Archives » December, 2002

December 31, 2002

Culture of Fear

Let’s say I’ve been given a choice. The choice is:

  1. Terrorism
  2. Airport workers feeling up pregnant women and arresting their husbands for getting offended

Honestly, I’d rather have the terrorism. This story just highlights what I’ve been noticing, that we are becoming an increasingly paranoid society here in America. Everybody is sure, sure, that the terrorists are out there, just waiting to grab us. A culture of fear is growing in this country, and it’s being spearheaded by our President and his new Department of Homeland Security. And what you end up with is citizens, normally rational and sane, now confident in the knowledge that one day there will be a biological attack, and we’re all going to end up huddling in clinic with our family, waiting to get a smallpox innoculation.

I never used to fly anywhere anyway. It’s too expensive and too much of a hassle, and when you drive you arrive at your destination with your own car and a ton more luggage. But these days I’m even less likely to fly. Now airports have longer lines, double the number of security personnel, and huge machines that scan every piece of baggage. And who is going to end up paying for all of it? Ticket holders, of course. Travelling long distances, a task that should be getting faster and cheaper as technology improves, is actually getting slower and more expensive, all because nobody trusts anybody else after the last fifteen months. More than that, though, what I hate about flying is that airports are where the new attitude of the government is most visible. These days, everybody is guilty until proven innocent. Everyone has a gun in their pocket and a bomb in their suitcase, until they’ve been personally checked and cleared of the charges. A country where people check pregnant women’s breasts for explosives is not a country I want to live in. The assumption of guilt makes me sick to my stomach, and if it’s an indication of what we have to look forward to in the New Year and beyond, it’s going to be a long century indeed.

I actually feel less safe flying today than I did two years ago. I’m not afraid of terrorists, but I’m afraid of getting arrested for acting “suspicious”. And in the meantime, anyone determined enough can still hijack and take control of an airplane. There isn’t anything they can do to eliminate that possibility. All these security measures do is appease the paranoid and win favor for the officials that enact them, the same officials creating the paranoia in the first place.

December 30, 2002

Big I, little i, what begins with I?

This here article out of New York says that it’s high time for the Internet to drop its capital letter and take its place among the rest of the ordinary, everyday nouns out there.

But, he said, dropping the big I would sent a deeper message to the world: The revolution is over, and the Net won. It’s part of everyone’s life, and as common as air and water (neither of which starts with a capital).

Not only was the article itself actually written, but there has been a fair amount of debate on the topic already. Which only proves that people are feeling particularly bored this holiday season. One person said that internet is a generic term for any number of interconnected LANs, so the big one (The Internet) should be capitalized to signify that it’s the grandpappy of them all. Other people said that common sense would clear up any misunderstandings, as well as the article (the internet compared to just a internet). Someone else said Internet is a proper noun, and should stay capitalized for all time. I say that it’s too early on a Monday to be bikering over such petty stuff.

Anyway, I’m going to keep up the same inconsistency I’ve always had on this site. Internet, internet, whatever. I’ll keep on capitalizing it on a whim like i always have.

December 27, 2002

Flu Zombie

Well, no wonder I was feeling like a zombie. The flu had come to town, and I didn’t realize it until Christmas Eve Afternoon. So I got to spend the holidays with hot flashes and the chills, but I also got to take off work yesterday to catch up on hours of sleep. You win some, you lose some.

And now, my head is still full of ineffective mushy brain matter, but at least I’m feeling much better! And sporting a spiffy new shirt to boot.

December 24, 2002

Web Blah-g

So where have I been? Eight days without writing anything, probably the longest I’ve gone without since I started this gig. Well, I don’t have any exciting stories to tell, just the crushing weight of everyday life. I feel like I’ve been dropped off the edge of the Earth, bounced around the rings of Saturn, and sent to Pluto without a parka. I’ve been going to bed late and getting up early and running around in between. In short – Christmas Time!

Everyone else is just as busy as I am, I’m sure, and probably moreso. But they all seem to handle it differently. People still find the time and energy to write through all of it, and while I may have had the time here and there, I certainly haven’t have the energy. My brain responds to times like these by shutting down; probably not the most helpful thing, but it’s what happens. A fog descends over my thoughts, and creativity is choked off. All production stops. My brain can still consume the ideas of others, but it’s not able to produce its own.

I have one of those lives that looks good on the surface but is tarnished and rusted underneath. I live in a decent house, but I don’t own it and the cats pee on the carpet. I have a good-paying job, but I have credit card debts that take half my pay. I have a gorgeous wife, with cerebral palsy and clinical depression. It’s not that I’m not complaining; I have a good life, but every little thing has a good side that keeps me going and a dark side that gnaws away at me, until my spirit is worn down to a stubby little knob. I’ll keep going — I’m always an optimist, I know things will get better, and I cling to that good side like a barnacle. But when that dark side really gets to chewing on me, my brains curls up and plays dead. I guess it’s a defense mechanism — better to be catatonic than let the depression swallow you.

So some days I’m okay, and some days I’m a zombie. And there’s just been a lot of zombie days these last couple of weeks. So – very little writing. I keep thinking that one day I’ll wake up and it will all be gone – the fatigue, the brain fog – and all that will be left will be creativity, productivity, firing synapses, thought and ideas. I’ll be able to write, I’ll be able to come up with new ideas and designs for this site, I’ll feel inspired all the time – it’ll be like it should.

Until then, though, I’m working on four hours of sleep, the house is still a mess, and we have every living relative in the state coming for Christmas dinner tomorrow. I think my brain is going to take a nap now.

December 16, 2002

Creative Commons

After a few months of letting people see their ideas and play around with them, Creative Commons has officially launched. I’ve updated my Open Content Statement accordingly, with the proper license terms and links.

Mr. Snowy, meet Mr. Blowy. Shake hands, and come out fighting.

This weekend is one of those times where the TV weathermen finally earn their pay. They get to slide by all summer, clueing us in to the subtle differences between “Sunny and 93 on Monday” and “Sunny and 94 on Tuesday”. But when Old Man Winter decides to take a dump in our part of the woods, suddenly it’s all different. Suddenly they’re the star, they’re the Big Story, and the anchorman is bringing them on within the first 30 seconds, instead of squeezing them in between the “America Strikes Back” and “Wacky World of Sports” segments. It is indeed a good time to be a TV weatherman.

And, of course, it’s generally crappy for the rest of us. The wind started on Saturday. It started gently, then ramped up more and more until parts of the area were having hurricane-force gusts. The wooden fence behind our house wasn’t just blown over, it was splintered and blown all over the yard. Good thing I just finished a wire fence to replace it! Two huge trees in our front yard were toppled, landing right in the street. Shingles were flying off our neighbor’s house. In Carson City, the entire roof came off an apartment building.

Plus, that night was the office Christmas party. So, instead of staying safe at home and hoping a chunk of fence didn’t come through the window, we had to venture out into the heart of the beast. I took a nice long hot shower, and afterwards dusk was upon us so I flipped the light switch in the bathroom. Nothing. “Don’t do that,” my wife said, passing by. “The power’s out.” So there we were, getting dressed in the dark, with the winds blowing stronger and stronger outside. I had visions of our car being pushed off the road, driven into a ditch, power lines collapsing on top of us – the typical horrors you see on the news. But the Christmas party waits for no man; we set out into the storm with grim resolve. The first few drops of rain landed on our heads.

There was darkness everywhere. The street lights were out. The stoplights were out. The drizzle had turned into a downpour. Driving through Minden seemed like a journey through a ghost town, darkened buildings passing us on both sides and only a few other cars in the road. Some industrious souls were shining car headlights in store windows. Other buildings seemed absolutely dark and deserted. I wondered, had all hands abandoned ship at the Long John Silver’s? Was everyone at the Pizza Barn huddled in a back room with a solitary candle? Were Baskin Robbin’s employees furiously eating soggy ice cream?

Up ahead, though, we saw the glow of civilization. Minden may have died, but its sister city Gardnerville was alive with electricity. And right there, with neon blazing, was Sharkey’s Casino, our destination for the night. Sharkey’s was hopping, since the only other casino in town, Carson Valley Inn, was running on generators. So we found our way into the banquet room and settled down for some prime rib and good company. As the salads were being served, though, it happened.


Well, Sharkey’s is a casino, so they must have a generator too, right?

We waited. We nervously poked at our Caesar salads under the glow of the emergency lights and continued our small talk. They must have a generator.

Well, I’ll ruin the surprise by telling you that Sharkey’s Casino in Garnderville does not, indeed, have a generator. So we ate our Caesar salad and prime rib by the glow of a few candles and the emergency lights over the exit door. Everyone was able to keep their good spirits, the servers all had flashlights, and apparently the kitchen runs on gas because our food was served piping hot. Some wine was spilled on the tablecloth because people couldn’t see their glasses, and the dinner, for reasons unexplained, came to us on styrofoam plates. But when the power came back on, and we looked down, squinting against the light, at our empty plates, we realized that a good time had been had by all.

When we left, there were two inches of snow on the ground. Actually, after all the rain, it was more like two inches of slush. And the power was still out in Minden. And at our house. And the true geek inside of me could have jumped on the laptop, used the dial-up connection, and written about it right then. But no, that’s not the time for that. That’s the time for lighting a few candles and playing Trivial Pursuit on the couch with your wife. Which is what we did, until the lights came back on in the early morning.

We woke up the next day to find a shattered fence, two dead trees in the street, and a mystery flat tire on our car. But that’s another story.

December 13, 2002

Sodium party!

Sodium party!

This is what happens when you give scientists too much time and money to play around with.

December 11, 2002


“If BRINT doesn’t have it, then you probably don’t need it.” And if it does have it, you probably can’t find it anyway. I need a snowplow to get through all those links.

Why, Santa…

I got an e-mail from Santa this morning. It said “Attract the opposite sex! Who will be sliding down your chimney this year?” This whole naughty/nice thing is so ambiguous these days.

December 10, 2002

Bus of the Future

The City of Reno has unveiled their plans for a high-speed bus stretching the length of Virginia Street, running from the University and downtown to the center of the Shopping District, a distance of about five miles. Now, I’m a fan of mass transit, but a “high-speed bus”, on a “dedicated traffic lane”? That’s a new one to me. It reminds me of Seattle, where you head down into what you think is the subway only to find out that it’s a “bus tunnel”. Why do all the weird ideas involve busses, anyway? This is the freaking 21st century. Where are the Monorails and the PeopleMovers and the moving sidewalks? I feel like I’ve been cheated out of my future. A bus is still a bus, and a “high-speed” bus is just going to give people whiplash as it hits every red light in town.

With the new system, they’re hoping “to tempt folks who normally never would use a bus to keep their cars parked at home.” Well, most people in Reno live on the outskirts, so they’d still have to drive or take a regular bus to the center of town to catch the new bus. It might help people who work at the malls or the casinos—the folks who already take the bus—but I can’t see it drawing in new customers. I’m not the traffic engineer here, though. And the idea of seeing computer-guided bullet-nosed busses cruising down Virginia Street does appeal to my inner geek. It’s not bad as a first step, but the project just doesn’t seem ambitious enough to solve too many problems.