Friday, December 05, 2008

Escapism (from the cold!)

Every year around this time I look up the average daily temperatures online. Like, for today, the average high is 41*F and the low is 27*F. Which makes me hopeful that we'll get back up above the freezing point again soon (as I write this it's 5*F).

The temperatures fall-fall-fall through December and hit a low of an average high of 31*F on January 14, then they bounce back up and slowly make their way back up to an average high of 40*F on February 22. Can I wait that long? Why was I born at the absolute coldest time of the year? Is that some sort of cruel joke?

I guess this annual ritual is my way of trying to prepare to make it through one more winter. It's often also accompanied by pie-in-the-sky plans to move to Florida before next winter as well.

I'm just not a big fan of living in a place where being outside ranges from uncomfortable to deadly for 3 months out of the year. It's crazy. Crazier than my ritual, I assure you!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The $300 mistake

In July I bought a digital picture frame for my Dad for his birthday. I had originally wanted to get him a 10 inch frame or so, but I ended up purchasing a $300 15-inch frame instead because it was capable of wifi and it'd pull photos off of Flickr, so anyone in the family would be able to drop photos onto it really easy.

It turned out the frame didn't work well. It'd keep showing the same photos over and over and we couldn't figure out why it'd suddenly drop a few and seemed to be unable to display them all of a sudden. It happened when pulling photos from Flickr, or off wifi from a local computer, as well as off of a memory card, or off the internal memory. It just seemed to be a problem with the frame, so I got a 10-inch Kodak frame to replace it and packed it up and took it home so I could return it.

But, I lost the receipt for it. Believe me, I tore the house apart looking for it -it was nowhere to be seen. I must have thrown it out? I figured I'd try to return it anyway, but it just sat there as months went by because I dreaded trying to do a return without a receipt. My next plan was to eBay it and that's been on my "to do" list since I quit work in September. An easy $250 at least I thought.

...well, tonight we left Apex out of the crate while we ran to the hardware store really quick and when we got back the picture frame box was on the floor ripped to shreads. I don't know what made him go after it -it was tucked back in a corner. The power suppy is in 3 pieces, but luckily the frame itself as well as the remote is okay. The box is absolutely trashed, though -no eBaying it as "New In Box" that's for sure!

Grrr. I have a feeling we'll try to replace the power supply and just keep the frame, I don't know. All I know is that dog is not on my good side at the moment!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Religion & Politics

'Tis the season...

Two things are occupying my mind as of late. First, with Obama being our new President-Elect, I'm hoping the right's fringe who chanted hateful things about him hating America and being a Muslim realize that they were mislead. I'm not deluded enough to think they'll ever LIKE the guy, but they'll have to see that his agenda doesn't include changing our religious beliefs or helping terrorists destroy the country. And my hope is that they'll take the next step as well and wonder how they were misled, who lied to them, and probe the possible motivation behind it as well.

We, as a society, seem to be going in a direction where we look to others to tell us what to do and how to think while we follow along blindly, taking them at their word. The mortgage crisis, for example, could have been avoided if people didn't take the bank's word for what they could afford. Our mortgage company told us we could afford a $300,000 house -well, we ran the numbers, used several online calculators and we targeted half that price for our house -what WE thought we could afford. Why didn't others do the same thing? We've forgotten the mantra "buyer beware".

So, in the end, I hope people stop falling for the politics of fear and begin taking responsibility for checking on sources for the information they take in as truth. Listening to both the left and right radio hosts (as well as O'Reilly or Olberman) makes me sick. They stretch the truth until it's unrecognizable. We need to move back towards the middle as a country I think.

It's also the "Holiday Season". As the right and left settle down after the political season, another group of people are sharpening their teeth. Yes, it's highly offensive now to say "Happy Holidays" or ghod forbid write Christmas "X-mas"! Bill O'Reilly popularized this newfound anger with his book "War On Christmas".

I don't see the need for this fight. I'm a non-theist who understands that the majority of my fellow citizens are Christians. I've also learned, through observation, that Christmas has two parts. There's the Jesus in the manger part and there's the Santa Claus in the chimney part. One excludes me, the other includes everyone.

So, if the trend is to turn this religious holiday into a secular one that can be enjoyed by all and then families can decide whether or not to include the Jesus part within their circle of friends and family, I'd think we could all be happy with that. But, if the "War On Christmas" people (because it's important to acknowledge that not all religious people are in that camp) ...if the "War on Christmas" people keep this up and make Christmas a solely Christian holiday, well, you can expect more anger and fighting.

...that's why I'm a "moderate" -it's the most logical, most peaceful way. And isn't that what we should all be striving for?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reality hits with Apex

We adopted a 3 year old dog who was supposed to be housebroken, but we let Apex have the run of the house last night and we had a few problems.

At 2am he woke me up with his face in mine. I tried to get him to leave me alone, but he insisted on having my attention. I decided to get up and let him out in case he needed to go -I knew he didn't have the routine of bedtime and asking to go out down yet since this was his first night with us.

As he and our first dog, Forty-Two were outside I was walking around the (dark) house and I stepped in a puddle. I cleaned it up, let them in, and went to bed without correcting him (I doubt after-the-fact correction really works).

Again, at 2:30am I was woken up by Apex breathing in my face. Immediately I smelled poop and got up to scout it out. He made a nice pile near the front door on the pergo, so at least it was easy to clean up :-\.

At 4am I was awoken by the sound of something being chewed on downstairs and it didn't sound like a bone. All I could see was a black thing between his paws and I hoped it wasn't Ed's brand new shoes. I turned on the light and it was one of his older shoes and I had been lucky enough to catch him before much damage was done. I corrected him and put him in Forty-Two's crate for the rest of the night.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Buddy" is now "Apex"

So today we brought Forty-Two to the Naperville Humane Society to meet "Buddy", who we put on hold yesterday with the adoption pending on this meeting. They had us bring Forty-Two into a fenced-in pen and keep him on the leash while they brought out "Buddy". First, they had them meet through the fence. Their tails wagged and they sortof got bored, so they brought "Buddy" into the pen and we kept them apart at first, then slowly brought them together so they could meet on-leash. That went well, so we did a walk side-by-side around the pen. That went okay too although with each step of the meeting process they'd get bored and ignore each other. We were finally allowed to drop Forty-Two's leash and he ran off -away from "Buddy" (for a ball), but eventually they got back to sniffing and there was a little prodding to play. "Buddy" was ok with leaving Forty-Two's toys alone, etc. So it looked like Forty-Two was alpha and when they finally both got off-leash we were given the ok to adopt "Buddy". We brought Forty-Two back to the car, filled out the paperwork, handed over the "donation" and then started wondering how they'd get along on the ride home!

They were fine -Forty-Two in the back seat of the WRX and "Buddy" behind him in the "way back" area of my station wagon. When we got home the Humane Society told us to walk them on-leash around the house before taking the leashes off. We decided, instead, to walk them straight outside and let them off-leash to play where they wouldn't break things.

Well, outside the laid-back and aloof "Buddy" came to life! He and Forty-Two were running like crazy, switching who was in-front and giving the play signal (front paws down, rear up in the air). They were getting along great! And it looks like "Buddy" will help us keep Forty-Two exercised! This may just work out perfectly!

Inside, they were fine and Ed and I tested "Buddy" on his name -he wasn't really reacting to it, so we decided to change it. After some research we decided on "Apex".

We went out to eat and tried putting Apex into his crate, but it turned out he needed a bigger one. Luckily, Forty-Two was ok with Apex using his crate, so that worked out ok too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We're adopting a 2nd dog!

Today we adopted Apex from the Naperville Humane Society. At first I was iffy on adopting a second dog -I wondered if it'd help occupy Forty-Two, who can be somewhat whiny and needy when I can't give him the massive amount of exercise he needs or if we'd end up with 2 demanding dogs. But, we decided we'd take our chances and look for another dog.

After searching for an hour or so yesterday we realized we weren't getting anywhere and the Humane Societies were all closing soon, so we just picked one that had a few dogs we liked and ended up at the Naperville Humane Society.

Two weeks before Ed fell in love with a Sheltie in a pet store, then the week after we were at my Mom's as they were profiling dog breeds on TV and Ed decided he really liked Dashaunds and Westies. As we searched Petfinder he was gravitating towards Pit Bulls, which I didn't like at all! Ed was also set on getting a puppy -I wanted an adult. We compromised and were looking for one that was around 6mos old.

So, we get to the Humane Society and go back to look at the dogs and two of them stood out for us. One we had seen online, "Buddy" who was a 3 year old Husky mix and a 9mo old Doberman puppy. Dobermans were profiled on that TV show we were watching and I learned that they were great dogs. In the end, though, Ed liked "Buddy" and we took him first to get to know him. "Buddy was very laid back and kindof aloof, but I did all my usual temperment tests -playing with his paws, ears, mouth, etc then flipping him over on his back -he passed every one. He could care less and he was happy as could be to be petted. He was said to be housebroken, knew "sit", and walked well on a leash. When we were finished it was closing time, so we didn't get a chance to see the Doberman puppy. It didn't matter, though, Ed had made up his mind and we put "Buddy" on hold awaiting a meeting with Forty-Two tomorrow!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What happened to "Conservative" values?

Republicans, "conservatives", from what I've been told, are supposed to work for a smaller roll for Federal government and less intrusion of government on people's lives. That's a concept I whole-heartedly agree with. And they generally keep to that stance when it comes to issues like gun control, the environment, and health care. But since the 90's they seem to have adopted an exception for religious-based "values" issues like gay marriage and abortion.

Why is it that the government should not intrude on our individual freedom to own a firearm, but that the government should decide who has the right to fall in love and sanction that love in all the legal and social benefits of a marriage?

And, as far as abortion -I struggle with my stance on it myself. But, what it comes down to is when life begins. Christianity says it's at conception. Science doesn't know. The law is confused on the issue as well. So, until the issue is decided it's up to the individual based on their beliefs and the situation involved. ...And that's something that's often forgotten -the situation involved. It's not always a 16 year old girl having the abortion. There are situations where it's complicated by incest or rape, when the life of the mother is in jeopardy, or where the quality of life of the child is in question as well. As an example, this story is about a woman who went from a joyous, excited pregnancy to a partial-birth abortion 3 days later. Even though her friends and family (and even her Priest) supported her it was described as the hardest thing she's ever done. ...for her and many others I am pro-choice because I'm against the idea of forcing my **OPINIONS** on others.

I guess my point here is that I believe that the government should not have a place in my bedroom nor should it have a say in what I choose to do to my own body. When the Republican party remembers it's "conservative" stance applies to situations that may upset their Evangelical base like gay marriage and abortion I'll be back.

Part II

Another Republican trait (at least as I saw it growing up) is to protect the idea of capitalism, free markets, and similarly the rights of citizens as outlined in the Constitution. So, why is it that our freedoms have been so sharply curtailed in the last 7 years? After 9-11 Bush and the Republican party have fought for the right to contain US citizens without charges or access to lawyers as well as wiretap and search the private records of citizens without warrants. And then when the Democrats want to introduce national health care plans they call them Socialists. When deciding who to vote for I ask myself: Which is worse? It's not a difficult choice.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ginger Pear Crisp

Being off work with extra time on my hands and having overly ripe pears in the fridge, I decided to try to make cobbler out of them. All the recipes I could find online included lemon juice, which I didn't have. Or used more pears than I had (I had 3), so I came up with something on my own. It was good, but I didn't write down what I did. Here's the idea, though, so that maybe I can reproduce it and write down exact amounts next time...

  • Cut 3 pears into slices somewhere between an 1/8th and a 1/4 of an inch thick.
  • Dice up about a tablespoon (undiced) of crystallized ginger (maybe a bit less).
  • Stir it up.
  • Add a sprinkle of vanilla, powdered ginger, cinnamon, and sugar.
  • Stir it up again.
  • 3/4's of a stick of butter.
  • About 1/3 of the ingredients in oatmeal cookies, but substitute ginger for the nutmeg and leave out the eggs.
  • Beat the mixture in a mixer -it should be crumbly. If it's too dry, add more butter. If it's not dry enough, add more oats.
Put the pears in an approximately 8x4 baking dish, top with topping (duh) and bake at 350 until the topping turns brown.

It turned out watery and not sweet enough. I sprinkled brown sugar on the top, which helped with the sweetness, and left it in the oven at 200*F for 20 minutes or so, then turned the oven off and left it in there while we went out to a fast food place to eat. When we returned it was less soupy and quite tasty!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Election Poll Results

I'm keeping track of the polling data as displayed on here:

To easily view side-by-side the changes from 2004 to now and periodically from now until the election.

Why? I don't know. OCD? ...just thought someone else out there might be interested.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

unsalted peanuts

The answer to the question "Can you just rinse salted peanuts and use them as unsalted peanuts in a recipe" is yes.

Nice quote on perspective:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: "It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life, was greatly daunted by death. "They all eat one another!" he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed the verb, said, "They all feed one another," and called it good."

Friday, July 25, 2008

VBScript part 2: looping and constants


For Each...Next:
These commands let you walk through a collection of objects, do something with each of them, then move on to the next one. You cannot perform a WScript.Echo on a collection because each item in the collection can be assumed to have different properties, so which would it echo? Instead you'll need to use a "For Each"..."Next" loop.

"For...Next" differs from "For Each...Next" in that you need to know how many items there are in the collection in order to use "For...Next" while you do not when using "For Each...Next".

Do While...Loop:
This command runs a script as long as a certain condition is in effect.

Wscript.sleep pauses the script for the specified period of time (in milliseconds). An example of a one second pause would look like:
WScript.Sleep 1000
...but don't rely on it for scientific measuring of time under a second, it's just not that accurate!

The timer function is used to time how long it takes to run a script. You use it once, it counts the number of seconds since midnight, then you use it again at the end and when you subtract the first from the second, you get the length of time that it took to run the script as your result. The variable names that are often used for this are "startTime" and "snapTime".


"Const": You define a constant by using "Const" (variable) = (value).
Const DriveType = 3

General Info:

Interacting with programs/services that are already running:
...if the program you're using is already running, like WMI for "GetObject" you do not have to create an instance of the WMI object by using "CreateObject". Instead, you can just get it by using "GetObject".

Line breaks:
An underscore at the end of a line breaks the code into two lines, usually to make it easier to read. When a line that's inside parenthesis is broken up an ampersand ("&") is needed as well.

To get information about drives you need to connect to WMI using GetObject("winmgmts:") then you can use a query to select the drives you want.

Time Stamp:
Wscript.Echo Now
Will print out current date and time. Useful for logs. Also can be used to time your script since it reports the time down to the second.

Space ():
The "Space ()" command is built into the language and, therefore, does not need to be defined or declared. It acts like a variable tab command, so you just need to tell it how many spaces you want and it'll skip that many spaces.

The vbNewLine command is also built-in, it tells the script to print out a new line.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Learning VBScript: structure and basic commands

Script Headers:
This is how you start your script; by telling the computer what to expect and how to run the script.

"Option Explicit": You're going to list each variable in the script before it is used. If you don't use this it'll be assumed that any statement that VBScript doesn't recognize is a variable. In order for it to work, though, it must be the first non-commented out line in the script. Option Explicit can also be thought of as a spell checker since it'll give an error if you misspell a variable name later in your code.

"Dim": Declares a variable. (Example: "Dim regComputerName")

"On Error Resume Next": Tells the computer that if it runs into an error it should keep going and try the next line of the script. (You may want to omit this -at least until the code has been tested as it may hide mistakes you'll want to know about.)

Reference Information:
This is the second section in your code; where you assign values to your variables, etc.

Example: (using "regComputerName" as the variable)
regComputerName = "HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control" &_

The script knows that HKLM stands for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, but be aware that it's case sensitive! Also, the &_ is just for continuing the code on a new line.

Avoid typos in registry keys:
To make sure you have the correct registry key, in regedit.exe you can go to the "Edit" menu and choose "Copy Key Name" to copy it rather than trying to type it and risk typos ;-).

Worker Information:
In this section your variables, etc are actually put to work doing something!

"Set": Command used to assign an
object reference to a variable. Example:
Set objShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")

"Create Object": As used in the example above, this part of an expression assigns a variable name to a reference.

"WScript.CreateObject": 99% of the time this is the same as using "Create Object"

How you display information.

"WScript.Echo": used to display text in a command window or pop up box depending on how it's run. When run using CScript, it'll write it in a command shell. When you use Wscript.exe it'll write to a Windows dialog box.
WScript.Echo ComputerName & " is computer name"

Symbol "&": The "&" symbol just puts two things together. Here those two things are the value of "Computer Name
and the text "is computer name".

General Info:

Preface comments with a single quote " ' ".

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why women quit technology careers -this is insane

Okay, so here's the story that's prompting this post:

More than half of the women in science, engineering and IT leave the field at mid­career. Here's the reason.

read more | digg story

IT is a male-dominated field. There are a lot of reasons for this, but they don't really matter because it's just a fact. And IT teams are generally highly stressed, so as stress relief there are usually all kinds of odd jokes and games that are played. It's how it goes, and for the most part it's fun.

Then a woman is hired and gets introduced the team. What happens next? What SHOULD happen next?

The feminists would say that the men need to grow up and anything that might be seen as sexist should cease immediately. The woman should be treated as an equal and be a respected part of the team, right?

But if the goal is equality, then why does the team need to change their culture because a woman walks through the door? Why can't she join in or brush it off? A lot of jobs come with a culture that people need to adapt to in order to fit in. I think anyone switching careers (no matter what they go into) should not only consider the job itself, but the culture. If you don't like suits, don't be an executive. If you don't like seeing little Japanese Anime dolls on desks in provocative poses, don't join IT.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Things That Will Kill You: Plastic Packaging

Babies eating plastic bags? Nope, they claim the packaging contaminates the food...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Erica The Dictator On Religion

For over a decade now I've playfully toyed with the idea that one day I'd become dictator for the purpose of evaluating whether certain political or sociological ideas would work for the masses rather than just evaluating them at an individual level. Silly, but it makes the exercise fun and allows me to sneak "when I become dictator" into conversation.

Now that I've completed PaulHarrison1976's videos on The Word of Faith Movement and Prosperity Gospel and moved onto the Faith Healing and Televangelism Series I've started thinking about religion as if I was the dictator. How would I rule?

As a person with a feeling that there's a small chance (less than 50%) that there's a non-personal god out there somewhere ruling on religion is hard. I'm sure Dawkins and Hitchens would just turn churches into museums and teach religion as a fictional, silly thing we used to believe in before science came along with REAL answers.

But I recognize in friends and family a real NEED for religion. My Mom was turned off by the church's greed and stopped going for 20 years because of it. But she always believed and tried hard to raise me as a believer as well. But it just never made sense to me. While she found comfort in religion's answers that required faith, and a plan, and the fallback of "tests" when it all seemed to come crashing down, I just couldn't get over the inconsistencies. As she found comfort in Him watching over her at all times, it felt creepy to me. And she found ways around the uncomfortable parts like her belief (against the church) that all good people go to heaven, not just the ones who go to church and believe in Jesus and all that.

Because of our seemingly innate differences in reaction to religion and hearing the stories of friends and strangers like PaulHarrison1976 online as well as reading some of the research coming out about finding ares of the brain linked to belief and religious experiences, I've come to build a hypothesis that religion cannot be done away with. Some people need it, so clearly something besides abolishing it must be done.

So do I choose a religion for everyone to go with? Invent one? Allow total freedom for all religions?

Looking beyond the individual and focusing on society as a whole, I do see organized religion as a problem. Here I can only talk about Christianity because it's all I have any experience with, but from what I've seen it appears to relate to all. The foundation of organized religion -those ideas you think about first are often: "Love thy neighbor", "Do unto others as you'd have done unto you", "Honor thy mother and father", "Thou shall not kill", and so on. All good messages, of use to any society, non-exclusionary, and fairly universally agreed upon.

It's not until you get to religious organizations that you start getting to the more troublesome aspects of religion: pressure to recruit new members, asserting that THEY are the only true faith and others will be eternally punished, and the false assertion that they know the mind of God (Pope John Paul said there WAS a "limbo", the new guy says there's not -did God change his mind? is one of them wrong and therefore not really talking to God? or has it always been more about their own personal opinions and no one really knows the true mind of God?).

So, I've recently realized that it's that hierarchy that I have an issue with. Once you put a person at the front of the congregation speaking FOR God you've given that person some power because, generally, the people who attend church go to hear the sermon and never cross-check what they hear in that big book with the funny words. Even I tried to sit down and read it, but I didn't get farther than the 2nd creation story. The language in Shakespeare doesn't bother me, but add to it the fact that I just couldn't make much sense out of the stories and my interest faded fast. Even if a person reads the Bible and listens to the preacher, they're more likely to believe the preacher than the book because they are likely to not have much confidence in their reading comprehension as far as the Bible goes, and because he's had years in seminary school to pour over the text and learn about the different translations, etc.

And if the man in the front of the room has power, what about Cardinals and Popes? And what about the money that it takes for this non-profit organization to employ not only that preacher, but that Cardinal, Pope, school, etc. They need a lot of donations to keep their organization running. And that drives the need for membership via "Soul Saving", and the fear that if your friends and family are of a different faith, then you won't be seeing them in the afterlife, they'll be burning in hell (unless, of course, you recruit them).

And that's why religion is unsavory to me, but what's the fix? A non-hierarchal religion of some sort where the power lies in the individual instead of the organization. PaulHarrison1976 is starting to look into the Unitarian Universalist church which, from his description, sounds like a very cool and very nice answer to this question. It's a church that's run like a Democracy that allows individuals to take what works for them in the Christian and/or Jewish tradition, and add or subtract other ideas to their liking. Each person's personal beliefs are respected. Now that sounds more like "Love thy neighbor" doesn't it?

So, to sum up: When I become Dictator, you'll get to choose between Atheism, Agnosticism, or the UUA. I've spoken ;-).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

My (Experiences With) Religion

I've been listening to / watching PaulHarrison1976's videos on YouTube lately and have found them VERY interesting. He's recently gone from being religious to non-religious and he has shared some pretty personal information about how difficult the transition can be and how lost he is without the culture of religion even though he no longer believes the metaphysical part of it. This jives with my previously formed hypothesis about being religious being something innate in a person -perhaps and aspect of their personality or something. And it's led me to wonder about my own feelings on religion and why it is that while I generally don't believe in Ggod, it doesn't cause me despair. And what about that curiosity that creeps up every once in awhile -that feeling like maybe there is something out there. I guess that in reality I haven't quite excluded the possibility. So, I figured I'd delve into that here, kinda free-form. A stream of consciousness. We'll see what the result will be...

I was baptized Catholic (I'm pretty sure that's what it was) when I was just a baby, but if I ever went to church I don't remember it. As a child I remember my Mom having me say the Lord's Prayer before bed at night as well as sometimes blessing people or asking for something or thanking Him for something else. It all didn't mean much to me as far as I remember it puzzled me, it was a chore, something I just had to do before going to bed -like brushing my teeth.

Somewhere along the line the question of going to church was brought up and I remember my Mom saying that they used to go and that it was good to go, but that they had stopped because the church was more concerned about getting their money than whatever it was my parents thought they should be doing and that it had turned them off. I think that made an impression on me. It made sense and it proved that the bedtime prayers that had stopped and started and eventually petered of entirely were kindof silly or at least part of something that had faults other than delaying my bedtime story.

This all happened before school or while I was in the lower half of K-6 as far as I know. After that there was little talk of religion at home except in the context of Native American spirituality. It's odd because that sounds very hippie-ish, but I was raised in a Rush Limbaugh-loving, ultra right-wing, had a brush with the NWO people, Conservative household. But my Dad owned a copy of "Touch The Earth" and I was enthralled by it. The passages that had to do with spirituality really spoke to me and they were often the ones my Dad had marked in his copy. Most of my reading was done alone, but we'd speak of it from time to time and I remember my Dad confiding in me that his spiritual experiences were more like they were described in Touch The Earth -he felt that killing animals for sport was wrong as in a crime against creation, and he said that while he kept his spirituality to himself just like his Dad did he was taught to give thanks (silently, in his head) when he hunted and killed an animal that was meant to be food. This was a very emotional conversation for me to have with my Dad, so this struck me as much more real than the repeating of words that didn't really make much sense to me before going to bed (Our Father, who art? in heaven, hallowed? be thy name...)

Somewhere in Junior High or early high school a friend of mine became Baptist. It was an overnight change and what it meant to her was that she was no longer allowed to wear jeans -she could only wear skirts or dresses that came down past her knees. She complained at first, then started to accept it. One day she invited me to her church for some event. I said ok, and when we arrived I was put into a small room with maybe 6 other kids and they started telling us about how great the Bible was and read us some passages. I don't know how long it went on, but there were several groups of kids in several rooms doing the same thing. I remember feeling trapped, and feeling much like he was trying to sell me something that I could see right through. When he was done he explained that there would be a big talk afterwards and that we'd have a chance to be Baptized right there if we wanted to take Jesus into our hearts and be Saved today.

We were let out, and sat there and listed to another person ramble on about how important Jesus was and I remember at least one kid being Baptized that day. They had him change into some plastic clothes and they dunked him into a big tank of water in front of everyone. At the time I even knew how wrong it was to ask of kids (under 18) to make a life decision of the magnitude they were talking about (you're making a promise to God that you'll dedicate your life to him and serve him and...). Those who didn't get Baptized were pressured to verbally promise to take Jesus as our personal God and savior. I reluctantly took that promise and still regret it to this day because I didn't mean it and I feel promises are sacred -I was pressured into betraying myself and that's inexcusable to me.

In high school I started wondering about Ggod and religion again as I made friends who went to church and others who believed in other things (Ouija boards, crystals, tarot, etc). The question started being asked -What do I believe?

That question was hard to answer. I was never given a name for Native American spirituality and that evoked images of rain gods, and wood elves, and who-knows-what anyway. Besides, Indians weren't cool... So, I started picking up crystals, playing with my Ouija board (and had some interesting results!). I picked up enough to pass with that crowd and no more. I liked the crystals, they were pretty, interesting from a science point of view, and it made me a part of the "alternative crowd", so I did that on and off for awhile.

During the same time period I was friends with a girl, Heather, who was Methodist and when I spent the night at her house I had to go to church with her. The first time I had visions of that Baptist church, but it turned out that their Youth Group leader was very cool with the fact that I told him flat out that I didn't really believe in the Christian God. He said that was ok and never made me feel like an outsider because of it. In fact, a few times I went with the Youth Group as a chaperone to keep an eye on some of the younger kids as they went canoeing. It was cool, but I reconsidered my beliefs because of it. In fact, I remember one of the times while canoeing the song "The God That Failed" by Metallica came into my head and I smiled thinking about how inappropriate that'd be at the time. (But I respected the group enough to keep that to myself.)

In my Sophomore year my Grandfather, who was the most important person in my life outside of my immediate family, died after 7 long years of suffering with the after-effects of a horribly debilitating stroke. This struck me hard because a few weeks earlier I had prayed for him to die. I never prayed -I didn't feel that there was a God out there that interfered with people's personal lives, but after seeing him lying in that same bed for 7 years while before the stroke he had beat me in a running race around his house I just couldn't bear to see him there, incapacitated, no longer able to eat, see, hear, sit -nothing. It just wasn't fair. But the fact that it came true made me feel strange. Awful for wanting it, happy, sad, regretful, you name it...

This lead to a brief period where I'd pray from time to time. I wrested with a name for my god because I guess I was trying to make myself feel better for stooping to that level by clearly defining the fact that it was not the Christian God that I was praying to. I ended up calling him "Gatekeeper" since that's, to me, what he was. The person who stood between this realm and what comes after... This came and went fairly quickly as it simply didn't work and made me feel silly. In college I revisited this briefly calling God "The Great Mystery" as Native Americans do. The results were the same as with "Gatekeeper": nothing but a feeling of betraying myself and reality.

So, in college there were even more people of various religious beliefs and, for varied reasons, I started feeling like there might be some sort of a spiritual messenger -a personal god that surrounded me. There were a few strange events that led me to that conclusion and with the help of a Native American friend I ended up deciding it was something like a totem animal, which I named "Little Guy" and he'd interfere in my life from time to time (odd events occured, but in retrospect they were all explainable). I toyed with this idea and attributing things to him for a year or two and then he "left", and I started calling myself an agnostic -finally putting that "silliness" behind me since I never really took it seriously to begin with. It was always kind of a nice fantasy that I knew all-along was pretend.

But in my adult life there still seems to be that undercurrent. That tiny possibility of there being something out there. I see science and life itself as awesome. I get what I assume is the same feeling some get about God when I see how well the periodic table of elements comes together or when I think that the sun is producing atoms that in turn make ME! It's amazing and it's all explained by science. That doesn't take away from it's greatness, in fact I think it ADDS to it! The fact that it all came from nothing is WAY more awesome than a God. But, on the other hand, I can't rule out a God, so I guess I leave that 1% chance there. It's a bit of mystery and, in fact, each time I hear of someone dying, I think "they know now". And that's how I think of my own death -it's the time I figure it out, what happens to us when we die?

If there's something waiting for us after death, I hope it's fair and that the creator judges what I did in my life instead of punishing me for the lack of worship. If there's nothing, then it'll be just like before I was born -nothing. Sure, it's hard to wrap your head around that, but in the end it doesn't matter. Today, this hour, this second is what matters. It's life, and it's all anyone's sure that we have!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do We Fly or Drive On Our Next Vacation?

So, in the last week or so we've heard:

"American Airlines Cancels More than 300,000 travelers were left stranded by American Airlines in one week..."

"ATA Airlines shut down operations and stranded thousands of travelers..."

When airlines go under, fliers find that they have few protections

And a personal story about a mistake in SouthWest's reservation system leading to a sneaky $66 charge for a flight change by The Strobist

Plus our own luggage being lost by American Airlines 6 months ago and the lack of effort as far as getting our luggage back to us in a timely manner so we could enjoy our vacation.

And the decision is easy -we're taking an extra few days off to drive to Canada this year instead of fly. With the fair increases, it should be no more $ than flying even including the gas, hotels, etc. Besides, this way we don't have to worry about lines, getting stuff packed so we can get through security with our various electronic devices and camera gear. Oh, and we know that the $1k plus that we'll pay for an airline ticket won't be simply lost if we're one of the growing number left stranded at the airport when these airlines go under while their already well-paid executives are reportedly doubling their salary. Ridiculous. We'll drive, thanks.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Backup Exec 12 - Inability to Overwrite Media

First thing you notice after installing Backup Exec 12 and setting up your first job, is that you can't select anything but "Keep Data Infinitely - Do Not Allow Overwrite". Great :-\

"Help" and Google tells you to manually erase the media, relabel it (which effectively erases it), or move the media to scratch. But if you're looking to continuously overwrite your media, this is a big pain. I think I have it figured out, though:

I went to Tools > Options > Media Management and set the Media overwrite protection level to "None" and no Prompting.

Then I went to "Media" and right-clicked on "Keep Data Infinitely - Do Not Allow Overwrite", went to "Properties" and set the overwrite protection to 3 days.

Neither of the above immediately gave me the ability to choose "Overwrite" on the backup job, but after the job ran for the first time it now gives me the "Overwrite" option. -I guess I'll have to wait and see if it actually works next week. What an odd piece of software...

Backup Exec 12 install

I've just finished upgrading our backup software from Backup Exec 9 to Backup Exec 12 and I must say that the documentation, for all it's length (over 1600 pages in the pdf!), it wasn't much help. If this gets any google juice, maybe it'll let someone else avoid reading and re-reading the docs over again because Symantec decided to leave out some key information:

1. Grab the CD (or download folder) and run the Browser
2. Run the Environment Check or Start the Install (the install runs the Environment Check, so if you're ready to install, just run the install).
3. Fix any issues the Environment Check finds -mine warned me about using Terminal Services for the install, but I had no issues with it. As long as you are not using a mapped drive you should be good. Also, it'll warn you about Symantec Endpoint Protection & Endpoint Protection Manager -we ignored those as well as we didn't need whatever functionality they provide. YMMV.
4. Enter all your license numbers -all of them. Including any agents you've purchased such as SQL or Exchange.
5. Complete the install. In the process you'll have to decide on an existing or new account for Backup Exec to use that has privileges to all the resources you're planning to backup.
6. If necessary, UNinstall any old Remote Agents on the machines you'll be backing up.
7. Install the Remote Agent on the machines you plan to back up. You can either push it out from within Backup Exec (in the "Tools" menu) or run the install from each server from the CD or download folder by clicking on "Browser", then selecting "Start the Backup Exec Remote Agent Installation".

Now here's the issue I have with the doc's. They don't tell you that there's no separate agent needed for Exchange or SQL. By installing the Remote Agent, you'll have access to all the functionality of the Exchange and SQL agents (and whatever other ones there are) as long as the licenses for them are installed on the backup server.

So, once that generic "Remote Agent" is installed on all the machines you plan to back up, you're pretty much done.

The remote agent install does not require a reboot, but one of my servers prompted for a reboot after UNinstalling the old Backup Exec 9 Remote Agent.

We moved from one backup server to another, so we didn't actually upgrade -it was more like a new install, so I'm not sure if you were to install 12 on the same server as you had previously had 9 on, if you'd still have access to your old jobs, etc.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Things That Will Kill You: Tap Water

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cloudy fish tank / how I killed my fish

Right after I got rid of the ick, just a day or so after reducing the copper medication, salt, and beginning to reduce the temperature back down to normal, my fish tank's water began to get cloudy. After 24 hours it was bad. After 48 you could barely see the back of the tank. For the next 3 weeks I did water changes every other day trying to get rid of whatever was in it.

According to the searches I did, I first needed to decide if it was white or green. Well, it looked white from the front, but greenish from the side. So, I decided to try one of those medications that make the particles in the water stick together so that they can be filtered out easier. At the same time I turned 1/2 of my lights off in case it was algae. It didn't work.

I posted to a couple of forums for some help and ended up getting useless responses like "it must be a fungus from your driftwood" -mmm no. The driftwood's been in there for over a year. "Then it must be because you have too much gravel" or one of many other excuses, no real help.

So, I was left to sort it out for myself. Although it started right after the medication was stopped, I was pretty sure the biological filter was okay because the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite tests were fine, so it wasn't cycling. I've also been very careful about not overfeeding, so an algae or bacterial bloom didn't seem right either. I decided to clean out my filter instead. I found an improperly installed foam pad, and hoped that would fix it. It did not.

Again, I posted for help (on a different forum), but again I only got answers from people who didn't even read the post -they blamed how long I left my lights on in my tank (12 hours) even though they've been on like that since December without any issues, so again I dismissed the advice.

I had one last idea -I pulled all of my plants out of the tank thinking that the dead leaves may have been feeding a bacteria bloom. I put the plants in a bucket and waited. I thought it had improved a bit, but I was still having to do water changes every 3 days.

Then last week on Wednesday I started another "every other day" water change by draining 75% of the water out of the tank. The cichlids were all at the bottom kindof stressing out as they had been doing while I was doing such big changes -but they had to be done or I couldn't see anything at all in the tank! So, I started refilling the tank and then I noticed that I was out of water conditioner. I had a choice to make -leave the fish stressed out in a tiny bit of water while I ran out for more or just go without it. I figured all it did was get the chlorine out, so I kept filling, but made sure the water was really splashing upon entry to try to aerate it more so the chlorine would diffuse out faster on its own. Then Ed came home and we went out to eat. When we came back all but one fish was dead, and the remaining fish was on the bottom breathing hard.

I removed the fish and put him in a quarantine tank that I was readying for some new cichlids, but it was too late -he died soon after. So, I killed all my cichlids in about an hour by not using water conditioner. The plecos were okay, we ran out and got water conditioner and added it to the water right away.

A water test from before adding the conditioner revealed 2ppm of ammonia! The water conditioner cut that down to zero. I tested the tap water straight and it was 4ppm! I don't know if this is temporary or if it's always been like this, but I'll definitely keep an eye on it from now on and I won't ever do a water change without water conditioner again!

Oh, and on Saturday I got 12 new cichlids. And on Sunday I picked up some Algaefix to give that a try to remedy the cloudy water and as of Monday night the tank is clear again! -I'll have to see if it comes back. If it does I'll have to cut the lighting back to see if that helps. I definitely don't want to continue the algaefix forever -my pleco's would starve!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Shopping: LTO Tape Drive

Our LTO tape library took a dump a couple weeks ago, so I need to find a replacement. These are my notes while I look into the drives available to see what I'll recommend:

First, I started with a search for all LTO tape libraries sorted by lowest price first on

My requirements (in no particular order):
  • At least 100GB/200GB capacity
  • Backward compatible with our Ultrium 1 100GB/200GB tapes (in case we need to restore data from them)
  • We have about 12 hours to back up about 250GB of data, so we need a minimum of 6MB/sec but we'll double that to make room for expansion, so 12MB/sec. -Shouldn't be hard.
  • It's a small company, so price is a factor.
  • Our old library had a Ultra 160 connection, so that'd be the easiest to go with this time around although it (does/does not) have room for a (what kind?) card if we want to go with something better/faster.
  • Holds at least 7 or 8 tapes at a time.
So, here are our options:
  • The rest of the models aren't backward compatible with our Ultrium 1 tapes, so I guess our decision will be between these two.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Watching it doesn't work. Worrying about it doesn't work. Only paying it off without adding to it works. So, starting a couple days ago I've cut my ties with my credit cards!

It's just too hard to tell that you're debt is growing when you see yourself plunking down $1500 a month towards it -I figured I must be making progress. But since I used it every day to pay for meals out, groceries, gas, etc and after a few trips and big purchases as well, it's really not all that surprising to hear I was in a loosing battle -I should have known better. I blame denial -I don't think I really wanted to know. I worried about it enough as it was.

So, I'm on a fairly easy debt-diet. No more credit cards. Everything will be paid for in cash or with my debit card. I'm now on an allowance. When I run out of money, I get to wait until I get paid again. Remember that from college -yeah, I survived it then and surely I can do it again. I should be paid off in about 11 months without doing anything else, but I'm looking for good balance transfer incentives to use with my one $0-balance credit card to see if I can save a bit of money on interest and maybe even get it paid off a bit sooner.

Details on how I figured out what to do:

I took my monthly salary and subtracted the total amount of my bills per month. This tells me how much I really have to spend each month.

Then I took my last year's worth of credit card statements (from Discover's website since I've used that one card to pay for almost everything I've bought in the last year) and I added up the "New Purchases" total from each and divided by 12 to get my average monthly expenses for food, entertainment, gifts -basically everything I buy.

I subtracted my average monthly purchases from the amount of money I have after bills each month and found out that I have a surplus of only $483.42 a month. So, without changing my spending habits at all, I'm still ahead of the game. But...

I then used an online credit card calculator (Google "credit card calculator" -without the quotes) to figure out that at my current interest rates it'd take about 2 years to pay my bills off at that rate and I'd spend about $1772 in interest in the process. Not good.

So, I went back to those credit card statements and took out the "big months" -turns out that most months I got away with spending about half of what my average ended up being. I used that number instead (which should be completely doable) and found that if I curb the big purchases and trips I could have more like $983.42 in surplus, which means I could be paid off in 11 months instead. Much better!

So, that's the goal. We'll see how I do. I've set up an automatic payment to both cards for just after the first of the month since I don't have any bills in that half of the month. This way, my payments are just like another set bill and happen by default. Less effort = less chance of me fudging the numbers to get a new turbo or something. In other words, this makes it harder to cheat than to keep going with my new plan. ;-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Making sure the ich is gone.

As of last night I couldn't stand how dirty the tank was any more. I did a 50% water change (I figured while I was at it I'd get rid of as many ich organisms as I could). After filling the tank back up I added a 1/2 dose of CopperSafe and 1/2 of my salt back in to replace what was taken out with the water. One hour later I tested both the copper levels and the salinity and found I needed a tad more salt, but the copper level looked good.

Still no signs of ich. My plans are to continue to treat with a full dose salt and copper as well as a temperature of 85*F for at least another week. After that I may begin lowering the temperature and decreasing the copper and salt via water changes (ie: change 25% of the water and not add back the salt and copper afterwards).

For some background: I got the ich originally from PetSmart with a batch of pictus catfish and rubbernose plecos. None of the fish survived it because I caught it way too late. I treated the tank with Aquari-Sol for 2 weeks after the last fish died, then added the cichlids and the large bristlenose pleco, which started showing signs of ich after about a week.

At the time of adding the cichlids I chose not to quarantine them because I had only one seemingly ich-resistant bushynose pleco in the tank at the time. But, even with having had the ich from PetSmart, I was fairly sure I wouldn't quarantine in the future either. The reason was that it is just so hard to set up a tank (including cycling) to run for 2-3 weeks, then have to break down and store it...

But after this round I'm done. All of the fish I purchase from now on will be quarantined!

Speaking of which, I may go get the other half of my planned cichlid purchase this weekend. That way, by the time I'm sure the tank will be completely cured of ich, the new cichlids will be done with their quarantine period, and then I'll be done for awhile! :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Grandma, Molly, and the last bite of cake.

I can't describe what it's like being a member of a family who stops talking to each other at the drop of a hat, but I can describe the events surrounding it to some degree.

Some background first: My Aunt and my Grandma had a very close relationship throughout my childhood. I believe they went to church together every Sunday, then spent the rest of the day together as well. But...

About 20 years ago a decision was made. My Aunt's house was said to be too small to hold the entire family for Xmas. So, Xmas was moved to the clubhouse at my Grandma's condo instead. From that year on my immediate family also stopped visiting my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin.

10 years ago or so the first steps were made to re-establish communication with them. The step was small, awkward, and behind my Grandma's back. From that point on written communication continued in a polite way, but in-person visits did not.

Skip ahead to my Grandma's 90th birthday party. I wasn't told that my Aunt was going to be there. But, as I stood talking to a group of people, I saw her face outside the window. I couldn't believe it. My chin hit the floor. What was she doing here? Was the feud over? ...When they entered my Aunt said "Erica?" and I said "Yes" and went over and hugged her. My Uncle and Cousin looked elsewhere around the room obviously not looking to be next in the hug line... Then my Aunt asked where my Grandma was, I pointed her out, and that was it. For the rest of the evening we didn't talk. I felt like I was the one that angered them and caused the feud...

What kind of family cuts ties for 20 years? And what kind of family has such a cold reaction after not seeing each other for so long?

The end of the ich?

As of Sunday Ed and I noticed that the big pleco who I doubted would survive this round with ich was pretty much free of the ich dots. The water chemistry looked good (about 10ppm of NitrAte, no ammonia, no NitrIte), so I skipped my Saturday water change since the levels of copper and salt seem to be right-on for getting rid of the ich.

...but as of yesterday the tank was disgusting. I really, really want to do a vacuum in there. I think I'm going to do it tonight...

In a week or so I'll consider the ich gone and I'll stop adding copper and salt when I do a water change, and I'll start lowering the temp back down to 80*F.

Now I just have to watch out for fungus and bacterial infections since the fish will be healing from the ich now... I hope I'm out of the woods with this, though...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Ich continued...

So, I still have ich in my tank. The new pleco's been getting worse and worse in fact today I noticed that his eyes are now cloudy and the right one looks like it's peeling -ew!

The cichlids are still active. The acei may have fewer spots on them, but all-in-all they are looking fairly good. The original pleco, for the past couple days, has looked like it's been breathing fast. I'm a bit concerned (paranoid?) about that because everything I'm doing to combat the ich is reducing the oxygen levels in the tank as well, so hopefully I don't kill them with the treatment...

But Wednesday I ran out of Aquari-Sol after adding a 1/2 dose in the morning, so after work I went to pick up another bottle and some salt to add as well. Unfortunately, they didn't have Aquari-Sol... So, I spent about 20min looking at all my different options. It seems Machalite Green is the medication of choice, but I'm pretty sure I've used that before and it turned all my decorations green. It wasn't a big deal back then, but now I have a big, expensive piece of WHITE limestone holey rock in my tank that's too heavy to take out and I'd really rather not have it turn green... So, I was left with copper-based meds (similar to Aquari-Sol) or Formalin (formaldehyde). I decided to stick with copper meds and ended up choosing Mardel CopperSafe based on dosage since I have a large tank and the Aquari-Sol's dosing of 12 drops per gallon meant I had to count out 12 x 72 drops a day >:-P.

I didn't notice until I got home that the instructions on the CopperSafe say 1tsp for every 4 gallons treats a tank for a month. Call me skeptical, but... a month!?! That actually creates a problem for me -when I do a water change, how do I know how much to add back in? ...So, tonight I went back to the store and bought an Instant Ocean copper test kit and I also got their hydrometer as well to test the salt level. The copper tested out at about 0.20 and the salinity came out to be about 5 or a specific gravity of 1.002. So now I know.

I'll do a water change this weekend with a good gravel vac. Last weekend I did an over 50% water change, I'll probably do the same again this weekend. Other options are dips (I'd rather not) or maybe setting up my 10gal as a quarantine tank for at least the big guy and treating it bare-bottomed with the stainy green stuff to see if I can get rid of it before he dies (or kill him in the process, which almost seems merciful at this point).

All I know is that instead of my tank being relaxing, fun, or pretty to look at, I can't even look at it anymore. I go out of my way to capture spiders in the house and take them outside instead of killing them and here I am causing pain and suffering to these fish with my ineptitude. And to make matters worse the information online is contradictory and generally unhelpful. ...blah.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Election Day!

For the November 2008 election I've gone back to documenting candidates on my other site here:

I've been so busy following the Presidential Primary that I lost track of time and failed to research what other offices are being voted on! So, here's my notes on who's running where I'm at and whatever I find about the candidates until I figure out who I'm voting for:

FYI: Blue is the candidates who are only on the Democratic ballot. Red is the candidates who are only on the Republican ballot. Purple are the candidates who are on both ballots.

Presidential Primary:
...I think we'll skip this one. If you don't know by now, you probably shouldn't vote.

13th Congressional District:
Delegate to the National Nominating Convention 13th Congressional Dist (Vote for 5) (Vote for 4):
  • There are the same number of delegates running to vote for each candidates as the number you are supposed to pick and since I don't know or care about the delegates, personally, I'm moving on...
State Senator 42nd Legislative District:
Representative in the General Assembly 84th Representative Dist:
Clerk of the Circuit Court:
  • Chris Kachiroubas
County Auditor:
  • Bob Grogan
County Coroner:
  • Pete Siekmann
County Recorder:
  • Fred Bucholz
States Attorney:
  • Joe Birkett
County Board District 5 (full 4 year term, vote for 2):
Commissioner of the Forest Preserve District 5:
  • Carl Schultz
Judge of the Circuit Court 18th Judicial Circuit (to replace Edward Duncan, Jr):
Judge of the Circuit Court 18th Judicial Circuit (to replace Kenneth Moy):
Precinct Committeeman Naperville 034:
  • No Candidates!?!

Shall DuPage County be authorized to impose a public safety tax at the rate of $0.0025 upon all persons engaged in the business of selling tangible personal property at retail in the county on gross receipts from the sales made in the course of their business?

Shall the Fox Valley Park District in Kane, DuPage, Kendall and Will Counties, Illinois, acquire and protect land for nature areas, open space and for park and recreation purposes, including along the Fox River; improve and develop trails and fishing access; improve and renovate neighborhood and community parks and playgrounds, sports fields and facilities, and Blackberry Farm; and issue its bonds in an amount not to exceed $44,850,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?

  • Yes
  • No

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ich! (or "Ick")

Flameback (Pundamilia nyererei), Juvenile Male

I keep recording my fish stuff in various notebooks, then I loose them or they get wet and it's no longer usable or congruent. So, why not record it here on the blog that changes week-to-week. Will I forget and go back to my notebook tomorrow? Who knows, but for now I'll pretend like this will be permanent...

So, after Xmas I lost my fantail goldfish and was left with 2 goldfish and a pleco in a 72 gallon tank. It seemed like a waste, so I got some pictus catfish and a couple more plecos to try to battle the algae problem that's developed since I got a stronger light system (for my real plants). A couple days later my goldfish started getting really listless and the one who's had fin rot for quie some time was doing really poorly, so I moved the goldfish back into their original 20 gallon tank and started treating them with Maracyn II and then Jungle All-In-One. They started getting better, but the new catfish and plecos started dropping one-by-one. I didn't figure out why until late (they had ich), so my treatment (Aquari-Sol) was late and I lost every one of them. I then had only the one original pleco in a 72 gallon tank.

I continued treating for ich since I knew the parasites were still in there. I treated for 1 week solid, then a half ("maintenance") dose for another week. At the same time I researched cichlids and decided to get some once the tank was clear. After 2 weeks, I figured I'd be good, so I picked up a 4-inch bushynose pleco and 6 cichlids -all juveniles: 2 yellow labs, 2 acei, and 2 Pundamilia nyererei. For a week they were fine, but starting yesterday I'd see them brushing up against the rocks to scratch an itch and I also started seeing the tell-tale little white dots on them (it looks like salt).

So today I did a water change, increased the temperature from 27.2*C to 29.4*C (by 1 degree an hour), and started the Aquari-Sol treatment as well. The new pleco is the worst off as far as I can tell -he's got dots everywhere (but they are spaced out) and he's been leaping to the surface and getting air (although they say plecos do that, he had't been before). Not sure if that's an ich thing or because of the temperature increase, but so far it's only been increased 1 degree C, so...? Other fish have only a few dots that I can see, but like I said, they've been scratching, so they are definitely infested. I really hope I'm treating early enough this time! :-(

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Genesis, Chapter 1

Watching atheist videos on YouTube leads you to believe that the bible is a horrendous book that defends all kinds of immoral acts. The reaction videos made by christians explain away each accusation by saying it was taken out of context. So, I decided to find out for myself. I bought my very own bible and began reading it recently.

First, on the subject of buying a bible. Which one of the 3,395 versions does a person pick up? This reminds me of a quote from a book my Dad and I really loved while I was growing up called "Touch The Earth". The quote:

"Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the Book?" (Red Jacket)

So, after some research and reading reviews, I picked up The King James Study Bible: King James Version (KJV), hardcover by Thomas Nelson Inc ISBN-13: 9780785211631. (CHECK.)
Wow. What a mistake!

This version of the bible has about two-thirds more footnotes than actual bible content, and that wouldn't be a bad thing if it wasn't so heavy-handed and overt in trying to hammer home the points in the bible that contradict (and therefore prove wrong) the theory of evolution. Yep, much of the "help" they give you is not about trying to sort out translation issues and context of the age when the book was written, but is instead helping you translate it in a way that makes their case against science. This is turning me off of this book and translation really fast. What translations did they stretch and/or massage (doctor) in the actual text to make their case? I don't trust it.

So, now what? Well, it's not as convenient as having it in paper, but there is -I think I'm going to start reading it there instead. The upside to reading it this way is that I can look at several different translations side-by-side to help me decide what was meant by a certain part of the text. The downside is the loss of the footnotes that did point out important translational nuances, the context in relation to the time it was written, etc. But I guess I have the rest of the internet for that.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Genesis 1. I already don't quite know what to make of this first story. Apparently god made a dome over the earth with water (on the earth) below it and above it (???). Not to mention the fact a number of lesser scientific issues that the chapter contains: the moon being a "light", there being days and nights before the sun was created, the sun and stars being affixed to the "dome in the sky". Although, writing this, I suppose it could be suggested that the universe and everything we can see beyond it could still be inside the big dome in the sky... But, I've heard that coming up in future stories is the fact that it rains when god opens up the windows of that dome, which wouldn't really work if the dome was so far away... but that's for a future time when I actually read that part I guess.

Anyway, the way I see it, if it's literal it makes no sense given our scientific knowledge of the day, and taken as a parable, well I don't see the point. So, I decided to rely on Google for more info. I chose "genesis 1" as my search terms soas not to inject bias into the search. Results 1-5 were just online versions of the bible.

Result 6 was: Which contained the bible text along with the question "Does God expect us to read Genesis 1-11 as a record of authentic historical fact, or is this simply a collection of parable-like stories?" in the margin. The answer in one word is yes, it's meant to be taken literally.

The 7th result was: which dives deeply into the text and how exactly it's reasoned out, but comes to the conclusion that no, the text is not meant to be taken literally and that the purpose of this chapter was just to say that the earth was "
fine-tuned with human existence in view" (quote from link above).

The 8th result: attempts to answer whether the days described were 24hour days or if they may have been longer. The answer, defended by the Hebrew word chosen for "day" among other contextual clues is that the earth was in fact created in six 24-hour days.

The 9th result is the skeptic's bible, which is hilarious, but not really helpful or authoritative in trying to interpret the story.

And the 10th result was just another site with the text of the bible. So, as it sits now we have no idea if this story is to be taken literally or figuratively, but I'm moving on anyway. Maybe this story will become clearer later on?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Religious rambling

I've been spending a lot of time on YouTube lately surfing the atheist vs christian debates. They raise some interesting questions and philosophical debates. I've been wishing I had a video camera to participate, then I decided to try recording myself on my cell phone to see if it'd come out well enough to upload, and I chickened out. I hate seeing myself on camera. Blah.

For those who haven't seen the videos, they are a constant back and forth (as I'm sure you can imagine) where the atheists regurgitate Dawkins and Hitchens ad nauseum while the religious people regurgitate Kirk Cameron or one of those other creationist people. Of course, just like in real life no one ever convinces the other person and the debates quickly end up stuck in one circular argument or another.

But they tend to come down to a handful of questions. One of them is: "If we don't get our ethics from religion, where do we get them from?" See -interesting.

The last video I saw was a christian going over the 10 commandments. He said that a rule against adultery could only have come from god because humans have such a hard time obeying it that we would never have come up with that on our own. Funny. I think most cultures have come up with the idea of marriage which includes hinduism, islam, as well as indigenous cultures on most continents. This means that non-christian as well as christian countries and cultures came up with the idea of being faithful (although several cultures, including christianity include in that polygamy, but we'll skip that for now). Many of his other arguments for the divine origin of the commandments such as "thou shall not kill" or steal, etc were that "well, if that was allowed we'd have anarchy". True! And because that's so obvious and can be reasoned out, that's why we never needed god to come up with such rules!

So, I started thinking about a small group of people from different cultures (races, religions, whatever). If you were to take them and put them in a house (reality tv style), they'd soon have to come up with a set of rules to determine how they'd get along with each other in the house. They'd start out with what's acceptable and unacceptable behavior -what rules would you come up with? How about "Leave my stuff alone and I'll leave your stuff alone." Seems reasonable. Or "If you cook, clean up after yourself." Simple, easy stuff right? These are rules that should be easily understandable and agreeable to people no matter what their background. That's because it's all based on a negotiation -I don't want you to do "X" to me, so I won't do it to you if you promise not to do it to me.

Let's assume, then, that our group of people make up a list of rules to live by. Now they need punishments for breaking the rules. Would "an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" be such a stretch for anyone? No. Is this because god made us this way or is it evidence that humans wrote the Bible? Depends on which side of the debate you're on.

But look outside of ourselves at other cultures with other religions and you'll see that all cultures consider stealing, rape, murder, etc as being wrong. These ethics do not belong solely to the christians! It's a simple matter of "I cannot be secure in my possessions if it's ok for others to take them, so in order to protect myself, I'll support a law against stealing." It's simple logic, so I think the argument for basing laws off of a religion is way off base.

With laws based on logic, we can reason out exceptions (like murder by accident or for self defense) or determine if they cause more harm than good such as laws against gay marriage when allowing them would not do harm. If we were to base laws on the Bible, it is clear from reading it (which I'm doing right now) that slavery is endorsed, beating slaves is ok (as long as they don't die right away), rape is ok if they are a slave, stoning is a reasonable punishment for blasphemy, etc.

Am I over exaggerating? Well, no -it's all there, but I'm sure most people wouldn't endorse such laws. But I'm just trying to show that it's not that easy. Who do we trust to draw the line? And how many people who don't believe in christianity are prevented from living freely by some of the laws that are already in place?

An example of a religiously based law that many states and counties have adopted are those that legislate against selling cars, liquor, etc on Sundays. Why should those of us who don't believe in the need to rest on Sunday be prevented from carrying on as normal? There's no reason for it. Is it ethical? No. Repealing such laws would give non-believers back their freedom without causing the religious any harm. If you choose not to buy cars or alcohol on Sundays, just don't. Or if it's about having to work selling either, then that's a scheduling issue that you can negotiate with your employer like any other retail job would have you do. So, anyway, it's an unethical law, and I can assume we'd only have more if this christian movement to gain politcal power goes any further.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Google Reader

I just started using Google Reader and I'm finding the ability to save and share the stuff I find interesting kinda cool. My shared stuff is here and updated frequently:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Presidential Primary

Right before the holidays I started researching candidates. I usually take elections quite seriously, and this one even more so since I have to avoid making the same mistake I made in 2000 when I voted for Bush the first time. So I printed out each candidate's "On the vote" page and hauled the 30 page monstrosity with me to Canada with the intention of reading it on the plane or something. Well, that never happened. It seems the internet has made me lazy, I've done most of my research this time around on YouTube. But my mind's not made up yet. All I know is that if Huckabee becomes president I'm moving out of the country. That man scares me -a lot!

On the Republican side, unfortunately, the front runners seem to be nutjobs -in fact they're all pandering to the religious right and as an atheist I can't exactly support someone who wants to make laws based on religious principals. How about ethics, logic, and morality (without cheating by looking it up in your Book) instead? No, stem cell research, abortion, and gay rights mean I can no longer vote for these Republican puppets for the Evangelical Church.

Except for McCain and Ron Paul. McCain... I voted for him in the primary when Bush ran the first time. I liked him a lot back then. Since that time he's been on TV a lot and I've been left with a bad taste in my mouth. I'd definitely like him over Romney or Huckabee though. In fact if Huckabee becomes president, I'm moving to Canada until this country gets back on track. We aren't the "land of the free, except for the Patriot Act". It's the "land of the free and home of the BRAVE!" and yet all it took was 2 planes and 2 buildings and we ran to Washington and signed our rights away in exchange for perceived security. I'd call it unAmerican if it wasn't for all the ribbons and flags on the cars of people who support such tactics. Yikes.

Ron Paul, or should I say "RON PAUL!". Yeah, he's a wacko too if you dig into his platform a bit. I wonder how many of his supporters realize he's pro-life. Anyway, he'd do much more good than bad in the Whitehouse and it's encouraging to hear him actually speak intelligently about the problems the country's facing when it comes to our economy and it's ties to the Federal Reserve, the Patriot Act and other unConstitutional laws that take away our freedoms, the IRS and taxes... At one point I was ready to vote for him on these issues because his vision of America is what I was brought up to believe in. Not only does his ideas make sense, he's a real guy -he talks like a real person, he tells people in the audiences where he speaks that he believes their position on X is wrong and he takes time to educate them on the topic and explain why he holds the view that he does. THAT'S what I think we all want to see in our candidates. But what we get instead is people who follow strict party platforms, evade questions, and otherwise live up to the "politician" stereotype we've all come to know. In that respect, Ron Paul is a breath of fresh air and I know I'm going to regret not supporting him, but I think the time for his ideas have come to pass. People in general have become more than just lazy when it comes to government run programs -we've come to RELY on them. I just don't see how the very American and actually "Free" ideas that he stands for can work in what has become a socialist country whether we like it or not.

On the Democratic side we have Hillary. **Shutter** I really can't put my finger on why I don't want to see her win. Her politics aren't that much different than Obama's (or anyone elses?), but she just rubs me the wrong way. That crying stunt from yesterday? Pathetic. Will she cry infront of leaders of other countries too? "**Sob** I'm sorry, but this trade agreement is just so personal too me!" Pah-leese!

Obama is inspiring, there's no two ways about it. He's got your average Democratic agenda, which makes my decision tough because they support some of my most important issues where the Republicans let me down (again: stem cell research, abortion, and gay rights), but their philosophy on other issues like the environment scare me. They just don't think about small businesses and the impact that their well-meaning legislation will have on them. Or, if they do, it means all kinds of red tape when there's so much already! But anyway, yeah, Obama is my #1 choice right now, but mostly because he's electable and is probably our best shot at regaining our country's reputation after "W" drug it through the mud.

Anyway, I'm off to research McCain. Luckily I have over 3 weeks left to decide!