DJB

Finding Adventure...

The Great Marriage Debate

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As most readers of this blog already know, the NC General Assembly has placed a referendum on the ballot at the upcoming Republican primary election to add a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. This would simply be a stronger position supporting the state law that already says the same thing, and would certainly make it harder to change that law in the future.

This has caused a lot of backlash, most notably with this def shephard blog post that's been making the rounds. It's good reading, even if you disagree with the stance. I have a much different take, however.

To me, this boils down to an argument between those who prefer marriage to be defined as a union between one man and one woman and those who want it defined as a union between any two people.

But why? There are lots of reasons that the LGBT community wants legal marriage status, but the only ones that really matter are the ones that are government influenced (as far as this discussion is concerned, anyway). Things like tax breaks for married couples, insurance issues, etc. Otherwise, it's really just about "recognition." Now, I think the folks who want this change are attacking it from the wrong angle. I'd personally rather see, and would support, changes that take the government out of marriage entirely. No tax breaks for simply being married, no link between insurance and marriage, etc. No laws whatsoever governing "marriage." It would simply be something that churches or other entities can recognize. Why does it need to be anything more?

The ultra-conservatives would say that taking away this government recognized system is further eroding some sort of moral fiber. I say hogwash. People already do what people want to do, and the fact that we have gay couples living together in NC and ready at the instant the law is changed to become married (or those going to other states to do it), is proof of that. Just because the government stops telling people NOT to do something does not mean the government suddenly supports DOING it. It simply means the government doesn't have any interest in it, and in this case, I don't see why the government needs to have that interest.

The last question is fairly simple...for those who believe allowing the LGBT community to marry, why draw the line there? Why is polygamy illegal? What's so special about the number "two"? I don't personally care about polygamy, but it is just another line in the sand...
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"You don't use bookmarks?!?"

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I got this question tonight after a friend asked me about syncing such things like bookmarks and contacts and email and finding out I don't actually use bookmarks. Apparently this wasn't considered normal. Worse is I had to admit I haven't used bookmarks in at least 12 years.

But how could this be? How does one live without bookmarks?

Well, it's no great secret that I'm lazy. But strangely, it's my laziness that causes me to not use bookmarks. Back when I did use them I remember being constantly annoyed at having to file them into usable groups and then remember or figure out which group I had put them in. Then I needed to cull the no-longer-necessary ones or things still got out of hand. So ultimately they did get out of hand and I just stopped using them.

But how? Well, mostly because of Yahoo! search, and then Google once it got better and faster (and, coincidentally, it was around this time that my old company, Red Hat, actually had meetings and attempted to buy Google long before they went public). If I couldn't remember the URL I needed, I just did a quick search and clicked on the result. These days it's even easier, as your browser caches the places you visit and can do "auto-complete" for you if you type any small part of the URL. Now, I don't often go places where I can't remember some word in the URL, so this makes life easy. For example, if I'm looking for the twitter page for the Warrior Creek race:


Then I just click the down arrow twice and hit enter. Boom. No muss, no fuss.

But do I do that for all the pages I visit multiple times per day? Nope. I simply leave those open in my browser all the time. Firefox (and Safari and probably other browsers) now do tabbed browsing as well as session management. This means that you can open multiple web sites in different "tabs" in your browser. And if you quit your browser those sites come right back into the same places when you start it again. And now Firefox even has what they call "application tabs", which let you make certain sites use tiny tabs with no words. It is even smart enough to highlight things like the Twitter tab when there are unseen tweets. Check this out:

To explain further, from left to right, we see a Twitter tab (with unseen messages), a Facebook tab (no new notifications), a Tarheel Sports Car Club forum tab, another useless racing forum, then a "page not found" tab, etc. So I actually do generally have anywhere from ten to thirty different tabs open across different Firefox windows.

So, to ease my "no bookmarks" pain, I simply leave everything open I use often, use the cache to type part of a URL that I've visited before, or failing those, a quick Google usually gets it in a click or two. So the only real pain is when I'm using a new device for the first time, but that's not terribly often, and definitely not enough to go back to the pain of maintaining bookmarks.
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Want to see me race a mountain bike?

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I used to wonder what I looked like, but now I'm a little frightened by it. I mean why couldn't I have my mouth shut? Oh, right, I breathe through it. Then why couldn't I be doing something cool with my tongue like Michael Jordan? In case you forgot:


I wanna be like Mike, really I do, but I guess it just ain't happening. At least we both had the red thing going. That reminded you of Mike, didn't it? Just a little, even? No? Damn.
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What do we learn by teaching?

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A string of recent events in my life have led me to ask what do we learn by teaching? There are a lot of general answers to this, and I'm sure there's a lot of study about it. First I'd like to share some anecdotal evidence of things I've learned by teaching.

The first thing I noticed when I started doing high performance driving instruction was how much I learned about how to be a better driver from teaching. One of the main things is the most obvious, and that is it simply reinforces those things you already know. You hear yourself telling your pupil what you want from them, and it helps solidify those things in your own mind. Their questions and struggles might be things you've questioned or struggled with yourself. Even if not, sometimes it's enlightening to see what others do struggle with and relate that to how you might have been struggling and not even realized it. But either way, this all relates to getting better yourself at the things you know how to teach.

Another thing we learn by teaching is what we don't know. Sometimes we can teach things we can't actually DO ourselves, but most of the time that's much more difficult. If you can't do it yourself then you find a need to learn it quickly, or at the very least recognize it's a skill you lack and lack the ability to teach and might want to learn before you take on another student. But teaching can be a good way to learn your own shortcomings. Well, it's good for the teacher, maybe not so much for the student!

Something else we learn by teaching are valuable attributes like patience. Coaching kids on sports teams is really a lot of teaching, and it's an environment where you are required to have a lot of patience. It's really not acceptable to do it if you can't have the patience to keep from getting angry or upset when the students don't get it as fast as you'd like...or worse, simply won't bother to learn it because practice is too close to bed time, they haven't had supper yet, or school was simply a complete drain on their cognitive ability for the day.

Okay, so those are some things you learn from teaching. Today I got some nice praise by being a good student, and that got me to thinking about why I might actually be a good student. Now, don't get me wrong, I did pretty well in school. I attribute that to a reasonable IQ along with a fear of getting in trouble for not doing what was expected of me (for the most part). But what about now? Is it just those things? Is there something more? Yes, I think there is something more. Something much more. There has to be something more, because I think I'm a much better student now than I ever was. I think that difference comes from my experience as, you guessed it, a teacher.

Having had a variety of experience now as a teacher (and no, I'm not claiming to be very good at being a teacher...far from it, but that's not the point here), I know the feeling you get when a student has an epiphany. I want my teachers to have that. But not necessarily because I just love my teachers or anything sappy (I mean I do, I do love you teachers!), but also because that epiphany feels good. It's a mutual thing. I know they are in it at least partly because they enjoy that feeling of seeing a student succeed, and I'm in it because I want to succeed, too. So while I'm only doing things I want to do and be good at, I also enjoy seeing my teacher have that sense of success that comes with me succeeding. It's really what we're both in it for, after all.

Okay, so this is no great revelation. But what I couldn't help but wonder is how do we get our kids to become teachers themselves at an EARLY age? How do we maybe give them some of that experience of being successful teachers so they'll better understand what their own teachers go through? I've got some ideas, but I'd love to hear yours. What I know is that my kids often learn things that I don't know and next time that happens instead of saying "show me" I'm going to try to demand that they "teach me." We talked at the dinner table tonight about the difference in showing someone something and teaching someone something, and we're doing to try to adhere to that. And when they struggle with the teaching part, we'll try to help them. Nobody just inherently knows how to teach. It's a skill. But it's a skill that can be built at an early age, that much I'm sure. Maybe not all the intricacies of being a great college professor, but enough basics that they can more effectively help their peers, siblings, and at times, the parents.

It's never too late to learn, and often teaching is learning.
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We need more bike lanes!

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And we need them where people ride for recreation! But no matter how you feel about it, click here and go fill out a survey about NC biking and walking on our roads. The more data they get, the more likely they are to do what the citizens want. Me, I hate mixing bicycles with traffic on 55MPH two lane twisty roads. However, if we had large beautiful loops with a reasonable bike lane in those areas, I'd be much more excited about it.
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Why do we hate entrepreneurs?

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This was forwarded to me by my Dad from the gl1800riders.com forum and I think it deserves sharing. Thanks to the original author.

This Is Why There Are No Jobs in America

I'd like to make you a business offer.

Seriously. This is a real offer. In fact, you really can't turn me down, as you'll come to understand in a moment…

Here's the deal. You're going to start a business or expand the one you've got now. It doesn't really matter what you do or what you're going to do. I'll partner with you no matter what business you're in – as long as it's legal.

But I can't give you any capital – you have to come up with that on your own. I won't give you any labor – that's definitely up to you. What I will do, however, is demand you follow all sorts of rules about what products and services you can offer, how much (and how often) you pay your employees, and where and when you're allowed to operate your business. That's my role in the affair: to tell you what to do.

Now in return for my rules, I'm going to take roughly half of whatever you make in the business each year. Half seems fair, doesn't it? I think so. Of course, that's half of your profits.

You're also going to have to pay me about 12% of whatever you decide to pay your employees because you've got to cover my expenses for promulgating all of the rules about who you can employ, when, where, and how. Come on, you're my partner. It's only "fair."

Now… after you've put your hard-earned savings at risk to start this business, and after you've worked hard at it for a few decades (paying me my 50% or a bit more along the way each year), you might decide you'd like to cash out – to finally live the good life.

Whether or not this is "fair" – some people never can afford to retire – is a different argument. As your partner, I'm happy for you to sell whenever you'd like… because our agreement says, if you sell, you have to pay me an additional 20% of whatever the capitalized value of the business is at that time.

I know… I know… you put up all the original capital. You took all the risks. You put in all of the labor. That's all true. But I've done my part, too. I've collected 50% of the profits each year. And I've always come up with more rules for you to follow each year. Therefore, I deserve another, final 20% slice of the business.

Oh… and one more thing…

Even after you've sold the business and paid all of my fees… I'd recommend buying lots of life insurance. You see, even after you've been retired for years, when you die, you'll have to pay me 50% of whatever your estate is worth.

After all, I've got lots of partners and not all of them are as successful as you and your family. We don't think it's "fair" for your kids to have such a big advantage. But if you buy enough life insurance, you can finance this expense for your children.

All in all, if you're a very successful entrepreneur… if you're one of the rare, lucky, and hard-working people who can create a new company, employ lots of people, and satisfy the public… you'll end up paying me more than 75% of your income over your life. Thanks so much.

I'm sure you'll think my offer is reasonable and happily partner with me… but it doesn't really matter how you feel about it because if you ever try to stiff me – or cheat me on any of my fees or rules – I'll break down your door in the middle of the night, threaten you and your family with heavy, automatic weapons, and throw you in jail.

That's how civil society is supposed to work, right? This is Amerika, isn't it?

That's the offer Amerika gives its entrepreneurs. And the idiots in Washington wonder why there are no new jobs…

Regards,

Porter Stansberry
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Willful Foreclosure?

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This past week, 60 Minutes did a story on a new trend...people willfully walking away from their mortgage and house. That's right, people who can afford their mortgages choosing to not pay them.

Why would someone do that? The quick version is some states have laws protecting your assets entirely in the event of a foreclosure. So folks in particularly hard hit real estate markets who bought houses around 2006 now find their home value at roughly half what they paid. To add insult to injury, that means they can now rent a NICER home for around half what their mortgage payment is. So they've done the math and realized that just walking away and waiting on their credit to recover is cheaper in the long run than continuing to pay.

The story even featured a likable couple who went on camera and admitted they were in the process of doing this. They didn't feel bad in the least. They even chose to live in the house six months without paying because that's about how long it will take to get foreclosed on and evicted. All the while saving that mortgage/rent money. And Arizona state law protects the money they have in the bank, the cars they have paid for, and all the rest of their assets.

So why shouldn't they? I'll tell you why. Because it's not the bank's fault. It's not the bank's responsibility to prop up their bad choice. It might not be completely their fault, either, but let's face it, they'd have ZERO recourse had they saved up or inherited enough money to have bought that house outright. If it was paid for, they'd be living every day in a house now worth half what they paid. But would they be "out" anything? Nope. Not unless they chose to SELL it for less than they paid. But that would be a willing choice.

They leave the bank with no choice. The bank entered an agreement with them to help them buy their house. Sure, the bank stood to make money on the deal, but that's what banks do. Well, that's what they used to do. If everyone who could started doing this, well, they wouldn't be able to any longer.

In my opinion, it's legal theft. And the only reason it is legal is because a law was created to help protect consumers without ever thinking about a situation like this. Yes, the law needs to be changed, and needs to be changed quickly. I just can't for the life of me understand why the bank should be left holding the bag on a couple hundred thousand dollars of losses in cases like this. These people are gainfully employed, have a life savings, have no money troubles whatsoever. Yet the law is letting them stick it to the bank. A bank who did nothing more than help them in the first place.

It's just wrong, and people should know better and take responsibility for their own financial problems instead of pushing it off on someone else like that. Kudos to 60 Minutes for not listing which states this is legal in (other than Arizona). All they said was it's legal in 10 states right now in some form. I hope it isn't legal in mine.
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Conan versus Jay

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So I've distilled my thoughts on the Conan versus Jay saga after having watched Conan's interview on 60 Minutes. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, just move along, nothing to see here.

Conan is bitter. I get that. Most comedians his age probably coveted the job of The Tonight Show host, and he got it. He was on top of the world. Then it all came crashing down. Promises had been made that were now broken and he was devastated. To top it all off, it was someone he considered a friend that was doing this to him.

But wait. He also said in the interview he realizes that NBC's part in this was "just business." Sure, there were relationships there that are now dead as a result, but he understands. But on the topic of Jay all he could really say is "that's not something I would have done" regarding Jay being willing to take back The Tonight Show.

This is where I get confused. NBC had two people under contract. It doesn't sound to me as if Jay had a choice in the matter. NBC decided they wanted Jay back in that time slot, and they offered Conan his same role (and The Tonight Show label, I believe) to move back thirty minutes. Conan refused and NBC decided to buy him out of his contract. But what did Jay's contract even say on the matter? Jay's contract is huge compared to Conan's, and any buyout is estimated to have needed to be well in excess of one hundred million dollars. Conan's buyout was $32M.

THIRTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS. And he's bitter. And he realizes it was a business decision. And he thinks Jay shouldn't have accepted the job. But what if Jay's contract didn't give him that choice? Maybe Conan knows the details of Jay's contract, but it seems unlikely.

But here's my thing...Conan isn't as funny as Jay. Okay, that's my opinion. But I'd bet you anything that if we could measure "funny" across the board, Conan just isn't as funny as Jay to most Americans. They can't relate to him as easily as Jay "the car guy" Leno. The ratings are one measurement, and Conan's show fell behind Letterman. And that's all NBC cares about at the end of the day, and that's no secret to anyone in the business.

So my thing here is this: Suck it up, Conan. You got handed a $32M check. You'll live comfortably off that if you do no more work in your life. You will work, because you're funny. But sadly, you're not as funny as Jay. That's life. Move on. Be happy 60 Minutes felt like taking a stab at NBC, because otherwise you're not nearly relevant enough to make that show on your own.
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Apple's Fail and Win

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First, the win: The App Store. With the App Store, Apple has setup the iPhone and now the iPad to be "game changers." If there's a piece of software that can make the device a winner, someone will likely create it and shove it into the App Store. And that amazing "community" (and it is a community of sorts, thanks to the fact that it's so easy for users to contribute and things to bubble up thanks to reviews and intelligent pricing) is what can totally shape demand for a product.

How did they do it? They created the hardware, then they created an operating system for the hardware along with the Software Development Kit (SDK) that any developer could use to very easily create an application, and then there is the relatively pain-free process of submitting your application to the App Store where Apple will sell it for you and distribute your revenue to you. Yes, I admit that there has been some problems between developers and Apple over problems with the App Store, but you have to admit that on the whole the model has worked very well for both parties. Apple does continue to listen to developers and add facilities developers need to continue to push the envelope, too.

Articles today about the iPad launch are pointing to the fact that a lot of people in line to buy first day iPads are doing so only because they'd "buy anything Apple sells" and thus are just lemmings. I submit that the App Store is mostly to blame for this kind of thinking, though. They know that there already are apps for it and there will be even more apps for it and are counting on those to make the device something they will treasure. You can already stream Netflix to it, watch TV from ABC, read USA Today and NY Times news, and it has complete eBook functionality including an App for those who already have Kindle eBooks. With most of that being completely free. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that they've already got the thing serving some pretty significant markets. It won't just be a success because of some lemmings.

Where does the App Store go next? Only Apple knows. I'm surprised they haven't tried to push it a little more for the Mac platform myself.

Now, the fail: Apple is far too limiting on the hardware integration side. They simply haven't embraced anything resembling an open model for allowing other companies to integrate the iPhone, iPod Touch, and now iPad in with their hardware. The first sign of this was how closed the Bluetooth is on the iPhone. It allows you to connect your iPhone to a Bluetooth headset, but the rest of the Bluetooth API is closed to third party developers. This means no Bluetooth keyboards, no syncing to a computer via Bluetooth, and no talking to a whole host of other Bluetooth devices that were starting to appear on the market. There were many $50 devices out there that were Bluetooth that manufacturers have now made into $150 wifi devices just to talk to the iPhone. This is not a win for consumers, obviously. Bluetooth is a perfect mechanism for a digital camera to get GPS information from your iPhone so it can geotag your photos, for instance. But Apple makes that impossible, even though all the building blocks exist already.

The problem runs much deeper than Bluetooth. Apple very closely licenses its dock connector, so anyone who wants to connect to it must pay Apple and go through a process to validate what they want to do with the device. So far this has been very limited. We've seen alarm clocks and a few basic stereo docks, but little more. Will we see refrigerators let you dock your iPad for easy recipe access and podcast playing? Will we ever see an aftermarket car stereo where the face is just an iPhone dock? Will we ever have the ability to control any aftermarket device via the dock part in a generic form? Ie. RS-232? There are currently a ton of possible industrial uses for the iPhone/Touch/iPad that we can't even try thanks to Apple closing up their serial port. The bigger problem is not the things I have thought of that we're missing, but the things the truly inventive hardware folks might find that would really kick some serious butt. They're not even trying, because they know Apple won't let it happen.

I don't know why Apple doesn't want third parties to let people control their devices with Apple products. Seems to me they've been a perfect mass market device that they'd sell even more of if they would. But for some strange reason they just won't embrace third party hardware like they have third party software. Could it be that they just can't take the step into a realm where they don't (and can't) have the level of control they have now with the App Store? I don't know, but it's pretty maddening to those of us who can see all kinds of awesome uses for these devices only to have an Apple roadblock in the way of making it happen.
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March Madness Expansion?

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It looks likely that the NCAA will expand the NCAA tournament for men's basketball from 64 teams to 96 teams next season. The reason is simple...added revenue. It will add two days to the tournament, and a total of 32 more games. It will also kill the NIT, it would seem.

This has the support of the coaches. Why? Because most coaches are judged by "getting in the NCAA tournament" or not. It's about job security.

Okay, great. But think about this? There are about 340 division one basketball programs. Now we're going to 96 teams in the tournament. That's nearly one-third of the programs, when before we had less than one-fifth. The significance of just "making" the tournament will be diminished greatly. Will there be any talk of the teams who don't make it? That is the "bubble" we hear so much about now? My prediction is that we'll hear a little about it just before and just after the selection show, but the noise will be a lot less. Why? Because there's a new bubble in town...

The bye. That's right, the bye. The top 32 teams in the tournament (what we currently know as seeds one through eight) will not have to play the first round. Instead, the bottom 64 teams will play one game for the right to play the top 32. Currently, just about the last thing anyone cares about as far as seeding is who are teams 29 through 32 and 33 through 36. Why? Because those are seeds eight and nine, and those two play each other in the first round of a 64 team tournament.

In the new system, however, that won't be the case. Who gets selected as 32 or less versus those just above that cut-off will be the new "bubble" discussion. Why? Because those who aren't in the top 32 not only have to play another game to win the whole thing, they now have to win three games in the first six days of the tournament instead of just two in four days like before to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

That's huge.

It's only going to take a couple years, if that, before people realize just how much lower your statistical and realistic chances are of winning the tournament as the 33rd or higher overall seed (anything 9th to 24th now). Sure, people currently feel like a 9th or higher seed isn't gonna get it done, but the difference now is that it just because EVEN HARDER to do what's already pretty unlikely. So the seeding cut-off will be huge. I predict it will be the new "making the tournament" bar that coaches are currently held to. Which means it just got HARDER for coaches to keep jobs, not easier.

All for money. *sigh*
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