Archive | August, 2009

On intellectual monopoly:

30 Aug

“There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.”
Robert A. Heinlein


Liars and Theives

30 Aug

No, I don’t mean politicians, at least not specifically. I watched a little kid pocket a candy bar in the grocery checkout after his Mom had told him he couldn’t have it. I’m sure the kid ain’t all evil, but he’s sure off to a good start.

Honesty is a virtue that is rapidly disappearing in our culture. Children are bombarded with people who lie, cheat, and steal their way to prosperity. The governor of South Carolina told everyone he was going on a hike while he was down knocking boots in Argentina. What are kids supposed to take away from that? Sex is so bad that you gotta lie about it? A rich Jew stole $50 billion dollars from many of his rich, Jewish friends. What kinda sense does that make? They were his friends for petesake! The North Korean government says one thing then does the other. Is that written in their constitution?

I really hope the kid gets caught and scolded for his dastardly deed. Maybe he will learn an important lesson about the virtues of honesty, and the evils of thievery. If not, then I fear society may end up paying for that candy bar and others like it in the end.

1969 – A 40th Anniversary

20 Aug

I was born in ’75, right in the midst of the sexual revolution and, uh, disco. The sixties were over, the war was over, and AIDS was coming. I’d always known that I had just missed something special, but I was too young to understand what it was. Luckily, I was constantly reminded of it by the pop media of my youth. My first favorite movie was Platoon, and my first favorite album was Led Zeppelin II. I even had an English teacher put our class through an entire segment devoted to the counter-culture of the sixties (I did a report on The Doors; the movie had just come out on VHS so I brought it in – that was my report). There was something interesting about the sixties, so interesting, in fact, that it is still felt today.

1969 is remembered to many as the last great summer of man. This summer has been filled with 40th Anniversary celebrations to remind of us of that seemingly magical time. We have revisited the moon landing, we have revisited Woodstock, and we have revisited Manson and his craziness. The guys at Monty Python are getting together to crack jokes at their anniversary party; and I also read, for my fellow technophiles, that it is also the 40th birthdays of both UNIX and AMD.

A lot has happened since Bryan Adam’s favorite summer, some of it memorable, but very little as game-changing as then. It seems to many that our culture peaked a bit in ’69, and has been going somewhat downhill ever since. Heck, we geeks are crossing our fingers, toes, and eyes praying that we go back to the moon. How screwy is that. Maybe it’s time we start making our own headlines of hope, rather than be forced to relive the best of times decades later.

Hope Is

8 Aug

I had the pleasure of witnessing two rites of passage today. One was my daughter’s karate tournament at the local recreation center. The other was the christening a new Catholic baby.

At the tournament, I watched while children as young as six competed for glory. They hoped to win one of the little medals the karate people gave out. They hoped for those medals as if they were made of real gold.

The little warriors met on the mats like gladiators sparring on an even battlefield. They wore protection for their hands and feet, and a few of them even had helmets, perhaps hoping to resemble characters from their favorite video games. They punched and kicked with the precision of artists creating a masterpiece.

The crowd looked on with rapt attention as the children battled it out for tournament supremacy. I heard someone make a comparison to ultimate fighting. This was my first tournament, but the comparison was easy to see. The kids fought as hard as any athlete. I sure hope my daughter wins one of those medals.

It was all fun and games and everybody was smiling, until one of the kids kicked a little too high and hit his opponent in the face. The hit kid and fell to the mat with a loud splat. The crowd cringed and groaned, holding its collective breath in the hope that the little boy would be OK. The kid barely missed a beat, though. He was already getting up, punching and kicking the whole time. He still hoped to win the match.

Many children fell to the mat that day. It was just another typical tournament for the children. Those kids played in fighting because they hoped to win. They hoped to survive the day. That is what we humans do.

Indeed, many of the kids left with medals; I hope they treasure them forever. My daughter won two medals and was as happy as I’ve ever seen her. I am so very proud of her, and I hope she continues with her karate training. I hope she can one day be a black belt.

The christening was a different sort of an event, but an event nonetheless. There were fewer onlookers than a normal mass, yet the gathering seemed to pay closer attention than normal. The parents and godparents stood before the priest and passed the baby from gentle arm to gentle arm.

The priest rambled on about original sin, eternal blessings, and what not. The baby didn’t know what was going on, though. He even cried a little as the holy water ran over his head. The baby doesn’t yet know that the water represents hope. He was absolved of all his sins that day. He is as innocent as they come. It is a blank slate many older people hoped for almost every day. If only that priest would pour a little of that water on my head.

The onlookers hoped the best for the new child and his family. The parents are charged with the task of raising the child, hoping forever that he will be a great man one day. That is the best any of us can hope for our children.

That was not the end of my day. I decided to take a nap, hoping that I could get some rest before dinner. However, I was awakened after only a few minutes to the news that an 8-year-old neighborhood boy had been missing for the last four hours. On a normal day I would have hoped the kid was at a friend’s house, perhaps playing video games, totally in ignorance of all the excitement of his disappearance. But the tournament had brought in many outsiders to our quiet little neighborhood, and you just never knew nowadays.

I didn’t know the child, so I grabbed my daughter and went out to join in the search. Everyone involved hoped beyond hope that we could find him before we lost daylight. The police were called in. Everyone searched. Everybody hoped.

Soon enough, the child was found. He had gone to a water park with a friend and hadn’t alerted his parents. Everyone sighed in relief. The boy was unharmed. His mother embraced him, crying. I hope she will be able to get over the traumatic events of the day.

The adults gathered all the children and told them how unsafe it was these days. We told them that merely hoping they will be safe is not enough. They would have to be diligent and always aware of their surroundings. The kids listened to us then ran off to enjoy the rest of the summer day, leaving us old folks to hope they understood our message.

That was how I spent my weekend, and I’m sure you’re hoping that I will wrap this up pretty soon. I just want to say one more thing. Hope is always there, as long as I have breath in my lungs, blood in my body, and a functioning brain I will always have hope. I’ll hope for the best for my wonderful wife and my amazing children; and I’ll hope for the best for myself. I’ll always keep hoping. I just hope you understand what I mean.

Visit Sarah’s facebook page to see Jada triumph at the tournament. Jada’s the yellow belt.

If you want to see the christening, then you need to watch the Sex in the City episode, “Unoriginal Sin.”