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:: Sunday, March 31, 2002 ::
Things I'd like to remember about March that I never got around to writing about.
I wrote Rachel an email on her birthday.
Reaching out to another person is its own reward. There is no greater spiritual salve for the soul.
People are full, complete beings, and are therefore capable of anything. They occasionally exercise their capabilities, too.
Condominium home owners' associations are huge pains in the ass.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/31/2002 @ 23:59 :: [link] ::
:: Saturday, March 30, 2002 ::
Vatican News Service - Internet home of Vatican Television and Radio
I went to the Vatican's website and found the live streaming video feed for Vatican TV, which I've been watching for about an hour between surfing and writing. Today is Good Friday, which isn't the reason I tuned in - it just sort of happened that way. A few minutes ago the Pope's attendants rolled his chair to the cross for him to touch and bless, and now the Cardinals (not being Catholic, I'm guessing that's who all the men dressed in red robes are) are lining up to kiss and touch it. The Holy Week ceremonies seem to be taking a large toll on John Paul II's health and energy. Each camera shot I've seen of him during today's Good Friday service has shown him slumped forward or with his head in his hands during prayer. As a disenchanted Protestant, I don't fully understand the Pope's role and what he symbolizes to the Catholics of the world, but his gradually failing health is painful to watch, even for me. The Conclave elected him in 1978 when I was three years old, so he's the only Pope I've known, and it's like watching a beloved grandfather fade away.
If you're part of the growing portion of Americans who aren't sure what this week is all about, thinking Good Friday is so named because it's a day off from work to enjoy the lovely weather of early spring, and that Easter is about a candy-bearing rabbit, Good Friday is the Christian holiday observing Jesus' crucifixion. Three days later Christians will celebrate Easter, the observance of Jesus' resurrection.
I was brought up in the Southern Baptist church, where young children are taught the importance of believing in Easter. If you're Christian and want to get into heaven, you have to believe Jesus was the son of God, which might seem a little odd, but if you understand the following tenets of the Christian faith, it makes a lot more sense; if you believe them, it becomes imperative:
The Southern Baptist faith has effectively immunized me to religion; this has been discussed before. I've maintained my spirituality, and lately I've felt a growing need to merge it back with a religion, although I'm not sure where or how to start - all I know is there's an emptiness in me, and the Baptist faith won't fill it.
So just because I think the Pope is a good guy and I've listed a few core tenets of the Christian faith, don't expect me to evangelize it. For all I care, you can go right ahead thinking Palm Sunday is the first day in spring when it's safe to leave your palm tree outside overnight, and that Easter is about getting candy from cute bunny rabbits or a bell flying in from Rome. I'm one who thinks a society's primary religion caters to its culture. For example, the Jews started out as a nomadic people, and after settling in present day Israel they've been plagued by wars (both internal and external), occupation, and a harsh environment. Not surprisingly, the Jewish God treated his worshippers with tough love, lavishly rewarding good work and brazen acts of faith, and doling out swift and severe retribution to those who went astray. After the Jews had been exposed to the stabilizing influence of the Greek and Roman civilizations, Jesus enters the scene and Christianity is born, transforming the short-tempered Jewish God into a forgiving God, full of love, patience, and compassion.
Where is this going? Definitely not where I'm trying to go with it. What I'm wanting to say is, I think the long-standing religions of the world are all trying to accomplish the same goal, to bring spiritual enlightenment and awareness to humanity. If this is true, then no religion is intrinsically better than any other - the selection of a religion is a purely epicurean choice on the part of the individual. But the role of Jesus confuses me. I've dubbed it "The Jesus Factor." No other religion has quite the same God-in-human-form messiah figure. Buddhism comes closest, but it's not quite the same. Something about it keeps me hooked: the question of "Who is this Jesus person, anyway?" is the one reason I can't disengage from Christianity as the only religion I truly subscribe to deep down in the core of my soul.
Easter - it really confuses me.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/30/2002 @ 03:28 :: [link] ::
:: Friday, March 29, 2002 ::
A search for "Prius" on Daypop turns up few webloggers writing about them. Most of the Prius' Internet-based activity is on discussion groups, and except for John's, weblogs don't mention them, and although technically a weblog, he doesn't promote it as such. There's a sense of duty to promote the Prius name. I love the car - it's awesome technology, truly pure genius, as the ads say, and I'm reminded at every red light when the engine goes silent.
How Prius has changed me:
:: Bryan Travis :: 03/29/2002 @ 12:35 :: [link] ::
:: Sunday, March 24, 2002 ::
The Prius and I have been 3,300 miles and 86 days together. Today isn't a milestone - I just felt like writing about my hybrid car because it's cool, and then after a few paragraphs, I'm going to rant... just so you know. During the 11 months spent pondering whether or not I should get a Prius and the next 5 months waiting for it to arrive, I often wondered if my decision was practical, because the Saturn only had 105K miles and ran fine - how badly did I need a new car?
A lot of people buy a new car every 5 years, but if they waited 10 years between new cars, they could retire 10 years earlier. I still ponder this point a year and a half after first hearing about the Prius. I don't regret the purchase, though - I'm glad I did. I believe in the technology strongly enough to put my money where my mouth is and take a stand in support of it.
On the surface, the Prius is just another car, and on that level, it must seem daft of me to go on about it like a blathering fool. If I had acted this way after buying a new Mustang, I'd know I was whacked in the head.
On a deeper level, the Prius symbolizes much more. Doing right by the environment. Purity. Conscience. The future. It's about taking the first giant leap toward clean energy and technology. It's about being environmentally aware and acting on it instead of giving lip service. It's about being one of the trailblazers. It's sitting at an intersection, feeling the engine shutdown, and knowing your car is sipping natural resources while everyone else's around you guzzles them.
American capitalism has a powerful influence on technology, but capitalism reacts slowly to changes when a direct impact on the bottom line isn't readily apparent, dubbing them "fads" and "blips." I believe this as a logical, well-substantiated approach - recognizing the importance of financial sensibility is part of what has made capitalism what it is today. That's why, perhaps more than anything else Prius symbolizes to me, it sends a message to environmental laggards in the American automobile industry like Ford Motor Company, who think only 10% of vehicles will be hybrids in 10 years, telling them their lack of foresight and inability to see beyond today's bottom line will be their undoing a second time, as it was in the 1970s and 1980s when high fuel prices and demand for reliability lured the American car buyer to Japanese models. Congress missed a huge opportunity, and made an error in judgment by rejecting the CAFE increase to protect American jobs - it will probably have the opposite effect and let American automakers maintain a "penny wise, pound foolish" approach to innovation, while foreign competitors move further ahead.
In defense of American automakers, they are finally beginning to listen, but whereas the Japanese first developed hybrid technology for sedans and subcompacts, the American automobile manufacturers are bringing it to the SUV market. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, SUVs represent everything that's wrong with our country - gluttony, wastefulness, social status through material exuberance, ignorance, hypocrisy, lack of and no interest in gaining awareness. They truly are Silly Urban Vehicles, and the reason they're safer on the road is because their sheer mass makes them a threat to everything else on the road except pickups and other SUVs. On the other hand, American automakers and their marketing tactics are not entirely to blame for the SUV phenomenon - a lot of Americans truly do love them - and maybe families who haul around three or more kids and their soccer equipment on a frequent basis really do need one, but certainly not the single commuter. So, until Americans become conscious of the negative impact their SUVs have and abandon their silly obsession, making SUVs with hybrid powertrains is perhaps the first best thing American automakers can do.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/24/2002 @ 13:26 :: [link] ::
:: Wednesday, March 20, 2002 ::
Dudes, life has been interesting. No, it really has. I mean, sure, after smoking the crack pipe for the last time and leaving behind a sordid past of Saturday night drag races, fast women, and countless kegs of light beer for a life more ordinary, one's threshold for excitement gets set pretty high, but that doesn't mean leading a normal life isn't entertaining - hell, no!
Some of life's scrumptious dollops of caviar, submitted for your approval:
When it comes to thinking of ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in the springtime, nothing rises to the top of the list like the fetish I have for filing federal and state income taxes. I'm thinking about designing my own line of boxer shorts for the occasion: "Beware: High Internal Growth Rates - Enter At Your Own Risk!"
People sell vintage cookbooks from the 1930s-1960s on eBay - imagine that. You wouldn't believe the atrocities that used to pass for food! I'm gradually assembling a suitably large stash so I can scan in the choice recipes and post for your enjoyment somewhere on funtongue.org.
A springtime monsoon has descended upon the Ohio Valley. I'm frantically waiting for a warm, sunny weekend to take the kayak out on the lake. Where the hell is spring, anyway?
I've been a huge supporter of campaign finance reform, and today was a great victory for Democrats and those who oppose a two party system of government. It embarrasses me to admit my senator, Mitch McConnell, is the fiercest opponent of this much needed reform, despite years of one political scandal after another. Fellow Americans, you have my sincerest apologies, and I vow never to vote for him.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/20/2002 @ 20:07 :: [link] ::
:: Friday, March 15, 2002 ::
Let me start by saying my MBA team is cool. One of our projects is to come up with a business screening idea; that is, an idea for a new business. By the end of the semester we'll also present the marketing and financial strategies of our business plan. It makes sense to use the screening idea for the business plan, because when you're working full-time and going to school for your Master's, it's all about working smarter, not harder.
Louisville is a fairly mid-sized city, and there are plenty of cultural experiences this southern/midwestern town isn't large enough to support. That's a shame. I'm an eclectic guy, and Louisville's cultural scene has left me with unfulfilled demands.
What the hell does that mean? Ah, well, allow me to draw on the vast warehouse of knowledge that about 15 credit hours toward an MBA have given me. Quite simply, "unfulfulled demands" means there are dollars residing in my pocket that would otherwise trickle into the Louisville economy. Until Louisville offers ways to fulfill my "unfulfilled demands," those dollars will be spent on vacations to exotic locales, online purchases, and happy endings. Do you get it?
I tried to think of business ventures that would address my unfulfilled demands in Louisville, which hopefully are also the unfulfilled demands of enough other people to support an establishment of some sort. With one good idea, the effort was hardly successful, but not entirely unsuccessful, either, as I was rather pleased with it.
Louisville needs a tea room. Not some stuffy, conservative ultra-formal bungalow like "tea room" might conjure in your head, though. I'm talking someplace with an atmosphere so eclectic that the only way to describe it is cool to the fourth degree, pleasantly unlike anyplace you've ever been. I'm not just talking about high tea served all day. I'm talking about Jasmine, Earl Grey Hot, rare white tea, and funky teacups. I'm talking about mahogany. I'm talking about sofas. I'm talking about light fare, carpaccio and capers, fruit dishes, and rich, flourless chocolate desserts. I'm talking about Guinness and other fine imports, port wine, 25 year-old scotch, and absolutely no cheap ass Bud Light. I'm talking about a well-ventilated cigar room upstairs, and smoke free downstairs. I'm talking about Trivial Pursuit games with strangers, chessboards, backgammon, and a deck of playing cards. I'm talking about jazz and classical music in the background, and I'm talking about Sarah Harmer, Josh Rouse, and Rufus Wainwright, too, but I'm not talking about TVs in every corner with ESPN. I'm talking about marble sinks in the restrooms with complimentary mouthwash and breath mints. I'm talking about a patio or veranda when the weather's nice, tables with floating candles and fresh flowers, a fountain, and tasteful tiki lights.
My group is either the oddest assortment of MBA students ever assembled or some of the coolest people on earth, because they bought into my tea room idea. Can you believe it? I love my group. A tea room, for heaven's sakes! It must be an omen. It must be my mission in life to quit my job, cash out my savings, take out a loan and open Louisville's first tea house. Once it was established, I'd work 6 hour days, get to know my customers, and write weblog posts in the soothing ambiance of a tea room.
Corporate America must be getting to me... but a dude can dream, can't he?:: Bryan Travis :: 03/15/2002 @ 00:23 :: [link] ::
:: Wednesday, March 13, 2002 ::
I detest spammers. My revulsion for them was sent to new heights after reading the header of one of 20 spam messages received today in the Yahoo mail account I use for online ordering and website memberships. The mail server's domain name was peculiar, so I typed it into my web browser, and sure enough, my worst fears were confirmed: it was a company that specializes in sending spam mail. I didn't realize there were companies acting like mercenaries that had actually built a business model around sending unsolicited spam to netizens on behalf of the crooked companies offering the worthless and often fraudulent products and services. Thanks to an inbox filter, I'll never see another email from this domain or the spammer's mail agent ever again.
Here's a bomb for Google, a link to the spam email company's website, which you may propagate: spammers are the vile, worthless scum of the earth. Highlighted on the website: "We have architected our network in such a way that our email capacity is virtually unlimited." That's just what the Internet needs - "email marketing made simple." Degenerates!
Oh, and here are a few more, too; I hate them all - they make me want to be an unkind person:
Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/13/2002 @ 22:25 :: [link] ::
:: Tuesday, March 12, 2002 ::
The Alphabet Synthesis Machine takes me back to my middle school days.
When I was younger I wrote myself notes in alternative alphabets to keep them private. I got started with the Greek alphabet on the word processor in Commodore's GEOS (back in the good ole days, the Commodore 64 had a graphical shell called "GEOS," which I'm guessing it stood for Graphical Environment Operating System, Commodore's answer to the Apple Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, and another DOS graphical shell preceding Windows whose name I can't recall, although it might also have been GEOS or ZEOS; there was only so much you could do with 64KB of RAM, but it got the job done by frequently reloading apps from the 5.25" floppy drive); we call the font "Symbol" on today's Windows machines, and if I had one, I'd tell you what the Mac analog was - but alas! Although the Greek alphabet only has 24 characters, the fontographers somehow worked in matches for the two remaining Roman characters, maybe with grammatical symbols, or maybe just by making up squiggles, for all I know.
I printed out a Roman-Greek alphabet translation key, and with some practice writing letters, I was up and running. The Greek alphabet became my obsession. I translated street signs in my head, checked out a copy of the original Greek texts of the New Testament from the library, and used crayons to draw large m and s characters on blank sheets of typing paper. If you went through my school papers from the 7th and 8th grade, you could probably find several months of class notes written exclusively with Greek characters.
I was a strange lad, and some claim I never got better.
The problem with Greek letters is several of them resemble their Roman counterparts, and of what's left, most are easy to figure out and only a few are tricky. After becoming proficient enough to read and write Greek characters almost as quickly as I could Roman characters, I decided it had been fun to learn, but that the Greek alphabet simply wasn't secure enough.
I searched for another, less intelligible alphabet, and despite a particular fondness for the Etruscan and Runic characters, I chose to create my own. Based on Runic, it was definitely runeiform, with only one case. I created a key as I was creating it, but unfortunately, it has been lost. I've forgotten how to draw the characters, and even if there were a sample in a box of papers somewhere, I couldn't translate it without calculating the frequency of each character in the sample and matching to letter distributions in English.
That's okay, though - if I can't remember what I wrote about or where I put it, then it's surely nothing I need now. When the need arises to secure something in the present, NTFS5 comes in handy. NTFS5 isn't the best, but it's a might bit better than my alphabet, which no one seems to have any interest in cracking.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/12/2002 @ 21:53 :: [link] ::
:: Friday, March 08, 2002 ::
Thursday I took a break at work to go outside and take a mile walk. The smell of spring was in the air for the first time, albeit faintly, almost imperceptible. It's March in the Ohio Valley, so we have to make the most of it, because in a few days it will turn rainy and cold again; this isn't the sort of thing you read a weather forecast to find out - it's as fundamental as gravity.
Trees and other plants understand this is only a sneak preview of spring and know better than to venture leaf buds and blossoms. Another hard frost is sure to come, and perhaps even another inch or two of snow isn't inconceivable. Mother Nature sends mixed messages in early spring, as if unsure whether She wants to spend another year nursing the flora and fauna.
The birds were less cautious than the trees, though, and their chirping was loud and happy. I've even seen Canadian geese flying overhead and resting on large fields of grass. The birds seem to know nothing more than it's warm, and they surrender to an unknown force, seemingly carried by the warm breeze.
The birds understand what I'm talking about. It's an unknown force that makes us feel all tingly inside. It also thaws our hormones, pushes concealing clothes to the far end of the closet to make way for the more revealing articles, and makes us more friendly, stupid and prone to debauchery.
It's going to be like the final act of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I can hardly wait.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/08/2002 @ 06:12 :: [link] ::
:: Tuesday, March 05, 2002 ::
Someone was telling me about a rather cool talent they had and said rather frankly, "It's a gift from God; I don't know any other way to explain how I can do it."
A humble statement like that said at the right moment makes one ponder on a number of fronts. As it sifted in, I didn't have a response to this statement. I realized the crusade to purge my spirituality of the fallacies of religion had gone a bit too far, dimming my soul in the process. The closest analogy I can think of is chemotherapy, a precarious balance between healing and poisoning.
From the time I could first think abstractly, question ideas and come to my own conclusions, my upbringing in a rural Southern Baptist church and love of science have been in a fierce struggle to win control of my belief system. When I was younger, the theories of Creation and Evolution somehow peacefully co-existed in my head, colliding only briefly until I was about twelve and entered puberty, at which point all hell broke loose, no pun intended.
I'm a Star Trek fan, for which I make no apologies. I don't wear Vulcan ears, don't own a Starfleet uniform and don't read starship manuals. The attraction for me is in what Star Trek represents, a universe in which humanity has achieved a higher awareness and can finally dedicate its resources to answering the ultimate question "What's the universe all about?" In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Dr. McCoy says, "According to myth, the Earth was created in six days, but watch out, here comes [Project] Genesis - we can do it for you in six minutes!"
I had watched that scene several times since I was seven years old when ST:II was released, but to my 12 year-old mind, its meaning suddenly took on a whole new dimension. According to myth. Myth. Creation had presented some problems vis-a-vis Evolution, but it had never occurred to me one of the two might be the stuff of mythology. The Creation versus Evolution conflict would have erupted in my head sooner or later, but I happened to pop a Star Trek movie into the VCR at just the right moment, and that's how the greatest of all my internal struggles began. No, Star Trek is not evil - that's something that might be said at the church where I grew up - Star Trek simply made me think. That's what Star Trek is good for - it's always made me think and wonder.
Up to this point, I had accepted Southern Baptist religious teachings as fact. My religious beliefs had never been questioned, so when science came into my life, bringing with it a methodology known as the Scientific Method to gather data and test hypotheses for the purpose of proving or disproving them, a paradigm shift took place. I recognized the Scientific Method as the epistemological system, the ultimate foundation on which knowledge was acquired.
Faced with a religion relying on faith alone and a methodology that could not be denied, fact defeated faith. Up until this point, I never really had faith, because I had accepted religious teachings without question, so it isn't that surprising I embraced atheism sometime between the age of 12 and 14. Without faith to support it, my religion could not stand up to the test of science.
The atheism bit lasted for about 6-9 months, when I continually found myself meditating with a presence in my heart. I pushed it away only to find myself once again meditating and drawing comfort from this presence a short time later without realizing it. The tables had reversed as faith emerged and grew in me. The conflict intensified as my sense of spirituality sprang up and co-existed in seemingly direct conflict with the science whose facts I could not deny.
One day I could support the burden of heart versus mind no longer, and in meditation I told this presence, which I now called God, "I believe you are real, but I cannot accept the concept of you as presented by my religion. I must begin my own journey of spirituality to understand what I can of your nature."
The journey hasn't been easy. I'm too stubborn to accept the concept of God as presented by any Christian church I've been to, so my journey has largely been a private one. The concept of God in the organized religions I've studied is one of an all-powerful and perfect entity, but who acts on the scale of a human. I really can't describe it better than that - it's a vague, conceptual impression I get. Whatever the case, God appears all powerful, yet Its existence is somehow limited by the religions I've known.
I think Bill Moyers said it best. If you look at the long-standing religions of the world, you'll find the essence of the nature of God. I couldn't agree more. Religions have two layers of beliefs; at the core are the moral beliefs and on the outside are the ceremonial beliefs. The core beliefs are common in all the long-standing religions: don't murder, be truthful, love others as you love yourself, and that sort of thing. I think you're well on your way if you recognize the core beliefs and hold them dear to your heart. Examples of ceremonial beliefs are Buddhist Prayer Wheels, the Lord's Supper, confessionals, and Jihad; they aren't key to spirituality, but many find it helpful to establish a ritual and routine of worship.
At this point, I'm about half done; I'm in a groove and could go on for a while, but seeing as it's 1:30am and I've made several statements that some could perceive as dissing religion (though this isn't at all my intention), it's a good stopping place. Perhaps more later.
But you get my point: sometimes a simple statement said rather matter-of-factly can really make you think.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/05/2002 @ 01:37 :: [link] ::
:: Monday, March 04, 2002 ::
Going to work isn't so bad if you passionately love your job, and that's why you should have a solemn respect for the I/T department where you work or go to school. That goes double if an I/T person greets you in the hallway with an especially unnerving and "knowing" smile. In Information Technology, data is the game, and those with a passion for it are "information experts." Data assumes numerous forms and flows from many sources, but suffice it to say, when a tree falls in the forest, there's data to be collected, and if someone is there to hear it, the sound can be alarmingly loud.
Take this data point, for example, collected by a passionate lumberjack. Somewhere in the great forest of corporate computing and circumstance someone opened a web browser and clicked a compromising link. Some trees make more sonorous crashes and data when they fall than others. But don't worry - we're I/T, and we won't tell.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/04/2002 @ 15:35 :: [link] ::
:: Saturday, March 02, 2002 ::
Second (maybe I've linked to this before), one explanation of the movie 2001.
Earlier this week I went to the grocery store. One of the items on the list was peanut butter. I was drawn to a blend I hadn't seen before - "natural" peanut butter. Unlike it's blended-until-smooth-and-creamy counterpart, the natural peanut butter had brown specks of not-completely-pulverized peanut skin. The ingredient list read like the ingredient list on a product full of goodness should: Roasted peanuts, salt. I thought to myself, This looks like my kind of peanut butter, put the jar in the grocery cart and moseyed on over to the cereal aisle.
Later in the week was the grand opening of the jar of "natural" peanut butter, and my first impression was profoundly disappointing. It's natural, all right; I'm sure it's just like the peanut butter they used to make at home it in the late 1800s. The brown specks did not provide the pleasing texture I had hoped for - the peanut chunks were too small, and the sensation was one of grittiness. Even after stirring well, the consistency bordered on runny, like jelly or preserves, and not at all smooth and spreadable - I easily could have poured it out of the jar and onto the bread like lumpy molasses.
So far we've established "natural" peanut butter is ugly, but that's no big deal - we eat ugly food all the time. Have you ever looked closely at a cheese or shrimp ball? How about a pate? The speckledness of these foods is like finely grained granite, and not unlike my natural peanut butter. I could have lived with the visual undesirables and been happy were it not for the flavor. When selecting the natural peanut butter, I applauded the absence of added sugar, but when eating the natural peanut butter, I lamented it. You'd never guess how much a little sugar can do for the flavor of a bunch of nuts. And yes, peanuts are legumes - not nuts - but I really wanted to say something about a bunch of nuts.
Suddenly it dawned it on me. This is not my kind of peanut butter - it tastes like poo. That's life. If you want to be sure you pick the best peanut butter, you have to risk picking the worst and have faith that one day in the not too distant future, you'll stumble onto the Holy Grail of peanut butters and live happily ever after eating kick-ass PB&J sandwiches.
It's a romantic concept, but a cool one worth having. And that's all I have to say about that.:: Bryan Travis :: 03/02/2002 @ 05:53 :: [link] ::