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Fri, 10 Mar 2006

Letter to President Bush
This letter came courtesy of MeFi. It puts into words feelings I've had for several years now.

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As a young man I was honored to serve our nation as a commissioned
officer and helicopter pilot in the U. S. Navy. Before me in WWII, my
father defended the country spending two years in the Pacific aboard
the U.S.S. Hornet (CV-14). We were patriots sworn to protect and
defend. Today I conclude that you have dishonored our service and the
Constitution and principles of our oath. My dad was buried with full
military honors so I cannot act for him. But for myself, I return
enclosed the symbols of my years of service: the shoulder boards of my
rank and my Naval Aviators wings.

Until your administration, I believed it was inconceivable that the
United States would ever initiate an aggressive and preemptive war
against a country that posed no threat to us. Until your
administration, I thought it was impossible for our nation to take
hundreds of persons into custody without provable charges of any kind,
and to disappear them into holes like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and
Bagram. Until your administration, in my wildest legal fantasy I could
not imagine a U.S. Attorney General seeking to justify torture or a
President first stating his intent to veto an anti-torture law, and
then adding a signing statement that he intends to ignore such law as
he sees fit. I do not want these things done in my name.

As a citizen, a patriot, a parent and grandparent, a lawyer and law
teacher I am left with such a feeling of loss and helplessness. I
think of myself as a good American and I ask myself what can I do when
I see the face of evil? Illegal and immoral war, torture and
confinement for life without trial have never been part of our
Constitutional tradition. But my vote has become meaningless because I
live in a safe district drawn by your political party. My congressman
is unresponsive to my concerns because his time is filled with
lobbyists largess. Protests are limited to your free speech zones, out
of sight of the parade. Even speaking openly is to risk being labeled
un-American, pro-terrorist or anti-troops. And I am a disciplined
pacifist, so any violent act is out of the question.

Nevertheless, to remain silent is to let you think I approve or
support your actions. I do not. So, I am saddened to give up my wings
and bars. They were hard won and my parents and wife were as proud as
I was when I earned them over forty years ago. But I hate the torture
and death you have caused more than I value their symbolism. Giving
them up makes me cry for my beloved country.

Joseph W. DuRocher

Posted at: 18:43 on 10/03/2006   [ / ] #

Fri, 07 Oct 2005

Shutting off the tube
Yesterday I read a
speech given by Al Gore about the declining intellectualism in America, Television, and the media. The speech struck a chord with me because, as anyone who has read through this blog probably sees, for awhile I have felt that mass media in this country is dishing up garbage while leaving the recipients intellectually bankrupt.

Case in point, some of the "big stories" of the past week included:

Each of these stories was featured prominantly at the top of CNN's web-site on different days during the week. Meanwhile, not seen on CNN's top-stories section, but available elsewhere, Scientists believe they have a clue as to why the arctic ice cap is melting, The US Military appears to be involved in another pattern of abuse in Iraq, The Bush Whitehouse is blocking a $9 billion health care package for evacuees of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and a guy from Gainesville was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

If I were to pull up the stories on the broadcast news over the past week, especially the evening news on ABC, CBS, or NBC, I'd probably have an equally meaningless set of stories.

Gores' thesis is that as television popularity has soared, because the cost of entry as a media publisher (read: putting on your own television program) is so much higher than the cost of traditional methods of information dissemination (press), only the wealthy can afford to get their message out. Because information and ideas are now being presented in a uni-directional stream, they have reached the lowest common denominator.

If one were to take his thesis and expand upon it, there is no free exchange of thought in the new conglomerate controlled mass media. As we have become a less literate society, our ability to critically look at the world around us has waned.

Is Gore correct?

A person would be hard pressed to argue against his thesis.

Instead of being concerned with stamping out poverty, or illiteracy, or any of the other social ills in the world, we have become a society focused on acquiring new ipods, or the next sale at the Super Walmart.

Instead of being a literate society, we have become a dumb society. In spite of scientifically sound research that establishes the plausibility of theories like "evolution" or "erosional geology" we are teaching the next generation that we exist because of "intelligent design" and that the Grand Canyon was created during the biblical flood.

Instead of respecting an individuals right, and some would argue duty, to question authority, we are told "why do you hate America so?" and are expected to keep the status quo.

Instead of rallying to support our troops by bringing them home safe and sound, we are told that failure to unconditionally support the "War in Iraq" will erode our troops morale and jeopardize their safety.

And people buy this shit up.

Back to Gore

Gore continues by stating that one of the reasons why this is happening is the amount of time Americans spend in front of the idiot box. According to Gore, Americans spend nearly five hours a day in front of the tube. While shocking, it's certainly not surprising because for years several other studies have said the same thing.

What I find scary is that this is the AVERAGE amount of time Americans spend watching the Tellie.

So I started thinking about it, and analyzing how much time I spend watching the box... And then I became concerned.

I've always loved television. As a child, constantly on the move, Television became my best friend. A different city each year meant the embarrasment of trying to make new friends, which for a slightly shy and introverted child who felt starved for affection from his parents, was difficult at best.

But ooh Television was always my friend. Although the channels may have differed from one location to the next, the shows were the same. And how those shows comforted me.

My friends included Mork and Spock, both Aliens from another world but as different from each other as night and day. My friends included Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. My friends included Superman, the 1950s version in the original black and white, and Batman, the 1960s version "now in technicolor!" On Saturdays I would go with Admiral Nelson on a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, or take a ride with Michael Knight and KIT.

As a child, the only time that TeeVee was not a part of my life was that solitary period of time when we lived in Grand Cayman while I was in the fifth grade. Lacking a Television station on the island, there was no need to have a TV.

During this period I came out of my shell and made lots of friends. I swam and played every day. I read lots of books, probably forty or fifty during the six month period I lived on the island, maybe more; I knew the Georgetown Librarian on a first name basis. I read Stevenson, Carrol, Dahl, and Dixon. My thirsty mind was insatiable, and I did my best to quench the thirst.

And then we moved back to the states, and I renewed my relationship with the Television. Although I continued to read, the frequency was diminished; while I read 1984 and Brave New World without any prodding from my eighth grade english teacher (Hi Mrs. Porter), I still read less and watched more Tellie.

Sure, there were the occasional trips to Xanth with Piers Anthony, or the ride in Christine with Stephen King, but I still watched more Toob than I read.

As an adult, Television has been a constant companion. Although I engage in external activities, we still watch a fair amount of TV at night.

It's simple - press a button and it's on.

There's no wasted thought to determine what I'm going to watch.

With sixty channels to choose from, there's bound to be something to anesthetize the mind.

And that's the key -- television anethestizes us.

If you don't like what is on channel A, turn to channel B.

B sucks? Go to C.

Why you don't even have to expend an ounce of energy, just press the little button on the remote with your thumb.

And just what is the stuff we're watching? Inside Edition? Entertainment Tonight? Survivor?

One of the most talked about shows among my peers has been "My Name's Earl" about a redneck who discovers "Karma" by watching Carson Daily.

What the hell have we become??? How shallow and vapid are we really??

Television has become such an ingrained part of our culture that catch phrases from TV shows, and even commercials, become a part of our working vocabulary.

"You're fired!"

"That's my final answer."


If something as trite as a commercial for a cheap American beer can create new phrases in our lexicon, we, as a society, have a problem. Maybe even a mental problem.

Although I still watch a fair chunk of the tube, I've been trying my best to read more and watch less. The web helps because it increases my access to printed media -- as a news junkie I find myself constantly scanning mainstream newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, our local fish wrapper, as well as other media sources including mefi, K5, /., and wired.

I'm also trying to read more books, mostly literature, science, philosophy, dimestore fiction, and history. Maybe a little bit of political commentary and travelogues as well.

I've set a personal goal of one book a week -- last year I managed to read fifty books, ranging from ideology (Guevera) to dimestore fiction (Dan Brown, oh wait, The Davinci Code is really history, right) to philosophy (Kuhn) and even a travelogue or two (Blue Highways). Although I did that while working full time and taking classes, compared to some of my friends, I am just an amateur.

This year hasn't been so good, when I kicked my scholastic endeavors into high gear I sort of burned myself out. Although I read close to thirty books by July 1, most of them were for school and by the time I graduated I felt brain dead. During the summer, and my last two semesters, I only managed to read four books (a historiograph on the Korean War, a book on the overthrow of the Prime Minister of Iran by Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA in the 1950s, a biography of Jimmy Carter, and a travelogue about riding a motorcycle around South America and being captured by the EZLN).

Usually the first few weeks of the fall semester are a real bear, and I worked a number of twelve hour days, which meant that by the time I got home, I just wanted to crawl into bed and watch the idiot box.

Two weeks ago it finally eased up, and I have been able to resume my reading. I've finished a book by Nelson DeMille (Word of Honor), a collection of oral histories with interviews of journalists and newspaper publishers throughout Florida (Orange Journalism), Enola Gay, The Cuba Diaries, a book by Dean Koontz, and I'm currently re-reading A Farewell to Arms (I'll probably finish it today). I'm currently debating about shutting off the cable, which would save us about $600 a year, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to cut the cord all of the way, yet.

Maybe more Americans will eventually wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that the Tube is not really our friend, but probably our biggest adversary.

Hopefully the intellegentsia proletariat can be inspired and will awake from their forty year slumber.

Posted at: 14:55 on 07/10/2005   [ / ] #

Tue, 04 Oct 2005

A night on the town
Jazz music played in the back ground. Although the band is swedish, the music is still unmistakably jazz; all of the beats and passion that Count Bassey could have dreamed of making were produced by Koop.

I took a sip of the drink. Ice cold, the martini warmed my insides. Skyy and Rossi went down in a delictable bit.

I flipped the pages of the book. 70 pages over the past hour, I'll be done by midnight.

Posted at: 01:23 on 04/10/2005   [ / ] #

Wed, 21 Sep 2005

Do it for the boobies!
If you're still on the fence about helping with Katrina relief, think about
doing it for the boobies.

Posted at: 22:38 on 21/09/2005   [ / ] #

Sun, 18 Sep 2005

4:42 and UT is driving
There's 4 minutes and 42 seconds to go, and Tennessee is driving for a score.

For fifty-five minutes the two teams have battled on the gridiron. Sports writers had said it would be an offensive battle, but those sports writers were wrong.

Tonights battle has been a defensive battle. A gladiatorial contest between two teams that are among the best in the nation. Neither team giving the other much quarter.

There have been casualties along the way.

5 seconds into the start of the second half, Bubba Caldwell was carried off on a stretcher, his leg broken.

His season is over, but the Gators season is just beginning.

The Gators are in the lead, 16 to 7, but they've been down this path before. In 1994 they saw a 28 point lead evaporate and had to settle for a tie against their most hated in state rivals. The "Choke in Doak" is still considered by many fans one of the worst moments in Florida football.

Tennessee has also been in this situation before. Last year, in a contest against this same Florida team, they were behind in the fourth quarter. But that Tennessee team was able achieve victory as the Gator defense collapsed.

Tennessee had won the previous three encounters, and twice they were behind in the fourth quarter but still managed to emerge victorious.

Would tonight be a repeat? Would this Gator Defense crumble and fold in the final few moments of the game like Gator Defenses of years past?

This drive could make all of the difference between redemption for the gators, or salvation for the volunteers.

But something is different.

A long forgotten scent is in the air wafting through the stands.

It is a scent that tickles a part of the reptilian brain.

The Gator Nation stirs with recognition of the scent.

It is the smell of blood. Tennessee blood.

90,716 fans smell it, and it drives them into a frenzy.

Exhausted fans drenched in the sweat from a hot and humid evening are driven into an orgiastic moving mass of bodies; the stadium erupts as the fans unite as one.

The Gators Growl.

The Tennessee quarterback can't communicate with his players. He can't gather his concentration. He can't even hear himself think.

The noise is unbearable.

My ears feel as if they are about to burst from the sound, yet caught up in the frenetic energy around me, I ignore the pain and shout with all of my might until my voice is hoarse. Fans are stomping up and down on the bleachers, shouting, screaming, singing, and crying with joy.

The stadium is transformed into an ancient colliseum with the fans shouting for their triumphant Cesar.

Feeding on the raw energy from the stands, the Gator Defense holds on, stops the drive, and hands the ball back to the offense.

Five minutes later the entire city erupts as the streak is broken.

The Swamp is reborn. Only the Gators Get Out Alive.

As I walk back to my bike to head home, I get caught up in the moment and shout with my fellow fans "It's Great to be a Florida Gator!"

Posted at: 19:33 on 18/09/2005   [ / ] #

Sun, 04 Sep 2005

Aaron Broussard
Because the Aaron Broussard video is extremely powerful and I think everyone should watch it, I've mirrored it
at this location.

Posted at: 21:08 on 04/09/2005   [ / ] #

I can't believe this is America.
I didn't mention this when I updated my blog last week, mostly because it's been fairly painful to accept and everything that has happened since then has been utterly surreal.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past week, the city of New Orleans has been all but destroyed due to a failed levee system which was damaged by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina hit Florida a few days before, pounding the shit out of Miami, before bouncing into the gulf and picking up steam. It then made a bee-line for New Orleans, but veered due east at the last minute, destroying Gulf Port Mississippi.

The destruction of New Orleans happened the next morning, when the levees which protected the city from the waters of Lake Ponchetrain, failed and the city flooded. Since then there has been incomprehensible chaos and utter failure in our governments ability to respond to this incident.

The death toll is well into the thousands. Reporters from CNN, FOX, and other news organizations who have covered war zones in Africa and Latin America are stunned by what they are seeing first hand. They are comparing the situation in NOLA with that of Somalia or Sierra Leone.

New Orleans Louisiana has become a war zone.

Armed thugs have looted stores and rioted in the streets.

Police officers have been shot & killed by these thugs.

Order has failed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our lovely commander in chief decided this tragedy warrented cutting his five week vacation short by one day.

That's really thoughtful of him, but, he's been slow on getting FEMA to move in with emergency relief and aid.

People are DYING because they have not received any food or water.

I can't help but think that if this had happened in the Hamptons the response would have been quick and strong.

But letting a city full of darkies die, well that's no big deal because they probably wouldn't have voted for you anyway.

I can't believe this is America.

It took them six days to evacuate the last of the refugees that sought shelter in the superdome. A girl showed a reporter where the people were pissing all over the astroturf in the dome because the plumbing had failed. A guy showed another reporter where they were stacking up the bodies on the second level of the superdome as people dropped dead.

I can't believe this is America.

And FEMA was nowhere to be found. The head of FEMA told everyone he only heard about the people stuck in the NOLA convention center by watching the news.

I can't believe this is America.

Talking heads are trying to put the blame for the disaster on the local and state government, rather than trying to RESPOND TO THE DISASTER. They are engaged in CYA big time.

I can't believe this is America (well, politicians only thinking about their next election, maybe).

The Red Cross isn't even allowed to get into New Orleans to aid the victims!

I can't believe this is America.

This link is extremely distressing because it clearly shows that FEMA went out of their way to disrupt communications. A sherrif in Jefferson Parish had to reconnect the lines of communication and guard them from FEMA.

I can't believe this is America.

But that's not the worst of it. It clearly shows how the federal gov't has failed it's citizenry and let people die.

If the role of a government is not to provide law & order, structure, and aid to its people, then what is the role of a government?

Outraged in Florida.

ps - If you can, please donate blood and cash. Blood can be donated at most local blood banks, and you can donate cash to the American Red Cross by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669). Sandy and I have agreed that we'll be making $200 cash donations from each paycheck over the next few months.

Posted at: 20:56 on 04/09/2005   [ / ] #

Thu, 01 Sep 2005

Oh my lord, what have I done??
The past week and a half I have jumped head first into some serious new stuff at work. I've been writing perl since 1998, and wrote my first cgi back in 1994 (it was in pascal, on a windows 3.1 box running a version of the cern httpd that was ported to windows), but I've never done anything with SQL (any of them), and I haven't played much with interactive cgi's.

Until I returned from vacation..

Step 1: Learn SQL. Because we have some major projects that need to be finished that will require, or at least will benefit, from rdbms interaction, and the flamingos group has all of their work stored in a database and I'm supposed to be the dba (their guy moved back to England in 2003 and I've been puttering along maintaining it since), I figured it'd be a good time to learn SQL. I won't claim to be a whiz, but my years of database programming while at JenMar (and BBS programming) got me way past the basic concepts (data normalization, why foreign keys are good, and the like) and I have been able to ramp up very quickly. SQL syntax is very simple and straightforward, and working with multiple tables is so intuitive that I'm surprised people command high dollars for the work.

Last week I could barely accomplish a "select * from blah" statement. This week I've developed a print auditing system which parses my printer logs and dumps them into MySQL. With a simple perl script I can produce a few decent reports based on the data, including how much each user is spending and how much each printer is costing.

My users will be so happy.

Step 2: Extend my CGI programming abilities. AJAX and DHTML are the future, and they must be embraced for web-applications to be successful. One of the problems though is I'm a perl muench, and am not a big fan of the many insecurity holes frequently found in PHP. So, I need to start developing a framework where AJAX applications can be rapidly prototyped and developed in a perl environment.

I looked at WDDX, but it seemed a bit buggy. However, after plugging away I was able to come up with some simple code to do a few basic operations. The code should be able to be generalized enough that in the future I can make a library out of it..

Oh yeah, I need to sleep sometime now too.

Posted at: 22:49 on 01/09/2005   [ / ] #

Tue, 16 Aug 2005

My trip to Maine was great, but eventful (negative way)..

The people are very friendly, and the place is beautiful. Unfortunately, my bike got knocked over in a parking lot and about $2400 worth of damage was done to it. Also, a few days before, my GPS got flooded with water and stopped functioning..

After disassembling the GPS and drying it out, it wouldn't work anymore and required a master reset. The procedure for a Streetpilot 3 master reset is as follows:

Press and hold the following buttons at the same time:

  1. Quit, Up (on the 4-way button), & Route buttons.
  2. While doing this, press and release the Power button.
  3. Let go of the Up button (on the 4-way button). The unit will start blinking.
  4. Wait 15 seconds, then release all other buttons.

After doing the master reset, the unit started working again. Also, during my inspection of the unit I figured out how rain water got in -- during factory assembly, it appears that the gasket got pinched and water leaked in through there. It probably wouldn't have been an issue, except that the rain storm (noah's flood) came in at just the right angle..

I'm currently stretching the gasket back into the proper shape, then I'll use some silicone grease and re-seal the whole unit back up.

As for the bike, the right side fairing needs to be replaced, along with both brake levers, front cowling fairing, and I replaced a saddle bag in Maine. Total damage will be around $2400 after it's all done. Right now I'm playing phone tag with the insurance guys...

At least I don't also need to buy a new GPS after the trip; I was sweating the cost of a new 276C, which although I want one, I can wait a year until my finances are in better shape.

Posted at: 21:04 on 16/08/2005   [ / ] #

Wed, 03 Aug 2005

la escuela es finis
Not entirely yet, but close enough. I just received a grade for one of my last two classes, and have one final to complete. I only need 15% on that final to graduate with honors; basically I can show up and select "A" as my final answer and I'm done.

It's hard to explain the feeling. Euphoria is definately one of the many things I'm feeling. Relief is another. A bit of sadness, but honestly the past few years of school have sucked because with work I have not been able to really apply myself academically.

There are books I want to re-read. I'll probably start with Thomas Kuhn.


Posted at: 01:06 on 03/08/2005   [ / ] #


My photo album
My resume

Presentations and Papers

SAP Filtering 1998
Border Manager 1999
Astronomy Status 2002
Astronomy Update 2003
Linux on a CTX FC2A300
Honeynet Challenge entry