Archive for October, 2008

We need gender-neutral pronouns

Who’s in charge of the English language these days?  I’d like to make a suggestion:  Gender-neutral pronouns.  Back in the old days, it was perfectly acceptable to use male programs (he/his) in times when you don’t know the gender of the person you’re referring to.  This is standard practice in many other cultures and languages in modern times as well, but with the politically correct nature of modern English, this is often frowned upon and we’re forced to result to saying and writing “he or she” or “his or her” to refer to a single person.

What I propose is the addition of a few pronouns to refer to these cases.  I’m leaning towards “ve” for the subjective and “vir” for the possessive, though I’m open to suggestions.

Maybe if we all start using these words, they’ll make it into the dictionary.  Wrappers make up words all the time.  Why can’t we make up some that are actually useful?

Listen to what is Said

After watching the debate, as always what stands out in my mind isn’t the policies themselves but the way people hear what is said, apply their own fears, selectively filter other information, and regurgitate it to make it totally different.  I also notice that neither candidate’s plan is correct – the correct answer either lies in the middle, or is addressed by neither.

I admit I may be biased myself, but I find Obama to be the victim of this phenomenon more often than McCain.  An example:

Health Care:  Obama said he wanted to let you keep and reduce the cost of employer-based health care, but if your employer doesn’t offer health care or you don’t like the offered plan, you have the option of enrolling in the government’s plan.  He also wants to introduce mandates that exclude small businesses, but ensure that those that can afford health care plans actually spend the money to get them.

Through filters and fears, this somehow equates to government-run health care.  This simply isn’t true.  What this actually means is reduced cost of health care.  At least on the surface.  The real problems that I notice with his plan are pre-existing conditions and the failure to address the real reason for the high cost of medical care.

I’m not sure on the details with the mandates against exclusion for pre-existing conditions (I advise you to look into them yourself).  If by this, he means that the insurance company must cover your medical needs even if you had the condition before you were covered (though you were likely unaware of the issue), then I agree.  If he’s saying that you must give insurance to someone even though they have a pre-existing (and costly) condition that you do know of, then I have mixed feelings.

The problem with known pre-existing conditions is that the cost of treatment will undoubtably be more than the cost of the insurance – the whole reason it’s called insurance is that it’s something of a gamble.  For most people the cost of the insurance will be much less than the cost the insurance company pays.  This is actually necessary because those that do need insurance will need more than they put in.  Money goes into a pool and is paid out as necessary.  It absolutly should be prevented that an insurance company cut you off if you actually do start needing your insurance.  You’re paying for the assurance of health care coverage, you should get what you paid for.  You “won” the gambit, though you probably don’t see it that way.

The real reason for the high cost of health care however, is the frivolous lawsuits.  I’m not talking about criminal negligence, though I do think that the amount awarded is typically far too high, I’m talking about the cases of honest mistakes.  If a doctor makes an honest mistake or unintentionally misses something, I don’t think a lawsuit is right.  Since your chances if you didn’t go to a doctor were 0%, I don’t see how you can hold a doctor responsible for a mistake.  Again, in cases of real negligence, it’s different.

While on the topic of frivolous lawsuits, that’s a big economic issue too.  One of the reasons everything costs so much is because everyone keeps suing everyone else for ridiculous things.  Judges need to throw these things out at the start before the defendent spends loads of money on lawyers or settles to avoid the cost of a trial.  If people weren’t awarded for stupid lawsuits, they’d stop spending the money on starting them.

Why so serious?

From Photoshopping My Co-workers

This one took some time, but wasn’t as bad as you might think. I started with the original joker picture from the Dark Knight, then added Jake’s head, resizing and rotating it appropriately. As I often do, I then copied the base layer and pasted it on top so I could cut a hole through it and see the head I had added, smudging the edges to blend it correctly. I then had to adjust the colors and levels to make the skin tones match up to the actual skin tones that are really only shown without makeup in the neck. The “makeup” was applied using the paintbrush tool set at about 20% opacity. I used different layers for the white, dark, and red colors in case I screwed up.

You can view all my creations on my Picasa page at http://picasaweb.google.com/AlanWaiss/PhotoshoppingMyCoworkers.

What I do in my spare time

I figured I’d share my photoshop creations with the world.  I take pictures of my co-workers and displace their heads into other scenes.  It’s fun.

Apparently WordPress won’t allow me to embed a slideshow, but here’s the link to my album on Picasa:  http://picasaweb.google.com/AlanWaiss/PhotoshoppingMyCoWorkers#

Economy is all in your head

This is a true statement.  The only reason the economy is going down is that everyone seems to think it’s going down.  People are still buying products, people are still employed (I’ll come back to this statement), and all the money that used to be there is still there.

The stock market is pure speculation.  The price of a stock is not what the company is worth, it’s what you think it’s worth.  The only reason stocks are worth less now is that people think they’re worth less.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Somebody sells stock for some reason at a lower price.
  2. Somebody else thinks “they must have a reason to sell low, I’d better bail out too” and they sell their stocks.
  3. Stock prices plummet.

That’s what’s happening.  It then cascades and ripples from there – businesses see their stock going down and start the massive layoff procedures to try and “cut costs”, this in turn causes the unemployment rate to go up, which cycles back to the stock market as people see “the economy is in crisis”.  If people would just settle down, things would go back to normal and everything would be OK.

The problem is that everyone needs to do it.  Businesses need to quit laying people off, individuals need to quit selling everything, and the media needs to quit panicking people into doing all of the above.

This needs to start on top.  CEOs need to quit being greedy and rather than laying people off, give everyone a raise!  If everyone starts making more, they will spend more.  Cash will flow again, the businesses will report their massive revenue, stock prices will go back up.

I  find myself yelling at the TV as I see these news blurbs about the stock market crashing and “economists” going on saying crap like you should take all the money you need for the next five years out of the stock market.  That. Is. Not. Helping.

I honestly wonder if there’s a conspiracy going on to make everyone sell all their stocks, purposefully causing an economic downturn so that these individuals can buy everything at low rates and make billions in the long term.  Look around – all the prices are at crazy lows.  The company whose stock you are buying is still what it was yesterday.  It hasn’t physically changed.  The only change is an artifical price sticker based entirely on speculation.  If you were smart, you’d buy not sell.

VP Debate

I just watched the vice presidential debate on my TiVo.  I don’t think Palin did as bad as I expected, but I’m just shocked at the after-debate commentary I heard on NBC where they were praising her.  She didn’t say anything!  Any time she was asked a tough question she “turned on the charm” and avoided it.

Speaking of the charm, the analysts all praised her for looking at the camara (where else is she gonna look…), smiling, and using her “by gollys” and “you betchas”.  Personally, I think she came off as slightly fake and rather than being endeared, it just helped remind me how she does not seem presidential – she seems like another bush.  I didn’t get a feeling of respect.  I didn’t see someone that inspires confidence.  I saw the image that she wanted people to see of an everyday, middle-class, mother, and I really have nothing against middle-class mothers, but is that really someone that should lead the country?  A president needs to be in touch with the people in the country of course, but he/she also needs to be someone that commands respect and can see issues on a national level, and I didn’t get that from her at all.

Even though I don’t agree with everything he says or all his policies, I do plan on voting for Obama and I think Biden did a good job.  I honestly don’t know much about him, but he seemed to be on the ball and I think he actually answered most, if not all of the questions asked of him.  He made valid points, poked a number of holes in the opposition, and reasonably defended against the accusations.  I also agreed with most of the points he made and Palin didn’t have a good response to the holes he poked in the McCain plan and McCain’s record.

Biden and Obama were criticized by Palin for looking too much at Bush’s career rather than “looking at the future”, but the whole point was showing how similar McCain’s policies are to Bush’s.  We don’t want the same policies.  We need change.  I’m not saying that Obama’s change is necessarily the change we need, but we can’t have more of the same.

The biggest issue discussed for me was energy.  McCain and the Republican party in general criticize Obama and Biden for voting against domestic drilling and some other methods of getting independence from foreign oil, but it irks me to no end because Obama and Biden do support independence from foreign oil – they just support it the right way via alternative, renewable energy rather than looking for oil in environmentally protected areas.  The only way to truly break dependance on foreign oil is to get away from fossil fuels entirely.  We need renewable, clean energy.  This isn’t debatable.  Oil is limited, we will run out and it’s far better to make the change now then wait until it’s simply gone.

Neither candidate went into great detail about anything – this is one of the things that irks me about capaigns in general – but I think Biden won here as well, stating more real points rather than broad generalizations.  From Palin I heard a lot of “maverik” comments about cross-party cooperation, but from Biden I got actual examples.  From Palin I heard “we’re going to change”, while from Biden I heard “here are some things we’re going to change”.

SPAM

Like most people, I’ve been inundated with ever increasing levels of these foul, loathsome strings of characters.  I hate SPAM with a passion.  It’s a complete waste – time, bandwidth, system resources, and money as you pay to combat this vile beast.  Does anyone actually buy crap from these messages?  Buying items from a SPAM message aught to be punishable by fines and imprisonment and sending it, by much worse.  I consider myself to be an enlightened individual, but fantasies of boiling oil and draw-and-quartering come to mind.

I have a solution though!  Pay-per-message.  The sender of the message pays a nominal fee to send the message to the destination, however the recipient of the message can “Validate” and accept the message in which case you get a full refund.  Voila!  It no longer makes sense to send message since all hope for profit flies to the wind yet messaging is still free.  The user will be able to set up “white lists” of addresses to automatically accept.