Saturday, October 29, 2005


Ok, I admit I'm enthralled with the idea of karma. Technically, I don't believe in it. It's (I think) and Indian Hindu philosophy. Google search turned up this definition:

a belief system that is similar to the saying "what goes around, comes around". Karma can be either good or bad. What you do in this life will determine whether you are rewarded or punished in the next life.

While I don't technically believe in it, I see it in practice. Every day. Someone works very hard in their job when it's not the perfect job may move from second shift to first shift. And someone else who does a poor job of managing their life and makes bad decisions may drive a cheap Bronco and it may have ongoing problems. (Good karma vs. bad karma).

The key is the motivation. Should I do more so I'll get more good deeds counted in my corner and then get good Karma later? No. You do good deeds because they're there. And then when good things happen to you, you do more good deeds. Recently, I was in the Atlanta airport and saw a lady walking around with a white cane. She was not completely blind, but evidently mostly blind. I was in the middle of a conversation with a friend, but I broke it off to go help the lady. She was lost and couldn't find her gate.

I was glad to help her, not because I was hoping for good karma, but because I could see my mother (and someday maybe even me) wandering around like that. I hope that when/if that happens, someone will step up to help. Sorta the same idea as the movie "Pass it forward" (which was a terrible movie built around a good idea).

Willie Nelson sang it in "A little Old Fashioned Karma"

There's just a little fashioned karma coming down
Just a little old fashioned justice going round
A little bit of sowing and a little bit of reaping
A little bit of laughing and a little bit of weeping
Just a little old fashioned karma coming down

Coming down coming down just a little old fashioned karma coming down
It really ain't hard to understand
If you're gonna dance you gotta pay the band
It's just a little old fashioned karma coming down

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

News journalist and Cobol programming

Why is news journalism like Cobol programming? No it's not a joke, it's true. I invite journalists to comment.

Cobol is an acronym for COmmon Business Oriented Language which was "invented" in 1959 (a very good year, but besides the point). Admiral Grace Hopper, a fascinating woman who served her county for many years, was part of the commision who "invented" it. The significance of Cobol is that it was the first computer language designed to make computers usable for business purposes. Admiral Hopper's idea was that computers should be programmed in English. Cobol is still in use today by most (all?) Fortune 500 companies.

The other significance of Cobol is that it is verbose. Writing a Cobol program takes NUMEROUS lines of code. A simple program for student purposes may be under 100 lines, but by the time the student finishes an introductory course, he is easily working with programs 300-500 lines. In the business environment, programs over 1000 lines are common and if you work on a system, you describe it's length in k-locs (pronounced "k locks"). One k-loc is 1000 lines of code.

Here's the similarity to journalism. In college, I learned that no one ever wrote an original program. Well, maybe Grace Hopper wrote the first one, then everyone copied that and modified it. In classes I took, we started with one simple program and modified it. In businesses, there are models everywhere that are copied and modified.

This morning, I was doing some web research on the Iraqi constitution. I recalled reading an article last night that told the number of voters and the number of voters in the January election. In looking through several newspaper (via the web) articles, I kept seeing the same articles over and over, with slight variations (maybe only the headline?)

So journalism seems to be just like Cobol programming. Comments?

Iraqi constitution again

Iraq's constitution has been ratified. Something like an 80/20 victory. Almost 10 million Iraqi's (63% of registered voters) cast their votes, about a million more than those who cast votes in January.

What is scary is that the province of Nineveh cast the swing votes. The Biblical aspect of this can't be missed. Maybe they've heard the voice of Jonah after all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Earl again

OK, it's not great TV. But it's funny. Tonight they re-ran the first episode. I found out that the Earl's brother is named Randy. I'm not sure that's good, this Randy is even tackier than Earl, if that's possible.

Guest actor tonight (for about two scenes) was Horace from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Good actor, doesn't get enough screen time.

Ok, so Earl isn't good TV. But it's funny. We found out tonight the details about Earl winning the lottery and Earl's family life. Earl married a woman 6 months pregnant, the night he met her. Needless to say, it wasn't his baby. Two years later, she has a baby by his seed. Trouble is, the baby's black (Earl and his wife are both white). Hmmm, something is wrong with this picture. And the guy down at his wife's favorite restaurant is black... Can you say soap opera.

Anyway, Earl wins $100k in the scratch off lottery. Then gets hit by a car and loses the lottery ticket. While in the hospital, he discovers karma. Earl gets out and makes a list of all the things he's done wrong. He decides to go set the things straight. As soon as he decides to do this, the lottery ticket shows up. Karma.

Ok, so it's not good TV (I think I said that). But what if more people believed in Karma? What if everyone went back to clean up the things they did wrong? Maybe bad TV could turn into good things...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Earl revisited

Last night I saw an ad for "My Name is Earl" (see earlier post). According to the ad, critics says the show is the highest rated new sitcom on TV this fall. My comments about this:

1) This shows the lack of intelligence of TV critics
2) This shows the lack of choice of TV crtics
3) The TV show is still stupid
4) The TV show is still funny

Friday, October 21, 2005

And another thing...

... About Iraq. For too many years, we (the United States) kept telling him, "you can't do that any more". Build nukes, wipe out people with chemicals, kick out UN inspectors, whatever. We sounded like a mother, fussing at her kids for misbehaving. But like kids who know the mother won't do anything, Saddam just kept on doing the same things.

WMD were not found, however, other illegal weapons were found. Saddam had no intentions of obeying the rules set for him by the UN. He cheated (with the aid of the UN) on the oil-for-food program. He sold oil, presumably to buy food for his people, and used it for himself and for illegal weapons (for example, he had unmanned airplanes - which were against UN rules.)

Previous administrations shook their finger at Saddam and did little to stop him.

It was high time that someone removed Saddam from power. It was high time that the United States stood up for what it said it would do.

(Written from Memphis. I looked for E. but didn't see him. I'm going to try the Krispy Kreme on the corner)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Iraqi constitution

Ok, this may be boring, but it's important so listen up (or read-up)!

Much has been said about the Iraqi constitution. It has taken too long to set up, or it isn't approved by all the people or it's taken too long to get approval or whatever. One caller to a nationally syndicated talk radio program asked the host "Would you want to live under that constitution?"

I don't know much about the proposed-maybe-ratified Iraqi constitution. But I did a little research on the US Constitution. That document revered by both the left and the right and most of us in between. I went into it open minded with questions like, how long did it take to write, how long did it take to pass, what oppositions were there to it? Most of my research is from as it seems to have good information and is easy to read. I went off on a few wild goose chases looking for presidents and vice presidents (did you know that there have been several times when there was NO vice president?). But here's a summary of what I found.

Most people know that on July 4, 1776, the US officially declared it's independence from Britain. Over a year later, on November 17, 1777 the Articles of Confederation (the equivalent of a constitution) were submitted. These articles took 16 months to be drafted. How long did it take the Iraqis to draft a constitution?

The Articles of Confederation had to be approved by all 13 states. This process took another 3 years, 3+1/2 months. How long did it take the Iraqis to approve their constitution? The Articles as ratified, were almost useless. They provided a weak central governement and no ability for the new government to raise the funds necessary to keep it going. There was no executive or judiciary authority and even small changes could not be enacted. Each state had to approve changes in order for them to be in effect.

Before the Articles of Confederatoin was six years old, congress realized it's limitations and commissioners met to discuss adjustments. However, they took the radical approach of rewriting the entire constitution. Meetings were held in secret (what about the press?) and from the time originally commissioned to make adjustments to the articles, it took about a year for these people to write the new constitution. During the draft, one of the 13 states did not even send representatives (didn't the Iraqis have this problem?) The result was a new fundamental government design and it took an additional year and a half for ratification.

The secret committee (their names were published, but they met in secret) even went as far as only requiring 9 of the 13 states to ratify the constitution in order for it to be in effect. It was eventually approved by all 13, but even still it had holes in it. The succession process from Vice President to President (in case of presidential removal from office, death or otherwise) was so cloudy that the first time it was used, Congress (not the Supreme Court0 had to step in to interpret the rules. The original Constitution was so flawed, it required 10 amendments before even the authors approved it.

Over the years, battles for the Constitution have been waged. It has been amended 18 times, with the first time creating the original 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights. One of these amendments even repealed a previous amendment.

A still ongoing battle is over state rights. In order to try to maintain state rights, SC declared it's independence and began the Civil War. The specific state right desired by SC was to allow slavery, an argument that had been upheld by the Supreme Court. Battles over state rights still go on today. Roe vs Wade comes to mind, in which some states desire to restrict or prevent abortion. In recent history, Florida election rights come into mind.

Isn't part of Iraq's issue with their constituion a battle over state rights? What power would Kurdish states have over Sunni states and Shiite states? How strong would the central government be?

My conclusion is that the Iraqis are not having any more problems that we, the US, had. In fact, they may be having less problems. Time will tell how solid the constitution is for the Iraqi people. But we should let them have a chance. And the only way they will get a chance is if we help them. Our armed forces are doing a great job training the Iraqis to take care of themselves. But they will be needed for a long time. What better task can we ask of them than to help a county regain it's independence from a tyranical leader and begin to govern itself?

I'm not a fan of us spreading our democracy all over the place. If a country wants demorcracy, they should get it themselves. It's not our job to save the world. However, in Iraq there was a dictator who was allowed to reign for too many years. He reigned by killing those opposed to him. To simply "take him out" would have created a bigger problem than existed when he was in power. The only choice we had was to take him out and help establish a new government or keep our tail between our legs and wring our hands over the issue.

Lastly, to answer the question "would you want to live under that constitution?" The only thing I know about the constitution is that it establishes a central religion, Islam. Based on that alone, I can answer no. I would not want the central government establishing ANY central religion, much less a pagan one. However, if this is what the Iraqis desire, then they have a new constitution. And if it's not what they desire, they can amend the constition. We amended ours!

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Bond with no gadgets??? Say it ain't so!!!

I heard on the radio a bit ago that they've chosen the new Bond, James Bond. His name is Daniel Craig and he's blonde (which I think is good). However, they are saying that they won't have Q in the new movie (or his replacement R) and that Bond won't have gadgets.

Let's hope this isn't true. A Bond without gadgets just isn't bond. One fan has already asked "No gadgets or Q, eh? Why not get rid of the theme music, the cars, girls, and vodka martinis as well?" (well, maybe not the girls - life without Bond girls is worse than life without Bond gadgets).

From Blue X-Ray Glasses to imitation fingerprints, from a jetpack (how AWESOME is that?) to cars that double as submarines. Mankind needs James Bond's gadgets so that we can dream. We can dream of tools that science can give us, tools the make the world safer (even if they do blowup a few cars once in a while).

Next thing you know, they'll take away Bond's catchy one-liners. What will we do then??

I say we should unite!! Call everyone you know and tell them we'll boycott. Put off buying that BMW or Aston Martin!! Tell the dealer you want a classier Bond!

Now excuse me, while I go have a vodka martini, shaken not stirred...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My name is Earl

There's a new show on TV. My Name is Earl. It is probably aimed at about a 10 year old. The focus is karma. Seems Earl did a lot of bad things in his life. So many bad things, he has bad karma. So bad that if something good happens, bad things happen to even it out.

He won the lottery and then got hit by a car. While in the hospital, he decided to clean up his act. Now he has a list of all the bad things he's done and he's trying to set them right.

Earl has all the class of a tornado in a trailer park. In fact, he looks like the stereo-typical trailer park resident. Complete with pink flamingos and a car up on blocks.

The thing is, the show is so bad it's funny. Earl tries hard to make things right, and doesn't seem like he can do it. But somehow, he manages to come through.

It's not good TV, but it's relaxing. It takes absolutely no thought power to sit and watch. And to laugh..

Monday, October 10, 2005

For shame, for shame

OK, I've been shamed into it. I'll start updating my blog. I got bored, because I had maybe 3 comments back. I have a short attention span. I need positive (or negative) feedback. Jokes, wisecracks, even stupidcracks. I need them

So here's my shot for today. Some of you may have heard this already. I'm taking an economics class. We were talking about substitute products and the effect on the primary good (called the "own" good in economics class). The question was about the availability of methadone in the UK to anyone who admitted being a heroin addict. The net of the question was, what would you expect this to do to the number of addicts in the UK vs the number in the US (the answer is you'd expect more in the UK, since a substitute good is available at a low price - free).

The professor, said "of course this assumes that methadone is a good substitute for heroin. I myself haven't shot up lately..."

He's hilarious. Every class is full of the same dry humor. Even makes economics interesting. I'll sign up for whatever he teaches next...