General Archive

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Out and Vote

I Voted Today

Now any of you that haven't voted yet, go out and do it.

Image Source: Whirlwend

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Civic Duty

With all this talk of civic duty going on right now, I can't help thinking of a certain line over and over (not safe for kids, and probably NSFW)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Random Videos

I've spent my lunch breaks this week playing around with a VB program I wrote. Well, technically, I borrowed some of the code from the Brightness Demo ©2005 by Tanner "DemonSpectre" Helland as the method to display the pixels on screen, but the actual image generation was something I developed. Go look at the Circle Gradient Pattern Generator on my Programming page if you're more interested. Initially, I made the program to generate a bunch of still images, like in the collection I have on my Artwork page. I'd always wanted to make animations with it, and that's what I finally got around to this week. Click on either of the two thumbnails below to see what the animations look like (Quicktime files, ~1.3 MB each). If you set Quicktime to loop the video, it should do so seamlessly.

Animation 4 First Frame Animation 8 First Frame

I haven't quite gotten the program to where I'm ready to share it, yet, but I hope to next week. So, consider this a preview of an upcoming website update.

Update I've uploaded both videos to YouTube, if you don't feel like downloading a Quicktime movie. The quality isn't near as good, but at least it gives you an idea of what the animations look like. Both are available below the fold.

Continue reading "Random Videos" »

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A New Addition to the Family

I've never been much of a 'dog' guy. It's not that I don't like them, but, as I like to say, that I like other people's dogs. I like wrestling with them, playing tug of war, fetch - all the fun stuff. But I never wanted the responsibility of having to take care of one myself.

Ever since my parents found a box of kittens abandoned in a gutter, I've had cats. Cats are easy to take care of - give 'em food and water and a way to get outside, and they'll be fine. They like human affection, but as long as they have another cat to keep them company, they seem to do just fine when no people are around. Dogs are different - you have to groom them, pick up their crap, take them for walks, actually play with them every day. In a lot of ways, they're like kids, except that they'll never grow up to be able to take care of themselves. Hence, my preference for playing with other people's dogs.

Well, the other day while we were putting up Halloween decorations, a dog roaming around the neighborhood ran into our yard chasing one of the cats. I chased after them to make sure the dog didn't eat the cat, and all it took was a stern word to get the dog to leave the cat alone. Then it decided to stick around in our yard for a while. It was pretty friendly, and my daughter, as she would put it, 'loved on it' quite a bit. Well, a few hours after we'd finished with the decorations and gone back inside, the dog was still on our front door step. That's when we made our biggest mistake - we gave it a bowl of water and a small dish of cat food. It didn't leave after that, and was still out front the next morning.

So, we did the responsible thing. We put up signs around the neighborhood, called the Humane Society, ran an ad in the paper, but we never heard from anybody looking for the dog. I suppose we could have taken her to the pound, but could you do that to a face like this?


So, we decided to keep her, and named her Maddie. She's doing okay so far, but it's still tense with the cats. Right now, the dog gets the back yard, while the cats get the front yard and the house. Hopefully, they'll figure out how to get along. Here's another picture of Maddie to show how big she is:

Maddie & Jeff

BTW, my daughter took both of those pictures.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Economy & Expertise

Wall StreetThe whole issue with the economy and the "Wall Street Bailout" has got me to thinking. First, let me share a related personal account.

I'm an engineer. But, the company I work for is small, so we all wear several hats. One of mine is being the webmaster. That means that my e-mail address is the one used for feedback from our website. I get lots and lots of suggestions from people about how to improve our aircraft - stopping the rotor, using two co-axial rotors, folding the rotor to stow it in flight, I've even gotten a few e-mails proposing perpetual motion machines. Most of these suggestions aren't stupid, just uninformed*. I didn't spend 5 years at the University of Maryland just to learn how to play beer pong and do keg stands. The professors actually taught me the specialized information I'd need to understand aerospace engineering. And the years I've spent on the job have taught me even more. 'Expertise' isn't any empty word, it means something.

So, how does this relate back to the economy? Well, those same people who think they know enough about aeronautics to know better than trained aerospace engineers are the same people who are now making a lot of noise about the economy, thinking they know more than trained economists. When I hear about polls and surveys that try to gauge the public's support for the bailout plan, my fist thought is to wonder how qualified most people are to have a valid opinion on the matter at all.

Personally, I can see the argument from both sides. I don't like bailing out the people that screwed us in the first place, but if the long term effect of not helping them is that I lose my retirement, well, to use a cliché, I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face. Is the long term effect going to be that bad? I don't know. I know how to design planes, not run an economy. And if the problem's as urgent as some people are saying, I don't have the time to learn enough before a decision has to be made. That's why we're a republic and not a democracy - we do rely on our elected officials to know more about running a country than we do ourselves. So for this case, I'm just going to have to trust the experts, and hope they make the right decision.

Added 2008-10-03 I thought of one more thing to add, and it's important enough to add it here in the main entry so it doesn't get ignored in the comments. One other worry I have with Congress passing this bailout is that they're doing it merely to show that they're doing something, and not necessarily because they understand the bill enough to think that it will work. It's the same theme I've harped on about the TSA and security after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Just because politicians are making a show of taking action doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be effective.

*There are some good suggestions, too, and I don't mind explaining things for the uninformed suggestions, so please, nobody take this as a reason to not e-mail the company. It should also be noted that many people do recognize that they're not experts, and the suggestions are offered humbly. But, there are still quite a few arrogant ignorant people.


Selling Out