteousness that caused him to be blind to the facts that what our government is doing is not illegal (apparently) and all other governments in the world do the same things to us.

As young people, you are prone to idealism and opinion. You should always be aware of its dark side especially in your professional lives.  Things are not always as they seem from your perspective and rarely do you have all of the information required to pass judgment as Edward Snowden has done on our country. Do your research and understand the facts before stating your opinions.
My co-worker's statements infuriated me because I thought he missed the vital point - if not Mr. Snowden, who?  Someone needed to reveal what the NSA was doing.

My response to my co-worker:

I totally understand and agree... yet I completely disagree.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton (?)
I’ve been thinking a lot about this.  On one hand, you can argue that Snowden is hurting people or exposing us to undiscovered attacks by revealing these programs.  Based on what I’ve recently read, 70% of people already assumed the US government was already doing this (sort of sad – even we’ve joked about it).  Second, it doesn’t really change anything other than making people more aware that they are being monitored by an agency which has the potential to abuse their seemingly growing and basically unlimited power.  Add in the fact that there is absolutely ZERO oversight and you have a recipe for the darker sides of human nature to emerge.

Society has a bit of a double standard here.  Let me explain.  As I frequently do, let me take us back to WWII and the Nazis… which is probably the last time anyone really gave a shit about abuses of government.  But let’s skip the BS that we know happened and jump to the end – the Nuremberg trials.  Once the world was informed about the atrocities committed by Germans against the Jews, etc., people asked the individuals on trial “How could you do this?  How could you not say no?”  The answer given was, “I was just following orders!”  We know how this ends.  They were found guilty and executed specifically because they chose to follow the morally questionable orders, and I quote Nuremberg Principle IV:
The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
Thus it has been made clear that thinking, moral men have an obligation to resist their commanding officers and the orders of their superiors.  
The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke (?)
 I totally agree with this.  The morality of men needs to make a stand especially in the face of blatant evil or even questionable thinking.  We have an obligation to ourselves and others for if we individually do not ‘hold the line’, who will? 

Let us come back to the NSA and Mr. Snowden.  Is he a douchebag?  Quite possibly.  I do not think he personally is a hero (this is where I totally agree with you); however, I do think that someone needed to serve in the role of whistleblower to publically announce this to us and the world.  Question is, what happened?  Did he see or hear something that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back?  All involved are morally obligated to do it yet so few have.  That says volumes about the questionable morality of the organization.  This same mentality was applied to the SS which was full of “nobility, aristocracy, and … street thugs.”

So I end with the moral questions at the root of this:

I could talk about how soldiers and contractors in Iraq have had their ‘protections’ totally removed and are legally responsible for all kills (as was mentioned in the Chris Kyle's American Sniper).  Why do we hold soldiers engaged in combat with enemy combatants to a higher sense of morality than our intelligence officers who have admitted to spying on everyone and not just enemy combatants? 

The language used to describe and the viciousness with which we have pursued Snowden is indicative of the brutish nature of our own government and the supporting governments of the world.  I won’t get into black sites, rendition, and Guantanamo, but it’s clear that the governments are willing to allow (almost) anything when someone stands against them… even though Snowden’s only crime was telling the truth.  Again, where is the line?

Fittingly for the 4th of July, I will end with an over-used quote from Mr. Franklin:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin


Note:  I put (?) at the end of the quotes because… who the hell knows who said it.  But all good quotes regardless.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Over $80k in my 401k!

I'd like to thank myself for reaching this milestone (it's a milestone to me). I managed to accomplish this by going 66% cash in March 2008 (after Bear Stearns). After sitting in a money market getting 3%, I moved 90% of my cash into my 401k's brokerage account and re-entered the market in March 2009 (Thanks to the guys at DailyWealth - Dr. Coppper said it was time to buy!)

Since that time, my picks - mostly US Large Caps with good dividends (KO, MCD, PEP, MO, etc), a mix of energy stocks with a focus on natural gas and pipelines (TYG, PBT, NAT), and some REITs (O, NLY) - managed to acheive a nice year to date return of 16.11% while the best Principal fund - ironically, the real estate fund due to its heavy weighting of banks - has managed to only acheive 6.64% YTD. In fact, most of the other Principal funds have negative returns - including the US Large Cap! I guess I picked better companies than they did...

The S&P 500 is basically flat with a 0.71% yield to date.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Analysis: GM files to sell shares to the public

See the original story at CNN. GM files to sell shares to the public Check this line: "In order to get back most of the taxpayer money spent on the bailouts, stock needs to be sold to investors."

Isn't this kind of bullshit? Let's do some math. According to the article, the US government owns 60.8% of GM's 500 million common shares. 60.8% of 500,000,000 is 304,000,000 shares. Population of the US? 307,006,550 as of July 2009. In other words, basically every citizen of the US ALREADY OWNS 1 share of GM!

Taking more statistics from the article, the US invested $50 billion into GM, but will need to net approximately $67 billion in order to breakeven. Given the $67 billion price tag, the 304 million common shares the US Treasury is holding will have to be valued at approximately $220/share so that the US holdings can reach breakeven. Seriously!? $220 per share for a US car maker!?

In order to pay back the US citizens, we need GM to go public in order to get more money from US citizens - and possibly other investors? Uh... I'll just take this $1 from my left hand and place it into my right hand. Now I'm $1 richer!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

When I'm asked what brand of laptop to buy, I answer Dell. Here's why:

Honestly, I’d buy a Dell – in fact I have for personal use, and I make the same recommendations to any client. Reason: hardware support. With a laptop, it’s not a question of IF it’s going to break but WHEN. In the case of Dell, you can call them, and depending on the type of support you purchased, they will come to you and fix it. With all other vendors, you’re screwed. You have to take your stuff to your 'computer guy' (which is never guaranteed), the morons at Best Buy (which is worse), or MAIL it back to the manufacturer (hope you don’t need a computer for several weeks). In all of the non-Dell examples mentioned above, you’re without your equipment for an extended period of time, and you will have out of pocket costs. That’s all covered if you buy support from Dell.

Dude, you’re getting a Dell.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Trans-racial Adoption. What's the Big Deal!?

Trans-racial adoption: that's right folks, after almost a week, I turned the TV on. And what's the first thing I see? I saw some black woman bitching that Sandra Bullock shouldn't have been able to adopt a non-white child because it would further isolate the child from black culture.

Ok, does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this? For decades we have heard that blacks were excluded from white culture because The Man was attempting to subjugate blacks. Now that people are adopting black kids, blacks are complaining that these black children will be excluded from black culture.

I call bullshit. Did anyone complain when lots of Asians (Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese) children were being adopted by whites and 'isolated' from Asian culture? No. This is just yet another case of the double standard. Maybe the 'black culture' is afraid these new (non-black) parents will provide a better future for the black children than 'black culture' would have. In their twisted world view, The Man is once again buying blacks.

Anyone else see the hipocrisy of these people who constantly dwell on the racist nature of whites but insist on keeping the races separate!? "Integrate but Segregate" is impossible. Let's mix everyone together. As Warren Beatty's character said in Bullworth, "Everybody just gotta keep fuckin' everybody til they're all the same color."

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Anyone Else Screwed by 1-800-Flowers?

Now that Mother's Day is here, has anyone else noticed or experienced the grand disparity between what 1-800-Flowers shows online and what the local florists actually deliver? It was so bad this year that I'm contemplating starting a campaign to run them out of business. Either 1-800-Flowers is misrepresenting their product (and stealing from me) or the florists aren't delivering (and therefore stealing from me). And what's the golden rule? Don't F&%* with my money!

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Monday, April 26, 2010

GPS Nav Systems, Google Maps, etc are so 1491!

All GPS-based navigation are stupid. They assume the world is flat and that you, the traveler, are nothing more than another 2 dimensional object traveling across this flat plane. What is the problem? More and more trucks and freight haulers depend on GPS-based nav systems to get from location A to unfamiliar location B quickly. However, an area like my home town which is dotted with low clearance railroad overpasses presents truckers with an obstacle that they do not know about until it's too late. In many cases, they have to stop (which jams traffic) and attempt to turn around or back up which causes even more traffic issues.

My solution is twofold: 1) GPS-based nav systems and Google Maps should allow you to enter a vehicle / payload height setting. For most trucks 14 feet would be the height. 2) All of the public domain, civil engineering data for bridge and overpass heights should be included as a layer on the maps.

THEN, you as a traveler could specify your vehicle's height and the nav systems would be smart enough to route you AROUND the low clearance obstacles. Not only would that make shipping more efficient, it would also reduce the number of traffic jams and pissed off drivers.

I give this idea freely to the 'ether' in hopes that someone implements it and makes my life easier. But just remember, I thought of it. :-)

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Downingtown's Finest Residents at the US Post Office

Me being me, I kept The Man at the PA Dept of Revenue waiting for my tax return. I mailed it tonight using the Automated Postal Center. Long story short - a stream of about 10 to 12 people came in while I was mailing my stuff. Each one asked, "Is this a post office where you can mail taxes?" I replied, "Sure. If you use the APC, it will definitely be postmarked 4/15/2010."

What responses did I receive from the people? Here's a list: "Oh, do you work here?", "Fuck me!", "Fuck that!", "Fuck them!", "Fuck this!", and last but not least, "FUCK!"

Seriously residents of Downingtown, is it that hard to figure out how to mail something? I mean, I assume you've mastered the touchscreen at Wawa.

Continuing the topic of bad customer service

Continuing the topic of bad customer service: I was at Sloan Ford yesterday for an issue, and I overheard a conversation. It seems someone brought a Saturn to a Ford dealership because they were having headlight issues. Since GM crashed, the local Saturn place closed. Now, the person could have taken their Saturn to a GM dealership for service, but they went to Ford - whatever. The one guy at Sloan said, "Can't they read the fucking sign in the parking lot?"

Slightly understandable reaction - but this just goes to show the issue: Once you dread your customers, you are doomed to fail. After GM crashed and closed it's local Saturn location, Ford MAY have been able to pick up some service... after all, cars may be different, but they're not COMPLETELY different. Instead of seeing the positives and attempting to expand their market, they berate potential new clients.

I'm sure this positive story will help motivate others to go to Sloan Ford for their friendly service.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Anyone else see the previews for Kick Ass?

Anyone else see the previews for Kick Ass - the new movie about common people who decide to be super heroes? Is anyone else hoping that this movie inspires the 'moronic but motivated' losers to attempt to fight crime? Maybe we can get a trifecta: 1) eliminate some stupid people (save on unemployment), 2) eliminate some criminals (reduce need for police), and 3) reduce the number of new people seeking healthcare! My God, is it possibly that easy to solve our budget problems?

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Looks like this baby is in my future. Amazon is selling it for the unpublished price of $1799 while Best Buy and others are selling it for $2199.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Porn in the USA

I love late night random thoughts... and so it begins:

In the US, mainstream porn is divided into two very general categories: hardcore and softcore. During my years as an American male, I have consumed enough porn to notice a few things.

First, what is the big deal about porn? How can something as basic as the act of reproduction be considered so dirty or sacred while at the same time garnering almost rock star status for its cast members? In many ways, porn culture and porn style are as pervasive as rap culture and rap style. Is Jenna Jameson really that much different than Jay Z?

Second, what is America's puritanical problem? Sex is sex. Every living creature does it... so what's the big deal? Some say sex for entertainment is wrong. What are the issues: people, videotaped or photographed, performing a natural act. Why isn't football immoral? Why isn't modeling wrong? Why aren't hunting and fishing shows wrong since they show murder on TV?

I think the root of this lies in America's self-loathing, puritanical belief system. This concept, that we as creatures are somehow more holy than any other creature simply because we are capable of reasoning is insane. We show dog's humping people's legs on America's Funniest Home Videos. Why isn't that considered beastiality? What about all of the animal porn on Animal Planet? Sure, that may be considered educational. Some have claimed that porn is educational - or corrupting just like rap music. Either way, it's entertainment. If we are the beings of reason that we claim to be, what's the problem. I listen to rap, but I don't kill people. I watch porn, but I don't rape people. Bottom line, grow up. If it is evil, hiding it does nothing more than increase its taboo factor which drives more people to it.

A very liberal opinion from a supposedly conservative person, right?
Again, we are all free people. Free to do what we want as long as it does not prevent any other person from doing what he or she wants.

Third, let's take a turn away from philosophy and toward content.
Studios and actors:
Hardcore porn is typically run by large studios starring a handful of well known actors. Softcore porn is also run by large studios or co-branded with TV networks (such as Cinemax), but it typically stars unknown actors.
I find this to be the most interesting point of all which is why I have separated it from actors. While hardcore porn is typically filled with your stereotypical bimbos (platinum blonde hair, fake breasts, etc) and your stereotypical porn studs (all in good shape, all spray tanned, California / surfer types, etc), softcore porn seems to be staffed by normal, every day looking people. Equal opportunity porn? Maybe women who want breast implants should watch some softcore to see that yes, even relatively flat-chest women can engage in sex without the need to undergo potentially dangerous, potentially unhealthy, and expensive cosmetic surgery.
Plot and production:
While all porn typically has low production value, hardcore, large studio porn (aka big box porn) tends to have larger budgets and therefore better sets. Some porn has even gone high tech with the latest CGI (such as Pirates). Plots are often secondary. Softcore porn has less room with sex, so they have to do more with plots, sets, etc. In many cases, most softcore porn such as what airs on Cinemax is almost no different than any other soap opera or weekly television show - except is has sex. However, recent offerings on FX, HBO, and Showtime have blurred the line between regular shows and softcore.
Sex acts (aka perversion level):
Given the rather strict rules placed on softcore porn by the networks (no penetration, no oral sex, no genitals, etc), softcore porn is pretty vanilla sex. In fact, I have seen more graphic sex acts on FX, HBO, and Showtime - and not on Cinemax.

My point is: what's the big deal about porn? It seems that 1) we all have sex and 2) our entertainment is increasingly becoming sexual, we might as well knock down all remaining boundaries and take it to the next step. What is that next step?

In the end, I think most people are offended by porn because it presents a level of play that few are capable of acheiving in their daily lives. This is no different than people who play football or baseball as a hobby but would not be able to play the sport professionally. Armchair quarterbacks... armchair porn stars. In that way, maybe porn can motivate the common person to engage his or her sexual partners in a more interesting way - up their game a bit. After all, if sex is entertainment, it might as well be enjoyable to all parties involved.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

WTF: Iranian Hackers, Baidu, and Google? Oh my!

This week, a group of hackers claiming to be the Iranian Cyber Army attacked Chinese search engine Baidu. (See FT article)

Doesn't that sound odd? Why would Iranian hackers target a Chinese search engine?

Allow me to put on my thinking cap: I ask, "What other news do we have about Baidu this week?"

Google is threatening to leave the Chinese market after failing to overtake Chinese-based search engine Baidu! (see Forbes article) So, the Iranians attacked Baidu because the Iranians a) hate China or b) love Google?

I suggest c) It's a false flag attack. Allow me to explain:
1) The definition of a false flag attack. Basically, a 3rd party attempts to create tension between party A (China) and party B (Iran) or cause a conflict between the two that otherwise benefits the 3rd, invisible party. Who is the 3rd party in the Iran, China, X love triangle? I suggest that it is Google.

2) Why would Google want to create problems with China? See the article relating to Google withdrawing from the Chinese search market.

3) Why would Google want to create problems with Iran?
Google: Iran can't control the net
Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Jewish) are both supporters of Israel, and we all know Israel and Iran aren't friends.

Conclusion: My 30 seconds of paranoid thinking have connected some headlines (one of which makes no sense -Iran attacking a Chinese search engine) and some facts gathered from wikipedia to come to this: Google conducted a false flag attack against its Chinese competitor (Baidu) under the guise of the Iranian Cyber Army in order to 1) weaken its competitor and 2) motivate Chinese hackers (aka the Chinese government) to counter-hack Iran which helps US & Israeli interests in the Middle East.

Call me crazy, but that makes more sense than the Iranian Cyber Army attacking Baidu for no reason.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My God, it's been almost a year.

My God, it's been almost a year since my last post. Sure, I could use the usual excuses of 'no time' and 'work got in the way', but the reality of it is that I believed that Facebook would be the end of blogging. Now I find myself almost 12 months later recognizing that Facebook, along with most other social networking sites, basically sucks. Although Facebook is the best social networking site to date.

I find that I no longer post about stupid things that I see or read, no longer do movie reviews, no longer talk about issues that interest me or I think would interest others.

Basically, I've let Facebook shut me down and turn me into a consumer of voyeurism and not anything of substance. Facebook is the digital equivalent of the magazine stand at the grocery store. What's the National Enquirer say today!?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Obama: Come and Get Your Tea Bag!

I love

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Monday, March 16, 2009

DVD on Media Center

Quick post about hard drive based DVD playback on Vista (or Windows 7) Media Center.

On computer / file system:
Create a central DVD folder - D:\DVD\
Create folder for each DVD
Move all .VOB and .IFO files to the main movie folder
Find movie box art and save to main movie folder as 'folder.jpg'

In Media Center:
In DVD Library, add watch folder - D:\DVD\ (and all sub folders) or some equivalent

Original inspiration / sources

Hack Vista and Media Center to make the best digital DVD library EVER!
How to Play your Ripped DVD vob Files in Vista Media Center

Other Media management packages

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Con of Religion

... my stream of consciousness rant brought about by a sermon I heard which started off with, "I know your future. You're all going to die."

Although I come from a decidedly Christian upbringing, I was always allowed to explore all religious and philosophical concepts. In college, I continued this trend and minored in Philosophy. Unfortunately, I constantly found that people just didn't like to hear what I had to say or what I wrote. I find it hypocritical that the people who preach love and openness are often the most mentally closed off individuals. If you challenge them in any intellectual fashion, they fail to engage rationally, and instead, resort to the trappings of emotion.

Just look at all of the world's religions. I am not the first person to state this, but more people have died in the name of 'God' than any other cause. By definition, at least one side of the table is wrong. However, I have an idea: BOTH ARE WRONG. How can a religion which teaches that murder is wrong preach death to non-believers? You are your brother's keeper... unless he's a homosexual - then he's doomed to burn. Judge not lest ye be judged! Yet the religious constantly judge EVERYONE!

And it continues. Most organized religion is nothing more than an organized brainwashing, self-help session. Sin six out of seven, repent on the seventh... good to go for another six. YEAH! Religion is the ultimate video game. Just hit reset. And keep poppin' in those tokens 'cause the church needs the cash! Why does God cost money?

At this point, people may believe, "Nate's evil!" or "He's a Satanist!" or some other absolute bullshit. Anyone with reason and intelligence will notice that I've spoken of 'religion' to this point and not 'spirituality.' My entire life-concept is built around two very easy to understand spiritual concepts or 'laws.'

1) Creativity and creative acts/thoughts/ideas/energies are good.
2) Conscious, willfully destructive acts/thoughts/ideas/energies are bad.

Everything in life can be placed into this VERY simple framework. You will note that both laws require consciousness. In this way, we can immediately solve the 'animals commit murder, so why can't humans' BS that some moron will bring up. You show me an animal that is capable of consciously selecting and killing a target for any reason other than food or defense. Anyway, back on track. All of the commandments in religion can be boiled down to these two laws. It explains why murder is wrong.... stealing is wrong.... adultery is wrong... etc. Those are all consciously destructive acts on the part of the person committing them. But notice the most important part - it required the individual to consciously THINK about the action at hand.

This brings up the most important part of my problem with religion. All too often, religion is used as a tool to shirk off responsibility. How often have we heard, "Sorry to hear... but it was part of God's plan." Do you really think God consciously plans to kill people? If so, that sounds pretty damn evil given my Law #2. In reality, people just need to accept the very simple fact: shit happens. "The Lord works in mysterious ways" is just another way of saying, "I have no idea." Just admit it. Is it really that bad to admit that you have no idea?

However, here is the turning point. People tend to react in at least one of several ways:

1) Prayer
Some people will pray . Yes, let's request the services of a supposedly already over-worked diety. Ever see Bruce Almighty? People pray for the dumbest shit. On the flip side, directed energy and postive thoughts can affect positive results. Studies have shown that 'loved' plants grow better than 'hated' plants. Regardless, I would rather choose to share my love and healing energy with someone than simply 'pray-in' another work request and pass the buck to God.

2) Do nothing / apathy / fear / self-imprisonment
Seriously... how many people fall into this category? "Oh, it's too big for me. I'm just a ...." Who created most of the problems we currently face? We did! If we caused them, we can solve them. At this point, we witness the true failure of mankind. Our power lies in our ability to create... create solutions, cures, treatments, etc. Every problem is a chance for mankind to rise up in the face of adversity. To take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for our past, present, and future and decide to do something beneficial for ourselves and the rest of humanity. Or you can willfully choose to shackle your creativity and occupy your rotting mind with entertainment and other distractions.

You can do whatever you will as long as your will does not impact upon someone else's will. In many ways, this is a reference to Aleister Crowley's "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."

... and the thoughts pass and the stream shifts...

My point is this: We, and only we, are fully responsible for the world we live in each and every day. If you do not like it, then do something about it. Don't just pray for a fix or donate some cash, and then go about your day. Actually do something. Think about the problem. Put yourself in the position of those less fortunate than you. Think about the issues facing our country and the rest of the world. Think about the injustices committed against those who view themselves as too weak to affect change.

If religion is so good, then why does the Catholic church own more land than any other organization? Why have so many children been sexually abused at the hands of these religious people? Why do starving African people have to become Christian in order to receive our food?

In the end, the great con of religion is that it exists purely to control individuals and saddle them with guilt, doubt, uncertainty, or confusion in order to prevent them from self-realization. Ever notice how the ferocity with which religion is embraced by a group is equivalent to the desperateness of the people involved? Christians tend to be pretty wishy-washy except the Evangelicals who tend to come from the poorer sections of the United States. Indian's caste system is reinforced by a religion that attempts to explain why so many of them end up living in poverty (karma). And in the Middle East, Islamic 'extremists' are willing to kill themselves in order to prove their point. And this is all validated by their religion!

No matter what your situation, you can be sure that religion has a way of explaining why... Some way to pass responsibility to some imaginary force or diety. Unfortunately, the explanation is used to control the people. Imagine India revolting against poverty and the caste system. Imagine the people of the Middle East finally deciding to rid the region of the dictatorships of Saudia Arabia and Israel. Imagine the people of the United States standing up and realizing that the Declaration of Independence has granted us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Our mainstream media has proven quite effectively that fear can be used to guide, shape, and control the masses far more effectively than any other force.

Otherwise, one has to ask, "Is this really all there is?" If you truly believe in God or the concept of a higher power, then how can you possibly believe that whatever you are doing is what you were meant to do with your life. We can do better! It is our responsibility to ourselves and the rest of humanity to engage our creative gifts and strive to do our best.

If interested, please see some of the movies or read some of the books listed to the right of this post. And remember, if you start to feel an emotional pain, ask yourself "Why?" Challenge yourself to understand why you feel and think the way you do.

Lao Tzu in his Tao Te Ching says "Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment. Mastering others requires force. Mastering the self requires strength."

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fake Band Names

One of my otherwise useless hobbies is coming up with fake band names.

Doug and I had originally created Creme Brulee as our satirical 'rap / boy band' offering. Each member of the group would be nicknamed after some dessert or sweet.

Today, however, I believe I topped myself. I've unofficially launched a our new satirical 'rock / metal band' named Bucket of Pudding.

In the grand scheme of merging rock and rap (see Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc), I can assure you that Creme Brulee and Bucket of Pudding will be working together in the near future.

And that is why we need Eddie Van Halen!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Activity to Prevent Brain Rot: SQLBackup v0.2

Over the past couple weeks, I've spent an hour or so putting together a quick and dirty application to backup some of our databases which reside on an instance of SQL Server 2008 Express. If you know anything about SQL Server Express, you know that it doesn't include or allow maintenance plans (such as scheduled backups) because MS has crippled the SQL Agent service.

... hence the reason I started writing my own little app.

I started with some MSDN code and tidbits I found on other web sites. The first iteration connected to the SQL Server using hardcoded values and backed up every database. Not exactly the best method, but remember - I said quick and dirty.

I just finished the second iteration of the app. Instead of backing up all databases on the server, it takes individual database names via command line arguments. This way, I gain a little more control over what databases I am backing up.

What's next?
Not sure. However, I know that I eventually want to get to the point where this app is managed via a little form/console, can run as a Windows service, and stores all of its configuration and database information in an XML file - with encrypted values for the database credentials.

Is that really complicated to do? No. But it gives me little nuggets to work on so that I can prevent my brain rot from becoming fatal.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs)

What are MLPs?
MLPs are corporate structures that behave similar to trusts. Much like trusts are built around natural resources (oil, coal, timber, even real estate), MLPs are built around resource distribution - namely pipelines: CO2, natural gas, oil, etc. Essentially, all of their income is distributed to unit holders - aka, you. Since this is a cash distribution and not a dividend, different tax rules apply.

Good Intro:
Master Limited Partnership - Great Dividend Savers
MLPs behave similar to dividend paying stocks except they're not. There are tax issues to deal with... not for the weak of heart.

Ready for a deeper dive?
Discover Master Limited Partnerships
So, you decided to trip down the rabbit hole? Well, if you are willing to deal with the tax implications, it's possible to own and hold MLPs your entire life. If so, you can get away with never paying tax on the cash distributions. Your heirs will also be lucky enough to inherit your MLPs with a cost basis based on the date of your death - not the date of your original MLP purchase. Extra bonus!

Want to get REALLY deep? 100 pages of MLP love.
Wachovia MLP Primer 3rd Edition

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