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Monthly ArchiveMarch 2006

News Opinion by Spencer on March 29, 2006

Airport (in)Security


I just came back from my first business trip in over three years and want to talk about airport (illusion of) security. Both airports I had to go through security at upset me and made me really wonder, even more so than ever, are they doing ANY good at all?

First, at the Las Vegas airport they still make you take off your shoes. Airports are not supposed to do that any more, and LAS is the only one that I know of that does. I also say “make” because they don’t leave it as an option. Sure they may say it’s a suggestion, but everyone damn well knows that if you don’t take your shoes off, you’ll be hand wanded and harrassed even further.

At JAX, they don’t ask you to take your shoes off, in fact one person in front of me started to and they told her to leave them on. A little consistency would be nice, but that would be too much to ask. The item that upset me here is the use in a couple of lines (not all of them) of some new ion chamber. I had to go through one today. You step in, place your feet on the yellow mark, and then air gets blown at you from head to toe in little bursts. What the hell does this do??!?!? After being in this machine for about 15 seconds you get to then go through the metal detector. Now going through one machine isn’t enough, you have to go through two? I have no idea what happens in the ion chamber or what it is checking for if anything, but it is very disturbing.

Of course this brings up the entire subject of airport security to begin with. Our rights are being trampled on for the name of security and the airports are the most blatent evidence of this. I have to submit my personal belongings and myself to possibly extensive searching, yet I don’t complain. I’m told to take my shoes off and dance like a monkey (well, not really about the monkey part) and I do it without question. The TSA has complete control and they know it. Why? What if I say something? Complain? Yeah, straight to even more searching and probing and a visit to that back room for questioning. So I say and do nothing but what they ask. And you know what? So do you!

When are Americans going to say enough is enough? Profile!!! Is an 80 year old grandfather and his wife really a threat? Should they have to go through this hassle. Should the rest of us? It’s all an illusion of security; an attempt to make you feel safer. But at what cost? First, we’re not any more secure and second we lose our personal liberty during that time. Large cost, no reward, no thank you.

“But they are trying to make things safer?” I understand that, and they have good intentions despite trampling our rights. But remember, when 9/11 happened, the terrorists used legal items in their attack. The appropriate solution was taken, make more items illegal on planes, that’s a little inconvenient possibly, but not a huge impact on our liberty. But the rest is all for show. I am not safer by taking my shoes off or going through some ion chamber. I’m not safer when they randomly pick me to rifle through my bags to see my underwear and clothes for the next day. I’m not safer when I see them do the same thing to a little old lady. Should they profile? That’s a much bigger issue that is hard to answer, but if I have to, in a word, yes.

Well, I’m pretty tired from a three day trip to spend 6 hours with a client and fly coast to coast twice. Keep on keeping on and have a great day. Stay safe; you are your number one security protection!

Games by Spencer on March 24, 2006

Old School Video Games

Recently, I’ve had a nostalgic look back on one of my favorite past times as a kid, video games.  I was a Nintendo and SNES fan and played the games constantly.  If it had to do with Mario, Link, or Ryu I was there!

Since it has been so long since I’ve played my most loved games, and my old consoles (if my parents even still have them) are back in Colorado, I’ve started downloading emulators and old ROMs for the games I owned and started playing them again.  A number of observations have arisen.

First, I still love these games.  They are classic and timeless.  The graphics aren’t anything compared to what is available today, but it doesn’t matter, the concept of the games far surpasses most of what is avaiable now.  Second, they have gotten a little easier, but still provide for many hours of entertainment.  Super Mario Bros. 3 has most of my attention at the moment.

In order to enjoy these games a little more, I even used a Christmas gift certificate to Fry’s (for those of you not familiar, Fry’s is an electronics store similar to Best Buy but definitely geared more to the computer geek at heart.  I could spend hours in that store and not get bored… I could also probably spend about $10,000 on computer stuff and peripherals without breakin a sweat) to buy a game pad… one that looks exactly like my PS2 controller.  Ahh, it’s almost heaven.  Being able to play my old NES games on my computer with a controller, rock on!

I’ve got the NES working just fine but am having a little trouble with the SNES, specifically not being able to find Super Mario World or Super Mario Kart, two of the greatest games ever made (Kart almost killed my college career, worst two semesters ever!).  So, I may just have to ask my parents if they still have it and if they can send it to me.  Playing those games on my big screen; I’d never want to leave the house, and I’d be fully entertained during those nights Kylah hast to work.

Another good emulator source is MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator) where you can dowload ROMS for many classic and neo-classic video games that you would find in arcades.  Here my attention sways to Killer Instinct 2.  I don’t know why, but of all fighting games, I’ve liked this one the best.  If I can get it working at home, I’ll be going for those Ultra Combos once again.

Ahh, just thinking back to all of these games puts a smile on my face.  What were some of your old favorite video and arcade games??  Post a comment and tell me all about them.  I’m sure I’ve even forgotten some other favorites.

Have a great weekend all and game on!

Weather by Spencer on March 21, 2006

Thunder Snowstorm!?!?!

I’m just sitting here in my cubical looking over my projects and out of no-where, I hear *crack* *boom*.  Thunder in Vegas!!  This doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it’s normally only during monsoon season in the late summer so this is amazing enough to begin with that I decide to take a look outside to see how much, if any, rain is coming down.

Well you guessed it by the title, I didn’t see rain, but rather a snow/sleet mix.  Again, in Vegas??!?! In Spring?? That’s just crazy!  I’ve seen my fair share of snow, I’ve seen my fair share of thunder showers, but never have I seen snow coming down with thunder before.  It’s freaking me out a little!   After the warm January/February I didn’t think I’d see snow this season, but I have now with thunder to boot!

Of course, like all storms in Vegas, this one too has passed quickly, but it was interesting to see/hear.

Catch you all later!

News Opinion by Spencer on March 20, 2006

3 Years In Iraq

So, today marks the anniversary of our time in Iraq.  The news reports are trying to use this as an attempt to make the entire mission a complete failure and are really touting (hoping, in fact) for an all-out civil war.  Let me give my less pessimistic view.

In 3 years, we have gotten rid of one of the most evil dictators the world has seen since Hitler.  Groups that have never worked together (Kurds, Sunnis, Shi’ites) are at least trying to work together to form a representative government.  The US has lost only 2,400 GI’s.  Of course, any loss is big, but to put things in perspective of wars, this is truly amazing.  If you count all of the American lives that have been lost in car accidents (around 120,000) as well as any number of other sources, 2,400 becomes a much smaller number.  Again, I wish there would be no loss of life, but in this perspective, it is a relatively small number.

Of course, there have been many mistakes and many set backs.  The entire world believed, most likely correctly, that there were large amounts of weapons of mass destruction.  My question isn’t so much of why we haven’t found them, but how did we allow them to get exported to other countries so effortlessly right from under our noses.

On the issue of timing.  In this 30 minute solves everything (e.g. sitcoms) society, people expect and demand that an effort such as this take no longer than a few months to a year to finish.  This is an unreasonable expectation and in no time in the past has a country risen in that short of time.  Even the U.S. took about 11 years to form a constitution from the time that we declared independence.  Germany took well over a decade (and then about another decade after reunification to get back to their full economic prosperity).  Japan took around 40 years to rebuild and become what they are now.  How can we expect to get a country that has been oppressive for thousands of years to change quickly?

Will there be a civil war?  I don’t know.  Should we stay involved if it fully comes to that, I’m of two minds.  We are part of the reason one may start, admittedly, so it is our duty to try to keep the pace.  But civil wars, by definition are ones fought within.  What would have happened if the British had lended a hand to the South during our civil war?  There’s no real way to know.

Remember, we are in this for the long haul, and in time, possibly decades, I believe Iraq can be a source of light in the Arab world.  I support our troops, believe in our mission, and despite some mistakes and set backs believe that everything we are there for is just and right.  Please keep in mind when you hear all of these negative 3 year reports that there is more good going on than is being reported.  Just ask the troops who have been there and you will get a much different story than what you hear on the news.  News is there to make a profit, just like any other business… and good news is not good for profits.  I don’t even need to address how many of these papers / news sources just want to see Bush fall flat on his face (oh well, I guess I did mention it a little )

Have a great day all, and please continue to support and pray for our troops.  Without them, you wouldn’t have the freedoms to do anything that you do, including blogging here on MySpace!

NCAA Tournament by Spencer on March 16, 2006

Games Start Today

The NCAA Tournament starts today!! I’m so excited (and I just can’t hide it). My pool is huge this year, far exceeding my expectations. I have 60 so far and that could still go up in the next few hours. And to think, I almost didn’t do it this year… p-shaw!

Also, I did get my printer working… for the most part… still can’t use HP’s good scanning software so I’m limited there. I think something is wrong with my Windows installer, but since I’m planning on rebuilding the laptop anyway, I’m not worried anymore.

Have a great day all and enjoy the games. I only wish I could take the day off to watch them (I’m sure my wife would love for me to do that! LOL).

Technology by Spencer on March 14, 2006

New Printer Woes

So, my wife and I just bought a new HP All-in-One printer since our other two printers pretty much became unuseable around the same time and I’ve spent all freaking night trying to install the software for it.  I know you probably don’t care, but while I’m trying to download the contents of the CD to my computer (500 MB eek!) I’m going to vent.

5:15 pm – First install – I’m really excited that it has a network interface so that we can print even if our laptop isn’t at it’s dock, that’s just way cool.  The install takes about 35 minutes in all, but isn’t too bad.  I have to reboot and then finish the setup… no problem.  Then I try to use the software to scan and it gives me some BS about having to reboot or re-install.  I reboot just to make it happy and the same thing occurs.  So I try to re-install just that piece but I can’t find an install for just the scanning piece so I uninstall the entire package and try again.

6:00 pm – Second install – Here’s where things really start to go wrong.  I install again and somewhere in the middle the installer crashes, just disappears POOF!  So, I do what any reasonable person would do, I reboot hoping it finished but just didn’t look like it.  Now I can’t do anything but print (no faxing, no scanning) so I’m two steps back.  The software doesn’t even show all the icons I need… so I uninstall again.

7:00 pm – Third install – I reset the printer and everything to their “factory” defaults (funny, the time didn’t clear and the network settings stayed the same, the only thing that changed is Auto Answer was turned back on for the fax).  Re-install a couple of times without uninstalling hoping it would get past it’s crashing point… you guessed it, not a chance.

… (tried this a few more times until…)

8:30 pm – HP Support – I first look up on their website under installation issues to see if I can find my problem(s).  I do, but the solution is uninstall/re-install.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, to me too.  I then try to call HP support.  After being on hold for about 10 minutes someone (who was most certainly not from this country, but that’s another blog altogether) answers and for some reason can’t hear me talk and he hangs up on me!  So as a last resort, I use their chat service and that proved to be utterly useless… he only suggested that I copy the install files to my local hard drive and try the install again.  If it works, kudos to him, but in my experience, I’m not all that convinced.  I did also find some files that may have been trouble and deleted them but again, I’m shooting at straws.

Now – The file is almost finished downloading and is copying from the temp location to my desktop and I will give it ONE MORE TRY tonight.  I’ll let you all know if it works, as if you truly care (and I’ll pretend that you do).

Wish me and my printer luck.  Once it gets working, I think it’ll totally rock!

NCAA Tournament by Spencer on March 10, 2006

2006 NCAA Tournament Pool

Well, after getting a number of requests and knowing deep down that I wanted to, I will be running an NCAA Tournament Pool. If you are interested in participating, send me a message and I’ll give you the web address where you can enter your picks and keep track of results. The pool will open Sunday shortly after the brackets are announced and I’ll accept entries until the first game starts on Thursday (the play-in game will have no effect on the pool deadline).

I’m hoping for a fairly large turn-out between my old job, my current job, and maybe a few from here as well.

NCAA Tournament by Spencer on March 9, 2006

March Madness!!

So, most of the major conferences have started their end of year conference tournaments leading up to the release of the brackets on Sunday. Unfortunately, my beloved Purdue Boilermakers won’t be in the Big Dance again this year. Given that, I am still really excited about the tournament as I am every year.

However, this year will be the first in a long time in which I don’t run a tournament pool and probably won’t participate in one (of course that may change once I get in full swing and if I get enough requests I may run one). This will most likely be a one year hiatus.

Something has gotten me thinking though. The original intent of the NCAA Tournament is to determine the best basketball team in the country. For the most part, I think it does a good job of that. One thing I don’t like is this ‘guaranteed’ bid for all of the smaller conferences. Each winner of a conference tournament automatically gets a bid to NCAA Tournament.

This means that about 20 teams or so that have no chance of getting to the final four, let alone win it get into the tournament and it leaves out many good teams from larger conferences to fight it out in the NIT. Why not change the NCAA format to have only at large bids to determine the field of 64 and then all of the smaller conferences that currently get guaranteed time in a tournament that is clearly outside of their league to make up the NIT Tournament? Really, unless your a fan of the 1 seed in a region, do you really want to see Duke beat up on Fairleigh-Dickinson by 60 points?? Sure, F-D can say that they made it to the big dance, but then they feel like the Broncos when they lost to the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Of course, on years when a school from a smaller conference is good enough (so you could still have your Cinderella stories), they’d get their bid for the NCAA; but for all the rest, they’d have a much more competitive chance against other smaller conference winners in the NIT.

It also, by extension, makes the NCAA Tournament much more competitive and harder to predict and would allow for the actual real possibility of a 16 seed upsetting a 1 seed in the first round. Still unlikely, but not impossible as it is now.

The NCAA has become such a politically correct entity that they feel obligated to give spots away to each conference, even when most, if not all, have no chance of really making things exciting in a game, let alone for the whole tournament. I would rather see the 64 best teams over about 40 of the best teams, and 25 that have no business being there.