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Saturday, September 30, 2006
in desolation a man walks
through unfamiliar territory
with only a map in his head
of how things used to be.

this man looks around
nothing is as it was before
a barren landscape, new
where once there was more.

he tries to find what was there
not seeing what is now
the present
and the reality of his situation.

he claws at the ground
fingers bleeding, tears flowing
as the past
slips away forever.

our man rests
as night falls, few shadows are cast
by the dying sun
except by him
lost and alone in a new world.

Copycat Violence and Video Game Lawsuits

Friday, September 29, 2006
I found a link over on Slashdot about a lawsuit being filed by the victims of a 14-year old killer. Apparently, they're suing everyone under the sun who had anything to do with the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (which I thoroughly enjoyed playing) because this young idiot allegedly "played the game 'obsessively' for several months before he shot his father, stepmother and stepsister in July 2004."

Let's step back for a second here. Obviously we're dealing with a disturbed young individual who's capable of doing http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifreally, really dumb things. This kid shouldn't be allowed to breed, in my opinion. But blaming video game makers for his actions? First off, the game is rated "Mature" by the ESRB. So this is a case where perhaps the parents should have monitored their child's obsessive behavior. Secondly, I still fail to see the link between a game that (perhaps) glorifies violence and some human being's decision to do terrible acts. It boils down to a choice. It was the child's choice to play the game. It was the parents' choice to let him play. The video game maker chose to make the game - but that's how the market works. Anybody can make terrible things; it's up to personal responsibility to decide whether or not to use them.

Of course, the capstone to this farce of a lawsuit is the fact that the lawyer representing the families of the victims (aren't they also the family of the murderer?) is none other than human failure Jack Thompson, who unfortunately combines a fear of the video game industry with a law degree and a disdain for the idea than anyone other than a profitable company can be responsible for the ills in our society.

What do I hope happens? Maybe I'd like to see the "victims" win and take away fun for the rest of us non-killers. Or maybe - just maybe - I'd like to see the court laugh at Jack Thompson and set a precedent that we are responsible (I keep using that word!) for our own actions. We'll see what happens, though... this one probably won't be settled soon.

We're still here... all of us

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
It was pointed out on Slashdot today that it's the 23rd anniversary of the world not ending. It seems that on September 26th, 1983 a lieutenant colonel by the name of Stanislav Petrov was in charge of a missile bunker near Moscow when some Soviet satellites (the space kind, not the breakaway republic kind) sent an alarm claiming that American nuclear missiles had been launched.

Remember Mutually Assured Destruction? If we launch our missiles, they launch theirs, and we all die. If they launch theirs, we launch ours... and we all die. Was that what we really wanted? As contingency plans go, I see MAD as the option everyone wants but prays night after night they don't have to use.

Stanislav Petrov is credited for not using it. In an extremely tense few minutes as his displays were screaming "incoming American missiles" he decided - and passed along the information that the instruments were wrong. We are all still here because someone didn't believe the computer.

At 28, I remember once taking part in "air-raid" style exercise late one night. President Reagan was on the television and alarms were going off outside. I'm old enough to have caught the last part of the cold war and I don't want to experience it ever again. I'm also young enough not to have some deep-seated distrust of Russia - just a rational (I hope) fear of nuclear weapons, of the intense destructive capability that J. Robert Oppenheimer delivered to us like Prometheus disguised as Pandora.

Anyway, Mr. Stanislav Petrov, you have my thanks and gratitude. Thank you for stopping the war machine and injecting intuition into a terrible, terrible situation. Thank you.

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Current mood: Blue

I'm not incredbily happy right now, between life and business school (which is H-A-R-D) I'm having a rough time. I'll survive, I'm sure (I always do) but it's a challenge that I'm having trouble meeting. I guess I just have to find that wisp of optimism out there...

A Fifths Party

Sunday, September 24, 2006
So, being the responsible college student that I now am, I was invited by my brother to go down to Eugene for a "Fifths Party". The idea behind this is that everyone brings a fifth of alcohol to a party and you mix the drinks from there. Not everyone HAS to bring a fifth, of course... some people can bring mixers. The party host generally provides the plastic drinking cups and ice. Such was the case last night, at least...

A collegiate amount of alcohol
I spent Friday night at the beach and, Saturday afternoon, I received a txt message that said "That fifths party is tonight." Being almost broke I decided to spend my last dollars on gas to get the heck down there. Three and a half hours (and 170 miles) later, I'm pulling into my brother's place in Eugene. Yes, I should have been studying but I've been pretty bummed out lately and I wanted to have fun.

My brother and I (and two of his friends) went over to pick up another friend and his friend's girlfriend. The six of us then cruised over to some sleepy house a couple miles away and descended upon some sleepy house like the Devil visiting Georgia. As it turns out, nobody at this party actually lived at the house; the guy who DID live there said we could have it at his place, but he wasn't going to be around (and, we found out, hadn't told his roommates about it.) Nevertheless, we managed to hold a party.

There were about a dozen or so of us there, with people wandering in and out all night. I met some of my brother's friends and engaged in interesting conversations, all while getting far more drunk than I'd planned. What a great party! The hours flew by without me even noticing!

Post-party at (I'm thinking) around 1:30 AM, my brother, his friend, his friend's girlfriend and I (the other two friends that we'd shown up with had left earlier, taking their cars with them) walked over to a place called Muchas Gracias, a 24-hour Mexican food join and proceeded to unwisely devour a few plates of "Carne Asada Chips" (basically nachos) and then head to his friends place, where (for lack of anything better to do) his friend and I watched an episode of the Simpsons while my brother and his friend's girlfriend kinda passed out on the other side of the room.

Yes, folks, you read that correctly. I was not the first person to fall asleep that night!

Eventually we all made it home safely. Of course, when the morning-time came around I had a nice little headache and some dehydration going... and let's not mention the carne asada chips, all right?

The Coup

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Well, it's not often that we see such quick changes in government in a normally peaceful country, but that's what's been going on. It seems that a Thai army general took advantage the UN meeting in New York to kick his country's prime minister out of office. Apparently the Thai prime minister wasn't universally loved.

Today, the Thai king (who is constantly being described as "universally loved" or "revered") endorsed the military leader, who claims he's going to have a new constitution drafted (perhaps to avoid this sort of thing in the future?) and appoint a civilian prime minister in advance of elections to be held next year.

At least it was bloodless. Nobody was killed and that's a "good thing™", but what's the message that this sends? In democratic countries it's NOT okay to just kick out the leader; generally there's a process for this sort of thing that works within the framework of the legal system. I hope this works out. I hope that Thailand can finally build a LASTING constitution that will allow reform and change without military intervention.

Of course, it may be that they're on to something 'cause we here in the USA have been needing a coup for years and we're stuck voting biannually for our leaders.

Yarrr.... a holiday!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Well folks, it's that time of year again. I'll admit that my favorite holiday is Saint Patrick's day, but coming in close behind that is September 19th, the day to celebrate our worldwide heritage and show what we believe in.

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day!

It's a day to exclaim "Avast!" A day to call your friends "me hearties!" A day to make your enemies "walk the plank!" Talk Like a Pirate Day was created to let our inner pirates out, so to speak. So we could talk about "manning the mizzenmast" or "takin' the ship on the high seas". So let in out, friends... er... me hearties, and celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day in style!

Just remember! Dead men tell no tales...


Monday, September 18, 2006
A quick announcement:

It was one leap year ago (no, 2006 isn't a leap year) that I started this little blog of walkingsaint.com with the traditional first post.

Since then I've talked about politics, love, anger, traffic, food, movies, politics, the government, and a lot more. Do I enjoy this? Yes, I do. I've seen the number of hits my blog has gotten grow to over 200 visits a day (I'm thinking that counts web-crawling bots, though.) I can now be found on the first page of google just by punching in my name. I get to write and express myself which is, I believe, valuable. If anyone else values it that's just icing on the cake.

What should we expect in the future? Well, I've already spun off one blog, I've covered most topics I can think of, I've offended just about everyone I know... I'm running out of new ground to explore. But I'm sure I'll find something new soon.

Stay tuned, folks... it's only gonna get better!

A learning opportunity, Mr. President

Saturday, September 16, 2006
President Bush, on Friday morning, addressed the press and the country via a Rose Garden speech and I had the opportunity to listen to it on the radio. Here are some of the highlights that stuck out to me:
[On giving a speech to the UN]: I'm going to talk to world leaders gathered there about our obligation to defend civilization and liberty, to support the forces of freedom and moderation throughout the Middle East.
With all due respect, it seems that supporting the forces of freedom and moderation aren't working for us so far. I know changing your mind isn't one of your strengths, but perhaps we ought to revisit that policy or at least revisit how we're implementing it, 'cause those forces we want to support are getting the crap kicked out of them.
[On the "terrorist surveillance program"/"domestic spying program"]: The principle behind this program is clear: when an al Qaeda operative is calling into the United States or out of the country, we need to know who they're calling, why they're calling, and what they're planning.
Well, we know that when you used that phrase in your last State of the Union address there whttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifas a lot of support for that concept. But I ask this: how do you know it's an al Qaeda operative? If you know ahead of time that they're going to be calling, don't the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts allow you to tap their calls and get permission after the fact? Or do you simply monitor ALL calls and figure it out that way?
[On progress and building democracies]: Of course it's tough in Iraq, because an enemy is trying to stop this new democracy, just like people are trying to stop the development of a Palestinian state, which I strongly support; or people trying to undermine the Lebanese democracy. And the reason why is because the ideologists understand that liberty will trump their dark vision of the world every time. And that's why I call it an ideological struggle.
The problem with that statement is that you ARE declaring it an ideological struggle, a fight against right (that's us!) versus wrong (anybody opposing "right", which is, of course, us). In an ideological struggle there can be no compromise. There can be no middle ground reached. Ideologists don't back down; they hurt other people. We bomb the bejeezus out of them and they kill us in return. The biggest mistake we can make in dealing with "rogue" or hostile countries is to create an unbridgeable gap between us and to give our enemies allies. Yet that's what we're doing and I submit to you that we should change something. Even Colin Powell thinks we're on the wrong track!
[Asked whether he'd use the UN speech as an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attempt to achieve a "breakthrough" in the nuclear negotiations]: No, I'm not going to meet with him. I have made it clear to the Iranian regime that we will sit down with the Iranians once they verifiably suspend their enrichment program. I meant what I said.
Let's refer to what I just said about alienating countries hostile to us. This sort of "do what I say because I have a bigger stick than you" mentality only leads to brinkmanship, a terrible path I don't want our country to go down again.
[On fighting al Qaeda]: The best way to protect the homeland is to stay on the offense and keep pressure on them.
What about not giving them a safe place to operate from? What about building world-wide alliances (not just among countries with white people in them!) to change the climate so that they are the world's enemy, not (perhaps) us? What about building a culture of tolerance around the globe such that the enemy of everyone is al Qaeda? Have we thought about that? I know it's easier to send in the Marines and bomb the hell out of everyone, but it may not be a viable long term solution. Ponder that, please.

All I'm trying to say here is that on matters of foreign policy I disagree vehemently with the President and I don't think (based on his actions and various biographical information that's I've seen and read) that he really ponders these viewpoints or gives much thought to changing his strategy and I see that as one of the major weaknesses in his presidency. His unwillingness to change strategies in Iraq is just one of many examples, and I think it can be shown that he's doing more harm to this country globally than good, yet he won't see it. He won't see it because he so firmly believes (as evidenced above) that he's right and that he speaks for the American people... and he's not, and he doesn't.

Another joke

Friday, September 15, 2006
I heard another great joke today that was in the vein of the last one:

Werner Heisenberg was driving down the freeway when he gets pulled over. The cops asks, "Sir, do you know how fast you were going?"

Heisenberg responds, "No, but I knew exactly where I was!"

Politics on the Internet

Thursday, September 14, 2006
In the latest "that's kinda cool" news, Governor Kulongowski is using YouTube as a way to respond to an attack ad from his gubanatorial competitor, at least according to this KGW.com article (you might have to register to read it.)

It seems that Ron Saxton - the somewhat moderate Republican challenger in this years elections for Oregon state governor - ran an ad critical of Governor Kulongowski. A few weeks later Governor Kulongowski ran an ad on YouTube (very cost-effective!) with a rebuttal. While analysts seem divided on the effectiveness of his ad, this is one of the first times I can remember something like this being done.

Actual politics aside, I fully support this sort of media shift. Different people are affected by different methods of communication. For instance, television ads are pretty ineffective to me because I don't own a television. Email lists are effective, however, because I obsessively check my email. But I'll admit I'm not entirely representative of the population around me.

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Current Mood: Gray

School's pretty overwhelming, with 12-16 hour days being required more often than not. And I'm all alone down here. It's hard. And it's not showing signs of ever getting easier.

A joke

I heard this one way back in college (the first time.)

René Descartes is sitting in a coffee shop one day, philosophizing. The barista leans over the counter and asks him if he'd like anything to drink. René answers, "Oh, I think not."

And *poof*, he vanishes.

God, I love that joke. I laughed so loudly the first time I heard that, yet it never seems to go over very well in parties. Hmm....


Sunday, September 10, 2006
To the shock of no-one that knows me, I'm now single. My ex-girlfriend broke up with me this last weekend. So yeah, now I get to dwell on being brokenhearted and alone.

It's hard being alone. And I am very alone here in Salem. I hate it hate it hate it.

What does the future hold in store for yours truly? Nobody knows, but I can tell you that getting there is going to be a struggle in and of itself. Walking new roads for me has always been difficult (and going to school in Salem is a new road); walking those roads alone is almost always impossible. We'll see if I can make it.

A lesson forgotten

Friday, September 08, 2006
At a place called "Diamond Lake", east of Roseburg, OR (and just north of Crater Lake) the water has been infested with a non-native fish species that destroyed the local ecology and has clouded otherwise beautiful clear waters. The solution, according to this news article, is to poison the water, killing the fish. More native species will be re-introduced the following year.

Gosh, this sounds familiar...

Let's hop in our wayback machine for a moment and study the history of rabbits in Australia. You see, way back in 1859 a couple dozen wild rabbits were set free in Australia.. and within 10 years millions could be killed or trapped per year without significantly slowing down the population boom of a rapidly-breeding animal with no local natural predators. Fast forward almost a century to the significant part of this story, when Australian authorities decided to introduce a highly contagious and deadly disease to their rabbit population. Called Myxomatosis, almost 500 million rabbits were killed. Unfortunately, this left about 100 million rabbits that had a genetic resistance to it... and they kept breeding.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

The state's plan is to release a poison toxic only to fish and kill 90 million of the tui chub in Diamond Lake. Are they sure it'll kill ALL of them? What if it kills 80 million? How long will it take for the other 10 (resistant now to that poison) to bring back the numbers? I'm not trying to be negative, I'm just saying that this better be done right...

Self control

Thursday, September 07, 2006
So it seems that, this morning, we gave the Iraqis control of their own military. This seems pretty significant to me, since part of the condition for our withdrawl is that the Iraqis are able to function on their own. I seem to recall the generals saying that the Iraqis would be ready within "a year or so", but that was in the last month or two. Hmm...

If you recall, the handover of Iraq's government from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Iraqis happened ahead of time. (Great job, by the way - that solved all the problems.) And now, just over two years later, we're handing over the military "ahead of time." So two big events happening two years apart...

Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like these are conveniently timed to happen just a few months before important elections. August 2004 was just in time for the 2004 presidential election, and September 2006 is just before the 2006 mid-term election - and this one's pretty important.

So think about it. If you believe that the time was right for the Iraqis, more power to you. However, if you think there was a larger political subtext for the move... well, you're got company.

YAMB (Yet Another Meaningless Blog)

In an effort to find a forum in which to vent about school (and only school) I've created a new blog (as is the trend these days.)

You can find it at www.burtonsimmons.com.

Yes, I have ANOTHER domain, with my name in it. Yes, that's nerdy. No, I don't care.

I'm not THAT old

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I just had to explain to a fellow student here in business school who the Marx brothers are. Remember them? Those funny guys in black-and-white?

There's Groucho: "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
There's Chico: "Well, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"
There's Harpo: The mute who would cut things, set them on fire, and was a master of physical humor.
There's Zeppo: The straight man.

There are certain events and people in history that shouldn't be forgotten. Albert Einstein. Three Mile Island. Abraham Lincolm. Martin Luther. Martin Luther King, Jr. John F. Kennedy. And the Marx Brothers. Let them not slip into the night!

Some heroes

Monday, September 04, 2006
On my stupid myspace page I was asked (in the "Interests & Personality" section) about my heroes. Of course, there are lots to be had, but I currently have four that I wanted to briefly talk about.

The first is Isaac Asimov. Well known as one of the most prolific writers ever, Isaac Asmiov had a masterful way of explaining the otherwise unexplainable; that magical talent that only a few have of taking a difficult concept and making it understandable and the world was better for having him in it. Oh, he also wrote some great science fiction.

Second on the list is Steve Jobs, the charismatic and occasionally brilliant CEO of Apple Computer. He's well known for being meticulous, difficult, demanding... and for always having "one more thing" up his sleeve.

Third is Tom Shane (online at ShaneCo.com.) His commercials are a steady tide in an otherwise turbulant world; his droll voice a steady and calming influence on the airwaves on many of our cities. Tom Shane is awesome.

Last on the list is Edward Tufte. You can find out more about him at www.edwardtufte.com. He's "the man" when it comes to information presentation, a skill that's incredibly overlooked and underappreciated. Edward Tufte is to graphs and charts what Isaac Asimov was to words; the cryptologist that breaks down the codes for everyone else to understand. Check him out!

So there are some heroes for today - people to look up to, admire, or just find interesting. ...or maybe I just wanted to update this blog, and was looking for a reason.

Apparently, size matters

Sunday, September 03, 2006
In the news this week has been Pluto's demotion from planet to "other". As textbooks have shown for the past seventy or so years, our solar system is made up of nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus (ha ha), and Pluto. Some silly organization by the name of the International Astronomer's Union has crafted a set of rules for the standardization of planetary classification (because we needed more standards) and - with this new set of rules - Pluto is deemed to no longer be worthy of planetary status.

I, for one, and upset by this turn of events.

You see I grew up in the age of the Brontosaurus, a dinosaur I was rather fond of. I grew up with charts and posters of these facts, knowledge I was proud of and could get my growing mind around. Pluto was the farthest planet from the sun (most of the time) and I knew this.

While sometimes the scientific world needs standards and regulations, the world doesn't need needless revision. Official standards for the classification of planets? That's ok. Revising the planetary status of Pluto? Not ok. Pharoah, let my planet go!



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