Monthly Archives: June 2006

Another Random Photo…

So I was thinking to myself the other day, “Oh, most divinely Adonis-like Manifestation of all that is Pure and Holy in the world, what’s the most mind-numbingly dull thing you could post online?”

Well, of course the obvious answer is another of those random photos from my domicile. Today’s most delicious treat is a photo of the upstairs den or computer room. Ahhhh… I can taste that satisfaction swelling up as the internet distributes this incredibly interesting post…

Alright, you can click on the image to get a larger version. This is going to be so cool to look back at when I’ve quit caring about and sold all the crap in this picture…

See, look, there on the left. That big pointy green lump of a thing on the TV. That’s a candle my wife got me in college. It’s a wizard reading a book sitting on a dragon. And to the right of that there’s a picture of our 1-year-old that the daycare got me for father’s day this year.

Oh, yeah, and there on the shelves, you can see the binders and binders of coins and banknotes i’m going to sell at a snails pace over the next 20 years. Under those the coin catalogs I have on semi-permanent loan from the library. You can just make out a few Netflix DVDs on the top of the shelf there. Deep Space 9 for the wife and All Creatures Great and Small for me of course. And right next to the IP phone for my workplace you can make out a couple Mafalda books.

Now the desk, that’s where all the REALLY boring stuff happens. I’ve got my computer on the left there with all the Peanuts gang hanging out on top and the laptop from work to the right. It’s still on at 11 o’clock at night as I have to make a change to a customer website at 12. Isn’t that EXCITING? There’s that cool banker’s lamp my wife’s family got me while I was in college. And that white box in front of the monitor… yeah, that’s all the really cool Spanish flash cards I’ve made up studying Spanish for no reason I can really put my finger on. There must be 700 of those stupid things in there. Let’s see… anything else of disinterest… there’s the new Beautiful South CD ‘Superbi’ on the printer. In the lower left-hand corner you can see all the drawers leftover from when the room used to house all those sports trading cards.

Wow, that IS dull. I should do this for a living.


Filed under personal

More houscleaning…

Yes, it’s time once again for more housecleaning.

So you know you want to… follow the link and go buy something...


Filed under Uncategorized

The Measure of a Man

Earlier this week I passed a personal milestone. Yes, that’s right, I finally finished that book in Spanish that I told you about and then suddenly deleted all reference to. For the first time in a very long time, I’ve accomplished some tangible portion of one of my inane personal goals. This sort of thing hasn’t happened since years ago when I finally got my world banknote collection all nicely sorted out. Subsequently of course I’ve tried maddeningly to rid myself of that same collection but at least it was finished… for a while.

Banknote tangents aside, this Spanish thing brought me around to the usual depressing thoughts that accompany any of my rather arbitrary goals. The first is the usual ‘Why?’ which I covered at length in my ‘Empty Erudition’ post from April of this year. The question remains a valid one but one that I’m happy to ignore for the moment. The question that really bothers me is how one measures any of this. Obviously, slogging through an entire book in Spanish can’t be hurting my grasp of the language but is it really doing any good? Would I be better served to go sit in a Mexican restaurant at lunch hour or religiously read a few dozen Spanish blogs? I’m a simple man with simple needs and one of those needs is to have at my disposal a set of several thousand real-time metrics that measure my mental acuity in a multitude of subject areas.

It is ironic that for all of mankind’s efforts to measure, quantify and explain the universe around him, his own mind is almost completely unknown to him. Mankind has absolutely no reliable tools to assess the human mind… well, except for one. More on that later. In general, people believe that tests exist which will plumb the depths of human knowledge. The SAT, IQ Tests and a myriad of others attempt to determine exactly what you know and reduce your knowledge to a simple integer value but despite all the hubbub and the allure of such tests, they’re nothing more than humbug.

Take the SAT as an example; it measures mathematical and verbal skills for students heading for a University education. Its testing base is relatively broad and is widely accepted as THE test to take if you’re going on for more education after High School. The problem with this is that people cheat the system. They don’t write the answers on their arms but they study materials directly related to the content of the test. In any bookstore you can find a plethora of books whose sole purpose is to help you improve your SAT scores. Worse than that, many schools focus their curricula on the content of standardized tests. Because of all this outside influence on the minds being tested, these tests aren’t a measure of your aptitude so much as a measure of your ability to buy and study a book. It has always been my decided opinion that studying for any test is a form of cheating. The test was intended to measure what you learned or what you know, not your ability to cram a litany of facts into your short-term memory. This is as true of the SAT as it is of the final exam in Mr. Shilling’s calculus class.

As a supplement and formalization of the testing procedure that society uses to measure our intellects we now have hundreds of certifications and degrees that are aimed at proving just how intelligent we are. In the computer trades especially, there is a wide range of tests and certifications designed to quantify technical intellect and reduce it to a three or four letter abbreviation. You can be an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) or an OCP (Oracle Certified Professional) and for each of these esteemed positions there’s a test (or tests) and of course for each test there’s a big $50 book to study. Personally, I find these tests utterly laughable. All the really good engineers I know don’t bother with such certification and those who have them always seem to be the most intellectually vacuous. But yet this process is supposed to be the main basis by which we hire and promote people in the technology sector? Pish.

So a few hundred words back I mentioned a wonderful and objective tool that would help us to really measure our own intellect. Obviously from my previous ranting it’s not in the form of any test so what is it? Well, unfortunately, it’s complicated, it’s not objective but it is wonderful. The only tool anyone can use to estimate the breadth and depth of a person’s psyche is another human psyche. As humans, we’re REALLY good at assessing each other. We do it instantly without even trying. If I went up to a native speaker of Spanish and tried to address her in her native tongue she’d be able to tell me more about my level of skill in 10 seconds than hours and hours of standardized testing. The same goes for just about every facet of human knowledge plus or minus the much practiced art of ‘bullshit’ most commonly seen in job interviews and used car sales.

Ultimately though, even that tool does us little good. Brains are good at comparing but they lack good points of reference. I can say “I know more about calculus than Joe” and Joe can say “Rob knows more about calculus than I do” but that’s about it. Without any absolute measure of intelligence we both run the risk of being total idiots relative to someone who really knows what they’re talking about. Beyond meaningless relativistic measures of intelligence with no grounding in anything strictly quantifiable the problem is completely insolvable. I suppose I’ll have to be content in the knowledge that my Spanish is at least better than the local car dealer who proudly displays the sign:

“Seablamos hespañol.”

But yet probably worse than the average Madrid-born 6th grader’s. C’est la vie. Crap. Wait, that’s not even Spanish. Hrmph.

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The Luddite Speaks

Indeed it has finally happened. Well, actually it happened years ago, but now seemed a good time to complain about it. I’ve officially had it with having access to all human knowledge. Yeah, you heard me. I’m completely sick and tired of the fact that I can hop onto Google right now and in a few keystrokes find the answer to any conceivable question or more likely, three or four answers.

Boy, I remember those halcyon days of pristine uncertainty and ignorance in the 70s and 80s. Sometimes you’d hear a song on the radio and you’d walk around for weeks not knowing who the artist was, just waiting on the off chance that they’d play the song again or you’d run into somebody who knew what record the song was on. But now, the fun of ignorance, the anticipation of resolution, and the jubilance of discovery have all vanished. Any idiot with a computer can tell you the atomic weight of lead or why ‘Pounds’ is abbreviated ‘lbs.’ The value of smart people in this planet has diminished almost to nil. Time was, I got 2 or 3 calls a week from people asking about the solubility of sodium at 45 degrees Celsius or some other obscure bit of forgotten lore but now I’m lucky if anyone calls at all. And when they do they don’t seem to give a damn about anything of real interest. It’s hardly worth the effort to know anything at all. I might as well watch TV.

While we’re on the subject of things I’m sick of, let me tell you what else I could do without. I’ve had enough of ‘Undo.’ It’s about time people in this country started taking responsibility for their mistakes. From now on, when I make a typing mistake I’m going to just cross it out and go on, none of this fancy ‘backspace’ crap. Better yet, I’ll just close the whole document and start over. That’s real moral responsibility. Take a stand, delete the damn thing and start from the beginning. It’s always better the second time anyway.

And what’s happened to entertainment? In my day, you listened to the whole album. None of this ‘download one track and listen to it over and over’ crap. If you wanted to listen to one track on a record you took it out of the sleeve, then took it out of the paper liner, looked on the album cover, counted the little tiny gaps and dropped the needle somewhere near where you thought it should go. Back then, music took effort. You listened to the whole album in the order the artist intended, none of this ‘shuffle’ B.S. Music, as an art form, was perpetuated in its proper context. Song B follows song A, etc. Imagine how different the Beatles Sgt. Pepper would be all shuffled up or just cut apart for the singles. Personally, I can’t listen to ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ without hearing ‘Getting Better’ afterwards. Nowadays when an artist releases an album there are 2-3 tracks of songs people actually want to hear along with 6-7 songs of random filler that nobody EVER listens to. Isn’t that great? Somehow we’ve got more artists, more albums but less actual music that anyone likes. That makes a lot of sense.

Now television… there’s an art form that’s completely run amok. When I was a wee lad we had four stations. If there was a storm in the area we had five. Nowadays there are hundreds. It’s funny, when we only had four stations we did things. Nobody could stand to sit that long and watch those same four stations all day long. We did silly things like go outside and run around, play games, talk to each other, read books, the list was endless. Now though, we’re such an advanced culture that we have no need of such pedestrian activities. If one channel doesn’t suit our needs of the moment then surely there’s another one among the 597 choices that is showing exactly what we want to see. Why bother to interact with one another when we can be staring at a screen! It makes me wistful to think, though, of the cumulative mental and physical energy we would have free if we went back to four inane stations. Why, the roller-rinks would be crawling with happy children! All the drive-in theatres would be back in business! The libraries and bookstores would be swamped with patrons! Children would speak Latin and Greek in the streets as they played kick-the-can and stickball while Mozart concertos blasted from their boom-boxes. It’d be a veritable utopia of enlightenment and delight! Well… maybe not complete utopia, but I’d say it’s worth a shot. Let’s throw away our TVs and see what happens.

As a people, we have the capacity to be great and the capacity to be nothing. The world gives us great technology and sends us the message that if we use it, we’ll be great people. If we watch the new CNN Financial show we’ll make a lot of money on the stock market. “Knowledge is Power!”, they croon. “If we buy the newest, fastest computer we’ll be so much more productive,” they promise. And they’re right. Knowledge is power and productivity is something we all want more of but we must remember that it’s directionless power. That home improvement show may have given you the power to fence in your back yard but until you actuate the power you’ve been given you’ve gained nothing. The productivity of your new computer could be used to balance your checkbook or it could waste four hours of your time surfing the web. Technology gives us the power to drive ourselves further and faster into the direction we want to go but ultimately what direction we choose is still determined by our ability to overcome the most basic human frailties.


Filed under mankind

Random Photos

Over the years I regret that I haven’t taken more pictures of the silly mundane things in my life. Sure we have pictures of the kids and each other but we’ve still got all those things so I can reference them pretty easily. What I don’t remember is how the upstairs looked before the grand book purge of ought-four or what the living room looked like before we got rid of the purple couch. So for today’s blog posting, you get to see some random crap from my life. Aren’t you lucky! Click on any of the photos to see your luckiness more close up!

Yeah, here’s the “wall o’ lilies”… amazing to think that a dozen clearance bulbs plus 7 years of fertilizer equals 15 feet by 2 feet of really ugly lillies. This photo looks like crap on my computer; I’m not sure if it’s the camera or the my monitor that gives up on showing that much orange…

Really should mow the yard before I take next year’s photos…

Note to self… move that stupid chair next time…

I’m almost giddy… as you can see in the foreground, it’s almost Hibiscus time again. Somebody really needs to come up with a species of lilac that blooms for more than a couple weeks though.

Sadly, the Peonies are far past their prime. Stupid ideas coming after the petals are all off…

More lillies. Too bad they’re not a more appropriate color. Perhaps they can be painted…

My primary gardening problem is a crappy memory. I *thought* I remembered these stupid vines being called Hollyhocks in the store. They sure don’t look like any Hollyhocks I can find online. Damn my recollection. Well, it’s green and it grows. What more can one ask really?

Alright, so that’s the back of the house, the ‘experimental’ landscaping as I refer to it. Another 200 landscaping bricks and I can start on the real stuff. Anyway, my marriage contract says I get to decorate the outside of the house and the upstairs. Not, of course, that the upstairs differs in any significant way from the decor of the rest of the house…

I’ve done the landing in Early American Witchdoctor…

A landing isn’t a landing without a cricket bat and ball and an immense dragon vase.

And of course you have to have at least three Vishnu’s and a Buddha. Need some incredibly useless Rob trivia? The two books on the shelf:

* Darwin’s Descent of Man, late 19th century edition.
* Granville’s Integral and Differential Calculus, mid 40s.

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The Struggle

So here we are, formally and finally on the other side of the dreaded summer vacation period. We’ve had our trip to the states not immediately bordering our own, managed to go to the beach and not acquire a life-ending sunburn and safely returned to our previously underappreciated domicile. Ahhh the joy. Now down to the rest of our primarily fruitless and relatively meaningless lives.

It occurred to me on vacation that I needed to set some goals. Not stupid goals like ‘clean out the fridge when I get back’ but some cool goals. Any consistent reader of this open missive to the universe that we call a blog will realize that I already have plenty of goals but what I clearly don’t have is a plan to achieve any of them. Slowly and ploddingly I have inched closer to many of them but I haven’t really achieved any real success. In short, I haven’t actually finished.

The casual reader may be tempted to ascribe this to a dissipative personality but I don’t think this is the case. I’m not a superhero in my work life but I do manage to get things done. I set appropriate goals and I meet them so why doesn’t this same tendency carry over into my non-working hours? Well the answer is the obvious one. While there is time to achieve these goals and work is done towards them there isn’t the appropriate oversight and planning applied to them. Fail at work and something evil happens. Fail to mow the yard on time and it simply slips to tomorrow (or in extreme cases, next spring). So, the planning begins now.

First, the goals themselves… oh, it should be noted that these goals omit all the obvious and cliché things which take the form: “Be a better… husband, father, brother, employee, whatever.” We all try to do those things and since nobody’s currently complaining about anything there will be no specific action item. I’ll brace myself for the onslaught…

* Finally finish learning Spanish. Yes, I know, the wording of this goal is stupid. You can’t really ever ‘finish’ learning something as massive as an entire human language. People are too busy making up new bits of it for anyone to really finish but I think you get the idea. That being said, I can’t help but feel there’s been a good bit of progress since I started most recently. I have faith that things will come together with due diligence… eventually.

* Finish that Bible thing I started. Yeah, I know, Genesis 30 was on 2/15 of this year and I realize most considered this a lost cause but I really should work at least another chapter a week into the schedule somehow or at least make a good show of it.

* Write this blog thing. Again, not something you can ever ‘finish’ per se but something that needs at least a slice of my attention

* Either pay proper attention to or get rid of this stupid coin collection.

* Finish the outside landscaping and garage.

So, Spanish and the Bible I can take care of after everyone’s in bed, no problem and the same with the blog. Now, if I can only find someone who wants to trade some landscaping bricks for a coin collection….

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