Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Glass is Half Full

After all the horrible news about the economy, who doesn't want some good news? Looking at the lighter side of unemployment, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis - St. Paul ran the headline "Lost jobs add up to speedier commute". Now that's some optimistic thinking.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Target Audience?

I recently got an account with eHarmony. Please don't laugh. So far it's not too bad. Internet dating sites are kind of weird anyway. There is one very disturbing part, and that is the advertising that pops up every time I log off. eHarmony apparently thinks that I'm fat and wrinkly. I see a lot of weight loss product and wrinkle cream ads. I wonder what the target audience is. Women who feel insecure because they're single? It's silly and a blow to the ego all at the same time. They occasionally throw in an ad for some self-help website that has articles titled 'How to catch and keep a guy'. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I don't really want to 'catch' a guy; I'd prefer it if he came willingly. I wonder if the guys are subjected to similar advertisements.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I May or May Not Have Cheated

It depends on what your definition of 'is' is.

But seriously, I may have cheated on my New Year's resolution to give up chocolate for a year. I have had red velvet cake on a two occasions now, in what I thought was a good alternative to a chocolate dessert. It turns out that depending on which recipe was used, red velvet cake may contain cocoa powder. So, just to be safe, no more red velveet cake. [Shakes fist] Foul temptress cake and your smooth, red deliciousness!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spectacle of Sin

As part of her birthday celebration, one of my friends wants to go to the Spectacle of Sin event at Higher Ground this Friday. The show features music from Amadis, a local metal band, so that's good, but it's also a fetish/BDSM dance party, which I think I would find slightly annoying. These days, I'm much more neurotic than I am erotic.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vermont and Marriage Equality

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions. Today, the Vermont Senate voted to legalize same sex marriage. The vote passed with a 26-4 margin. The vote now moves on to the House, where it is also expected to pass. Governor Douglas has stated that he does not support the bill, but it is unclear whether or not he'll veto it. Even if he does veto, it's likely that the Senate will override.

I've heard several arguments against allowing same sex marriage, but I have yet to hear anything persuasive. I am open to a legitimate argument, however I think that this is a case where there is no real case for the opposition.

The most common argument, by far, is on religious grounds. 'It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve'. Sorry to break it to you guys, but the US is not a theocracy, no matter how much you may want it to be. I do not want to get into a theological argument (I do not want to dump on anyone's beliefs and also I would probably lose that argument anyway, me not being particularly religious). Just keep in mind that our laws are not supposed to be based on any religion.

The religious argument is often followed with 'but they have civil unions, why do they need marriage'. Because a civil union is not the same thing as marriage. Because separate really isn't equal. A case in point, I once tried to help a civil unioned couple do their taxes. It was a nightmare. They had to file their federal taxes as single, since the federal government does not recognize civil unions. Since the state tax return is based on the federal tax return, they then had to fill out a mock federal return as if they were married and use that to complete their state return. That is just one example of the many, many ways that denying the name 'marriage' puts civil unions on unequal ground.

Another common argument against same sex marriage is that it somehow makes a mockery of heterosexual marriage. I have never been told how. I don't think anyone knows. We are all just supposed to agree that a gay couple getting married somehow makes the loving marriage between a man and women somehow not as legitimate. I need to take a poll of people who were married prior to 2000, the year civil unions were passed in Vermont, followed by subsequent same sex marriage acts in a handful of other states. So, people who have been married 9 years or more, do you feel that your marriage took a hit when gays were allowed to marry? Is your marriage less special to you?

And then we come to the other argument against gay marriage: what about the children? The argument goes that men marrying men and women marrying women is just not natural. They're not going to produce children, so why are they bothering to get married? And then the argument devolves into something along the lines of 'you might as well marry a goat'. It's a silly argument. There are plenty of married heterosexual couples who do not have children for one reason or the other. My sister is child free by choice, and yet her marriage is still legitimate. My 58 year old widowed mother is now engaged to a man in his seventies. If they ever do get married, I don't think that they will be having any children. As for marrying animals, that's just silly. Animals, farm or otherwise, cannot consent to legal documents. Homosexual adults, on the other hand, can consent and do have legal rights.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Doing Financially Well During a Recession

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last year or so, the U.S. is in the middle of an economic crunch. Personally, I have fared pretty well so far. I would go so far as to say that I’m doing ‘good’. Certainly, I’m in the best financial shape of my life so far. I still want to improve this in the future, but for right now, I’m doing pretty good.

I understand that as I write these words, I am speaking from a position of privilege. Not everyone has had the opportunities that I have had, and not everyone has fared as well through the current economic crisis. Just bear with me, as I get out some thoughts that have been floating around my head for a couple of months.

Looking around at current news, it seems that it is assumed that everyone in this country is down on their luck. Thousands of people have lost their jobs and we’re hitting double digit unemployment rates. I am not one of those people. Should I feel guilty for doing well financially when it seems everyone else is having such a hard time? Intellectually, I know that the answer is no. I’m not living high on the hog by any means, but I still have a nagging voice in my head when I spend money on ‘luxury items’, such as blu-ray movies or the new computer that I just purchased.

As am example, I was talking with an acquaintance about the new computer. The question of games came up, and I admitted that while I’ll be using the new system for some actual work, I picked out components specifically geared towards playing games, which increased the price significantly. He than made the comment that it must be nice to have money to throw around. I mumbled something and ended the conversation.

My first reaction following that conversation was to second guess myself and try to figure out if I was flaunting my money. No, I wasn't. Somehow the conversation had turned to computers and I mentioned that I had just purchased a new one and that it hadn't arrived yet. The conversation progressed from there. So, yes, it is nice to have some money, but I fail to see why I should pretend to be hurt by the economic crunch when I am not.

Perhaps the theory is that we need to show solidarity with others who are less fortunate and are going through hard times. I find that to be complete bullsh*t. My pretending to struggle financially isn't going to do anyone any good and it probably won't make anyone feel any better, other than in a miserly loves company kind of way.

So why the everyone must be down on their luck attitude? I have come to the conclusion, and I may be completely off base here, that the people hardest hit by the economic downturn are people accustomed to a higher standard of living than I am. I also have a hunch that this is why it has been dominating the news so much. Things get silly when we try to put on struggling airs.

Magazines are filled with articles offering 'money saving tips'. Some of the tips are good, some are silly, and all are aimed at the middle to middle-upper class; people with less money have already learned how to make it stretch and have little else to cut from their budgets.

We now have the phrase 'staycation', meaning people can't afford to take a 'real' vacation and instead stay home during their time off. This, of course, assumes two things; first, that you have a job that allows you to take (assumedly paid) time off, and second, that you could previously afford a yearly trip. I have come to realize that most of my vacations have been 'staycations'.

To top things off, human interest stories abound, all showing previously well off people who have hit hard times. This usually involves a lovely family standing outside of the home that they can no longer afford, with a giant SUV in the driveway, talking about the impending foreclosure of their home. Now, it may be because I am currently very frustrated with my inability to afford my own home, but, seriously? It's never a struggling family that purchased a modest home. It's always a huge house in a lovely neighborhood.

I remember seeing a human interest story last summer on the local news. It involved boaters on Lake Champlain who could no longer afford to buy fuel for their gas guzzling boats. Instead, these poor people were forced to hang out in their boats at the marina, as opposed to tooling around the lake. The story was meant to garner sympathy, but it had the opposite reaction in me.

The thoughts that I'm struggling with are that I, personally, have not been hit by the recession, and for that fact I'm told that I should feel guilty. I also fail to see how pretending to be hurt financially will do anyone any good. Finally, I find it silly and pretentious who we point to as evidence of economic hard times.

I'm interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.

When Religion and Healthcare Collide

During his recent trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI made the statement that condoms may worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

“You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

Instead, Benedict recommends abstinence and “a responsible and moral attitude toward sex” in order to combat the disease. That’s nice. Tell that to the 22 million people living in Africa with HIV.

I really wish that a spiritual leader, supposedly with the best of intentions, would think a little before making asinine comments. First, this wasn’t some offhand comment answering a question on the spot. The questions were submitted beforehand, so the answers were probably prepared as well. Second, not everyone has the ability to abstain from sex, women in particular. And lastly, if Benedict had simply stated his stance that Catholicism does not accept the use of contraceptives, I would have less of a problem with his statement. However, he goes on to say that condoms will increase the AIDS problem, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I have never understood the Catholic Church’s outright ban on contraceptives. I recall a vague reference to a story in Genesis (Genesis 38, to be exact. I just had to look it up). Onan’s brother has been slain by God for being ‘wicked’. Onan’s father than orders him to sleep with his brother’s wife widow in order to produce an heir. Instead of impregnating her, he pulls out and ‘spills his seed upon the ground’. God gets mad at the shenanigans and kills Onan, as well. The Catholic Church interprets the story as every sperm is sacred. I would interpret the story to be trying to tell you not to disobey God.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Everyone Pretend You're Irish Day

Break out the Jameson's, put on some green, and pour yourself a black and tan. It's St. Patrick's Day, the day when everyone pretends that they're Irish. I must admit, I have some fond memories of going downtown on St. Patrick's Days past. Of course, at that time of my life, I didn't really need much of an excuse to drink, either. Today I didn't wear a lick of green, but then again, I can't claim any Irish blood, either. I think that my Ipod must have remembered the day or something, because with the Ipod on random, one after the other, I heard Leahy, Dropkick Murphys, and Flogging Molly.

A Public Service Announcement

When someone looks you up on Facebook, it does not obligate you to accept their friend request.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plus One to Baking Skill

This morning I awoke in a strange mood. I was in the mood to cook.

Ten days ago a friend had given me the starter for some Amish friendship bread and after a week of mushing the bag, today was the day that I was supposed to bake the bread. A quick look in the cupboard revealed that I needed to take a trip to the grocery store (How old is this baking powder? Maybe I should pick up a new can.) I also decided that since I was picking up eggs anyway, I might as well use them up and cook a big breakfast.

When I returned home, I discovered that one of my friends had called and invited me to breakfast. It was tempting, but I had just formed my grand plan for the day and was going to stick to it. I told her that she was welcome to come over for breakfast and hang out while I did some baking. She was a little dubious, considering the level of my baking skills, but showed up anyway.

After breakfast, I got the bread in the oven. After that I had the strange urge to bake some cookies. I had one lonely little egg left and found a good cookie recipe that would allow me to use it up. I ended up making peanut butter oatmeal cookies. I think that they're tasty, but the roommate is more indifferent; he doesn't really care for oatmeal cookies in general.

When all was done, I realized that I had spent most of the day cooking. Everything came out good. I feel a bit better about my baking skills than I did before, but I still feel like I need some practice. I was just happy that I managed to make cookies that didn't completely suck.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Capital Idea

After last week's rant on grammar, I've come to the conclusion that I am not, indeed, the world's worst speller. There are several people that I work with that far outshine me in that category. I've also discovered just how much blatantly improper grammar disturbs me. I've noticed two things that show up in emails that make them particularly difficult to read, both a lack of capitalization and proper punctuation.

Today let's talk about our friend, the capital letter. The capital letter, sometimes known as a big letter, should appear at the beginning of a sentence or a proper name. The word 'I', a pronoun referring to yourself, is always capitalized, and no, I do not know why. Please, for the sake of your reader's sanity, hit the shift key on the keyboard. It's not too hard.

The other issue is a lack of punctuation. The period, the little dot at the end of the sentence, lets you know that the thought is over. You would think that we're in the midst of a period shortage or something. Trust me, you won't use them all up. I should know. I like to use short, choppy sentences, yet I always manage to find enough periods to throw in my writing.

To illustrate my point, I've rewritten the above paragraphs, taking out the capital letters, punctuation, and line breaks. See how difficult it is to read.

after last week's rant on grammar i've come to the conclusion that i am not indeed the world's worst speller here are several people that i work with that far outshine me in that category i've also discovered just how much blatantly improper grammar disturbs me i've noticed two things that show up in emails that make them particularly difficult to read both a lack of capitalization and proper punctuation today let's talk about our friend the capital letter the capital letter sometimes known as a big letter should appear at the beginning of a sentence or a proper name the word 'i', a pronoun referring to yourself is always capitalized and no i do not know why please for the sake of your reader's sanity hit the shift key on the keyboard it's not too hard the other issue is a lack of punctuation the period the little dot at the end of the sentence lets you know that the thought is over you would think that we're in the midst of a period shortage or something trust me you won't use them all up i should know i like to use short choppy sentences yet i always manage to find enough periods to throw in my writing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back on the Road

My car is out of the shop and back home. Yay! All things considered, the entire repair process was relatively painless. Jon at The Autobahn was really helpful throughout the whole thing. He helped me with the insurance process, let me know about Vermont's no fault liability law, and took care of the rental as well. The repair took a couple of days longer than originally planned, but there was also more damage than they originally thought. The car looks sharp. It's back in its pristine shiny condidtion, so now any scratches that get put on are my fault.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Change We Voted For

After just over a month in the White House, and with conseratives and liberals alike fretting about Obama not delivering on his campaign promises, Obama is quietly ushering in some much needed policy changes. In a move that made many doctors, researchers, and science minded people very happy, President Obama has lifted the ban on funding for stem cell research.

"Barack Obama, US president, on Monday made another decisive break from the Bush years by overturning a ban on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research and promising to remove all ideology from scientific studies.

In a landmark policy change that angered anti-abortion groups, Mr Obama signed an order to permit public money to be used for research that scientists hope will produce cures for a range of serious conditions such as Parkinson’s."

I like science. I think we should fund research that has such potential for doing so much good. I also think that it was complete and utter bull sh*t when then President Bush did a press conference surrounded by adorable children that had been born with the help of embryo implantation. It gave a scewed view of where stem cells come from. Yes, stem cells come from human embryos, but the embryos used are often 'left overs' from fertility clinics slated for destruction. It made sense to use these, but, instead, we got a wedge issue, painting an image of embryo farms and scientists murdering children. I am so glad that the ban has been lifted.

Friday, March 06, 2009

It's Alive!

I have managed to install the new video card. I'm now running a screaming fast nVidia GTX 260. Sweet!

Many thanks to Yomper, who very patiently helped me decide what to buy. Thanks also to the roommate, who gave me a hand even though he swore he wouldn't.

I think that the forecast for the weekend is WarHammer, with a chance of Left for Dead.

The Operation Was a Success

I'm feeling brave. I fix medical equipment for a living, so replacing some computer compentents should be a cinch, right? At least, that's the theory that I'm working on. I have never really worked on a computer before, with the exception of upgrading a sound card. My fear is that I'll fry out my new system. But electronics are electronics, and I swap boards all the time at work, so onward I go.

I have successfully replaced the stock power supply with the 650W model that I purchased. I'll need the power later when I install the video card. Ofcourse, 650W is overkill for what I'm going to be running, but it was on sale and ended up costing less than the 550W model that I was looking at. Now I have enough power left over to power a USB waffle iron or something.

Replacing the power supply wasn't too bad, really. The hardest part was taming the massive amount of cables that I didn't use. All systems seem to be functioning normally. Now let's tackle the video card.

A Shiny New Computer

My shiny new computer finally arrived today. I was a little disturbed by the excessively large size of the shipping box. It looked like I might have ordered a server by mistake or something. As it turns out, the computer just wanted some room to stretch out.

I have managed to install the new system and remove the crappy free software that HP insisted on suppling with the system. A little later, if I'm feeling brave, I might try installing the higher wattage power supply and new video card.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

English as a First Language

First off, I am a science and technology person, and we are not known for our writing abilities. Second, I am possibly the world's worst speller. With that said, let's talk about the proper use grammar, especially in a professional setting. While I am usually not a member of the grammar police, I can only sit on the sidelines for so long and watch the English language get butchered by its native speakers.

What spawned this tirade? I just read an email from a colleague and it was like trying to decipher an encrypted message. Seriously, think Charlie from Flowers for Algernon.

First up: spelling. Professional correspondence, and I do count work related emails as professional correspondence, should not contain spelling errors. It just looks sloppy. Spell check is your friend. Most email and word processing programs have a spell check function. Use it. However, don't forget that spell check is only a first line defense. Always proof read your writing before you hit send. Spell check will sometimes make some interesting changes. Keep a dictionary handy or use an online dictionary if you are unsure of how something is spelled.

My personal grammar related pet peeve is misplaced apostrophes. Learn the difference between plural and possessive. Hint: the possessive form uses the apostrophe. For example, the room has two computers, not the room has two computer's.

Homonyms. Use the correct form of the word. For example, to/too/two and their/there/they're. If you're (note that I didn't say 'your') not sure, look it up. Spell check won't fix this for you. The word is spelled correctly. Sometimes it's hard. I only recently figured out affect (verb) and effect (noun).

Also, let's not forget about our friend the paragraph. The paragraph helps you group thoughts and makes your writing so much easier to read. Remember, white space is a good thing.

So please, take the time to proof read, if not for yourself, than for the person who has to read and interpret what you're trying to communicate. I just had to read the sentence 'I no there computer's are to years old.'. This really made my brain hurt.

**Bonus Game**
Identify any spelling and grammar mistakes that I made in this post and let me know about them in the comments.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Just So You Know

Rice noodles make me really gassy for some reason. And now you know.

In Retrospect

I wrote earlier about my text book finally being published. That makes me incredibly happy. In looking through the final product, there are two things that I'm a little disappointed in.

First, and I'm fully aware that this is an ego thing, is that my name appears last in the list of authors. The other two authors are the director of my company, who wrote the introduction and the chapter on electrical safety, and the assistant director. I undersatnd that Fluke published the book with our names listed alphabetically, but I was the primary author of this thing, and I was the one who went without sleep in order to make the writing deadlines. I just wish that when the book gets referenced, the author would be listed as Quartermaster, et al instead of Director, et al.

The second issue is purely vanity. I needed to have my picture taken for my bio in the about the author section. The assistant director was going to snap a quick picture and send it off to the publisher. On the day that I was supposed to have my picture taken, I dressed up a little. I wore a suit, did my hair, and wore a little make up (it's rare, but it happens every now and again). Something came up and the picture didn't get taken that day. We then get busy and kind of forget about it, until one day Fluke asks about my picture. The assistant director takes a picture and that's taken care of. I'm not dressed as nice (not a big deal, it's a head shot anyway), my hair's kind of messy, and I'm not wearing makeup. So basically, it's a picture of me in my normal state. And I guess I'm bitching about not looking better than my normal state.

I'm an Author

And not just of this blog, either.

Let's back up a moment, shall we? In 2007 Fluke Biomedical commissioned by company to write a text book on testing and maintaining medical equipment. It's not as odd as it seems. First, I work for a university. Second, prior to being purchased by Fluke and moved to Nevada, Biotek was located in Winooski and our companies had a close working relationship.

There aren't a whole lot of text books for the biomedical equipment technician and there certainly are not a lot of field guides for maintenance programs. Fluke decided that they wanted a text book, geared toward using Fluke test equipment, of course, to use as part of their educational materials. It's kind of like when you get a recipe out of a magazine and it say to use 2 cups of Swanson chicken broth. In reality, any chicken broth will work for the recipe, but the recipe promotes Swanson chicken broth. That's kind of what my text book is like. The sample equipment used is all Fluke equipment.

Fluke will be using the book in its non-US markets; places that don't currently have an established set of regulations governing medical equipment. I think that's a good thing. The book was written with an eye towards US regulations (why we have them and why they are important) and also practicality. Really, it was to make people understand what they're trying to test for and how to go about it. The book has been translated into Spanish for the South American market and also into Chinese. There were also talks of doing translations into Japanese and a handful of the Arabic languages.

I actually finished writing in the fall of 2007. I was very proud that I made every one of my deadlines. Fluke had originally planned on publishing in December 2007. I'm not sure why there was so long of a delay.

Now I finally have a copy of Medical Equipment Quality Assurance: Inspection Program Development and Procedures. Not exactly the great American novel, but I'll run with it. I'm an author. And not just any author, but an international author.