Month: January 2010

The Encouragment of Stupidty in the U.S.

I’m getting increasingly concerned about the ignorance regarding electronic hobbyists in this country.

Recently it was this, where an 11 year old created a home made motion detector. Said detector caused a complete evacuation of the school.

I’m hoping someone posts pictures of the device soon. That the police actually x-rayed it leads me to believe that someone needs to have their heads examined.

It’s in a school of all things. Someone in the school must teach a science class and would know about electronics. But nobody thought to think first. Instead they used a knee jerk reaction, cost the community a large amount of money, and in the end it was a simple electronic device. Hell, you could put one together with a photocell and a comparator that can detect changes in light levels and then activate a trigger.

That 11 year old needs to be nurtured and encouraged. We need more electronic engineers in this country.

But we’re seeing a decline in people who cannot distinguish that the devices they use wouldn’t be possible without the advanced engineering that has come about due to training a generation in the art and science of electronics.

I suppose I’d be classed a terrorist threat because I solder together electronic devices:

Bare Bones Baord
Bare Bones Board
Parts arrayed
Parts arrayed

Is this tool deadly? It could be said that yes it is deadly since at 900F it’ll burn through tissue and cauterize any blood vessels you happen to hit. But I use it for soldering, which is the otherwise known act of utilizing heat to alloy different metals to produce a strong bond. BTW, this soldering station with all the attachments (Different tips, replacement handle and tweezer iron comes to < $100 at MPJA.)

Soldering Station
Soldering Station

It’s the dumbing down of America and it saddens me. You know I recently did the program review at a local Career and Technical School. And you know what struck me, there isn’t an electronics program. Even at my Catholic high school in the early 1980’s they at least offered electronics courses.

But this whole episode of involving the police is ridiculous. And of course the police aren’t the brightest bulbs either. But then as I’ve said before, as a rule they don’t recruit for brains, they recruit for those who can be trained and who will stay in the job for long enough to recoup the investment in training.

We need thinking people teaching the children in our schools, we need thinking people doing law enforcement, in essence let us stop dumbing down America because in the long run we’ll all suffer for it.

The week in review

So this week was once again fairly eventful. To begin, Mayor David Cicilline of Providence holds these little “Meet with the Mayor” events throughout the city on a regular basis. You sign up and get ten minutes with the mayor. So when I got the email that he’d be in the neighborhood on Tuesday I had to go and see him.

I talked to him about two things. The first is the cities move to consolidate departments into one building. The requirements are pretty hefty so I suggested some of the development in the Olneyville section of the city. I suggested that since RIPTA is starting to move toward streetcars, this would be a natural place to anchor city offices. The mayor thought that was a good idea.

The second thing was snow removal. According to the mayor they’ve tried gentle warnings to no avail. I explained that they had the stones to enforce the recycling regulations, and that since they privatized parking enforcement they could have them also enforce the sidewalk ordinances. I also suggested bumping the first fine to $100

The mayor mentions there are a lot of elderly but I countered that some of the biggest offenders were city and state owned properties. Put it this way, I know in my neighborhood even the elderly neighbors make god damned sure the sidewalks are down to pavement. The ones who don’t shovel their sidewalks tend to be absentee landlords or around parking lots. If they’ve got the money to live elsewhere maybe they could pay some kids $20 or $30 to clear sidewalks on their properties.

On Thursday I participated in yet another program review (Career and Technical Education or CTE) for the Rhode Island Department of Education. This time it was at the newly constructed Hanley Career and Technical school in Providence.

The facility is absolutely gorgeous! The whole group was around my age cohort and we pretty much all said that if schools looked like this when we were kids we probably wouldn’t ever want to leave.

Hanley isn’t the vocational school of yore either. Now you need to be up to the same academic levels as the rest of the city high schools in addition to your career or vocational classes. The school day runs 7:30AM to 3:30PM, a full eight hours.

They have trades and career paths such as electrical, hvac, building technologies, graphic communications, culinary, and cosmetology.

One thing that interested me is that they utilize a point system. The difference is their point system isn’t by nature punitive but motivational. You get points for attendance, for wearing a school shirt, etc. When you accumulate a certain number of points you can redeem them in a school store for bling like iPods, Sidekicks, etc.

And in the class we reviewed they use an interesting grading system for the assignments. You grade yourself, then you’re graded by peers and finally by the teacher. It turns out the kids are hardest on themselves.

This coming week has some things going on too. Tuesday I’m up in the Boston/Cambridge area for an interview. It’s an educational institution and this particular job is within a research unit. It’d be a change for me, last time I was in academia it was on the non-educational side.

Then of course we’ll have our weekly PEAC (Providence Equality Action Committee)
meeting that evening. It meets at the Bell Street Chapel (5 Bell St, Providence, RI 02909).

Wednesday it’s Providence Geeks. The featured company will be one we saw back in May that designs iPhone and Touch games. They’re coming back with more info.

Thursday Keyron and I meet with a client to discuss how to cram 10 people into about 600 square feet. He’ll handle the space planning while I’ll handle the telecom, networking and data side.

Food wise, it’s been a decidedly vegetarian streak this week. I made a big batch of salad and then I made spinach pies. Ok, the spinach pies have a half stick of pepperoni in them but I can’t do it. I can’t stop with the meat.

Some thoughts on the Prop 8 trial in CA

I’ve been pretty quiet about this because I wanted to observe enough to make some judgments of my own.

If you’d like to follow along, the Courage Campaing has a site called the Prop 8 Trial Tracker. If you’re an RSS freak like me, just click here and drag the address to your RSS reader.

Ok, here we go. This week we’ve seen a number of expert witnesses from our side. They range from economists, psychologists, sociologists, etc. It’s a pantheon of the human sciences and with some very heavy hitters.

Those who wish to keep Prop 8 valid bring up old data, old studies, old book revisions, etc. to try and discredit some of the expert witnesses and fail miserably at the task, to the point of ridicule by the courtroom, the judge or both!

Of course I cannot wait for their side to be the ones being grilled. We’ve already seen two of their witnesses decline to testify for fear of reprisal. I have two words for those people, fucking pussies!

Our side has the data and the logic. Their side has nothing but discredited and outdated ideas.

Yet another meme

Found this on Patently Queer.

1. You can press a button that will make any one person explode. Who would you blow up?

Am I limited to just the one person? For example, I’m a bit of an electronics geek so could I say modify it to maybe blow up three people? No, ok I want the public face of NOM, Maggie “The Loathsome” Gallagher to explode when I push the button.

2. You can flip a switch that will wipe any band or musical artist out of existence. Which one will it be?

Hmmm. I’m trying to think of one group or person I really can’t stand. Probably that hack Amy Winehouse.

3. Who would you really like to just punch in the face?

See my answer to the first question. Barring the Explode-O-Button a sock to the face might be fun. Maggie “The Loathsome” Gallagher, meet my fist.

4. What is your favorite cheese?

I pretty much love the strong stinky varieties like Stilton.

5. You can only have one kind of sandwich. Every sandwich ingredient known to humankind is at your immediate disposal. What kind will you make?

A meatball sandwich. I have to admire whoever it was who invented the meatball. Brilliant idea, wad up a ball of seasoned meat, broil it, stew it in tomato sauce and serve it up on a toasted roll along with some provolone cheese.

6. You have the opportunity to sleep with the movie celebrity of your choice. We are talking no-strings-attached sex and it can only happen once. Who is the lucky celebrity of your choice?

Matt Damon. Yeah, a very sweet ass on him.

7. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music celebrity of your choice. Who do you pick?

Oh this is tough. D’Angelo I suppose.

8. Now that you’ve slept with two different people in a row, you seem to be having an excellent day because you just came across a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Holy shit, a hundred bucks! How are you gonna spend it?

Like others I could get about 3 bottles of wine and some nice cheeses and crackers to go with it.

9. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?

Atlanta to visit my friend Ky.

10. Upon arrival to the aforementioned location, you get off the plane and discover another hundred-dollar bill. Shit! Now that you are in the new location, what are you gonna do?

Now this one is easy, we gettin’ a little drunk!

11. An angel appears out of Heaven and offers you a lifetime supply of the alcoholic beverage of your choice. It is…?

I’m torn between a Pinot Noir and a Chianti.

12. Rufus appears out of nowhere with a time-traveling phone booth. You can go anytime in the PAST. What time are you traveling to and what are you going to do when you get there?

I’d grab a video camera and head back two thousand years and meet up with Jesus. I want to collect video evidence that he was a big ‘mo just like us. (I just left Larry’s answer in here because I agree wholeheartedly that the abilities of Jesus may have been, to quote a Family Guy movie, a tad exaggerated.)

13. You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own society. You make the rules. What is the first rule you put into place?

No religious people allowed. The minute you openly claim your undying faith to God or Christ and you’re out.

14. You have been given the opportunity to create the half-hour TV show of your own design. What is it called and what’s the premise?

“It is YOUR Government” Every week you’d be shown an abuse perpetrated by a corporation hiding behind Constitutional rights, then you’d be shown what would happen to that corporation if they didn’t have those rights and instead the people had all the rights.

15. What is your favorite curse word?

The most versatile word out there, “fuck”. E.g. Fuck you you fuckin’ fuck.

16. One night you wake up because you heard a noise. You turn on the light to find that you are surrounded by MUMMIES. The mummies aren’t really doing anything, they’re just standing around your bed. What do you do?

I wouldn’t even wake up. They’re not gonna hurt you.

17. Your house is on fire, holy shit! You have just enough time to run in there and grab ONE inanimate object. Don’t worry, your loved ones and pets have already made it out safely. So what’s the item?

My laptop. Definitely my laptop. My life is on that machine which is why I am meticulous about maintenance and backups.

18. The Angel of Death has descended upon you. Fortunately, the Angel of Death is pretty cool and in a good mood, and it offers you a half-hour to do whatever you want before you bite it. Whatcha gonna do in that half-hour?

That’s about enough time to load up the gun and get where I need to be to whack a few people.

19. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what’s even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What’s it gonna be?

Invisibility. I think that comes from being in I.T. for the majority of my life. We’re invisible until something breaks.

20. You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?

The day I met Keyron. Seriously.

21.You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?

My mom dying when I was 13.

22. You got kicked out of the country for being a time-traveling heathen who sleeps with celebrities and has super-powers. But check out this cool shit… you can move to anywhere else in the world! Bitchin’! What country are you going to live in now?

Probably Italy.

23. This question still counts, even for those of you who are under age. Check it out. You have been eternally banned from every single bar in the world except for ONE. Which one is it gonna be?

I’ve never been a bar person. Bores me to tears.

24. Hopefully you didn’t mention this in the super-powers question…. If you did, then we’ll just expand on that. Check it out… Suddenly, you have gained the ability to FLOAT!!! Whose house are you going to float to first, and be like “Dude, check it out… I can FLOAT!”?

I’d float in the Governors office and tell him he’s a fucking bigot right to his face.

25. The constant absorption of magical moonbeams mixed with the radioactive vegetables you consumed earlier has given you the ability to resurrect the dead famous-person of your choice. So which celebrity will you bring back to life?

Luther Vandross

26. The Celestial Gates of Beyond have opened, much to your surprise because you didn’t think such a thing existed. Death appears. As it turns out, Death is actually a pretty cool entity, and happens to be in a fantastic mood. Death offers to return the friend/family-member/person, etc. of your choice to the living world. Who will you bring back?

Oh easy, my mother if only so she could meet Keyron.

27. What’s your theme song?

Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”

More info on being blocked from the RI State House

Apparently we were blocked because the new rules say that if the legislature isn’t in session the State House locks up. Probably to save money that was being spend on the Capitol Police.

But another of the new rules says “No sound systems” aka public address type systems. Doesn’t say anything about bullhorns though, and we actually prefer that for motivating crowds.

Nice going State of Rhode Island. Now protests will be more raucous.

RI Government Blocking Protests in State House

I have some news to report. The Providence Equality Action Committee was to have a protest inside the State House from 6PM to 8PM. They’d cleared it with the Facilities people at the State House but due to a “…changed the rules just yesterday to disallow evening gatherings”.

This reeks of a move to block citizen involvement while the chambers are in session and it disgusts me. I’m going to have to speak to some people because this pisses me off to no end.

Where is the outrage

It seems that corporations have done what is always attributable to the devil, convince people that they don’t exist, or more accurately that they’re not responsible for the mess we are currently experiencing.

Read this article on Mother Jones and then come back and read my comments.

First this:

“People don’t know what to do with the anger they do have,” says Marttila, because they feel blocked by “senators, representatives, and [Treasury Secretary] Timothy Geithner, who speaks gobbledygook.” Wall Street, in other words, is protected by the people’s representatives.

Some of us can see through the gobbledygook. Our representatives need to be taught a lesson. Let us make a commitment to keep voting them out until they get it right. By ‘right’ I mean that they take their marching orders from us, not corporate interests.

“But they are constantly told by all the respected voices that if we don’t protect and preserve the institutions on Wall Street, we’ll be fighting for rat meat on the streets.” And this fearmongering works.

And sometimes it doesn’t work. I have a solution in mind, start by fracturing the big banks into tiny little pieces, do the same for medical insurance companies. Use government power to level the playing field.

But the financial issues involved appear “incredibly arcane and difficult to penetrate. How do you regulate derivatives when 99 percent of the public don’t understand it?”

Derivatives aren’t hard to understand. In essence it is a methodology for looting the general public. Let me explain.

A bank has on hand a batch of what are called toxic assets. They’re toxic because they represent a loss on the banks balance sheet that offsets profitability. Those toxic assets btw, risky mortgages and other loan instruments.

So the bank packages them up all pretty and insures them. They then sell these derivatives to other organizations. The deception involved is interesting. Rememberthe insurance aspect? That’s what the Credit Default Swap is all about. In essence it’s the insurance industry being deceived enough to think they can make a buck on these derivatives.

You see where I’m going here. When those derivatives started tanking, it was up to the insurers to cover losses, except the insurers weren’t liquid enough to settle all debts. In other words, they couldn’t pay claims on those junk derivatives.

Now to complete the circle. Who benefited from this? The bank that was able to get a toxic asset off it’s books, that is who was the main benefactor in all of it. The banks, well, Citibank, Bank of America, et al.

Just some food for thought. Why the hell aren’t we rioting in the streets?